Discover the magic of the Canadian Rockies! Huge limestone peaks, turquoise lakes, wild animals, and abundant trails. After arriving in the friendly Calgary airport and renting a car, it is just over an hour to the small town of Canmore in the Canadian Rockies, and then a short drive further to Banff National Park.
You’ll spend 3 nights in Banff exploring mountain valleys and glacier-fed rivers while relaxing in a comfortable hotel each night. The hiking options are nearly endless… Harvey Pass with it’s stunning views, iconic Lake Louise and the Plain of the Six Glaciers, Moraine Lake and Valley of the Ten Peaks… you will not lack for options.
It might be hard to leave, but there’s more to see, so after 3 nights it’s time to move along. The drive to Jasper National Park along the Icefields parkway may be one of the best drives in the world, winding along the Continental Divide with unfair views at every turn. Nearby Yoho Park (named, appropriately, after a Cree expression of awe and wonder) is a notable stop with many hiking options. The drive terminates at our favorite Rockies town, Jasper.
Jasper began its life as a fur trading post in the early 1800’s and has retained a healthy low-key charm. It is a great jumping off point for hikes to Maligne Lake, taking the gondola up Whistler’s Peak and for hikes near the colossal Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. After 3 nights here, relive your route along the Icefields parkway back to Calgary and flight home.
Your days will start with breakfast at your hotel giving you a hearty start to a full day. Then you’ll be out on the trail, exploring the wonderful trails of Banff and Jasper. Our hike descriptions will give you plenty of options for long days and shorter jaunts. Later, explore the many great restaurants in each location, while you plan for the next days’ adventure!
Banff – After arrival in Calgary, rent your car and start heading west toward Banff. You’ll quickly escape the city into the Rockies. The attractive town of Canmore makes a good stop for lunch and some last-minute shopping. Soon after Canmore, you’ll enter the National Park and reach the small town of Banff.
If you have time to explore today, you might consider riding the Banff gondola up to the Sulphur Mountain summit for incredible views of the region. Afterwards check in to your hotel. We like the warm and friendly Moose Hotel, with great rooms, a good restaurant and rooftop pool.
Banff – A great hike to start of your stay in Banff is the hike to Bourgeau lake and Harvey pass. Start with a short 15 minute drive along the Bow river to the trailhead. The trail starts modestly enough in forest but steepens a bit as you get to the lake.
Bourgeau lake is very nice, but really you want to keep going, as the views just keep getting better. A bit further you’ll reach the smaller and higher Harvey lake, and then finally up to the pass, where you’re treated to views to Mount Assiniboine and down to Sunshine Meadows. Return to Banff for your 2nd night.
Banff – Perhaps you’ll choose a classic today with a visit to Lake Louise and hike to the Plain of the Six glaciers. Start with a 40 minute drive (or again, you can take a bus) to stunning Lake Louise, a gorgeous turquoise lake ringed by high peaks.
The hike leads up to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House, where you can stop for a drink or a full lunch. But don’t get caught. Keep heading up and the trail leads to stunning glacier views. To vary the route back, you can detour along the Highline trail to Lake Agnes before descending back to Lake Louise and return to Banff.
Jasper – Today it is time to say goodbye to Banff and head northeast toward Jasper. The driving route is known as the Icefields parkway, and is almost certainly one of the most scenic drives in the world. There are many small hikes along the way, such as the easy glacier hike at Wilcox pass. You’ll also have the option to detour down to Yoho National Park for a hike there.
The drive itself, without stops, takes 3 1/2 hrs and eventually deposits you in Jasper. Jasper is a low-key town, and a great jumping off point for numerous hikes.
Jasper – Of the many options around Jasper, you can’t go wrong with the trails and views around Maligne lake. It’s a 50 minute drive past Medicine lake up to Maligne, were you’ll head out on the Bald Hills trail.
This moderate lollipop-shaped trail is a classic in the Jasper area, and treats you to sublime views down to Maligne Lake and across to Leah Peak, Samson Peak and Maligne Mountain.
Jasper – To get off the beaten path a bit and away from the crowds, try the Verdant Pass hike today, a favorite local’s hike in Jasper.
This beautiful route goes up to the backside of Mount Edith Cavell. Starts off relatively easy but gets steeper as you gain altitude. Beautiful views from the top.
Depart – After breakfast at your hotel, you’ll leave for your post-trip destinations. It’s a 5 hour drive back along the Icefields Parkway to Calgary.