A Road Trip in the Canadian Rockies

Lake and mountains

Adventure All The Way

Hop in, it is time to go on a road trip: let us tell you about the must-see places that you should stop at along the route through the Canadian Rocky Mountains between Vancouver and Calgary (another Edelweiss destination). Starting in Vancouver, we set off towards the north-east and a huge waterfall. From there, we take a dream-like road to a glacier, mountain lakes, and through Canada’s first national park – be sure to stop off for some short hikes. The route is just as worthwhile if you head westwards from Calgary.


What a Roar

The Helmcken Falls were discovered in 1913 during land surveys and are 600 km to the north-east of Vancouver. They got their name in memory of John S. Helmcken, a doctor who worked for the Hudson Bay Company. He is said to have never actually seen the 137-metre-high falls himself so be sure not to follow in his footsteps! The hike is only moderately difficult and perfectly doable. It takes about three hours from the car park within the Wells Gray Provincial Park. Start off through the woods, before continuing along the Murtle River. Not long after, you will already hear the roar of the water, soon to be followed by the spectacular view of Canada’s fourth highest waterfall.


Destination: The Highway!

The Icefields Parkway is considered one of the most beautiful mountain roads in the world. Lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, mountain peaks – the 227-kilometre route has lots to offer. Set off early to see the rock faces glow pink in the morning sun. This section of Highway 93 also leads to the Athabasca glacier, one of the Rocky Mountain’s greatest attractions. The glacier tongue is a ‘toe’ of the 325-square-kilometre Columbia Icefield. Head to the Glacier Skywalk for the best views, but only if you are good with heights since the glass platform is 280 metres above the valley floor!

Banff Nationalpark

Lake Louise

A Turquoise Wonder

A day’s drive – about seven hours – further along the route, stand on the shores of the two-kilometre-long Lake Louise and you are sure to feel as if you have ended up in front of a photo mural depicting Canada. The turquoise water before the glacier-strewn mountain backdrop just looks too unreal, almost cheesy. The lake is at the foot of Mount Victoria, a little way from Lake Louise Village. You may be interested to know that there is a good reason why the water in this and many other lakes in the Rockies is such a bright colour: it is the result of the light filtering effect of rock flour in the glacial runoff in spring and summer and all the colours of the light except turquoise are absorbed.

Lake Louise

Woman canoeing

Let’s Get Moving

There is a very long list of things to do in Banff National Park, the home of both Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, among them hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, and horse riding. Alternatively, go fishing or bird watching (250 different species have already been spotted), visit a hot spring, take a cable car, or go skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing or snowshoeing in the winter. This most popular of the Canada’s four national parks was founded in 1885. A good place to start is Banff. The town is the starting point for many trips and hikes. You will also find a visitor centre and museums here, where you can learn more about the history of the Canadian Rockies.

Mountain peak

Crystal Clear

The Grassi Lakes near Canmore – a little over 30 kilometres south of Banff – were named after miner and mountaineer Lorenzo Grassi, who established many of the region’s hiking trails. On your way to the two lakes, you will reach a fork where you have a choice between an easier route and a slightly harder and steeper one via a waterfall. The ‘easy’ option takes you on a roughly 45-minute trail through a coniferous forest to the lakes, where you can marvel at the lake whose water is so crystal-clear that you can see the bottom. You will often see climbers on the steep rock faces around the lakes.

Grassi Lake Trail

Calgary skyline

The Mountains Are Calling

The last stage of the journey is about 110 kilometres – if you take the direct route – and offers fantastic views and vistas. The 10.5 km Heart Mountain Horseshoe Trail takes you along the water’s edge through lush, flowering landscapes. The mountain owes its name to the shape of its peak and frequently features as a backdrop in wedding photos. Another quirky feature is the ‘Heart Rock Café’, that is part of the Heart Mountain Store in Exshaw. The 18-kilometre hike from Mount Lorette to Skogan Peak a little further south is just as attractive, though with less incline. If you want to take it easy before heading into lively Calgary, make time for a – hopefully successful – day of fishing at Sibbald Meadows Pond or one of the many other lakes along the route.

Mount Lorette to Skogan Peak Trail

Photo credits