Rocky Mountain Road Trip: 7 Day Itinerary
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
The Canadian Rocky Mountains are Alberta’s most prized possession and are visited by thousands of tourists every year. Luckily for me, I’ve grown up with these beauties in my backyard since I was a child. For the most authentic, mind-blowing experience, load up a vehicle and set off for a week long road trip down the Icefields Parkway. You’ll make your way from Jasper to Banff, winding through roads in and around the mountains with spectacular views at every turn. Suitable for travellers of all ages, this rocky mountain road trip is enjoyable for the solo traveler, family travel or with friends. With everything from hot springs, rafting, hiking and more, these two National Parks offer activities for everyone.
DAY 1: Jasper, AB
Arrive in Jasper! Spend the day relaxing and exploring the town. There are tons of locally-owned shops, cafes and restaurants as well as some hiking trails nearby. You may want to pop in to Wicked Cup for delicious brew.
DAY 2: Adventure on the Rapids
AM: Let’s jump right into the adventure: whitewater rafting! Jasper Rafting Adventures have excellent guides who will make you laugh the whole ride. There are levels suitable for all ages: whether you’d prefer a nice easy float or something that will make you work a little harder – and get a lot wetter. It’s a fun experience, you will have a chance to see the mountains in a whole new light and even learn a little bit of history.
PM: Now that you’ve been chilled to the bone by mountain water, head on up to the Miette Hot Springs to soak in the warmth of the hot springs. Go up just before sunset to take in the stunning view!
DAY 3: Athabasca Falls, Icefields Parkway, Glacial Skywalk
It’s time to load up the car and head to Athabasca Falls! Be sure to pack some snacks for the road, because you’ve got a lot of driving to do today. These beautiful falls are suitable for all ages, abilities and are free to view. There are walking paths around the falls and through the trees or you can just stop in for a quick looksie.
Once you’ve had your fill, continue on through the Icefields Parkway, stopping at Jasper Park’s Glacier Skywalk. Not for the faint of heart, step out and look down to see the mountainous terrain through the glass beneath your feet. If you want an extra break, you can also stop a little further up the road to walk right up to the glaciers. End the day roughly two hours later by setting up camp, or hotel, in Banff for the evening.
DAY 4: An Activity of Your Choice
You’ve had a long drive the day before so take the rest of the day to unwind and explore the town of Banff. Pop into the little shops and grab a bite (or a drink) at one of the many restaurants. You have a few options of what you could do in Banff today:
Option A) Horseback Ride – Banff Trail Riders offer trail rides to people of all ages.
Option B) Get to the top of Sulphur Mountain — hike if you’re feeling adventurous or take the gondola to the top. A panoramic view awaits and what feels like hundreds of stairs that you can (or not) take to the highest viewing point. There is also a restaurant to dine in, if you wish.
Option C) More hot springs! Banff Upper Hot Springs are a great way to spend your time. One of my most memorable Banff hot springs experience was soaking in the warm water in -30C weather – definitely give it a try if you’re doing this in the winter!
Option D) Explore the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel – this hotel is a popular tourist attraction for its beauty and the views. Grab a cup of tea on the patio and soak in the view. Rumor has it that the Fairmont is haunted! Though the hotel officially denies all rumors, it is said that a bride tripped down a staircase, lost her life and has haunted the premises ever since. Room 873 is said to be haunted by a young girl and her mother. A Scottish bellman is also told to haunt his old workplace.
You can, of course, try to tackle all of these, or just relax and pick one.
DAY 5: Lakes, Picnics, Hikes
Day 5 is the perfect day for a picnic and a visit to two of the most beautiful lakes in the Rockies. Arrive first at Lake Louise, where you can sunbathe by the lake, take a wander down the walking path or even take a hike up to the tea houses.
The first tea house, the Lake Agnes Teahouse, will take you about an hour depending on fitness level. From there, you can choose to continue on to the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, which will give you a 14.5 km circuit! Be sure to give yourself a whole afternoon for that one. Or stay and be content at Lake Agnes Teahouse as you take in the views over a nice warm cup of tea.
Once you’ve had your fill of Lake Louise, take a stop at Moraine Lake. Not far from Lake Louise, Moraine Lake has canoe rentals for you to take out if you need to get up close and personal with that turquoise water.
DAY 6: Wild Card
Your final day is up to you! If you passed on an option from Day 4 but have been thinking about it ever since, fit it in today! If you feel like a hike, Johnston Canyon isn’t too far South of Banff. There’s plenty of spa options if you need a day of total relaxation. Taking a look at the Hoodoos is also an option.
DAY 7: Home
Home time. Wave goodbye to the mountains!
The mountains are an obvious choice for people seeking a winter getaway – you can experience some of the best snowboarding, skiing, dog sledding, etc. My family took this particular road trip in the summer months – a time when some people might not be sure what to do in the mountains! As you can see, there’s tons of summer options and, being a summer baby through and through, I especially love the Rockies on a warm day.