It’s hard to compete with the magnificent natural beauty of Alberta. Between the Rocky Mountains and iridescent waters, this is a land like no other. It almost feels like you’re in another world.
If you’re a first-time visitor to the area, use this guide as inspiration. Either way, if you’re a traveller and nature lover, these spectacular places should definitely be on your immediate travel itinerary.
Banff: Nature’s Playground in the Rockies
If mountain landscapes and otherworldly wilderness is your thing, then Banff should be first on your travel list. There’s enough to do here that you could explore it for your lifetime and never get bored. It’s gorgeous in summer, winter, and everything in between.
The streets of the resort town are lined with amazing architecture, befitting of a mountain location. While there are museums, teahouses, distilleries, and more to explore, the true draw of Banff is the great outdoors.
There’s an endless supply of activities to enjoy. Walking, hiking, biking, and horseback riding are popular ways to experience the area. Set aside a few hours to take part in exciting, Instagram-worthy activities — rafting, paddling or stand-up paddleboarding, rock climbing, canyoning, golf, and caving, to name a few.
Banff falls on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Tsuut’ina, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all who make the Treaty 7 region their home.
Icefields Parkway: The Majestic Highway
If road trips get you excited, then Icefields Parkway needs to be on your list of things to do in Alberta. The parkway runs between Banff and Jasper, a distance of around 232 kilometres (144 miles), and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful stretch anywhere.
You can do this trip in a single day, although you should definitely plan to stop a lot along the way. The route runs through mountainous peaks and forest landscapes, featuring a range of lakes, waterfalls, and over 100 spectacular glaciers.
There are plenty of stops along the way where you’ll be compelled to get out your camera and capture the magnificent scenery. One of the most popular stops is the Columbia Icefield — the biggest in the Canadian Rockies. It’s also home to the Athabasca Glacier, as tall as the Eiffel Tower and the most visited glacier on the continent.
If you’re feeling brave, take a stop at the Glacier Skywalk — a 2.6-km (1.6-mile) walkway running alongside the cliff and jutting out over. Well, nothing. The glass-bottomed path provides an amazing, unrestricted view of the surroundings.
Jasper National Park: Untamed Beauty
On the other end of Icefields Parkway lies Jasper National Park. If you thought the country couldn’t match Banff’s beauty, think again because Jasper is just as stunning. This little alpine town is not nearly as touristy as Banff, so it has quite a different feeling but is right on par in terms of spectacular scenery.
We recommend booking a stay in a cabin, which puts you right in the middle of nature. From there, you can hike one of the many trails, hit some Class II & class III rapids in a paddle boat, take a ride on a mountain bike, or explore Maligne Canyon. Don’t forget the camera!
If you’re around in October, don’t miss the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. While you can visit the Dark Sky Preserve year-round (you’ll never see further into space than this!), October is a special time and includes many exciting activities. (More about the Dark Sky Festival)
Lake Louise: Picture-Perfect Splendour
Winter or summer, Lake Louise is absolutely worth a visit. The most photographed location in the country, you’ll understand why when you lay eyes on it. Its emerald green waters are unlike any other lake, caused by tiny fragments of rock at the bottom of the lake reflecting light.
Hiking, canoeing on the turquoise water, or horseback riding are all wonderful activities to partake in here. In summer, you can take a gondola ride to get a bird’s-eye view of the surroundings, showing the famous location from a different perspective.
In winter, the snow shouldn’t stop you from having an amazing time — you can go snowshoeing if you want a bit of a workout or opt for dog sledding if you’re interested in doing something a little different.
There are also plenty of spots to stop for a meal or a drink, most of which have a stunning view that you’ll remember for a long time to come.
Canmore: A Natural Wonderland
Canmore is just outside of Banff National Park, which makes it a somewhat more affordable destination than some of the others in the area. It still has that typical alpine town feeling, but it’s a little less touristy than the likes of Banff and Jasper.
It’s a wonderland of hiking trails, both family-friendly trails and more technical ones for experienced hikers. Whichever you choose, expect picturesque views. Golfers will enjoy swinging their clubs at some of the most beautiful golf courses around.
It’s also a superb spot for a bit of stargazing — you can’t find clearer skies! If you’re there at the right time of year, you might even get to see the Northern Lights.
If you’re here in winter, you can’t miss Canmore’s premier activity—skiing or snowboarding. You can do a bit of dog sledding here, too, so you can visit at any time of year and have a great time.
The Canadian Rockies are like a different planet. Their majesty surpasses many other spectacular places on earth, so if you’re a travel enthusiast, a golfer, a nature lover, or simply love and appreciate beauty, these breathtaking places are worth visiting.
Whatever you choose to do in the Canadian Rockies, remember to leave things as you found them. Locations like this deserve to remain unspoiled so that everyone can marvel at their beauty.