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Aug 28, 2020

8 min. read

Drive, see, explore.

Whether you've driven through the Rocky Mountains once or a thousand times, the scenery is always astonishing. Head west and watch the landscape transform from flat prairie to rolling foothills to giant peaks. The experience never gets old—and there's always a new way to fall in love with the Rockies.

A group of people standing on a walkway in the mountains.

Road Trip!

Because the best way to see the Rockies is by car, with a few fun pit stops along the way.


HWY 93 - Lake Louise to Jasper.

This is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. With hundreds of peaks and glaciers, stunning mountain lakes and powerful waterfalls, each turn presents more outstanding scenery than the last. Plan to pull over a lot. Along the 230-kilometre stretch of road, also called the Icefields Parkway, you'll find the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, where you can tour the Athabasca Glacier. Farther north, walk out along the glass-bottomed Skywalk and gaze 280 metres down to the canyon floor. As you navigate the enormous hairpin turn aptly called the Big Bend, give a nod to the 600 men who first built the highway—mostly by hand—in the 1930s as a government make-work project.

HWY 11 - Rocky Mountain House to Saskatchewan crossing.

It may be the road less travelled, but that doesn't mean it's any less magnificent. Heading west from the small town of Rocky Mountain Mount Revelstoke National Park; Columbia Icefield Skywalk (top) House, you'll marvel as the vista morphs from foothills to mountains. At Nordegg, a former mining town turned outdoor adventure hot spot, head out fishing or hiking for the day. A little farther west, pull over and unpack a picnic at Abraham Lake, a vast man-made lake filled with natural mountain-blue water. All along the 180-kilometre route, watch for bears, moose and other wildlife. At Saskatchewan Crossing, where the Mistaya and Howse rivers meet the North Saskatchewan, turn right to check out Jasper, or turn left to go to Lake Louise.

TCH HWY 1 - Lake Louise to Revelstoke.

This 230-kilometre route takes you through Canadian railway history, across thrilling mountain passes and into quirky towns. Keep an eye out for the Spiral Tunnels, which have enabled trains to navigate Kicking Horse Pass since 1909. Your first stop west of Lake Louise is the little town of Field, B.C., with its legendary Truffle Pigs bistro. Next, pop into Golden to hit up the museum—to learn about early explorers—or the art gallery to see pieces by local artisans. At the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre in Glacier National Park, learn how the railway was built through the mountains. And in Mount Revelstoke National Park, east of the town of Revelstoke, go for a stroll amidst ancient forest along the Giant Cedars Boardwalk.

HWY 93/95 - Cranbrook to Radium Hot Springs.

In British Columbia, this gentle 144-kilometre drive between the Rocky and Purcell mountains takes you past rushing rivers, long beautiful lakes, golf courses and plenty of bighorn sheep. From the outdoorsy town of Cranbrook, wend your way north to explore the Kimberley Nature Park, which boasts hiking adventures ranging from easy to very challenging. Farther on, hit the links, dip into the hot springs at Fairmont and Radium or walk the beaches of Lake Windermere. In the town of Invermere, peruse local boutiques before heading to Radium, just outside Kootenay National Park, to drive alongside remarkable cliffs. Slow down and look up to count the bighorn sheep. From Radium, you can go east to head back to Alberta or turn north toward Golden, B.C.

A couple in a convertible driving down a country road.

Driving tips.

  1. Before driving through the Rockies, make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape. A breakdown could mean a long wait, due to accessibility challenges.

  2. Fuel up before setting off so you have a full tank of gas or charge for your EV.

  3. Keep your eyes on the road: You’ll still see jaw-dropping views as you safely drive around bends.

  4. Take advantage of the frequent lookouts on many routes to pull over and gaze at the peaks.

  5. The speed limit is lower in national parks due to abundant wildlife. Slow down, clear your windshield for visibility and scan both sides of the road for animals.

  6. The biggest risk for hitting wildlife is from October to January, between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. In Alberta, November is the peak month for wildlife-vehicle collisions and most of those collisions (80 percent) involve deer.

  7. Ease up on the gas pedal and enjoy every kilometre of the Rockies' glorious scenery.

A group of people standing on top of a mountain.

Pick a Peak.

Must-see mountains and their hidden histories.


Castle Mountain

Banff National Park

Elevation: 2,766 m

Best views: Hwy 1, Hwy 93

In 1946, Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King abruptly renamed Castle Mountain to Mount Eisenhower the day before a visit by the American president. People were outraged. In 1979, the mountain was finally re-renamed—but its eastern elevation is still called Eisenhower Peak.

Ha Ling Peak

Bow River Valley

Elevation: 2,408 m

Best views: Hwy 1, 1A, 742

In 1896, Ha Ling, a cook in a mining camp, bet his coworkers $50 he could climb the mountain, plant a flag and be back in Canmore within 10 hours. Word is he did it in five-and-a-half. Another version of the story says Lee Poon was the Chinese cook who won a $10 bet.

Mount Assiniboine

Alberta-B.C. border

Elevation: 3,618 m

Best view: Hwy 742

In the late 1800s, a geologist was watching a cloud trail away from the massive mountain and was reminded of smoke leaving a tipi in an Assiniboine camp. Mount Assiniboine is also called "the Matterhorn of the Rockies" because it resembles the famous peak in the Swiss Alps.

Mount Chephren

Banff National Park

Elevation: 3,266 m

Best view: Hwy 93N

In 1918, there was concern too many mountains were called "Pyramid". A Jasper-area mountaineer suggested this Pyramid Mountain be renamed for a pharaoh that built one of the Great Pyramids. Chephren was the fourth pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt in the 16th century BC.

Mount Edith Cavell

Jasper National Park

Elevation: 3,363 m

Best views: Hwys 16, 93

Edith Cavell was a British nurse who helped Allied soldiers escape German occupied Belgium in WWI before being executed by the Germans. A few months later, in March 1916, the peak originally called Mount Fitzhugh was renamed to honour the courageous nurse who'd never set foot in Canada.

Two people hiking up a hill with backpacks.

How to climb a mountain.

Whether you go on a little hike or shoot for the top, Parks Canada advises you plan ahead, know your limits and bring proper gear.

  1. Check conditions before you head out and have a plan of where you're going. Share it with someone at home, in case you run into trouble.

  2. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged—and always pack a backup battery in case of emergencies.

  3. Ensure everyone in your party has the physical ability to tackle the chosen route. Don't wear earphones. Stay alert at all times.

  4. Wear comfortable hiking shoes or boots, a hat, sunscreen and a few layers of clothing—the weather can change quickly in the mountains. Bring lots of water and snacks and a first aid kit.

  5. Make a lot of noise on the trail to keep bears away, but also make sure you have bear spray.

  6. Don't litter or leave any garbage behind. If hiking with Fido, always use a leash and clean up after him.

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Three people riding bicycles on a road with mountains in the background.

Paddle, Pedal, Pool.

Three unique ways to experience the best of the Rockies.


Canoe on Pyramid Lake.

Paddling is optional in Wild Current Outfitters' big cedarstrip canoe. While guides paddle across the lake, guests can row or sit back and look for osprey, loons, beavers, wolves, moose and bears. Hop out on shore for a snack and a primer on grizzly and black bear tracking.

Soak in Fairmont Hot Springs.

After a long drive or hike, relax with a soak in the pool at Fairmont Hot Springs. With naturally heated waters full of minerals, hot springs are known to boost metabolism, soothe sore muscles and improve blood circulation. Enjoying the view of the mountains is pretty good for you too.

Ride the Great Divide.

From the Great Divide trailhead near Lake Louise, hop on a mountain bike for a gentle 20-km ride on the mostly flat ride trail that used to be Highway 1A. You’ll see the old Great Divide arch, marking the border between Alberta and B.C. After posing for the requisite pictures at the '60s-era signage, you may want to venture a few clicks farther into B.C.’s Yoho National Park.

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