It had to be Canadian Rockies for me to get back to writing and also, to make a debut in travel articles. Canada has so much to offer for the travel enthusiast and so far, Alberta has been my favorite of all. For those, who want to pick just one place to travel in Canada, then I would say, it definitely should be “Canadian Rockies”.
Vacation for me is not visiting a place to relax, its more to explore and carry the memories back to cherish…. only, until my next vacation, but Rockies has stayed with me for the longest time now.
I like to plan and be well prepared before exploring any new place, so here is a quick look at our itinerary:
Total Days: 9 days spread over 2 nights in Calgary, 3 nights in Banff and 3 Nights in Jasper.
Day 1: Heritage park and Calgary downtown
Day 2: Dinosaur Provincial Park
Day 3: Banff Gondola to Sulphur mountain, Banff Cave and Basin, Bow Falls and Banff Downtown
Day 4: Lake Louise, Lake Moraine, Yoho National Park
Day 5: Johnston Canyon, Sunshine Village, Vermillion Lake, Minnewanka Lake, 2 Jack Lake
Day 6: Bow lake, Waterfowl Lake, Mistaya Canyon, Crawford Glacier, Columbian Ice fields, Sunwapta Falls.
Day 7: Jasper National Park, Jasper to Dunster by Train, Jasper Downtown, Pyramid Lake
Day 8: Maligne Lake Cruise to Spirit Island, Maligne canyon, Talbot Lake, Lake Annette and lake Edith
Day 9: Athabasca Falls and a long amazing drive back to Calgary
Oh yes! We did all that and much more, that’s the beauty of the Rockies, it doesn’t let you to miss out on anything with its enticing beauty.
Best time to visit: June to early September
Where to Stay:
- Calgary: We stayed in Marriott, all thanks to Hubby’s points status but I would suggest in and around Downtown area.
- Banff: Camping has a lot of options and it needs to be booked way well in advance but if you are not for it, then I would be partial to Banff Downtown area, also because I personally like to stay in the center, which is accessible to restaurant’s and is more lively. Budget wise, Canmore is next best option but don’t go as far as Kananaskis, unless you are looking for total isolation.
- Jasper: We stayed in Hinton but I would suggest staying in Jasper National park. There are plenty of resorts like Pyramid Lake Resort, Bear Hill Lodge or look for Airbnb’s.
Quick Tips and Advice:
- Book your car well in advance and make sure to pick it up from the airport.
- If you have kids, carry your own car seats or ask if the car seats are included in the rental.
- If you have kids travelling along, then Heritage park is a must do, it’s very educational and fun at the same time.
- Dinosaur park is about 3 hours’ drive from Calgary but trust me, it’s well worth the drive. The drive and the scenery is completely different from what you would experience in the Rockies. This is where you get the taste of Canadian Prairies. Icing on the cake – park is UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, if ticking off the heritage site is on your check list.
- We did a Fossil Safari at 2pm, we thought it was perfect since you don’t have to rush if Calgary is your base location and you have enough time to explore the park on your own. My personal favorite was the Badlands.
- Bookings to the safari has to be done in advance, it gets filled up very soon. If you are getting that far, who would want to miss the opportunity of looking for a real Dinosaur fossil. Oh yes! You will be surprised to find a lot of them, including the nails.
- Dinosaur park has a lot of vicious mosquitos trying to spoil your fun, so make sure to wear loose fitted clothes covering your legs and hands. Also, don’t forget to carry your bugs repellent or leave it in the hotel, like I did!
- Buy the Ultimate Explorer Pass in advance, which includes Gondola ride in Banff, Ice field Parkway Glacier Adventure and Sky walk and Maligne Lake Cruise or Banff Lake Cruise. Buying the pass would definitely saves a lot of money and time of standing in queue to buy individually tickets.
- Take the Bow Valley Parkway scenic route to go to Lake Louise, it’s one of the most scenic route and probability of spotting wild life is much higher.
- During summer time, if Lake Louise and Lake Moraine exceeds its capacity of visitors, the park closes off the gate for the day. Also, if you want to get some good shots without anybody photo bombing, then make that extra effort to get there as early as 8 or 9am. Trust me, when I say crowd, its worse than the amount of people you see in the mall during “Black Friday” sale.
- Yoho National park is just around Lake Louise/Lake Moraine and its worth all your time. We stopped at every location in the park, some highlights of the park were the Spiral Tunnels, Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, Wapta Falls and Lake O hara.
- Don’t miss the sun set in Vermillion Lake,Banff.
- If you want to see the Milky Way Galaxy or the Northern Lights, then head to Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park. During the summer time, daylight is up to 10pm so the best time to get there is around 8pm to experience the best of sun and stars.
- Book your tour to Iceland Parkway Glacier explorer tour around 2pm, if you are heading there from Banff, so that you have enough time to pull over at all the beautiful spots on the way.
- Canadian Rockies trip is mostly talked for its train tour, so just to feel how is it like to explore the Rockies in Train, we took the train ride from Jasper to Dunster, BC. It’s a full day activity, train leaves from Jasper Downtown in the noon and we return back to Jasper via van. I would definitely prefer road trip to Train tour, any day. Road trip is more economical and you get to explore much more places.
- Would I suggest the train tour to Dunster? Well, depends on time and interest.
Where to Book:
- Fossil Safari, Dinosaur Provincial Park: http://www.albertaparks.ca/dinosaur/activities-events/interpretive-tour-programs/events/fossil-safari.aspx
- Ultimate Explorer Pass: https://www.brewster.ca/canadian-rockies-experts/, you will have to book the individual tour in advance, but in-person. So, once you are in Banff, the first thing to do is to go to the nearest Brewster office or there is one in Banff Downtown.
- Dunster Train Tour: https://www.getyourguide.com/jasper-l290/half-day-train-tour-from-jasper-to-dunster-t12607/
- Car Booking: We booked ours with www.Rentalcars.com
How early should you make all the bookings? At least 3months in advance. Remember, the park entrance in 2017 will be FREE!!!! That also means “MORE TOURIST”.
What you shouldn’t miss if you have less time or want to have more relaxed vacation
- Dinosaur Provincial Park
- Banff Gondola
- Lake Louise and Lake Moraine
- Iceland Parkway Glacier Adventure and Skywalk
- Maligne Lake Cruise to Spirit Island
Recommended Hikes with Kids
- Johnston Canyon: Easy if you are just going to the first look out point and moderate if you decide to go further.
- Sunshine Village:
- Bow Falls: Hike around Bow Falls is easy
- Maligne Canyon: Moderate but gorgeous
- Athabasca Canyon: Easy
What we missed that we regret?
Booking the bus ride (like, one year in advance) to Lake O’Hara, this is highly recommended for Hiking and camping but watch out for BEARS!
ROCK THE ROCKIES ROAD TRIP!