A red gondola against the mountains in Jasper National Park, Alberta

The Ultimate Canadian Rockies Itinerary

We’ve crafted the ultimate Canadian Rockies itinerary, providing you with all the inspiration you need.

Anyone that has visited the Canadian Rockies will tell you it’s jaw-droppingly beautiful. Or that it’s unlike anywhere else in the world. They’ll speak of the magic and raw, out-of-this-world beauty that will give you goosebumps. But if you’re still yet to traverse the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Canadian Rockies and experience this natural sight for yourself, it can be difficult to pinpoint where to go, how long to stay for, and where the must-see stops are found.

To ensure you don’t miss a thing, we’ve crafted the ultimate Canadian Rockies itinerary, providing you with all the inspiration you need. It’s time to get moving, and to experience alpine perfection for yourself.

The northern lights over a mountain in jasper National Park, Alberta
Will you catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights in Alberta? | © Prscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

How do I get around the Canadian Rockies?

As the second largest country in the world; you must be prepared for a few long drive days. The modes of transport vary between an extensive network of rail systems, plenty of Greyhound Canada routes; you could hire a car, or via our preferred way to travel – on a group tour.

Let’s not forget about the option to fly from one city to the next, but when it comes to exploring the Canadian Rockies, flying probably isn’t your best bet as you’ll miss all the best spots along the way.

The Ultimate Canadian Rockies itinerary

People walking on a large red geometric bridge in Calgary, Alberta
Explore downtown Calgary by foot | © Denisse Leon/Unsplash

Calgary, Alberta

Length of visit: 1-3 days

The first stop on our ultimate, must-visit list: Calgary. Located in the flawless province of Alberta in the foothills of the Rockies, this cosmopolitan city offers the best of the west. This is a city filled with diversity and energy. Lively honky-tonk bars, a flourishing craft beer scene, shopping precincts, and towering skyscrapers have shaped the city into a much-loved spot for Canadians and international visitors. And that’s why we suggest starting your adventure right here. Fly into Calgary International Airport for closest access to the city centre, and depending on what group tour you book, you could even organise an airport transfer to deliver you straight to your hotel.

Along with a few notable claims to fame under its belt, such as hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics, one of the most significant draw cards to this small city is the Calgary Stampede; one of Canada’s most prominent (and most excellent!) festivals. While Calgary is a city that is best explored year-round, the stampede is held from July 5-14 2019; and you won’t want to miss it. Make sure you allow extra time in your itinerary to experience the Stampede in all its glory.

As for the sporting enthusiasts out there, make sure you book tickets for a hockey game and watch as the Calgary Flames battle it out on the ice.

A waterfall in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
A tranquil moment in Waterton Lakes National Park | © Luis Perdiagao/Unsplash

Fort MacLeod and Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

Length of visit: 1-2 days

Leaving Calgary behind you, it’s time to hit the road and venture towards the UNESCO-listed Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump just west of Fort Macleod, Alberta, at the foothills of the Rockies. Declared by UNESCO as a site of “great historical, archaeological and scientific interest”, the beauty of this stop helps to paint a picture of how different hunting practices existed years ago, and how topography played such an important role to this site.

Continue onwards to meet with the Rockies for the first time, and marvel at the ice-capped peaks that tower over Waterton Lakes National Park in Southern Alberta. Just around the corner, if you feel so inclined to book a short detour, you can hop over to Montana’s Glacier National Park in the United States.

After spending the night resting in Waterton National Park, spend the next day exploring the mighty, thundering Cameron Falls. Roam around the streets of Waterton, or jump on a scenic day cruise along Upper Waterton Lakes to learn more about the history and geography from a local guide.  

Canmore, Alberta

Length of visit: 1 day

Bid farewell to Waterton and head west to Canmore, a smaller town located on the edge of Banff National Park. In Canmore, hiking the Three Sisters Mountain Range, Grassi Lakes, and Ha Ling Peak is one of the favourite pastimes of locals, along with mountain biking in the summer, and snow sports in the winter. Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast, or maybe you prefer to enjoy life at a relaxed paced, Canmore has it all.

Two orange canoes in the water of Lake Louise, Alberta
Take in the incredible scenery at Lake Louise | © Andrew Ly/Unsplash

Lake Louise, Alberta

Length of visit: 1-2 days

If you’ve ever seen an image of the Rockies, it was probably captured at Lake Louise. Spend the night here (treat yourself to a night at the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise), and rest up for another big day of hiking and exploring the nearby trails. You’ll need a whole day to trek along the Lakeshore trail or the Lake Agnes Tea House trail. Next, you can rent a canoe from the Lake Louise Boathouse, or visit the glacial Moraine Lake, just nearby.

On the other hand, if you’re travelling through the Rockies during winter, you can enjoy an array of snow-fuelled activities such as snow-shoeing, the thrill of a dog sled ride, or you can rise to new heights in the Lake Louise Gondola. You might even spot a grizzly bear to two, depending on the time of the year.

A red gondola against the mountains in Jasper National Park, Alberta
See Jasper from new heights! | © Banter Snaps/Unsplash

Jasper, Alberta

Length of visit: 2-3 days

Next on the itinerary is Jasper National Park, but not without a stop en route to the spectacular Athabasca Glacier; part of the Columbia Icefields. Once you arrive at the glacier, you can either travel to the top of the glacier on the Ice Explorer bus. Or, you can hike up the glacier under the guidance of a local expert.

After leaving the icefields behind you, you’ll meet with the mountain town of Jasper. Golfing and hiking are the activities of choice and loved by locals, but stargazing at night is also supremely popular, as Jasper listed as a designated dark sky preserve, where almost no artificial lighting is visible at night.

If time allows, why not explore the surrounds of Jasper or embark on a short drive to Maligne Lake. Moose and grizzly bears frequent this area, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled as you drive through the mountainous terrain.

Trees and the Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park, Alberta
The beauty of Banff National Park will leave you breathless! | © Frank McKenna/Unsplash

Banff, Alberta

Length of visit: 3-4 days

The number of ways you can experience Banff is endless, but make sure you allow plenty of time to enjoy the beauty of it all. Jump on the Banff Gondola at the base of Sulphur Mountain. Venture outside the town to Lake Minnewanka. Take a dip in the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Spend the night at Wild Bill’s for a memorable night out (complete with two-stepping and bull riding). Or, sample the best local cuisine on offer at Bear Street Tavern or the favourite microbrewery, Park.

The city of Calgary, Alberta
Calgary is a vibrant city ready to be explored! | © Kyler Nixon/Unsplash

Calgary, Alberta

Length of visit: 1-2 days

Any seasoned traveller will tell you the best way to get around a foreign destination is to start and finish in the same city, which is how we’ve mapped out our dream itinerary. But, if you feel that you’ve well and truly exhausted everything you can eat, see, and explore in Calgary, why not add a few extra days and stop along back to Vancouver, British Columbia (warning: it’s not a short journey!), or head further north to Edmonton to continue your exploration of Alberta.

Wherever you end up, you can relax knowing that you’ve officially ticked off the very best sights and experiences on offer throughout the Canadian Rockies.

This story was created in partnership with: Travel Alberta 

Gemma is a travel-lover from Melbourne. When she's not surrounded by the great outdoors, Gemma can be found spending her time with family and friends or planning her next trip overseas.

Carly Stein, founder of Beekeeper's Naturals holds one of her favourite products B.Chill Honey Sticks between her hands
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