Let’s be honest, the Rocky Mountains are famous for a reason. The mountain range is unlike any other in the world. The region has stunning mountain views, diverse forests and plant life, unique and majestic wildlife, and incredible adventure opportunities. The Rockies have something for every age and every experience level, and it has become a perfect destination for all travelers. Whether you are looking for short easy walks, long challenging hikes, rock-climbing, water sports, or winter activities, there is something for everyone.
The mountain region expands from Alaska, through Canada, and all the way down to the United States of America. The Rocky Mountains are filled with inspiring landscapes, beautiful scenery and unique opportunities to explore. In Canada, the Rockies expand through five national parks in Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton, and also through many provincial parks such as Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber. These lands are protected by each respective National Government and are considered to be World Heritage Sites. But, what sets the Canadian Rocky Mountains apart from its neighbors? Here are 25 pictures of the Canadian Rockies that make America’s parks second-rate.
Just outside of Valemount, BC, Mt. Robson sits as the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. Known as the ‘Great White Fright’ it towers above all else in the area. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it's well known for its hiking and camping according to VisitValemount. The pinnacle, however, is Berg Lake sitting at the base of Mt. Robson. The trail to get there takes you past many landscapes including waterfalls, glaciers and beautiful turquoise lakes. However, it is the stunning glacier lake at the end that is the most impressive view.
Nestled away in Jasper National Park (Canada’s largest national park), is the World’s second largest glacially fed lake. Almost an hour long drive outside of the town of Jasper, sits Maligne Lake. The drive there is well worth it though because you are greeted with a picturesque 360 view of mountains.
According to the Banff Jasper Collection, artist and explorer Mary Schaffer was the first European to view Maligne Lake in 1908. She said that if Lake Louise was a pearl, Maligne is the entire pearl necklace. If that isn’t enough to make you want to visit, nothing will be.
Hidden away in Maligne Lake is Spirit Island, however it is definitely not a secret. Spirit Island is one of the most photographed spots in Canada according to Banff Jasper Collective. Peter Gale originally photographed the island in 1960, and it hung in Kodak’s Colorama showcase in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. This immediately drew more attention to the area and its popularity has increased ever since.
Large companies liked Apple have even used images of Spirit Island to market their tech products. The Islands popularity is well founded as the views are stunning.
To get a better perspective of the size and grandeur of Maligne Lake, you would need to get a better view. Bald Hills can offer just that and more. By walking up, you will be able to view Maligne Lake from above and see the stunning turquoise color of the lake. You will be able to capture the surrounding mountains and appreciate their impressive height.
Although you need to walk up, the views make the trip worth it. It allows you to escape the heavily trafficked tourist areas and fully appreciate everything that Maligne Lake has to offer.
Just a few minutes outside of the town of Jasper sits Pyramid Island. This classic community area has been a long-standing favourite among locals. With views of Pyramid Mountain and the surrounding mountain ranges, this is a must-visit spot of Jasper. The area is lined with picnic tables, benches and covered areas which makes this a perfect spot to bring a lunch and appreciate the scenery.
It is a very quick and easy walk for such a picturesque view and it is the perfect location to stargaze at night because Jasper is a protected area against light pollution.
Known for being one of the most stunning areas in the Rockies, the Tonquin Valley has earned its fame. The scenery is unrivalled as the trail takes you into Canada’s premier alpine region. The trek there is at the top of many people’s bucket-lists because of the beautiful Amethyst Lake, the Ramparts Mountain range and its variety of wildlife.
The area is popular for moose, black bears, grizzly bears and woodland caribou, and chances are you will spots one or all of the above! So don’t forget to pack your bear spray and keep your distance.
According to the Mandagies, Maligne Canyon is one of the most interesting places in Jasper and it has so much to offer. As you stroll through the canyon area, you can discover waterfalls, forests, fossils and many different types of plant life. As the water rushes through the area, it changes the rock formation creating what you see today. In the winter, you can even explore the inside of the canyon for one of the most unique experiences. It is the perfect time to see a frozen waterfall and learn about the history of the canyon.
The Valley of Five Lakes is a walk that takes you by five turquoise, blue and emerald coloured lakes. Each lake features something different and has views of the towering mountains surrounding the area. The walk is very easy and is good for people of all different strengths, but it has extreme pay off.
The Mandagies stated that is one of the easiest hikes in Jasper and it is a top IG spot. They recommend visiting in the morning to avoid crowds and experience the best that the Valley has to offer.
Mount Edith Cavell sits towering above the valley area below in Jasper National Park. It offers breathtaking scenery and is often described as a highlight of visiting the National Park. As you explore the valley, you will come upon beautiful meadows where wildflowers bloom in spring and early summer. As you wander through the meadows you come upon views of the mountain above you, Angel Glacier and Cavell Glacier. If you are looking for a rewarding day trip in Jasper, Edith Cavell Meadows should be at the top of your list.
Athabasca Pass not only offers beautiful mountain views but is also a historic site in Canada. The area was instrumental for establishing transportation to the Pacific Coast which was essential to the fur trade. This was used for almost half a century as part of the main fur trade routes. It is a quick stop off of the Icefield Parkway just outside of the town of Jasper.
It is well worth pulling over to take in and appreciate the stunning scenery that the site has to offer and to learn about Canadian heritage.
Athabasca Falls is a favourite destination to stop on the Icefields Parkway, and it is easy to see why. Not only does is offer a famous and stunning waterfall, but it also has a beautiful canyon that you can explore through. It is home to one of the most powerful waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies according to the Mandagies which has carved a beautiful canyon into the limestone. Make sure to stand on the designated areas though because the rocks can be very slippery and dangerous to stand on.
This short walk is perfect for all ages. It is only a short distance from the parking lot for a stunning view of Sunwapta Falls. The walk allows you to get right up to the falls and feel the spray of the water rushing down the canyon. You can continue to explore the canyon by taking a short walk to the other waterfall down the trail. This area is less explored so you will find that it is quieter.
If you wish to avoid the crowds, visit in the morning or late afternoon!
The Athabasca Glacier is one of the six outlets on the Columbia Icefield according to the Mandagies, and the icefield is the largest in existence on the interior of North America. Many of the glaciers are difficult to access, however Athabasca Glacier is easy to visit. A short walk allows visitors to stand at the toe of the glacier and see the streams and glacial water up close and personal. However, you should never venture onto the glacier without a guide because there are many hidden crevasses!
Jasper and Banff are not very far apart but the drive between them is paved with ancient glaciers. National Geographic named the Icefield’s Parkway the drive of a lifetime, stating that “its not the destination that matters, it’s the journey”. The 232kms connecting the two national parks offers dramatic scenery and you will want to pull over every few minutes to appreciate the views.
You can easily stretch the drive into a multi-day affair by planning hikes along the drive or activities like going on a glacier walk!
The Plain of Six Glaciers is a class hike in Banff National Park. The hike takes you past Lake Louise, to a lovely Tea House and finishes with stunning views of Glaciers according to 10hikes. Although Lake Louise is the must-see attraction, the Plain of Six Glaciers is a less trafficked must see area. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can consider booking a horse tour through Brewster Stables to explore the area. But make sure to stop at the tea house to have a cup and appreciate the stunning mountain views!
This site is a popular day hike in Banff National Park. It is easy making it perfect for families and people of any fitness level. There are catwalks fixed to cliffs that allow you to access the canyon to see breathtaking views of waterfalls and rapids. You can get up-close and personal to these massive waterfalls and get a new perspective on them. This canyon is very different to Maligne Canyon though because you are walking within the canyon walls. There are also many more waterfalls to see, so it just gets better as you continue.
Peyto Lake is an infamous spot in Banff. Easy to get to, this location offers the perfect view of surrounding mountains and the massive glacier lake below. To access the viewpoint, simply pull off of the Icefield’s Parkway at it’s highest point and it is only a short walk from the parking lot.
There are a number of hikes in the area which offer beautiful views of Petyo Peak and Cauldron peak, which in combination with the lake make for a stunning photo.
Bow Lake is famous for being one of the largest lakes in Banff National Park and it is completely fed from glacial runoff according to the Mandagies. This is the perfect spot to explore and take in Crowfoot Mountain. On a clear calm day, you might even be able to capture a flawless reflection of the mountains in the pristine waters. The stunning Num-Ti-Jah Lodge sits next to the lake and offers a beautiful spot to stroll and stretch your legs off of Highway 93.
Just a couple minutes outside of Banff sits Vermillion Lakes. This lake is easily accessible to everyone and provides incredible views of one of the most infamous mountains in Canada, Mount Rundle. The steep mountain and dramatic shape add to the already stunning scenery. The network of marshlands make this a popular destination to appreciate everything that Banff has to offer. Elk, moose and bears can often be seen wandering nearby and the variety of plant life make this a must-see destination. Consider completing the Fenland Trail for a walk, or canoe, kayak or paddleboard through the water.
Lake Louise is most likely the most photographed spot in Banff National Park. Visitors flock to visit the destination for its perfect glacier views and stunning green waters. Its easy accessibility attacks more than 15,000 people a day during its peak season according to the Mandagies.
If you are hoping to visit, you should arrive before 8:00am or after 7:00pm daily, as the parking lot fills up in the early hours. If you want to avoid crowds, consider walking around the lake or getting a higher perspective on the hike to Lake Agnes.
The sheer cliff-face surrounding Lake Agnes is like no other. After leaving Lake Louise to begin your ascent to Lake Agnes, you will follow an easy trail up to the lake hidden above. Upon arrival, you will find the stunning teahouse set in the mountains. Take time to enjoy a cup of tea and maybe a snack while taking in the breath-taking views!
This experience is one-of-a-kind and will make your trip to the Rockies even more special. Don’t forget to bring cash though because there are no ATMs in the mountains.
After walking up to Lake Agnes teahouse, you might want to turn back but there are even more exciting views waiting ahead. Continuing on towards the Little Bee Hive, you will get a stunning aerial view of Lake Louise and the mountains surrounding it. If you make the trip in the fall you will find a beautiful combination of fall colours and wintery backdrops according to Jana Meerman.
Although it can be quite cold, the unique view makes this hike worth it. Don’t turn back and keep pushing forward!
Emerald Lake is set in Yoho National Park, in British Columbia. It is the largest of the 61 lakes in Yoho and is by far one of the most famous. According to Banff and Beyond, its beautiful green waters are how Emerald Lake got its name. It is the crowning jewel of Yoho National Park because of the intensity of its colour.
The lake is surrounded by the President Mountain Range, Wapta Mountain and Mount Burgess, making it a picturesque spot to explore and adventure.
Although Emerald Lake is the jewel of Yoho, Lake O’Hara is definitely a hidden gem. According to CBC, most don’t get the chance to see it. As you are required to take a bus to access the lake, many are unable to go due to the limited number of tickets. It is possible to walk to the lake however, but it is a 22km round trip which most tourists are not willing to do.
It remains a paradise for those who are able to make the trip and is worth the trip for those who can make it.
The most picturesque spot in all of Canada has to be Moraine Lake. Its incredible views are unrivaled by any North American park. Moraine Lake is only a short drive from Lake Louise and is easily accessible. To get the best views without swarms of tourists, arrive at the Rock Pile Trail before sunrise to see the sun come over the Valley of Ten Peaks. It is the most magical spot in the entire country and it encompasses the beauty that Canada has to offer.
Sources: VisitValemount.ca, The Mandagies, Banff Jasper Collective, 10hikes, JanaMeerman.com, Banff and Beyond, CBC