A road through the Canadian Rocky Mountains with snow capped peaks

Plan the Ultimate Canadian Rockies Road Trip

The Rocky Mountains are one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring natural wonders in North America.

Stretching from Alberta all the way to New Mexico, these mountains offer something for everyone. Whether you’re a nature lover, an outdoor enthusiast, or just looking for a great vacation spot, a road trip through the Rocky Mountains is definitely something you should consider.

There are a few things to remember when planning a road trip through the Canadian Rockies, one of the most beautiful drives in the world.

First, the mountains are huge and there’s a lot of ground to cover. Second, the weather can be unpredictable, so be sure to pack appropriate clothing and supplies. Third, there are numerous activities and attractions to enjoy along the way, so plan your route accordingly and allow plenty of time.

In this post, we’ll guide you through planning the perfect road trip through the Canadian Rockies:

Canada Family Road Trip planning tips

Preparing For Your Canadian Rockies Road Trip

Before you hit the road in Canada, there are a few things you should do to prepare.

First, check the weather forecast and plan your route accordingly. If you’re driving through the mountains in winter, be sure to pack snow tires and chains.

Second, make sure your vehicle is in good working condition and that you have all the necessary supplies, such as:

  • a map (offline or paper – don’t rely on having any cell signal)
  • a first-aid kit
  • extra food and water

Next up, check what park fees need to be paid. Over the course of a Canadian Rockies road trip, you are almost certainly going to be better off investing in an annual Discovery Pass.

Finally, be sure to tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return.

Choose Your Canadian Rockies Destination

The Canadian Rocky Mountains span a large area, so choosing a destination that suits your interests and needs is important. Each region has its own features and attractions. For example:

  • Banff National Park in Alberta is known for its stunning scenery, hiking trails, and wildlife. The area is known for its breathtaking turquoise-blue lakes.
  • Jasper National Park in Alberta is perfect for those who want to enjoy the great outdoors with plenty of opportunities for camping, fishing, and canoeing.
  • Yoho National Park in British Columbia is a nature lover’s paradise with its waterfalls, glaciers, and mountains.
  • Mount Revelstoke National Park, in British Columbia, is ideal for those who want to experience the true Canadian Rockies with its snowy peaks and remote wilderness.
Canada Rocky Mountains - Mount Revelstoke National Park

Once you’ve chosen your destination, it’s time to start planning your route.

The Canadian Rockies are huge, so you must decide which parts of the mountains you absolutely want to see and how you’ll get there.

Be sure to map out your route in advance and make sure you have enough time to complete the journey. You will most likely start from one of the major cities and international airports in Calgary, Alberta (YYC), or Vancouver, BC (YVR).

To help you plan out your exact itinerary, dive into one of our more detailed Canadian road trip guides:

Main Attractions In Canada’s Rocky Mountains

There are countless attractions to enjoy while driving through the Canadian Rockies and the UNESCO Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.

Here are just a few of the many highlights you’ll want to include on a family road trip itinerary through the Canadian Rockies.

  1. Lake Louise in Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, with its stunning turquoise waters.
Canada Rocky Mountains - Lake Louise Banff National Park

2. The Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park is the largest ice field in North America and offers a variety of glacier-related activities, such as ice walks and snowmobiling.

3. Mt. Robson in British Columbia is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

4. The Spiral Tunnels in Revelstoke National Park is a must-see for any train enthusiast. These tunnels were built to help trains navigate the steep grades of the mountains.

5. Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Rockies and is easily accessible from the road.

Canada Rocky Mountains - Athabasca Falls Jasper National Park

6. Canmore in Alberta is a charming mountain town with plenty of shops and restaurants to explore. There are cave tours offered year-round.

Plan Your Meal Stops

One of the best parts about road-tripping is being able to enjoy all the different cuisines along the way, and the Canadian Rockies are certainly no exception.

Best Restaurants In The Canadian Rockies

The Rocky Mountains are home to some of the best restaurants in Canada. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Sky Bistro: Located in Banff National Park, Sky Bistro offers stunning views of the Canadian Rockies while you enjoy a gourmet meal. You ride up the gondola to the restaurant, which is located on top of Sulphur Mountain.
  • Earls Kitchen + Bar: With several locations throughout the Rocky Mountains, Earls is a great option for those looking for a unique and exciting meal. The menu features a wide variety of global comfort food.
  • The Juniper Bistro: Located in Jasper National Park, The Juniper Bistro is the perfect place to go for a romantic dinner or special occasion. The restaurant features an ever-changing menu with locally sourced ingredients.
  • Farm & Fire: Farm & Fire is a great option for those who want to experience a true taste of the Rocky Mountains. The Banff restaurant sources all of its ingredients from local farms and offers a variety of wood-fired pizzas.
  • BeaverTails: No trip to the Rocky Mountains is complete without trying a BeaverTail! These fried pastries are a Canadian specialty and can be found at numerous locations throughout the mountains.
  • Communitea Cafe: This cute Canmore cafe is a great casual option for those looking for healthy food options. The menu features a variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches.
Mt Robson snow capped peak in summer the Canadian Rockies

Find Accommodation

There are many different accommodation options available throughout the Rocky Mountains. Whether you’re looking for a hotel, motel, or campsite, be sure to book ahead, as places fill up quickly during peak season.

There are also several Airbnbs and vacation rentals available if you’re looking for something more unique.

Best Hotels in the Canadian Rockies

If you’re looking for a comfortable stay, the area has a number of wonderful historic luxury hotels.

  • Fairmont Banff Spring – This historic luxury hotel is located in the heart of Banff National Park and offers world-class amenities and service.
  • Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge – Located in Jasper National Park, this lodge village offers a variety of room options, as well as cottages and cabins.
  • Rimrock Resort Hotel – The Rimrock Resort Hotel is located in Banff National Park and offers stunning views of the Canadian Rockies.
  • Lake Louise Inn – This inn is located in the beautiful town of Lake Louise and features a variety of room types, including standard rooms and suites. It’s a beautiful mountain resort for all seasons.

Airbnbs and vacation rentals – Many Airbnbs and vacation rentals are available throughout the Rocky Mountains. Be sure to book ahead as places fill up quickly during peak season.

You can start your accommodation search in Banff, although you may find cheaper options if you look to smaller towns like Canmore.

Camping In The Canadian Rockies

If you’re more interested in camping along the way, there are some great campgrounds to explore during the warmer seasons.

  • The Banff National Park Campgrounds – There are several campgrounds located throughout Banff National Park. Most are open from May until September-October but a few, such as Tunnel Mtn Village II, are open year-round.
  • The Jasper National Park Campgrounds – There are several campgrounds located throughout Jasper National Park, each with its own unique features. Whistlers Campground is known for Elk sightings, while Wapiti Campground is a large riverside campground.

Pack Appropriately

As mentioned before, the weather in the Rocky Mountains can be unpredictable. Be sure to pack clothing and supplies for warm and cold weather conditions.

Travelling with an infant, make sure they are warm enough in their car seat and pack toys and entertainment for those long stretches.

You’ll also want to bring along any hiking or camping gear you might need if you’re planning on hitting the trails and getting deep into the mountains.

And don’t forget your camera to capture all those amazing views!

Weather In The Canadian Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains experience all four seasons, so the weather can vary greatly depending on when you visit.

In the spring, the temperatures start to warm up, and the snow begins to melt. This is a great time to go hiking or camping as there are fewer crowds and beautiful wildflowers start to bloom- though it can be very wet underfoot.

Canada Rocky Mountains - Spring Wildflowers

Summer is the busiest time of year in the Rocky Mountains as people come from all over to enjoy the warm weather and long days. This is also a great time to go hiking, biking, and camping. Advance booking accommodation is essential.

Fall is a beautiful time to visit the Rocky Mountains as the leaves start to change color. The temperatures are cool but not too cold, making it perfect for outdoor activities.

Winter is a popular time to visit the Rocky Mountains as people come to ski and snowboard. The temperatures can be quite cold, so be sure to dress warmly. The main highways are well-cleared but some back roads may be closed.

More Tips for a Successful Canadian Road Trip

1. Bring a map: Even if you’re using GPS, it’s always a good idea to bring a physical map of the area (and download an offline backup from Google Maps). This way, you’ll never get lost, and you can always plan your route accordingly.

2. Pack snacks and drinks: Road trips can be long, so it’s important to have plenty of food and drinks to keep you going. Pack some snacks and drinks for the car in a good road trip cooler so you don’t have to make too many stops.

3. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is crucial, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors in the heat. Bring a water bottle and fill it up whenever you can.

4. Take regular breaks: Driving for long periods of time can be tiring, so make sure to take plenty of breaks. Find a scenic spot to pull over and take a short walk or just relax for a bit.

5. Have fun: Road trips are all about the journey, so make sure to enjoy every minute of it!

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© Family Road Trip 2024

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