CANADIAN ROCKIES 

These are easily accessible places that do not require extensive hiking.

Waterton Lakes National Park

Kananaskis Country

Highwood Pass : At an elevation of 2,206 metres (7,238 feet), the Highwood Pass is the highest stretch of paved road in Canada.  It is very pretty.  Kananaskis Country is to the west of Calgary and to the east of Banff National Park.  You can reach the Highwood Pass by driving south, past Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes, on Hwy #40.  Alternatively you can approach it by turning west onto Route 541 from the Cowboy Trail (Hwy #22) at Longview. 

Note, though, that Hwy #40, from Kananaskis Lakes southwards, is closed to motorized vehicles from December 1st to June 15th.  The road closure does create an opportunity for cyclists, however.  During the first half of June, when the weather is good but the road is quiet, they love having it to themselves. 

Another point to note about the Highwood Pass is that it is a scenic route to use if you are driving from the Town of Banff to Waterton Lakes National Park.  It connects with the Cowboy Trail (Hwy #22) at Longview.    

Banff National Park

Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks : This is one of the most beautiful lakes in the Canadian Rockies, certainly right up there amongst the most scenic that can be accessed without hiking or special transportation arrangements.  Tips:

  • Moraine Lake Road is closed from early October until late May.
  • Even after the road has opened in late May, the lake usually does not look its turquoise best until after the first week of June. 
  • Moraine Lake's parking lot often is very full between 10 am and 4 pm in July and August.  You can avoid the parking challenge if you go before 10 am or after 5 pm.  You also could consider catching the Moraine Lake Shuttle Bus that departs from the hostel in Lake Louise Village.
  • You get the best view of Moraine Lake from the top of the pile of rocks at the north end of the lake.  It really is worth the few minutes it takes to walk up there.  It also is worthwhile to walk the easy lakeshore path.
  • Canoes are available for rent at Moraine Lake for C$35 an hour. 

Lake Louise

  • The 5 km or 3 mile road from Lake Louise Village to the lake of Lake Louise is open year-round
  • Although there is a large parking lot near it, the lake's popularity is such that the parking lot often is full from 10 am to 4 pm in the busy months of July and August. You can avoid the parking challenge if you go before 10 am or after 5 pm.  If the worst comes to the worst, you could consider catching the Lake Louise Shuttle Bus that departs from the hostel in Lake Louise Village.  However, visitors are arriving and departing all the time, so you should be able to find a parking spot. 
  • From the main viewing point  near the parking lot, you get a wonderful view of Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier that forms a backdrop behind it.  You'll be standing next to the lake's outflow that is the start of the Bow River, which flows through Banff townsite, Canmore, Calgary and beyond.
  • If you walk the flat and easy lakeshore path, you'll be able to see the lake from a different perspective.
  • If you are willing and able to do an uphill walk of one mile (1.6 km), you can reach Fairview Lookout, which greatly enhances your view of the lake.  The path begins just to the left of the dock from which they rent canoes.
  • You can rent canoes at Lake Louise.
  • During the summer Brewster Stables offers horseback riding at Lake Louise.
  • In the winter months, you can take a dogsled ride at Lake Louise from Kingmik.

Johnston Canyon

Walk to the Lower Falls at a minimum.  It takes approximately an hour to walk from the parking lot to the Lower Falls and back to the parking lot again.  If you feel up to it, walk further, to the Upper Falls.  If you want a hike through the forest to an attractive meadow, hike yet further, to the Ink Pots.  The further you go, the fewer people you will encounter.  You will leave most other visitors behind you if you continue from the Upper Falls to the Ink Pots.  Hiking to the Ink Pots and back again takes about half a day.  

Morant's Curve

This makes a particularly beautiful photograph if there happens to be a train rounding the curve at the time of your visit.  This viewing point is located on the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy #1A), closer to the Lake Louise end than to the Banff end.  It is named after Nicholas Morant, who worked as a photographer for the Canadian Pacific Railway.  The Bow Valley Parkway is a quieter alternative to the TransCanada Highway (Hwy #1), and it makes for a pleasant drive.  You in any case need to drive the Bow Valley Parkway if you want to visit Johnston Canyon.    

Sulphur Mountain Gondola 

Yoho National Park 

Spiral Tunnel Viewpoints : They are located along the TransCanada Highway (Hwy #1), a short drive west of Lake Louise, and east of Field, British Columbia (a short  distance east of the turn off to Yoho Valley Road that leads to Takakkaw Falls).

When the railroad was first built through the Rockies, they had a really difficult time in this area, because the grade was so steep. They were plagued with problems with run-away trains in the early years. How they ultimately solved this dilemma was by building a spiral inside the mountain. There are two of these tunnels, one on the south side of Hwy #1 and the other on the north side. From the pull out on Hwy #1, you can see the north tunnel. You will actually be able to see the trains going into the tunnel and, after a few minutes, you will also see the front end of the same train coming out of the tunnel, above the bottom end of the train which is still going into the tunnel. You may have to wait up to 40 minutes for a train, but if you are lucky you may see a couple of trains within half an hour. From Yoho Valley Road that leads to Takakkaw Falls there is a pull out where you can see the second spiral tunnel, on the south side of Hwy  #1. It is recommended that you stop first at the pull out along Hwy #1, since there are some photos and stories here about the building of the Spiral Tunnels, as well as a diagram that helps you to visualize how the two tunnels are laid out. Also, if you look down the hillside immediately below this viewpoint, you may be able to spot the wreckage of a train engine which ran off the old "Big Hill" tracks before the construction of the Spiral Tunnels, and has remained there ever since.

The description of the SpiralTunnel Viewpoints was inspired by this discussion thread on the TripAdvisor forum. 

 

Takakkaw Falls

Takakkaw Falls is located near the town of Field, BC. Look for the sign just east of Field, on the north side of highway #1. (On the way to the falls you will also pass a pull-out where you can view one of the spiral tunnels, if this interests you.)

Tak Falls are one of the largest easily accessible waterfalls in the Rockies. You will have a good view from the road as you approach the falls. Follow the road right into the parking lot, where you can get out and have a good long look. The falls can be seen from the parking lot, or if you want to take a walk, you can follow the paved walkway to get a little closer. If you follow the trail all the way, it will take you right up close and personal with the falls.

The road that leads to Tak Falls has two very tight switchbacks on it, and trailers are not allowed. Very long motorhomes are not recommended (a 25 foot unit is a tight fit!!!), although there is a turn-around that is used by tour buses. If you are comfortable backing up your RV, you can maneuver the turn-arounds and make the drive up to the falls. It involves driving into the turn-around, then backing up the mountain road a short distance into the next turn-around, and from there you can go forward again to the falls. You will have to do the same thing coming back down the road, too. If you are pulling a trailer, leave it in Field before you set out for the falls.

Natural bridge over the Kicking Horse River

Emerald Lake

Kootenay National Park

Paint Pots

Jasper National Park 

Maligne Canyon

Drive to Mount Edith Cavell

Jasper tramway (up Whistlers Mountain)

Drive to Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake

Drive to Miette Hot Springs

Wells Gray Provincial Park

Helmcken Falls