The Canadian Rockies: an Awe-Inspiring Alpine Paradise

America’s National Park System rightfully receives a great deal of praise and many millions of visitors a year. However, seasoned nature lovers will happily tell you that some of North America’s most magnificent landscapes are in Canada. The Canadian Rockies are a serene, frosty paradise which transforms into a cool summer getaway from approximately June until October. Avid snowshoers and laid-back kayakers alike will find peace and joy relaxing in the shadow of Canada’s most majestic mountain range.

MIETTE HOT SPRINGS, JASPER

Miette Hot Springs

Photo via jasper.travel

If shivering in a snowdrift is not your idea of a good time, the Canadian Rockies offer plenty of opportunities to warm your bones. One of the most popular literal hot spots in the region is Miette Hot Springs, which is the toastiest hot spring in the Rockies. Miette Hot Springs features a rich mixture of minerals—including magnesium, calcium, and sulphate—which are celebrated for their therapeutic properties. Situated in scenic Fiddle Valley, Miette Hot Springs offers a truly spectacular view of stately mountains and bountiful evergreen forests. It is important to note that Miette Hot Springs is open seasonally, so you should certainly check local listings before heading for a soak.

COLUMBIA ICEFIELD, ALBERTA-BRITISH COLUMBIA BORDER

Columbia Icefield

Photo by lubys2/Flickr

No discussion of the Canadian Rockies is complete without a mention of the expansive Columbia Icefield. The Columbia Icefield gives visitors the opportunity to trek across a gigantic sheet of ice which feeds numerous glaciers, and ultimately becomes one with the Arctic Ocean. Travelers can take a guided walking tour or view the Columbia Icefield from a glass Skywalk which hovers many hundreds of feet in the air. There are few sights more stunning than an icefield that crisscrosses the continental divide, and feeds some of the most impressive glaciers in North America.

LAKE MINNEWANKA, BANFF

The earliest inhabitants of Lake Minnewanka referred to the area as Water of Spirits because they sensed there was something mystical about the deep blue water. Centuries later, European settlers dubbed the area Devil’s Lake. The jagged, snow-covered peaks that surround Lake Minnewanka and the small rocky islands that punctuate the lake do seem like the ideal habitat for supernatural beings. Few casual observers are aware that Lake Minnewanka is home to a submerged village, which was engulfed by water in 1941 after the completion of a dam. Lake Minnewanka is a popular destination for savvy scuba divers who delight in exploring the remains of the village, which are almost entirely intact thanks to Lake Minnewanka’s icy temperature. Arrowheads, stone tools, and other relics fashioned by Canada’s First Nations people have also been uncovered from Lake Minnewanka’s depths.

SPIRIT ISLAND, JASPER

Spirit Island—located in scenic Maligne Lake—may be small, but it has long been one of the most iconic spots in the Canadian Rockies. Considered to be a place of great spiritual significance to the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, the island is surrounded by stately mountains on all sides. Depending on the water level, there may be a slim pathway that connects Spirit Island to the shoreline. Spirit Island is accessible by boat, canoe, or kayak. Paddling to Spirit Island can take well over 4 hours, so if you’re considering an aquatic pilgrimage, please bring adequate food, water, and supplies.

RAT’S NEST CAVE, NEAR BANFF

A trip to Rat’s Nest Cave is reserved for the most adventurous among us. Rat’s Nest Cave is literally infested with rats. When the cave was initially discovered, the opening was so densely packed with rat’s nests that the explorers had a difficult time making their way inside. Rat’s Nest Cave features many excruciatingly narrow passages, and a pit full of bones which have been gnawed on and discarded by the caves resident rats. If rats, bones, and claustrophobic caverns aren’t a turn off—Rat’s Nest Cave features some striking calcite deposits and soda straws which are well worth the perilous journey. Canmore Cave Tours features guided Rat’s Nest tours for those who aren’t put off by a scurrying rodent or two.

JOHNSTON CANYON, BANFF

Some Canadian Rockies enthusiasts grumble that Johnston Canyon is far too crowded. There is no question that Johnston Canyon is a crowd favorite. How can one not fall in love with a picturesque canyon punctuated by sapphire water, patches of moss, and several thundering waterfalls? A relatively easy hike allows visitors to bask in the beauty of one of Canada’s most beloved canyons. Visitors can expect to see birds and squirrels galore, and perhaps even stumble upon a small cave which offers a stunning view of a dreamy waterfall. Even on the most crowded day, Johnston Canyon is the ultimate escape from humdrum city life.

SUNSHINE VILLAGE SKI AND SNOWBOARD RESORT, BANFF

A view of Goat's Eye Mountain taken from Mount Standish

Photo by 5of7/Flickr

Naturally, a ski resort with “sunshine” in the title evokes joy in all who race down the slopes. Sunshine Village is one of Canada’s premiere ski-in ski-out resorts, which means that if you stay on-site, you can essentially ski or snowboard to the front door of the resort. Sunshine Village offers delectable snacks and craft cocktails for winter warriors who need to refuel and recharge after a long day of zooming down the mountain. Sunshine Village is celebrated for its soft snow and winding intermediate runs which offer an exciting challenge to experienced skiers and snowboarders. The village offers ski and snowboard lessons and plenty of well-groomed bunny hills for newbies.

KINGMIK DOG SLED TOURS, BANFF

Dog Sledding

Photo Credit: Canadian Tourism Commission

In 1982, Doug Hannah realized his dream of sharing his love of dog sledding with the larger world by founding Kingmik Dog Sled Tours. Dog Sledding gained popularity in Canada in the 1920s, when a mountaineer named Ike Mills began to employ dog teams to transport goods and people. If you’re a dog lover, a dog sled tour is an absolute must. A Kingmik Dog Sled Tour is limited to two participants, so it is an excellent activity for a romantic getaway, You certainly won’t regret spending an afternoon dashing through the snow lead by a team of beautiful Alaskan Huskies.

YOHO NATIONAL PARK, NEAR GOLDEN

Yoho National Park

Photo by Kajtek/Flickr

It is no wonder that Yoho National Park is named after a Cree expression which means wonder and amazement. Yoho features emerald lakes, cascading waterfalls, and serene pine forests. Yoho National Park is one of the best spots in all of Canada to view wildlife. Elk, mountain goats, and moose make regular appearances. If you’re lucky, you may spot a grizzly bear, cougar, or lynx. Yoho National Park is home to the Burgess Shale, which is one of the most important fossil deposits ever discovered. The unusual prehistoric lifeforms preserved in the Burgess Shale prove that Yoho National Park has been a hotbed of biological diversity since the first primitive lifeforms swam in the sea.

BOW FALLS, BANFF

Bow Falls is a relatively compact yet powerful waterfall that derives its name from its bow-like shape. Even though Bow Falls is fairly small, the force of the water is hypnotizing. Visitors often approach Bow Falls thinking that they will spend 5 0r 10 minutes viewing the waterfall. The rushing water casts a spell on all who see it. 45 minutes later, visitors wonder where the time went. Bow Falls may be petit, but it is one of Canada’s most recognizable waterfalls thanks to its unique shape.

MOUNT EDITH CAVELL, JASPER

Well-traveled mountaineers consider Mount Edith Cavell to be one of the most stunning mountains in the world. The dramatic deep grooves which line the mountain, and the jewel-toned green lake in Mount Edith Cavell’s shadow will stop even the most seasoned nature lover in their tracks. At the height of summer, Mount Edith Cavell is covered in some of the most brilliant wildflowers in all of Canada. Mount Edith Cavell is home to Angel Glacier, which appears to onlookers like a delicate snow white angel spreading its wings. Since such a comforting image naturally graces the mountain, it is no wonder that Mount Edith Cavell was named after a World War I nurse who sacrificed her life in order to save others.

PLAIN OF SIX GLACIERS TEAHOUSE, BANFF

Hiking from glittering Lake Louise to a high elevation plain that allows one to view 6 different glaciers works up quite a thirst. That’s why the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse—which is located not too far away from the Plain of Six Glaciers—is a little slice of heaven to every hiker who comes across it. The Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse serves tea, sweet treats, and a hot meal of the day. The menu varies considerably from week to week because it is entirely dependent on what the dedicated staff can haul up the mountain. The good news is that chilly hikers can always count on a warm cup of tea in the wake of viewing some of the world’s most famous glaciers. The Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse even has a signature herbal tea blend which hikers can purchase to brew at home. A fragrant infusion of warm herbs will surely bring you back to the Plain of Six Glaciers every time you take a sip.

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