Your list of things to see and do in Canada’s Rocky Mountains

If visiting Canada’s first national park has been on your travel bucket list, then let’s make this the year to check it off. Visitors have been low due to travel restrictions so you may not have to battle the usual crowds. I will run you through my Rocky Mountains road trip route and show you how to spend five days in the Rocky Mountains.

We drove from Vancouver but I didn’t include the driving days so you could easily adjust this itinerary according to your starting and ending points. In total, we spent five days in the Rocky Mountains area of Canada and there are so many amazing things to do along this route.

Our Rocky Mountains route included one day in Yoho National Park, two days in Lake Louise and two days in Banff National Park, including a drive up the Icefields Parkway.

Five Days in the Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains route for a five day road trip

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There are a lot of things to see and do in the Canadian Rockies, but it’s possible to see the highlights in just a few days. If you are new to the idea of going on a road trip, check out my earlier post on How to plan an epic road trip.

A successful road trip does take planning, but the effort is definitely worth it. As I mention in my previous post, I always use the Roadtrippers app to plan my epic adventures. It’s such a time-saver and I have discovered some gems along my road trips that I never would have found otherwise.

Crystal clear glacial waters along the rocky mountains route
The crystal clear and vibrant blue glacial water lakes in the Rocky Mountains

Map of my 5-Day Itinerary in the Rocky Mountains

My Route – Things to do in the Rocky Mountains of Canada

Day 1: Mount Revelstoke National Park and Yoho National Park

As this was mainly a driving day from Revelstoke to Lake Louise we only made two stops, but I recommend both. The first one was the Giant Cedars Boardwalk in Mount Revelstoke National Park. I loved it so much, I ended up writing a whole post just about it! Check it out here Giant Cedars boardwalk is a great road trip stop.

If you love nature and especially old-growth trees, then this is a must-do during your Rocky Mountains route. It is an easy stroll along a wooden boardwalk and through giant cedar and hemlock trees. This is a great pit stop to stretch your legs and enjoy some forest bathing.

Giant Cedars Boardwalk was a great stop along our Rocky Mountains route
The Giant Cedars Boardwalk is a 0.5 km loop through an old-growth cedar-hemlock forest.

Our second stop, and the only one we made in Yoho National Park, was Emerald Lake. It is worth a visit as the vibrant green colour is stunning. We walked the full 5 km loop around the lake; however, only one side is scenic with views of the lake. If you want the exercise, go for it, but otherwise, I would recommend only walking part-way and then circling back.

The second half of the Emerald Lake loop is not nearly as flat and smooth. There are lots of exposed tree roots so I suggest wearing proper hiking boots, or at the very least runners and definitely not flip-flops.

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park was a beautiful stop on our Five Days in the Rocky Mountains
The clear and vibrant green colour of Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. Depending on how the sun hits the water, the lake’s colour varies from shades of light to darker green.

I will mention that Wapta Falls was on the itinerary as a stop if we had time, but we didn’t. They are a 30-minute hike from the highway. In hindsight, if we hadn’t done the full loop at Emerald Lake we likely would have had time for this stop.

Lake O’Hara was also a place we wanted to visit but is very hard to get into. In 2020, the shuttle bus was operating on a random draw reservation system and we missed the deadline by a couple of months. If you hope to get there during your Rocky Mountains tour, do your research early on.

Day 2: Moraine Lake and Chateau Lake Louise

If I had to say there was one absolute must-do on this list, this would be it! You simply cannot spend five days in the Rocky Mountains and skip Moraine Lake. This picture doesn’t do justice to the vibrant turquoise waters. I can see why it’s such a popular destination. Every Rocky Mountains route should include this stop.

It’s so popular in fact that the parking lot can fill up as early as 4 am! We opted to take the shuttle from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to avoid this issue. I would highly recommend this hassle-free option, especially since the road closes once the parking lot fills up.

Moraine Lake was a highlight during our Five Days in the Rocky Mountains
Lisa and I standing in front of the stunning turquoise waters of Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, surrounded by trees, snow-capped mountain ranges and glaciers. Representing in our Canadian hoodies 😉

Once at Moraine Lake, we hiked up the Rockpile trail to get the picture you see above. It is a short, but very rocky hike so be sure to wear proper footwear. We then hiked the 6 km round-trip Consolation Lakes trail, where we stopped to have our picnic lunch. The ominous sky in the picture below was a sign of the rainstorm that hit us just as we were sitting down to eat.

Consolation Lakes Hike was a fun hike during our Rocky Mountains route
View of Fay Glacier on Mount Babel towering over Consolation Lakes in Banff National Park

After making our way back, we walked around Moraine Lake before heading back to the hotel. The trail around the lake is 3 km and very flat and easy. All-in-all we were at the Moraine Lake area for about four hours, which was the perfect amount of time for both hikes, lunch and lots of pictures.

If you don’t have a picnic backpack, I highly recommend this one I purchased. It fit everything we needed for our hike, including food, wine and my trusty first aid kit. It comes on all of my road trips. One of my favourite things to do on this Rocky Mountains, Canada road trip was enjoying a picnic at Moraine Lake.

Colourful canoes at Moraine Lake were a popular stop along our Rocky Mountains route
The colourful canoes at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park

After Moraine Lake we went back to the hotel to enjoy some downtime before dinner. Since we splurged on staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, we wanted to make sure we had time to enjoy it. I still can’t get over the view we had from our room!

I can say without a doubt that staying here was worth every penny. If you are going to splurge on a hotel, this would be the one! Pro tip: order the Lobster Mac and Cheese if you eat here, it’s unbelievably good.

Our Fairmont Lakeview room was a highlight during our Five Days in the Rocky Mountains
The view from our lake-view hotel room window at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Day 3: Lake Louise Canoeing, Mirror Lake and Agnes Tea House Hike

We started our day with a chilly canoe ride around the lake. Fun fact: Lake Louise is the highest-elevation town in Canada, sitting at 1,600 metres above sea level. It may have been cold the day we visited, but it was definitely fun and something I recommend.

The views you get of the glacier up close and the front of the Fairmont are well worth it. Note that you do not need to be a guest of the hotel to do this, but hotel guests do get to jump to the front of the line, plus our canoe ride was included in our stay, saving us $125.

If canoeing on Lake Louise is on your bucket list of things to do in the Rocky Mountains in Canada, I highly recommend doing it! We had a blast. If you can swing it, definitely stay at the Fairmont. It’s well worth the cost for both the views and included canoe ride.

Canoeing on Lake Louise was a fun way to spend an affternooon during our rocky mountains route
My friend Lisa and I canoed on the icy green waters of Lake Louise

After our canoe ride, we hiked up to Mirror Lake, and the Agnes Tea House. We then continued along the Little Beehive Trail, ending at the summit that overlooks Lake Louise and the Fairmont hotel. It was a very steep hike, but the views from the top are stunning!

You can see both Lake Louise and Lake Agnes from the top. The hike is 3.6 km from the hotel to the Tea House, and then another 1 km to the top of the Little Beehive trail.

Little Beehive Hike Summit hike during our Five Days in the Rocky Mountains
The summit of the Little Beehive Trail, looking down at the Chateau Fairmont Lake Louise and Lake Louise. Lake Agnes is just off to the right, out of this frame.
Lake Louise and Lake Agnes are great stops along any Rocky Mountains route
Lake Louise (L) and Lake Agnes (R) as seen from the top of the Little Beehive trail

Day 4: Driving the Ice Fields Parkway and Columbia Icefield Skywalk

Columbia Icefield Skywalk was a highlight during our five days in the Rocky Mountains
The glass-floored section of the Columbia Icefields Skywalk juts out over the ravine below

As we were staying in Banff and not going all the way to Jasper, we opted to make our first stop towards the top end of the highway so we could have a leisurely drive back down again.

We drove straight from Banff to the Columbia Icefields Skywalk. I hope you’re not afraid of heights for this one! It sits 918 feet over a ravine and has a glass bottom.

If you’re spending less than five days in the Rocky Mountains, I’d say you could skip this one. Ditto if you’re afraid of heights!

Columbia Glacier Skywalk glass floor
Me, standing on the glass-floor section of the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, staring down into the ravine below

During our drive back down the Icefields Parkway, we didn’t make as many stops as we had planned. Sadly, Peyto Lake was closed for rehabilitation so we didn’t get to stop there. The entire Icefields Parkway is a scenic drive so we took our time and enjoyed the scenery along the way.

Driving towards Bow Lake during our five days in the Rocky Mountains
A common scene as you drive through the Rocky Mountains is gorgeous blue lakes. Pictured here is Bow Lake along the Icefields Parkway.

We stopped at both Bow Lake and then Hector Lake, admiring the crystal clear and calm waters. We didn’t spend much time at either place but we enjoyed the stops to see the lakes and stretch our feet.

Hector Lake in the Rocky Mountains
The gorgeous reflection in the crystal clear waters of Hector Lake along the Icefields Parkway drive

We ended the day with a late dinner in the charming town of Banff. As it was a weekend evening we did have to wait for a table so I would suggest making reservations somewhere or being prepared to walk around the town while you wait for your table. Even with fewer crowds, the restaurants were full!

Day 5: Fairmont Banff Springs and Banff Gondola

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a gorgeous stop along your rocky mountains route
The iconic and picturesque Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, aka, the castle in the mountains

We spent the morning exploring the quaint town of Banff before making our way to the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. As I wanted to really enjoy the ambiance and feel of the hotel, we savoured Afternoon Tea in the Rundle Bar, finishing our tea outside on their terrace overlooking the golf course.

Another highlight on this list of things to do in the Canadian Rocky Mountains is definitely indulging in Afternoon Tea at the Banff Springs hotel. It’s luxury at its finest.

Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Banff Spring is a must during any Five Days in the Rocky Mountains
Afternoon Tea at the Rundle Bar with views of a picturesque courtyard

Afterward a delicious afternoon tea, we toured the hotel. We explored its glorious hallways and snuck a peek inside the ballroom. It is a stunning castle in the mountains and you will definitely want some time to explore.

The Ballroom of the Fairmont Banff Spring
The stunning ballroom at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel

Late afternoon, we rode to the top of the Banff Gondola. The views from the top of the gondola are nothing short of breathtaking. If this is one of the things you’re going to do in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, I recommend wearing proper footwear because the Sulphur Mountain boardwalk is a scenic 2 km long walk full of stairs.

I wore my Nike Metcons and love them for being both stylish and functional. We spent a good hour and a half exploring before heading back to the restaurant for dinner. You’re definitely going to want functional and comfortable shoes throughout your Rocky Mountains route stops.

Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk offer amazing views of the town of Banff
The many stairs along the 2 km wooden Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk at the top of the Banff Gondola
View from the top of the Banff gondola
The sweeping views of the town of Banff as well as the six surrounding mountain ranges, as seen from the top of the Banff Gondola situated on the summit of Sulphur Mountain.

For those who don’t wish to walk that far or do the stairs, there is a 360-degree observation deck right at the gondola exit. There are also two restaurants that provide an elevated dining experience at 7,510 feet. We had dinner at the Northern Lights Restaurant and highly recommend enjoying a meal here while taking in the views.

Want to make sure you don’t miss out on any picture-perfect spots in Banff? This tour will not only pick you up from your hotel, but it will also keep you away from the crowds, and ensure you don’t miss anything! Your Instagram feed will thank you.

Conclusion – Things to do during five days in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

And there you have it, our road trip route and how we spent five days in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I hope I’ve given you enough things to do in the Rocky Mountains in Canada.

I hope you enjoyed this itinerary and all my photographs. There are so many more amazing hikes and sites to see in the Rocky Mountains, but one can only do so much in five days.

If you are interested, check out my post for even more activities in Banff that aren’t hiking. For more road trip ideas, here are 20 amazing things to do near Sugar Mountain in North Carolina.

5 days in the rocky mountains