Your list of things to see and do in Canada’s Rocky Mountains
Updated April 2023
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. This way, you can easily adjust this itinerary according to your starting and ending points. In total, we spent five days in the Rocky Mountains area of Canada. There are so many amazing things to do along this route we could have stayed longer.
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.
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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.
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.
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 are tired from all the sitting and driving and you want the exercise, go for it, but otherwise, I would recommend only walking part-way and then circling back. The second half isn’t scenic at all.
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.
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.
Update – personal vehicles are no longer allowed to drive into Moraine Lake. You must now reserve a seat on the Parks Canada shuttle, book a guided tour, or take Roam Transit. Please, please plan ahead and make your reservations accordingly. Most of these options are only available from June to mid-October.
We splurged and we were staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise so we opted to take the free shuttle from the hotel. It was very convenient and if you’re staying there, I’d recommend this option.
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. We did get rained on during our picnic, but we didn’t let that stop us from having a great time.
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.
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.
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, as well as the complimentary shuttle from the hotel to Moraine Lake.
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.
Pictured above, I am sitting at 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.
Day 4: Driving the Ice Fields Parkway and Columbia Icefield Skywalk
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 because the glass-floored section of the Columbia Icefields Skywalk juts out over 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.
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.
Our day ended 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
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.
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.
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.
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. You can see it pictured above. It is the building located on the far right-hand side.
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.