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The Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta are home to some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet. The Alberta part of the Canadian Rocky Mountains includes Jasper, Banff, Canmore and Waterton. It’s a place where you’ll find yourself immersed in nature and surrounded by mountains, glaciers, lakes, trees and other beautiful features. If you are planning your first trip to the Rocky Mountains in Alberta then in this post you’ll find information on how to get there, when to go, national park permits, where to stay, and lots more to help you plan your visit to this incredible part of the world.

Here is your guide to visiting the Canadian Rockies in Alberta, Canada.

Getting There

To fly to the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta you should land at either Calgary (YYC) or Edmonton (YEG) international airports. You’ll find a large number of connections through airlines such as Air Canada who offer direct flights from major hubs such as London.

Once you arrive in Alberta you would need to either hire a car, use a bus service, or consider going on a tour. If you are landing in Calgary you would head along Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) towards Banff, and if you are landing in Edmonton you should drive on Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) towards Jasper.

B787-9-Rockies - image via Air Canada Press
B787-9 over the Rockies – Image courtesy of Air Canada Press Office

When to Go

The Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta are fantastic to visit at any time of year. Depending on when you visit, you’ll get different landscape conditions such as snow in the winter, lush greens in the summer, as well as different outdoor activities to enjoy throughout the year.

A great time to go in winter is around January-March, and for warmer months head between September and October to avoid peak season and potentially get nice autumn colours.

Head to my picture based post to see what it’s like in the winter.

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Park Permits

To enter the Canada National Parks you will need to get a park permit. There are various day prices for adults, seniors, youths, or for groups of up to seven (arriving in the same vehicle).

If you are planning to stay for several days or longer you could buy a Discovery Pass. This covers you for a year from date of purchase. These are also available as single person tickets or for groups.

Visit www.pc.gc.ca, select Alberta as the Province, then the National Park (Banff, Jasper) to get the latest fees.

Horseshoe Loop

If connections allow, then you could do a horseshoe type loop where you start at either Calgary or Edmonton, see Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise, drive along the beautiful Icefields Parkway and then depart from the opposite airport. This would allow you to see many of the best parts of the Canada Rocky Mountains in Alberta.

Snowy landscapes along the Icefields Parkway, Alberta
Snowy landscapes along the Icefields Parkway

Where to stay

Throughout the Canadian Rocky Mountains, you will find luxurious hotels such as those from the Fairmont, traditional style hotels such as Deer Lodge, through to campsites and affordable hostels, providing options for all budgets. If you are visiting in the peak season (July-August) you should book in advance to get your first choice accommodation and also the best deals.

Deer Lodge Hotel in Lake Louise
Deer Lodge Hotel in Lake Louise

What to Do

Winter

During the winter months there is so much to do in the Alberta Canadian Rocky Mountains, from skiing at fantastic resorts, scenic drives and sightseeing, dog sledding, ice canyon walking, skating and so much more. Shortly I’ll be adding a post where I’ll suggest some of the best things to do based on my winter trip.

Snowshoe hikes with Rockies Heli, Canada
Snowshoe hikes with Rockies Heli

Summer/Warmer Months

If you are visiting in the warmer months of the year you should visit some of the lakes, such as Peyto Lake, Moraine Lake, Bow Lake, Lake Louise and many more, as well as see waterfalls including Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls. For many people, these are highlights of the Canada Rocky Mountains. Other things you could consider doing include hiking, wildlife tours, climbing and fishing. For lots of summer ideas then visit travelalberta.com..summer-outdoor-activities.

Peyto Lakes in the Summer Via Pixabay
Peyto Lakes in the Summer | via Pixabay

Driving

Here are some general driving tips.

  • If you are driving in the winter, try to hire a four-wheel drive vehicle as this will help if there’s snow
  • Ensure your mobile phone has a full battery or take a portable charger or a USB Car Charger
  • If there is potentially heavy snow then chains, a tow rope and a shovel are good to have. Some hire companies may provide/rent these
  • Follow traffic rules and regulations to keep you and wildlife safe, as they could be on the road at any time
  • When driving along the Icefields Parkway, travel with a full tank as you won’t see a petrol/gas station for a while
Elk Wildlife on roads in Alberta
Elk Wildlife on roads

Wildlife Safety

You’ll likely want to see wildlife during your visit to Canada, but you should stay safe. Here are a few safety tips I’ve picked up during my trip:

  • Always travel in groups of at least four when hiking
  • Try to make constant noise (such as talking) to allow dangerous wildlife, such as bears, to hear you are coming and allow you to avoid each other
  • If you come into contact with bears or other wildlife, keep your distance and follow the recommendations on www.pc.gc.ca (Parks Canada)
  • Lock your food in your vehicle and follow campsite recommendations when you are camping

Summary

A visit to the Canadian Rocky Mountains should be on everyone’s bucket list as it is one of the most incredible places in the world to visit. Whether you visit in the winter and experience the ski resorts and snow, or the summer and get to see the lakes and other attractions, it will definitely be memorable and potentially a trip of a lifetime.

More info on Canada and Alberta

Visit Explore Canada and Travel Alberta to start planning your trip to Canada and Alberta.

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Mike Clegg

Editor-in-chief at travelanddestinations.com
Mike is the creator and primary author of Travel and Destinations. He started this website so as to share his experiences and tips with travellers. He is from the UK and has travelled to many places around the world. He loves to shares his pictures and stories through Instagram and this website... [Read full bio]
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