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Nine Vistas in the Canadian Rocky Mountains You Must See

Categories: Canadian Travel

The Rocky Mountains are on everyone’s bucket list for Canada. The photos splashed around the globe are stunning! It’s not surprising that, some years ago, Lonely Planet named the Canadian Rocky Mountains as the most spectacular natural attraction on Earth. Most people will at least have it near, if not at, the very top.

Typically, it’s the blend of mountains, lakes, vegetation, and moving waters that fill the post cards. The jagged peaks, the clear emerald waters, the sense of tranquility, but sometimes also the sense of power, make the viewer determine, “I want to see that for myself! I want to be in that photo.”

So what are the sites not to be missed on a visit to the Rocky Mountains? Here are the top ones (in no particular order).

1. Lake Louise
This is the one that seems to get the most attention–and it is gorgeous! Wander around the flower-strewn shore, or along the water’s edge trails, to get post card views from many angles. Most people will want a pose of themselves between colourful flowers at the water’s edge, with the imposing Victoria Glacier in the far background. The many hiking and riding trails that emerge from the base area near the iconic Lake Louise Lodge provide ample incentive to venture on to all the stunning viewpoints.


Photo Credit to: Ellie Mackay

2. Peyto Lake
This lake graces the front page of many a travel site and magazine. One of many along the Icefields Parkway—known as one of the world’s great road trips–the lake captures the imagination because of its turquoise blue waters, and the high vantage point from which it is viewed, with the Great Divide Rockies piercing the sky to the left and numerous small lakes stretching out along the Mistaya River in the distance. Every tour stops here; the short hike is infinitely worth it.

3. Takakkaw Falls
These falls, the second highest in Canada, are in Yoho National Park and easily accessible from the Trans Canada highway. The Falls’ attraction is, in part, its profile—the top section lands on a flat area, then thrusts itself, like a bouncing ball, far over the edge, eventually crashing into the valley far below; the sense of raw power produced by the large volume of water draining the Waputik Icefield above; and its accessibility—you can walk right up to its terminus. And you can get yourself right into the photo.

4. Athabasca Glacier
While many glaciers throughout North America and the world are accessible, none are more so than the Athabasca Glacier along the aforementioned Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper. It’s one of six major “toes” of the massive Columbia Icefield that is sometime referred to as the “hydrological roof of North America” because it feeds rivers emptying into the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. The Ice Explorer coaches that take you onto the ice were built specifically for this purpose and are found nowhere else on Earth, except Antarctica.

5. Spirit Island
It was a mention in the New York Times that vaulted this idyllic spot, since voted “Best boat cruise in Canada,” to world fame. The small island/peninsula, two-thirds down stunningly scenic Maligne Lake (the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies), becomes the foreground of a photo op that includes many spectacular mountain peaks surrounding the distant end of the Lake. The island is accessible only by water, the most popular being a guided cruise boat excursion.

6. Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks
This iconic neighbour of Lake Louise is often mistaken for Lake Louise itself. The attraction of Moraine Lake is its setting under the mountain peaks that form the spine of the Canadian Rockies. The classic photo is from the rock pile (mistakenly assumed, originally, to be a moraine, and from which the lake gets its name), and often includes colourful canoes in the foreground. The spot is so popular that the access road is typically closed much of the day in high season because of its limited capacity, but the best photos are early in the day or early evening, in any case. Myriad hiking trails start at the Lake.

7. Mount Rundle
There are so many mountains whose rugged, or gentle, profiles dominate landscapes in the Rocky Mountains, and any number of them could be named: Mount Sir Donald, Mount Assiniboine, Mount Robson, Castle Mountain, Mount Burgess, Mount Edith Cavell. But the iconic one is Mount Rundle, standing guard over the townsite of Banff and the Vermillion Lakes. A stop along the highway will get you a reasonably good photo, but the best ones require a short hike to the shores of Vermillion Lakes.

8. Lake O’Hara
If there is a #1 on the list, this is it. In fact, it has been referred to as “the most beautiful place on earth.” Again, it is the combination of turquoise lakes (many lakes surround Lake O’Hara itself), the high mountain peaks, the waterfalls, the flora and fauna, and the unique vantage points from which you get these amazing vistas, that makes it so special. That challenge: you have to enjoy considerable hiking to get to them but, if you’re a hiker, it makes them all the better. The other challenge: Lake O’Hara is 11 km. from the highway, accessible only by bus or hike, and to protect the pristine area, only a few bus permits are issued each day. You can buy permits 90 days in advance, but you’d better be on the phone quickly, because they may be sold out before breakfast.

9. Johnson Canyon
This is not the world’s greatest or deepest or most spectacular canyon. But it is easily accessible along the Bow Valley Parkway, has several beautiful waterfalls, and complements the diversity of landscapes that collectively define the Rocky Mountains. Warning, though! Because of its accessibility, there are thousands on the small path every day in summer; come early to beat the crowds.


Photo Credit to: Ellie Mackay
Honourable mentions:
Summit of Mount Edith, Bow Lake, Mount Burgess, Emerald Lake, Maligne Canyon, Waterton Lakes, Mount Edith Cavell

West Adventures gives you the opportunity to take in every one of these places on the http://westadventures.com/tours/bc-rocky-mountains-spectacular/ and http://westadventures.com/tours/grand-rockies-circuit/itineraries. The high season is June to September. Book now to reserve your place on the 2018 departures.