My Favourite Adventures in the Canadian Rocky Mountains

I grew up in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. You’ll find some of my favourite hikes and adventures that I’m happy to share with you.

Given the vastness of the Canadian Rockies, it can be difficult to know where to go and what to do. That’s where I come in. I was born and raised in the small town of Pincher Creek, near Waterton National Park. Then I lived in Calgary for 12 years. I spent almost every weekend exploring the Rockies.

Here are some of favourite adventures in the Canadian Rocky Mountains!

Caving at Rat’s Nest Cave in Canmore

Rat’s Nest Cave is undeveloped and is in its natural state.  That means no handrails or walkways.  You navigate twisting passageways only from the light from your headlamp.   I knew there were some narrow passageways, but I wasn’t too worried…until I had to go down a part of the cave known as the Laundry Chute.  

Panic set in as I twisted my body in the narrow opening into the right position. Some brave souls in my group went head first!  I wasn’t that brave and went feet first.  My heart was pounding, my breathing quickened. I felt as if I was running, despite barely moving.  

What if I got stuck?  Would I die here? Thankfully neither of those things happened. And once I was out of the cave I was SO grateful that I had done it!

Adventure means pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone…even if that’s into small nooks and crannies! It’s only possible to do the cave with a guide.

White Water Rafting the Kicking Horse River in the Canadian Rockies

Adventure seekers look no further than rafting the Kicking Horse River in the Canadian Rocky Mountains
Rafting the Kicking Horse River. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

You can start this from different points, but I recommend starting it from Golden if you’re limited on time and want to hit those Class 4 rapids.  And you do!  If you go in late spring/early summer, I guarantee that your heart will be pumping out of your chest.

You’ll paddle your way through the rapids while simultaneously hanging on for dear life! You’ll want to go with a guide unless you’re highly experienced. I’m a bit of an adrenal junkie and I LOVED white water rafting the Kicking Horse!

Canoeing or Kayaking on Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park

Maligne Lake in Jasper, Canadian Rocky Mountains
Maligne Lake. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Maligne Lake is the largest glacially formed lake in the Rockies and one of the most photographed spots in Jasper, if not the most popular.  Once you’ve been there, you get it, it’s simply stunning! S

So why not enjoy it for as long as you can by canoeing or kayaking there if the weather is calm?  There are two backcountry campgrounds on the lake if you really want to soak it all in.

Note:  The lake can be quite rough. Bring appropriate clothing and be prepared to shorten your trip if the weather turns for the worse.  Canoes and kayaks can be rented for 1 hour through to the whole day.

Ziplining Down the Mountainside Near Golden

Confession:  I LOVE ziplining. However, I haven’t done this one yet, but it’s definitely on my bucket list. You can reach speeds of up to 70km an hour as you zip down the mountainside for a whirlwind bird’s eye view. Sign me up!

Hiking in the Canadian Rockies
sunshine meadows scenery

There are literally hundreds of hikes you could choose from in the Rockies!  I have too many favourites to share, so will just share a few of my favourites.

Hikes in Banff National Park

 I love hiking in Sunshine Meadows.  You take a bus to a gorgeous meadow, which is one of the best places in the Canadian Rocky Mountains for wildflowers.  You can do an easy, relatively flat hike around the meadows. Alternatively, you can also use it as a jumping-off point for something more strenuous.

I also love Fairview Mountain which starts right from the lake at Lake Louise.  It’s steep but straightforward hiking. And you get fantastic views over the lake and a bird’s eye view of the glaciers hanging over the lake!

There’s so much to do around Banff. Check out these things to do in Banff and you’ll see why I love this part of the Canadian Rockies so much.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c2/Sabre_Tooth_Rapids.jpg
Peyto Lake. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Hikes on the Icefields Parkway, the Most Scenic Drive in the Canadian Rockies

Peyto Lake is one of the most popular attractions in the Canadian Rockies on the Icefields Parkway.  You get a gorgeous view of the lake from the viewing platform which is just a 10 – 15-minute walk.  I highly recommend stopping en-route to the Columbia Icefields

Alternatively, hike the 3km to Bow Summit Lookout. It’s less crowded, and offers spectacular views over the lake! Or hike down to the lake itself.  Be sure to dip your feet in. Nothing is quite as refreshing as a glacier lake after hiking.

I’m also a big fan of Cirque Peak, north of Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway.  You hike up to a gorgeous wildflower meadow and lake. Then, you’ll continue further up a steep path for views over what looks like an other-wordly crater landscape!

Hikes in the Southern Canadian Rockies

Another very cool hike in the southern part of the Candian Rockies is Frank Slide. You’re climbing up a mountain that resulted in Canada’s deadliest rockslide. It’s eery when you get to the top and see the huge faults that are so deep that you can’t see the bottom. It’s definitely a unique hike.

I also love hiking in Castle Provincial Park, Alberta’s newest provincial park. You’ll find lots of outdoor adventures here. And you’ll have the hiking trails to yourself.. I recommend the hike to Table Mountain which starts from Beaver Mines Camp Ground.

Wildlife Viewing in Waterton National Park (The Southern Part of the Canadian Rockies)
Sunshine Meadows_Sheep

Waterton often gets overlooked in favour of Banff and Lake Louise. And that’s in part what makes it so special.  Unlike the popular trails in the more popular trails, in Waterton, you’ll have them mainly to yourself – with the exception of Crypt Lake since you take a boat over so everyone starts hiking at the same time. The lack of people is why it’s such a fantastic place for wildlife viewing.  

I grew up near Waterton so have been a frequent visitor here my entire life.  I’ve never not seen wildlife – not once! I’ve also seen bears there at least 20 times!.

That’s a fantastic experience if you’re in a car, and a rather scary one if you’re hiking. Ensure you’re following the safety precautions that you will receive upon entering the park.  

I’ve also seen moose quite a few times, which are often hard to spot. Head to Red Rock Canyon if you’re looking for bighorn sheep. You’ll frequently see them in the parking lot. You’re also very likely to see deer, maybe even in the townsite.  If it’s wildlife that you’re in search of, Waterton is the best place to go for it in the Canadian Rockies in my opinion. 

If you don’t make it to Waterton, then I recommend the gondola to see grizzly bears in Lake Louise.

Related Reading: The Best Wildlife Cameras in the World

There’s so much to do in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  I’ve been hundreds of times. And still, have only experienced a fraction of the hikes and adventures that you can find there.

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About Author

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Laurel
Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains Adventure Travel. She's passionate about getting outdoors as often as possible and helping travellers do the same on their vacation in a sustainable way. She's Canadian and grew up in the Canadian Rockies but now lives in Munich, Germany. You can find her skiing or hiking in the mountains most weekends, hanging out with her cat or with her nose in a good book.

Comments

April 11, 2015
a month? How absolutely exciting, Laurel! It's interesting the things we miss when we're far from home. I wouldn't have expected it'd be to see a wild animal when you hear a branch snap but it makes perfect sense. Hope you eat lots of poutine and see lots of bear, deer and other animals.
Sophie
April 13, 2015
Absolutely beautiful! Can't understand why I haven't been in Western Canada yet... In Norway, we sometimes see wildlife when hiking: reindeer, lynx or wolverine, or the occasional moose, though they're elusive. Then there's deer, but they tend to be in people's gardens ruining the bushes - but very cute
April 14, 2015
We are heading to the Canadian Rockies in September can't wait!
April 15, 2015
I have to agree...the Rockies are spectacular. I love all the activities you mention, and I love the interactive displays at most of the information centers. They are musts as stops!
Laura
April 28, 2015
I was in the Canadian Rockies this past September and loved every minute of it. A month would be fantastic! I wish I had done more hikes but overall it was such a great trip. Enjoy your time there this year!
August 17, 2015
I hope you enjoyed your trip back to the Canadian Rockies. The most spectacular place in the world!
August 17, 2015
@Darlene - Agreed! I LOVED every minute of it!
March 27, 2018
Awesome guide! We'd love to try everything you mentioned! How many times have you been to the Rocky Mountains?
March 30, 2018
@Alexander - Glad that you found it useful. I've been hundreds of times as I'm originally from there :)

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