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
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 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
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.
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)
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.