Rocky Mountains in Canada
The Rockies are a region of Canada that more or less form the border between the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. The roads and railway routes here are amongst the most beautiful in the world. Much of the Rocky Mountains of Canada lie within various national and provincial parks. The Canadian Rockies continue southward, as the American Rockies.
Wikivoyage has a separate article for the Alberta Rockies region so see there for more detail, but in brief the main attractions here are:
- Banff National Park, including the towns of Banff and Lake Louise
- Jasper National Park, including the town of Jasper
- Kananaskis Country, including the town of Canmore
However, the Rockies also extend into Southern Alberta, notably the Crowsnest Pass and Waterton Lakes National Park.
The British Columbian half of the Canadian Rockies are within the Northern British Columbia and Kootenays regions, and more specifically the sub-regions of Columbia-Rockies and East Kootenays (which includes Yoho National Park and Kootenay National Park)
Cities and towns
- 1 Calgary, not in the Rockies, but the closest major city and airport to them.
- 2 Banff, oldest and most famous resort town in the Canadian West.
- 3 Canmore, newer cousin to Banff.
- 4 Crowsnest Pass, a series of small, former mining towns which amalgamated, less touristy than Banff or Jaser.
- 5 Hinton, gateway to Jasper park.
- 6 Jasper, hub of Jasper Park, less crowded alternative to Banff.
- 7 Cranbrook, main town in southeastern BC, complete with a small airport.
- 8 Fernie, right in the Rockies, famous for skiing and snowboarding.
- 9 Golden, increasingly popular resort town, and closest town west of Yoho National Park.
- 10 Invermere, sporting town with ski resort, outdoor skating trail, and outdoor curling tournament; hot springs located at nearby Fairmont Hot Springs and Radium Hot Springs.
- 11 Kimberley, former mining town, now known mostly for German-themed kitsch and mountain biking trails.
- 12 Valemount — a world-class snowmobiling destination close to Mount Robson Provincial Park.
- 1 Banff National Park, the granddaddy of all Canadian national parks. A world-famous destination since 1885.
- 2 David Thompson Country, wilderness area centred around the hamlet of Nordegg along the David Thompson Highway (Highway 11)
- 3 Jasper National Park, northern cousin to Banff, with all the scenery and half (or less) the traffic.
- 4 Kananaskis Country, not a national park, and therefore not as famous, but also full of mountain scenery.
- 5 Kootenay National Park
- 6 Mount Robson Provincial Park, home to the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
- 7 Waterton Lakes National Park, southern Alberta park with resort town and a lake that stretches into Montana, part of Waterton Glacier International Peace Park.
- 8 Yoho National Park, in BC just across the border from Banff
The history of the Canadian Rockies - like that of so much else of Canada - is based in the fur trade and the railway. The first Europeans to view the Rockies were a ramshackle collection of pioneers who ventured there on behalf of their respective fur trading companies. Most significantly, David Thompson ventured through Howse Pass on behalf of the North West Company in 1804, establishing Kootenay House, near what is now Invermere.
In 1871, Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A MacDonald convinced British Columbia to join Canada with the promise of a national railway that would connect it to the rest of Canada. The Canadian Pacific Railway was completed on November 7, 1885, and the last spike was driven in Craigellachie, BC.
In the following 50 years, Banff, Jasper, Waterton, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks were established, and the area became a tourist destination. The gorgeous scenery and unblemished wilderness are but some of the reasons that most of the area is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and draws millions of visitors every year.
There is wide variability of atmosphere throughout the area. Banff and Lake Louise are likely the most developed towns, while the villages of Field and Elkford attract more through their natural splendour than via any attractions within the communities themselves.
The region is probably one of the most scenic in the world between the spectacular mountains, widespread forests and glacier fed lakes. The weather in the summer tends to be hot (30°C) and sunny. In winter it is colder at around -15°C and fantastic for skiing at the area's many resorts.
The people living in this area are Anglophone Canadians and therefore speak English. Canadian National Parks are operated under Federal jurisdiction, and therefore have signs, brochures and (theoretically) all services in French, as well as understandable pictograms. Banff is a major international destination, and the tourist industry recognizes the role of international visitors; tourist services are usually available in Japanese and German, and increasingly in languages such as Mandarin and Spanish.
In the Canadian Rockies, Banff townsite is the most foreign-language-friendly, followed closely by Lake Louise. Jasper is the next best bet, with travellers advised to check before travelling to smaller or more remote sites such as Radium, Field, Waterton and Kananaskis.
The closest international airports are located in Calgary and Edmonton. Some travellers arrive into Vancouver either fly to the regional airport in Cranbrook or drive to the Rockies.
There are tour operators that transport passengers between Edmonton and Jasper via Train and Bus.
Banff is about a 2-hour drive from Calgary. Jasper is about 3 hours from Edmonton. Either one is about a 10- to 12-hour drive from Vancouver. The highways from Vancouver run through alpine passes, and can be closed or slowed due to avalanches, accidents or other such problems. Closures are most common in winter, which is roughly from October to May. Drivers with little or no winter driving experience are cautioned against long alpine drives in snowy, icy or cold conditions.
- VIA Rail Canada, toll-free: +1-888-842-7245. Operates trains routes across Canada, including The Canadian into the Canadian Rockies via Edmonton or Vancouver.
- Rocky Mountaineer, toll-free: +1-877-460-3200. Operates a luxury tourist train service, which is a beautiful way to get to the Rocky Mountains and to see many spectacular sights from the dome car. See also Rocky Mountaineer.
Several intercity bus operators have route that cross the Rocky Mountains, while traveling between Alberta and British Columbia, including the following:
- Rider Express, toll-free: +1-833-583-3636. Multiple days per week service along the Trans-Canada Highway from between Calgary and Vancouver, including stops in Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, and Golden.
- Mountain Man Mike's Bus Service, ☏ +1-778-382-7729, [email protected]. Once per week bus service between Nakusp and Calgary including stops in Cranbrook and Fernie.
- Thompson Valley Charters, ☏ +1 877-769-3287. In partnership with Ebus, operates twice per week service between Kamloops and Edmonton including stops in Valemount, Jasper, and Hinton.
A few additional bus operators have routes between Calgary and Banff, and Edmonton and Jasper. Refer to the listing for the destination city for available operators.
There are a number of extremely scenic highways through the Rocky Mountains.
- Icefields Parkway - connects Banff to Jasper
- Hiking in the Canadian Rockies — a popular pastime in the region.