The Top 5 Sights in the Canadian Rockies

The Canadian Rockies are quite possibly the most beautiful place we have been to so far. We didn’t have too long in Canada. However, we knew no matter what, we wanted to make sure to see as much as we could.

 

We generally try to avoid touristy sights and areas or at least see more than just those areas. In the Canadian Rockies, Banff is the incredibly popular tourist area. It is absolutely not to be missed. Banff is beautiful! But there are additional National Parks surrounding Banff that are a must-see, even if you’re trip is a short one. The following are the top 5 things to see in the Canadian Rockies and an itinerary that gets you to all of them in just 2 days.

 

There’s much more to the Canadian Rockies than Banff National Park. Visit these 5 sights and experience Banff, Yoho, and Jasper National Parks.

 

1. Lake Louise

Lake Louise in Banff National Park is just about the most famous sight in the Canadian Rockies. Nothing prepares you for the spectacular turquoise lake suddenly stretching out before you. A walkway runs around much of the lake which makes Lake Louise very accessible. Unfortunately, this walkway can be jammed with tourists during peak hours in the Summer. For a more serene experience you can try to visit Lake Louise at sunrise or sunset. During peak hours there is a very limited amount of vehicles allowed through, and you’ll be forced to use the park shuttle.

 

Remember that to see the vivid aquamarine color that’s made Lake Louise famous, you need to plan your visit for late June to August. If the lake is frozen or the glaciers haven’t melted enough, the color will not be the vivid turquoise you’ve seen in pictures.

 
 Lake Louise's beautiful aquamarine color changes with the sunlight. It's hue was a little greener as the clouds rolled in.

Lake Louise's beautiful aquamarine color changes with the sunlight. It's hue was a little greener as the clouds rolled in.

 

 

2. Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake is nestled in The Valley of the 10 Peaks. The still waters of the lake reflect the surrounding mountain peaks back at you. Just like Lake Louise, you’ll hardly believe the scene in front of you is real.Visit at sunrise or sunset. If you do, you’ll have it almost to yourself, making it feel like you’ve discovered a hidden lake.

 

You can see both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake by canoe. The canoe rentals are pricey, but you can also bring your own canoe or kayak as long as you launch from the shore. Moraine’s color is most vivid from late June to August like Lake Louise. Unlike Lake Louise, however, Moraine is not open during the winter. Once mid-October arrives the road to Moraine Lake closes. The lake itself will not be accessible due to the high avalanche risk.

 
 We had Moraine Lake all to ourselves at sunset.

We had Moraine Lake all to ourselves at sunset.

 

 

3. Takakkaw Falls

Just a 40 minute drive west of Lake Louise will bring you to Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park. Yoho National Park is a welcome escape from the touristy hustle and bustle over at Lake Louise. Takakkaw Falls was recommended to Jon and I by a local at a charming coffee shop (Wild Flour) in the town of Banff. Upons asking for a must-see sight that most tourists miss, our server wrote out TAKAKKAW FALLS on the back of our receipt. We were not disappointed! Driving in on a rainy afternoon, we stood in awe as the falls billowed and danced like a white veil in the wind as they cascaded down.

 
 Make sure you don't forget Yoho National Park. Takakkaw Falls was a special stop for Jon and I during our trip.

Make sure you don't forget Yoho National Park. Takakkaw Falls was a special stop for Jon and I during our trip.

 

 

There are a few viewpoints to enjoy the Falls from that are easily accessible from the parking lot. One note of caution: Because the switchbacks leading up to the Falls are steep and tight there is a sign warning that only vehicles shorter than 24 feet are allowed up.

 

4. Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake, the lake that looks like a fox. You’ve probably seen this electric turquoise lake on Instagram. It’s only about 25 miles north of Lake Louise along the world-renown Icefields Parkway. Again the best time to visit is late June to mid-October, if you’re hoping to see the beautiful aqua color it’s known for. A short hike from the parking lot leads you to a vantage point above the lake. This spot is definitely well-known so you’ll need to be prepared to wait for other visitors taking pictures and admiring the lake. The wait isn’t a problem at all, given the stunning view you’ll have while you wait!

 

We recommend heading out early, making a stop here at Peyto Lake, and then using the rest of your day to drive the Icefields Parkway in its entirety. Even if you don’t make it the entire way, you MUST at least make it to the next sight on our list.

 
 Peyto Lake really does look like a fox! It's roughly a 30 minute drive from Lake Louise to Peyto Lake.

Peyto Lake really does look like a fox! It's roughly a 30 minute drive from Lake Louise to Peyto Lake.

 

 

5. Sunwapta Falls

Wow! Just when we thought we couldn’t possibly see anything more spectacular (and this is after we visited all the sights above, and drove most of the Icefields Parkway) we reached Sunwapta Falls. Sunwapta Falls is located about 100 miles north of Lake Louise along the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park. I wasn’t familiar with the Falls, but thankfully Jon had Insta-stalked all things Canadian Rockies and insisted we couldn’t leave before going here. Neither should you! We saw Sunwapta Falls at sunset (don’t forget sunset is around 9:30 pm in the summer) and it was magical. If it’s at all feasible given your travel schedule, we HIGHLY recommend stopping here at sunset.

 

Banff is absolutely amazing, but for a more serene and slightly more off-the-beaten-path experience, don’t skip the amazing beauty of Jasper National Park that lies all along the Icefields Parkway. Sunwapta Falls is just one of many incredible sights there!

 
 If you can only see one thing in Jasper National Park, make it Sunwapta Falls. Sunwapta Falls is roughly 2.5 hours from Lake Louise.

If you can only see one thing in Jasper National Park, make it Sunwapta Falls. Sunwapta Falls is roughly 2.5 hours from Lake Louise.

 

How to See All 5 in Just 2 Days

There is an endless amount of exploring and hiking to be done in Yoho, Banff, and Jasper National Parks. We’re so glad to have seen so much and yet we know we still missed so much! We’re already planning our return. We were in a bit of a time crunch that left us trying to cram in everything in a very short amount of time. We thought this might happen to you too, after all how often are you in Canada? So, we put together the itinerary below to guarantee you see the best! Consider it something like an appetizer sampler platter. Yes you’ll be left wanting a bit more of some items (Jasper!), but you’ll get a taste of everything too.

 

If at all possible, try to stay near Lake Louise for Day 1. If you’re traveling in an RV, you can park at Moraine Lake, but you must get there early, before 8 a.m. On day 2, you’ll really be able to take your time if you stay at a campground in Jasper, or if you don’t have to return to Lake Louise. If you’re in an RV you can stay overnight at the Columbia Icefields lot, but it’s cold there! Or you can find a turnout along the Icefields parkway somewhere a little warmer.

 

Day 1

Option 1

  1. Moraine Lake at sunrise

  2. Lake Louise, plus Lake Agnes hike to Lake Agnes Tea House

  3. Check-In at campground or lodge/nap if you checked in afternoon before

  4. Afternoon drive out to Takakkaw Falls

(If you’re not interested in hiking up to the Lake Agnes Tea House, see Lake Louise at sunset instead)

 

Option 2

  1. Sunrise hike to Lake Agnes Tea House (arrive at trailhead by 6:30 a.m., tea house opens at 8am)

  2. Check-In at campground or lodge/nap if you checked in afternoon before

  3. Afternoon drive out to Takakkaw Falls

  4. Sunset at Moraine Lake

 
 Moraine Lake is only about 20 minutes away from Lake Louise. Takakkaw Falls are just 40 minutes away from Lake Louise.

Moraine Lake is only about 20 minutes away from Lake Louise. Takakkaw Falls are just 40 minutes away from Lake Louise.

 

 

Day 2

Option 1 (if you’re very pressed for time)

  1. Drive from Lake Louise up to Peyto Lake

  2. Drive straight up to Sunwapta Falls which is roughly 2.5 hours from Lake Louise (about 2 hours from Peyto Lake)

 

Option 2

  1. Drive from Lake Louise up to Peyto Lake

  2. Take your time along the Icefields Parkway, making as many stops as time allows

  3. Arrive at Sunwapta Falls an hour before sunset (sunset will be around 9:30 p.m. in the summer)

 
 Peyto Lake is about a 30 minute drive north from Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway. Sunwapta Falls, in Jasper National Park, is about 2 hours north of Peyto Lake.

Peyto Lake is about a 30 minute drive north from Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway. Sunwapta Falls, in Jasper National Park, is about 2 hours north of Peyto Lake.

 

We fell in love with the Canadian Rockies. If you have any questions at all about planning a Canadian Rockies trip, let us know in the comments below! Follow us on Instagram for some gorgeous pictures of Banff, Yoho, and Jasper.

 

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