In any season, the Canadian Rockies are a spectacular vacation destination, with a seemingly limitless range of one-of-a-kind travel experiences. We’ve highlighted eight great Rocky Mountain adventures with tips on how and where to try these bucket-list-worthy activities.
For all these Canadian Rockies experiences, fly into Calgary, then head for the mountains in Banff, Jasper or eastern British Columbia. Or combine a Rockies tour with time on the coast in Vancouver. Either way, prepare for an epic Canadian holiday.
Walk on a Glacier
A drive along the strikingly beautiful Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper is a bucket-list adventure in itself, with ice-capped mountains and bluer-than-blue, glacier-fed lakes around every turn. Add to the experience with a walk on the Athabasca Glacier, which is part of the Columbia Icefield, the largest area of glacial ice in the Canadian Rockies. A specially equipped bus with massive tires takes you down a steep and rocky slope onto the dense ice, where you can explore, even in mid-summer.
How to do it: Brewster Travel offers Glacier Adventure tours from the Columbia Icefield Centre along the Icefields Parkway, as well as day tours that include transportation from Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper.
Dog Sled Across the Continental Divide
In just a couple of hours, you can travel by dog sled through two of the Canadian Rockies’ mountain national parks, journeying from Banff to Yoho through the Continental Divide. Your guide will lead the dog team while you take in the views (there will be time to stop for photos along the way, too) and, on your return trip, you’ll have a chance to guide the dog team yourself.
How to do it: Based at Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Kingmik Dog Sled Tours offers several sledding trips. Before or after your tour, luxuriate overlooking the water at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Climb a Via Ferrata
If you’ve never tried rock climbing, cross this adventure off your wish list with a guided ascent on the Via Ferrata in Banff National Park. From the Italian for “iron way,” a Via Ferrata is a system of iron rungs and fixed cables high on a mountain rock face, designed to enable novice climbers to reach new heights. Banff’s Mount Norquay has three guided Via Ferrata routes, from a 2.5-hour introductory climb to a six-hour route that takes you up to dramatic views along the mountain’s 8,038-foot-high East Summit.
How to do it: Reserve a spot on a Via Ferrata tour at Banff’s Mount Norquay. Your guide will outfit you with the gear you need and give you an orientation before leading you up the mountain.
Take Yoga to New Heights
Imagine taking your downward dog to the top of a peak in the Canadian Rockies — by helicopter. On a heli-yoga tour, you’ll start by flying over the waterfalls and glaciers along the Icefields Parkway. Then follow your hiking guide along a backcountry trail to a secluded mountaintop location for a private yoga class. When you’ve achieved your mountain zen, the helicopter returns for a scenic flight back to civilization.
How to do it: Book a heli-yoga tour with Rockies Heli Canada, which runs Icefields Heli-Yoga tours from May through mid-October.
Ice Walk Through a Frozen Canyon
Both Banff and Jasper national parks have spectacular rock canyons carved by rushing rivers. In the summer, you can hike along the catwalks through Banff’s Johnston Canyon or follow the riverside trail through Jasper’s dramatic Maligne Canyon, but these scenic spots are even more impressive in winter when the rivers and waterfalls freeze into walls of sculptural ice. You’ll strap on ice cleats to keep your footing as you hike into the frozen gorges on this distinctively Canadian adventure.
Go Cat Skiing
Any skier or snowboarder can ride a lift up the mountain, but when your goal is to reach deep powder on untracked slopes, book a cat skiing tour. Surrounded by the Rockies, with an average annual snowfall of 35 to 40 feet, the southeastern British Columbia town of Fernie is a center for cat skiing, where you ride up the surrounding mountains in a heated snowcat, a machine that looks like a cross between a bulldozer and a limousine. Your guide will point you down the best backcountry terrain, and you dive into the powder.
Motorcycle Into the Mountains
Have you always wanted to ride a motorcycle? In Jasper National Park, you can arrange a guided tour on three wheels (can’t forget the sidecar), riding south to scenic Athabasca Falls, touring park highlights like Maligne Canyon and Medicine Lake, or winding up Mount Edith Cavell near the base of the Angel Glacier. You can even do a full-day tour along the Icefields Parkway. You’ll be outfitted in leather, and ride either on the bike behind your guide or in a sidecar attached to your guide’s motorcycle. Cool, right?
Soak in Historic Hot Springs
After all these adventures, you’ll want to relax your muscles, and what better place to unwind than at “The Castle in the Rockies,” the stately Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, which has been pampering guests in its grand chateau for more than 125 years. The hotel’s Four-Star Willow Stream Spa has an expansive indoor mineral pool, surrounded by three hot pools, each with a cascading waterfall. It also has a full menu of massage and other treatments — just the thing to wrap up your Canadian bucket list experiences in style.