Last summer I spent the most INCREDIBLE two weeks road-tripping through the Canadian Rockies, and I have to say, I think I left a
little piece big chunk of my heart there. I fell in love with the winding roads, which are enveloped by awe-inspiring mountains and decorated with lakes that are the most striking shade of blue. Here are my 6 top tips for the perfect road trip through the Rockies!
1. Rent a Car
So, you might think that this is pretty obvious, but I saw loads of people travelling through the Rockies with a tour group. Renting your own car gives you SO much more freedom. The mountains are full of surprises. Whether it’s a gorgeous view or a bear suddenly poking his head out of the forest – you will not regret being able to just pull over and take it all in. We booked our car with Hertz through Canadian Affair, who waived the one-way drop off fee and added a second driver for free! Bear in mind that although having a car normally requires you to purchase a Park Pass, if you travel in 2017 entry will be free to celebrate the country’s 150th birthday!
2. Get OUT of That Car!
Some of the most spectacular views I encountered in the Rockies couldn’t be seen from the parking lot – I had to work for them! For example, the best view of Peyto Lake is from Bow Summit, which requires a relatively short (but pretty steep!) hike from the parking lot. Similarly, the most stunning panorama overlooking Lake Louise is hosted by the summit of the Big Beehive (a 5 hour round trip from the shoreline of Lake Louise vie Lake Agnes). The staff at the Information Centres in Banff and Jasper are really helpful for advice on hikes (like which ones are likely to require bear spray!). Hiking is, in my opinion, the BEST way to experience the Rockies – it’s rewarding on so many levels.
3. Plan Your Route Wisely
The Canadian Rockies cover A LOT of land and some of the most beautiful lakes can be an hour drive away. Make the most of your time in the mountains by researching what lakes you want to see the most. Once you have a list, use google maps to work out which ones are are close to each other, and how much you can realistically fit in each day. Its also helpful to decide which lakes/ hikes are must-see’s/do’s so you can prioritise in the event of bad weather, which brings me onto my next point…
4. Wear Layers
…The weather in the mountains can change at the drop of a hat. You can be walking in brilliant sunshine, and suddenly the clouds close in and it’s pouring with rain. Likewise, the temperature at the top of a mountain is almost definitely not the same as it is at the bottom. Because of this it’s important to wear layers. Base Layers that allow you to stay cool during a tough hike, a thermal layer and/or fleece to provide protection when you reach colder altitudes (we walked through SNOW. IN JUNE!), and a good waterproof outer layer. The unreliable mountain weather isn’t necessarily a bad thing – if it’s raining it’s not likely to last all day, and dramatic skies can make for awesome photos!
5. Have Your Camera To Hand, Always.
Incredible photos of the Rockies posted on Instagram and travel blogs were what made me buy my ticket to Canada. Before we left, I bought myself a shiny new camera and took the time to learn how to use it. For the entire two weeks it never left my side. You can’t predict when an animal will cross your path, or forecast the moment that the light hits the mountain perfectly, so you just have to be ready! Also, because of the aforementioned wild weather, carry a bin bag that you can put all your camera gear in if the heavens unexpectedly open.
6. Maximise Your Chances of Spotting Wildlife
**I actually wrote a whole post on this topic, which you can read here.**
The best times for spotting wildlife in the Rockies are dawn and dusk. We found this to be especially true for animals like deer and elk. It’s also handy to know where to look for specific wildlife. For example, black bears are commonly seen foraging along the roadside for berries, whereas grizzlies are less comfortable around humans and are more likely to be spotted higher in the mountains from a gondola. It’s also a good idea to check the park websites for recent sightings and keep an eye out for warning notices. Whilst getting that perfect grizzly shot might be high on the bucket list, be clever about it. Remember that the wildlife is WILD and potentially dangerous. It’s important for both the human and the animal that personal boundaries are respected.
My road trip through the Rockies was hands down the best adventure I’ve had so far. I fell in love with those mountains and Canada as a country. There is still so much that I want to explore, and I’m desperate to go back!
Watch our travel diary…
More posts from our Canadian Roadtrip…
- The Sea to Sky Highway
- Whistler & the Joffre Lakes
- Jasper National Park
- The Icefields Parkway
- Banff National Park Part 1: Banff Town, Lake Minnewanka, & the Johnston Canyon
- Banff National Park Part 2: Lake Louise & Moraine Lake
- Yoho National Park
- How to Spot Wildlife in the Canadian Rockies