Planning a weekend road trip to the Canadian Rockies? Prepare yourself for a large crowd and consider some of the beautiful places other than Lake Louise and Banff. Our day-trip itinerary did not go exactly as planned because of the huge crowd and impossible parking situation but it led us to explore less popular but equally-stunning sights. Read on to see our picturesque stops and tips for your roadtrip to the Canadian Rockies!
Coming from Calgary, the drive to Banff was easy. The roads are wide and the scenic views are endless. If you love nature, you will surely enjoy the drive. Roll down the windows and breathe in the fresh air! The roads are surrounded by pine trees, mountains, and lakes.
Since our roadtrip in Iceland, we began enjoying rerouting at sites with picnic signs because some of them can really be worth the stop. Herbert Lake is a case in point. Its picture-perfect view cannot be seen from the road but when you walk down the dusty trail from the parking, you will arrive at the tranquil lake surrounded by pine trees and the vast Canadian Rockies. It gives a stunning reflection of the sky, pine trees, and the Rockies.
Unlike the famous (but crowded) lakes, it is very peaceful in Herbert Lake. It is a short 8-min drive from Lake Louise so make sure to drop by! 🙂
A quick stop at the Crowfoot Glacier is a must. The parking can easily be seen along the Icefields Parkway. The crowfoot-shaped glacier is not as big as those we’ve seen in Iceland but its unique view with the pine trees and turquoise lake is mesmerizing!
Another attraction along the Icefields Parkway is the Bow Lake. This scenic landscape will definitely attract your attention. The lake is calm and clear with stunning shades of blue. As you make your way to the lake, you will also find pine trees and purple flowers. The beautiful view ends with the ice-capped Canadian Rockies. At the left, you could get a glimpse of the Crowfoot Glacier and at the middle is the Bow Glacier.
Despite the crowd, the view is still worth a stop. It’s easy to find parking because of the quick turn-around of visitors. Just be careful going down because you have go through the unpaved slope to reach the lake.
Peyto Lake is the farthest stop in our roadtrip but it had the best view! It’s definitely a top contender of all the landscapes we’ve seen. There is an uphill trail before you can reach the viewing point but it’s an easy, paved hike so there is nothing to worry about.
The view of this glacier-fed lake starts from the glacier tongue of the Peyto Glacier. The dull colors of the glacier and the Canadian Rockies emphasize the lake’s bright turquoise water. Its brilliant color is quite unbelievable! At the farther end, the beautiful lake is surrounded by pine trees and an endless view of ice-capped mountains.
It was crowded when we were at the Peyto Lake. The parking was also almost full but since they didn’t close it, unlike Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, we were able to push through! Thank goodness!
Accommodations in Banff and Lake Louise were already fully booked and rates have gone high by the time we decided to have the roadtrip. Since we arrived at Calgary, we booked a room at the newly opened Element Calgary Airport hotel. Its convenient location is only 1.5 hrs away from Banff. We figured that the difference of at least $100 is worth the relatively short drive.
For an affordable hotel, we had a huge room with full kitchen, dishwasher, huge couch, TV, and office desk. Everything was new! The room was spacious and clean. It also had a bright, modern design which we loved.
The bed, pillows, and comforter were very comfortable. It gave us the good night’s rest we needed for the roadtrip!
Tips for Your Roadtrip to the Canadian Rockies
1. Leave early to avoid the crowd
2. Book your accommodations in advance
Hotels in Banff and Lake Louise gets sold out quickly and rates shoot up!
3. Look out on the road for wildlife
Or, if the traffic slows down for no apparent reason, there might be a sighting of a bear. During our trip, there were two instances where some vehicles stopped at the side of the road. When we checked to see the cause of the delay, we saw a cub on the side of the road! On our way back from Peyto Lake, the cub was joined by a bigger bear.
4. Shuttles are great alternative if you don’t want the inconvenience of finding a parking spot
5. Bring an extra pair of shoes, preferably hiking boots
Expect some (easy) hiking if you want to get a better view.
6. If you don’t have a Canada 150 Park Discovery Pass, you can easily get it from the Banff park entrance
As you reach the Banff park entrance, there will be lanes for those without passes. You can get it for free from the officer. For more info, click here.
7. If you are not pressed for time, check the spots with picnic signs
Sometimes, these less popular areas offer amazing views!
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