CANADA | The ultimate two week roadtrip through the Canadian Rockies (part 2)

by kimberley

This is part 2 of my ultimate two week roadtrip through the Canadian Rockies!

If you haven’t read part 1 yet, make sure to do so here before continuing.

Itinerary Map

I have re-added the map below, so that you can visually see where the second part of your ultimate two week roadtrip shall take you; from Kamloops to your final destination, Calgary.

Day 8: Kamloops – Jasper

The distance between Kamloops and Jasper is 440km, with a non-stop driving time of 4.5 hours. However to factor in multiple stops, I would schedule 6 hours of driving for this day, easily. This will be the longest leg of your whole ultimate two week roadtrip. 

At this point of your journey, you shall be completely immersed in the beautiful Canadian countryside. Within 1.5 hours, you will reach a town called Clearwater which borders the Wells Gray Provincial Park.

Head along Clearwater Valley Road and you will arrive at the Spahats Creek Falls. These falls can be accessed easily from the car park; just a short 5 minute walk. A further 30 minute drive, and you will reach the Mushbowl which can be viewed as you cross the bridge, over the Murtle River. 

There are also two further falls in the area; Helmscken Falls and Dawson Falls should you have time to visit them.

After taking a sufficient break, get back on the road onto Highway 5, followed by Highway 16, towards Mount Robson Provincial Park. If visibility is good, you should able to see the peak of Mount Robson which is the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky..

An hour from there and you will cross over into the province of Alberta, before reaching the east gate entrance to Jasper National Park, and the magical mountain town of Jasper. Now it’s time to give the driver or/and yourself a well deserved stein of beer at the Jasper Brewing Company!

Day 9: Jasper 

Grab an early breakfast in the heart of Jasper at the cutest named bakery; Bear’s Paw Bakery (or their sister bakery, The Other Paw Bakery). I highly recommend their Cinnamon buns which are delicious! 

Whilst Jasper is a popular tourist destination, it has an incredibly laid back atmosphere and feels relatively low-key. Take a slow stroll around the centre of the town, admiring its rustic charm and breathing in that fresh mountain air.

Maligne Lake

Spend the rest of your late morning/early afternoon at Maligne Lake which is a 45 minute drive from Jasper. Spanning 22km, Maligne Lake is the worlds second largest glacier fed lake. It is also famously known for Spirit Island, one of the worlds most photographed locations – and for good reason!

You can visit Spirit Island by taking a boat which departs hourly. It takes 90 minutes and is very informative, with the guides providing historic information about the area, the lake and the Island. However, you are only allowed to spend 20 minutes maximum on the island before returning.

The only way to spend longer on Spirit Island, is to either kayak there yourself (which takes 4 hours each way!) or opt for a longer, pricier cruise.

On your drive back, look out for some wildlife. You will know when there is something of interest as this is the only time where you could consider ‘traffic’ to be forming. There will also be many cars pulled over at the side of the road.

In and around Jasper, you can spot Elk frequently hanging out at the edge of the road. It is important to give these animals space – we did see a male try to ram a large SUV, poor guy.. 

Day 10: Jasper – Banff

Continue your ultimate two week roadtrip by heading along yet another incredibly scenic road, the Icefields Parkway. There are so many places that you will want to stop off at, as the landscape gets more and more spectacular! 
 
What was great for us about this road was that it felt like there was barely anyone around; you could quite literally pull over and stop whenever you wanted to. For me, the below images really encompassed the beauty of western Canada. There is nothing that can quite beat that view. 

A few notable stopping points are the Goat Lookout and the Sunwapta Falls; they are located just under an hours drive out of Jasper. Whilst we didn’t see any mountain goats on the lookout, keep an eye out on the road. They had a tendency to suddenly pop up after scaling the cliffs. 

Athabasca Glacier 

About 48km further from the falls, you will reach the Athabasca Glacier. You will know you have arrived by firstly, the change in landscape as it becomes rather barren. Then secondly, by the massive sheets of ice in front of you. It is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world where you can walk right up to it from the car park! 

You are not allowed to walk on the glacier unaccompanied by a guide (or it would be pretty dangerous!), so there are a couple of ways of getting up close should you wish to do so.

The first is the Columbia Icefield Adventure where you get driven up to a certain point of the glacier in a massive futuristic looking ice bus. You then have about 30 minutes to walk on the ice. Also included in the ticket is the Glacier Skywalk. All information and tickets can be found here

Alternatively, if you want longer on the ice and feel like having a good old Geography lesson, then you can take a 3 or 6 hour Icewalk with a certified guide. This is exactly what we did with Icewalk and can really recommend it. The local guide was super engaging and knowledgeable, teaching us all about how the glacier was formed, quizzing us on its features and sharing with us what they think will happen in the future. Unfortunately, the glacier is retreating at a rapid rate so see it now before it is too late!

The remainder of the stunning drive from the glacier to Banff is just over 2 hours. Take it at a leisurely pace, you never know what you may see. For example, a mother bear and her two cubs could just happen to cross the road directly in front of you… Eek!

Day 11-13: Banff

So after a lot of driving, you have finally made it to Banff National Park and the charming mountain town of Banff! Known for its incredible coloured lakes and surreally beautiful surroundings, you will have 3 nights here; the longest stay of your whole trip. Unfortunately, this is still nowhere near long enough to experience everything that this park has to offer, but I will certainly run through our highlights.

The Lakes

I had done my fair share of research when it came to visiting the top lakes in Banff. A couple of things that you must be prepared for are a) early wake up calls and b) how busy they will be. 

*oh and, yes, they really are that blue!

READ MY FOLLOW UP POST ABOUT WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN VISITING MORAINE LAKE & LAKE LOUISE.

1. Moraine Lake

If you want to see this lake, it is imperative that you arrive no later than 6.00am, during peak summer season. 

Once the car park is full, they shut the road and you have no option but to turn back – Moraine Lake is an hours drive from Banff and there is nothing in the vicinity – don’t disappoint yourself!

Was it worth the hype? Absolutely. Watching the blue hue of the lake appear as the sun rises over the mountains, is magical :). 

2. Lake Louise

Overlooked by the luxurious Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel, this is another must. Whilst not as spectacular as Moraine Lake, in my humble opinion, the pale blue water will leave you wanting to dive right in. (Although don’t, it is glacier fed so is seriously cold!).

It has an incredible backdrop and I can only imagine that on a clear, sunny day, this lake is truly mesmerising. Beware: Lake Louise also has the same parking issues as Lake Moraine. 

3. Peyto Lake 

Slightly further on from Lake Louise, is Peyto Lake. And you guessed it. It is just as emerald blue as the others!

Access to the lake is off of the Icefields Parkway and you will need to follow signs for the trail, which takes you to the viewpoint. It is a short 10 minute hike (quite steep in places) to the viewpoint. Be prepared to share the viewing platform with many other like minded tourists.

Alternatively, there is an ‘unofficial’ trail which veers off into the trees and takes you to another viewing area. There are no fences however, so don’t get too close to the edge!

Banff Gondola

Banff has its very own gondola which takes you up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain. It provides amazing 360 views of the surrounding mountains and Banff town. There are also several restaurants, shops and hiking trails at the top.

We booked dinner at the Sky Bistro so we went up the Gondola just before sunset. It was so much colder up there so ensure to wrap up warm – they also provide several fire pits on the viewing decks which we certainly gravitated towards…

Banff Town & Surrounding Area 

When you eventually want some down time, make sure to have a mooch around this delightful town. Beyond its numerous tourist shops, there are some great places to eat. Two of our favourites were the Balkan Restaurant (Greek) and the Park Distillery Bar (which makes its own spirits).  

What is also great about Banff, is that the beautiful surroundings do not stop once you are in town. There are several relatively flat and easy trails which surround it; a great thing to do if you want to have a casual stroll and spot some wildlife! 

The Bow River runs along the edge of the town and you can rent a canoe from the Banff Canoe Club, at much more affordable rates than those at the lakes (the water is still lovely and blue!)

 

Day 14: Banff – Calgary

It’s time to say goodbye to the mountains, to nature and to the outdoors. This is where your ultimate two week roadtrip through the Canadian Rockies comes to an end.

The drive from Banff to Calgary takes about 1.5 hours. Grab yourself a box of Timbits for the drive, it may cheer you up slightly! Just remember as you spot those skyscrapers coming into sight, that you should have had the most amazing two week roadtrip :).

 

If you have any questions at all regarding this itinerary, please leave a comment and I will get back to you!

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