I grew up in the shadow of the most gorgeous mountains in North America. Family outings took us up into the mountains, especially in the summer. Over time, the scenery made me the world’s most spoiled kid.
Spending time around Canada’s Rocky Mountains was a privilege. But it also ruined later years of sightseeing in other mountain areas of the United States and Canada. Sure, this place is pretty, I’ll tell myself now. But is it as pretty as Maligne Lake? Lake O’Hara? Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Seven Peaks? Lake Louise? Not a chance.
If the open road is calling you in the summer, a road trip to the Rockies is always a good idea. (Today’s exchange rate also makes it a great deal.) If you get in your RV and go, here are the most beautiful views to chase.
Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta
Maligne is the second-largest glacial lake in the world. I’m convinced it might be the most beautiful spot on the planet. Maligne has many moods, each of them exquisite. If a tour doesn’t float your boat, you can hike around the lake on large trail network, hang out in the chalet, or even say, “I do”.
On a scorching summer day you can also dive in, but be warned that glacial lakes don’t warm up much even in the heart of summer’s heat. Unless you’re hankering for hypothermia, don’t hang out in the water.
The Icefields Parkway, Banff and Jasper National Parks, Alberta
Banff and Jasper are the two most popular destinations for visitors to the Rockies. They are connected by a 140-mile highway that offers unobstructed mountain views on both sides. Driving the parkway might be the most sublime experience you can have in an RV or car.
Glacier Skywalk, Jasper National Park, Alberta
You can stop on the Parkway to visit the Glacier Skywalk, a glass-floored walkway cantilevered along the edge of the Sunwapta Valley. As you sweep your gaze from the top of a mountain to the valley floor 918 feet directly beneath you, do your best not to think of cracks.
Lake O’Hara, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
The Lake O’Hara area is one of the most spectacular places anywhere. The ultimate mountain experience, the Lake O’Hara area offers spectacular hikes in and around the many alpine lakes, tarns, moraines, and high traverses which surround Lake O’Hara. Wildlife abounds, hiking trails are extensive and varied, and the surrounding high mountains are simply incredible.
For these reasons, all of the facilities at Lake O’Hara are busy during the summer months. There is a campground, a lodge, a day shelter, and two Alpine Club of Canada huts. To reach these facilities, one must either hike 7 miles or take a scheduled bus (reserve in advance through Parks Canada).
Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta
Going to the Rockies and skipping Lake Louise is like going to Manhattan and not visiting Central Park. It’s crowded, but there’s a reason it’s crowded. An extensive network of hiking trails around the lake offers an easy escape from the tour groups. If you have a few hours, a hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House is a great way to savor everything the area has to offer.
Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Seven Peaks, Banff National Park, Alberta
The Canadian Rockies are lousy with glacial lakes, but Moraine Lake is one of my favorites. Located near Lake Louise, the Valley of the Ten Peaks provides a backdrop like no other. The iconic view of Moraine from the rockslide that dams the lake is an easy walk from the parking lot, or you can rent a canoe and meander down the length of the lake.
Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Alberta
The world famous Fairmont Banff Springs hotel stands as a landmark in the picturesque alpine town of Banff. Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies”, has been providing legendary hospitality to our guests for more than 125 years. Possibly the most opulent building in the Rockies. Playground of the rich and famous, as well as devotees of wishful thinking.
Lac Beauvert and Jasper Park Lodge, Jasper, Alberta
Located at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge—Jasper’s answer to the Banff Springs—Lac Beauvert produces dazzling emerald colors on a sunny summer day.
Jasper Park Lodge is a 700 acre year-round luxury mountain resort which wraps around the shores of pristine Lac Beauvert and Canada’s #1 Golf Resort Course. The resort’s charming village of cedar chalets and Luxury Signature Cabins, all connected by picturesque paths, offer guests unique access to explore the natural environment surrounding the resort.
Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
This turquoise lake offers superb hiking and paddling. Picnic on the lakeshore or dine in luxury at one of two restaurants. Stop at the Natural Bridge along the way and admire the Kicking Horse River as it carves a path through ancient rock.
No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied—it speaks in silence to the very core of your being.