The Canadian Rockies stretch 900 miles northwest from the Montana border. They began forming around 80 million years ago, making them 400 million years younger than the Appalachians.
Their relative youth shows in their sharper edges and rough faces that contrast beautifully with the smooth lines of the glacial lakes they hold. These can take on downright surreal colors thanks to the microscopic bits of ground-up mountain that come off a glacier when it melts.
The lakes and peaks combined create gob-smacking scenery at any time of the year. But since an RV/car is indispensable for visiting the Rockies, accessing their beauty is easiest in the warmer months, when the highways are clear of ice and snow.
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.
Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta
This is the most powerful waterfall in the Rockies. Do yourself a favor and stay on the right side of the viewing fence. People have drowned trying to get an ideal photo. On a trip in my youth, I hopped over the barrier to get a better photo and about lost my mind.
Sunwapta Falls, Jasper National Park, Alberta
Sunwapta is the main rival to the Athabasca Falls. Actually a pair of waterfalls separated by a short hike, Sunwapta sits a stone’s throw from the Icefields Parkway. Its power peaks in the spring, when glacial runoff is at its height.
The so-called Three Sisters are the calling card of Canmore, a cozy town just outside the eastern boundary of Banff National Park. Actually a single mountain named in reference to an ancient story of the Stony people, the sisters are also called “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Charity” by some, though not by anyone who has tried to climb them without adequate preparation.
Mount Robson, British Columbia
Part of the Rainbow Range, Mount Robson is the highest peak in the Rockies, climbing almost 13,000 feet into the sky. An ultra-marathon in the area attracts the truly determined. A gift shop that sells ice cream caters to the rest of us throughout the summer.
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
Nestled in the southwestern corner of Alberta near the U.S. border, Waterton Lakes National Park is contiguous with Montana’s Glacier National Park. It offers all of the beauty of that park and its other famous cousins Banff and Jasper with a fraction of the crowds. Its namesake lake is anchored by the charming Prince of Wales hotel, which is not far from the Bear’s Hump, a short hike still steep enough to offer commanding views of the valley and Mount Cleveland.
Waterton was Canada’s fourth national park, formed in 1895. In 1932, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was formed from Waterton and Glacier.
Pyramid and Patricia Lakes, Jasper National Park, Alberta
High in the Canadian Rockies just five minutes from the town of Jasper you’ll experience the beauty of nature. A pair of crystal clear lakes, Pyramid and Patricia are connected by Pyramid Lake road and hiking trails to the town, as well as trails to other sites such as Pyramid Mountain, a natural landmark that overlooks the town of Jasper.
Takakkaw Falls and Yoho Valley, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
Tumbling 830 feet in one stretch and 1,260 feet in total, Takakkaw Falls are among the highest in Canada and the gateway to some of Yoho’s most beautiful hiking. Feel the spray at the base of the falls or enjoy views from afar. Accessible mid-June until mid-October to small vehicles and bicycles only due to steep, tight switchbacks.
Burgess Shale Fossil Beds, Yoho and Kootenay National Park, British Columbia
These are some of the oldest and most significant fossil beds in the world. They are a crown jewel in the Canadian Rocky Mountain National Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site and the source of major scientific discoveries about the evolution of life on earth. Choose from three guided interpretive hikes (one in Kootenay National Park) or explore the interactive Burgess Shale exhibits at the Visitor Centre and Emerald Lake. Available late-June through mid-September.
Radium Hot Springs, Kootenay National Park, British Columbia
One of British Columbia’s top natural Hot Springs, Radium is a family friendly facility offering ample space to relax. Soak in the expansive hot pool or cool off with the kids in the swimming pool. Day spa services available at the Pleiades Spa. Water temperature is kept between 98ºF and 104ºF
This mountain, the arched back of the earth risen before us, it made me feel humble, like a beggar, just lucky to be here at all, even briefly.