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How to self-drive the Canadian Rockies

Tuesday, 17th January 2017

Icefields Parkway

Driving in Canada is surprisingly easy – yes, they drive on the ‘wrong’ side, but the wide open roads are well maintained and sign-posted. Throw in some incredible mountain scenery and the chance to spot wildlife along the way, and you have all the ingredients you need for an unforgettable road trip.

The Canadian Rockies abound with spectacular scenery from jagged, snow-capped peaks to turquoise glacial lakes that take your breath away. Exploring this region on a self-drive means that you can set your own pace, stopping as often as you want to admire each and every view.

Icefields Parkway

Perhaps Canada’s most famous driving route, the Icefields Parkway offers a spectacular journey between Jasper and Lake Louise, through some of the Rockies’ most impressive scenery. Surrounded by towering mountains and countless glaciers, having the freedom of your own car means you can stop as often as you like to take photos, stretch your legs or simply admire the vast landscape around you.
Consider: Rocky Mountains in Depth

Bow Valley Parkway

There are two routes connecting Banff and Lake Louise, but we recommend avoiding the main Highway 1 and taking the more picturesque Bow Valley Parkway instead. With a strong chance of wildlife sightings and littered with scenic stops such as Johnston Canyon, Morant’s Curve and Silverton Falls, this route cuts through mountains, alpine meadows and forests. Less travelled than the Icefields Parkway, the Bow Valley Parkway is a breathtakingly beautiful drive.
Consider: Majestic Rockes by Rail & Road

National Parks

The Rocky Mountains incorporate a number of national and provincial parks, including Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks. Combined they make up the the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site. Entry fees usually apply, but throughout 2017 entrance will be FREE to all of Canada’s national parks, as part of the country’s 150th anniversary celebrations. Within the parks pay heed to latest advice on weather and wildlife, including bear safety notices.

Roadside Wildlife Spotting

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Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for wildlife whilst driving – you may spot anything from elk and bighorn sheep to bears or even a coyote. Keep your camera handy and be aware of other vehicles which may slow down or stop unexpectedly if they see a bear at the side of the road.

Allow Plenty of Time

The biggest advantage to self-driving in the Rockies is the opportunity to take your time, stopping as and when you choose. This is not about getting from A to B, but about exploring, hiking up to waterfalls, photographing immense glaciers, enjoying a picnic with mountain views… You might spend 10 minutes watching a black bear or an hour walking to a beautiful lake. Pick up a parks leaflet to make sure you don’t miss out on detours and highlights such as Athabasca Falls, Peyto Lake, the Columbia Icefield and Johnston Canyon. You never know what you might find around the next corner!

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Start planning your trip

Whether you choose to fly into Calgary, Edmonton or even Vancouver, travel by car or by motorhome, our team of Canada Specialists are on hand to answer your questions and help plan your holiday – contact us for a tailor made quote, or find out more about Canadian Rockies holidays.

Find out more about our Canada holidays.