The Canadian Rockies in 1 Week
An outdoor-oriented exploration of the gateway cities and national parks of the Rockies can begin in either Calgary or Edmonton -- simply reverse this itinerary to begin in Alberta's capital.
Day 1: Exploring Calgary
Take a day to explore Calgary, the energetic city that Albertan oil built, beginning at the Eau Claire Market and the adjacent Prince's Island Park. The Stephen Avenue area, about all that remains of the city's historic downtown, is now a pedestrian area and home to many restaurants, street performers, and nightclubs. The Glenbow Museum, one of Canada's top art and cultural institutions, is also here, and is a good destination if the weather turns.
If you have kids along, consider a visit to the Canada Olympic Park, where some of the competition for the 1988 Winter Olympics took place. In addition to visiting the top of the ski jump platform, you can also take a ride down the luge slope year-round.
Days 2 & 3: Banff & Environs
From Calgary, follow Hwy. 1 W. toward the Rockies. Within an hour, you'll pass beneath the soaring peaks at Canmore and enter Banff National Park. Banff Townsite is filled with grand hotels, modern lodges, B&B inns, plus innumerable restaurants and pubs. You could easily spend most of a day just exploring the town, particularly if you like to shop. However, you'll also want to spend another day exploring the natural sites around Banff, which include boat tours on Lake Minnewanka, float trips down the Bow River, day-hiking Johnston Canyon, and riding the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain.
Day 4: Lake Louise
Although just an hour to the west of Banff, Lake Louise is its own destination. Explore the lake, with its fantastic château-style hotel going eye-to-eye with a glacier. Hiking trails lead to the toe of the glacier where you can replenish yourself with tea and scones at a wilderness teahouse. In the next valley over, Moraine Lake is perhaps even more dramatic, with 10 spirelike peaks rising above a placid lake. The year-round gondola at Lake Louise Ski Resort transports hikers to alpine meadows. (From Lake Louise, road trippers with a westering urge can follow Hwy. 1 over the Rockies' Kicking Horse Pass and head toward Vancouver.)
Day 5: Traveling the Icefield Parkway
It will take a full day to travel the phenomenal Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, which crosses Sunwapta Pass beneath the massive Columbia Icefields. Stop to view waterfalls, hike to hidden lakes, and have tea at mountain lodges. Explore the Columbia Icefield, at the very crest of the Rockies, aboard specially built Snocoaches, which can safely venture out onto the surface of the icefield.
Day 6: Jasper & Environs
The town of Jasper doesn't offer the alpine shopping mall experience of Banff, so after strolling through the small town center, head out on a hiking or biking trail to explore the mountains -- trails start right in town. Driving to Maligne Lake for a boat tour of the Canadian Rockies' largest glacier lake is another option, as is signing up for a white-water raft trip on one of the area's many rivers. If you're a golfer, the course at Jasper Park Lodge is among the most noted in Canada.
Day 7: Edmonton
Leave the park by heading east on the Yellowhead Highway to Edmonton, Alberta's capital. Spend the afternoon exploring the city's trendy Old Strathcona neighborhood, the domed legislative building, and the art gallery district around High Street. Spend your final evening in Alberta in one of Edmonton's excellent restaurants. In the morning, return to Calgary via Hwy. 2 to catch your flight back home.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.