My Favorite Postcard Perfect Locations in the Canadian Rockies

As I gear up for yet another trip to my favorite landscape in North America, the Canadian Rockies, I realized that I have never done a trip report or photography tour of them. Can’t believe I’ve let my readers down so badly despite promising a lot more. Anyway summer is just around the corner and while everyone looks to Europe and perhaps Iceland for their summer vacations, I think it is always important to look closer to home for the most accessible wonders. Here are my favorite locations in the Canadian Rockies.


1. Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake and The Valley of the Ten Peaks is one of the most touristy places in the world. In fact if you don’t get here well before the crack of dawn during summer, you won’t even find parking. Despite all of these drawbacks, there is a reason why landscape photographer and tourists alike flock to this location. The very first sight of the lake gives off an aura of pristine magnificence that never escapes your memory. Everything from the brilliant turquoise color waters to the reflections of the snow capped peaks on the lake make you just want to cry. I’m not going to lie, when I witnessed this fantastic sunrise back in September of last year, I almost had tears in my eyes. IMHO: There is no finer landscape that can be found in North America.

Best Time to See Lake: early-June through mid-September (open only during this time)

Open: end of May to mid-September (except via cross country skiing)

2. Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway which runs from Banff National Park to Jasper  is quite simply one of the most beautiful drives this planet has to offer. This drive is an alpine paradise featuring glaciated peaks, turquoise lakes, vast ice-fields, cascading waterfalls, and meandering creeks is full of wonder at every turn. Yes the Alps are more iconic, the Himalayas are taller, and Swiss villages are prettier . However none of these locations package the landscapes into ONE jam packed drive of pure “awesomeness” through the wilderness. Plus I don’t think there is a better way to photograph the scale of nature compared to us, than standing on the Icefields parkway.

Best Times to Drive the Icefields Parkway: Year Round

Open: Year Round

3. Crowfoot Glacier & Bow Lake

This small lake created by the glacier melt of the Crowfoot Glacier it sits under, is one of the most iconic lakes lining the Icefields parkway. During summer the lake turns into a brilliant aquamarine color, while in the winter it is covered completely with snow and ice. Spending some time along the lake is a must do on your journey along the highway.

Best Time to View the Lake: end of May to mid-September

Open: Year Round

4. Emerald Lake

Yet another iconic Canadian lake, Emerald Lake is actually part of the lesser known Yoho National Park in British Columbia, along the trans-Canada highway (following its split with the Icefields Parkway). People often don’t realize that they have left Alberta and entered British Columbia because of the lake’s proximity to Banff National Park. During the winter, this high alpine lake is completely frozen over and the turquoise and emerald colors that the lake is known for are seen only during the summer months (June-September). Nonetheless the Emerald Lake Lodge and the lake make for a must have picture in anyone’s scrapbook or portfolio.

Best Time to View the Lake: June-September

Open: Year Round

5. Columbia Icefield

The Columbia Icefield, which gives the road it sits on its name, is the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains. When you come upon it just before entering Jasper National Park, you are sometimes astounded at how close the road is to the glacier itself. It certainly is one more spot on the Icefields parkway where you witness the scale of these mountains and glaciers up close. Tours are available to walk on the glacier, but bookings need to be made ahead of time.

Best Time to Walk the Glacier:  mid-April – September

Best Time to See the Glacier: Year Round (Along Icefields Parkway)

6. Morant’s Curve

There is something about witnessing a train making its way through the Bow Valley and Banff National Park that just fills you with wonder. This little curve is the perfect place to witness man kind’s coexistence with nature before the time of the car.

Best Time to Visit: Year Round

Open : Year Round

7. Waterfowl Lakes

Yet another one of those stunning lakes banking the Icefields Parkway. The lake sits under the iconic, pyramid shaped Mt. Chephren, which is climbed during the summer season. Certainly a perfect place to stop, sit down and enjoy the views:

Best Time to View the Lake: June-September

Open : Year Round

8. 3 Sisters @ Policeman’s Creek

The Three Sisters straddle the small range of Canadian Rockies around the town of Canmore. The reflection of the peaks on Policeman’s Creek  is one of the most magnificent and accessible sights to behold. If you are short on time or in Calgary just for a day, this would be the easiest place to visit while also not paying the Banff Park entrance fees. Beware of bears though on the hike over to the creek though and make sure to make sufficient noise to just in case to let them know you are in the area.

Best Time to Visit: Year Round

Open : Year Round

9. Peyto Lake

The view of Peyto Lake from Bow Summit is truly one of the most well known scenes from the Canadian Rockies. The trail to the lake is located right on the Icefields Parkway and is a short walk up an incline from the car parking lot. I would very easily rank this place higher if not for the small deck crowded with selfie stick wielding tourists. Getting here early enough in the morning is key to having the place to yourself.

Best Time to View the Lake: June-September

Open : Year Round

Peyto Lake
10. Lake Louise

The stunning Lake Louise is the most accessible of all of Canada’s turquoise colored lakes. A trail leads right around the lake and branches off into many other popular hiking trails leading to Lake Agnes, Saddleback Pass, and much more. Do be aware that these trails are likely not open yet until May when the snow melts away and avalanches become less of a problem. The stunning Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, one of Canada’s Grand Railway Hotels, sits right at the shores of the lake. During the winter, the lake is the site of a large ice rink.

Best Time to View the Lake: June-September

Open : Year Round

11. Castle Mountain

Looking at Castle Mountain for the first time can be confusing and disorienting because well it looks like a castle and there aren’t many that exist in Canada, especially this far west. Right off of the Trans-Canada highway is a bridge near which you can park your car and walk down to the river to experience the reflections and sunsets of this uniquely sculpted mountain. The mountain is a popular foreground for nighttime photography of the Canadian Rockies.

Best Time to Visit: Year Round

Open : Year Round

12. Mt Rundle & the Vermillion Lakes

Sitting adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway and next to the town of Banff are a series of lakes known for their reflections of Mount Rundle. The third lake is actually a hot spring from what I hear and what I could tell.  The south face of Rundle itself, as seen from Canmore, can actually be considered a small mountain range in its own right because of its 12 peaks. This is certainly a must go lake on those not so windy days in the park.

Best Time to View the Reflections: April-September

Open : Year Round

 

13. Lower Falls @ Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon is perhaps one of the most popular locales in all of Banff National Park and is located along the scenic Bow River Parkway. The lower falls are located just a short 30 minute (~1.2 km) walk from the trail head and involve an incredible set of catwalks along the limestone cliffs of the canyon. The trail continues for another 1.6 km to the upper falls which are not quite as photogenic, but still magnificent to behold. During the summer months, expect heavy traffic along the catwalks of Johnston Canyon so plan to get there early in the day to complete the hike. I’ve never been here in the winter, but the iced over waterfalls are apparently something to behold.

Best Time to Visit: Year Round

Open : Year Round

 

I consider the Canadian Rockies to be among my Top 5 favorite places to go in the world. Calgary (one of the largest Canadian cities) is just a 3-4 hour flight for most of us in the U.S, making it an ideal weekend getaway for postcard perfect pictures. Anyway just a destination no one should miss out on!


Stay tuned for the full trip report. If you want to see more of my images, check out my Instagram(@pvtejasvi).