Summer in the Canadian Rockies
Alberta’s Rocky Mountains are never more inviting than beneath the summer sun. Hike beneath the soaring peaks in Banff National Park, sip micro-brewed beer made from mountain-fresh glacier water, or simply road trip through the Canadian Rockies to enjoy the best of the summer season, but don’t miss the opportunity to swim in an alpine lake or walk atop the Athabasca Glacier. Summer in Alberta invites adventure in the Canadian Rockies.
Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Nestled at the base of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, Moraine Lake boasts turquoise waters that change color throughout the day as sunlight refracts off the minuscule particles of glacier-ground rock suspended within. Though it has a B-list rating compared to Lake Louise’s A-list status, this spot is arguably the more spectacular of the two. It’s located a little less than nine miles from the hamlet of Lake Louise. When you arrive, you can hike up to the Rockpile (clearly visible at the front of the lake) for the best vantage point, or spend a day exploring one of the neighboring valleys.
Be forewarned: The parking lot often fills up by 10 a.m., so go early.
Be forewarned: The parking lot often fills up by 10 a.m., so go early.
2, 110 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1A9, Canada
The Banff Ave Brewing Company uses pure Canadian Rockies glacier water as its beer’s not-so-secret ingredient. The water makes for a perfectly imperfect beer, as it comes chock-full of minerals usually removed before the brewing process. Open since 2010, the Banff Ave Beer Co has six handcrafted beers on tap at the brewpub in downtown Banff, along with a food menu that puts an eccentric twist on traditional pub fare. The brewpub is popular year-round. In the winter, it’s great for après ski or for a nice meal before sampling some of Banff’s bolder nightlife venues. In the summer, its patio is the perfect place for a refreshing afternoon drink while people watching along Banff Avenue. Open 7 days per week, 11:30am to 2am. Reservations not required. 1-403-762-1003.
AB-93, Alberta, Canada
The Icefield Parkway isn’t just a highway linking Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta. It’s a 230-km road trip through the Canadian Rockies, past a series of emerald-green alpine lakes fed by nearby glaciers. The entire route connects Jasper and Banff national parks and traverses the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage site. Heading south from Jasper, the first must-see landmark is Athabasca Falls. After that, the sights come one after the other, like the Endless Chain, Sunwapta Falls, the Athabasca Glacier, Waterfowl Lake, and Bow Summit. That’s just the tip of the Icefield, though, as there are hundreds of breathtaking sights. The drive can take as little as three hours; however, it can also last for days. Throughout the summer there are a number of resorts along the route, along with a half-dozen campgrounds. The road is open throughout the winter, but there are no open services.
1 Old Lodge Rd, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
Opened in 1915 as Tent City—a string of luxury canvas tents along Lac Beauvert, with vistas of Whistlers Peak and Pyramid Mountain—the iconic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge was possibly North America’s first “glamping” site. The destination proved wildly popular, and in 1922 a main lodge was opened, as well as a series of luxury log cabins spread across 700 acres in the heart of Jasper National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Bristling with Douglas firs and pine trees, the property sees herds of elk nibbling the grass, chipmunks scurrying through the trees, and even the occasional bear. The 442 rooming options—all of which were renovated between 2015 and 2017—include cozy spots in the main building, fireplace-equipped Junior Suites, and bring-the-whole-family Signature Cabins, all with views across the lake or the forest and mountains. The newly introduced Estate Cabins, located near the golf course, feature a private gated entrance for a more residential feel. Classic lodge-style interior design is the order of the day in the cabins, with wood beams and a combination of earthy and granite tones, while rooms and suites are clean-lined and decked out in fresh white bedding and light wood accents.
624 Connaught Dr, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
Opened in 2005, the Jasper Brewing Company was the first brewpub within a Canadian national park. It is now a local’s staple hangout. Seven different beers—like the Rockhopper IPA and Honey Bear Ale—are brewed on location, so make sure to order a brewery tour along with a fresh pint. The food menu is pub fare with a special flare to help bring out the flavors of the beer. The brewpub, open daily from 11:30am to 1:00am, is child-friendly, too, as the venue is divided into two, with both a restaurant and pub. Beer from $5.50. Contact 1-780-852-4111.
211 Bear Street # 213, Banff, Alberta, Canada
Best known by locals for its stunning views of the Canadian Rockies (nab a seat by the giant windows to make other diners jealous!), the Bison’s best-kept secret is its addictive dinner and Sunday brunch menus. Chefs Liz and Kirk are geniuses at creating special dishes that show off the region’s bounty, like bison carpaccio, venison striploin with maple parsnip purée, and a bison breakfast sandwich with bison sausage, fried egg, and foie gras butter. Ask the servers for help pairing the perfect regional beer or national wine with your order—they know their stuff.
AB-93, Jasper, AB T1L 1J3, Canada
Jasper National Park’s newest attraction, the Glacier Skywalk, opened earlier this year as part of several features at the Glacier Discovery Center. After parking at the center, take a quick bus ride to the Skywalk. A free audio tour introduces the local ecosystem - it’s a nice accompaniment to the stroll along the nature exhibits on the way to the platform. Once you finally reach the engineering marvel – anticipation building – take a step out onto the 1.5-inch thick glass that hovers over the Sunwapta Valley below. Peering down the valley reveals a glimpse of the Athabasca Glacier (though you’ll have to head down the road to get a good view of the whole thing). From the Skywalk you’ll see waterfalls, endless trees, and maybe even a mountain goat or two. Visiting first thing in the morning means less crowds and more freedom to really explore the Skywalk. The best thing about the attraction? The view is still amazing even if you are too nervous to go out very far on the glass. Photo and travel courtesy of Travel Alberta.
AB-40, Kananaskis, AB T0L, Canada
Kananaskis Country is a stunning wilderness area that lies just outside of Canmore, Alberta. The region borders Banff National Park and the scenery rivals it’s famous neighbour. The key benefit to outdoor fun in Kananaskis Country is the complete lack of crowds! It might be near Banff, but it feels a world away. Hiking trails, bike paths, and beautiful lakes abound and it’s quite common to have them all to yourself even during the busiest summer weekends! Check out the Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes at sunset, as it’s a prime location near the Continental Divide that offers stunning evening light.
Crandell Lake Trail, Waterton, AB T0K 2M0, Canada
Bear’s Hump is one of Waterton National Park’s best hikes. It’s extremely short, measuring only 2.8 km, but it involves plenty of climbing as the trail winds uphill from the Visitor Information Office towards the rocky bluffs that hang high above the townsite. The hike itself is little more than a forested staircase that will test the lungs of even the most seasoned hiker; however, the destination is absolutely stunning. From Bear’s Hump, the views extend across the Waterton Lakes and deep into the USA’s Glacier National Park. Sunset is an absultely wonderful time to check out this stunning view, but don’t forget to take a flashlight for the steep hike back down.
Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
An overnight stay at Tonquin Valley Adventures’ lodge is perhaps the best way to experience the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. (It’s a well-earned one, too: The lodge lies almost 20 kilometers, or about 12 miles, from the nearest road!) To get there, hike the Tonquin Valley backcountry from Edith Cavell Road to the path alongside Astoria River before reaching the Ramparts Mountains. The setting is surreal, as the lodge has a series of cabins with unforgettable views. A short walk leads guests to the edge of Amethyst Lake, where canoes, kayaks, and rowboats await to take you on your next adventure.
Alberta 5, Waterton Park, AB T0K 2M0, Canada
Banff and Jasper are top of mind when it comes to Alberta‘s Great Outdoors. Travelers flock to Moraine Lake by the busload for postcard-perfect snaps and zip through the province’s northern parks on the trail of grizzlies, elk, and moose. Waterton Lakes manages to fly just far enough under the radar that it never feels crowded or bustling, even on a wild Canada Day long weekend, which makes it a wonderful alternative for the “been there, done that” crowd. For an iconic view of Waterton Village and Upper Waterton Lake, test your mettle against the Bear’s Hump, a mile-long trek that begins at the Waterton Visitor Resource Center. The trail opens to a grand rocky plateau atop what was once called Bear Mountain by the Blackfoot people. Begin your trek early in the morning or late in the afternoon to have the mountain to yourself, but be warned that the wind atop the Hump can be ferocious. Knock your hat off and dump you off the mountain ferocious. Still, the views of Waterton Valley and Mount Cleveland are worth the challenge. [Flash traveled to Alberta courtesy of Travel Alberta.]