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Canadian Rockies Itinerary for 10 days

Planning a road trip in the Rocky Mountains of Canada? Check out my tried and tested Canadian Rockies itinerary for 10 days – the perfect amount of time for a taster of this astoundingly beautiful part of the world…

Our Canadian Rockies Road Trip didn’t start out with a bang.

Sixteen hours on a Greyhound is not anyone’s idea of fun, certainly not ours. I think the fact that they made us change buses and wait around for an hour at midnight was what made it even less fun than we expected it to be. Watching the sun rise slowly, lighting up the snow-capped mountains, made it more bearable.

We got into Calgary at 10 am and headed straight to Cora’s for breakfast. The first time we visited Calgary back in 2010, we were taken to Cora’s by our host and we were treated to the best breakfasts we had ever eaten.

Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

It was pretty darn amazing and just what we needed after that long, loooong bus trip. Unlimited coffee refills too which we DEFINITELY needed!

Our Canadian Rockies Itinerary 10 Days

Our Canadian Rockies itinerary was for 10 days, and we decided to include Glacier National Park in Montana too. Ten days may seem like a lot of time but it really isn’t because there is so much to do in this area! 

Ideally, I would love to do a much longer Canada Road Trip in the future, but this 10 day Canadian Rockies road trip was a great taster. Next time I want to go RVing in Canada!

As we had been to Jasper on a previous road trip, we decided to skip it this time around to see some new places, but if you have longer, I highly recommend adding it to your road trip. Or drop Glacier National Park and add Jasper instead.

After picking up our rental car and some quick stops to get food and a propane canister for our camping stove (this camping food guide is a must-read before shopping for food and cooking gear), we hit the road to drive to our first stop: Waterton Lakes National Park.

Beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park - a must add to your Canadian Rockies Itinerary for 10 DaysPrince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park - a must do stop on a Rocky Mountain road trip

Day 1-2: Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lakes is part of an International Peace Park that encompasses Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, and Glacier National Park in Montana, USA. It is a three-hour drive from Calgary and we were recommended by a friend to drive on a smaller highway, rather than the busy and generic main highway.

We drove through flat prairie land, past ranches in the heart of Canada’s cowboy country. Gradually we started to see the mountains rising out from the flat land in the distance.

After driving for three hours, finally we started climbing, surrounded by sheer rock faces. As we entered the park it started raining heavily but luckily it didn’t last for long.

The Waterton Lakes townsite has a spectacular setting, nestled on the rocky shoreline of Upper Waterton Lake and surrounded by massive mountains. We walked around the tiny downtown and to Cameron Falls, a small but beautiful cascade nearby.

Waterfall in Waterton Lakes National Park in CanadaTiny Waterton town site in Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada

The camping ground located in the townsite was full so we drove a few kilometres out of the park and found a nice camping ground that was reasonably priced.

As we were cooking dinner there was a short rain shower followed by a bright pink sky and numerous rainbows, even a double rainbow. We somehow managed to keep our emotions in check, unlike some people http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQSNhk5ICTI.

Someone spotted a massive bear over the fence in the National Park. The fence was fairly flimsy (to a massive bear anyway) so I didn’t sleep well that first night. Every noise I heard was potentially the bear coming to eat us.

The next day we completed a gorgeous but challenging hike up to Crypt Lake, you can read more about that here.

We only had a short time in beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park but we loved it. It didn’t feel crowded like Banff or Jasper National Parks but it easily rivaled their beauty.

I’m not sure why it doesn’t get the same number of visitors but I hope it stays like that. The wide open spaces and unhurried pace is what makes it so special.

Amazing views in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustIceberg Lake in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

If you decide to stay longer in Waterton Lakes National Park, I recommend hiking the spectacular Carthew-Alderson trail, Bertha Lake and Bertha Falls, and Bear’s Hump.

Where To Stay at Waterton Lakes National Park

If you are camping, stay right in the Waterton townsite at the Townsite Campground.

For a very worthwhile splurge, consider staying at the historic and very regal Prince of Wales Hotel, or if you are looking for a more affordable option, stay at Crandell Mountain Lodge or the Rocky Ridge Country Lodge.

Days 3-5: Glacier National Park

The next stop on our road trip was across the border in Montana. Glacier National Park is consistently rated as one of the top National Parks in the U.S. and I had wanted to visit it for ages.

Luckily because the border crossing was a small one, the TSA was a lot more relaxed and we got through within five minutes, a completely different experience than our last crossing into Detroit.

The Park Café near the St Mary entrance to the park is known for its amazing pie so that was where we headed first (of course). After fueling up on some incredible coconut cream pie and boysenberry pie, we drove the famous Going to the Sun Road across the park. Make sure to make a reservation to drive the road in 2024.

It is a spectacular drive and one of the best in the U.S. according to a lot of polls. We passed by shimmering lakes lying at the foot of snow-covered mountains. Waterfalls dropped into deep glacial valleys and wildflowers were abundant on the high alpine meadows.

Driving in Glacier National Park in Montana - a worthy detour to add to your 10 Days Canadian Rockies ItineraryGorgeous scenery in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

At the highest point of the road, Logan Pass, there is a very popular Visitor Centre with numerous short hikes departing from there. We did the Hidden Lake Overlook hike which was only 5 km/3 miles return but very worthwhile.

There were lots of ground squirrels, marmots, and chipmunks along the way and we saw some white, hairy mountain goats in the distance.

Once we got to the viewpoint for the hidden lake it was lunch time so we sat and admired the lake view while eating. A few cheeky ground squirrels tried to join us and got VERY close but they were outta luck as you should never feed the wildlife.

Hiking trail in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustGlacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustGround squirrel in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustMarmot in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

We had a friend who lived in Whitefish, Montana which is just outside the western boundary of Glacier.

Whitefish is a cool little town with Wild West-style wooden storefronts and a tidy main street. We went for a wander then headed down to the lake, where half the town was sunbathing and swimming, before driving to our friend’s place.

Austin and his housemates (all guides for a cycling tour company) put on an amazing gourmet BBQ for us, complimented with some local Wild Huckleberry beer. Great evening and we even got to spend the night in a couple of spare beds at their place – luxury!

Downtown Whitefish in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustLake in Whitefish, Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

Back into the park the next day, we drove over to Many Glacier in the North East of the park which was going to be our base for the next two nights. 

We stopped along the way in Apgar Village which is tiny, comprising a couple of log cabins selling souvenirs, a motel, and a visitor center. It is situated on the lovely Lake McDonald, one of many pristine lakes in the park.

The grand Many Glacier Hotel is one of the great ‘Parkitecture’ Hotels famous in the US National Parks. This style is also known as ‘National Park Service Rustic’ and it intends to create buildings that harmonize with the natural environment.

View from Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

The hotel has a great balcony with Adirondack chairs where you can relax after a hard day hiking, watching the sunset behind the mountains while sipping a hot chocolate. We did exactly that after our 16km/10 mile return hike to Iceberg Lake.

Deck of Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustHiking in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

Iceberg Lake is one of the beautiful crystalline blue lakes in Glacier National Park with the added bonus of actually having icebergs floating in it. The hike was fantastic and pretty easygoing.

We hiked along a ridge line then through the forest, stopping for lunch at a waterfall, before emerging to the breathtaking sight of the lake. There were a lot of moose along the way including a mother and baby.

Hiking to Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustIceberg Lake in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustCute chipmunk in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustGround squirrel in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

We picked lots of wild huckleberries and salmonberries on the trail. Huckleberries grow locally and no one has managed to domesticate them so you can only find them in certain areas of the USA and Canada. They are very similar in look and taste to blueberries. Delicious.

On our last day in the park, we did an epic 19km hike called the Highline Trail. It started at Logan Pass and traversed a thin trail above a stunning valley replete with waterfalls and small glaciers, before switch-backing up to a butte where we had lunch.

Moose in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

We met an older couple on the trail that had hiked to the butte and were on their way back. Apparently, a grizzly had been on the trail about an hour earlier. We didn’t see any sign of it when we were hiking up the switchbacks – we weren’t sure if we were relieved or disappointed.

Highline trail in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustGranite Park Wilderness Chalet in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

After 12km/7.5 miles we got to the Granite Park wilderness Chalet. Pretty shattered, we relaxed for a bit with cold drinks before hiking another 7km/4.3 miles to get down to the road where a free shuttle would take us back to Logan Pass.

The hike down was roasting as a forest fire had burnt a lot of the trees the previous year so there wasn’t much shelter. After the amazing views of the first part of the hike, it was a bit boring with not much to look at except bare trees.

Until we saw the bear.

Black bear in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

It crossed the trail about 20 meters in front of us and stopped us dead in our tracks. Mr Bear walked down to a small tree with berries and started feasting. He looked up at us but didn’t seem bothered by our presence.

After watching him, spellbound for a while, we continued the hot trek down.

Hiking the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustLuckily we didn’t have to wait long for the shuttle at the bottom. We drove back to Many Glacier Hotel to relax in their elaborate lounge before retiring to our little tent for the night.

We bid a fond farewell to the truly spectacular Glacier National Park the next morning. It is definitely in my top 5 U.S. National Parks!

But it was time for our Rocky Mountain Road Trip to continue.

Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park in Montana - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

Where To Stay at Glacier National Park

There are numerous campgrounds to choose from in the park if you want to camp. I recommend staying at Many Glacier to explore the eastern side of the park, and Apgar Village or Sprague Creek for the western side of the park.

For non-camping accommodation, I recommend splurging at the historic Many Glacier Hotel – book early because it books out fast, or at St Mary Village in the eastern side of the park.

Stay in the sweet town of Whitefish on the western side of the park at affordable Grouse Mountain Lodge, or the more luxurious Firebrand Hotel.

Day 6: Fernie, Radium Hot Springs, Golden

Fernie

Our good luck with the weather changed when we left the US. Canada welcomed us back with a grey, cloudy embrace. Driving over the Crowsnest Pass, we left the plains of cowboy country and were back in beautiful BC.

Our first stop in BC was Fernie, a small community in the BC Rockies with a historic downtown core and a strong arts scene. We visited the Arts Co-op and I was really impressed by the quality of art displayed there.

Fernie in British Columbia - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

We also went to a small museum with information about the town’s history. It was really interesting and you can see how proud the locals are of their little piece of paradise in the mountains; the community spirit is strong in this place.  

I really liked the feel of the town and could see myself coming back to stay a while and explore the surrounding area.

Radium Hot Springs in British Columbia - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustRadium Hot Springs

Radium Hot Springs was not much further on from Fernie so we stopped there for a soak in the thermal hot springs. There is nothing like swimming in hot springs. 

Feeling relaxed, we drove another hour and found a quiet campground to spend the night before driving to Golden the next morning.

Golden

Golden is another cute little community known for its wooden pedestrian bridge (the longest freestanding timber frame bridge in Canada!) that they are very proud of.

As the weather hadn’t improved, we spent the morning in the local coffee shop/bookstore catching up on our emails. Yoho National Park was the next stop on our road trip.

Wooden Bridge in Golden, British Columbia - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

Where To Stay in Golden, BC

For camping, stay at the Whispering Spruce Campground or the Golden Municipal Campground and RV Park. Both are right by town.

The best non-camping options are the luxurious Golden Acres Mountain Lodge just outside of town, or the affordable Alpine Meadows Lodge.

Day 7-8: Yoho National Park

We set up camp at a basic camping ground in the park for two nights and spent the afternoon visiting the main attractions.

Takakkaw Falls is an iconic waterfall located inside the park and is truly spectacular. The sun came out as we pulled up. It is a short walk across the milky Yoho River to the thunderous Takakkaw. I climbed up beside the falls and got pretty wet from the spray.

Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustTakakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustTakakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustYoho National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

Field is the town within Yoho National Park and is made up of a handful of orderly streets in the shadow of the surrounding mountains. Little colorful cottages, many of them B&Bs, abound.

The only shops in town are a restaurant, a cafe, and a post office. There is a small lake between the town and the highway where people swim. It is a lovely little place.

Field BC

It started raining as we got to Emerald Lake, British Columbia’s answer to Lake Louise. Sheltering in the gift shop, we waited it out. The lake has an island with a hotel on it, that is linked by a bridge to the mainland.

We went for a walk around during a break in the weather. I love these technicolor lakes. The color still entrances me every time I see one.

Autumn at Emerald Lake

On our first night in Yoho, a big thunderstorm blew in after dinner. After sitting in the tent for a while, trying to stop it from collapsing on us due to the crazy wind and pounding rain, we gave up and slept in the car. It was more comfortable than we thought it would be but we were happy to be back in the tent the next night.

There are lots of beautiful hikes in Yoho National Park if you have longer in the area – I highly recommend doing the excellent Iceline Trail for a stunning longer trail. For shorter hikes, tackle Sherbrooke Lake, the Emerald Lake Loop, Yoho Pass, Twin Falls Teahouse, and Emerald Basin.

Optional Add-On: If you manage to get a shuttle reservation, I highly recommend spending a night or two camping or staying in a hut or lodge at Lake O’Hara. I did the hike to Abbot Pass Hut and it was one of my favorite Canadian adventures. The hut is no longer there but the Lake O’Hara area is one of the most breathtaking places in the Canadian Rockies.

Add Lake O'Hara to your Canadian Rockies Itinerary for 10 Days Lake O'Hara in the snow

Where To Stay in Yoho National Park

If you’re camping, the best campgrounds in the park are Monarch and Kicking Horse. Another budget-friendly option is to stay at the rustic HI Yoho National Park Whiskey Jack Hostel across from Takakkaw Falls.

There is only one hotel/lodge in Field, Truffle Pigs, and their restaurant is excellent. There are also a number of bed and breakfasts. I recommend the Hummingbird Suite and Mount Stephen Guesthouse.

If it is luxury you are after, you can’t go past the gorgeous setting of the Emerald Lake Lodge or Cathedral Mountain Lodge

Day 9-10: Lake Louise and Banff 

Lake Louise

Lake Louise in Banff National Park is another lake of astonishing blue. We visited it on our first Canadian Rockies road trip but wanted to go again to do the Plain of Six Glaciers hike that takes in a historic teahouse as well as glaciers and lake views. There were a lot of cute little chipmunks and ground squirrels on the way up.

The hike followed the lake to the other end then rose up, through exposed rocks, into the mountains. The Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse is a beautiful historic two-storey log cabin with a balcony where you can enjoy refreshments.

We had a couple of overpriced lemonades then decided to hike back down again rather than up to the glacier viewpoint as it was quite cold and wet by that stage.

Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustView over Lake Louise from the Plain of Six Glaciers hike in Banff National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

It started hailing on us when we were walking down, not very pleasant. After the hail stopped, Lake Louise came into view again and there was a striking rainbow hovering above it.  No one else was around to see it, it was just for us. So it didn’t end up being too miserable after all.

Since then I have done the combined Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse and Lake Agnes Teahouse hike and it is one of my favorite in the area.

Another amazing lake in Banff National Park (and my personal favorite) is Moraine Lake. When we first saw Moraine Lake we were completely blown away by its beauty and the quiet solitude after the crazy circus surrounding Lake Louise.

Three years later the circus has moved to Moraine Lake.

Moraine Lake

We had to park about 15 minutes walk up the road because the parking lot was full. We had wanted to do a 5-10km hike from Moraine but as there are a lot of grizzly bears in the area, you had to have at least four people together to hike any of the trails in the area or risk a big fine (or being attacked by a bear; incentive enough perhaps?). You can no longer drive to Moraine Lake, make sure to book a shuttle in advance.

We did the short walk around the rock pile instead. It offers the best views of the lake and we saw lots of one of my favorite critters – the pika.

Pikas are cute little rodents with no tails and big ears. They live in amongst the rocks and you can usually see them scurrying back and forth, collecting grass for their winter food supply. I saw in a documentary that they also eat the brains of dead birds. Ewwww.

If you have the time, I highly recommend hiking to Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass when visiting Moraine Lake. It was a hike I really enjoyed on a subsequent visit and is especially spectacular in the fall. 

Pika in Banff National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustMoraine Lake in Banff National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

Banff

Last time we were in Banff it was cold and rainy. We visited the hot springs, the majestic Fairmont Hotel and the excellent Whyte Museum as well as a couple of Banff’s fantastic restaurants.

This time around the sun was out so we strolled along the walkable main street, had ice cream at Cows (that amazing ice cream place hailing from PEI) then walked along the Bow River to the Bow Falls. There is rock flour in the river so it is a pale blue. Such a nice place to sit and relax in the sun.

We also went back to the Fairmont. I love the Fairmont Hotels in Canada. All of them look like castles and are so grand and impressive. If you are visiting Banff on a Wednesday, don’t miss the farmers market.

Banff town in Banff National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustThe Fairmont Hotel in Banff National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

Banff is probably the most tourist-choked place in the Canadian Rockies but it is a pretty mountain village nonetheless.

There are lots of excellent hikes to do in the Banff area – I recommend Sulphur Mountain summit (you could also take a gondola but it is expensive), and Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots Trail between Lake Louise and Banff.

Our last stop on our 10 Day Canadian Rockies Itinerary was Lake Minnewanka near Banff where we went for a wander before driving towards Calgary where we would be dropping the car off the following morning.

It was a long weekend so we had trouble finding a camping ground but eventually, we got an overflow site in Kananaskis Country.

Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip mustLake Minnewanka in Banff National Park, Canada - a Rocky Mountain Road Trip must

Where To Stay in Banff

There are numerous campgrounds close to Banff, with the Tunnel Mountain campgrounds being the closest to town.

Another great budget option is to stay in one of the hostels in Banff – HI Banff Alpine Centre is a great choice right by town. If you want something quieter, the HI Mosquito Creek.

If you prefer a hotel, stay at the most iconic in Banff – the Fairmont Banff Springs, or stay at Peaks Hotel and Suites or Canalta Lodge.

Sulphur Mountain in Banff

There were certainly ups and downs on our road trip (namely the weather) but overall we had a fantastic time and managed to do some incredible hikes in between the bouts of rain as well as catching up with a friend, eating lots of wild berries, soaking in hot springs, sampling local craft beer, visiting two countries, spotting loads of wildlife and driving one of the top drives in the US. Also, no bears ate us. Not bad at all!

The Rocky Mountains continue to captivate and amaze me and we are so glad we got to visit this amazingly picturesque part of the world again. Our 10 day Canadian Rockies Itinerary was one of the big highlights of five months in Canada.

I strongly encourage anyone with a passion for hiking to visit this magical place, it is a hiker’s paradise. Use this Canadian Rockies Itinerary for 10 Days as a guide and start planning your trip!

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