Western Canada; one of the most beautiful places in the world. This part of Canada is home to the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta as well as the Canadian Rockies and you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere more impressive.
In our “Ultimate guide to Western Canada,” we’ll tell you about the hidden gems and the not-to-be-missed beauty spots. We’ll uncover the region’s top ten activities and we’ll help you plan the trip of a lifetime. Prepare to be stunned by Western Canada’s crystal clear blue lakes, never-ending forests, jagged mountains and jaw-dropping scenery.
TOP TEN ACTIVITIES
Western Canada is well-known for being home to the Canadian Rockies. This a vast, sprawling, wild mountain range which stretches for almost 5000 kilometres across Canada. Below the border, the mountains also cover a huge area of the U.S. It’s worth spending a good chunk of your time in Western Canada exploring what the Rockies are all about. Our top ten activities, therefore, have a strong slant on visiting the famous mountains.
1. Visit the town of Banff
Banff is located in the heart of the national park boasting the same name and is surrounded by impressive mountains and stunning landscapes. It’s a fantastic place to visit, with boutique shops, cafes and bars making up its main street. With nearby Lake Louise, a selection of hot springs and other popular attractions close to Banff, it’s a great place to base yourself for a few days. Banff is widely known for its international film festival, which features inspirational movies made by adventurers from around the world and is well worth checking out.
2. Visit the national parks
There are four main national parks in Western Canada but you’ll be pushed to visit them all if you’re only holidaying for a few weeks. However, we advise you to try and see as much of these incredible places as possible. Each has its own attractions and each will leave you stunned as you explore their mountains, lakes and forests. Yoho with its emerald lake, Banff with the epic Lake Moraine, Jasper with the Columbia Icefield and Kootenay’s impressive wildlife. All four have something incredible to offer!
3. Bathe in hot springs
You’re likely to spend a lot of your time in Western Canada hiking and walking so a trip to the hot springs in Banff will be very welcome. Throughout the year you can head to the springs to soak your sore muscles in the hot mineral water whilst enjoying fantastic views of the adjacent mountains.
4. Lake Louise
Keep your eyes open for signs of grizzly bears when you head to the shores of Lake Louise in Banff National Park. This stunning glacial lake is known for its emerald waters which pour down from the glaciers beside the lake. Depending on what time of year you visit Lake Louise, there are a host of activities for you to get involved in. From hiking to mountain biking, to horse riding and skiing, there’s no shortage of ways to embrace nature here.
5. Takakkaw Falls
This impressive waterfall in Yoho National Park is well worth seeing. Standing at 380 metres high, the waterfall is Canada’s second highest. The waterfall’s flow is most impressive in July due to the melt from glaciers nearby. You can enjoy beautiful walks in the Takakkaw vicinity with stunning views of the waterfall from miles around.
6. Columbia Icefield (Banff and Jasper)
The Columbia Icefield is one of Western Canada’s most spectacular sights. It lies partly in Jasper National Park, partly in Banff National Park and is about 125 square miles in size. There are all sorts of ways to visit the Icefield including on large snow mobiles, designed to handle the rugged terrain. There’s also an impressive skywalk with a glass floor, allowing you to view the Icefield from above.
7. Whale watching on Vancouver Island
You won’t regret taking a boat tour around Vancouver Island. This popular tourist activity gets you close to some of nature’s most impressive wildlife. Keep your eyes open for Killer Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises as well as Gray, Humpback and Mink Whales.
8. Visit Vancouver city
If you want to spend some time in a city then Vancouver is a great choice. It has a fantastic cultural offering including art galleries and theatres. It’s surrounded by the nearby mountains and you’re never too far away from the Canadian wilderness if you want to escape from the buzz of the city and return to nature.
9. Dinosaur Provincial Park
This staggering natural museum is one of Western Canada’s most impressive tourist attractions. As well as its stunning landscape, Dinosaur Provincial Park is home to 35 dinosaur fossils dating back 75 million years. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed park is 29 square miles in size and sits in the heart of the badlands of South Eastern Alberta.
10. Explore Calgary
If you enjoy a city break with a difference then you should definitely put Calgary on your itinerary when travelling around Western Canada. This vibrant city is famous for its annual rodeo exhibition, the Calgary Stampede, which takes place each July. Also known as ‘Cowtown’ given its western heritage, the city hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics and it’s a sizeable place with 1.2 million inhabitants and plenty going on.
PLUS, OUR INSIDER INFO TO MAKE YOUR TRIP EXTRA SPECIAL…
Our top ten list features some of the popular attractions throughout Western Canada, but there are a couple of alternative activities on offer which are more off the beaten track. Another option is staying on a houseboat on Shuswap Lake. The lake has four arms and over 600 kilometres of shoreline to explore. Be the captain of your own ship and sail around this beautiful untouched part of Canada. We also love the skyline trail in Jasper. This 44-kilometre long hiking trail boasts stunning views with the majority being above the treeline. Put on your hiking shoes and escape from the crowds on this fantastic walkway.
Favourite Beauty Spots
There’s no shortage of incredible views and beauty spots in Western Canada but we have a few favourites that we wouldn’t want you to miss. Experienced hikers will enjoy a difficult and technical scramble to the top of Mount Norquay in Banff. The panoramic views are outstanding. If you’re looking for something less challenging, there are hikes for all abilities in the Norquay area. If you’d rather be taken to the view, then you could try Whistler’s peak to peak gondola. It isn’t for the faint-hearted as you’re taken high above the mountains but the views are more than worth it. The vista from the Iceline trail in Yoho National Park is also rather special. This 21km trek takes hikers past glaciers and waterfalls and through some of the most dramatic landscapes of Western Canada.
For more travel ideas check out our list of the top 10 countries to visit this year, also including Canada.