There is nothing quite like being surrounded by the surreal Albertan Rocky Mountains. The world renowned views, craft food and drink, cozy vibes and harmonious energy is an experience that people all across the world can only dream of experiencing. Luckly, this mountainous heaven is in Alberta’s backyard. Tourists travel from all across the world to visit the extraordinary Canadian Rocky Mountains. The major parks can be found in Banff, Jasper and Revelstoke, offering everything from the esteemed winter sports, summer hiking, camping or fishing and picturesque glacier lakes. Banff National Park is the most impressive National Park in all of Canada, Established in 1885, this natural treasure offers over 6,000 kms of gorgeous Rocky Mountain views and over 1,000 kms of hiking trails. With campgrounds, hot springs, endless shops, diverse restaurants and notable hotels, there is something for everyone.
The only experience better than spending time in the mountains is having the knowledge of the secrets and history that turn a great trip into an epic mountain adventure. We’ve put together some top highlights and history for three of our favourite mountain towns, Banff, Jasper and Revelstoke, so that you can impress your crew with your knowledge.
Unlike many mountain towns that first started out as mining towns, Banff was always meant to be a place for visitors. Filled with amazing energy, spectacular views, and so much to eat, drink, see and do, every visit to Banff will be special. To help with that, here is a list of some of our favourite experiences we’ve collected over the years:
- Visit the historic Banff Springs – wander the majestic halls, stay for a drink, and if you’re visiting late at night, maybe you’ll see some of the ghosts that are rumoured to wander the hotel. Our favourite haunting story is of the newly wed ghosts that some have seen dancing in the main hall. On their wedding night, the bride’s dress caught fire on a lit candle causing her to tumble down the stairs to her death. If you do see them, you’ll notice you can only see them from the waist up. The reason for this is that back then, the dance floor was several feet lower than it is today – the couple continues to dance eternally on the floor as it was on their horrific wedding night.
- Head out on a hike along Morraine Lake, where you will be greeted with the most memorable view of your life – icy blue water that disappears with distance into the white coated mountains. If you’re feeling adventurous, head slightly out of town to Johnson Canyon for a light stroll along the walkways. Here, you will find a unique gorge formed over the last 8,000 years, forming incredible blue waterfalls and massive icicles.
- Journey up Sulphur Mountain where you can dine to spectacular views at the Rimrock Hotel, soak your worries away in the Upper Hot Springs, and get lost in the clouds at the top of the Banff Gondola with some of the most spectacular views in the Rockies.
- There is no end to the amazing food and drink you can experience in Banff. Taste incredible beers from Banff Ave Brewing or 3 Bears Brewing, spirits from Park Distillery – the only distillery in a National Park anywhere in the world. You can also check out the vibrant Block Kitchen & Bar, or drink some beers while you bowl at High Rollers. The adventures don’t stop after dark; if you find yourself out late, grab a slice from Aardvarks pizza, open until 4am every night.
- Visit the historic Cave & Basin – tour the cave where 3 railway workers first discovered the hot springs in 1883, or check out the microscopic snails that can’t be found anywhere else on earth. The fantastic walkways found at this historic site are the perfect places to take post-worthy photos.
And now for a bit of mountain trivia about Banff:
- Banff was originally named Siding 29.
- Banff National Park was the first National Park in Canada and third National Park in the entire world.
- Banff has been visited by a wide range of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Maisie Williams, Brad Pitt, Matthew McCaughnegy, and Ashley Tisdale. Bonus points if you find Marilyn Monroe’s picture when touring the Banff Springs!
- The ‘oh so blue’ water is caused by melting glaciers depositing fine rock dust at the bottom of local lakes.
Not all roads are created equal. The Icefield Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, also known as Highway 93a, is considered one of the most breathtaking drives in the world. Regardless of how you get there, take your crew on a few, or all, of our recommendations and become the Dumbledor of Jasper adventures!
- If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Jasper in the winter, rent a pair of crampons and head out to Maligne Canyon for a picturesque hike through rock fissures and frozen waterfalls. Cap it off with a bite at the incredible Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen.
- Stop in at Jasper Brewing Co., one of Alberta’s oldest and best breweries for a Crisp Pils or Babe Blueberry Vanilla Ale.
- Chill by the fire at the Jasper Park Lodge – sipping a beverage – nestled in one of the many cozy chairs – and getting lost in your thoughts as you stare out at Beauvert Lake.
- Ride to the top of Whistler Mountain on the Jasper Sky Tram, taking you over 2,263 meters above sea level. Once you reach the top, take a short hike to the peak for breathtaking views of Jasper and the unforgettable valley below.
- It’s worth the trip to both Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls. To get to Athabasca Falls, you head south from Jasper on highway 93A for 30kms. To get to Sunwapta Falls, you take the same road south from Jasper for 55kms. Many people stop at the Upper Sunwapta Falls, but if you channel your inner mountain-man and push a little farther along the trail towards Lower Sunwapta Falls, you’ll experience this captivating hidden gem.
- Check out Den, a Stuffed Animal Museum in the basement of the Whistler Hotel. This $3 experience offers a look at the animals of Western Canada in their natural habitat. Regardless of how long you’ve lived in Canada, you are guaranteed to learn something new about the species that inhabit our land.
Don’t forget to wow everyone with these fun Jasper facts:
- Jasper National Park is the largest of the 5 National Parks in the Canadian Rockies
- It was named after Jasper Dawes, the postmaster of the trading post from 1814 to 1817.
- Time Magazine recently listed Jasper as one the World’s Greatest Places
- It was designated as a National Park in 1907 and is one of the seven parks that make up a UNESCO Heritage site
Revelstoke is quickly becoming a world famous destination for outdoor adventure. Home to neat, niche shops, quality restaurants, bike and hiking trails, world-class ski hills, and so much more, Revelstoke is worth the drive. Here’s our list of must-dos when you’re there:
- Check out the Giant Cedars Boardwalk for a hike through the incredible old growth trees. This 500 meter wooden boardwalk trail will take you through some of the oldest parts of the forest. The massive cedars have been critical to the ecosystem in Mount Revelstoke National Park, allowing the park to survive by acting as a protective cover.
- If you want to sip and savour what Revelstoke has to offer, make sure you visit Mount Begbie Brewery, Rumpus Beer Co, Monashee Distillery and Jones Distilling. You’ll find one or two of these on just about every menu in town as well.
- Visit the ruins of the abandoned hotel Glacier House in Glacier National Park. After Canada’s deadliest avalanche in 1910, (see below) traffic through this part of the park started to taper off, resulting in the hotel eventually closing. Fun challenge – look for the bathtub somewhere in the ruins!
- No matter what season you are there, head out to Revelstoke Mountain Resort. In the summer, there are great hikes, biking trails, the Pipe Mountain Coaster, and all kinds of activities. If you’re there in the winter, it has the longest descent in all of North America and has the record for the greatest snowfall in all of Canada.
- Check out some of the incredible hikes in Mount Revelstoke National Park – you could take a short 10 minute trek around Heather Lake, or put on your boots and hike 12km round-trip around Eva Lake, enjoying the stunning views.
Here’s some great conversation starters that will impress whoever you’re with:
- Revelstoke was almost known as Farwell. When CP Rail found it too expensive to do business in Farwell, they built their own town right beside it
- Revy used to be a ski jumping mecca – brought to the town by the Norwegians who moved there in the 1800s, it was home to 5 world records before it fell into disuse in the 1970s. If you head to the Nels Nelson historic site to see just how high his 73m jump was – back in the days when skis were just a piece of lumber strapped to your feet
- Home to Canada’s deadliest avalanche, 58 men were killed while clearing avalanche debris from the rail lines. The avalanche was so strong it flipped a locomotive. This tragedy lead to the expansive tunnel and avalanche safety plan now seen in nearby Roger’s Pass.
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