What do you get when you drive through two countries, visit two provinces, travel for 14 days, and log over 3600 miles?
An amazing road trip to Alberta and BC in Canada! That’s British Columbia in case you are wondering.
And, no doubt, you will be exhausted by the time you arrive back home!
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What are the Best Things To Do on a Road Trip to Alberta and BC?
The Rocky Mountain range, the largest in North America, extends some 3,000 miles from New Mexico through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana in the United States up to Alberta and British Columbia in Canada.
Follow this mountain range from Colorado on a road trip to Alberta and BC and you will be rewarded with diverse wildlife, amazing hiking trails, dramatic wilderness, and stunning alpine lakes as you sightsee along the way. If you have never hiked through the mountains of Colorado or in others locations along the Rocky Mountain range, you are in for a treat.
When to Go on a Road Trip to Alberta and BC
If you have ever taken a road trip to Alberta or BC, you know that the best time to visit is during the summer months from June to August. And even then, it has been known to snow!
You will want to drive during the summer month because as you drive further north on you road to trip to Alberta and BC, the temperatures become cooler. Be sure to plan for any type of weather.
Planning and Journaling Your Road Trip to Alberta and BC
There are many working pieces that go into planning a road trip. You will want to do research on where to stay, what to do, must-see sites, what to pack, and then put together a daily schedule.
The Ultimate Travel Planner, a hardcover notebook and journal, has you covered for keeping track of all your destination research.
And while you travel, be sure to make notes in your Travel Journal of your day-to-day activities. This road trip to Alberta and BC will be one you want to remember.
Entering Canada for a Road Trip to Alberta and BC
If you are coming from the United States for your road trip to Alberta and BC, you will enter Canada at a border crossing. The Sweetgrass-Coutts border crossing is the busiest in the Province of Alberta; however, there are many other options available.
If you are driving through Glacier National Park in the United States, you will enter Canada close to Waterton Park (see below) at the Chief Mountain Border Crossing.
All members of your travel group should have a valid passport. Currently you will also want to check the Covid-19 requirements for travel to Canada.
Are you interested in extending your road trip to Eastern Canada? There are so many great hikes, road trips destinations, and places to explore.
The Best Things To See on a Road Trip to Alberta and BC
First off, enjoy the sunsets in southern Alberta as you are driving along on your road trip to Alberta and BC. They don’t disappoint.
In fact, there is actual SCIENCE behind the phenomenon of amazing sunsets in southern Alberta.
So, if you are planning a road trip in Alberta and BC, make a point to plan your drive time so that you can stop and enjoy the setting sun in Alberta.
Apparently, the stellar sunsets are amazing due to the shape of the land combined with Chinook wind conditions. That’s right, those mild, westerly “Chinook” winds driving moist Pacific air from BC across several mountain ranges to arrive on the prairies of Alberta.
Crossing the mountain ranges “wrings out” much of the moisture until dry air descends on southern Alberta. And this dry air is the beginning ingredient of a stellar sunset.
Next, add in some upper-level clouds (if there is sufficient moisture) to create a “Chinook Arch”.
“And now the stage is set for a really good sunset if everything else works out.
In order to get an excellent, long-lived sunset, the horizon has to be free and clear of cloud. This is why it is important that the low-level air is dry. It enables the unobstructed disc of the sun to shine for as long as possible on the belly of the cloud as it sets. And secondly, the higher the cloud layer is in the atmosphere (as with Chinook Arches), the longer the setting sun can shine on the underside of it, changing slowly from gold, to orange, to red.”Kyle Brittain at The Weather Network
Now you know.
Waterton National Park
If this is your first road trip to Alberta and BC, take the opportunity to visit Waterton National Park. Everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime.
The park borders Glacier National Park in the United States. Waterton Park is a small hamlet nestled within the peaks of the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Alberta.
Tourists flock to the park year round to see and enjoy its beauty. You’ll find activities from hiking, camping, kayaking, fishing, golfing, boat tours, wildlife sightings, walking along the lake, and strolling along the streets of Waterton.
Your visit won’t be complete without stopping by Cameron Falls, Cameron Lake, and Red Rocks or hiking Bears Hump. Don’t forget to stop at the iconic Prince of Wales hotel as well.
Reserve a campsite at the Waterton Park campgrounds.
Lundbreck Falls, Alberta
Lundbreck Falls are the main feature of the Lundbreck Falls Provincial Recreation Area and Lundbreck Campground.
Lundbreck Falls are located near Pincher Creek in Southern Alberta. The rushing Crowsnest River plunges 39 feet to the canyon below creating a dramatic horse-shoe shaped waterfall.
Don’t forget to pack some snacks and Built Bar protein bars for your trip. Keep your group happy and not “hangry” (hungry and angry).
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You can view the falls from an observation platform or follow a path for a short hike down to the falls. Be sure to bring along your camera.
Continue on past Lundbreck on Highway 3 into the Crowsnest Pass. You will come first to Frank Slide on your road trip to Alberta and BC and then between Bellevue and Sparwood, you’ll pass into British Columbia.
At 4:10 am on April 29, 1903 a massive rockslide thundered down Turtle Mountain and buried part of the mining town of Frank in Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass. The slide was one of the largest rock slides in Canadian history and certainly the deadliest as more than 90 people were buried in the rubble and perished.
Scientists estimate that rocks were moving at a speed up to 70 mph (120 km/h).
At the time, approximately 600 people were living in the mining town.
The site of the slide remains largely unchanged even today. It has become a popular tourist spot and was designated a Provincial historic site. If you stop, be sure to add the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre as a waypoint on your road trip to Alberta and BC.
False stories spread around the world about a single baby girl, named “Frankie Slide” by her rescuers, who was the only survivor from the town of Frank following the slide…there were 3 young girls who survived the slide, plus 20 other people pulled alive from the rocks, along with the over 500 people from the townsite of Frank who were not touched by the slide at all.frankslide.ca
Explore Kootenay National Park on a Road Trip to Alberta and BC
Kootenay (pronounced Koo-tuh-nay) was established as a national park in 1920 as part of an agreement between the Canadian government and British Columbia to build a new highway across the Rockies. In exchange, title would be given to a 5 mile (8 km) strip along either side of the almost 60 miles (94 km) of highway. The Banff-Windermere Highway was intended to be used solely for park purposes.
The 60-minute scenic route through Kootenay National Park features stunning vistas around every bend, icy mountain rivers, and steaming hot springs as you continue your road trip to Alberta and BC. But plan to spend the entire day exploring canyons and waterfalls or plan a backpacking trip along the park’s numerous trails.
Whatever your adventure-seeking heart loves, you will find it in the heart of the Canadian Rockies and Kootenay National Park.
- River Rafting Trips
- Skiing and Other Winter Activities
- Ziplining Adventures
The official Parks Canada guided tour app is a must to accompany you along your road trip to Alberta and BC as you experience the history, sites, and sounds of the national park at your own pace. The app offers:
- GPS-activated guidance, history lessons, behind-the-scenes stories
- Alerts along the way for some of the best places to stop
- Location-specific history, photos, fun facts, and information
- Questions to challenge your knowledge, listening skills, and observation skills
- Experienced Parks Canada staff members offer insider information to Kootenay National park
Make this app your perfect travel companion during this part of your road trip to Alberta and BC.
Sinclair Canyon in Kootenay National Park
Sinclair Canyon Pass provides a dramatic entrance to the national park. The road is busy but you’ll find a number of pull out spots as you drive through the canyon. You don’t even have to venture too far from your vehicle to enjoy magnificent scenery.
If you happen to hear music after stopping, it might just be a musician taking advantage of the amazing acoustics of this area of the canyon. That might be a first for any road trip you have been on, but definitely a highlight of your road trip to Alberta and BC.
If you are up for a short hike that is fairly easy, and under 2.0 miles in distance, check out the Sinclair Creek Trail on the AllTrails app.
Sinclair Creek features Sinclair Canyon Falls, a short waterfall that leads down into the valley.
There are a number of trails in this area, including the Juniper Loop Trail. Be prepared for your hike by being mindful of the 10 essentials for your best day hikes.
Only a short distance from the canyon entrance along Highway 93, you’ll discover Radium Hot Springs.
Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park
Does soaking in hot springs sounds delightful after a long day of driving on your road trip to Alberta and BC? If yes, then you will want to visit Radium Hot Springs. The pool is located less than 2 miles (3 km) northeast of the village of Radium Hot Springs on Hwy 93 in Kootenay National Park.
If you are passing by and think to yourself, “I wish I had thought to pack a swimsuit and towel for my road trip to Alberta and BC…”, not to worry, you can rent both at the front desk.
Note * If you are only planning to soak in the hot springs, you do not need a national park pass. If you are planning to continue on through the park after your relaxing soak, then you can purchase a park pass at the Radium Visitors Center or at the Park Gate.
Radium Hot Springs is surrounded by a magnificent rock face. Not only is it a favorite stop for travelers in the summer time but in the winter as well. Radium Hot Springs is open year round.
The temperature in the hot pool ranges from 37 to 40 degrees Celsius (that’s 98 to 104 Fahrenheit).
Dog Lake in Kootenay National Park
If you follow the recommendations of the Parks Canada Guided Tour App on your smart phone, you will be directed to stop for a hike to Dog Lake as you come to the McLeod Meadows picnic area and campground on the Banff-Windemere Highway (Hwy 93).
You can’t miss the signage.
The hike is only 1.6 miles (2.6 km) one way trip but offers some amazing scenery along the way during your road trip to Alberta and BC.
The river forks around a small island where you cross two bridges over the brilliantly blue turquoise Kootenay River. One of the bridges—a suspension bridge—sways with the wind…and enthusiastic children.
If you happen upon the lake on a perfect day, Dog Lake becomes a giant reflecting pool, highlighting the Mitchell mountain range.
Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park
Take a short hike through the forest to the Paint Pots during your road trip to Alberta and BC. The path meanders around creeks, rivers, marshy areas, and small lakes until you eventually reach orange-colored, mineral-rich ponds and streams. Historically, people used this orange-colored water and mud for painting.
If you visit during the Summer months, you won’t have to worry about the muddy and often flooded pathways that are characteristic during the Spring and Fall months. If you do visit when the conditions are wetter, take note that your shoes and clothes may actually be stained—hence the term “paint” pots.
There is a sign at the beginning of the trail where someone has scratched in “Paint Pots” with an arrow. Follow that sign to view the Paint Pots. If you go in the other direction, you will head toward Marble Canyon. You may wish to plan to go there next along your road trip to Alberta and BC.
If you choose to hike to Marble Canyon from the Paint Pots, it is a 4.5 mile trail out and back.
Marble Canyon and Tokumm Creek Falls in Kootenay National Park
Don’t let this scenic stop at Marble Canyon in the Kootenay National Park pass you by.
Park in the easily accessible parking area off of Highway 93 to hike through Marble Canyon as it follows the Tokumm Creek below to the Tokumm Creek Falls.
The rocks of the canyon area a glacial gray, but against the turquoise blue of the Tokumm Creek, the effect is stunning. Hike the easy to moderate path up to Tokumm Creek Falls following the trail which traverses over the gorge and Tokumm Creek far below a number of times.
The sound of the falls thunders through the canyon and increases in volume as the gorge deepens and you near the falls. This is one stop along your road trip to Alberta and BC and through Kootenay National Park that you just don’t want to miss.
You have made it to Lake Louise!
Lake Louise is a popular “bucket list” destination that is often teeming with tourists from around the world. You can’t have a road trip to Alberta and BC without including Lake Louise!
In fact, Lake Louise, the crown jewel of Banff National Park, draws in millions of visitors every year.
The lake and its wildly blue, turquoise-colored water is fed by glacier melt and is surrounded by a hanging glacier and Mount Victoria. It makes for a stunning backdrop for your selfies and photos. (Just be mindful of others.)
Lake Louise can attribute its stunning blue color to glacier waters that are full of “rock flour“. This rock flour is made up of fine particle of rock that refracts the light.
Lake Louise is among the most Instagrammably beautiful lakes around the world.
As a year-round destination, outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy:
- rock climbing
- canoeing and kayaking
- ice climbing
- ice skating
The lake is typically frozen over from November through May.
And, if you are in the mood for a polar plunge into the frigid glacier water, be sure to have towels handy. The lake is typically 39° F (4° C).
The Fairmont Chateau Hotel, looms above the lake, and if you aren’t staying in the hotel, you may wish to venture inside for a look. You’ll find a variety of shops to satisfy your touristy needs.
Want to book a stay at the Fairmont Chateau Hotel as an iconic and memorable stop on your road trip to Alberta and BC? Click the link above.
New in 2021 * Not only will you need your Parks Canada Pass for all of Banff National Park, but you will also need to pay for parking at Lake Louise from 7am-7pm between May and October. Pay stations are available with parking fees currently set at $11.70 per vehicle per day. Overnight parking at Lake Louise (when you are not a guest of the hotel) is not allowed.
Banff National Park is located in the heart of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. It is world-renowned and well-loved.
Banff townsite is located on the Bow River off of Highway 1 (or the Trans-Canada Highway) approximately 80 miles (127 km) west of Calgary. It claims the distinction of being the highest town in Canada.
If you are not taking a road trip to Alberta and BC and wish instead to fly to Canada, the nearest airport is in Calgary.
From downtown Banff, you have access to a myriad of activities:
- mountain biking
- visiting hot springs
- horseback riding
- superb dining
- shopping and souvenir hunting
- riding the gondola
- taking the Cave and Basin tour
- visiting museums and art galleries
- enjoying winter activities: skiing, snowshoeing, skating, tubing
If you choose to stay in Banff, your options range from luxury accommodations (think Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel) to a variety of mid-range and budget hotels and Airbnb offerings. Camping is an option as well.
Johnston Canyon Falls
The dramatic Johnston Canyon is a breathtaking natural attraction that rounds out the list of best things to see on a road trip to Alberta and BC.
The hike through Johnston Canyon may claim the distinction of the most popular hike in Canada!
You have the choice of hiking to the Lower Falls or the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon. The Lower Falls are perfect for a wide range of ages and activity levels. Yes, you will find that it gets pretty busy.
Start your hike at the trail head at the Lodge. The path is semi-paved and fenced as you hike along the canyon edge and through forest. Enjoy the scenery as you stop at viewing platforms and catwalks.
The Lower Falls are only a 20-minute walk where you can view thundering falls from a bridge or inside a small cave. Perfect if you only have a short amount of time to stop along your road trip to Alberta and BC.
If you take the trail that leads up to the Upper Falls, you will begin to see the crowds decrease as you hike an additional 1 mile (2 km). It should take about 45 minutes. Along this trail, you will be rewarded with seeing SIX more falls.
Note * As of July 2021, vehicle access to Johnston Canyon is via the Castle Junction only. Check before you go.
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Wrapping Up the 12 Best Things To See on a Road Trip to Alberta and BC
Doesn’t this just sound like a fantastic trip? No doubt you will be exhausted by the time it is done, but you will also have seen some of the most beautiful country in the world. Your road trip to Alberta and BC will be the highlight of your summer!
And if you are lucky, you can also add some caribou, deer, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and even bear sightings to your list of amazing things that you got to see during your road trip to Alberta and BC.