This is a question that I get asked, a lot. It’s also the question I dread the most. Why? Well, each of us are different. We all have different travel styles and goals. The amount of time that I would spend in one place is not necessarily going to be the same amount of time that you would spend. However, having said that, I do understand the uncertainty we all go through when we are focused on travel planning. So, for that reason (the uncertainty part), I have decided to write this post about the various places in the Canadian Rockies, why you may want to go, what you’ll find there and the types of things you can do to keep yourself either busy or relaxed.

CANMORE, ALBERTA

Canmore has the feel of a quite small town when compared to Banff. Sure, it can be busy during the summer months, but it’s not as busy as Banff. If you’re looking for a place to hang-out and explore that is not as overrun by tourists, then Canmore is definitely worth your time.

As with most small towns, Main Street is where the majority of the action can be found (although there are some pretty cool places off 10th Street). Whether you have an hour or a few days, exploring the town centre is something that should be high on your list.

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

There are a lot of places to hang-out in Canmore. The majority can be found on either 8th Street (Main Street) or 10th Street.

The Grizzly Paw is Canmore’s resident micro-brewery and a busy place on warm sunny days. Their patio is a popular place to hang-out, the food is delicious and the beer is even better.

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company is located off 10th Street & 8th Avenue and serves up wood-fired pizzas, yummy salads and delightful desserts.

Communitea Cafe is another popular spot located on 10th Street. This place serves up superb coffee, tea and light lunches (plus cupcakes!). This cafe is an ideal place to sit back, relax and listen to live music.

Harvest is another popular cafe with the locals in Canmore. Besides coffee and tea, they also serve sandwiches and incredibly delicious cinnamon buns!

THINGS TO SEE & DO

Aside from the town centre (where shops, pubs and eateries are abundant), Canmore is also an outdoor enthusiasts dream. There are scads of activities in Canmore and if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, then spending extra time here is definitely worth it.

Rock Climbing, Mountain Biking, and Rafting are among the more popular activities in Canmore. If you’re not an adrenaline junkie, but still love the outdoors, then camping is definitely an option. Relax, enjoy nature and waking up to crisp, clean mountain air and the sounds of birds chirping nearby. Whether you’re looking for adrenaline or relaxation, if your activities involve the great outdoors check with the warden’s office before you go. Be informed and be prepared.

BANFF, ALBERTA

Although Banff is a busy town in summer, that doesn’t mean you should skip it. On the contrary, Banff should be high on your list of places to visit in the Canadian Rockies and believe me when I say, two days will not be enough time to experience all that Banff has to offer.

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

As with Canmore, finding a place to hang-out in Banff will not be difficult.  Here are some of my favourites.

Banff Ave Brewing Co. is high on my list. The Brew Pub is Banff’s one and only micro-brewery. They brew 7 different beers and a sumptuous gourmet menu.

Elk & Oarsman Pub & Grill is a great place to eat on a Tuesday night when $8 steak sandwiches are the focus. If it’s a warm sunny day, definitely give their rooftop patio a try. The views are incredible. The Elk & Oarsman is on Banff Ave.

Eddie Burger +Bar is a burger lovers paradise. I have yet to meet someone who has eaten here and not loved the food. It is simply THAT GOOD! Plus, they have truffle fries -just sayin’. The Eddie is on Caribou Street near Bear Street.

Melissa’s Missteak is a popular local hang-out. This locally owned restaurant and bar has been a Banff institution since 1978 and has cheap drinks and good food.

THINGS TO SEE & DO

Banff has a lot to offer, whether it’s shopping, clubbing, eating, exploring or outdoor activities. For outdoor enthusiasts, there are plenty of hikes; rivers for kayaking, canoeing or rafting; horseback riding and more.

Banff also has a vibrant arts scene (which usually takes place at The Banff Centre), and some interesting museums that educate visitors on what makes the area a hotspot.

The Banff Springs Hotel may be expensive, but it is the oldest building in Banff and a huge part of Banff’s history. The hotel was built for its postcard view and the town of Banff was built around the hotel. The Banff Springs Hotel looks like a castle and is worth a tour. On a sunny day, spend some time in the hot springs at the hotel or relax on their deck overlooking the Bow River.

LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA

If Canmore and Banff are small towns, then Lake Louise is a village. Yes, it is that small. When I think of Lake Louise, I think of the saying “Size doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts“.

Lake Louise is one of those places that should be visited at least once in a lifetime. That is something I believe very strongly. If you’re looking for outdoor adventures, then more than 3 days is a must. If you want to visit the Lake and possibly relax a little, then a couple days is fine.

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

Lake Louise is a very small place. As you can imagine, finding places to eat and drink can be a challenge – but not impossible!

Laggan’s Mountain Bakery & Deli is located in Samson Mall is a fast favourite of both locals, tourists and at one time a Grizzly Bear (Skoki) who decided to break in and have a snack! If you have time to stop by, be sure to enjoy a cookie or pastry!

Deli at Chateau Lake Louise offers light and healthy lunch options and while it may be on the expensive side, one cannot beat the views! Much like its counterpart, the Banff Springs Hotel, the Chateau Lake Louise is worth exploring.

THINGS TO SEE & DO

If you’ve stopped in Canmore or Banff before arriving in Lake Louise, then you’re probably all shopped out and possibly very full. In that case, Lake Louise is a good place to recover. Aside from Lake Louise (the actual lake, not the town), Lake Louise (the town, not the lake) is abundant with hiking trails. One of the best hikes is the Lake Agnes Teahouse hike, which can be done in about 4hrs (round-trip) and has a 1,204ft gain in elevation.

Lake Louise is an obvious choice and a very popular one. This glacial lake shows off its turquoise waters in the summer is a popular spot for ice skating in the winter. Soaking in the sun of the dock around the lake may not be peaceful with the hoards of tourists around, but it’s definitely worth it. Tip: Lake Louise is a glacial lake, which means it does not thaw out (after winter) until the end of June or early July.

Moraine Lake is also an excellent choice. The lake is a little bluer than Lake Louise, and not as busy, but still worth it.

If hiking, canoeing or kayaking is not your thing, curl up with a book at the Chateau or your hotel, read and occasionally gaze at the mountains surrounding you. This is nature at its best and should be enjoyed.

JASPER, ALBERTA

Jasper is the embodiment of a small mountain town. It’s distance from Banff, Lake Louise and Edmonton keeps some of the crowds away. Jasper is an ideal get away for outdoor enthusiasts and nature-lovers. The townsite has some cute shops, and fun bars/restaurants, there are adventure companies ready to give you a thrill and hotels located in the woods outside the town centre. Jasper is where I go to be one with nature, to relax and recharge.

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK

Surprisingly there are a few pretty cool places to eat and drink in Jasper.

The De’d Dog Bar  -the name alone should make you want to stop here. The Dead Dog Bar is located in the Astoria Hotel on Connaught Drive.

Jasper Brewing Co. is the sister/brother bar to the Banff Ave Brewing Co and is located on Connaught Drive. Much like the Brew Pub in Banff, the Jasper Brewing Co. brews 7 different beers and has a great food menu. Their blueberry beer is superb.

THINGS TO SEE & DO

Relax, camp, hike, go rafting or rock climbing. Whatever you choose, Jasper is one of the best places to go if you want to relax and get away from the crowds that can be found in Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise.

If you have a car (or enjoy an organized tour) be sure to explore great sites outside the townsite like Maligne Lake, Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake, Pyramid Lake and more.

Jasper is also a good place to go for wildlife watching (from a safe distance). Who knows, maybe you’ll see a Caribou while you’re there!

Are you planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies? Is this post helpful?

About The Author

Editor

Travel writer and photographer, Pamela has a deep love of all things Travel. She is an anglophone from Ontario who prefers living in Québec. An avid city explorer and chocolat chaud connoisseur, Pamela also writes for Québec Region blog, Savoir Faire Abroad and several other publications.

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