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A Guide to Visiting Canada’s Mountains

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Whether you’re heading to the Rockies to hike, snowboard, or unwind in the hot springs, we have some practical tips, including the best time and places to visit.

A photograph of a couple holding hands, beaming while their cameras hang from their necks. A painting where the soft watercolours effortlessly melt from the low-lying snow to the blooming poppies. The postcard that tells of an almost unreal, technicolour landscape. Whether it’s photos splashed on social media, letters in the post, or art - there’s a chance you have seen this classic Canadian visual. The turquoise water, the snow-capped peaks, the thick pine forest. Lake Louise and its mountainous neighbours have inspired countless bucket-list holidays and striking artworks over time.

This aesthetic has cemented Canada as a mountain destination, and rightly so. But the naturally spectacular country is more than this idyllic scene. The Great White North has 3.8 million square miles of terrain just waiting to be road tripped, hiked, and admired. If you are excited to plan your odyssey through this stunning landscape, look no further than our guide to visiting Canada’s mountains:

 

What mountains to visit in Canada

 

The mountains of Canada showcase the country's rich biodiversity, from dense forests to icy lakes, to grizzly bears and bighorn sheep. For scale, Canada is home to some of the tallest mountains in North America, with Mount Logan, Mount Saint Elias, and Mount Lucania topping the list. But size certainly isn’t everything. Here are the mountains you need to visit in Canada:

 

1. Sulphur Mountain, Alberta

 

If one mountain is not enough - in Canada, it isn’t! - make your way to Sulphur Mountain. The mountain, named after the sulphurous hot springs located on its lower slopes, is 2, 451 metres high. On an eight-minute gondola ride of a lifetime, float over Banff National Park while taking in six mountain ranges, slopes, lakes, rivers, valleys, and towns below. Once you reach the peak, there are options to explore even more of the scenery with the Banff Summit Walk, restaurants, viewing platforms, and educational boardwalks. 

The Banff Gondola operates year-round. The alpine environment might get chilly at times, but inside the gondola, you will be toasty. If this isn’t enough, treat yourself to Banff National Park’s only hot springs pool. This classic Canadian experience is right near the gondola parking area and offers indulgent opportunities to soak in the steaming hot mineral water.

 

2. Whistler Mountain, British Columbia

 

If you are a lover of all things winter sports, you cannot go past the icy paradise of Whistler Blackcomb, one of the biggest ski resorts in North America. It offers ample opportunity for skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, snowshoeing, and tobogganing. 

The mountain itself is part of the Fitzsimmons Range located in the northwestern region of Garibaldi Provincial Park. The distinctive mountain was once submerged in ice during the ice age and the jagged peaks were carved naturally over time. To score sweeping views of Whistler Mountain and the adjacent Blackcomb Mountain, cruise on the Guinness World Record-breaking Peak 2 Peak Gondola. This links the two mountains together - and was the first lift to accomplish this feat - while offering additional views of Whistler Village, the surrounding mountain ranges, frosty lakes, epic glaciers, and lush forests. The Peak 2 Peak has the longest free span between ropeway towers and at 436 metres high, is the gondola with the highest point above the ground.

For a bit of après, dip down to Whistler Village, a chalet-style pedestrian town established in the late 1970s at the mountain’s base. It’s known as the “beating heart” of the region.

 

3. Mount Rundle, Alberta

 

Mount Rundle is one of the most distinctive mountains in Canada. At 2,948 metres high, the characteristically fin-shaped peak means you can spot it from miles and miles away. Cut in dipping layered rocks, the unique peak is one of the most photographed in the country. 

Between the months of June until October, the 9.3-mile trail over the mountain is a popular - and challenging - hike. If you’re simply looking to catch a glimpse of Mount Rundle, visit the stunning Vermilion Lakes. We recommended heading there for sunset to see the colours dramatically change over the stunning range. At the lakes, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the waters by kayak or paddleboard.

 

A packing guide for the Canadian mountains

 

Congratulations! You have decided to finally take that bucket list trip to Canada. That’s the easy part. Now for the slightly more challenging part. If you are wondering what to take on your visit to the Rockies, consider the season you will be travelling in. While the weather can be unpredictable, at times, and drop to low temperatures even during summer, if you get lucky, you might have opportunities to enjoy lake swimming and frost-free alpine hiking during the warmer months. For these times, we’ve added an asterisk to the corresponding items.

Here’s what to pack for your trip to the Canadian mountains:

  • Full length, comfortable trousers
  • Mid-layers and thermals
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Rucksack rain cover
  • Shorts, with a bit of stretch*
  • Flannel pyjamas
  • Light shirts*
  • Hat
  • Down jacket or thick warm jumpers to layer
  • Bathing suit*
  • Something nice to wear to dinner
  • Underwear
  • Walking boots (preferably waterproof)
  • Warm socks
  • Sports shoes
  • Sandals*
  • Sunscreen
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Lightly insulated gloves
  • Beanie

 

How to see the Rockies

 

From British Columbia to New Mexico, the Rocky Mountains span 3,000 dramatic miles that offer glimpses of rare wildlife, sapphire-toned waterholes, and of course, glacial peaks. The mountain range is explored on foot by enthusiastic walkers and seasoned hikers, and road trippers can take to the legendary Trail Ridge Road, a 48-mile highway that at one point, climbs to 3,713 metres at its highest point. Of course, you can sit back and relax on a guided tour of the Rockies. 

But one unparalleled way to venture the Rockies is to board the world-renowned Rocky Mountaineer. Established in 1990, the luxury train service runs four principal routes into the heart of this striking mountain range. Follow the path of the North Thompson River past Mount Robson, the epic Pyramid Falls, and cinematic Yellowhead Pass, and then enter the Monashee and Caribou mountains. You can even enjoy breakfast and lunch on board while you marvel at the ever-changing scenery.

 

Best time to visit Canada’s mountains

 

Fortunately for you, the Canadian mountain ranges can be visited at any time of year. However, the ideal time to traverse the national parks is during spring and summer, when weather conditions are gentler and temperatures hover in the twenties. During winter, it is difficult and at times, dangerous, to hike the mountains without technical gear and mountaineering expertise.

If you are set on carving up the slopes and indulging in a steamy hot spring, then winter or fall will be a great time to visit. Keep in mind that during the warmer months, these attractions may not be accessible. from 17°C to 27°C.

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