Day 1: Calgary
Head to the world’s highest 360-degree observation deck, where you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the city skyline and Canadian Rockies. Afterward, visit the Calgary Zoo and stroll through the Canadian Wilds and Prehistoric Park exhibits to view some of Alberta’s famous wildlife up close – including grizzlies, cougars and wolves – and life sized animatronic dinosaurs.
Explore where modern Calgary began at Fort Calgary, a National Historic Site. You will also learn about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the impact that the railway had on the Calgary community.
Day 2: Fort MacLeod - Waterton
The drive south to Fort Macleod on Hwy 2 takes you through open prairie and rolling foothills, with peaks of the Canadian Rockies on the western horizon. At the Fort Macleod Museum the history of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) and First Nations is preserved through lively programming, including the famous Red Serge VIP Groom-a-Horse Program and NWMP Musical Ride. Calgary to Fort Macleod: 173 km (107 mi).
Take the short drive to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, where you’ll learn about the history, culture and geology of this ancient bison hunting ground. After, head south on Hwy 2 to Waterton Lakes Provincial Park. Pop into the visitor centre to find out about this UNESCO World Heritage Site’s interpretive programs. Fort MacLeod to Waterton: 105 km (65 mi).
Day 3: Waterton
From the Waterton townsite take a short stroll to the impressive Cameron Falls to see the powerful water cascading over billion year old pre-Cambrian rock. Then drive to the red and green banded limestone walls of Red Rock Canyon, and walk the loop topside along a paved path with the water bubbling along below.
Schedule a scenic cruise along the shoreline of Upper Waterton Lake to watch for wildlife and learn about the area’s geology and history from a local guide. Then visit the historic Prince of Wales Hotel for afternoon tea with sweeping views of Upper Waterton Lake and the Canadian Rockies.
Day 4: Bar U Ranch - Canmore-Kananaskis
On the way out of town, drive by the buffalo paddock to see the park’s protected herd of wild bison. Next, head north on the famed Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) to the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site – a working ranch that once employed the notorious Sundance Kid. Take a horse-drawn wagon ride and tour the outbuildings in a place that stands in tribute to the ranching history of western Canada. Waterton to Bar U Ranch: 218 km (135 mi).
Continue north to the Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley to sample small-batch premium spirits from Alberta’s first independent craft distillery. Just outside of Cochrane, stop in at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary for an experiential tour. You’ll observe wolf behaviour firsthand and gain a better understanding of how these elusive animals live in the wild. Continue west to Canmore and drop by the Visitor Information Centre to learn about the area’s many recreational activities, hiking trails, alpine accommodation and exceptional restaurants. Bar U Ranch to Canmore-Kananaskis: 109 km (130 mi).
Day 5: Canmore-Kananaskis
Birds-eye views of mountain peaks, silver lakes, rich green forest and the edge of a shimmering glacier are spectacular on a Kananaskis area helicopter tour. Afterward, head to Kananaskis Village and take a hiking, wildlife tracking or mountain biking guided interpretive tour.
Book a two-hour Ridge Ride on horseback for spectacular views of the Kananaskis area and front ranges of the Canadian Rockies. You’ll pass by a pond where a resident moose is known to graze. Watch for other wildlife along the way such as elk, deer and bears.
Day 6: Banff
Take the short drive west along the Trans-Canada (Hwy 1) to Banff and explore the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. This restored landmark commemorates the 1883 discovery of the natural hot springs that led to the creation of Canada’s first national park. For panoramic views, ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain. Complete your morning with a relaxing soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs mineral pools. Kananaskis Village to Banff: 43 km (27 mi).
Learn about local wildlife, native folklore, early mountaineers and ancient glaciers while cruising on a crystal blue mountain lake, just 15 minutes from the town of Banff. End the day with an early evening wildlife tour, which is the prime time for spotting Banff National Park’s animals, like deer, elk and bears.
Day 7: Banff
Take a ride on Mt. Norquay ski resort’s chairlift and stop for lunch at the historic Cliffhouse Bistro. The views are spectacular. If you’re feeling adventurous, try climbing on the new Via Ferrata, led by a certified guide; no previous climbing experience necessary.
Saddle up for a horseback riding trip along the scenic Bow River or through the Spray River Valley. For an authentic western experience complete with hearty barbeque steak supper, try the Cowboy Cookout Dinner trail ride.
Day 8: Lake Louise
Set off on the scenic Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A) to the hamlet of Lake Louise and watch for wildlife along the way. En route, explore the amazing Johnston Canyon along catwalks high above the waterway below. Or enjoy an easy morning hike around the shoreline of the famous glacier-fed Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Then, head to the Lake Louise Gondola where you’ll experience some of the best grizzly bear viewing opportunities in the Canadian Rockies. Banff to Lake Louise: 48 km (30 mi).
Take a 7 km (4.4 mi) round trip hike to the historic Lake Agnes Tea House for afternoon tea and scones in a picturesque alpine valley.
Day 9: Icefields Parkway - Lake Louise
From Lake Louise drive north to the Glacier Discovery Centre along the scenic Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93). You can board an Ice Explorer bus here that will take you onto the Athabasca Glacier, where you can walk on ice up to 360 m (1,180 ft) thick. Then take the shuttle to the glass-floored Glacier Skywalk, suspended 280 m (919 ft) over the Sunwapta Valley, for stunning aerial views of glittering glaciers and rugged mountain peaks. Lake Louise to Glacier Discovery Centre: 135 km (84 mi).
Return to Lake Louise, rent a canoe from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and paddle across the lake to the base of Victoria Glacier or take an easy stroll around the lakeshore.
Day 10: Calgary
Head east on the Trans-Canada (Hwy 1) and stop in at WinSport Olympic Park on the western edge of Calgary. Try the mountain bike trails and zipline to get your adrenaline pumping. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, the 1.8 km (5,905 ft) long Skyline Luge offers fantastic city views – and it’s the world’s longest track. Lake Louise to Calgary city limits: 170 km (106 mi).
Spend the afternoon at the country’s largest living history museum, where costumed interpreters populate streets and buildings depicting life in Western Canada between 1850 and 1950. Ride the steam train or take a spin on a paddle wheeler on the reservoir.