Exploring the Canadian Rockies: From Cranbrook to Banff

3 to 7 Days, 274 km (170.26 mi)

Find adventure and relaxation in the Canadian Rockies with this memorable, fun-packed route from Cranbrook.

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The Canadian Rocky Mountains are the perfect place to escape the daily grind and truly relax in nature, whatever that looks like for you. High-octane adventure? Check. Gazing out over pristine mountain scenery from a pool of mineral hot springs? Check. Come find your personalized experience.

Part 1

Arrive in Cranbrook

Fort Steele, with Mount Fisher in the background | Kari Medig

Start your journey in Cranbrook (YXC), whether by car or one of many daily scheduled flights arriving from Vancouver and Calgary (AB), along with other regular flights from around BC, operated by Air Canada, WestJet, and Pacific Coastal Airlines.

In Cranbrook, the St. Mary River is a favourite for whitewater rafting and is considered to be one of North America’s top spots to fly-fish for rainbow, cutthroat, and bull trout. (Adventure enthusiasts, keep an eye out for the Kootenay Outdoor Adventure Expo in April offering fly-fishing clinics.) It’s also a great place to see fall colours if you plan to visit in mid- to late September.

While you’re here, don’t miss the Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre at the St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino, where you can learn about the culture of the Ktunaxa people as you peruse artifacts and archival photographs. Call ahead to arrange a tour (250-417-4001). A self-led Sculpture Walk downtown is great year round, as is a visit to the Museum of Rail Travel at the Cranbrook History Centre, where you can discover the largest collection of trains in North America. For more history, a short trip to the historic site of Fort Steele Heritage Town, a living history museum offering theatre performances and live reenactments, is a must.


Part 2


Sunflower Hill outside of Kimberley, BC | Kari Medig

Take the 95A, following the banks of the St. Mary River, to Kimberley, nestled nearby between the Purcell and Rocky mountains. This alpine resort community is home to Kimberley Nature Park, the biggest municipal park in BC. Options range from short, easy loop trails to more strenuous trails with a significant gain in elevation. Try a hike up to Sunflower Hill for a view of The Steeples and the Rocky Mountain Trench, particularly lovely on a brisk day.

Local waterways are ideal for fishing, paddling, and boating, as well as swimming in the warmer months. Come in late September to mid-October to enjoy the fall colours, including the larch trees that change to a golden hue in October. Starting in spring, stop in at Kimberley’s Underground Mining Railway for a little history, to ride the rails, and to tour historic Sullivan Mine (open weekends only from May to September).

Continue northeast and follow Highway 93/95 toward Fairmont Hot Springs, just past Columbia Lake.



Part 3

Fairmont Hot Springs

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort | Zoya Lynch

There are plenty of activities to keep everyone busy in and around Fairmont Hot Springs,. Whether you take advantage of 45 holes of golf, hike or mountain bike, soar through the trees on a zipline, take to the water in a canoe or kayak, or you hit the slopes in winter, you might want to end the day soaking in the healing waters of the hot springs that bear the town’s name. Ahhh.

Note: Be sure to check the website for operating hours at the hot springs.

Part 4

Windermere and Invermere

Paraglider over Mt Swansea | Kari Medig

As you drive north on Highway 93/95, you’ll pass Windermere Lake—visit both banks by stopping at Windermere on the east and Invermere on the (north)west. Cool off with a swim or a paddle, or enjoy the serenity of a canoe or kayak trip down the Columbia River. Bring your mountain bike (or rent one) and hit the local trails (The Johnson is a great scenic option for intermediate riders) or nearby Panorama Mountain Resort, which offers some fabulous biking trails (open weekends in mid-May and June, and daily in July and August).

Golfers owe themselves a round at Greywolf Golf Course, unique for its alpine setting (and its signature Cliffhanger hole, ranked among the best golf holes in the world) and the area is also a well-known destination for parasailing and hang gliding.

Part 5

Radium Hot Springs

Sinclair Canyon | Kari Medig

Surrounded by the towering rock faces of Sinclair Canyon, Radium Hot Springs is a ruggedly beautiful spot located just inside Kootenay National Park. Watch the cliffs above the mineral-rich hot springs, and you may spot some of Radium’s best-know residents: bighorn sheep.

Visit in early November to take part in the annual Headbanger Festival and see the sheep in full rutting action as they battle for dominance. Add some historical context with a hike to the Stanley Glacier, where you can see fossils dating back some 500 million years (plus hear about the “Stan animal,” a predator discovered in the area). You can access the site on your own, or book a guided hike (reservations open in January) and take advantage of your guide’s knowledge and insights. At day’s end, consider a soak in the famed hot springs.

Turn north at the junction of Highway 93 and Highway 95 to reach Kootenay National Park. When you’re ready to move on, continue north on Highway 95 to Golden.

Note: Be sure to check the website for operating hours at the hot springs.

Part 6


Yoho National Park | Ryan Creary

Golden sits alongside North America’s largest wetland, the Columbia River, popular for paddling and for fishing. Whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River is also popular here. And while the rivers are frozen in the wintertime, they come to life in spring, offering plenty of wildlife-viewing opportunities. One example? In spring or fall, see 15,000 migrating waterfowl around the lush river wetlands. In summer, take your mountain adventures to new heights with a heli-hiking trip.

Highway #1, east of Golden, will have extended, 24-hour closures starting September 21, 2021. Please see the up-to-date schedule of closures and be prepared to take detours via Highway 93 & Highway 95, which may add up to 1.5 hours to your journey.

Part 7

Yoho National Park

A 505 million year-old fossil in Yoho National Park’s Burgess Shale | @meeshull

Nearby Yoho National Park is home to wonders ranging from powerful waterfalls to 500 million-year-old fossil beds. And Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has a fabulous bike park, a via ferrata, and a grizzly bear refuge. End your trip on a high note with dinner at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, the country’s highest-elevation dining experience at 2,347 m (7,700 ft).

Spanning 1,310 sq km (507 sq mi), Yoho National Park features the Spiral Tunnels, Takakkaw Falls (one of Canada’s highest waterfalls), Emerald Lake (named for its brilliant colour), and Burgess Shale (a 505-million-year-old fossil deposit). While in the area, consider making your way to Emerald Lake Lodge on the shores of its namesake jade-coloured lake, a historic resort surrounded by some of the Canadian Rockies’ most impressive peaks. Another option? Cathedral Mountain Lodge combines luxury and adventure in a remote wilderness setting.

Midway between Yoho and Glacier National Park is the heart of Kicking Horse country.  Drive east over Kicking Horse Pass toward the neighbouring province of Alberta.

Part 8

Banff National Park (Alberta)

Move east along the Trans-Canada Highway and make your way into Alberta, home to Banff and Lake Louise—two spots worthy of a stop enroute to Calgary.

Driving Directions

Part 1 - Vancouver
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  • 12 min
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