The South Canadian Rockies are a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The region has so many opportunities for epic hiking, camping, fishing and rock climbing that you might be asking yourself—where do I start?
If you’re looking for a great outdoor itinerary, look no further. We’ve created a guide to adventuring in the South Canadian Rockies, designed especially with outdoorsy adventurers in mind. Our “ideal itinerary” is broken up with two days each in Waterton, Castle, and Crowsnest Pass, and one day in Pincher Creek.
Base camp: The town of Pincher Creek makes a great HQ for your explorations in the South Canadian Rockies, as you’re within easy driving distance to some of the best spots the region has to offer, and Pincher Creek has a variety of accommodation options for couples and families.
Without further delay, let’s get travel planning!
Kick off your stay with two days in Waterton
Waterton Lakes National Park is a fantastic place to dive into the Canadian Rockies. The park is known for its picturesque chain of lakes flanked by the Rocky Mountains. It’s also very rich in biodiversity, home to more than half of the vascular plant species found in Alberta.
Where is Waterton Lakes National Park?
Waterton Lakes National Park is located in the southwest corner of Alberta, bordering Glacier National Park in Montana, U.S. It’s about 2.5 hours by car south of Calgary and a picturesque 55-minute drive away from Pincher Creek.
How to spend two days in Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park is an excellent place to spot wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep, black bears, and even grizzlies (always remember to be bear-aware and respectful of any wildlife you may encounter). The park is especially unique because you can observe how nature recovers and life returns after a wildfire.
Here are our top can’t-miss picks for spending two days in Waterton:
- Take a morning to drive the Red Rock Canyon Parkway, a 15-kilometre scenic drive that takes visitors through the heart of Waterton Lakes National Park. Explore the stunning stunning red and green rock formations of Red Rock Canyon and Blakiston Falls, one of the most stunning waterfalls in Waterton. The earlier in the day you start your adventuring, the higher your probability of spotting wildlife! (half-day adventure)
- Join Uplift Adventures on our Waterton Wildflower Walk, which takes you through some of the most picturesque areas of the park. Our professional guides share cool facts about the flora and fauna in the area and take you to some prime wildflower viewing spots. (half-day adventure)
- For an adventure that’s more challenging (and not for the faint of heart!), try a Triple Crown Hike in Waterton, which includes hiking either the Akamina Ridge, Carthew Alderson, and Crypt Lake. It is best to do one hike per day, and keep in mind to have a keen watch on the weather. Hire Uplift Adventures to handle all the details for you and enhance your experience by drawing you into Waterton’s history and uniqueness. (full-day adventure)
- Take the Shoreline Boat Cruise to Crypt Lake landing and hike Crypt Lake. (full-day adventure)
Where to eat around Waterton Lakes National Park
Our top picks are the playfully-named Waffleton Café (imagine munching on golden waffle topped with whipped cream and juicy strawberries) and Weiners of Waterton for top-notch hot dogs and homemade sauces.
Tip from a local: Twin Butte (a small town along the highway between Pincher Creek and Waterton) has a fantastic Mexican restaurant in the Twin Butte Country General Store serving treats like chimichangas and pulled pork and pineapples tacos. It’s often really busy in the summer, so make sure you have a back-up plan.
To learn more about Waterton Lakes National Park and what makes it one of the most fascinating areas in Alberta, our blog post shares three reasons it’s a must-see. For more on where to eat and what to do in Waterton, this blog post has you covered.
Two days in the Castle
Established in 2017, Castle Provincial Park is one of the youngest provincial parks—but age is just a number, after all. Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park together encompass more than 105,000 hectares of stunning mountains, rolling hills, montane forests and meadows and, of course, outdoor adventure opportunities. Castle Mountain Resort sits in the heart of the park and is a hub for adventure.
Where is Castle Provincial Park?
Castle Provincial Park is about 2.5 hours from Calgary and 30 minutes from Pincher Creek.
What to do in Castle Provincial Park
Here are our top recommendations for hitting the highlights of Castle in two days:
- Uplift Adventures has an unbelieveable knowledge of the hidden gems in the Castle parks. Take on a hike on your own, or ask for a private trip with one of our guides to take you somewhere off-the-beaten-path. (full-day adventure)
- Hike to the beautiful Haig Lake, a crystal-clear glacier-fed lake surrounded by towering peaks, lush forests, and alpine meadows, making it a photographer’s paradise. It’s common to see grizzly bears in this area, especially during huckleberry season, so make sure you know how to handle a potential bear encounter, or hire a guide who does. (can be completed in half-a-day, but depends on hiking pace)
- Hike to Table Mountain and then go for a dip in Beaver Mines Lake or a river jump at Castle Falls a short drive away. The view from the top of Table is one for the books, with wide-open spaces and spectacular peak-to-prairie landscapes. (full-day adventure)
- Grab a rod and go fly-fishing along the Castle River. Please check fishing regulations and ensure you have a permit to fish in the area. (spend an hour, or spend a full day—it’s up to you!)
Where to eat around Castle Provincial Park
T-Bar Pub & Grub is conveniently located right at Castle Mountain Resort. You really can’t beat hiking to the stunning Haig Lake and washing it down with a cold local craft beer.
Local tip: The Beaver Mines Mercantile Store is a favourite food spot of Uplift’s founder, Heather Davis, particularly the meatloaf burger paired with a tea–but they have great breakfast options in general and their lattes are also superb.
For more reasons to visit the Castle area, our 3 things that make the Castle Parks special blog post has additional information to inspire you.
Two days in Crowsnest Pass
Crowsnest Pass is one of the best-kept secrets of Alberta. If you’re the kind of person who loves to spend your time discovering little pockets of nature and beautiful off-the-beaten-path surroundings, then Crowsnest Pass isn’t a place to be passed up!
Where is Crowsnest Pass?
Crowsnest Pass is nestled right at the Alberta/British Columbia border. It’s about 3 hours away from Calgary by car, and a short 30 minutes from Pincher Creek.
What to do in Crowsnest Pass
Here are the top things to see and do in Crowsnest Pass over two days:
- Uplift Adventures is based in Crowsnest Pass and its founder, Heather Davis, lives right in town. To say she and our team of exceptional guides know the area well is a major understatement! Hire Uplift on a private guided hike to get in on all the best remote natural areas the Pass has to offer—no crowds and no traffic.
- Are you visiting Southern Alberta for a special occasion? Consider pairing this experience with hiring a local photographer to capture your special moments—reach out if you’d like recommendations.
- Take in the Lille Historical Tour with Uplift Adventures to get into the nitty-gritty of Alberta’s striking coal mining history. It’s a full-day experience and lunch is included! (full-day adventure)
- Crowsnest Pass is a highly popular angling destination, with fishing aficionados visiting from all over Canada and the U.S. To really brush up on your skills and find the best watering holes, hire a private fly-fishing guide at Crowsnest Cafe Fly Shop, The Crowsnest Angler Fly Shop, or Oldman River Outfitters.
- Get your blood pumping on one of the many incredible mountain biking trails on Pass Powderkeg, maintained by the town’s incredible bike club, United Riders of Crowsnest Pass (UROC). Or, book a private lesson with a professional coach at Sweet Riders and enhance your mountain bike skills.
- Hiking the iconic Turtle Mountain is a must! Get ready for a bit of a grind and scramble near the top, but it’s one of the most-hiked mountains in all of Southern Alberta for a reason—the views are incredible. Pair this with a post-hike dinner at one of the Pass’ many restaurants. (can be completed in half-a-day, but depends on hiking pace)
- Rent a paddleboard from JoJo Adventures and hit up Chinook Lake or Island Lake for some time on the water.
Where to eat in Crowsnest Pass
From crispy wood-fired pizzas to food truck grub, there are so many food options in Crowsnest Pass to appeal to all sorts of tastes. Pass Beer, Limber Pine Steakhouse, Rum Runner, Encounters Wine Bar… the list goes on!
Want to hear more about what makes Crowsnest Pass so special? Watch this video to learn five things.
How to spend your last day in the South Canadian Rockies: Choose your adventure
And on the seventh day, we rest! You’ve done it—six fantastic days spent outdoors in the South Canadian Rockies. How do you cap off the week? We suggest staying close to home base, Pincher Creek, a quintessential “mountains-meet-prairies” town. Here’s how you can spend your last day:
- Pincher Creek has a rich history that is celebrated through its museums and historic sites. The Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village is a living history museum that showcases the life of early settlers, while the Pincher Creek and District Historical Society Archives and Museum has an extensive collection of artifacts and documents related to the area’s history.
- The town is located in a region known for its ranching and farming traditions. Explore local farms and ranches, attend agricultural fairs and festivals, and sample local food and drink.
- Haven’t had enough of the outdoors yet? Pack a picnic (or get some takeout at one of Pincher’s awesome eateries) and spend your day relaxing by the lake at Beauvais Lake Provincial Park.
Your adventure awaits in the South Canadian Rockies
If you’re looking to get away from it all and experience some of the best outdoor adventures in Canada, you can’t go wrong with the Canadian Rockies in southwest Alberta. We hope this itinerary gives you some ideas on what to do in and around the region when visiting, and inspires you to plan a trip here—we’d love to welcome you!
Do you have any questions? Any of your own must-dos in the South Canadian Rockies for outdoor lovers? Let us know in the comments below!