From hiking on fossil fields and biking alongside glacial lakes to sliding through canyons and traversing cliffs on a via ferrata, the Canadian Rockies offer endless options for adventure. Three iconic landmarks onbaffer the perfect home base as you explore this majestic playground: Fairmont Banff Springs, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Whichever one you choose, the towering mountains and breathtaking scenery make the ideal backdrop for an action-packed summer trip.
Forest Bathing in Banff
Called shinrin-yoku in Japan, this rejuvenating mindfulness practice is a kind of natural therapy, allowing you to slow down and connect closely with the outdoor environment. It’s a combination of walking and meditation, during which you tune your senses into the sights, smells, sounds, tastes and textures of the forest around you. You might pause to hear birds singing, breathe in the distinctive aroma of pine trees, or feel lush moss growing on a rough piece of bark. Rather than hiking to a specific destination, you simply experience the forest’s calm. A two-hour private session includes a Fairmont guide, mat and tea.
Via Ferrata Views at Norquay
Just outside Banff, Mount Norquay’s via ferrata (“iron road”) provides spectacular vistas of the town, forest-cloaked valley and surrounding craggy peaks. Four routes of varying lengths and difficulties encompass ladders, narrow bridges strung over dramatic couloirs, and high, cliffside traverses with steel cable pathways. The Explorer is a great choice for beginners, giving you a chance to cross a suspension bridge and try your hand at a few pitches. More advanced climbers may opt for the Summiteer, a thrilling, 6-hour experience featuring a rugged alpine ridge and a 3-wire bridge. Certified guides lead you every step of the way, and a safety harness attaches you securely to the route at all times. Afterward, head to the Waldhaus Pub & Biergarten at Fairmont Banff Springs for a well-deserved pilsner and Bavarian bratwurst on the sunny patio.
Biking Around Lake Louise
A fun evening adventure from Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is the guided e-bike ride to Morant’s Curve. This famous bend where the Canadian Pacific Railway snakes alongside the Bow River is a fantastic place to snap photos of classic Rockies scenery. You might be lucky enough to spot a train rumbling past. For mountain bikers, the single-track Highline Trail is one of the most challenging and rewarding in the area. Riders pedal steadily up a narrow path over roots and rocks before descending to Moraine Lake, where blue-green glacial waters shimmer against a backdrop of jagged summits. Mountain, road and e-bike rentals are available in the hotel.
Paddling Among Lofty Peaks
A quintessential Rockies experience, paddling may involve anything from a gentle SUP glide across a still lake to a canoe trip along the fast-flowing Bow River, famed for its colorful harlequin ducks.
There’s no better way to see Lake Louise than from the lake, especially when an experienced Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise mountain guide is leading a guided Voyageur Canoe Experience. Departing from the resort’s boathouse, this experience includes tales of indigenous peoples and fur traders as you paddle an authentic cedar strip and canvas voyageur canoe.
If you’re staying at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, the Boathouse log cabin rents canoes, kayaks and paddleboards for quiet explorations of Lac Beauvert.
Run by Jasper Food Tours, Peak-Nic is a tantalizing blend of hiking, cooking and dining. Participants kick off the feast with a 4-kilometer hike up a picturesque peak before enjoying an interactive backcountry cooking lesson using environmentally friendly techniques. You’ll learn useful tips on the gear and lightweight ingredients needed for cooking outdoors, and will finish off eating a delicious meal in the open air with sweeping views across the Rockies. Choose from lunch or dinner, and be sure to book at least 48 hours in advance.
Canyoning in Jasper National Park
Narrow, steep-sided canyons lie tucked beneath the Rockies’ colossal peaks. You can hike, slither and wade through these dramatic chasms on a guided tour. If you have kids in tow, a good option is Morro Canyon, which is mainly dry, but lets you splash up to your knees in plenty of pools along the way. This full-day route contains eight rappels, the longest an exhilarating drop of around 20 meters. For a total dunking, the tight ravine of Ogre Canyon features multiple waterfall rappels, including the legendary “Turbowash.” Canyoning tours run May through October and include all safety gear and clothing, including wetsuits, helmets and neoprene booties.
Fossil Hunting in the Burgess Shale
Spanning Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, the Burgess Shale is a treasure trove of fossils dating back over 500 million years. Guided day hikes lead visitors to three key areas within the site, including a 10-kilometer route to the Stanley Glacier. This mostly gentle trail weaves past wildflowers, waterfalls and a brilliantly turquoise river to a basin filled with fossilized species, including ancient brachiopods and sponges. A steeper, 8-kilometer path to the Mount Stephen trilobite beds climbs rapidly above the town of Field for extraordinary views over the Kicking Horse River valley. For the ultimate challenge, the 22-kilometer trek to Walcott Quarry zigzags up a rocky slope, where you can search for amazingly preserved fossils and look out toward vividly hued Emerald Lake below.
Soaring Over the Columbia Icefield
Exploring the awe-inspiring landscape of the Canadian Rockies by land is unforgettable, but gazing down from above is even more memorable. Helicopter tours whisk you high above sweeping, ice-hewn valleys, hulking glaciers and milky blue lakes. A 55-minute ride provides a bird’s-eye view of the ancient Columbia Icefield, which spans a whopping 325 square kilometers with a depth of up to 365 meters. Alternatively, buckle in for the 30-minute Epic Summit Tour, an electrifying journey above gigantic crevasses, powerful waterfalls and the mighty Wilson Icefield. Reserve at least four seats to enjoy a private tour.
Bookend your trip with stays at the storied Fairmont Palliser in Calgary and elegant Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton. Both offer the perfect start or finish to your summer adventure in the Canadian Rockies.