Obviously, the Canadian Rockies are a great place to be. They offer an amazing scenery and the possibility to watch some wildlife. Here you can find some of the best places to watch wildlife in the Canadian Rockies listed. Wildlife is moving around freely in these parks, so there is no guaranty to spot them. Nonetheless, you can increase your chances by taking some easy rules into account.
- Drive slowly on the roads and keep your eyes open. If you have multiple people in the car, give everybody an area to ‘scan’ for wildlife. Obviously, the driver’s first responsibility is driving and should focus on the road. Making sure someone is looking right and left might increase your chances.
- Watch behind you once in a while. Wildlife might have heard you from far away and might be hidden in the forest edge, waiting till you’ve passed before crossing the road.
- take your time and stop at a lot of pick-nick places. From these points, take your binoculars or spotting scope and scan (nearby) slopes.
- While hiking, be not too noisy and look for signs of animals. But beware of the bears.
Here some of my best tips and places to spot wildlife, although I might be biased towards some of my own experiences.
Best Places to Watch Wildlife in the Canadian Rockies
1. Driving the roads
Most of the Canadian Parks have a Highway straight through the park. These are often your best chances of seeing wildlife, but can also cause ‘wildlife watching traffic jams’. Although you are not allowed to stop at most places along the highways. This being said, during my time in the Canadian Rockies, I had great wildlife experiences on the trails as well. There are well-known places ‘salt lick places’ where Bighorn sheep and other ungulates come very close and on the road. So definitely by careful driving these roads, take it easy and stop at a lot of pick-nick places. From these points, take your binoculars or spotting scope and scan (nearby) Slopes.
Here is a small list of roads to increase the chance of spotting some wildlife, a couple of these roads will be described in more detail: Highway 40, Highway 742, Bow Valley Parkway, Maligne Lake Road, Icefields Parkway, Highway 11, Vermillion Lakes Road, Pyramid Lake Road, and Clearwater Valley Road.
2. Kananaskis Country: Grizzly bears
Driving down Highway 40 from Canmore is a great place to see wildlife. We’ve spotted Moose, Black bears, Mule deer, White-tailed deer, and a Coyote on this road. Definitely, the crossing point with the Smith-Dorrien Road was a very successful area for us. Also in this area, some hiking trails were closed due to ‘bear activity’. Going further south from this crossing, you reach a place which is good for Grizzly bear sightings, definitely during berry season in August-September. Keep your eyes open and scan some slopes as well.
A great place for a multi-day hiking is starting from Mount Shark parking place. From here you can hike to the Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Along de way, you can pass by the wonder pass. Besides a great scenery, I was lucky to spot my first mountain lion from here.
3. Maligne Road, Jasper National Park
Before you enter this road, look around the town of Jasper for Elks. Usually, they can be seen in the grassy suburbs of the town. The Maligne Road starts a bit east of the Town of Jasper, going south over a bridge. This road is also excellent for spotting wildlife. Along the road, you can spot a lot of animals, mostly Elk. The first highlight is the Medicine Lake. Here often Bighorn sheep and Black bears are spotted. Pikas are living in the boulders to the left of the viewpoint, between the road and the lakeshore. Moose can be seen as well along the road, but also along the lakes (apparently along moose lake). Maligne Lake is also a good viewpoint, scan the mountain slopes for Mountain goats. Woodland caribous can be seen in winter along this road.
4. Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) – Banff
The Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A) is situated between Johnston Canyon and the Trans-Canada Highway. Between March 1st and June 25, it’s closed overnight from 6:00 PM to 9:00 AM. This is a measure to protect wildlife during the spring feeding season. This road is a lesser travelled road with better chances to see wildlife. Be sure to watch for Elk, White-tailed and Mule deer, but also for Coyotes, Wolves, Black bears and Grizzlies. Bighorn sheep are also frequently seen, but more on the east end of the road. Around sunrise and sunset are the optimal times (as for a lot of these locations).
5. Highway 93, Kootenay National Park
Highway 93 is running South from Banff National Park towards Radium Hotsprings. It’s going straight through Kootenay National Park. This road is a hotspot for wildlife watching, but also a hotspot for wildlife mortalities due to collisions with vehicles. Along these roads, deer have often seen grazing, but also predators like Wolves and Cougars are not unusual. Near Mount Wardler there is a mineral lick, where often Mountain goats are seen. The park has a large population of Bighorn sheep, which are commonly seen around the town of Radium.
6. Red Rock Parkway, Waterton Lakes National Park
Red Rock Parkway: A very good, if not the best, route to watch wildlife in Waterton Lakes National Park (Closed in winter to vehicles to help protect wildlife).
Check out this trip report (2010) for more info on where to go and what to see. Also, check out our Canada-Page and our Canadian Rockies National Park page. If you like the content, don’t forget to leave a comment, subscribe to our email list, and/or like Wildlife impulse on facebook.