The mountains of Western Canada sprawl in waves from the foothills of Alberta all the way to the Pacific Coast of British Columbia and far North into the Yukon. Wherever there are alluring peaks, there are also supportive small towns that act as a base for leisurely sightseeing or adventuring on and around the wild slopes. The following are thirteen communities that are quaint, fun, inviting, and aesthetically unbeatable.
The Town of Banff is the focal point of Banff National Park in the province of Alberta. It is situated on the Bow River, in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, or "Rockies," about 80-miles West of Calgary. At only 2.5 square miles, this tiny municipality packs in a tremendous amount of energy, largely attributed to the enormous influx of year-round tourism. Over 3-million people visit Banff National Park each year, many of whom find their way into the Town of Banff to rest their heads, grab a meal, shop, indulge in the nightlife, or further experience aspects of the surrounding wilderness.
Canmore is another classic Alberta mountain town that sits just outside the Banff National Park boundary. It is surrounded by mostly-hikeable Rocky Mountain peaks, including the Canmore Quad peaks and the postcard-worthy Three Sisters. You would be hard-pressed to find a more physically active town in the entire country. Many of its 14,370 residents can be spotted hiking, biking, running, or climbing before and after a day's work at many of the athletic, adventure, and hospitality-centered businesses in town. Canmore does not quite have the acclaim of its neighbor, but it certainly has all of the natural appeal and social energy as Banff.
Fernie, British Columbia
Fernie dips just inside the British Columbia border, which means it combines the striking Alberta-style peaks with a little bit of the quintessential BC vibes. Like many towns on this list, the time of year in which you visit depends solely on the kind of experience you are hoping to get. In the winter, the glorious slopes call out to visitors from all directions. These same mountains also make a great summertime playground for mountain bikers and hikers. In either case, after an exhilarating day of outdoor recreation, Fernie's historic downtown offers plenty of craft food/drink options to cap things off.
Nelson, British Columbia
This small city is the core of the West Kootenays, serving as the commercial, population, and cultural center of interior BC. The vibrancy of Baker Street (the main drag), along with the artistic vibes and gorgeous scenery, make Nelson the perfect blend of bigger-city appeal and small-town goodness. Enjoy a day at the park or cruising little shops, and then try to decide which of the 50 restaurants/cafes to recharge at. Also, make sure to read those coffee shop flyers and mingle with the locals. Come the evening, and you might just find yourself at a cool open mic in an unexpected setting.
Haines Junction, Yukon
Haines Junction is the doorway to Kluane National Park and Reserve. The wholesome village is bordered to the West by the stalwart peaks of the Saint Elias Mountains. "The Junction," as locals call it, is also within shouting distance of Canada's highest peak, Mount Logan. Visitors can learn about the first ascent and other interesting aspects of the national park at The Da Kų Cultural Centre. Some more hands-on activities around town include "flightseeing" through the mountains, rafting excursions, and plenty of choose-your-own-adventure hikes. The Yukon territory does not see as much action as the mountainous provinces to the South (British Columbia and Alberta), but it is all the more appealing for this reason. The good news is that Haines Junction is only 95-miles West of the capital city of Whitehorse.
Invermere, British Columbia
The District of Invermere, or "Invermere on the Lake," is a fitness and tourist-centric town in the pleasant Kootenays section of BC. It has a prized location on Windermere Lake, between the Purcells and the Rocky Mountains. Swimming awaits during the summer, and skating/cross-country skiing is a favorite winter pastime. The unique shops along 7th Avenue, combined with the regular pop-up markets, sprinkle in some welcomed social energy. Finally, Invermere serves as a great leaping-off point for the Radium or Fairmont/Lussier Hot Springs, as well as the nearby slopes of the Panorama Mountain Resort/alpine village.
Bragg Creek, Alberta
Bragg Creek is a hamlet in the province of Alberta, Canada. Cowboy, Indigenous, and mountain cultures converge here in the foothills of the Rockies. This community serves as a gateway for year-round outdoor adventures in the lesser-known Kananaskis Country (compared to the neighboring Banff National Park). There are also plenty of good vibes to be enjoyed in town before heading off. This includes but is not limited to: horseback riding, camping, fancier lodging, lovely picnic spots, some classic saloons, and seasonal community events like the Tsuut'ina Pow Wow and Rodeo.
Revelstoke is a small city that still feels more like a chill town. This community is situated on the banks of the Columbia River, between the Monashee and Selkirk Mountain Ranges. Similar to Fernie, the fresh powder slopes make Revelstoke a popular winter destination. However, note that Mount Revelstoke National Park also hosts the only inland, temperate rainforest in the world. If you arrive in the fair-weather season, be sure to jump on the Giant Cedar Boardwalk Trail for a short but mesmerizing hike.
Squamish, British Columbia
Squamish is known as "The Outdoor-Recreation Capital of Canada." Given how active many of these mountain towns are, this is a bold proclamation. Nonetheless, this town is well-deserving of this crown, given the plethora of hiking, running, climbing, cycling, and paddling opportunities that abound throughout the many surrounding provincial parks and waterways. Squamish is roughly equidistant from British Columbia's capital city, Vancouver, and the next fun and gorgeous spot on this list, Whistler.
Whistler, British Columbia
With one of the longest ski seasons in North America, The Resort Municipality of Whistler is the premier place for winter sports. In 2010, much of the world got to witness this fact during the Vancouver Winter Olympics - much of which was held in the Coast Mountains of Whistler. In the summertime, there is no shortage of high-octane activities, such as mountain biking and zip-lining, but also laid-back lakes and beaches. Because of the regular influx of youthful Vancouverites, Whistler also brings a zesty nightlife to the table.
The Town of Jasper is to Jasper National Park what the Town of Banff is to Banff National Park (i.e., a cute municipality with a modest population that serves as the commercial center for the wildly popular park). The community, with all its lodges, restaurants, and tourism facilities, is situated on the Athabasca River and surrounded by the ever-watchful Rocky Mountains. Jasper makes for a popular weekend get-away for Edmontonians, as it is around 225-miles West of the city on Highway 16. Jasper can also be visited by taking the Icefield Parkway from Banff/Lake Louise. This 180-mile drive is itself something worth putting on the itinerary.
Blairmore is a cute community within the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass in southwestern Alberta. It sits humbly near the base of the standout peak in the region, Crowsnest Mountain. It is also just up the road from the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, the site of Canada's deadliest rockslide. The catastrophe occurred in 1903 when a gigantic mass of Turtle Mountain suddenly gave way and buried the mining town of Frank. The vast field of boulders serves as a constant reminder of the fluidity of nature, even the seemingly solid mountains.
Blue Mountain Village, Ontario
The final entry on this list is the sole shout-out to Eastern Canada. Ontario's largest mountain village resort is located at the foot of the Blue Mountains, just outside of Collingwood, Ontario. The vast Niagara Escarpment provides the slopes for skiing and snowboarding. These are modest by Western Canadian standards but still enticing for anyone who wants to carve powder while in Ontario. There are also festival lights, a skating loop, shops to explore, or for anyone who wants to just stay inside and keep cozy, the decor and activity are pleasing to watch through the window of any toasty chalet. Bear in mind that Blue Mountain Village is also a four-season resort town. When the snow melts, this place still delivers excellent hiking, biking, ziplining, and more.
Hopefully, this baker's dozen of Canadian mountain towns get you primed for some wild adventures. Many of these can be connected on an extensive and scenic road trip. But any single entry is well-worth hunkering down to enjoy the sites, sounds, and experiences thoroughly.