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Photo: Icefield Parkway - Jasper, Vancouver to Edmonton

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One-way car rental from Calgary to Vancouver: The Canadian Rockies! (Part 1)

Attractions Video Reece Griffin November 14th, 2019

My journey: a MirrorTrip one-way car rental from Calgary to Vancouver - travelling through the world class Canadian rockies on a clear blue winter's day. I picked up my Nissan Rogue at the Hertz downtown Calgary office, popped my Galaxy S9 onto the windshield and headed west. The nice thing about driving from Calgary is that it doesn't take long for things to get moving; after five minutes, I looked up to see a big green highway sign saying "Highway 1; West to Banff," and thought, "Yep, that's me!"

At this stage, I felt the Canadiana flowing through me. But just a minute later I saw the Canada Olympic Park on my left with its lofty ski jump towers that flung Eddie the Eagle to stardom during the 1988 winter games. At the same time -- there they are! The Rockies peeked over the horizon, visible from 80 kilometers away with the distinctive silhouette of a severely mistreated saw blade, stretching as far as the eye can see. The last sign of civilization is also on my left, Calaway Park, its green rollercoaster perhaps a metaphor for the scenery that lies ahead.

From the edge of town, all that separates you and the Rockies is a 40-minute drive across rolling, windswept pastures (they don't call it cow town for nothing). It didn’t take long before I was up close and personal with the Rockies - at which stage, I was immediately re-flabbergasted (I've driven this road before but the novelty doesn't wear off). I tried my best to capture it for you with my dashcam, however, the windshield view doesn't quite do it justice, as for the most part you're driving through valleys lined with Rockies either side (trust me, you wouldn't want to be driving over these things). So the views from your side windows are equally, if not more, impressive.

The stretch of road in this video passes through three Canadian national parks: Banff National Park, Kootenay National Park, and Yoho National Park. However, there are a few more throughout the Rockies, each fully deserving of its own blog/video piece (stay tuned!).

There are several lookouts heading west. Depending on the time of year, some might be closed. While it’s nice to start in Calgary and see the Rockies bathed in light at the start of the day, I have to say I was a little jealous of my fellow drivers heading east. I think the lookouts are a little nicer in that direction. On the way, I decided to stop at a few of the main roadside lookouts including the Temple and The Spiral Tunnels. The word "stunning" comes to mind for each of them.

As with many of Canada’s scenic passes (see our Othello Tunnels article here!), the Spiral Tunnels take their genesis from the Canadian Railway. These tunnels snake their way up to the Kicking Horse Pass and the continental divide. They circle deep into the mountains on both sides of the lookout. So while the view is a little restricted on account of all of the trees, simply knowing that a train might be in a complete spiral on top of itself right below you is fascinating.

Photo of the Spiral Tunnels track path in relation to the surrounding mountains.
Photo of the Spiral Tunnels track path in relation to the surrounding mountains.

A short while down the road, you'll see the sign signalling the "end of the national park." It's natural to feel a sinking feeling at this stage. And while the rockies are the most spectacular part of the drive, you should know the show's not over yet. From here we’ll move on to cover Golden, and Glacier National Park. Stay tuned for the second part of our Canadian Rockies one-way car-rental series.

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