Common menu bar links

Rocky Mountains


Rocky Mountains

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH! ... SEABEDS IN THE SKY

Glistening snow-capped peaks and thundering waterfalls, bugling elk and whistling marmots, lakes of startling turquoise and ice-blue glaciers - this natural region is postcard country. Within this region is some of the most famous and familiar mountain scenery in the world.

Mount Rundle, Banff National Park
Mount Rundle, Banff National Park
© Parks Canada

THE LAND:

This region encompasses a series of parallel ranges including the Rocky Mountains and the foothills. These are orderly mountains, with wide sweeping valleys separating the ranges and open pine forests cloaking their shoulders. The sedimentary rocks making up the mountains of this region, sculpted by glaciers and rushing water, have resulted in distinctive, angular peaks. Many peaks exceed 3000 metres with Mt. Rob-son, at 3954 metres, being the highest.

VEGETATION:

Waterton Lakes National Parks
Waterton Lakes
National Parks

© Parks Canada

Dramatic climate changes caused by elevation, rainshadow effects and latitude create a complex, diverse pattern of vegetation ranging from grasslands and alpine meadows to towering forests of evergreens. But the most dominant vegetation is the subalpine forest. This is a high forest, spreading down valleys below alpine meadows like a black tide.

It can be an open, sunlit easy-to-walk-through forest typified by lodgepole pine or a dark, dense and damp forest of sharp-pointed Engelmann spruce and alpine fir. Alpine larch provide brilliant yellow patches of colour each autumn. Montane grasslands cover large areas along the valley bottomlands.

WILDLIFE:

This region is famous for its easily observed wildlife. In long-established parks such as Banff and Jasper, the wildlife has learned to tolerate and, in some cases, to exploit people, making these parks the premier place in North America for mammal-watching.

A drive along the highways traversing the national parks almost guarantees sightings of moose, elk, mule deer, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bear or coyote.

Big Horn Sheep
Big Horn Sheep
© Parks Canada

The region is also known for its game fish. Many species of trout, including non-native species such as brook and brown trout, thrive in the region's cold water rivers and streams alongside native rainbow, cutthroat and Dolly Varden.


National Parks System Plan, 3rd Edition

PreviousTable of contentsNext
Rocky Mountains