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15 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Lake Louise

15 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Lake Louise

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Alberta is an excellent province for a road trip adventure, with Calgary as the perfect starting point! Throughout this drive from Calgary to Lake Louise you are going to be surrounded by epic scenery of the Rocky Mountains. The great thing about this road trip is that you are going to have plenty of variety of things to see and do.

Calgary is a thriving metropolis, and once you leave the city and start making your way toward Lake Louise, you will be enveloped in nature.

Take your time as you make your way through this list of the 15 best stops from Calgary to Lake Louise. Stopping at even just a couple of these stops will have you enjoying this epic road trip. Each of these 15 stops in this blog post is unique and includes activities such as hikes, lake excursions, animal sanctuaries, and more!

Keep in mind, this blog also works in reverse if you are driving from Lake Louise to Calgary too!

About the Drive from Calgary to Lake Louise

The distance between Calgary and Lake Louise is roughly 185 kilometers (115 miles). The drive is relatively short, and could be done in around 2 hours if no stops were made. However, that is just the direct route. There is a slightly longer more beautiful scenic route you can take from Calgary to Lake Louise. Instead of taking Highway 1 out of Calgary, take Highway 1A past Cochrane and the Kananaskis. Then once you get to Banff, take the stunning Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise instead of Highway 1.

Trust me, this route is so much better! It’s full of amazing scenery and exciting places to stop. Plus, it is only slightly longer at about 200 kilometers (124 miles). For that reason, this blog is focused on this scenic route to help you enjoy your road trip between Lake Louise and Calgary the most.

There are so many fun and unique stops on the drive from Calgary to Lake Louise though that I highly suggest you spread your road trip out over a few days. I’m sure many of these stops are going to leave you wanting more. Banff town and Banff National Park both have some great options if you are looking to extend your time. I made sure to list some suggestions in this case.

The road trip from Calgary to Lake Louise can be done at any time of the year, although it can be slightly more challenging in the winter. The great thing about this road trip is that it is a shorter one where you will be stopping frequently if you do want to make the drive in the winter. Regardless of the season you choose, there is plenty to do and see!

If you do decide to travel in the winter, be sure to keep an eye on the road conditions and make sure your car has winter tires or at least all-season tires to tackle any ice and snow you may encounter.

15 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Lake Louise

1. Calgary  

Daniel plays minigolf at Taiko Canteen in Calgary
The mini golf at Taiko Canteen is great for a rainy day.
Bailey drinks a beer at Paddy's Barbecue & Brewery in Calgary
Craft beer and poutine from Paddy’s Barbecue & Brewery

Calgary is great because it has the bustling feel of a big city with more than 1.4 million people here and lots going on. It’s the largest city in Alberta, so there’s plenty to keep you busy in Calgary!  

What’s nice is even though the winters can get cold, it’s still likely to be sunny here. Calgary has the most days of sunshine of any other Canadian city – about 333 days a year! That makes all seasons a great time to visit. But even if you have a rainy or chilly day, Calgary has plenty of fun indoor activities as well!

While here, get the best view of the city from the highest 360-degree observation deck on the globe at the Calgary Tower. Take in the views of downtown and the Rocky Mountains in the distance and step onto the glass floor if you’re brave. You can even eat here at the revolving restaurant Sky 360.   

To see the top sights of the city from ground level check out this 2-hour city scooter tour. The best part is that it only costs $55 CAD per person which is a lot cheaper than many of the other Calgary city tours. At each stop, you’ll learn some history from your guide.

Art and beer lovers, listen up! Instead, you could opt for this 3-hour craft beer and street art tour. You will navigate the streets and learn the stories behind the artist and art that you are seeing while making stops for some local beer samples! I can’t think of a better way to do two activities at once!

Of course, a stop in Calgary wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Calgary Zoo. It’s open all year and has almost 1,000 different animals and exhibits including giraffes, tigers, lemurs, and more. Make sure to visit in the mornings to catch my favorite attraction – the penguin walk! Every morning at 10 a.m., the penguins take a 15-minute walk through the zoo for their exercise – it’s adorable and a perfect time for pictures.  

If you’re here in July, grab a cowboy hat and take in the Calgary Stampede! The 10-day event features one of the largest rodeos in the world, a parade, a midway, shows, concerts, chuckwagon racing, and more.  

If you find yourself in Calgary in winter, I love skating at the Olympic Plaza skating rink right downtown. It was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics hosted in Calgary and this is where the medal presentations took place. Now, there’s an excellent rink here that is the only refrigerated outdoor rink in the city, so the ice is always ready to skate on – even on a warmer day. Bring your own skates or rent a pair for $12 CAD.  

2. The Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary  

A wolf at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary
Wolves are so beautiful!

The Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, a not-for-profit that cares for rescued wolfdogs one-hour northwest of Calgary near the town of Cochrane. It’s a hidden treasure that makes a terrific stop on your trip to Lake Louise. It’s the ideal spot to visit if you want to learn more about wolves and witness them in their natural habitat.

There are various restrictions that you should be aware of before visiting the sanctuary. The sanctuary does not admit children under the age of six, strollers are not permitted on the walkways, and no fur or faux fur attire is permitted. Dogs are not permitted on the premises, even if they are kept in your car in the parking lot. Before you travel, be sure to check the guest guidelines on their website or phone ahead.

The center is open Thursday through Monday and has several different tours to choose from. Admission is $13 CAD for children and $28 CAD for adults.

3. Cochrane  

view from Glenbow Provincial Park
Glenbow Provincial Park just outside of Cochrane is beautiful.

This town has an old western feel to it and is a lovely stop on the drive from Calgary to Lake Louise. Visit the Historic Cochrane Ranche here – where Alberta’s first large cattle ranch was located back in the 1880s. Now, it’s a massive public park with walking trails, fire pits, a quaint museum, and a reconstructed corral. 

Explore downtown Cochrane and stop into MacKay’s Ice Cream. They’ve been serving ice cream in this location for over 70 years! The ice cream is locally made and has 50 flavors including unique ones like Haskap berry made from berries grown nearby.  

For something a bit stronger, visit Half Hitch Brewing Company to try out locally-brewed craft beers paired with delicious appetizers and smoked meats. The specialty beers include their signature Papa Bear Prairie Ale made with local barley, wheat, rye, and oats, which won a gold medal at the 2018 Alberta Brewing Awards.  

Don’t forget to check out more of the other distilleries and breweries in Cochrane while you’re there!

Cochrane is also a good place to stay outside Calgary as the hotels here are typically cheaper than in Canmore or Banff. The Days Inn and Suites Cochrane is a nice option that’s just off the highway, perfect for a road trip stay. The hotel has an indoor pool, free breakfast, and is close to some nice walking trails if you need to stretch your legs. It’s also pet-friendly if you’re traveling with a dog. You can check availability and book a room online here.

4. The Kananaskis  

Bailey walks into a pool at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa in Alberta, Canada
Kananaskis Nordic Spa!
Bailey at Upper Kananaskis Lake, Alberta
Bailey at Upper Kananaskis Lake, Alberta

Explore Kananaskis Country by taking a short detour onto Highway 40. It’s known as “Alberta’s Mountain Playground”. It’s effortless to spend a few days exploring the area – there’s just so much to see and do! There are less people here than in Banff, but there are still plenty of fantastic recreational activities!

As I said, there are a ton of things to do in the Kananaskis region. You could easily spend a couple of days here and still not see it all!

Troll Falls is one of my favorite hikes in Kananaskis Country (pictured above). It’s a 3 km (1.9-mile) round-trip hike with a lovely waterfall at the finish. You can get really close to the waterfall, and there’s even a big rock nearby fashioned like a troll’s head. When the waterfall freezes over in the winter, it’s just as beautiful — but wear ice cleats or spikes since it might be icy and hazardous.

You can also go skiing at Nakiska, visit Upper Kananaskis Lake, hike to Ribbon Falls and so much more.

Important note: A Conservation Pass is required for any vehicles stopping in parks or public places in Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley Corridor. A daily pass costs $15 CAD and may be purchased online or at any Kananaskis Visitor Information Center.

Where to stay in Kananaskis

With a massive indoor waterpark, The Crosswater Resort at Kananaskis is the ideal place to stay in the heart of the Kananaskis for families. You’ll have preferential access to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa if you stay at the resort. Their innovative hydrotherapy treatments at the spa feature getting into a series of hot and cold pools while taking in the views of the mountains.

If you want something super affordable there is actually a hostel called HI Kananaskis Wilderness Hostel with bunks starting at $41 CAD and private rooms for around $100 CAD.

5. Grotto Canyon  

Bailey walks along a sheet of ice in the Grotto Canyon
It’s slippery!

As you leave Kananaskis Country and make your way toward Canmore, you’ll pass one of my favorite hikes in the area – Grotto Canyon! This stunning 4.2 km (2.6-mile) hike can be done in both summer and winter. The trail starts from the Grotto Mountain day-use parking lot. It’s about a kilometer to get to the creek bed, which slowly narrows as the rock walls get higher around you and more spectacular.  

At the fork in the creek, take a right to get to Grotto Canyon Falls. But don’t overlook what you might see before the stunning waterfall! Keep an eye out to the left just before reaching the falls, you should see pictographs that are 500-1,000 years old painted right at eye level.

Personally, I love visiting Grotto Canyon in the winter when I can walk on the ice. Seriously, the entire place turns into a magical winter wonderland! With that said, walking Grotto Canyon in the winter can be very slippery. You should wear crampons or mini-ice spikes. You can rent these in Canmore from one of the sports shops. Alternatively, you can always just book a guided tour that comes with all your gear included! 

This road trip stop will take between 1.5-2.5 hours.

6. Canmore  

Reflections of the famous Three Sisters in Canmore
The Three Sisters
Canmore Hoodoos in summer in Banff
It’s also just a cool place to enjoy the views!

Canmore is easily one of the best places to visit in Alberta. This small, but vibrant, mountain town is a popular tourist destination for both locals and international visitors. once you see it for yourself, you’ll understand why.

Canmore is a less expensive and more accessible choice than Banff because it is not located within one of Canada’s National Parks. Canmore, located on the outskirts of Banff National Park, is an outdoor playground for visitors and has some of Canada’s most magnificent mountain peaks. The Three Sisters mountain range is iconic here.

Grassi Lakes is perhaps the most popular trek in Canmore, and as such, it is one of the town’s key attractions for hikers. You’ll be parked at the trailhead in less than 5 minutes from Canmore town, ready to explore some of the most vibrantly colored lakes you’ve ever seen! This 4 km (2.5 mile) trail only gains 230 meters (750 feet) in elevation and takes most people roughly 2 hours to complete there and back. It’s a family-friendly path that’s excellent for people of all athletic levels. It’s also open all year round!

One of the best places for stargazing in all of Canada just so happens to be in Canmore! Due to the absence of light pollution, you’ll be able to see thousands of stars and galaxies on a dark night. For an even better experience sign up for this Nature by Nightfall Tour. This $68 CAD 2-hour tour starts just before the sun sets and you be taken to all the best spots around town.

Just on the outskirts of Canmore are a couple of caves that are really incredible to explore if you’re up for an adventure! Canmore Cave Tours offers a couple of different tours with different lengths of time and prices. This Canmore caving adventure tour is what I recommend that you book! It’s actually one of the most popular tours in Canmore.

You will start your experience underground with a 59-foot (18-meter) rappel into the cave – how cool! You then spend an impressive 4.5 hours exploring underground. The full 6-hour tour costs $179.49 CAD for adults.

If you visit Canmore in the winter, cross-country skiing is a must. Canmore is known across the globe for its Nordic Centre, which is home to some of Canada’s top cross-country ski tracks! Afterward, warm up with a coffee from one of the delicious local cafes in Canmore.

Besides that, there are tons of fun things to do in Canmore to keep you busy for even a few days. We actually lived in Canmore for a while, so we can confidently say it is a really special place.

Where to Stay in Canmore

In case you want to spend a couple of nights in Canmore (and you should!) there are plenty of hotels to choose from.

For budget travelers, I love the Canmore Rocky Mountain Inn. If you don’t mind spending a little more you can certainly get a nice hotel closer to town. The Grande Rockies Resort-Bellstar Hotels & Resorts is still a short walk from town (but it only takes 5 minutes) and the hotel itself is beautiful complete with a pool, hot tub, fitness center, and restaurant and bar.

7. Banff town 

Bailey poses for a photo on Banff Ave walking street
Welcome to Banff!

Banff is a very popular town in the Rockies, attracting thousands of visitors each year. And it’s no wonder why – it’s absolutely beautiful and there are tons of things to do in Banff in winter, spring, summer, or fall.

The downtown area is very quaint and there are many awesome options for places to eat, drink, and shop. With the mountains as the backdrop to Banff Ave, it’s a beautiful place to base yourself in Banff National Park.

Many visitors base themselves here for a ski holiday due to the fact that you have great access to Sunshine and Norquay ski resorts – both are within a 15-minute drive of town.

I have to say, the views from Mt Norquay are unlike any other. In the summer, ride the sightseeing gondola and visit the restaurant at the top for a beer with a view. If you visit Banff in the winter, you can’t miss hitting the slopes or testing out their famous tube park (fun for the whole family!) If you buy the SkiBig3 Lift Ticket Mt Norquay is the third ski resort you’ll have access to.

Plus, when you’re done on the slopes, you can enjoy all that Banff has to offer including some Apres Ski drinks at a couple of the breweries in Banff.

Banff is more than just a ski town though, and regardless of the season you visit, Banff town is an amazing place with plenty to do. Some of the best things to do in Banff include:

  • Relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs – Just a short 5-minute drive up Sulphur Mountain you’ll find the Banff Upper Hot Springs, a public hot spring with incredible mountain views! These Alberta hot springs are easy to get to and very affordable. At only $16.50 CAD per adult and $53 for a family, even those on a budget can enjoy one of the best Banff attractions. It’s even a great activity to do in Banff when it’s raining.
  • Indulge in food and drinks – Banff has tons of tasty restaurants and bars. For beer, head to Banff Brewing Co. For a delicious meal with crafted cocktails, head to Parks Distillery. Did you know that you can also join this food tour that explores the many different rooms inside the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel? Food and drink pairings are included from 4 of the property’s high-end restaurants for $206 CAD. What a unique activity for foodies!
  • Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain – The Banff Gondola is possibly the singular most popular thing to do in Banff – and for good reason! From the top of the Banff Gondola (also known as the Sulphur Mountain Gondola), the views of the mountains and Banff town are out of this world. The first time I rode the gondola was during my first Christmas in Banff and I loved it! At the top of the gondola, you’ll find a restaurant and cafe, a gift shop, lots of information on the area and wildlife, as well as my personal favorite, the boardwalk!
  • Check out the Bow Falls Lookout – The Bow River is a stunning river that runs through the heart of Banff. Turquoise in color, it is nothing short of picture-perfect. A short 1.5 km (0.9 mi) scenic walk from Banff town (or drive) you’ll come to the Bow Falls viewpoint on the river’s edge. Here, not only will you see the river, but also the Bow River Waterfall!
  • Cave and Basin National Historic Site – Another great place to visit in Banff is Cave and Basin Historic Site. Here you can see some historic hot springs that are home to a rare species of snail. The museum is the main attraction in my eyes and it is very interactive and fun, especially for kids. You’ll find lots of information about Banff and the surrounding area.

Where to stay in Banff

There are lots of amazing hotels to choose from in Banff town. My personal favorite is Moose Hotel & Suites which has a great location, is reasonably priced for the area, and has all the amenities you could want including two rooftop hot tubs.

If you’re on a tight budget, consider checking out High Country Inn. It quite possibly could be the most affordable place to stay. Plus, it is located right in town on Banff Ave!

And for a little luxury, the Rimrock Resort Hotel is a must! With an onsite spa, balconies with amazing views, as well as a restaurant and bar this hotel is a must! Plus, it is located a couple of minutes from town in a quieter location.

Alternatively, there are lots of other places to stay around Banff National Park including Lake Louise and the Bow Valley Parkway.

8. Vermilion Lakes

A lady ice skates on Vermilion Lakes, Banff
Bailey ice skating on Vermilion Lakes

Located just a five-minute drive outside of Banff town, this is a stunning spot. View the mountains reflected in the tranquil waters of the Vermilion Lakes while driving along Vermilion Lakes Road. This short drive features three lakes as well as a spectacular vista of Mount Rundle and Sulphur Mountain.

Consider biking along the beach, hiking on one of the surrounding paths, or paddling a canoe across the water if you have time. Alternatively, just drive Vermillion Lakes Road and take in the views. The area is particularly lovely around sunrise or sunset, and you’re more likely to spot animals at those times as well.

The lakes do freeze over enough to go ice skating if you visit in the winter.  You could even be lucky enough to see bubbles freeze beneath the ice, a really special sight if you’ve never seen them before.

Because of the warm springs that feed into the lakes, the ice thickness varies across the lakes, therefore be alert and avoid the zone east of the dock at Third Vermillion Lake. If you’re unsure if the ice is safe to skate on, stop at the Banff Visitor Centre ahead of time and ask the staff there, they will have the latest updates on the thickness of the ice.

9. Johnston Canyon 

Johnston Canyon Lower waterfall in winter
Johnston Canyon Lower waterfall in winter
Bailey looks down at the Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
The Upper Falls is amazing!

Once you’ve left Vermillion Lakes be sure to head to the stunning Bow Valley Parkway, where your first stop will be visiting the iconic Johnston Canyon.

The hike through Johnston Canyon is an easy walk with huge rewards. The boardwalk along the path leads you right into a canyon filled with seven glacial waterfalls that cascade over rocky cliffs. You can get right next to the water flowing from Johnston Creek and close enough to waterfalls to feel the spray of the water on your face! 

This is also a great place in the winter! The waterfalls freeze over and create layers of giant icicles, which are incredible to see. The ice on the Lower and Upper Waterfalls here also takes on a blue color that is quite beautiful. It’s a good idea to book a guided ice walk tour in the winter to ensure you’re safe and have the right gear.

Johnston Canyon is open all year and it’s free to get to – including free parking in one of two parking lots. It is one of the more popular hikes in Banff National Park and is great for families as the path is wide and not too steep. The hike is about 2.5 km (1.6 miles) to get all the way to the Upper Falls. However, you can shorten it and just walk the 1.2 km (0.75 mi) to the Lower Falls before turning back around to return to the parking lot.

Note: There will be some closures to vehicle traffic on sections of the Bow Valley Parkway this year (2023). From May 1-June 30 and then again from Sept 1-Sept 30 vehicles will NOT be able to drive the 17 km/11 mi stretch of road from the TransCanada-Highway junction to Johnston Canyon, it will be restricted to cyclists’ use only. This is the eastern part of the road that is affected if you’re traveling to Johnston Canyon from Banff. You will still be able to access Johnston Canyon and the Bow Valley Parkway via the intersection near Castle Mountain Chalets.

10. Castle Cliff Viewpoint

Castle Mountain Viewpoint along the Bow Valley Parkway
Castle Mountain Viewpoint along the Bow Valley Parkway

The next stop the Bow Valley Parkway as you head towards Lake Louise is just a quick viewpoint. At this roadside stop, you’ll walk a few meters out to a viewing deck where you can see Castle Mountain perfectly. The various rates of erosion of soft shale and hard limestone, dolomite, and quartzite give the mountain its castle-like look (hence the name, “Castle Mountain”.)

Although just a short stop on the drive from Calgary to Lake Louise, it’s definitely worthwhile. Get out and stretch your legs for a minute and snap a few pictures.

11. Baker Creek Mountain Resort 

Baker Creek Mountain Resort near Banff, Canada on a honeymoon
Photo Credit – Baker Creek Mountain Resort

Next up on your road trip is the perfect place to spend a night or two in a log cabin right in nature. The Baker Creek Mountain Resort is a secluded place to stay in Banff National Park next to the Bow River. It’s less than 20 minutes from Lake Louise on the Bow Valley Parkway. You’re almost there!

They have 16 suites and cabins that are cozy and a great place to unwind. Be prepared to not have some of the usual amenities and take advantage of that! There is no cell service here or TVs. They do have Wi-Fi, but the signal isn’t consistent. It’s a great way to make sure you put down the phone and relax in nature for a day or two before you continue on to Lake Louise.

However, what they do have is a fitness center, steam room, and a sauna during the winter months. There is a place for campfires along the creek and an outdoor skating rink.

This is more of a luxury stay so the nightly rate will be a minimum of $589 CAD and increases the better or bigger the room is.

12. Morant’s Curve

Morant's Curve in winter
Morant’s Curve in winter
girl with french braids looks over the railing at morants curve in banff

This is a great spot for a photo opportunity as you make your way further along the Bow Valley Parkway toward Lake Louise. This popular viewpoint is where trains usually pass by with a stunning mountain backdrop. Keep an eye out for the viewing signs and park in the little parking lot across the highway.

The greatest images are taken when a train is approaching the bend and is ideally framed in the shot. The optimum time to catch a train is on a weekday when trains run more frequently. Trains are said to pass every hour or so, but we’ve waited there for numerous hours before and never saw a train. Then on another occasion, as we were just driving by we saw one, and of course, we had to stop quickly and get a photo!

For more tips on stopping here, check out our blog on all the things you need to know to visit Morant’s Curve!

13. Lake Louise Ski Resort

Lake Louise Gondola during a warm summers day
Photo credit: Ski Louise
Viewpoint at the top of the Lake Louise Gondola
Photo credit: The Lake Louise Ski Resort & Summer Gondola

Located just outside of Lake Louise Village on the opposite side of the highway, Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the largest ski resorts in North America. It’s the perfect place to stay especially if you’re visiting Lake Louise in the winter. It has access to four mountains with 160 runs. It’s the BEST place for skiing and winter fun with gentle slopes for beginners and wide-open bowls for more experienced athletes. Plus, the snow lasts here from the first week of November until the beginning of May!  

In the summer, one of the best things to do in Lake Louise is to take the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola up the ski hill to enjoy a spectacular view without having to hike up the mountain. This is one of the gondolas in the area that passes over places that are home to grizzly bears. It’s quite common to spot a few on your ride up! At the top, there’s the great Whitehorn Bistro to have a meal with a view of the mountains. It’s easily one of the best restaurants in Lake Louise!

14. Moraine Lake

Bailey poses for a photo in a canoe in Moraine Lake
Of course!
Canoes at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park
Moraine Lake!

Before you stop at your final destination of Lake Louise, be sure to continue on to the stunning Moraine Lake first! Moraine Lake is even more beautiful than Lake Louise, in my opinion.

Just 15 minutes outside of Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is a must-see for anybody visiting the Rocky Mountains. This alpine lake is postcard-perfect and it’s completely free. The renowned 10 Peaks provide the perfect background for this bright turquoise lake! These colossal mountains tower above the lake, creating a beautiful scene that has become famous all around the globe.

You’ll find much to do and see when you arrive at Moraine Lake. There are a few amazing hikes that start from Moraine Lake, take a leisurely stroll along the Lakeshore Trail, hike to Consolation Lakes, or just visit the Rock Pile (for that famed vista). Whatever you do, Moraine Lake maintains its status as Canada’s most beautiful lake!

Unfortunately, because of its beauty, Moraine Lake is one of the most visited places between Calgary and Lake Louise. Plus, getting to Moraine Lake can be a challenge since the access road and parking lot are closed to all personal vehicle traffic (except those with disability parking permits) in 2023.

You’ll need to check into parking alternatives at Moraine Lake including public transit, shuttles, and tours. Most people visit by taking a shuttle either from Banff town itself or from Lake Louise. One of the most popular departures is the Park and Ride from Lake Louise Ski Resort.

The Parks Canada shuttles also only run during select hours so if you want to go early in the morning, you’ll need to be on the first shuttle around 6:30 am. You can also hop on this new shuttle to Moraine Lake that has departures as early as 4 am (and throughout the day for those who like to sleep in!). To me, the sight of Moraine Lake in those early morning hours is one of the most beautiful things to see in Banff.

You can also visit Moraine Lake at sunrise by going on this early bird tour. That tour is the only other way to get there for sunrise.

The alternative to taking a shuttle is going on an organized tour like this one for around $100 CAD. This way you get dropped off and picked up as well as shown around to the most beautiful spots with an experienced guide!

The issue here is that these tours depart from Banff or Calgary so you would have to do it before or after your road trip.

Hot Tip: If you’re lucky enough to visit in the autumn, be sure to hike the Larch Valley Trail for the most spectacular views surrounded by brilliantly-colored trees in hues of yellow and orange.

15. Lake Louise

Views from the restaurant in the Fairmont Château Lake Louise
Views from the restaurant in the Fairmont Château Lake Louise
Bailey on the shores of Lake Louise at sunrise
Bailey on the shores of Lake Louise at sunrise

You made it! And what a treat you’re in for. During my years of living in the Rockies, I was fortunate enough to visit Lake Louise several times. Every time, I make a mental list of all the finest things to do in Lake Louise. I’ve done it all from hikes to restaurants and everything in between!

Relaxing on the Lake Louise lakefront is one of the easiest, but most pleasant things to do. You’ll be speechless when you see the glaciers, mountain peaks, and the lake! It’s hands-down one of the best lakes to see in Banff.

There are various options for furthering your exploration of Lake Louise! You may paddle the lake or ice skate on the lake if you visit Lake Louise in the winter. Both are traditional Canadian pastimes.

Lake Louise also has some fantastic hikes! The Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is one of my favorites. It begins at the lake’s edge and takes you well over Lake Louise, where you can glance down and see areas of the lake from afar.

One thing to note, Lake Louise can get very busy in the summer. Be sure to have a plan when it comes to getting parking at Lake Louise lakefront, otherwise, book the Park and Ride in advance. Paid parking is also now in effect for 2023 during the summer months at Lake Louise lakefront, and costs $21.00 CAD per day.

Where to Stay in Lake Louise

A lady stands in front fo the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Standing in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

If you’re planning to spend more than one day in Lake Louise, then you’ll need somewhere to stay overnight. Being such a small village, options are very limited, so you should book as far in advance as possible. Below are my top three choices in all budget categories:

Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center – Budget

For budget travelers, the Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center is the best option in Lake Louise Village. The location is right in town just far enough away from the shops so it is peaceful but close enough that is easy to access. They have a shared kitchen, plenty of lounge areas, and friendly staff.

The mattresses in the shared and private rooms may not be the most comfortable but you are getting what you pay for, and it works for a cheap night or two. Dorms cost around $45 CAD whereas a private double room averages $130 CAD. You can book a stay on either or

Lake Louise Inn – Moderate Budget

The Lake Louise Inn can still be an affordable option but quite a bit fancier than the above hostel. The hotel features an indoor pool, two onsite restaurants, a bar, modern rooms, and even apartments for larger groups.

From a majority of the rooms, you’ll have a nice mountain view and the suites and apartments include a balcony and fireplace. Prices typically range between $300-400 CAD.

You can easily book a stay online on!

Fairmont Château Lake Louise – Luxury

For those with a big budget, you can’t look past the Fairmont Château Lake Louise. The hotel sits on the shoreline of Lake Louise with epic views in the most stunning of locations. It’s guaranteed that you will have either a view of Lake Louise or the Château grounds. The average cost per night here is at least $1,000 CAD.

As far as dining is concerned imagine having regional cuisine made with organic ingredients from the 4-Diamond Fairview Dining Room. There are also 6 other restaurants at the Fairmont including but not limited to a 24-hour deli and a sports bar.

You can book the Fairmont Château Lake Louise on

I’ve added spending a night or two here to my personal bucket list! Book your luxury getaway on here.

Essential Info About the Drive Before You Go

Road with views of the mountains on the Bow Valley Parkway
A view of the road on the way to Lake Louise on the Bow Valley Parkway.
  • If you’re traveling during the winter, double-check the driving conditions first. Your car must have winter or all-season tires.
  • If you need to stop along the way due to severe weather or other events, there are various options along this route if you need to book a hotel last-minute.
  • Some attractions sell out faster than others, and this typically varies by season. Research ahead of time to see whether the activities and excursions you wish to participate in require advance booking or can be done last minute.
  • Don’t forget to get a Banff National Park Parks Pass! This is a requirement for admission and costs $10 CAD per person ($20 for a group) each day. If you want to stay longer or visit additional national parks purchase a Discovery Pass for $69 CAD online (it will be delivered to you); it provides you unlimited visits for a year! More info about the Parks Pass can be found below.
  • The Conservation Pass for the Kananaskis region is another pass you’ll need if you plan on stopping that area. It isn’t necessary if you’re just passing through and not stopping. However, this is such a wonderful region to visit that the $15 CAD per car is well worth it.
  • Remember to bring your camera! This road trip will take you through some of the most beautiful landscapes and locations in the Rocky Mountains. It’ll be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you’ll want to document the memories you build along the way.

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.

Single Daily Admission:

This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $10.50 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.00 CAD
  • Youth/Child (17 or younger) is FREE

Group Daily Admission:

If you’re traveling in a group or with family, you can buy a single-day admission for your entire vehicle (up to 7 people in one vehicle.)

  • $21.00 CAD gets your entire vehicle entry for one full day

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

The “Discovery Pass” is what Parks Canada calls their year-long (365 days from the purchase date), multi-park entry pass. This pass will give 365 days of access to all participating national parks in Canada. This includes the most popular parks like Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Glacier, Mount Revelstoke, and so much more.

  • Adult (age 18-64) – $72.25 CAD
  • Senior (64+) – $61.75 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $145.25 CAD

Hot Tip: Although more expensive up front, if you plan on spending more than 7 days in different parks in Canada within a 12-month period, then the Discovery Pass is actually the better deal!

Parks Canada Passes can be bought online here or at one of the Visitor Centers or booths at the entrance to many national parks.

Driving from Calgary to Lake Louise FAQs

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is memorizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Canada Travel Essentials

Bailey stands on a mountain in essential gear for the Canadian Rockies
A windproof jacket and Buff will save you in the mountains!

Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.

Crampons: In winter, crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $37 CAD and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!

Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part, though? It comes in pink!

Bear bells: These are a must, and for the price, you shouldn’t hike without them. The bear bells I use are only $9 CAD and they come with a silencer (a must) so you can easily travel with them.

Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.

Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.

Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment, so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.

Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in handy so many times, especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $25 CAD and they serve my basic needs without any issues!

Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!

We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.

They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!

Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie on the Columbia Icefield Skywalk in Banff National Park
Thanks for reading!

I’m sure you’re eager to go on the road after reading my guide to the best stops on the drive from Calgary to Lake Louise! I hope this has helped you better map out your route and demonstrated that it’s not only about getting where you’re going but also about the journey.

If you loved this post, make sure you check out some of our others before you go!

Guide to visiting Banff for Christmas

Instagrammable places in Banff

Free things to do in Banff