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11 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Radium

11 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Radium

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The road trip from Calgary to Radium has to be one of the best short adventures you can do from Calgary! The route from Calgary to Radium is nothing short of breathtaking, from the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the gorgeously colored lakes and thrilling hikes. And of course, you get to end this road trip with a dip in a hot spring and exploring the charming town of Radium!

Before you get too excited, there is a bit of planning that goes into a road trip. But that’s why I’m here, I’ve done all of the work for you! From the best stops on the drive to where to stay en route, I’ve made sure to cover all of the bases in the planning process to take the stress off of you.

While this guide is created for the drive from Calgary to Radium, it’s important to note that it can also be done in reverse order from Radium to Calgary.

About the Drive from Calgary to Radium

The drive from Calgary to Radium is pretty short! It’s just 260 km (162 miles), and without any stops, it could be completed in a little over 3 hours. But we all know that takes the fun out of a road trip! You’re going to be experiencing some of the most beautiful and epic scenery there is in Canada, and you should certainly take advantage of it by stopping frequently along the way.

So take your time and spread this trip out over a couple of days, or at least several hours. The fact that you can experience such variety in such a short drive is really something to marvel at. This list includes hikes, lakes, ski hills, hot springs, breweries, and so much more! There is something for everyone on this epic road trip.

Because of the route you’re taking, you’ll need a Park Pass since you’ll be traveling through and stopping in Banff and Kootenay National Parks. Daily admissions start at $10.50 CAD per adult, but if you intend to visit numerous sites in a year, a Discovery Pass for $72.25 CAD gives you unrestricted access to all national parks for a year! Group passes are also available.

If you plan to do this road trip in the winter be sure to have winter (or all-season) tires on your car to handle any ice or snow on the roads.

11 Best Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Radium

1. The Kananaskis

Bailey walks into a pool at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa in Alberta, Canada
Kananaskis Nordic Spa!
Stunning highway through the Kananaskis in Alberta
Stunning highway through the Kananaskis

As you leave Calgary and make your way West, you’ll pass one of my favorite areas in all of Alberta – the Kananaskis! Explore Kananaskis Country by taking a short detour onto Highway 40. It’s known as “Alberta’s Mountain Playground”. It’s easy to spend a few days exploring the area – there’s just so much to see and do! There are fewer 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. 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.

The Nakiska Ski Resort was originally constructed for the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988. The ski resort has groomed slopes that are Olympic-sized and cutting-edge snowmaking technology.

Nakiska is one of the first ski resorts to open in the country and one of the final to close because of how much snow it gets! As you can imagine, if you want to go skiing this is the place to go!

You can also visit Upper Kananaskis Lake, hike to Ribbon Falls and so much more!

Stargazing here is also incredible thanks to the lack of light pollution out here! The Kananaskis has some of the darkest skies in the world!

Ever seen the Milky Way? Well, you can spot it here. If it’s the right time of the year, you might even see the northern lights dancing in the sky! To really experience the beauty of the night sky here, we love this guided stargazing tour. You’ll get the chance to snowshoe through the forest with an expert guide on a moonlit hike to the best stargazing spots. 

The tour is only $85 CAD and lasts around two hours also includes a hot chocolate and a cookie to warm up after your hike!

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

If your itinerary allows, stay a couple of nights at The Crosswater Resort – a very family-friendly resort that won’t break the bank with a large indoor pool in the heart of the Kananaskis. Staying here also gives you access to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa, which is famous for its innovative hydrotherapy treatments. Here there are several hot and cold pools with epic mountain views.

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.

2. Canmore

Canmore Brewing pint of beer in Canmore, Alberta
Canmore Brewing!
The Canmore Hoodoos in winter
You can visit the Hoodoos in winter!

Canmore is without a doubt one of Alberta’s most beautiful towns, and the best part is that it’s conveniently located on the drive from Calgary to Radium. This small but lively mountain town is a popular tourist attraction for both residents and visitors from other countries. You’ll understand why after you see it for yourself.

Because it is not located within one of Canada’s National Parks, Canmore is a less costly and more accessible option than Banff. Canmore, on the fringes of Banff National Park, is a natural playground for visitors, including some of Canada’s most spectacular mountain peaks. The Three Sisters mountain range (pictured above) is well-known here.

Cross-country skiing is an epic activity to partake in if you’re visiting Canmore in the winter! Its Nordic Centre is world-renowned for being home to some of Canada’s top cross-country ski tracks. Even if skiing isn’t your thing, there are plenty of fun things to do in Canmore to keep you busy!

Right from town you can hop in a raft and gently float down the Bow River for an hour. You won’t be able to take your eyes off the epic views of the Rocky Mountains, forests, and valleys while keeping watch for some native wildlife. Rafting tours are a steal at only $45 CAD!

Caving is one of the more unique activities you can do in Canmore! This Canmore caving adventure tour takes you through the beautiful yet mysteriously named Rat’s Nest Cave. You’ll rappel down 18 meters (59 feet) and spend several hours navigating challenging passageways and learning about how these caves were formed. It is pricier at $180 CAD but it is an experience you can’t replicate.

Grassi Lakes is one of Canmore’s most popular hikes, and it is one of the town’s main attractions! In less than 5 minutes from Canmore town, you’ll be parked at the trailhead, ready to explore some of the most vibrantly colored lakes you’ve ever seen! This 4-kilometer (2-mile) trek rises just 230 meters (750 feet) in elevation and takes most people around 2 hours to finish. It’s a great road for families and people of all physical abilities. It’s also accessible all year round!

If you want more of a challenge try summiting Ha Ling Peak – the views are seriously outstanding and in my opinion, it is the very best hike in Canmore!

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.

Related Read: If you’re a beer lover, be sure to check out all of the local breweries in Canmore.

3. Banff town

Bailey skis at Lake Louise Ski Resort in Banff National Park
Down I go!
girl with french braids looks over the railing at morants curve in banff

Banff is easily one of the highlights of this road trip between Radium and Calgary. Although just a small town there’s so much to do and see here! If you do want more than just a day trip to Banff, then by all means book yourself a hotel for a few nights and explore this stunning mountain town.

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

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!

Truthfully, there are tons of fun things to do in Banff, it can be hard to know even where to start – to make it easy you can check out our 1, 2, and 3 day Banff itinerary! Or here are some of my personal favorite activities in Banff:

  • 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! The hot springs are easy to get to and very affordable. At only $16.50 CAD per adult and $53 CAD 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).
  • 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, 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! Book your Banff Gondola tickets online here!
  • Go on a canoe ride – Get out on the water and experience Banff from a whole new perspective in a large canoe. On this canoe tour, you’ll paddle in the Bow River, taking in stunning mountain vistas along the way. The ride is a nice short tour at 1.5 hours long and costs only $70 CAD per person. A guide and all safety equipment is included.
  • 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 1.5km 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 town:

There is plenty to do in Banff alone, so if you decide you want to stay here there are a few good options.

For the budget-conscious traveler, Banff Inn is a great option. It has all of the necessities, plus added perks like a hot tub and spacey rooms. It’s also one of the best hotels in downtown Banff, within walking distance to bars and restaurants.

If you truly want an experience and a hotel all in one, then you MUST stay at the Fairmont Banff Springs. This luxurious hotel is actually an old Scottish Castle built in 1888 and declared a National Historic Site. The Fairmont is the most prestigious of all of the hotels in Banff National Park offering a range of restaurants on-site to choose from as well as tons of activities. Guests can go bowling, play tennis, or swim in the large lap pool.

4. Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon Boardwalk in Winter
Johnston Canyon Boardwalk in Winter

As you leave Banff and start making your way further along in the national park, I recommend that you take a slight detour onto the Bow Valley Parkway (instead of Highway 1) and go to Johnston Canyon. Johnston Canyon is a must-stop on your drive from Calgary to Radium!

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.  You do need crampons to hike it in the winter, so if you don’t have those, it’s probably best to book a guided ice walk tour.

Johnston Canyon is open all year and it’s free to get to – including free parking in one of two parking lots. It 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.

Note: There will be some closures to vehicle traffic on sections of the Bow Valley Parkway this year (2024). From March 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.

5. Stanley Glacier Trail

Stanley Glacier, Kootenay National Park
This is my favorite hike in the park!

As you leave Banff National Park you’ll enter Kootenay National Park. Your first stop is one of my favorite attractions in Kootenay National ParkStanley Glacier Trail! The hike takes you through an area burnt in forest fires in 1968 and 2003 that is currently re-growing with beautiful wildflowers, willows, and lodgepole pine trees. Then the upper part of the trail has a great view of the Stanley Glacier and glacier meltwater falls that tumble down huge rock walls.  

The hike is a 4.2-kilometer (2.6-mile) walk to the end of the trail and should take about three hours round-trip. It opens up to a huge area with rocks to sit on and enjoy the view of Stanley Glacier and one of the waterfalls. It is possible to keep walking across the boulder field to get a closer view of the glacier once you are here! Also, keep an eye out for bears in this area as they are frequently spotted nearby.  

6. Marble Canyon

Bailey at Marble canyon in Kootenay National Park
Just enjoying the view at Marble Canyon.

Another gem located in Kootenay National Park is Marble Canyon. It’s great because it’s easy to get to and absolutely spectacular to see. Park in the Marble Canyon parking lot right off the highway and start your walk along the bright, blue waters of Tokumm Creek.  

The trail along Marble Canyon is less than 1 km (0.6 miles) and lets you hike along the edge of the canyon and across seven different bridges. These bridges let you view the steep drop into the canyon where the powerful waters of the creek have carved out the limestone rock walls.  

At the top of the trail, there’s a stunning waterfall. You can stand right above it and watch the water as it disappears into a large hole in the rocks below. It’s incredible to see!

7. Paint Pots

A lady at the Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park
These are really cool and the history is very interesting!

You are going to be amazed by this unique stop on your drive from Calgary to Radium! These mineral-rich pools of water are an array of colors – like nature’s pots of paint. The trail is an easy walk of less than 2 km (1.2 miles) and should only take about 30 minutes. This whole area also holds cultural significance and is sacred to Ktunaxa people who have made ochre paint here for generations. 

The trail starts through the Ochre Beds – the vibrant, yellow/orange soil leads the way, with wooden boards to help avoid the soggiest parts of the path. The Paint Pots themselves at the end of the trail are formed by iron oxide bubbling up from cold mineral springs in the area.

The pools are full of iron ore and are rich in colors like green, yellow, and orange. It’s amazing that these colors are completely natural!  

8. Numa Falls

Numa Falls, Kootenay national Park
If you have a packed lunch you can enjoy it near the falls!

Exploring Kootenay National Park by hiking the Numa Creek Trail is a fantastic way to do so. It’s conveniently accessible from the highway (making it a convenient pit break!) and the terrain isn’t too challenging for beginners.

The hike follows Numa Creek and offers spectacular views of mountain summits and Numa Falls’ flowing waters. Even though the waterfall isn’t very huge, it is situated in the Vermillion River and surrounded by rocky terrain, so you’ll want to take a few pictures!

9. Kootenay Valley Lookout

Bailey at the Kootenay Valley Viewpoint  
Admire the views and take it all in!

The Kootenay Valley Lookout is a quick stop at a pullover right along the highway. It’s really easy to get to and the view is beautiful of the valley below and the Mitchell and Vermilion mountain ranges. The view is particularly epic on a sunny day. If you’re traveling with a group of friends or family, this is also a good spot to take a group picture!

10. Radium Hot Springs

woman sits in the radium hot springs in winter
The hot springs are great even in the winter!

Radium Hot Springs is located about 3 km (1.8 miles) from Radium town and is situated among the mountains.

The springs are man-made pools supplied by natural spring waters that offer a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. You may either go for a dip in the chilly pool or relax and warm up in the hot pool.

The hot springs are located within Kootenay National Park and are available all year. Because Parks Canada owns them, the price is kept modest at $16.50 CAD. You may even buy a punch pass and come back several times!

Related Read: For another nice hot spring, check out Fairmont Hot Springs. It’s not far from Raidum either!

11. Radium town

aerial view of Radium town
Welcome to the cute town of Radium!

I absolutely adore Radium! I have been here several times myself and it always amazes me. Between the beautiful mountain scenery and the never-ending list of fun things to do in Radium, I’m sure it’s going to leave you with an unforgettable visit.

This charming community is surrounded by breathtaking scenery, endless golf courses, miles of hiking trails and lakes, and adrenaline-pumping sports like whitewater rafting!

We’ve already discussed the hot springs, which is how Radium got its name, but what else should you do? Hike Old Coach Trail, go whitewater rafting with Kootenay River Runners, go golfing, shop at Funky Junk, or hit the slopes at Panorama Ski Resort!

This is just skimming the surface of a few of the best things, but I can assure you you won’t run out of exciting things to do in Radium!

You can also continue further to explore other nearby towns including Golden, Invermere, Cranbrook, and even Kimberley!

Where to Stay in Radium Hot Springs, BC

prestige-radium-hot-springs-resort-lobby
Photo credit: Prestige Radium Hot Springs Resort

You can choose from a variety of hotels in Radium that will suits all types of budges. Here are a few of my top suggestions:

THE ORCHARD – Budget

Finding hostels in Canada isn’t super popular so if you’re on a backpacker’s budget you’ll definitely want to jump on THE ORCHARD‘s accommodations. You can land a bunk in a mixed dorm for around $68 CAD. As for the rest of the property, it’s sparking clean, has a fully stocked kitchen, and has many balconies to hang out on.

Radium Chalet – Moderate Budget

The Radium Chalet is my favorite go-to. It is super affordable while still providing some awesome features including rooms with amazing mountain views, fireplaces, kitchens, and more. It is located just on the edge of Radium Village, so it’s a quieter option while still being central. Expect to pay around $199 CAD for a junior suite.

Radium Hot Springs Resort – Luxury

But if you’re looking for a pure luxury resort that’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, then you can’t pass up Prestige Radium Hot Springs Resort. This brand-new resort is simply stunning and they have everything you could think of including a pool, hot tub, fitness center, on-site restaurant, and bar.

The rooms are not overly flashy but modern and extremely comfortable. Overall, for such nice amenities, the nightly rate of $263 CAD isn’t quite so bad!

Related Read: Head further down the valley to the highly underrated town of Cranbrook. Contrary to what you might’ve heard, there’s plenty to do and see in Cranbrook and its surroundings!

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 $11 CAD
  • Senior (65+) is $9.50 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.)

  • $22.00 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) – $75.25 CAD
  • Senior (65+) – $64.50 CAD
  • Group/Family (up to 7 people in one vehicle) – $151.25 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.

Renting a Car in Alberta

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

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 DiscoverCars.com. 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. Read our honest review of Discover Cars here for more details!

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 you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable! Check out my review of Motorhome Republic here for tips before you book.

Thanks for reading!

Bailey on the Banff Sunshine Gondola in winter
Thanks for reading!

Calgary to Radium is such a great road trip, and I really cannot wait for you to get to experience it for yourself! I hope that you feel prepared and ready to hit the road after reading this guide for the best stops on the drive from Calgary to Radium.

As I said, I really encourage you to take your time and experience the beauty of each stop along the way! Check out some of my other blog posts before you go!

Things to do in Invermere, BC

Best stops on the Icefields Parkway

Fun things to do in Lake Louise