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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 CAD per adult, but if you intend to visit numerous sites in a year, a Discovery Pass for $69 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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Hot Tip: There are lots of amazing hotels in Canmore, and they are generally cheaper than Banff too! So, consider staying in Canmore instead and just visiting Banff on day trips (it’s only a 20-minute drive!)
Related Read: If you’re a beer lover, be sure to check out all of the local breweries in Canmore.
3. Banff town
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.
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:
- Visit Mt Norquay – 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 (pictured above.) 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.
- Banff Upper Hot Springs – For only a few dollars you can relax in Banff’s very own hot springs with mountain views. The hot springs can get busy though so it’s best to visit mid-week.
- Take the gondola up Sulphur Mountain – Ride the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain to experience panoramic views of Banff National Park. If you want to skip paying for the ride, hike up instead! If you hike, it’s a completely free activity in Banff.
- Indulge in food and drinks – Banff has tons of tasty breweries, restaurants, and bars. For beer, head to Baff Brewing Co. For a delicious meal with crafted cocktails, head to Parks Distillery.
- Go hiking – The hiking trails in and around Banff are almost endless. Even in the winter, there are tons of epic hikes to challenge you.
4. Johnston Canyon
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.
5. Stanley Glacier Trail
As you leave Banff National Park you’ll enter Kootenay National Park. Your first stop is one of my favorite attractions in Kootenay National Park – Stanley 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
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
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
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
This 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
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 around $8 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
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 white water 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 white water 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!
Where to Stay in Radium Hot Springs, BC
You can choose from a variety of hotels in Radium but personally, 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.
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!
Alternatively, there are some amazing holiday homes and Airbnbs to choose from in Radium – read my blog for details about my favorite ones in the area!
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!
Renting a Car in Alberta
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.
Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a 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 Rental Cars.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.
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
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 $29 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!
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 hand so many times especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $27 and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Before you go…
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.
Like 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!