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The road trip from Vancouver to Calgary may be one of the most popular Canadian road trips! Both airport hubs are extremely popular for international flyers. As such, many travelers fly into Vancouver and then fly home from Calgary (or vice versa.)
But besides that, many of the most beautiful and exciting places to visit in all of Canada are located between these two cities – so a road trip from Vancouver to Calgary makes perfect sense!
There are several stops between Vancouver and Calgary that deserve to be explored. You can enjoy quaint mountain towns, boutique wineries, vibrant cities full of culture and history, and so much more. In fact, for many, road-tripping from Vancouver to Calgary is the perfect way to get to know the most popular tourist destinations in Western Canada.
But the truth is there are a lot of different ways you can do this road trip. There are various different routes you can take and countless different places you can choose to stop. All of these options make planning a little tricky.
That’s why I’ve written this blog which is a complete guide to driving from Vancouver to Calgary. It includes the absolute best stops along the way, the best places to stay and spend a little more time, and important tips before you go. After reading this blog, my hope is that you’ll be ready to hit the road – enjoy!
Note: This blog can also be used in reverse order in case you are driving from Calgary to Vancouver!
- About the Drive from Vancouver to Calgary
- 25 BEST Stops on the Drive from Vancouver to Calgary
- 1. Vancouver City
- 2. Shannon Falls
- 3. Sea to Sky Gondola
- 4. Squamish
- 5. Garibaldi Lake
- 6. Whistler
- 7. Lillooet Lake
- 8. Joffre Lakes
- 9. Duffy Lake Viewpoint
- 10. Lillooet
- 11. Kamloops
- 12. Salmon Arm
- 13. Sicamous
- 14. Revelstoke and Mount Revelstoke National Park
- 15. Glacier National Park
- 16. Golden
- 17. Yoho National Park
- 18. Lake Louise
- 19. Moraine Lake
- 20. Morant’s Curve
- 21. Johnston Canyon
- 22. Banff Town
- 23. Canmore
- 24. The Kananaskis
- 25. Calgary
- Where to Stay in Calgary
- Essential Info About the Drive from Vancouver to Calgary
- Thanks for reading!
About the Drive from Vancouver to Calgary
There are a few different routes you can choose from when driving from Vancouver to Calgary (or the reverse, Calgary to Vancouver.) The most direct route goes through Hope via Highway 5 and Highway 1. This route is roughly 985 kilometers (612 miles) and takes around 11.5 hours without stopping.
However, if you’re looking to plan the most epic road trip then I suggest that you take a slightly longer (but more scenic) route through Whistler. This is the route I focus on in this blog. It is 1040 kilometers (646 miles) and would take around 12.5 hours to drive without stopping.
But why rush it?
There are some really great stops along this drive, and I suggest taking your time as you make your way from Vancouver to Calgary to enjoy each of the 25 stops.
If you’re driving in winter, keep an eye on the weather and check road conditions before you go. The main highway you’ll be taking (Trans-Canada Highway 1) will be cleared first after a snowfall. But still, be prepared and check your map for any potential road closures or delays.
Make sure your car (or rental car) has winter tires or at least all-season tires to tackle any ice and snow you may encounter. If you need to, there are places to stop between Vancouver and Calgary to spend a night in if the weather changes and the roads conditions become poor.
If possible do your driving time during the day, the sights are more enjoyable, some of these roads have twists and turns, and it’s easier to watch for animals. Large animals like deer can be hiding in the ditches.
25 BEST Stops on the Drive from Vancouver to Calgary
1. Vancouver City
Vancouver is one of Canada’s most vibrant cities. So before you rush off on your road trip, be sure to stick around for a little while and enjoy all of the fun things to do in Vancouver.
Here are some of my favorite activities:
- Go whale watching – Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Vancouver is to go on a whale watching tour. Out on the open water, you’ll have to opportunity to spot various types of whales including Humpback whales and Orcas.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge – The Capilano Suspension Bridge is located only a 20-minute drive from Vancouver city center. Here, you can walk the treetop walk and cross the world-famous Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s considered one of the best easy hikes in Vancouver!
- Visit a ski mountain – If you visit Vancouver in the winter you need to go skiing or snowboarding! The most popular and closest places for hitting the slopes in Vancouver include Mt Seymour, Cypress Mountain, and Grouse Mountain. You can rent gear and even just get a day pass if you only want to spend one day.
Where to stay in Vancouver:
Times Square Suites for a beautiful hotel close to Stanley Park. It’s very hard to fault this hotel and the location is perfect. It is a good mix between being affordable as well as a very nice hotel.
There’s also The Cambie Hostel Gastown for a budget hostel option. The location is in the heart of Gastown and close to lots of bars and restaurants and attached to the hostel is a very lively bar too.
2. Shannon Falls
Shannon Falls is the perfect pit stop to have a snack, stretch your legs, and check out the magnificent waterfall! Shannon Falls is located about an hour outside of Vancouver as you make your way along the Sea to Sky Highway (an iconic scenic drive between Vancouver and Whistler.)
There is a large parking lot when you arrive as well as picnic benches and bathrooms. Follow the signs along a paved trail to reach Shannon Falls. The walk is fairly flat and easy, about 1 kilometer long (0.6 miles) in total.
Shannon Falls are pretty spectacular at 335 meters (1100 ft) tall! The ideal time to go is the late spring and early summer when winter snow on the neighboring mountains has melted and the falls are at their most powerful.
Personally, this is one of my favorite stops on the drive from Vancouver to Calgary. It’s also completely free to visit.
3. Sea to Sky Gondola
The Sea to Sky Gondola is your next stop, and one you really shouldn’t miss. For $60 CAD/person you can ride in a gondola all the way to a top of a mountain – gaining over whopping 1,000 meters in elevation! Once at the top, you’ll be impressed with the views of the Howe Sound and surrounding mountain peaks.
There are also various hikes you can do at the summit as well as a stunning suspension bridge, souvenir shop, and restaurant and bar.
You only need a couple of hours to ride the gondola, explore the summit, and return back down. It’s a worthwhile attraction and one I recommend to everyone.
Budget-saving tip: You can hike up instead of taking the gondola, which is completely free. However, it is a challenging hike so I only recommend it for those who have plenty of time and are up for the challenge.
Squamish is an awesome city and a great place to stop for a visit, or even stay overnight to really make the most of it and break up your road trip. It’s known as heaven for the outdoorsy crowd, with a lot of people attracted to the outdoor lifestyle, with plenty of hiking, rock climbing, and windsurfing enthusiasts living here.
One of the best things to do in Squamish is hiking the Stawamus Chief trail (pictured above.)
If you’re just stopping for a bite to eat or a drink, try the Howe Sound Brewery or Zephyr Café – both fun, local stops to relax at for a bit. If you want to check out some culture and history, try the Railway Museum of British Columbia!
It’s also fun to just walk around the downtown area, as there are a ton of cute little shops to check out.
Where to Stay in Squamish
If you want to break up the road trip from Vancouver to Calgary then Squamish is the perfect place to spend a night or two. There’s plenty to do in Squamish and lots of hotels and holiday homes to choose from.
For a budget stay, check out the Adventure Inn. You can get a private room for an affordable price here as well as have access to shared communal facilities like laundry and a kitchen – super handy if you want to save money by cooking.
For something a little nicer, check out the Mountain Retreat. This hotel features many different styles of room from a standard queen all the way to a one-bedroom family suite. There is a pool, fitness center, and on-site restaurant.
Luxurious travelers can’t pass up the Highlands Bed & Breakfast. The one-bedroom suites here are stunning and a delicious breakfast is included. Views from around the property are seriously stunning and this B&B makes for the perfect relaxing getaway in the Garibaldi Highlands.
5. Garibaldi Lake
Garibaldi Provincial Park is home to Garibaldi Lake, which is one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Canada! Even so, it remains much less visited compared to other lakes in Canada.
The grueling 9 km (5.6-mile) hike with a 900 m (2,950 ft) elevation gain may have something to do with it. While the hike to Garibaldi Lake is challenging, the payoff is definitely worth it.
If you can’t get enough of the views, camp overnight at Garibaldi Lake. When you wake up you can check out two other trails and viewpoints: Blacktusk and Panorama Ridge lookout. Both are another 5.5 km (3.4 miles) and 7 km (4.3 miles) further and incline more than 500 m (1,640 ft). These hikes are made for the skilled hiker.
If you do camp overnight, the campsite at the lake has over 50 campsites, toilets, and cooking shelters. Campsites are $13 a person per night and need to be booked online prior to arrival.
If you have trouble booking you can ask the Squamish visitor center to book it for you (that’s what we did).
There are plenty of fun things to do and see in Whistler, so many that you could easily spend weeks here exploring. If you’re visiting Whistler in the winter, then be sure to hit the slopes, and in the summer, get out on those hiking trails and relax by the lakes.
Some of the best activities and attractions in Whistler include:
- Explore the nearby lakes – Green Lake, Alta Lake, and my favorite, Lost Lake are accessible via easy walking trails through the surrounding pine forest.
- Ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola – This HUGE gondola holds the world record for not only the longest gondola but also the highest and longest unsupported span of any lift in the world.
- Go skiing or snowboarding – Blackcomb Moutain is Whistler’s winter pride and joy with over 200 different runs, 3,307 hectares (8,171 acres) of terrain, and 36 different lifts
- Wander around Whistler village – Check out the many local restaurants and boutique shops. Be sure to visit Pure Bread, an amazing bakery and coffee shop.
Where to stay in Whistler
If you decided not to stay at Garibaldi Provincial Park, Whistler is another great option for breaking up your road trip. Like I said you could easily spend weeks here doing all of the fun activities and there are some awesome places to stay in Whistler.
For budget travelers, Pangea Pod Hotel is a great option. It’s a basic hotel with pod-style rooms with clean, well looked after facilities. The location is also really good and you are within walking distance to the ski lifts in Whistler Upper Village.
For luxury travelers, I obviously love the Four Seasons Resort Whistler, but another option slightly cheaper is the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre. Its location is perfect for luxury skiers because it’s only 250 meters from the closest gondola.
7. Lillooet Lake
You’ll find the beautiful, quiet Lillooet Lake at the bottom of Duffey Lake Road. This lake used to be a beautiful turquoise similar to what you see with other Canadian lakes, however after a landslide in 2010 the water was turned a murky shade of brown. The beautiful color it once was is finally beginning to come back. It’s easiest to see in the winter when the currents are slow.
Lillooet Lake is lined with recreational sites and campgrounds. Strawberry Point Campground is probably the most popular. It’s a walk-in campground with a forested day-use area. There’s plenty of space here, but facilities are limited (they have a pit toilet, but no picnic area or designated camp spots).
Twin One Campground is a semi-open drive-in campground. There’s a boat launch, beach access, and great views. For facilities they have picnic tables and pit toilets. This is the only campground that has room for large recreational vehicles.
Lizzie Bay and Driftwood Bay Campgrounds are two other options as well!
Enjoy a campfire, or stargaze while you enjoy zero light pollution.
8. Joffre Lakes
This is a must-visit on the drive from Vancouver to Calgary! The highlight of the hike through Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is Lower, Middle, and Upper Joffre Lakes with stunning turquoise blue water. The color is due to “rockflour” or glacial silt that lies suspended in the water and reflects the blue and green wavelengths from sunlight – it’s breathtaking!
The hike is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) long (return) and goes uphill as you work your way to Upper Joffre Lake. Along the way, you’ll see the three amazing lakes, creek crossings, great views of the mountain range, a waterfall, and the Matier Glacier at the top overlooking Upper Joffre Lake. To get back, simply retrace your steps and enjoy the easier hike down and a second look at these stunning lakes.
In the summer, this is a super popular destination and parking can be a problem. The parking lot often fills up and you’re not allowed to park on the road. Sometimes they run shuttle buses from a nearby overflow parking lot, but this isn’t always true.
To avoid having any problems getting a parking space, get here at sunrise to get a spot in the parking lot. You’ll also be one of the first ones on the trail and enjoy it in peace (this is exactly what we did when we visited last summer). I recommend staying in the nearby town of Pemberton (or camping at Lillooet Lake) the night before to make it easy to get to the parking lot first thing in the morning.
9. Duffy Lake Viewpoint
Duffy Lake Viewpoint is just a quick stop on the drive from Vancouver to Calgary. You just need to simply pull off the road into a make-shift parking lot right beside Duffy Lake, grab a few photos, and take in the stunning scenery.
It’s not as easy to admire the views while you’re driving, and since the pull-off is so easy it’s definitely worth the stop. If you’re feeling brave you can even dip your toes in the chilly lake!
Lillooet is a small town along the Fraser River with some really dramatic mountain scenery on the way to Calgary. During the Fraser River Gold Rush around 1858, Lillooet was one of the largest towns in North America as thousands of people flooded in looking to get rich. Now, you can see artifacts from the Gold Rush era inside the Lillooet Museum.
Lillooet has a hot, desert-like climate with some of the warmest temperatures ever recorded in Canada. With a long growing season, you’ll also find orchards and wineries around here – try some of the award-winning wine from Fort Berens Estate Winery. While you’re here, walk across the Old Suspension Bridge. It was built more than a century ago and is just open to pedestrians now.
If you’re wanting to stay a night here, check out the Reynolds Hotel for a nice place to stay with some historic charm (it was built in the 1940s) that has recently been updated. It has a great restaurant to eat at and a little convenience store to stock up on road trip essentials for the rest of the journey too.
Kamloops is a great place in any season with winter activities like downhill skiing or snowshoeing, or take advantage of long summers with nice weather from April to November and go hiking or paddling on the nearby lakes and rivers.
There are more than 100 lakes within an hour of the city! These are great for a canoe, kayak, or even to try stand-up paddleboarding. Go to the gorgeous Kamloops Lake and see it from the water. You’ll see old stone train bridges and tunnels, rock bluffs, and may even spot an eagle’s nest.
The hiking opportunities in Kamloops are endless. You can explore wide-open grasslands, ponderosa pine forests, sandstone canyons, and steep valleys. Try the Kenna Cartwright Nature Park with 40 km (25 miles) of trails. It has breathtaking views of Kamloops and the Thompson Valley and several beaches and picnic areas. Head out at sunset or sunrise for a particularly beautiful view.
See wild animals up close at the BC Wildlife Park. It’s a rescue and rehabilitation center and most of the animals here are rescued. There are more than 60 different species including Clover the Spirit Bear, a rare white bear that is the only Kermode Bear in captivity in the world. There’s also a splash park, playground, and mini-train for the kids. Admission to the park is $14.95 CAD for adults.
Where to Stay in Kamloops
There are plenty of hotels to choose from to base yourself in Kamloops for a while and enjoy the city and surrounding area.
For a more luxury option, try the South Thompson Inn and Conference Centre. It’s located on 55 acres of green space surrounded by mountains and the South Thompson River. The rooms have great views, there’s a 24 hour hot-tub overlooking the river and nearby hiking trails.
Budget travelers can grab a room at the Kings Motor Inn. It’s a very reasonably priced place to stay with large rooms.
Side trip to Kelowna and Vernon:
From Kamloops, you can go on a bit of a detour if you want to explore the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan is known for beautiful lakes, warm weather, delicious fruit, and most importantly, wine! Head to the cities of Kelowna and Vernon first, then if you want to venture further south you can check out Osoyoos or Peachland. I personally love going to all of the wineries in Kelowna!
12. Salmon Arm
Salmon Arm is a small city easy to fall in love with. I lived there for a few years, and I certainly did. For those who love the outdoors especially, there is plenty to do! Explore, relax, or eat (and drink) your way through this charming city. There’s really something for everyone here.
Stunning hikes, fresh produce, and top-notch wineries can all be found in Salmon Arm, so where should we start? Here are a few of the top things to do in Salmon Arm:
- Go hiking – There are hikes here for every experience level! I recommend hiking one of my favorites, Mt. Ida, which is a large 1,564-meter mountain south of Salmon Arm. You can do Mount Ida Loop if you’re looking for a challenge. It’s a 33 km (20.5-mile) loop with 1,598 meters (5,243 ft) of elevation gain – quite the trek, but so worth it. Raven Trail and Shuswap North Rail Trail are much more lowkey and fairly easy.
- Visit the most Northern winery in BC – Larch Hills – This area is known for their wine, so visiting a winery is a must during your trip. Larch Hills is one of my personal favorites. Their wine is delicious, and they even offer free cellar door tastings. Enjoy your wine as you learn about how it’s made and take in the amazing views.
- Walk the largest wooden Wharf in North America – You can enjoy walking on the wharf year-round, taking in the scenery of Shuswap Lake. I especially enjoy it in the summer when they have live music and food trucks to enjoy as well! It provides a fun, community feel.
- Visit DeMilles – Here you can buy local fresh fruit and vegtables, visit the petting zoo, and brown unique handmade items that make for perfect souvenirs!
Where to stay in Salmon Arm
This may be a good place to break up your trip a little bit. Not to mention I’m sure you’ve only skimmed the top of the incredible list of things to do here and are yearning for more time to explore.
The Hilltop Inn is a popular hotel choice as they offer larger rooms that can fit small families. This hotel also has a pool, free parking, and breakfast included.
If you’re traveling with your significant other or are after a luxury stay The Inn at the Ninth Hole Bed & Breakfast is the way to go. The rooms here are beautiful and surprisingly affordable. Of course, this place includes an exceptional breakfast and is in a beautiful area outside Salmon Arm.
This little town is the houseboat capital of Canada with people coming from all over to the beautiful lakes in the area. Houseboating on Shuswap Lake is a unique way to spend a few nights out on the water enjoying this area.
Houseboating season goes from June until October. While there will be lots of houseboats especially in July and August, this is a big lake with 1,000 kilometers (over 600 miles) of shoreline, so there’s lots of room.
If you’re here in the winter, the community borders four mountain ranges and has been voted as having the best snowmobiling in western Canada. There are also some nice local trails for snowshoeing.
Stop by for fresh milk, ice cream, and cheese from D Dutchmen Dairy where everything is produced on-site. It’s a small family-owned farm in Sicamous that focuses on high-quality ingredients. The milk is sold in glass containers to keep it cold for longer and you can even buy egg nog here at Christmas!
They also have 62 different flavors of ice cream which has been called BC’s Best Ice Cream (i agree with that statement!) – making this a must-visit if you have kids (or adults!) who love a treat.
14. Revelstoke and Mount Revelstoke National Park
Revelstoke, BC is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Canada. It has everything you could want! Mountains, lakes, glaciers, vast forests, and friendly people!
It’s all about the outdoors here. For my nature lovers out there, Revelstoke is a paradise waiting to be explored. From hiking trails to beautiful scenery it can be a little overwhelming when deciding what to do. Here are some of the best things to do in Revelstoke:
- Take the gondola up at Revelstoke Mountain Resort – It’s easily one of the best views in Revelstoke with the added bonus of not having to walk up! Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking but sometimes you just want to take it easy. There are two gondolas at the resort. The first takes you to the top of the mountain coaster. This second gondola is a good 10-minute ride, and at the top, you have breathtaking panoramic views of the valley!
- Ride the Pipe Mountain Coaster – This cool gravity-fed roller coaster is one of the top attractions in Revelstoke. If you want to, this coaster can fly down the hill, and it’s actually super fun and gets the adrenaline going. Of course, you can go as fast or slow as you want and the coaster actually has brakes – so it’s great for kids too. The Mountain Coaster is located at the top of the first gondola at the Revelstoke Mountain Resort.
- Hit the slopes in winter – Revelstoke, BC is famous for the number of awesome things to do in the winter. It’s not hard to see that this small mountain town is a winter paradise! Revelstoke is famous for huge yearly snowfalls and steep mountainous terrain that could challenge even the most skilled. But, if you’re like me and are more suited to green or blue runs then they have that too!
- Mt Revelstoke National Park – It’s a unique national park in the fact that you can actually drive right into the park and even to the summit of Mt Revelstoke. This makes it accessible to almost anyone! Once at the summit car parking lot you can then venture out and hike one of the many stunning trails, have lunch by one of the lakes, or even take a short walk to see all of the beautiful flowers and viewpoints. Some of the best hikes at the summit are Eva Lake trail, a 12km (7.5 miles) round trip through beautiful landscapes great for spotting bears; or Heather Lake, a short 10-minute hike around a stunning lake with breathtaking reflections. You’ll need a Parks Pass to visit this national park.
Related read: If you want to stay a night or two in Revelstoke (and you should!), check out our guide on the best places to stay in Revelstoke!
Note: Mount Revelstoke National Park and the next few national parks mentioned in this blog require a parks pass. To visit them, you’ll need to purchase a Parks Canada pass. You can either pay $20 CAD per vehicle per day, or buy the Discovery pass for $140 CAD which lasts an entire year (probably your best option for this road trip). These passes can be bought at a booth at the park entrance, or to save time, online in advance.
15. Glacier National Park
On your road trip from Vancouver to Calgary, you’ll actually drive right through the middle of Glacier National Park as you leave Revelstoke and make your way toward the town of Golden. As you drive through, keep your eyes open as it’s a great place to spot bears, mountain goats, and other wildlife. The ancient forests here with old cedars and alpine meadows make for beautiful scenery.
Make sure to stop at the Rogers Pass National Historic Site inside the park. Here, you can hike along the now-abandoned railway line that first connected Canada from coast to coast. The visitor center here is great and has lots of info about the history of the area.
On the drive, you’ll go through the Rogers Pass which I think is one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the entire country.
There are also some nice spots for short hikes in the area including the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk, which is good for the whole family as it’s a series of boardwalks through the forest. If you want to see a waterfall on a relatively easy trail that isn’t too busy, visit Bear Creek Falls. It’s only about a 15-20 minute hike with a really impressive waterfall at the end.
Note: If you plan on stopping in Glacier National Park you’ll need to purchase a Parks Canada Pass. There are various types of passes you can buy that range from $10 to $140 CAD depending on the number of parks, people, and amount of time the pass covers.
Golden is a small town in the Rockies, but it still offers plenty of epic things to do as it’s surrounded by national parks, mountain ranges, and endless outdoor activities to enjoy. Not to mention there are amazing eateries, unique shops, fun bars, and interesting cultural attractions.
Your stop in Golden can be as adventurous or tame as you want it! Here are some suggestions from both categories:
- Walk the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge – Golden is located in such a beautiful area so you will definitely want to get outside and explore it by walking! While doing so, make a point to walk over the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge. It starts at 8th Avenue North in downtown Golden and spans 46 meters across the Kicking Horse River.
- Visit the Skybridge – This is Golde’s newest attraction. Two large suspension bridges span across a huge canyon offering breathtaking views. It is a short loop trail that’s definitely worthwhile.
- Hit the slopes – Skiing and snowboarding at Kicking Horse Resort is easily one of the best things to do in Golden in the winter.
- Enjoy dinner with a view – Eagle’s Eye Restaurant is simply the best place to enjoy the mountain views with something to eat! It’s considered the “crown jewel” of resort dining and is a must-do while visiting Kicking Horse Resort. Located at the top of the scenic gondola the views from this restaurant are unrivaled. It is actually Canada’s highest restaurant (in elevation) at 7,710 ft above sea level – how cool is that?!
- Visit the Wolf Centre – Wolves are just one of the majestic animals found out in the Canadian Rockies. And while you may not want to run into any in the wild, the Northern Lights Wolf Centre in Golden is the perfect place to learn all about wolves and even see some for yourself!
Where to stay in Golden:
Best Western Mountainview Inn is a great choice if you’re looking for something in town. This hotel is clean and comfortable and has everything you could want including an indoor pool and an included breakfast. The reviews are great and the price is modest.
Related read: If you aren’t quite ready to leave Golden just yet, check out the best places to stay in Golden.
17. Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park, with the community of Field in the center, is an amazing place to explore – be prepared to spend at least a few hours here if not a whole day! The park is known for its towering waterfalls, crystal clear lakes, and the huge variety of activities that can be done in all seasons. Plus, there are shops, restaurants and more to see in Field.
A must-see is the stunning Emerald Lake with its vivid waters that are true to its name. You can easily walk around the entire lake in about an hour or snowshoe around it in the winter. It’s a great way to see wildflowers including wild orchids that grow around here as well as bald eagles, moose, and loons. You can also canoe or kayak on the lake with its calm and clear waters.
Another impressive sight is the Natural Bridge – an ancient rock formation over the Kicking Horse River. It’s easy to get to by car as it’s only 3 km (1.9 miles) from Field along Emerald Lake Road. You can also take a guided hike to fossil beds in the area where there are fossils from 500 million years ago.
18. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is a small mountain village situated within the magnificent Rocky Mountains. It’s surrounded by untouched wilderness and stunning landscapes and has all the ingredients for a bucket-list place to visit.
I have been to Lake Louise numerous times throughout my years of living close to the Rockies. Each time ticking off all the best things to do in Lake Louise. From hikes to restaurants and all of the epic Lake Louise activities, I’ve pretty much done it all! Here are a few of my favorites to check out during your visit:
- Relax at the Lake Louise foreshore – When it comes to enjoying Lake Louise, one of the easiest and most common ways is to enjoy the views are from the Lake Louise foreshore. Within minutes of arriving, you can have a coffee in hand and stare out at mountain peaks, glaciers, and the bluest lake you’ll ever see.
- Hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House – My favorite hike in Lake Louise is the Lake Agnes Tea House trail. Starting right from the foreshore, the trail has you hiking high above Lake Louise where you can peer down and see parts of the lake from above. Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is a 7.3-kilometer (4.5 miles) return track that climbs 400 meters in elevation. The trail is moderately difficult but not technical at all!
- Rent a canoe and explore Lake Louise – When I think of iconic Canadian activities a few come to mind. However, one of the most relaxing and breathtaking is paddling an alpine lake in a Canadian Canoe. You can do this throughout Canada, but there aren’t many places as beautiful as Lake Louise to enjoy this activity.
- Go ice skating on Lake Louise – Lake Louise is the color of the sky in summer and that color has made the lake famous. But in the winter, the cold temperatures completely freeze the lake over and it now becomes an ice-skating dream! This is one of the best things to do in Lake Louise in the winter, and it’s completely free if you bring your own skates!
Where to Stay in Lake Louise:
If you decide you want to stay in Lake Louise, the Hi Lake Louise Alpine Center is the best budget option in Lake Louise Village. The location is right in town, they have a shared kitchen, basic but comfortable rooms, and friendly staff.
For those with a bigger 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. I’ve added spending a night or two here to my personal bucket list!
19. Moraine Lake
Is there a lake more beautiful and spectacular than Lake Louise? In my opinion, there is, and it’s Moraine Lake!
Moraine Lake is located only a short 15-minute drive from Lake Louise and is a must-visit for anyone heading to the Rocky Mountains. This alpine lake might just be the only lake with more color than Lake Louise, and the best part? Its backdrop is the famous 10 Peaks!
These huge mountains tower above the lake providing the ultimate view that’s now famous all around the world.
When you get to Moraine Lake there’s plenty to do and places to explore including visiting the Rock Pile (for that famous view) or walking the Lakeshore Trail for a nice leisurely stroll.
Regardless of what you do, Moraine Lake lives up to its reputation as Canada’s most beautiful lake!
Important: Read about parking at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. This is very important before going!
20. Morant’s Curve
This is an excellent stop for a photo in Banff National Park as you make your way towards Calgary. This famous viewpoint is located along a bend in the Bow River where trains typically pass through with a spectacular mountain backdrop.
Morant’s Curve is only a short drive (about 5-7 minutes) along the Bow Valley Parkway after you leave Lake Louise. Keep an eye out for the signs indicating the viewpoint and park across the highway in the small parking lot.
The best photos are when a train is traveling around the bend and framed perfectly in the shot. Your best chance to catch a train is during a weekday – trains typically pass by around once an hour. The curve is named after a photographer (Nicholas Morant) who worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway and this was one of his favorite places to capture.
21. Johnston Canyon
Hiking in Johnston Canyon is one of Banff National Park’s most well-known free attractions. The best part about exploring this canyon is that it is open all year! During the summer, you may stroll along the boardwalk close to the turquoise-watered canyon. Two waterfalls can be seen along the route, one 1.7 km (1 mile) from the parking lot and the other 1 km (0.6 miles) farther on.
In the winter, the canyon freezes in several places, making the hike appear like something out of a winter wonderland! Imagine icicles dangling from cliffs and frozen waterfalls — it’s a sight to behold!
Hot Tip: If you’re visiting in the winter, you really need ice cleats or spikes. If you don’t have them, then consider joining a guided ice walk tour that will safely lead you on the ice and supply all of the safety gear you’ll need.
The drawback to Johnston Canyon is that it may become quite crowded. It’s so popular that the large parking lot frequently fills up, forcing you to use the public bus!
22. Banff Town
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. Banff is sure to be one of your favorite stops on your road trip between Vancouver and Calgary.
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.
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! The hot springs are easy to get to and very affordable. At only $8.30 CAD per adult and $24.50 for a family, even those on a tight 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!
- 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.
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 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.
Canmore is one of Alberta’s best mountainside tourist towns. But unlike Banff, Jasper, and Lake Louise, Canmore isn’t actually located within one of Canada’s National Parks – making it cheaper and more accessible for everyone.
Sitting on the edge of Banff National Park, Canmore boasts some of Canada’s most impressive mountain peaks and is an outdoor playground for visitors.
We’ve been lucky enough to visit Canmore on several occasions. In fact, we also recently lived in Canmore for a couple of months (I know, lucky us!) So, we know all of the best things to do in Canmore, which include:
- Go Skiing – Located about 55km away from Canmore (45-minute drive), Nakiska is a popular ski resort known for its long seasons due to lots of snow. It has 64 trails with four chairlifts and costs $98 CAD for a day pass. Skiing is the most popular activity in the winter in Canmore.
- Hike to Grassi Lakes – Grassi Lakes is also one of the easiest hikes in Canmore at only 5 kilometers long (return) with only a 125-meter elevation gain. This means it’s family-friendly and suitable for most fitness levels.
- Visit the local breweries – Canmore is one of the best places to try amazing craft beer and there are lots of local breweries in Canmore to visit! One of my favorites is The Grizzly Paw. They have a bar on 8 St and their brewery is located on Old Canmore Road on the outskirts of town (called Tank 310).
- Hit the trails at the Nordic Centre – The Canmore Nordic Centre offers a variety of trails for hiking, biking, or even cross country skiing. The area was developed to host cross country skiing events at the 1988 Olympic Games and is now an active training center as well as a recreational area.
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.
24. The Kananaskis
Take a small detour onto Highway 40 to explore Kananaskis Country. It’s called Alberta’s Mountain Playground, and there’s so much to do. It’s easy to spend a few days exploring the region. It has fewer crowds than Banff, but all the same great outdoor activities!
Stay right in Kananaskis Village so you’re close to everything! The Crosswater Resort at Kananaskis is a great place for families with a large, indoor waterpark. Staying at the resort also gives you priority access to the Kananaskis Nordic Spa. At the spa, their unique hydrotherapy sessions involved going into a series of hot and cold pools, all while enjoying the mountain views.
The area is known for winter fun as it contains the Nakiska Ski Resort – built for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. This means the ski resort has Olympic-sized groomed runs and a state-of-the-art snowmaking system. With its excellent snow coverage, Nakiska is typically the first ski resort to open in the country and the last to close.
One of my favorite hikes in the Kananaskis area is to Troll Falls. It’s around 3 km (1.9 miles) round-trip with a beautiful waterfall at the end. You can get quite close to the waterfall and even find a large rock shaped like a troll’s head nearby. It’s equally stunning when the waterfall freezes in the winter – just bring ice cleats or spikes as it can get slippery.
Important note: All vehicles stopping in parks or public areas in Kananaskis Country and the Bow Valley Corridor require a Conservation Pass. Buy a daily pass online for $15 CAD or in person at any Kananaskis Visitor Information Center.
You’ve made it to the end of your road trip from Vancouver to Calgary!
Calgary is the largest city in Alberta, and trust me, there are plenty of fun things to do here to keep you busy. With 333 sunny days a year, your odds of having nice weather are pretty good here! Even so, if there does happen to be a rainy day, or the winter cold is getting to you, there are still plenty of great indoor activities in Calgary too!
Visiting the Calgary Zoo is certainly a must-stop. It’s open year-round and has nearly 1,000 different animals and exhibits! Start here bright and early so you can get the chance to see the penguin walk (my favorite attraction!). The penguin walk happens each morning at 10 am. Watching them stroll through the zoo for their exercise is seriously so adorable!
If you find yourself visiting in July don’t miss checking out the Calgary Stampede! It’s a 10-day event that features one of the largest rodeos in the world! Not only that, but they also have a parade, a midway, shows, concerts, chuckwagon racing, and more.
Visiting Calgary in the winter? Be sure to skate at the Olympic Plaza skating rink located downtown. It was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics which was hosted in Calgary. Bring your own skates or rent a pair for $12 CAD.
Regardless of the season you visit, check out the best view of the city from the highest 360-degree observation deck on the globe at the Calgary Tower. You can see the downtown, as well as the Rocky Mountains in the distance. Feel free to step onto the glass floor if you’re brave. Take the experience a step further and enjoy a meal at the revolving restaurant Sky 360.
Want to continue on another epic road trip? Consider the drive from Calgary to Jasper!
Where to Stay in Calgary
Calgary is a large city so there are plenty of places to stay within the city. The trick is to pick a hotel with a great location depending on the activities you plan on doing. For example, staying downtown is perfect for most visitors, however, those wanting to spend more time exploring the Kananaskis, Banff, or Canmore should stay on the westside of Calgary.
Within the central city area, the Wicked Hostels – Calgary is a good choice for budget travelers. The hostel is clean, comfortable, and located in a good area. There are cheaper places to stay in Calgary but this place is great value for money.
If you can spend a bit more the Regency Suites Hotel is perfect. The suites have a full kitchen which is perfect for homemade meals which can save you a lot of money. The rooms are beautiful, breakfast is included, and they even have a fitness center. On top of that, the hotel’s location is perfect.
For luxury travelers, check out the Sheraton Suites Calgary Eau Claire. This hotel overlooks the river valley, comes with an indoor pool (with waterslide), hot tub, fitness center, hair salon, and gift shop. Obviously, the rooms are extremely beautiful and the views are spectacular.
If you’re looking for a place in west Calgary Along River Ridge Bed & Breakfast is my choice. Located along the Bow River but also not far from Highway 1, the hotel will save you 15 minutes each way on adventures west. However, you’re still close enough to easily explore Calgary. It’s a small bed and breakfast with amazing reviews!
Essential Info About the Drive from Vancouver to Calgary
- There are numerous routes you can take, however this guide presesnts stops along the most interesting one. Taking this route, the drive from Vancouver to Calgary is about a 11 1/2 hour drive and around 1,040 km (646 miles).
- Keep your eyes peeled for animals at all times of year when driving along this highway – especially in the early morning and evening hours. I suggest driving the route during the day if possible, so you can really take in all of the scenery.
- If you do this drive in the winter be sure to check road conditions before you leave. Winter or all-season tires on the car are a must. There are plenty of places to stay along this route if you have to book a last-minute hotel due to changing weather conditions.
- Get a Parks Pass for the various national parks and a Conservation Pass for the Kananaskis area. Both are needed if you plan on entering the parks (you won’t need the Conservation Pass if you just plan on driving through). The Parks Pass starts at $10 CAD per day, and the Conservation Pass is $15 CAD per vehicle.
- The Discovery Pass is another option if you plan to visit multiple national parks. It costs $69 CAD and gives you unlimited visits for a year ($140 for a group of people in one vehicle.) You need to purchase this online ahead of time and it will be mailed to you.
- From 8 pm to 8 am from March 1 through June 25 travel of any kind is banned on a small section of the Bow Valley Parkway. Be sure to keep that in mind when planning your timing and route in that area.
- Bring a camera! This road trip provides some of the best views and places in the Rocky Mountains. It’s an epic trip, you’ll want to capture the memories you make on the way.
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this 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 $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year. 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 Rental Cars.com 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!
Thanks for reading!
Driving from Vancouver to Calgary is such a great road trip! It’s a great way to experience some of the best hikes, lakes, and cities that Canada has to offer. Enjoy taking your time at each of these stops on the drive from Vancouver to Calgary!
Let me know the stop that you’re most excited about! I hope you feel prepared and ready to embark on this awesome trip. If there’s anything I missed, feel free to reach out. Be sure to check out some of our other Canada posts: