Skip to Content

9 BEST Stops on the Drive from Golden to Lake Louise

9 BEST Stops on the Drive from Golden to Lake Louise

This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.

After growing up in Alberta and living in BC, I’ve taken the short but epic drive between Golden and Lake Louise many times. It’s a great road trip choice! Even though this drive takes just over an hour without stops, there are so many awesome places to see along the way that I recommend planning for at least a few stops.

I won’t spoil the itinerary below, but this drive includes some of my favorite sights like the aptly named Emerald Lake and the mighty Takakkaw Falls, aka, the second-highest waterfall in Canada!

We’ve really narrowed this list down as there are SO many beautiful places in this part of the country. But, rest assured, the stops we’ve included are super-special! I’ve started this road trip in the small, scenic town of Golden, but of course, you can do this road trip in reverse (from Lake Louise to Golden) and stop at all the places below but in the opposite order!

About the Drive from Golden to Lake Louise

Lake Louise Drive Construction Notice: This summer (2024), construction will be on Lake Louise Drive, causing significant traffic delays. This means you could spend well over an hour sitting in traffic just to be turned away for lack of parking (over a thousand people are turned away each day during the peak summer months!). To avoid this, consider booking this hop-on hop-off shuttle from Banff instead! Check availability for the shuttle here – it fully books out in the summer months!

The drive from Golden in British Colombia to Lake Louise in Alberta can be done in just over an hour – the average time it will take (without stops) is just an hour and 10 minutes. The distance between the two destinations is 83 km (51.6 miles).

We like this drive since it follows the TransCanada Highway the entire time. Plus, it goes right through the stunning Yoho National Park – home to breathtaking sights like Emerald Lake and Wapta Falls.

Even though this easy drive can be done in just over an hour, I highly recommend allowing a minimum of one whole day for this road trip. Honestly, there are so many incredible stops along the way that rushing it would be a shame! If your itinerary allows, make it into more of a vacation than a road trip by stopping off and spending a night or two near the Kicking Horse River or at Emerald Lake!

If you plan to drive this route in winter, take it from us that you will need winter tires as there may be snow or ice on the roads, specifically in Yoho National Park. Also, be mindful that when driving through the national park in the warmer months – animals like moose or bears may suddenly appear on the road in front of you.

BEST Stops Between Golden and Lake Louise

1. Golden

Downtown Golden, BC
The streets in Golden are so cute! Photo credit: Depositphotos Edb3_16

Before hitting the road, we recommend spending some time getting to know the naturally scenic town of Golden. It’s nestled in the Canadian Rockies and I’d rank it among the best hidden gems to visit in BC! Known for its adventure sports like whitewater rafting, skiing at nearby Kicking Horse Mountain, and skydiving – if you’re adrenaline junkies like us, you’re sure to have a blast here!

Golden is home to only around 4,000 people, but what it lacks by way of population, it absolutely makes up for in terms of epic things to do! This small town is surrounded by a bunch of national parks and mountain ranges, so there are endless outdoor activities to enjoy.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Golden many times, both in the summer and winter months, allowing me to create an epic list of things to do in Golden, but here are some highlights:

  • Explore downtown Golden – Downtown Golden is a quaint, historic-looking town with a bunch of things to do. A good place to start your exploration is 9th Avenue, which has a lot of shops, cafes, and restaurants to explore. You can learn more about the city at the Visitor Centre or Golden Museum.
  • Hit the slopes at Kicking Horse Resort – Golden’s Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a very popular ski resort in Canada, and for good reason! It’s known for the huge amounts of annual snowfall and expert terrain that will challenge even the most experienced riders. It’s a must-visit in the winter.
  • Go skydiving– Skydiving is the ultimate bucket list activity, and Golden is the perfect place to check it off of your list! It can’t get better than skydiving over the Canadian Rockies! Extreme Yeti will take you up over 3,050 meters (10,000 feet) above the Rockies and Kicking Horse River! You will then freefall before opening up that parachute and gliding back to earth. A tandem skydive costs $349 CAD. It’s pricey but well worth it.
  • Visit the Wolf Centre – Wolves are only one of the many magnificent creatures found in the Canadian Rockies. While you probably don’t want to run into any in the wild, the Northern Lights Wolf Centre in Golden is an excellent location to learn about wolves and even see them.

Where to stay in Golden

So now that you know about all of the amazing things to do in town, you’re going to need somewhere to stay a few nights in Golden before heading onwards to Lake Louise. There’s just so much to explore in the area that you might as well book a great hotel and enjoy a few days in one of Canada’s most underrated mountain towns.

Located outside of Golden, surrounded by nature, the Golden Acres Mountain Lodge is the perfect luxury escape for anybody looking for a little R&R. The rooms are best suited for couples, with king suites with private kitchenettes, a balcony, and a spa bath.

Or those on a budget will love the Travelodge by Wyndham Golden Sportsman Lodge. With a central location, an indoor pool with a waterslide and hot tub, as well as an included breakfast, this hotel is a steal! they even have pet-friendly rooms and an outdoor picnic area with a BBQ.

Related Read: If you plan to drive from Vancouver to Golden, then you should check out our detailed blog on the best stops between Vancouver and Golden!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

2. Golden Skybridge

Bailey walks away from the camera at the Golden Suspension Bridge in Golden, BC
Bailey walking across the Golden Skybridge!
Golden Suspension bridge with a river below
If you look closely you can see the river below the bridge!

One of the main draws to doing this drive is the Golden Skybridge, aka Canada’s highest suspension bridge, and it only just opened in the summer of 2021! It’s located a few minutes from Golden, just off the TransCanada Highway, so I’d plan to make this stop early on in the drive.

At 130 meters (426 feet) above the canyon, it’s such a thrill to walk over it and we couldn’t believe the amazing views of the Columbia Valley. But what we like most about the Golden Skybridge is that it isn’t just a bridge – it’s an entire adventure park.

There are two suspension bridges, a kids’ play park, a roller coaster, a climbing wall, and activities from ziplining to axe throwing. While it’s great for families, people of all ages can have a fantastic time!

Entrance to the Golden Skybridge will set you back around $52 CAD, but it’s not a bad price for all the activities included! We recommend spending around 2 hours here.

3. Kicking Horse River

A group of people hit a rapid on a white water raft on the kicking Horse River in Canada
Whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River can be extreme!

If you’re lucky enough to be a passenger on this road trip like I was the last time we took this route, you’ll probably notice the fast-flowing river as you look out the window. That river is the Kicking Horse River, which is most famous for its rapids. In fact, it’s one of the best places in Canada to go whitewater rafting.

So, if you’re an adventure nut like us and are planning to do this road trip between mid-May and early September (which is rafting season on this river), then booking a thrilling whitewater rafting adventure is a MUST!

We recommend this Wild Water rafting experience – which handily offers a morning and afternoon departure. This one is for adults and older kids with a minimum age of 12. When we went, we spent about 2 hours rafting along the river. The scenery is incredible as the Class 3 and 4 rapids got our hearts pumping! Prices for this highly popular tour start from $144 CAD per person.

A tamer tour option is this family-friendly whitewater rafting experience for a morning paddle down a milder section of the Kicking Horse River. We’d say this tour is a better fit for families with kids ages 8 and up or anyone looking for a more “relaxing” experience as you will navigate calmer Class 1 and 2 rapids. It finishes with a BBQ lunch and beach volleyball – and costs $118 CAD. It’s a popular tour, so advance booking is advised.

Where to stay along the Kicking Horse River

The Yoho Chalets are beautiful, airy chalets just steps away from the banks of the Kicking Horse River, so you’ve got views galore in addition to comfy beds, a stone fireplace, and a fully-equipped kitchen. There’s plenty of privacy here, and we think that this idyllic spot is perfect for families since each chalet sleeps up to 6 people.

A one-night stay here in one of their signature chalets costs around $420 CAD per night, however, this does fluctuate depending on the season! Easily book one of the Yoho Chalets online here.

4. Wapta Falls

Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park
The mighty Wapta Falls!

Next up, it’s time to enter Yoho National Park. Within Yoho National Park there are quite a few awesome attractions that I love to visit.

The first stop is Wapta Falls, aka the biggest waterfall along the Kicking Horse River. These mighty falls are about 18 meters (60 feet) high and 107 meters (351 feet) wide. You can visit them year-round and I think they’re especially stunning in winter when the falls freezes over! 

It’s a flat 4.8-kilometer (3-mile) hike from the main parking lot for the Wapta Falls Trail. However, the road to the trailhead is closed during the winter, so prepare to park on the side of the Trans Canada Highway and snowshoe to the official trailhead, which adds an extra 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) each way.

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

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

Single Daily Admission:

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

  • Adult (ages 18-64) is $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.

5. Emerald Lake

People canoe with mountain views at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
What a place to canoe!
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park in winter
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park in winter!

While there are a couple of must-visit stops within Yoho National Park, we put Emerald Lake at the very top of the list. Yup, the gorgeous Emerald Lake is an essential stop on your drive from Golden to Lake Louise, and you’ll find it about 65 km (40 miles) from Golden.

As we’re sure you can guess from the name, this stunning body of water is named for its bright green hue, which comes from rock particles in the water that melt off the glaciers. The shade of the lake does vary according to the weather, the time of year, and even the time of day. However, it tends to be most vibrant during the summer, and it does freeze during the winter and get covered in snow.

While here, one of my favorite things to do is walk around the entire lake. It only takes just over an hour and then I get to admire its shimmering green surface from every angle and take a million photos. The Emerald Lake Loop is a really beautiful walk, and the trail itself is flat and easy, with lots of places to stop and enjoy the view. The trailhead is in the parking lot, where there are also toilets, and it’s about a 5.2 km (3.2 mi) loop. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife here and during the winter, I love grabbing a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis to do this trail!

In our books, there is no better way to experience Emerald Lake’s calm waters than canoeing or kayaking. You can rent canoes between late May and early October from the Boathouse for around $90 CAD per hour. The canoes fit 3 people each (or 2 adults and 1 dog, if you want to bring a furry friend!). Canoes can’t be rented in advance, so we say get to the lake early, grab a canoe, and enjoy paddling around while it’s still nice and quiet. 

Finally, if you have the time, why not spoil yourself and stay a night at the Emerald Lake Lodge on the edge of the lake? This hotel is absolutely gorgeous, and even more so during the winter. Staying here is certainly on my bucket list!

There’s no admission fee to Emerald Lake but you do need a Parks Canada Pass to be inside Yoho National Park (where Emerald Lake is located). So technically, it’s not really free, but once you’ve sorted your pass, you won’t have to pay for tickets to see the lake.

Related Read: Another awesome lake not too far from here is the super-popular Moraine Lake. In fact, we’ve written a detailed guide to visiting Moraine Lake to check out!

6. Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge Lower Falls in Yoho National Park, Canada
Natural Bridge Lower Falls in Yoho National Park!

Another stunning site in Yoho National Park is the Natural Bridge, an ancient rock formation that spans the Kicking Horse River. Over thousands of years, water eroded the soft rock beneath a hard limestone band, creating a bridge. It’s very cool to see the Natural Bridge, and it’s a pretty quick stop. The turn-off for the bridge is along Emerald Lake Road, so we recommend stopping to check it out on your way to or from Emerald Lake! 

7. Field

The small village of Field is actually situated inside Yoho National Park, so it’s a great base for exploring the stunning park! It’s home to the Yoho Visitor Centre, which is where we stop to get info on conditions before heading out on a hike. There are lots of excellent trails close by, like the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit and the Emerald Triangle Loop.

In short, it’s a super charming village with lots of cafés and artisanal shops to check out and a great place to spend the night on your drive between Golden and Lake Louise. There are a couple of hotels in Field, including the Cathedral Mountain Lodge, which is about 5.5 kilometers (3.4 miles) from the town center, and the Truffle Pigs Lodge.

8. Takakkaw Falls

Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park
Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park

Takakkaw Falls also within Yoho National Park is the second-highest waterfall in Canada at 373 meters (1,224 feet) high, and it’s an absolute must-visit on this drive. We ALWAYS make time to stop here – even though we’ve been here multiple times. Watching the water cascade down the rock face is absolutely mesmerizing, especially because the mist creates multiple rainbows at the bottom. 

Not only is this waterfall stunning, but it’s also super easy to visit. You can even just observe it from the parking lot if you don’t want to hike, but we do recommend doing the 1.8-km (1.1-mi) Takakkaw Falls hike to see the falls up close. The path is super flat and well-maintained. 

From the falls, keep hiking to the memorably-named Laughing Falls. These falls are 30 meters (98 feet) high, and the cheerful name comes from the sound the water makes as it flows over the rocks. I love that you can get so close, you can feel the falls vibrating through your entire body! 

As I mentioned, the best way to access these falls is to hike from Takakkaw Falls to Laughing Falls, which is 4.2 km (2.6 miles) each way. It’s an intermediate trail, and we found it pretty easy to follow, so most visitors shouldn’t have too much of a problem with this one.

9. Lake Louise

Bailey on the shores of Lake Louise at sunrise
Bailey on the shores of Lake Louise at sunrise!
Bailey at Lake Louise Ski Resort
I was so excited to go skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort!

And you’ve reached your final destination – the postcard-perfect Lake Louise.

Lake Louise is definitely one of the most popular places to visit in Alberta. From hikes with the most gorgeous views (the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is one of my favorites) to amazing restaurants, Lake Louise really has it all in terms of awesome things to do.

Even something as simple as relaxing on the Lake Louise lakefront is sure to leave you in awe as you look out at the glaciers, mountain peaks, and clear lake! One of my favorite times to visit is at sunrise because it is the least busy, and the views are incredible!

Some other awesome activities available in Lake Louise in the summer are going canoeing on the lake, hiking the lakefront trail, and cycling one of the many biking trails in the area! Of course, taking the Lake Louise Gondola is one of the most popular attractions with stunning views of the lake and nearby Victoria Glacier. I recommend purchasing your gondola tickets in advance– they cost $63 CAD and keep in mind that the gondola is about a 5-minute drive from the lake itself.

But, if you’re visiting Lake Louise in the winter, I recommend lacing up skates to skate on the rink or go skiing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort which is only 15 minutes from town. It just so happens to be one of the largest ski resorts in Canada, with 7 ski lifts and 142 km (88 mi) of ski runs. It’s well-equipped for any skill level, and the gondolas are great for a cold day.

One of my favorite things to do in Lake Louise during the colder months is go cross-country skiing. It’s hugely popular and in fact, there are over ten trails in the area for a variety of experience levels. One of the most popular and easily accessible is the Lake Louise Loop. This 4.1-km (2.5-mi) loop begins at the foreshore and travels along the frozen lake. This trail has duel tracks and is groomed. You can use the trails for free if you have your own gear or take advantage of rentals at Lake Louise Fairmont Chateau for only $30 CAD for 4 hours (boots, poles, and skis).

Note: From May 13th until October 10th, you’ll be required to pay $21 CAD per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise Lakefront (2024 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 7 am until 7 pm daily. 

Where to Stay in Lake Louise

The Fairmont Lake Louise is huge and so luxurious!

Not far from the lake itself, you’ll find the small Lake Louise Village. In this tiny mountain town, you’ll find a few hotels as well as coffee shops, a small grocery store, and even a sports bar. Don’t expect a mountain town like Banff though, Lake Louise Village is tiny!

Within Lake Louise Village, there are some great places to stay. Some of our favorites are:

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – $$$

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. It is a staple in Lake Louise’s landscape, and you bet the rooms are as luxurious as the exterior makes them seem. They have 6 restaurants, an indoor pool, a spa, a fitness center, and private parking. I’ve added spending a night or two here to my personal bucket list!

At $500+ CAD a night, it’s a luxury place, but staying here will be unforgettable! You can check availability, rates, and book on Booking.com here.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort – $$$

For those with a vehicle who want a unique place to stay, Baker Creek Mountain Resort is an ideal choice for that quintessential Canadian log cabin stay. The hotel is located on the Bow Valley Parkway, about a 10-minute drive from Lake Louise Village.

Stay in a rustic but luxurious cabin in the woods and surround yourself with nature. Every cabin also has a fireplace, so you can cozy up by the fire to escape the snowy winter weather. The resort also has a sauna and steam room, as well as fire pits that guests can use. Rooms vary in price but start at around $257 CAD per night. You can check availability and book easily online here on Booking.com.

Lake Louise Inn – $$

For a slightly nicer stay, but not quite in the luxury category, you can’t go wrong with the Lake Louise Inn. Once again the location is really good and most of the rooms are freshly renovated and modern. There is also an onsite pool, hot tub, two restaurants, and a lounge.

One of the things I like most about the Lake Louise Inn is the variety of room types on offer. You can choose between standard rooms with double beds or king beds, or if you like having your own kitchen, opt for a studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom apartment. Rooms here go for as little as $175 CAD per night during the low season. You can check prices and book here on Booking.com.

HI Lake Louise Alpine Center – $

We typically like staying at affordable, yet comfortable places, and that is exactly what we get whenever we stay at the HI Lake Louise Alpine Center. This basic hostel and hotel comes with everything you need and the location is within walking distance to the shops and restaurants.

The private rooms are cozy, clean, and comfortable. Better yet, the onsite cafe called Bill Peyto’s Cafe is a local favorite. We’ve stayed here often and it’s our go-to whenever we visit Lake Louise (we’d rather save our money for tours and experiences than a fancy stay). Plus, the private rooms are honestly really nice. You can easily book a room on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

Renting a Car in British Columbia

A rural road with Mt Currie in the background
Road trips are the best way to explore Canada!

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 isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia. Read my 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 using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at Lake Louise
Thanks for reading!

We really do love this short but sweet drive between Golden and Lake Louise – it incorporates so many beautiful places. And we can’t wait to do this road trip again soon!

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also enjoy some of my other suggestions for the best road trips in BC and Alberta along with other Lake Louise posts. Some of my favorites include:

12 BEST Stops on the Drive from Calgary to Golden

Lake Louise Gondola VS Banff Gondola: Which one is Better?!

23 BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Lake Louise

How to Get from Canmore to Lake Louise +BEST Road Trip Stops