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17 BEST Stops on the Drive from Kelowna to Banff 

17 BEST Stops on the Drive from Kelowna to Banff 

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Driving from Kelowna to Banff is an epic mountain road trip I completely recommend. It’s a fantastic way to see the beautiful scenery British Columbia has to offer as well as find some hidden gems along the way.  

You can drive straight through in under six hours, but this trip is best done spread out over a day or several days. Extend the trip to make it more enjoyable and see the amazing sights by spending a night in places like Vernon, Revelstoke, or Lake Louise.  

Check out my list below of the 17 best places to stop on the drive from Kelowna to Banff and start planning your epic road trip! Don’t forget your camera because you’re going to want to capture everything you spot along the way! If you’re lucky you’ll spot plenty of wildlife.

Note: You can also use this road trip itinerary in reverse order if you’re driving from Banff to Kelowna too!

About the Drive from Kelowna to Banff  

When driving from Kelowna to Banff, you’ll start the journey on Highway 97 and 97A before turning off onto the Trans-Canada Highway 1 and following that to Banff. It’s a straightforward drive of 480 kilometers (298 miles), but depending on the season, driving conditions can vary – even on the same day! You could start in the sunshine and still get rain or snow further into the drive.  

Driving conditions will be better in the warmer months, but there are so many great winter activities in Banff as well as the other towns along the way, that as long as you are prepared, a winter road trip is completely doable. You’ll want winter tires for extra grip for ice and snow if you’re traveling in the winter. Be aware that winter tires are mandatory on most highways in British Columbia from October to April, so ensure you have those before you set out.  

Fill up with gas and the necessary road trip snacks in Kelowna before you hit the road. But, there are lots of places to stop and fuel up along the way – whether you’re looking for a meal, gas station, or a break to check out the local area.  

The drive takes you across two provinces, so be aware of the time change! The time zone changes on the eastern boundary of Glacier National Park around Rogers Pass and once you enter Alberta, time will jump ahead an hour. Make sure to plan for this if you have any activities later in the day or are meeting up with friends. You don’t want to be late! 

On the drive from Kelowna to Banff, there are a ton of great spots to stop at – whether you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the car for a few minutes or you want to spend an afternoon exploring in a new place, check out my list for inspiration and some of my favorite places along this drive.  

17 Best Stops on the Drive from Kelowna to Banff 

Before you hurry off on your road trip, be sure to explore all that Kelowna has to offer! I personally love going on wine tours in Kelowna – there are just so many amazing wineries in the area. Craft beer lovers are spoiled in Kelowna with tons of micro-breweries around. More of a coffee person? Check out the best coffee shops and cafes in Kelowna! Be sure to burn off all of those extra calories by getting outside and going hiking in the summer, or go skiing in the winter.

1. Lake Country

Daniel leans on the railing at the Arrowleaf Winery in Lake Country near Vernon, BC
Arrowleaf Winery is located in Lake Country and a great place to stop along the scenic drive!

Once you’re done exploring all the amazing things to do in Kelowna, it’s time to hit the road on your way to Banff. Less than a half-hour into the drive is the first place to stop and enjoy! Lake Country is a picturesque community in the heart of the Okanagan Valley. It is surrounded by three lakes, orchards, farmland, lakeside scenery, and wineries. 

Stop for lunch at Grey Monk Estate Winery for a great meal with a view. The Lookout Restaurant here has a patio that overlooks Lake Okanagan with a stunning view. Try the Baked Brie BLT paired with a glass of sparkling wine. To really enjoy their award-winning wines, book a wine tasting in the Estate Room for $20 CAD per person. You’ll have panoramic views of the lake and vineyard and try all the whites, rosés, and red wines they are famous for.  

Another favorite winery is Arrowleaf Cellars, named after a flower known as the Okanagan Sunflower that grows on the hillsides here. This winery produces 16,000 cases of wine a year and takes advantage of the warmer climate, letting grapes mature on the vines until late October. Try the Riesling 2020 with its fresh acidity and citrus notes that won a Gold Medal at the National Wine Awards of Canada!  

You can also book this Lake Country Wine Tour that stops at Gray Monk Estate Winery and 4 other unique wineries nearby that also have scenic views from their properties. It costs $239 CAD, lasts 5 hours, and includes and wine expert and plenty of samples! It’s really a great price and eliminates the need for a designated driver!

If you plan on drinking wine, be sure to book a nice hotel for the night. There are a few great places to stay in Lake Country and you won’t regret waking up with lake views!

While in Lake Country, you can also shop at local fruit stands for freshly-picked produce, go to the Farmers’ Market on Friday afternoon, try out one of the local beaches, hike one of the many trails in the area, or rent a boat and go out on Wood Lake.

Related Read: While you’re in the area, check out some activities on our list of fun things to do in the Okanagan Valley!

2. Kalamalka Lake  

view of Kalamalka Lake
Kalamalka Lake is seriously stunning!

This lake is known for its amazing water that actually changes color during the year. It has been nicknamed the “lake of many colors” with water that ranges from cyan to indigo depending on when you visit. “Kal Lake” as it’s known to locals is one of the most popular summer vacation spots in the area.  

If you have time for a beach day, head down to Kal Beach. It’s 300 meters (984 feet) of soft sand with trees for shade, free parking, and lots of picnic tables. It has a stunning view looking right down the middle of the lake towards Kelowna. There’s a good concession stand or try out Alexander’s Beach Pub on the east side of the beach that has a huge patio looking over the lake.  

Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park is also here and it’s a huge area that’s great for hiking and biking. The trails are well looked after and wander through thick groves of Douglas firs and ponderosa pine trees. You can even hike up to “The Cliffs” on Rattlesnake Point – typically a 6 km (3.7 mile) hike roundtrip. It has stunning views and is a popular spot for cliff-jumping into the water below. 

3. Vernon 

Bailey stands out the front of Davison Orchards in Vernon, Canada
Davison Orchards is a must-visit place in Vernon!

Vernon is a great little city that we visit often because of the family we have in the area in the nearby town of Armstrong, BC. Vernon is located in the stunning Okanagan region of British Columbia with mountains, valleys, and lakes surrounding it. This is a good place to stop on the road trip for gas, food, and groceries, and there are also some really amazing cafes in Vernon where you can stop for your caffeine fix.

While you’re here, make sure to explore downtown Vernon to stretch your legs. There are a lot of unique shops and restaurants along 30th Avenue from toy stores to a fish and chips shop. Some of the best restaurants in Vernon are located here, too. Depending on the time of year, you could also find an outdoor market! 

Plan to spend an afternoon at Davison Orchards. Have lunch at the café with homemade sandwiches (including the BEST grilled cheese), real fruit ice cream, and 100% pure apple juice. You can even pick apples yourself here in the orchards. This is a family-owned business and everything is of great quality and well-priced. They also have an animal barn and tractor ride for kids, which is popular.  

Founded in 1867, O’Keefe Ranch was the end of the wagon road into the Okanagan Valley and a stagecoach depot. Now, tourists can travel back in time to learn about the history of the area in this self-contained historic community complete with a blacksmith, church, and post office.  

One of my favorite hikes in the area is Rattlesnake Point. It’s a pretty easy one and good for all skill levels. You can reach the viewpoint from a few different connecting trails, but the best place to start is at the Jade and Juniper parking lots, off of Kidston Road, leaving Vernon.

This will take you on a 4 km trail (2.5 mi), climbing just 70 meters (230 feet) to reach the view from Rattlesnake Point at the tip of Kalamalka Lake – absolutely stunning! It’s worth bringing a picnic lunch or some snacks to sit up here and take it all in!  

There are some nice bed and breakfasts in the area to spend a night and enjoy the lake views. Try Okeefe’s Landing BnB right on the shores of Okanagan Lake. It has a private beach and dock with rooms facing the lake and a fantastic homemade breakfast. 

4. Silver Star  

Skiing at Silver Star Ski Resort
Let’s gooooo!

No matter what season you’re driving from Kelowna to Banff in, a stop at the Silver Star Mountain Resort is a fantastic addition to the trip. In the winter, this is a top-notch ski resort, and, in the summer, the mountain is great for biking and hiking.  

Silver Star is one of the oldest ski resorts in Canada and is a popular spot to hit the slopes. In fact, they even have hotels built right on the slopes for easy access. Try The Bulldog Hotel so you can wake up and hit the ski hill! There are also other great places to stay in the resort village.  

For great views without having to hike in the summer months, take the gondola to the top of the mountain to enjoy the views. It’s only $25 CAD per person and from the top, you can spot Vernon and Kalamalka Lake.  

5. Sicamous  

a houseboat hot tub on Shuswap lake near Sicamous, BC
Sicamous is a popular spot to go on a houseboat adventure!

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 don’t jump on the houseboat train then you can still enjoy the water from Sicamous Beach Park. It’s a beautiful public beach in town, with white sand beaches, shallow water, and plenty of amenities. It can be a fairly busy beach, though, especially during the summer!

Some quieter parks and beaches can be found by taking Highway 97A/BC-97A south from Sicamous along the coast of Mara Lake. About ten minutes away, turn right at Swansea Point Rd, and you will find a local beach there called Cambridge Road Community Park, which also has a white sand beach and shallow entry water but is typically a lot quieter.

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. The truth is there are plenty of fun things to do in Sicamous.

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 have been called BC’s Best Ice Cream – making this a must-visit if you have kids (or adults!) who love a treat.   

6. The Enchanted Forest

A house in the The Enchanted Forest near Revelstoke, BC
There’s so much more to explore in the The Enchanted Forest! Photo credit: The Enchanted Forest

Right on the Trans Canada Highway about halfway between Sicamous and Revelstoke is The Enchanted Forest. This is a fun stop, especially for kids, where you can climb the tallest treehouse in BC, paddle a rowboat in real beaver ponds or take a nature walk through the forest.  

There are cute little figurines from fairy tales and nursery rhymes throughout the property along with a castle and very regal-looking 800-year-old cedar trees. Admission is $14 CAD and includes a variety of activities on the property.  

For more fun, the Skytrek Adventure Park is located right next door. It has zip lines, a treetop obstacle course, climbing walls, and jungle gyms for the little ones. Both of these parks are open seasonally from May until October.  

7. Three Valley Gap  

Three Valley Lake chateau in Revelstoke
Easily the most beautifully located hotels in Revelstoke!

This is a unique stop on your road trip where there’s a modern resort along with a historic ghost town in the same location. It’s a beautiful area surrounded by the Monashee Mountains and the Lake of Three Valleys.  

There’s a good hotel here if you want to be close to Revelstoke, but not stay in town. The Three Valley Lake Chateau has 200 guest rooms as well as a beach, swimming pool, and indoor and outdoor gardens. Bring your own equipment to fish, sail, or water ski on the lake here too.  

If you’re just passing through, the Ghost Town which was leftover from the gold rush of 1862 when thousands of people came to this area is definitely worthwhile. There are more than 25 historic buildings that have been restored here including an auto museum.  

8. Revelstoke 

The Revelstoke sightseeing gondola travels up the mountain during summer in Revelstoke, BC
Revelstoke sightseeing gondola
The rail of the Pipe Mountain Coaster in Revelstoke traveling down the mountain
The rail for the Pipe Mountain Coaster

Revelstoke is a small town between the Selkirk and Monashee mountains and is easy to get to on the Trans Canada Highway on the drive from Kelowna to Banff. It’s a nice spot all year, but Revelstoke in the winter truly transforms into a winter paradise. The town holds the record for the most snowfall in Canada in a single winter with 80 feet of snow!  

The Revelstoke Mountain Resort is a must-visit and is literally right in town, so it’s easy to get to. The skiing is fantastic and the ski hills aren’t too busy when compared to other hills in Canada.

If you’re here in the summer, the ski hills transform into downhill mountain biking courses. You can rent bikes right from the resort for a fun activity in Revelstoke. Also, try out the Pipe Mountain Coaster – a cool gravity-fed roller coaster that flies down the hill. It feels like a real roller coaster and was super fun!  

At Revelstoke Mountain Resort, they also have a gondola ride up to the top of the resort to give you an amazing view. Make sure to take both gondolas to see a panoramic view of the valley – it’s incredible! It only costs $35 CAD to ride.

If you haven’t yet learned how to ski or aren’t great at it you can still enjoy cross-country skiing which is much easier and still gives you the chance to explore some snow-covered trails.

The Revelstoke Nordic Ski Club where you can rent skis and access groomed trails (perfect for beginners). They have lots of information on which winter trails are accessible and the last time they were groomed, all of which can be found on their website.

If you want to enjoy the cool glacier water of the Illecillewaet River there is an opportunity to book a whitewater rafting adventure for $141 CAD. Or opt for a more gentle river float tour for $77 CAD on the Colombia River – one of Canada’s most famous rivers! Either way, the abundance of natural scenery in either location is sure to make you feel alive!

As you can see, the best things to do in Revelstoke are all about the outdoors!

Where to stay in Revelstoke

Stoke Hotel is a very good budget option that includes breakfast. It’s located right in town and has really good reviews!

Another option is Coast Hillcrest Hotel is a highly rated hotel that offers guests a comfortable stay at a reasonable price. They have an onsite fitness center, sauna, hot tub, as well as a restaurant. The location is central and the large selection of room types means there is something suitable for everyone including families.

For more ideas on where to stay, you can check out our blog on the best places to stay in Revelstoke.

9. Mount Revelstoke National Park  

Sitting on a viewpoint in Mount Revelstoke National park
Mount Revelstoke National Park is stunning!

Mount Revelstoke National Park has breathtaking views and is easily accessible because you can drive right into the park and even up to the summit of Mount Revelstoke. Once here, I recommend parking in the summit parking lot and hiking on one of the many trails.  

Try out the Eva Lake Trail to see the mountain peak reflected in the clear waters. The hike here is about 12 km (7.5 miles) round-trip and is great for spotting bears. This park is also famous for its wildflower meadows that you just have to see – bring your camera!  

Another great hike here is the Giant Cedars Boardwalk – it’s located about 30 km (18.6 miles) east along the same highway you’ve been traveling on. Look for the Giant Cedars Picnic Area sign on the road and then start the hike from the parking lot. The entire trail is on a wooden boardwalk making it an easy walk for all levels of hiking. Many of the trees here are more than 500 years old!  

The best thing about Mount Revelstoke is that you can drive right up to the top of Mount Revelstoke via the Meadows in the Sky Parkway. At the top, there’s a car park from where many of the hiking trails start. Even just the drive itself is worth a few beautiful viewpoints along the way.

Note: Mount Revelstoke National Park and the next few national parks mentioned in this blog require a Parks Canada Pass to visit them, you’ll need to purchase a Parks Canada pass. More info about this pass can be found below:

10. Canyon Hot Springs Resort  

Bailey at the Canyon Hot Springs Resort in Revelstoke
Canyon Hot Springs!

Soaking in BC hot springs with mountain views is so relaxing and the perfect way to take a break from your Kelowna to Banff road trip. The Canyon Hot Springs Resort is only about 20 minutes from Revelstoke. The mineral waters here were supposedly discovered more than 100 years ago by railway workers.  

The water is piped right from the spring to a hot mineral soaking pool and a swimming pool. You can spend a couple of nights here at the resort and rent a cabin to get free admission to the hot springs. You can camp here too, but hot springs admission isn’t included. Or if you just want to take a dip, a single swim is $16.50 CAD.  

11. Glacier National Park and Rogers Pass  

Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail in Glacier National Park
Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail!

Glacier National Park is located right on this drive and is a great place to spot bears, mountain goats, and other wildlife. The ancient forests here with old cedars and alpine meadows make for beautiful hiking 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.  

12. Golden 

Bailey walks away from the camera at the Golden Suspension Bridge in Golden, BC
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared.
Golden Suspension bridge with a river below
The skybridge!

Golden is a small town surrounded by some big scenery in the Canadian Rockies. It’s a great place to base yourself to explore the six national parks nearby or to take a break for the day to enjoy what the community has to offer.  

One of the newest attractions is the Golden Skybridge which is actually two bridges including Canada’s highest suspension bridge. It’s 130 meters (426 feet) above a canyon. I’ve walked across here and the views of the Columbia Valley are breathtaking – I even spotted a waterfall!  

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is one of the best things to experience in Golden in the winter. With more than 100 trails and lots of groomed runs to explore. The mountains have a steep vertical drop here (the 4th largest in North America!) – so it’s a great challenge for even the most experienced skiers. If you come to the resort in the summer, you can see Boo the rescued bear at the Grizzly Bear Interpretive Center.  

While exploring downtown Golden, drop in for a beer at Whitetooth Brewing Co. They have Belgian and West Coast-inspired beers that are great to enjoy after a day on the slopes. If you’re here in the summer, check out the large patio and enjoy the sunshine.

A good place to continue 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.

The best way to experience the Kicking Horse River that flows through Golden is to go whitewater rafting, it’s such an adrenaline rush! With grade 3-4 rapids, it’s one of the best rivers in Canada to go rafting. There are a number of tour groups that you can join, such as this full-day tour. For $110 CAD, you will get a 5-hour experience out on the river. All equipment is included, along with a buffet lunch! You will also have an expert guide leading the way and keeping you safe.

Where to stay in Golden

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

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.

For a more private stay that is only half a mile from town and a rate that won’t break the bank look into Glenogle Mountain Lodge and Spa. Not only does it have exceptional views of the mountains, a hot tub, and a billiard table but it is also quiet – except for the stream that flows past the property.

If you aren’t quite ready to leave Golden just yet, check out the best places to stay in Golden.

13. Wapta Falls 

Only 30 minutes from Golden is one of the nicest waterfalls I’ve ever seen. Wapta Falls is gorgeous and the hike to get there isn’t too bad at all. It’s a short hike of about 2 km (1.2 miles) and it’s easy enough for kids.  

You’ll find the start of the trail at the Wapta Falls turnoff right off the Trans Canada Highway and within Yoho National Park. Bring your lunch or a snack to really take some time and enjoy the view of this magnificent waterfall. It’s worth it!  

14. Field and Yoho National Park 

Bailey sits on a railing and poses for a photo at Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
It’s a stunning place!

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.  Spoil yourself and stay a night at the Emerald Lake Lodge on the edge of the lake.

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.

15. Lake Louise 

A lady stands at the Lake Louise forshore
The stunning Lake Louise!

Lake Louise is one of my favorite places in the whole country! The turquoise lakes, mountain views, and incredible skiing and hiking make this small village in the Rocky Mountains one you absolutely can’t drive by.  

The best way to see Lake Louise itself is at the waterfront. As soon as you pull up, you can get out of the car and be in awe of the mountains and the incredibly blue lake. It’s paved, so it’s easy to get to and you’ll want to grab some photos here for sure! If you visit Lake Louise in the winter, the lake completely freezes over and becomes the ultimate skating rink. It’s free to skate on, so make sure to bring your skates or rent a pair.  

Of course, if you’re here in the winter the Lake Louise Ski Resort is absolutely top-notch for winter sports fun. It’s one of the largest ski resorts in North America with 4,200 acres on four mountains. There’s something for everyone from beginners to experts with gentle slopes and wide-open bowls. Regardless of what season you visit, there is plenty to see and do in Lake Louise!

The only lake here that rivals the beauty of Lake Louise is the amazing Moraine Lake! It holds a special place in my heart because Dan proposed to me here. The backdrop of this lake is the famous 10 Peaks – these mountains soar high above the lake creating a stunning backdrop. The best view is from the Rockpile (literally a huge pile of rocks) which creates a viewing platform of the lake.  

For hiking, the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is my personal favorite! The trail isn’t overly difficult and the terrain in summer is not technical but there is a drastic elevation gain. It takes around 5 hours on average to complete.

Note: From May 13th until October 10th, you’ll be required to pay $21.00 CAD per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise Lakefront (2023 updated price). The paid parking is in effect from 7 am until 7 pm daily.  

Where to Stay in Lake Louise

There are lots of different places to choose from when it comes to accommodation in Lake Louise.

If you want to stay in Lake Louise town, consider the Lake Louise Inn, or the budget-friendly HI Lake Louise Hostel. Dan and I often stay at the HI Hostel and think it’s clean, comfortable, and great value for money.

For a little luxury or to spoil yourself, don’t miss the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. This is arguably the most beautiful hotel in Canada set in the most beautiful location (right on the lake!)

16. Johnston Canyon  

Views from the upper viewpoint at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Views from the upper viewpoint at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park

If you have time, detour off the Trans Canada Highway onto the Bow Valley Parkway. This stretch of road from Lake Louise to Banff winds through forest and meadows with beautiful views and great places to stop along the way. It’s quieter than the main highway and only about 48 kilometers (30 miles)– well worth turning off onto.  

One of the places to stop along the parkway is Johnston Canyon. You can walk along the boardwalk next to the canyon or take a longer hike in the area. The hikes here are incredible (some of the best hikes in Banff!) with seven glacial waterfalls cascading over rocky cliffs. It’s open all year and is free to get to.

The waterfalls freeze over in the cold creating giant icicles hanging over the cliffs which are amazing to see.  

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.

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

17. Banff  

Evelyns Cafe in Banff, Canada
Walking Banff with a coffee!
Bow Falls in Banff
Bow Falls in Banff

You’ve arrived! The epic road Kelowna to Banff road trip is complete, but the fun isn’t over yet. Banff is a great mountain town full of things to do, including some pretty epic tours. It’s a contrast from some of the quieter places on the drive, which is great!    

Take a stroll down Banff Ave right in the middle of town. The views from this street are incredible too with the mountains in the background. I recommend grabbing some souvenirs from Cool as a Moose souvenir shop, saltwater taffy from the Banff Candy Store, and a craft beer at the Banff Ave Brewing Co.  

In the winter, be sure to hit the slopes. With a few different ski resorts only a short drive away, Banff is an amazing winter destination.

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

  • Relax in the Banff Upper Hot Springs – Just a short 5-minute drive up Sulphur Mountain you’ll find the Banff Upper Hot Springs, a public hot spring with incredible mountain views! These are some of the top Alberta hot springs since they are easy to get to and very affordable. At only $16.50 CAD per adult and $53 CAD for a family, even those on a budget can enjoy one of the best Banff attractions. (It’s even a great activity to do in Banff when it’s raining).
  • Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain – The Banff Gondola is possibly the singular most popular thing to do in Banff – and for good reason! From the top of the Banff Gondola, the views of the mountains and Banff town are out of this world. The first time I rode the gondola was during my first Christmas in Banff and I loved it! At the top of the gondola, you’ll find a restaurant and cafe, a gift shop, lots of information on the area and wildlife, as well as my personal favorite, the boardwalk!
  • Check out the Bow Falls Lookout – The Bow River is a stunning river that runs through the heart of Banff. Turquoise in color, it is nothing short of picture-perfect. A short 1.5 km (0.9 mi) scenic walk from Banff town (or drive) you’ll come to the Bow Falls viewpoint on the river’s edge. Here, not only will you see the river, but also the Bow River Waterfall!
  • Cave and Basin National Historic Site – Another great place to visit in Banff is Cave and Basin Historic Site. Here you can see some historic hot springs that are home to a rare species of snail. The museum is the main attraction in my eyes and it is very interactive and fun especially for kids. You’ll find lots of information about Banff and the surrounding area.
  • Go on a canoe ride – Get out on the water and experience Banff from a whole new perspective in a large canoe. On this canoe tour, you’ll paddle in the Bow River, taking in stunning mountain vistas along the way. The ride is a nice short tour at 1.5 hours long and costs only $70 CAD per person. A guide and all safety equipment are included.
  • Indulge in a luxury food tourDid you know that you can also join this food tour that explores the many different rooms inside the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel? Food and drink pairings are included from 4 of the property’s high-end restaurants for $206 CAD. What a unique activity for foodies!

Related Read: If you want to start a similar road trip from Alberta, here are the best stops on the drive from Edmonton to Kelowna!

Where to Stay in Banff, Canada

At the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
Me, at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

This is one of the most important parts of your trip, and in Banff, the selection can be overwhelming and expensive. There are lots of different areas to consider when it comes to deciding where to stay in Banff National Park. There are also plenty of great hotels in Banff town to consider. Below are some amazing hotels we recommend:

Samesun Banff Hostel (Low Budget)

A great budget hostel with dorm rooms. Perfect for those on a tight budget. Expect to pay around $55 CAD for a bed in a mixed dorm room. It’s located right in the middle of town and just a short walk to bars and hotels. A free breakfast is also included every morning and there is fast wifi!

High Country Inn (Low Budget)

While the High Country Inn is still a budget range where you can get a private queen hotel room for as low as $139 CAD there is also the option for upgrades like a king room with a jet tub or a one-bedroom suite with a balcony.

A fridge and tea and coffee maker are part of each room. The property offers an indoor pool, a cedar sauna, and a hot tub for your enjoyment.

You can book the High County Inn on

Banff Inn  (Moderate Budget)

The Banff Inn is in the perfect price and luxury range. It’s still affordable but also comes with lots of luxuries, the first being the location and the mountains right behind the hotel.

The rooms are spacious, clean, and modern. Expect to pay around 350 CAD or more during peak season. There is an on-site restaurant that serves things like pizza and burgers and a bar and lounge where you can wind down with a glass of wine in the evenings.

You can book the Banff Inn on

Banff Rocky Mountian Resort (Moderate Budget)

Pushing up into the mid-range budget this hotel is sure to please. It is located just 2 miles from town so you are close by for convenience but not right in all the noise. All the rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, each has either a kitchenette or a full kitchen. The price for summer per night will be a minimum of at least $300 CAD.

This beautiful property has an indoor swimming pool, indoor and outdoor hot tub, gym, tennis courts, and more! You can dine right at the Alpha Bistro which is located in the main building.

You can book the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort on

Fairmont Banff Springs (Luxury)

This is easily the most luxurious hotel in Banff. If you’re saving by doing free things in Banff so you can splurge a little more on your accommodation, this is the spot to do it! It’s not cheap but the place is simply incredible (pictured above)! The mountain views and stunning grounds are just the beginning.

The rooms are very comfortable some of them offering mountain views. The price per night begins at an average of $1,200 CAD but it varies on the season and type of room. If you like to eat and shop there are 11 different restaurants and 14 shops to explore. Then go bowling, pamper yourself in the spa, relax in the hot tub, or go for a swim in the pool.

Expect the staff to go above and beyond to make you feel like royalty. If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon, then this should be the hotel you choose!

You can book the Fairmont Banff Springs on

Important info: Accommodation in Banff can be tricky. For starters, you need to book well in advance if you want to have a large selection. In the peaks of winter and summer, Banff often books out months in advance.

For this reason, I highly suggest booking a place ASAP! Using is great too because lots of hotels offer free cancellation so just lock in a place (or two) for now and make the final decision later!

Essentials to Know Before Driving from Kelowna to Banff

Trans Canada Highway near Revelstoke, BC with mountain views
Trans Canada Highway near Revelstoke!
  • The drive from Kelowna to Banff is 480 kilometers (298 miles) and can be done in under six hours if you don’t stop. However, this is some of the most beautiful scenery in Canada, so don’t rush! I’d recommend staying at least one night somewhere to break up the trip and ideally a couple of nights in places like Revelstoke and Lake Louise.  
  • In winter, (from October 1 to March 31), winter tires are mandatory on most B.C. highways and are essential for all those winding mountain roads.  
  • This drive spans two provinces, so be aware of the time change when you enter Alberta. Make sure to account for this if you have any tours or reservations for the second part of the trip.  
  • Fuel up with food and gas in Kelowna before you go, but don’t worry as there are so many places to stop along the way.  
  • If weather conditions are good and you have time, detour off the main highway to the Bow Valley Parkway from Lake Louise to Banff. It’s a great scenic route to end the trip!  
  • Bring your camera and good hiking shoes! There are so many amazing places to stop here, that you’ll have enough photos for a road trip scrapbook in no time.

Parks Canada Pass Quick Info

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

Single Daily Admission:

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

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

Group Daily Admission:

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

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

Parks Canada Discovery Pass

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Canada Travel Essentials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park
Thanks for reading!

There is no doubt in my mind that you are going to have an unbelievably epic road trip driving from Kelowna to Banff! There is so much to see and do at each of the stops as you visit and explore some of Canada’s most spectacular gems.

I hope this blog post has you feeling excited and prepared as you embark on your drive from Kelowna to Banff. As always, if you have any questions please feel free to reach out! And be sure to check out some of our other Canada posts:

Best restaurants in Lake Louise

Best wineries in Kelowna

Free things to do in Banff

20 BEST Stops on the Drive from Edmonton to Banff (+The BEST Route!)