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Two of the most popular mountain towns in Canada, Revelstoke and Banff, are conveniently located quite close to each other. It’s a short and scenic 3.5-hour drive between the two and as you can imagine, it’s one of the most popular road trips to take in Western Canada.
These two scenic towns are home to epic ski resorts and are often included in the top 10 lists of the best ski resorts in North America. In the warmer seasons, there’s heaps to do in both destinations too including hiking, dining out, and even adrenaline-pumping activities like downhill mountain biking.
So, not only will you be starting and finishing this road trip in two of my favorite towns in Canada but you will also be spoiled with views of turquoise-blue canyons, mighty waterfalls, and two of the most spectacular lakes in the world on your way.
In this blog post, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the drive from Revelstoke to Banff as well as listing no less than 11 places you must stop at along the way! This road trip also works in reverse order if you’re driving from Revelstoke to Banff.
About the Drive from Revelstoke to Banff (or Banff to Revelstoke)
The drive from Revelstoke to Banff is short at just 287 kilometers (178 miles) and will take approximately 3.5 hours without stops. But there are so many awesome stops on this route that I advise allowing at least a full day for this road trip. Ideally, and if time allows break the journey up with a night in Golden or Lake Louise and truly take your time to enjoy one of the most scenic drives in Canada.
The route follows the Trans-Canada Highway BC-1 N and is considered an easy drive, although it can get pretty busy especially at weekends during the winter and summer so allow sufficient time for traffic delays. The route passes through several National Parks including Mount Revelstoke National Park, Glacier National Park, Yoho National Park, and Banff National Park. You’ll also pass through some beautiful “touristy towns including Golden and Lake Louise.
In the winter it is essential to have winter or all-weather tires for this drive, as it can get pretty icy around Yoho National Park and as you drive into Banff. During the summer, you will need to watch out for wildlife – deers, elk, and even bears can sometimes venture onto the highway!
Important Note: Until winter 2024, there are significant roadworks on a section of the road east of Golden. It is called the Kicking Horse Canyon Project, and delays can be up to 30 minutes during the day, and this 5 km section is closed at night so you will need to take an alternative route via Radium Hot Springs. You can read all about the roadworks here.
BEST Places to Stop when Driving between Revelstoke and Banff
Revelstoke is a small town between the Selkirk and Monashee mountains and it’s where you will start your epic road trip to Banff.
There’s so much to do in this mountain town and it’s a nice spot to visit year-round, 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!
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!
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.
Related read: Check out the best places to stay in Revelstoke.
2. Mount Revelstoke National Park
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!
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 find more info on the Parks Pass below:
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks 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 one day.
- 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 upfront, 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 of booths at the entrance to many national parks.
3. Glacier National Park
This road trip takes you right through the middle of Glacier National Park as you drive out of Revelstoke and make your way towards Golden. The road through Glacier National Park is called “Rogers Pass” as you climb through the mountain pass. On this stretch of road, you may observe plenty of wildlife including bears and mountain goats in beautiful ancient forests with old cedars and alpine meadows which really set the scene.
The park is accessed by the trans-Canada highway (between Revelstoke and Golden) and all the hiking trails and campsites are located in parking lots just off the road. There is a range of hiking trails in the park and the area is well known as a great place to spot bears and other wildlife.
From Revelstoke, it takes around 20-minutes to reach the entrance of the park and another 30-minutes or so to drive through the park.
Make a point of visiting the park’s Rogers Pass National Historic Site. Hike along Canada’s first coast-to-coast railway route, which is now decommissioned. The visitor center has a plethora of historical information about the area as well as the wildlife you can find in the area.
You’ll also have the opportunity to check out some amazing hikes like the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk, which is a series of boardwalks through the forest, or Bear Creek Falls which provides lovely waterfall views. Bear Creek Falls only takes around 15-20 minutes so it’s the perfect short hike on your road trip from Revelstoke to Banff!
Note: If you plan on stopping in either Mount Revelstoke National Park, Glacier National Park, Yoho National Park, or Banff 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, British Columbia is a small town of just around 4,000 people in the Canadian Rockies. 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.
The town of Golden also has some amazing restaurants, shops, bars, and cultural attractions to offer.
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:
- Walk the Golden Skybridge – Why not start off with Golden’s newest attraction? The Golden Skybridge is Canada’s highest suspension bridge and it only just open in the summer of 2021! At 130 meters (426 feet) above the canyon, you’ll experience such a thrill walking over it and taking in all the amazing views of the Columbia Valley. If walking along a suspension bridge is not enough for you, there is also a zipline experience and ropes course. I also hear rumors that a canyon swing will open one day too – how cool!
- Go whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse – The best way to experience the river is to go whitewater rafting! Whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River is 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 $112 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.
- Explore downtown Golden – You’ll be pretty busy with all the different outdoor recreation activities around Golden, but don’t forget the town itself! 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.
- Visit the Wolf Centre – Wolves are only one of the many magnificent creatures that may be 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.
- 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 if you’re in Golden in the winter months.
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.
5. Wapta Falls
Located just under 30 minutes from Golden is Wapta Falls. It’s the largest waterfall on the Kicking Horse River in Yoho National Park at 18 meters tall and a whopping 107 meters wide!
What’s cool about these falls, is that if the water levels in the river are low you can walk out to the islands in the middle of the river for a closer look at these mighty falls. Beware though, you will get wet from the spray of the falls.
In my opinion, Wapta Falls is one of the most gorgeous waterfalls I’ve ever seen and the hike to get there is an easy 2 kilometer (1.2 miles) hike on a mostly gravel path. It will take most people about 1.5 hours to complete. It’s a family-friendly hike although there is a 60 meter downhill section as you approach the falls, that you will need to walk back up on your return. Thankfully, it’s not too much of a workout!
You’ll find the start of the trail at the Wapta Falls turnoff right off the Trans Canada Highway. Pack a picnic and take some time and enjoy the view of this magnificent waterfall. It’s worth it!
6. Emerald Lake/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. 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.
7. Lake Louise
Lake Louise, in my opinion, is a must-see destination in Alberta! Spend a night or two even, if you can. At the very least a few hours. Not only is there a lake here, but also a little village and the world-famous Lake Louise Ski Resort.
Visit The Station if you’re looking for a wonderful supper. Not only is the cuisine delicious, but it’s also located within a historic train museum! It’s just one of the many delicious restaurants in Lake Louise that you can choose from.
If you’re visiting Lake Louise in the winter, skiing at Lake Louise Ski Resort is a must! It had always been on Daniel and I’s bucket list. We went once in the summer and took the tourist gondola, which was enormous and had spectacular views. But Daniel and I have always wanted to ski and snowboard there for ourselves (I ski and Daniel snowboards).
As of recent, we had our chance to hit the slopes and it was every bit as epic as we had imagined. This ski resort is huge with so many runs, both on the front side and backside of the mountain. We spent 8 hours exploring and still could’ve used more time!
Note: From June until mid-October, you’ll be required to pay $12.25 per vehicle per day to park at Lake Louise lakefront (2022 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!)
Related Read: Check out our guide to parking in Lake Louise including fees and how to score a spot!
8. Moraine Lake
Just a short 14-kilometer (8.7-mile) drive from Lake Louise is Moraine Lake. Although technically one of the best places to check out while you’re visiting Lake Louise, I think it deserves a mention as a stop on its own – it’s just that stunning.
You’ve likely seen Moraine Lake photos on Instagram before, it is one of the most photographed places in all of Canada. The towering Ten Peaks are the backdrop for the brightest blue lake you’ve probably ever seen.
Besides just enjoying the view, there are actually lots of different things to do at Moraine Lake including hiking the Larch Valley Trail and Consolation Lakes Trail. It really is a special place, and if you can, spend an entire day exploring here and taking it all in!
One thing to note is that Moraine Lake is only open from the end of May to October annually, so if you’re driving from Revelstoke to Banff in winter, this is one stop you’re going to have to give a miss.
Hot tip: Getting to Moraine Lake can be challenging as parking is limited. Read our blog about parking at Moraine Lake for info on snagging a spot or catching the shuttle.
9. Morant’s Curve
From Moraine Lake you will need to head back on yourself and drive into Lake Louise to get to your next stop. From Lake Louise, drive on the Bow Valley Parkway for just over 6 kilometers and soon, you’ll come to a popular viewpoint called Morant’s Curve.
Near the Bow River’s bend, where trains typically pass by with a gorgeous mountain backdrop, this is an excellent place to stop for a photo. Keep a watch out for the viewing signs and park across the highway in the little parking lot.
The best photos are captured when a train approaches the bend and is perfectly framed in the photo. On a weekday, when trains operate every hour or so, is the best time to catch a train.
This is without a doubt one of the best photo stops of your entire road trip. Honestly, you just have to stop here and snap a few photos!
Related Read: Morant’s Curve is one of the best stops on the drive from Lake Louise to Banff!
10. Johnston Canyon
28 kilometers (17.4 miles) down the scenic Bow Valley Parkway is the famed Johnston Canyon. It’s one of the most popular stops on the drive between Revelstoke and Banff. It’s located just 30 minutes from Banff, which means, it can get pretty busy at weekends. My top tip is to get here early to grab a parking spot. In fact, if you want a tranquil experience try to visit in Spring or Fall.
There are two waterfalls here, the Lower and Upper Falls. From the car park it’s an easy walk at just 1.2 kilometers to the Lower Falls, and an extra 1.3 kilometers to the Upper Falls. Along the trail, you can view the turquoise water of the canyon below. Note, the water here is ‘bluest’ in the summer months which is why it’s such a popular time to visit – the photos you can get in the summer months are epic!
Similarly, in the winter the canyon freezes over making it seem like you’re walking in a winter wonderland. There are huge icicles hanging from the top of the waterfalls and the basalt cliffs surrounding it – it’s a magical experience and as you can imagine, draws some big crowds. It’s important to note that you will need crampons to hike the trail in the winter, so if you don’t have those, it’s probably best to book a guided ice walk tour.
Top tip: If you can’t find a parking space, or if you don’t have a car you can hop on the Route 9 public bus here from Banff.
Note: There will be some closures to vehicle traffic on sections of the Bow Valley Parkway this year (2022). From May 1-June 30 and then again from Sept 1-Sept 30 vehicles will NOT be able to drive the 17km 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. You will still be able to access Johnston Canyon and the Bow Valley Parkway via the intersection near Castle Mountain Chalets.
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.
The downtown area is very quaint and there are many awesome options for places to eat, drink, and shop. With the mountains as the backdrop to Banff Ave, it’s a beautiful place to base yourself in Banff National Park.
Many visitors base themselves here for a ski holiday due to the fact that you have great access to Sunshine and Norquay – both are within a 15-minute drive of town. Plus, when you’re done on the slopes, you can enjoy all that Banff has to offer including some Apres Ski drinks at a couple of the breweries in Banff.
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 $9.25 CAD per adult and $29.00 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
This is one of the most important parts of your trip and in Banff, the selection can be overwhelming and expensive. Below are some great hotels we recommend, but if you’d like more info check out our best hotels in downtown Banff blog as well as our guide to the best areas to stay in Banff National Park. Both articles include options for everyone’s budget and travel style!
Samesun Banff Hostel – A great budget hostel with dorm rooms. Perfect for those on a tight budget.
King Edward Hotel – A budget range hotel where you still get a private room for a great price.
Banff Inn – The Banff Inn is in the perfect price and luxury range. It’s still cheap but also comes with lots of luxuries.
Banff Rocky Mountian Resort – Pushing up into the mid-range budget this hotel has a swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and all the rooms have kitchenettes or full kitchens.
Fairmont Banff Springs – 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!) If you’re visiting Banff on a honeymoon, then this should be the hotel you choose!
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 Booking.com 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!
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 handy 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!
Banff and Revelstoke are two of my favorite towns in Canada and I just know that you’ll love them, and the drive between them as much as I do! I’m sure you’re surprised at the sheer amount of awesome stops between the two destinations and are itching to hop into your car and take in all the breathtaking sights on the drive from Revelstoke to Banff!
If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also enjoy some of our other blog posts about Banff. Some of my favorites include: