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8 BEST Calgary Road Trip Itineraries (From 1 Day to 14 Days)

8 BEST Calgary Road Trip Itineraries (From 1 Day to 14 Days)

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Are you planning a road trip out of Calgary? Nice choice! We’ve crisscrossed Western Canada more times than I can count, and I have good news – you’ll never be in short supply of awe-inspiring views and exciting adventures!

However, you might be a bit overwhelmed by all these options and need help getting started. That’s why we’re here! We have put together 8 different road trip itineraries that range from 1 to 14 days. They cover the iconic Rocky Mountain highlights and also some underrated areas that only locals frequent.

The itineraries also offer tons of flexibility so you can adjust the stops to fit your time, budget, and interests. So you’re bound to find one that suits your needs!

About the Best Calgary Road Trips

Stunning highway through the Kananaskis in Alberta
Stunning highway through the Kananaskis in Alberta
Bailey stands on the edge of Lake Agnes on the Lake Agnes Teahouse hike
Seeing Lake Agnes on the Tea House Trail!

Starting your road trip from Calgary is the most convenient option, as this is where the closest airport to the Rockies is! No matter where you’re based in the world, you can easily fly into Calgary International Airport, rent a car, and take off on your road trip. I always rent through Discover Cars because it’s so easy to compare prices and features and book on their platform.

Once you’ve got wheels, you can use these itineraries as a general guideline or tailor them to fit your own travel style. Feel free to skip certain places you’ve already been to, add in other activities, and spend a few extra days in areas you really love! After going to Jasper and Banff, I’m sure you’ll want additional time – there is just too much to see to fit into these itineraries!

For the sake of planning and organization, we specified the general amount of time needed for each trip. But just like the stops I mentioned above, these are all recommendations! You can truly adapt this agenda to your own. If you’re a slow traveler and want to stretch it to a multi-week adventure, or are trying to see it all in a few days – you can do that! 

1. The Icefields Parkway (1 to 2 days)

Icefields Parkway Calgary to Jasper roadtrip map

Start: Calgary 
Finish: Jasper
Duration: 1-2 days
Distance: 413 kilometers (257 miles)

Stops are:

  • Banff 
  • Lake Louise 
  • Crowfoot Glacier
  • Bow Lake 
  • Peyto Lake 
  • Waterfowl Lakes
  • Mistaya Canyon
  • Saskatchewan River Crossing 
  • Weeping Wall 
  • Big Bend Viewpoint
  • Columbia Icefield
  • Tangle Creek Falls
  • Sunwapta Falls
  • Goats and Glacier Lookout
  • Athabasca Falls
  • Valley of the Five Lakes 

Just because this is the shortest road trip on this list, doesn’t mean it’s lacking in any way! In fact, you’ll be traveling through our favorite part of the Canadian Rockies – the Icefields Parkway. This is probably the most beautiful road we’ve ever driven on, and there are epic stops along the way too. Best of all, it’s a convenient way to get from Calgary to Jasper, the perfect launch point to explore the Rockies. 

Looking at the list of 16 different stops along the way, you probably think we are crazy for suggesting this will only take 1-2 days! But, don’t fret – we’ve done this ourselves and a lot of these stops are viewpoints or photo ops, so it moves really quickly. For more details on each destination, read our blog about the best stops between Calgary and Jasper (which actually includes a few bonus stops!).

However, I would say that all of these stops are rather difficult to squeeze into just one day, so we prefer to break it up into two! If you want a place to rest and recoup, check out our guide on where to stay or camp on the Icefields Parkway here

the ice explorer athabasca glacier bus drives on the glacier with a mountain backdrop
The optional Ice Explorer Expedition is a must-do!
Scenic road down the Icefields Parkway in Canada
It also means you don’t have to drive and can enjoy the views!

While the entire route is impressive, our most memorable destination is the Columbia Icefield. We try to stop here as often as we can because exploring the tremendous Athabasca Glacier never gets old!

We highly recommend joining this Ice Explorer Tour, as it drives you right on top of the massive glacier. You get incredible views here, and it also includes your ticket to the Glacier Skywalk, which is a suspended glass viewing structure over the icefield – talk about views! 

We also love the option to join a guided Icefields Parkway tour from Calgary if you aren’t keen on driving. This tour hits our top spots along the parkway (including the Athabasca Glacier) and you can gaze out the window at the incredible mountains all day. It’s a great option if you have just one day to explore and want to learn all about this unique place.

I recommend reading our full guide to the Icefields Parkway before you take off – there’s a ton of helpful information that will make your journey seamless!

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!

2. Badlands Explorer from Calgary (2 to 3 days)

Calgary to Drumheller roadtrip map

Start: Calgary
Finish: Drumheller
Duration: 2-3 days
Distance: 155 kilometers (96 miles) plus driving to attractions

Stops are:

  • Horseshoe Canyon
  • Drumheller
  • Midland Provincial Park
  • Horsethief Canyon
  • Willow Creek Hoodoos
  • Atlas Coal Mine

If you’ve ever traveled through a badland area, you know how unique this type of landscape is! Drumheller sits within this barren landscape, but its claim to fame is being the dinosaur capital of the world! There have been 50 different dino species found in this area, so if you love prehistoric fossils and museums, you’ll enjoy Drumheller. 

The drive from Calgary to Drumheller is a quick 1.5-hour journey. We have a full guide on the drive from Calgary to Drumheller, but if I’m being honest, the drive itself isn’t very spectacular. So we usually grab some snacks, turn up the music, and drive straight to Drumheller. There is plenty to do in the badlands, so I suggest spending two nights. For all of our favorite activities in this area, check out our guide to things to do in Drumheller here!

Dinosaur fossil at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller
Fossils at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller!
Bailey poses with the Drumheller hoodoos
The hoodoos in Drumheller!

The Royal Tyrrell Museum is one of the best ways to see all of these dinosaurs, and it’s a super fun interactive museum. Kids especially love it, but let’s be honest – we had a blast here too! You can get the most epic Christmas card photo inside the mouth of the world’s largest dinosaur! 

To best explore the badlands scenery, we like to drive up to the Horsethief Canyon Lookout and stretch our legs by hiking the canyon trail. It’s a quick out-and-back hike that’s just shy of a kilometer (about half a mile). I honestly forgot I was in Alberta, as the scenery is so starkly different than the lush forests near the Rockies! They also have some unique hoodoos here, so enjoy the quirky landscape for a bit.

3. Taste of the Rocky Mountains from Calgary (5 to 6 Days)

Calgary to Canmore to Banff to Lake Louise to Jasper back to Calgary roadtrip map

Start: Calgary
End: Calgary
Duration: 5-6 days
Distance: 961 kilometers (597 miles)

Stops are:

  • Canmore (on the drive to Banff)
  • Banff
  • Lake Louise
  • Icefields Parkway (on the way to Jasper)
  • Jasper
  • Nordegg (on the way back to Calgary)

Looking to hit some iconic sites in a handful of days? We’ve got you covered here! This 5-6 day road trip itinerary will take you to Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper – the pinnacle of the Rocky Mountains! 

In Banff, our top things to do are ride the Banff Gondola for some epic views, relax in the hot springs, and hike to the Banff Hoodoos from Surprise Corner. Lake Louise is incredibly beautiful, so rent a canoe and get out on the water on a warm summer day. When you get to Jasper, check out Pyramid Lake and get your adrenaline pumping on this whitewater rafting tour on the Athabasca River. Of course, you’ll be traveling along the Icefields Parkway and enjoy all the scenic stops we described in the first itinerary. 

view of Banff town from up above on the Banff Gondola
The view of Banff from the Banff Gondola
Bailey stands on a rock at Lake Louise, Canada
Lake Louise is so pretty!

This road trip is a loop, so you won’t have to backtrack too far and will have a chance to get off the main tourist track. You’ll loop back to Calgary via the Rocky Mountain House, which passes through the Nordegg area. If we’re talking about incredibly scenic areas, wait until you see Crescent Falls and Abraham Lake! However, if you feel like you didn’t get enough of the main attractions on the way up to Jasper, you can always return to Calgary via the Icefields Parkway.

As we said, these itineraries are up for your interpretation, so make it a great experience for yourself!

Related Read: If you’re looking for the best trails, check out our guide to hiking in Banff – there’s a lot to choose from!

4. Rocky Mountain Highlights from Calgary (7 to 8 days)

Calgary to Banff to Radium Hot Springs to Golden to Revelstoke to Lake Louise back to Calgary roadtrip map

Start: Calgary
End: Calgary
Duration: 7-8 days
Distance: 922 kilometers (573 miles)

Stops are:

  • Banff
  • Kootenay National Park (visit while driving)
  • Radium Hot Springs
  • Golden
  • Glacier National Park (visit while driving)
  • Revelstoke
  • Yoho National Park (on the way to Lake Louise)
  • Lake Louise

While quick road trips are great, I love having a full week to explore and immerse myself in an area – which is exactly what this itinerary delivers! It will take you from the bustling streets of downtown Banff, up to Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots in Kootenay National Park. After that, you’ll slow down and enjoy the quaint town of Radium Hot Springs to hike, then soak your sore muscles in their legendary hot springs. To help you plan this stop, read about the best things to do in Radium Hot Springs here.

Another small town that we love is Golden, it’s the perfect pit stop or for an overnight. Golden was put on the map with their new suspension bridge, which is actually the highest suspension bridge in Canada. You can buy tickets for the Skybridge here, and we spent a few hours exploring, although you can show up whenever with these tickets. 

The drive continues through Glacier National Park (which is gorgeous) and to Revelstoke! I love Revelstoke because it’s another cute alpine town, but far less busy than Banff. There are so many fun things to do in Revelstoke. Hike to waterfalls, explore the national park, or play on the adult-sized obstacle course at the Aerial Adventure Park.

Bailey walks across the Golden Suspension Bridge in Golden, BC
The Golden Suspension Bridge in Golden, BC
A person canoes on Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, Canada
Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park!

The last leg of this journey will take you to Yoho National Park, home to Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge – both are unique sites to see! Then you’ll hit the famous Lake Louise, and I recommend hiking the Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail to get away from the crowds. As you head back to Calgary, make one bonus stop at Johnston Canyon – you won’t be disappointed!

5. Southern Alberta Trip from Calgary (7 to 9 days)

Calgary to Waterton Lake National Park to Fernie to Radium Hot Springs to Lake Louise to Banff back to Calgary roadtrip map

Start: Calgary
End: Calgary
Duration: 7-9 days
Distance: 960 kilometers (597 miles)

Stops are: 

  • Waterton Lakes National Park
  • Fernie
  • Radium Hot Springs
  • Kootenay National Park (on the way to Lake Louise)
  • Lake Louise
  • Icefields Parkway (on a day trip)
  • Banff

If you like to get off the beaten path a bit, then exploring Southern Alberta will be a great road trip for you! It isn’t as popular as some of the areas we’ve mentioned so far, but it certainly has its own unique beauty. You’ll see it right off the bat as you visit Waterton Lakes National Park, which is almost to the US border and has sprawling prairies, matched with those gorgeous Rocky Mountains. 

Next, you’ll hit our favorite town in Southern Alberta – Fernie! Honestly, this town is totally underrated as there are lots of hiking trails. I recommend stopping by the visitors center when you first arrive to get the most up-to-date information. Radium Hot Springs is a fantastic overnight stop, just enough time to take a dip in the hot springs, then spend a few days exploring Kootenay National Park

By now you’re well into the main hub of activity of Lake Louise, so plan on staying for two nights (if not more!). You can use this as your launch point for exploring the Icefields Parkway and the Athabasca Glacier.

Bailey relaxes on a rock at Lake Louise
Lake Louise is just down the road from Lake Louise Village!
Daniel on one of the large Ice Explorers on the Athabasca Glacier on a tour
Exploring Athabasca Glacier is a blast!

Finally, you’ll make your way to Banff and Canmore. We love both areas but are biased towards Canmore, as it is our home! My favorite hike here is Grassi Lakes, and Grotto Canyon is definitely worth a peek. Soon enough, you’ll loop back to Calgary.

6. Calgary to BC Loop (8 to 10 days)

Calgary to Jasper to Valemount to Vernon to Revelstoke to Golden to Lake Louise to Banff back to Calgary roadtrip map

Start: Calgary
End: Calgary
Duration: 8-10 days
Distance: 1,532 kilometers (952 miles)

Stops are:

  • Icefields Parkway (on the drive)
  • Jasper
  • Mount Robson National Park (on the drive)
  • Valemount
  • Vernon
  • Revelstoke
  • Golden
  • Yoho National Park (on the way to Lake Louise)
  • Lake Louise
  • Banff

The great thing about road trips out of Calgary is that there is no shortage of activities at your fingertips! So much so that we are crossing the Alberta border into British Columbia to maximize your adventures. This route is a loop, so it efficiently covers a lot of ground, starting with the iconic Icefields Parkway drive up to Jasper. Spend a few days in Jasper, then head through Mount Robson National Park to get to Valemount. 

Valemount is another one of those underrated cities in my opinion, and it’s a haven for outdoor adventurers. While we don’t mountain bike ourselves, this is the best place in the Rockies to do so. We personally have been ATVing and checked out Overlander Falls though – you can’t go wrong regardless of which activity you choose. See our full guide on things to do in Valemount here!

Stop by one of our favorite BC towns – Vernon. Davison Orchards is a top thing to do here, but for a hidden gem, stop by Ellison Provincial Park! Head up to Revelstoke to find Mt. Revelstoke Provincial Park for some hiking, then hop in the Canyon Hot Springs after to chill out for a bit.

Mount Robson, Berg glacier and Berg Lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park
Berg Lake and Glacier at Mount Robson
A grizzly bear eats grass on the Icefields Parkway
Grizzly spotting on the Icefields Parkway!

Golden is your next destination, where we love riding the sightseeing gondola! You won’t believe the incredible views you see from the sky. However, if you’re looking for a little adventure like we always are, join this whitewater rafting tour on the Kicking Horse River. There are a variety of tours on offer from family friendly to absolutely thrilling. We went on the more adventurous tour and had so much fun!

After all of this excitement, you still have a few days left! Explore Yoho National Park as you loop back into Alberta and hit Lake Louise and Banff. Of course, you’ll want to spend a few days here to cap off your road trip, and eventually head back to Calgary. 

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.

7. Rocky Mountain Explorer from Calgary (10 to 12 Days)

Calgary to Banff to Radium Hot Springs to Revelstoke to Golden to Lake Louise to Jasper back to Calgary roadtrip map

Start: Calgary
End: Jasper
Duration: 10-12 days
Distance: 1,389 kilometers (863 miles)

Stops are:

  • Canmore (on the drive)
  • Banff
  • Kootenay National Park (on the drive to Radium)
  • Radium Hot Springs
  • Revelstoke
  • Glacier National Park (on the way to Golden)
  • Golden
  • Yoho National Park (on the way to Lake Louise)
  • Lake Louise
  • Icefields Parkway (on the way to Jasper)
  • Jasper

We’ve listed a lot of epic road trips, but I think this Rocky Mountain Explorer route is the absolute best! It covers nearly all of the “can’t miss” areas and spans from 10 to 12 days, giving you plenty of time to explore. If road-tripping through this gorgeous area has been on your bucket list, this route is your best bet!

Departing Calgary, you’ll first stop in Canmore to explore. There’s truly so much to do in Canmore, I never get bored here. You’ll find some of the best mountain viewpoints, my favorite hikes, and 8th Street to grab a coffee and snacks!

We used to live in Canmore, and I might be a bit biased but we think this is the best area of the Rockies. It’s just 20 minutes outside of Banff, so spend about 2 nights in either city (hotels are cheaper in Canmore – check out our top stays here!). 

Make your way up through Kootenay National Park, stopping to hike the Boom Lake Trail, and then venture to Radium Hot Springs. By now you’ll find far fewer people and truly feel like you’re out in nature!

Hemlock Grove Boardwalk in Glacier National Park Canada
Hemlock Grove Boardwalk, Glacier National Park
Canmore Hoodoos in summer in Banff
There are some amazing hoodoos in Canmore!

The route continues through what we consider the “hidden gem territory” of Revelstoke and Golden, and then back through Yoho National Park. While hidden gems are great, the big-ticket attractions are popular for a reason, so spend some time exploring Lake Louise, the Icefields Parkway, and Jasper – they are so gorgeous you won’t believe your eyes!

Related Read: Be sure to check out Maligne Lake and Spirit Island while in Jasper. Here are our favorite Maligne Lake tours to take your experience to the next level!

8. Calgary to Vancouver Adventure (10 to 14 days)

Calgary to Vancouver roadtrip map

Start: Calgary
End: Vancouver
Duration: 10 to 14 days
Distance: 1,100 kilometers (684 miles)

Stops are:

  • Canmore (on the way)
  • Banff
  • Lake Louise
  • Icefields Parkway (visit for the day)
  • Yoho National Park (visit on the way to Golden)
  • Golden
  • Glacier National Park (on the way to Revelstoke)
  • Revelstoke
  • Vernon
  • Kamloops
  • Whistler
  • Squamish and Sea to Sky Highway (on the way to Vancouver)
  • Vancouver

Western Canada is impressively beautiful, from the Rocky Mountains to the rugged coast, and all the beautiful places in between. I love this road trip from Calgary to Vancouver because it truly showcases this area’s natural beauty. Plus, it’s super convenient as there are international airports in both cities and you won’t have to backtrack at all. 

We’ll give an overview of this route, but if you want more details check out our blog on the best stops between Calgary and Vancouver here!

Leaving Calgary, you’ll instantly hit the Rocky Mountains, so spend a few days in Banff and Lake Louise, exploring the Icefields Parkway and surrounding areas. We also love the small-town vibes of Golden, Revelstoke, and Vernon. Vernon gets into the wine country of the Okanagan Valley, so be sure to enjoy a glass (or a whole bottle!). You can learn more about this town on our best things to do in Vernon blog.

Two people come down the Sasquatch Zipline as seen from the bottom
Sasquatch Zipline near Whistler!
The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, Sea to Sky Gondola
The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, Sea to Sky Gondola

We always stop in Kamloops, since the scenery really changes as you hit this point. You can see the best of it by walking the Rivers Trail and spending time in Kenna Cartwright Nature Park. You’ll head towards the coast, and stopping in Whistler is a must, especially if you love world-class skiing and outdoor adventure. One of my favorite activities here is the Sasquatch Zipline – it’s terrifying, but also incredibly thrilling!

Now you’re officially on the coast, so not only will you enjoy incredible views on the Sea to Sky Highway, but there are also lots of fun things to do here too. The Sea to Sky Gondola is a can’t-miss BC activity, you can literally see the sea and the mountains from the top!

Before you know it, you’ll be in Vancouver! We LOVE Van, and I hope you do too! Check out our list of the best things to do in Vancouver and spend a few days exploring the city before you fly out. 

Renting a Car in Alberta

A car drives along the Icefields Parkway
The drive is mesmerizing!

If you’re arriving in Alberta via plane then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. Canada is a large country and traveling between cities and even just getting out to some of the best places to visit in Alberta requires transport. Although you can use public transport, on some occasions, it means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Renting a car will definitely make exploring all of the fun things to see and do in Alberta easier.

Car rental in Canada isn’t super cheap, but it isn’t overly expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year and the type of car that you rent. For car rentals, I use the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used them all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia. Read our 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!

Calgary is the perfect launch point for a road trip, and I hope you found a route that speaks to you! There is truly so much to explore in this area, we’ve gone on dozens of road trips here and I still find new places. Whether you have a few days or a few weeks, I know you’ll have the best time road-tripping!

If you found this blog helpful, be sure to check out our other Canada travel guides as you plan your trip. We have lots of tips and personal experiences to assist in your epic Canada adventures – we even have a whole page dedicated to road trips in Canada. Here are a few more articles to get you started:

5 BEST Moraine Lake Tours from Calgary to See All the Highlights!

ONE Day Icefields Parkway Itinerary: 15 Epic Quick Stops

BANFF ITINERARY – How to Spend 1, 2, or 3 Days in Banff