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Vancouver is a popular place to start any road trip. First of all, thanks to its large international airport, many visitors to Canada arrive in Vancouver. Second of all, there are some really amazing places to explore surrounding Vancouver – so getting out of the city on a road trip should be on your bucket list.
Honestly, one of the best road trips you can do from Vancouver just has to be the road trip from Vancouver to Banff! As one of the longer road trips in Western Canada, this route hits most of the most beautiful and adventurous places in the entire country. From the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the beautifully colored lakes in wine country, the road trip from Vancouver to Banff is nothing short of magical.
There’s a lot to know about planning this road trip though. I mean, it’s a long one, and the number and routes you can take are seemingly endless. Add in the question of where you should stop along the way, and you’ve got yourself a big planning task in front of you.
This is why I’m writing this blog. As a Canadian who has grown up in both BC and Alberta, I consider myself somewhat of an expert. I’ve traveled around Western Canada extensively and know there are some places that you really don’t want to miss.
Keep reading to learn all about driving from Vancouver to Banff including the best places to stop along the way, where to spend the night, and essential driving tips for this road trip.
About the Drive from Vancouver to Banff
The journey from Vancouver to Banff (or Banff to Vancouver)isn’t short by any means. Without stopping, the most direct route (via the town of Hope) will take you around 11 hours to complete this 860-kilometer-long (535 miles) journey.
I recommend taking a different route for your road trip though. This way, you’ll be able to ensure that you see the best places along the way! My suggested route from Vancouver to Banff includes going through Whistler – one of my absolute favorite places ever! This road trip is slightly longer at 915 kilometers (568 miles), but believe me, it’s totally worth it.
There are several very fantastic stops along this route, and I recommend taking your time to appreciate each of the 21 sites as you go from Vancouver to Banff. Each of these stops has something unique to bring to the table, and they should be enjoyed as such.
Winter tires are required if you want to travel during the colder and snowier months (usually November to March). These tires will provide more traction on the ice and snow you’ll most likely encounter along the way.
If you’re not used to driving in the winter, Canadian winters may be challenging, with snowstorms, slippery roads, avalanches, and even bright, sunny days. Because weather conditions can vary quickly during the day, always check a road report and forecast before leaving.
Related Read: Another popular road trip is the drive from Vancouver to Jasper – check it out!
21 BEST Stops on the Drive from Vancouver to Banff
1. Vancouver City
Vancouver is one of the most exciting cities in Canada. It has something fascinating to offer nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and even those interested in food and culture, with plenty of things to do and amazing tours. It’s the perfect place to start your epic Canadian road trip!
While you’re in Vancouver, be sure to go on a whale watching tour and get the opportunity to see various whale species including Humpbacks and Orcas. It’s by far one of Vancouver’s top activities so make sure to book it in adavance!
The 137-meter-long bridge (450 feet) is just a 20-minute drive from Vancouver city center and hangs above the Capilano River but there are also various hiking trails here too. As well as that, there’s a treetop walk and a glass floor lookout! Tickets cost $73 CAD per adult.
Vancouver is filled with urban beaches and one of my favorites is Kitsilano Beach. It’s a nice, clean beach that’s a great spot to head for the sunset. Surrounding the beach is the trendy neighborhood of Kitsilano which is home to lots of cool restaurants, bars, and stores. The Maritime Museum is also located here as well as a great waterfront public swimming pool.
If you’re visiting Vancouver in the winter, then skiing or snowboarding are musts! Check out Mt Seymour, Cypress Mountain, or Grouse Mountain. You can rent gear and even just get a day pass if you only want to spend one day!
Some of the other most popular things to do in Vancouver include:
- Stroll or ride through Stanley Park – The 1,000-acre Stanley Park is a great place to chill out in nature and bike the iconic seawall trail. You can join this specific bike tour that goes through Stanley Park and the seawall trail and is done on e-bikes so you won’t spend all your energy on one activity! It costs $133 CAD and goes for 4 hours which is plenty of time to cover many more areas including historic and modern neighborhoods. Or check out our other Stanley Park tour recommendations for more ideas!
- Visit Granville Island – This is a small island that you can reach by ferry, drive to from downtown Vancouver, or join a tour to Granville Island to see. On Granville Island, there are a few different things to do and explore, my personal favorite idea though is to book a guided tour through the huge indoor market here which sells everything from cakes to groceries to coffee. Spend a few hours on the island and watch the many street performers performing outside the markets, or visit the Kids Market if you’re traveling with little ones. And if you’re a craft beer lover like me you just have to check out Granville Island Brewing.
- Try local craft beer – As a craft beer lover myself, this is one of my favorite things to do in any new city! To find out where the best breweries are in Vancouver I’d suggest this behind-the-scenes craft beer tour where you can try tons of local beer. At each brewery, you will get a behind-the-scenes look at how the beer is made – a super cool tour if you ask me! Plus, it includes transport so you can drink as much as you want without having to worry about a designated driver.
Where to stay in Vancouver:
Vancouver is without a doubt one of my favorite destinations in BC, so be sure to give yourself a decent amount of time staying in the city first before you hit the road!
The Cambie Hostel Gastown is perfect if you’re looking for a budget option! There are not as many hostel options in Vancouver but this one in Gastown is a good option. While it doesn’t have super high ratings it is in an excellent location.
For something a bit more moderately priced in the West End in the middle of the action try The Listel Hotel Vancouver. There is an on-site restaurant and is a short walk to major attractions like Stanley Park or the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Or ball out at the Fairmont Pacific Rim if you are searching for luxury. It has a full-service spa and rooftop swimming pool, on-site restaurants that have live music, and an outdoor terrace. The views from this hotel are phenomenal, as it’s right at the waterfront.
There are literally hundreds of places to stay in Vancouver. Read our blog about where to stay in Vancouver for info about the best areas to base yourself and the top-rated hotels.
2. Shannon Falls
Shannon Falls is one of my favorite stops on the drive from Vancouver to Banff! After leaving Vancouver, you’ll reach Shannon Falls in about an hour, the perfect time to get out to stretch your legs.
The trail to get to the falls viewing area is easy and somewhat level. There is also a paved trail for all people to enjoy. The walk is only about a kilometer long, and once you make it to the falls you’ll be in awe. Shannon Falls, at 335 meters (1100 feet), is a sight to behold! Late spring and early summer are the best times to visit when the winter snow on the adjacent mountains has melted and the falls are most forceful.
It’s free to visit Shannon Falls and you’ll find a large parking lot when you arrive as well as bathroom facilities and picnic tables.
3. Sea to Sky Gondola
The panoramic views from the Sea to Sky Gondola are breathtaking. It’s an absolute must-see on your way from Vancouver to Banff! The gondola is located just outside of Squamish (your next stop) and takes you up the mountain with 360-degree views of the Howe Sound.
Once you ride the gondola to the top, you may explore around the summit and see the suspension bridge, as well as have a drink or some food while taking in the sights.
A day admission for the gondola costs $69.95 CAD per adult. You may also trek to the point instead of riding the gondola, although it is rather strenuous (nearly 1,000 meters/3,281 feet in height gain!). I recommend just riding the gondola both ways – it’s so much fun and saves you time on your road trip!
Squamish is a fantastic town to visit or even stay in overnight to maximize your time there and break up your trip. It’s renowned as an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. There is hiking, rock climbing, and windsurfing all at your fingertips!
If you’re just stopping for a bite to eat or a drink, try the Howe Sound Brewery or Zephyr Café – both fun, local stops to stretch your legs for a bit. If you want to check out some culture and history, try the Railway Museum of British Columbia!
It’s also fun to just walk around the downtown area, as there are a ton of cute little shops to check out.
One of the best things to do in Squamish to enjoy its natural beauty is to hike the Stawamus Chief Trail. There is a decent amount of effort involved in this 3.7-mile loop trail, especially toward the end when the scrambling begins. You will gain a total of 654 meters (2,145 feet) of elevation but the views are absolutely spectacular!
If you want to get even more adventurous you can try out assisted rock climbing with via ferrata where you can get the feel of rock climbing with the safety of a harness and extra handholds. You’ll climb up granite cliffs with a fixed cable system and hold onto large steel rungs. It’s just like climbing a giant ladder … but on a cliffside!
The Via Ferrata climbing experience in Squamish can be booked online and is led by a certified guide. It starts at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola (previously mentioned above), so you’ll need to book gondola tickets separately.
For an adrenaline rush whitewater rafting needs to be on your agenda! See Squamish from the water is while navigating rapids on the Elaho and Squamish Rivers.
This white-water rafting tour includes transportation, a guide, and all the gear you need. You can simply grab a paddle with your group and head out for some outdoor fun on the river!
These rapids are Class 3-4 and feature some exhilarating twists and turns including the “Devil’s Elbow” section of the river. You’re going to ride big waves here and catch some air on the choppy rapids.
The entire journey is about 16 kilometers (10 miles) and it costs about $190 CAD but is worth every penny.
For a more laid-back activity, I highly recommend setting sail on the Howe Sound where you will be offered the chance to take the helm or learn how to trim the sails (balance them). You could also just sit back and enjoy the views and if you get lucky you might spot some wild orcas or dolphins. This sailing experience lasts 3 hours and costs $179 CAD.
Where to Stay in Squamish
If you want to break up the road trip from Vancouver to Calgary then Squamish is the perfect place to spend a night or two. There’s plenty to do in Squamish and lots of hotels and holiday homes to choose from.
For a budget stay, check out the Adventure Inn. You can get a private room for an affordable price here as well as have access to shared communal facilities like laundry and a kitchen – super handy if you want to save money by cooking.
For something a little nicer, check out the Mountain Retreat. This hotel features many different styles of rooms from a standard queen all the way to a one-bedroom family suite. There is a pool, fitness center, and on-site restaurant.
Higher-end travelers can’t pass up the Sandman Hotel and Suites Squamish. The queen and king rooms here are clean and comfortable and a delicious breakfast is included. The property has a hot tub, pool, waterslide, and gym. It is also pet friendly if you are road-tripping with your 4-legged friend!
5. Garibaldi Lake
Garibaldi Lake, one of Canada’s most magnificent alpine lakes, is located in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Despite its magnificence, it receives far fewer visitors than other Canadian lakes.
The only way to see the stunning Garibaldi Lake is to hike a 9-kilometer (5.6-mile) long trail with a 900-meter (2,950-foot) elevation gain. It’s possible that this difficult hike is what keeps this stunning lake so quiet. Believe me, if you can handle the challenging hike, it is definitely worth it!
Garibaldi Lake is a great place to camp overnight if you can’t get enough of the scenery. When you wake up, you may visit Blacktusk and Panorama Ridge Lookout, two further hikes and overlooks. Both are 5.5 km (3.4 miles) and 7 km (4.3 miles) longer and include a 500 m gradient (1,640 ft). These hikes are designed for more experienced hikers.
If you want to camp overnight, there are approximately 50 campsites with restrooms and cooking shelters at the lake’s campground. Campsites cost $13 per person per night and must be reserved in advance online.
If you have problems making a reservation, you may have the Squamish tourist center do one for you (like we did).
In Whistler, there are so many exciting things to do and see that you could easily spend weeks exploring it. If you’re visiting Whistler in the winter, don’t forget to hit the slopes, and if you’re going in the summer, take advantage of the hiking paths.
One of the most popular winter activities is skiing or snowboarding at Blackcomb Moutain, Whistler’s pride and joy with over 200 different runs, 3,307 hectares (8,171 acres) of terrain, and 36 different lifts.
The Whistler ski season typically runs from November to March and various passes are available including single-day passes, multi-day passes, and season passes. Lift passes for adults start at $189 CAD.
This is also where you’ll find the HUGE Peak 2 Peak Gondola that holds the world record for not only the longest gondola but also the highest and longest unsupported span of any lift in the world.
It connects the top of Blackcomb Mountain with Whistler Mountain and spans across the valley and offers some of the most beautiful views you’ll have ever seen.
This 3-hour snowmobiling tour is an awesome option to keep you enthused! It has impeccable reviews but it is expensive starting at $250+ CAD per person, but if you can find the room in your budget then I wouldn’t skip this Whistler adventure!
In summer, one of the best ways to spend a good chunk of the afternoon is by exploring one of the nearby lakes! Green Lake, Alta Lake, and my favorite, Lost Lake are accessible via easy walking trails through the surrounding pine forest.
The huge Sasquatch Zipline is perfect for those whole love an adrenaline rush! It will have you reaching speeds of well over 100 km/hr (62 mph).
This zipline experience starts at $147 CAD per person and can even be done in spring, summer, and fall (until mid-October.) It is only one zipline but is well worth it if you ask me.
You should book this ziplining tour in advance as it is one of the most popular activities in Whistler and often books up.
No matter the time of year, wandering around Whistler Village is always fun! Check out the many local restaurants and boutique shops. Be sure to visit Purebread, an amazing bakery and coffee shop. There are also a few different museums to check out – if you want to learn about the culture of the Skw̲xw̲ú7mesh and Lílw̓at people head to the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center.
The following are some of the other greatest activities and attractions in Whistler:
- Go on a distillery tour – Deep in one of Whistler’s hidden neighborhoods you can take a tour of Montis Distilling for $88 CAD and taste all of their available products! There’s the option to upgrade your tour to include a curated charcuterie box from another local company Picnic Whistler that will pair well with all of your samples. How could you say no? I know I couldn’t! At the end, you can be dropped off at one of the best cocktail bars in Whistler, The Raven Room.
- Kayak the river of Golden Dreams – this kayaking tour travels between two of Whistler’s biggest lakes starting at Alta Lake. From here, you’ll head off down the river mouth while floating along casually paddling in the currents. Along the way, you’ll see geese, navigate past beaver dams, and enjoy overhanging greenery and stunning views. It’s a great self-guided tour that’ll cost you about $139 CAD for 3-hours on the lake with all of your equipment included.
- Via Ferrata – Whistler is another great place in Canada to try via ferrata, an introduction to rock climbing. Challenge yourself to climb the entire 2160-meter (7,086 feet) summit of Whistler Mountain with safety cables and metal rungs. The scenery is indescribable and well worth the $177 CAD price tag.
Where to stay in Whistler
If you decided not to stay at Garibaldi Provincial Park, Whistler is another great option for breaking up your road trip. As I said, you could easily spend weeks here doing all of the fun activities and there are some awesome places to stay in Whistler.
For budget travelers, Pangea Pod Hotel is a great option. It’s a basic hotel with pod-style rooms with clean, well looked after facilities. The location is also really good and you are within walking distance to the ski lifts in Whistler Upper Village. You can also easily book a room on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.com which is super convenient.
For luxury travelers, I obviously love the Four Seasons Resort Whistler, they nail every detail including the accommodating staff, beautiful rooms, and a list of amenities to take advantage of but another option slightly cheaper is the Pan Pacific Whistler Village Centre. Its location is perfect for luxury skiers because it’s only 250 meters (800 feet) from the closest gondola.
7. Lillooet Lake
At the bottom of Duffey Lake Road, you’ll discover the lovely, peaceful Lillooet Lake. This lake used to have a gorgeous turquoise color, comparable to other Canadian lakes, but following a landslide in 2010, the water became a muddy brown color. It’s slowly starting to regain its once-beautiful hue. When the currents are slow in the winter, it’s easier to see.
Recreational areas and campsites border the shores of Lillooet Lake. Strawberry Point Campground is the most well-known. It’s a woodland day-use area with walk-in camping. There’s a lot of room here, but the amenities are minimal (they have a pit toilet, but no picnic area or designated camp spots).
Twin One Campground is a drive-in campground with a semi-open layout. A boat launch, beach access, and spectacular views are all available. Picnic tables and pit toilets are supplied as amenities. The only campsite that can accommodate big recreational RVs is this one.
Other possibilities include Lizzie Bay and Driftwood Bay Campgrounds! While you’re here enjoy a campfire or a stargazing session with no light pollution.
8. Joffre Lakes
On the way from Vancouver to Banff, this is a must-see! Lower, Middle, and Upper Joffre Lakes, with their gorgeous turquoise blue water, are the highlight of the trip through Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. The hue is caused by “rockflour,” or glacial silt trapped in the water, which reflects blue and green wavelengths from sunlight — it’s stunning!
The hike to Upper Joffre Lake is one of the best hikes in this area and is around 10 kilometers (6 miles) long (return) and mostly uphill. The three wonderful lakes, stream crossings, great views of the mountain range, a waterfall, and the Matier Glacier at the summit overlooking Upper Joffre Lake are all visible along the trip. Retrace your steps to return and enjoy the simpler climb down and another look at these beautiful lakes.
This is a very popular summer attraction, and parking might be difficult. The parking lot is frequently full, and you are not permitted to park on the street. They do offer shuttle buses from a neighboring overflow parking lot on occasion, but this isn’t always the case. I recommend staying the night prior in Pemberton, which is close by, to ensure your early arrival.
Related Read: Joffre Lakes is also one of the best things to do in Pemberton since it’s close to town.
9. Duffy Lake Viewpoint
On the way from Vancouver to Banff, Duffy Lake Viewpoint is but a brief stop. Simply drive off the road into a makeshift parking lot next to Duffy Lake, snap a few shots, and enjoy the breathtaking sight.
It’s not easy to appreciate the vistas while driving, but because the pull-off is so simple, it’s well worth the time. You may even dip your toes in the freezing lake if you’re feeling adventurous!
On the route to Banff, Lillooet is a little village along the Fraser River with some spectacular mountain vistas. Thousands of people came into Lillooet during the Fraser River Gold Rush in 1858, making it one of the biggest settlements in North America. Inside the Lillooet Museum, you can now examine items from the Gold Rush era.
Lillooet has a desert-like environment with some of Canada’s hottest temps ever recorded. With such a lengthy growing season, there are several orchards and vineyards in the area; enjoy some of Fort Berens Estate Winery‘s award-winning wine. Take a stroll over the Old Suspension Bridge while you’re here. It was constructed more than a century ago and is currently only accessible to pedestrians.
If you wish to spend the night, the Reynolds Hotel is a lovely location to stay in that has just been refurbished and has some historic appeal (it was built in the 1940s). It includes a fantastic restaurant and a little convenience shop where you can fill up on road trip needs for the remainder of your journey.
Kamloops is a terrific city to visit in every season, whether you want to go downhill skiing or snowshoeing in the winter, or enjoy the long summers on the water with pleasant weather from April to November.
Within an hour’s drive of the city, there are over 100 lakes! These are ideal for paddling in a canoe, kayak, or even trying stand-up paddleboarding. Take a boat ride around Kamloops Lake to see it from the water. You’ll pass by historic stone railroad bridges and tunnels, as well as rocky bluffs and maybe an eagle’s nest.
There are lots of hiking trails around Kamloops too. Wide-open meadows, ponderosa pine woods, sandstone canyons, and steep valleys may all be explored. With 40 kilometers (25 miles) of paths, the Kenna Cartwright Nature Park is a good choice. There are various beaches and picnic sites, as well as stunning views of Kamloops and the Thompson Valley. For a really stunning sight, go out during sunset or sunrise.
The BC Wildlife Park allows visitors to get up close and personal with Canadian wildlife. It’s a rescue and rehabilitation facility, and the majority of the animals are here because they’ve been saved. Clover the Spirit Bear, a rare white bear and the world’s only Kermode Bear in captivity, is one of more than 60 distinct species you’ll learn about at the park. For the youngsters, there’s a splash park, a playground, and a mini-train. Adult admission to the park is $17.95 CAD.
Where to stay in Kamloops:
As I mentioned, it’s a great idea to spend a few nights in Kamloops if you have time. There are plenty of hotels to choose from here.
Personally, I love the Prestige Kamloops Hotel only a couple of minutes from town which is complete with a waterslide and brand new restaurants or if you’re on a budget, the Rodeway Inn & Suites which includes a continental breakfast.
For a more luxurious option, try the South Thompson Inn and Conference Centre. It’s located on 55 acres of green space surrounded by mountains and the South Thompson River. The rooms have great views, there’s a 24 hour hot-tub overlooking the river and nearby hiking trails.
Side trip to Kelowna and Vernon:
From Kamloops, you can go on a bit of a detour if you want to explore the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan is known for beautiful lakes, warm weather, delicious fruit, and most importantly, wine! Head to the cities of Kelowna and Vernon first, then if you want to venture further south you can check out Osoyoos or Peachland. I personally love going to all of the wineries in Kelowna!
12. Salmon Arm
Salmon Arm is a charming little town that is easy to fall in love with. I surely did when I lived there for a few years. There is enough to do for people who enjoy the outdoors, especially! Explore the city, eat (and drink) your way through it, or just kick back and relax! Here, there is truly something for everyone.
Where should we begin with stunning walks, excellent fruit, and top-notch vineyards in Salmon Arm? Here are a handful of the most popular activities in Salmon Arm:
- Walk North America’s largest wooden wharf — You may walk on the wharf all year, soaking in the grandeur of Shuswap Lake. I love it even more in the summer when there is live music and food trucks to enjoy! It has a wonderful, communal vibe about it.
- Hike — There are hikes for all levels of expertise here! Mt. Ida, a grand 1,564-meter (5,151 feet) peak south of Salmon Arm, is one of my favorites for trekking. If you’re searching for a challenge, Mount Ida Loop is a good option. It’s a 33-kilometer (20.5-mile) loop with a 1,598-meter (5,243-foot) elevation rise — a challenging hike, but well worth it. The Raven Trail and the Shuswap North Rail Trail are significantly more laid-back and accessible.
- Visit the Northernmost winery in BC – Because this region is recognized for its wine, a visit to a vineyard is a necessity on your itinerary. One of my personal favorites is Larch Hills. Their wine is wonderful, and they even provide a complimentary sampling. Enjoy your wine while learning about its production and taking in the breathtaking sights
Where to stay in Salmon Arm
This may be a good place to break up your trip a little bit. Not to mention I’m sure you’ve only skimmed the top of the incredible list of things to do here and are yearning for more time to explore.
The Hilltop Inn is a popular hotel choice as they offer larger rooms that can fit small families. This hotel also has a pool, free parking, and breakfast included.
If you’re traveling with your significant other or are after a luxury stay The Inn at the Ninth Hole Bed & Breakfast is the way to go. The rooms here are beautiful and surprisingly affordable. Of course, this place includes an exceptional breakfast and is in a beautiful area outside Salmon Arm.
13. Revelstoke and Mount Revelstoke National Park
Revelstoke, British Columbia, is one of Canada’s most picturesque destinations. It contains everything you could ever desire! Mountain ranges, lakes, glaciers, enormous woods, and warm people!
Here, it’s all about the great outdoors. When determining what to do, there is a lot to choose from, from hiking routes to breathtaking views. Some of the top things to do in Revelstoke include:
- Visit Mt Revelstoke National Park – It’s a one-of-a-kind national park in that you can drive straight into it and up to the peak of Mt Revelstoke. As a result, practically anyone can use it! After parking your car at the peak, you may go hiking on one of the many gorgeous routes, eat lunch by one of the lakes, or even take a short walk to see all of the magnificent flowers and perspectives. Eva Lake path, a 12 km (7.5 miles) round trip through spectacular landscapes perfect for seeing bears. Check out Heather Lake trail, a short 10-minute stroll around a lovely lake with breathtaking reflections. You’ll need a Parks Pass to visit this national park.
- Whitewater rafting – 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!
- Hit the slopes – In the winter, Revelstoke, BC is known for its awesome downhill skiing and snowboarding. It’s clear that this little mountain village is a winter wonderland! Revelstoke is known for its massive annual snowfalls and steep alpine terrain, which may test even the most experienced skiers. However, if you’re like me and prefer green or blue runs, they offer them as well!
- Ride the gondola up at Revelstoke Mountain Resort – It’s without a doubt one of Revelstoke’s greatest vistas, with the added benefit of not having to hike up! Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy trekking, but there are moments when you simply want to relax. At the resort, there are two gondolas. The first will lead you to the mountain’s peak. This second gondola trip takes around ten minutes, and when you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the valley!
- Take a Ride on the Pipe Mountain Coaster – One of Revelstoke’s biggest attractions is this fascinating gravity-fed roller coaster. This coaster can zoom down the hill if you want it to, and it’s actually a lot of fun and gets the adrenaline pumping. Of course, you may ride as fast or as slow as you wish, and the coaster includes brakes, making it suitable for children. The Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s Mountain Coaster is located at the top of the first gondola.
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.
14. 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 toward 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.
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 Vancouver to Lake Louise. !
Note: If you plan on stopping in Glacier National Park you’ll need to purchase a Parks Canada Pass. There are various types of passes you can buy that range from $10.50 to $145 CAD depending on the number of parks, people, and amount of time the pass covers.
Golden is a little town in the Rockies, but it’s surrounded by national parks, mountain ranges, and limitless outdoor activities, so there’s always something to do. Not to mention the fantastic restaurants, one-of-a-kind stores, lively bars, and fascinating cultural sites.
Your visit to Golden may be as exciting or as relaxing as you like! Here are a few ideas for epic things to do in Golden:
- Stroll the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge – Golden is situated in such a lovely region that you will want to get outside and explore it on foot! Make a point of crossing the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge while you’re at it. It begins on 8th Avenue North in Golden and stretches 46 meters (151 feet) across the Kicking Horse River.
- Enjoy supper with a view — Eagle’s Eye Restaurant is the finest location to eat while taking in the mountain views! It’s the “crown gem” of resort cuisine and a must-do while staying at Kicking Horse Resort. The views from this restaurant, which is located at the top of the picturesque gondola, are unsurpassed. At 2,350 meters (7,710 feet) above sea level, it is Canada’s highest restaurant (in terms of elevation) — how awesome is that?!
- Go whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse – If you haven’t gotten the chance to go whitewater rafting in Canada yet, going 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 $109 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.
- 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.
- Walk the Golden Skybridge – The Golden Skybridge is Golden’s newest attraction and Canada’s highest suspension bridge and it only just opened in the summer of 2021! It sits 130 meters (426 feet) above the canyon and you’re sure to experience such a thrill walking over it and taking in all the amazing views of the Columbia Valley. There is also a zipline experience, canyon swing, and ropes course if that isn’t enough fun.
- 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:
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.
16. Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park, with the township of Field at its heart, is a fantastic destination to visit on your road trip from Vancouver to Banff. Plan on spending at least a few hours, if not a whole day here! The park is famed for its towering waterfalls, sparkling lakes, and a wide range of activities that may be enjoyed at any time of year. Field also has stores, restaurants, and other attractions.
The magnificent Emerald Lake, with its vibrant waters that live up to its name, is a must-see. In about an hour, you may walk around the entire lake or snowshoe over it in the winter. It’s a terrific chance to observe local blooms, such as wild orchids, as well as bald eagles, moose, and loons. On the lake’s quiet and clean waters, you may also canoe or kayak. Spoil yourself and stay a night at the Emerald Lake Lodge on the edge of the lake.
The Natural Bridge, an old rock feature that spans the Kicking Horse River, is another magnificent sight. It’s simple to get to by driving, as Emerald Lake Road is only 3 km (1.9 miles) from Field. You may also embark on a guided trek to the area’s fossil beds, which include 500 million-year-old fossils.
17. Lake Louise
During my years of living in the Rockies, I was fortunate enough to visit Lake Louise several times. Every time, I make a mental list of all the finest things to do in Lake Louise. I’ve done it all from hikes to restaurants and everything in between!
Relaxing on the Lake Louise beachfront is one of the easiest, but most pleasant things to do. You’ll be speechless when you see the glaciers, mountain peaks, and azure lake!
There are various options for furthering your exploration of Lake Louise! You may paddle the lake or ice skate on the lake if you visit Lake Louise in the winter. Both are traditional Canadian pastimes.
Lake Louise also has some fantastic hikes! The Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is one of my favorites. It begins at the lake’s edge and takes you well over Lake Louise, where you can glance down and see areas of the lake from afar. And yes, there is actually a tea house out there where you can order a drink to pair with the view! The Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is a somewhat challenging, but not technical, 7.3-kilometer (4.5-mile) return trail.
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:
Do yourself a favor and stop for a least a night in Lake Louise. The only problem is sometimes it can be hard to find somewhere to stay in Lake Louise (hotels often book up well in advance.) But if you can, book a hotel in Lake Louise Village.
HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre is where I always stay. It is the cheapest option and has everything you’ll need for a comfortable, and central, stay.
If you’re looking for luxury, then you can splurge at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. It is an icon of the area and simply breathtaking.
18. Moraine Lake
Is there a more stunning and magnificent lake than Lake Louise? There is, in my perspective, and it is Moraine Lake!
Moraine Lake is a must-see for anybody touring the Rocky Mountains and is only a 15-minute drive from Lake Louise. This alpine lake may be the only one that has more color than Lake Louise, and the best thing is that it’s free.
The iconic 10 Peaks serve as a backdrop to this bright-blue lake. These massive mountains stand over the lake, giving a breathtaking panorama that has become famous all around the world. It’s easily one of the lakes you have to see in Banff to believe!
When you arrive at Moraine Lake, you’ll find lots to do and see. Visit the Rock Pile (for that renowned view) or take a leisurely stroll along the Lakeshore Trail or Consolation Lakes Trail. If you visit in the fall, be sure to hike the Larch Valey Trail for the best views and colorful trees you’ve ever seen. Whatever you do, Moraine Lake holds up to its reputation as the most beautiful lake in Canada!
Note: The road to Moraine Lake is only open from the end of May until mid-September due to avalanche risk in the winter months.
Important: Getting to Moraine Lake can be challenging as the Moraine Lake Road and parking lot closed in 2023 to all personal vehicles (except those with disability parking permits). Read our blog about parking alternatives at Moraine Lake for info on catching the shuttle or taking public transit.
Most people visit by taking a Moraine Lake shuttle either from Banff town itself or from Lake Louise. One of the most popular departures is the Park and Ride from Lake Louise Ski Resort.
The Parks Canada shuttles also only run during select hours so if you want to go early in the morning, you’ll need to be on the first shuttle around 6:30 am. You can also hop on this new shuttle to Moraine Lake that has departures as early as 4 am (and throughout the day for those who like to sleep in!). To me, the sight of Moraine Lake in those early morning hours is one of the most beautiful things to see in Banff.
The alternative to taking a shuttle is going on an organized tour like this one for around $100 CAD. This way you get dropped off and picked up as well as shown around to the most beautiful spots with an experienced guide! You can also visit Moraine Lake for sunrise by joining this earlybird tour for $220 CAD.
The only issue to note with a tour is that they depart from Banff or Calgary so you can’t book a tour from super close by, you would have to do it before or after your road trip.
19. Morant’s Curve
After leaving Lake Louise, Morant’s Curve is only a short drive (approximately 5-7 minutes) along the Bow Valley Parkway which is the scenic road that connects Lake Louise and Banff. Keep an eye out for the viewing signs and park in the little parking space across the highway.
This is a great spot for a photo near the Bow River’s bend, where trains usually pass by with a stunning mountain backdrop.
The greatest images are taken when a train is approaching the bend and is ideally framed in the shot. The optimum time to catch a train is on a weekday when trains usually run once every hour. The curve is named after famous photographer, Nicholas Morant, who made this one of his favorite sites to photograph.
20. Johnston Canyon
Visiting Johnston Canyon is one of Banff National Park’s most well-known free attractions. The best part about exploring this canyon is that it is open all year! During the summer, you may stroll along the boardwalk close to the turquoise-watered canyon. Two waterfalls can be seen along the route, one 1.7 km (1 mile) from the parking lot and the other 1 km (0.6 miles) farther on.
In the winter, the canyon freezes in several places, making the hike appear like something out of a winter wonderland! Imagine icicles dangling from cliffs and frozen waterfalls — it’s a sight to behold!
Hot Tip: If you’re visiting in the winter, you really need ice cleats or spikes. If you don’t have them, then consider joining a guided ice walk tour that will safely lead you on the ice and supply all of the safety gear you’ll need.
The drawback to Johnston Canyon is that it may become quite crowded. It’s so popular that the large parking lot frequently fills up, forcing you to use the public bus!
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.
21. Banff Town
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!
Many visitors also come here for a ski holiday due to the fact that you have great access to Sunshine and Norquay ski resorts – both are within a 15-minute drive of town. If you buy the SkiBig3 Lift Ticket you’ll have access to both of those ski resorts along with access to Mt Norquay!
I have to say, the views from Mt Norquay are hard to describe, you really have to see them for yourself. In the summer, ride the sightseeing gondola and visit the restaurant at the top for a beer with a view.
For a few bucks, the Banff Upper Hot Springs is a fantastic opportunity to relax while taking in breathtaking vistas all year. These rank among the best Alberta hot springs since it’s easy to get to and very affordable. At $16.50 CAD per adult and $53 CAD for a family.
Check out the unlimited amount of hiking routes surrounding the region or test out the slopes (and vistas) at Mt Norquay to earn that relaxation. If you’re visiting Banff in the winter, you must visit their famous tube park, which is great fun for the whole family!
Also, while you’re here, don’t forget to eat and drink. There are several good restaurants and bars in Banff. Parks Distillery is the place to go for a fantastic dinner and craft cocktails, while Banff Brewing Co. is the place to go for a beer.
For foodies, an activity that isn’t quite as well known is this gourmet food tour that takes place inside the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Your experience will consist of tasting several specially curated dishes with drink pairings and learning some history about this famous Scottish castle.
If you’re still not sure where to start. check out our 1, 2, and 3 day Banff itinerary!
Related Read: Visiting Banff on a tight budget? Check out our blog about the best free things to do in Banff!
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 (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 Booking.com.
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 Booking.com.
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 Booking.com.
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 Booking.com.
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!
Essential Info About the Drive Before You Go
- There are a variety of paths to choose from, but this guide highlights the most fascinating. The journey from Vancouver to Banff takes roughly 11 hours and 950 kilometers if you use this route (590 miles).
- When traveling along this roadway at any time of year, keep a look out for wildlife, especially in the early morning and late evening. If at all feasible, drive the trip during the day so you can fully appreciate the beauty.
- If you’re going on this road trip in the winter, make sure to verify the road conditions first. The vehicle must have winter or all-season tires. If you need to book last-minute accommodation due to changing weather conditions, there are lots of options along this route.
- Get a Parks Pass! You’ll need a pass to get into Mount Revelstoke National Park, Glacier National Park, and Banff National Park. Since you’ll be visiting multiple parks, it is probably worth it to just purchase the Discovery Pass, which is good for a year at many national parks. Pay $145.25 CAD for an entire vehicle pass (group of people) or $72.25 CAD for one person.
- From March 1 to June 25, all travel on a short part of the Bow Valley Parkway is prohibited from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. Keep it in mind when you plan your schedule and route through the region.
- Bring a camera with you! You will witness some of the most beautiful sights and locations in the Rocky Mountains during this road trip. It’ll be an incredible journey, and you’ll want to document the memories you build along the way.
Parks Canada Pass Quick Info
If you plan on spending time in Canada’s national parks (including Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, and more) then you’re going to have to pay for a Parks Pass.
Single Daily Admission:
This type of pass is valid for one person for one day. It is ONLY the best value if you are traveling alone and only plan to visit a national park for a couple of days.
- Adult (ages 18-64) is $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
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
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!
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!
Thanks for reading!
I hope you feel prepared and thrilled to visit these lovely parts of Canada after reading this guide! Whatever season you choose for your road trip from Vancouver to Banff, there will be plenty to see and do!
The nicest aspect about this road trip is that it offers a lot of variation. Hikes, lakes, grand restaurants, and unique activities! It has everything. So relax and enjoy yourself as you travel from Vancouver to Banff, taking your time to take it all in.
Don’t forget to check out some of our other posts before you leave!