The Canadian Rockies. Filled with soaring mountains, dense forests, and sparkling rivers, the drive from Calgary to Vancouver provides some of the best views in all of Canada.
Every year, I go on at least one road trip through the Rockies, and I never get bored of its breathtaking scenery. And while there are many possible routes you can take from Calgary to Vancouver, from heading up north and stopping in Jasper National Park to exploring the United States, my absolute favorite Rockies road trip itinerary takes the Trans-Canada Highway.
From exciting wildlife sightings, refreshing stops beside the rapid rivers, and awe-inspiring alpine views, the drive from Calgary to Vancouver via the Trans-Canada Highway provides non-stop beauty.
So, if you’re looking for some tips and inspiration as you plan your Canadian odyssey, then continue reading! This is my ultimate 7-day Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
If you’re planning a trip to Vancouver, or just British Columbia in general, you may be interested in my other articles:
- The Ultimate Self-Guided Vancouver Walking Tour
- The 15 Best Hikes in Vancouver
- 22 Incredible Hikes near Vancouver
- 18 Spectacular Weekend Getaways from Vancouver
- 6 Epic Whistler Hikes
- 11 Fabulous Things to Do in Salt Spring Island
- How to Start Hiking: 15 Beginner Hiking Tips
Summary of the Perfect 7-Day Canadian Rockies Road Trip
First, here’s a summary of my 7-day drive from Calgary to Vancouver:
- Day 1: Calgary to Banff
- Day 2: Banff
- Day 3: Banff to Golden
- Day 4: Golden to Revelstoke
- Day 5: Revelstoke to Kamloops
- Day 6: Kamloops to Hope
- Day 7: Hope to Vancouver
When is the Best Time to Visit the Canadian Rockies?
Without a doubt, the best time to visit the Canadian Rockies is during the summer (from June to September), as it offers peak driving conditions and perfect hiking weather. However, this unfortunately means there will also be more travelers around (after all, this is when domestic travelers like myself get to explore Canada‘s prime destinations as well).
So, if you’re comfortable with winter driving (unfortunately, I’m not), then visiting the Rockies in the winter is also amazing, as it provides great skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and skating options, as well as the potential to witness the aurora borealis!
7-Day Canadian Rockies Road Trip: How to Drive from Calgary to Vancouver
Now, let’s get into the meat of the article! The drive from Calgary to Vancouver via the Trans-Canada Highway is approximately 975 km (606 miles) long, which will take at least 11.5 hours to drive. But who wants to speed through the Canadian Rockies in a day? Here’s how to extend it into one week:
Day 1: Calgary to Banff
First, we’re going to start this road trip off in Calgary, Alberta, and head to Banff National Park!
- Distance: 129 km (80 miles)
- Approximate Driving Time: From 1 h 25 min to 1 h 50 min
Obviously, today’s drive is going to be short and sweet, but this will allow you to spend as much time as possible surrounded by Banff’s spectacular scenery. From the towering, rugged mountains to the turquoise lakes, there are so many things to do in Banff (that’s why you’ll be spending two nights here!).
However, I do recommend stopping in the adorable town of Canmore en route from Calgary to Banff.
Things to Do in Calgary
But before you head out to Banff, there are many amazing things to do around Calgary as well. While you may have explored this delightful city already, here are a few of my recommendations for the top things to do in Calgary:
- Stephen Avenue: The main street in downtown Calgary, Stephen Avenue is the best place to go shopping.
- Calgary Tower: For stunning, panoramic views of Calgary and distant views of the Rockies, climb up the Calgary Tower!
- Prince’s Island Park: A charming park situated in downtown Calgary, Prince’s Island Park is the perfect place to spend an afternoon.
- Bow River: One of the best things to do in Calgary is to float down the Bow River on a raft!
- Fish Creek Provincial Park: If you’re looking for one of the free things to do in Calgary, I recommend wandering around the enchanting Fish Creek Provincial Park.
- Heritage Park Historical Village: To learn more about Calgary’s history from the 1860’s to the 1930’s, visit the Heritage Park Historical Village.
Day 2: Explore Banff
While touring Calgary is an absolute pleasure, it truly doesn’t compare to the beauty of Banff National Park. So how should you spend your full day in Banff? Here are my suggestions for your itinerary:
- Banff Town: For adorable shops and delicious food, I recommend wandering around the town of Banff.
- Banff Gondola: If you want to admire the sweeping, panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains without a strenuous hike, I advise taking the Banff Gondola. There are four gondolas available, but the most popular one is the Banff Sightseeing Gondola at Sulphur Mountain.
- Lake Louise: One of the most enchanting spots near Banff, Lake Louise is a turquoise, glacier-fed lake that you can paddle around in the summer, and skate on in the winter! It’s definitely one of the most memorable spots on the road trip to Alberta and BC.
- Moraine Lake: Another turquoise, glacier-fed lake in Banff National Park, Moraine Lake is surrounded by soaring mountains and delightful waterfalls. It’s best explored by canoe, or by foot!
- Johnston Canyon: With incredible views and an easy, well-maintained path that allows you to venture deep into the canyon’s limestone walls, I definitely recommend checking out the Lower and Upper Falls at Johnston Canyon.
- Tunnel Mountain: If you want to check out one of the easier hikes near Banff, climb up Tunnel Mountain. With breathtaking views of the Bow and Spray River valleys, Tunnel Mountain only requires 1-1.5 hours to complete, with a 266 meter (873 ft) elevation change.
- Lake Minnewanka: Finally, the last lake near Banff I’m going to recommend is Lake Minnewanka. Perfect for picnicking, mountain biking, hiking, and canoeing (essentially all the best Banff summer activities), it receives slightly less traffic than Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
If you want to hit the trails around Banff, but don’t have much hiking experience, check out my article on the 15 essential tips for how to start hiking safely!
Day 3: Banff to Golden
After spending the entire previous day admiring Banff’s majestic scenery, it’s time to move on and drive to Golden, BC!
- Distance: 139 km (86 miles)
- Approximate Driving Time: Around 1 h 50 min
Once again, you’re not going to be driving a lot, but that’s because there’s another great Canadian national park you must explore: Yoho National Park.
Things to Do in Yoho National Park
- Burgess Shale Fossil Beds: Now, as someone who loves paleontology, I have to mention this first: you have to visit the Burgess Shale Fossil Beds. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Burgess Shale is filled with incredible fossils of soft-bodied organisms from the end of the Cambrian Explosion. And, fun fact, these organisms were alive when this entire region was straddling the equator!
- Emerald Lake: Next, one of the most popular stops in the Canadian Rockies is the stunning Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. With its unique jade color and picturesque surroundings, you won’t regret visiting this enchanting lake!
- Takakkaw Falls: If you want to see one of the highest waterfalls in all of Canada (with a maximum drop of around 373 meters, or 1,224 ft), embark on the Takakkaw Falls trail—a short, easy, and pleasant hike that leads you to the base of the towering falls!
- Wapta Falls: Nevertheless, my favorite set of waterfalls in Yoho National Park is definitely Wapta Falls. Another one of the easy Yoho National Park hikes (although slightly harder than Takakkaw Falls), you can once again hike to the very base of the falls, but you’ll probably get soaked!
- The Iceline Trail: If you’re looking for a more challenging Yoho National Park hike, I recommend embarking on the Iceline Trail. 14.2 kilometers long (8.8 miles) and with an 864-meter elevation change (2835 ft), this trail meanders through charming meadows and provides captivating, alpine views.
Things to Do in Golden
If you’re not interested in any of the incredible Yoho National Park sights listed above, here are some of the best things to do in Golden, BC!
- Kicking Horse River Whitewater Rafting: If you’re looking for an adventure, I recommend trying whitewater rafting!
- Canyon Creek: For a short but sweet hike, embark on the Canyon Creek trail. While it can be a bit challenging with some deep drop-offs (be careful!), you’ll get the cool experience of walking along the rim of a canyon.
- Thompson Falls: Another hike in Golden, Thompson Falls is a moderate hiking trail through lush forests to a pretty set of waterfalls!
Day 4: Golden to Revelstoke
Next, it’s time to head through the celebrated Rogers Pass to Revelstoke.
- Distance: 148 km (92 miles)
- Approximate Driving Time: From 1 h 50 min to 2 h
I definitely recommend visiting the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre en route, where you can learn more about the history of the Rogers Pass, a high mountain pass crossing through the Selkirk Mountains!
Things to Do in Revelstoke
Once again, you’ll pretty much have a full day to spend exploring. So what are the best things to do in Revelstoke?
- Mount Revelstoke National Park: A relatively small national park located in the Selkirk Mountains, Mount Revelstoke National Park is filled with spectacular hiking trails passing through dense forests and enchanting meadows.
- Lake Revelstoke: Another stunning lake in the Canadian Rockies, Lake Revelstoke is actually man-made. However, it still offers all the perks of the alpine lakes listed before, like fishing, kayaking, camping, swimming, and canoeing.
- Revelstoke Railway Museum: One of the best Revelstoke attractions for families and history students alike, the Revelstoke Railway Museum teaches you about the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
- Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail: For a quick, lovely stroll around impressive western red cedars, the Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail is the place to go!
- The Enchanted Forest: If you’re traveling with children, then the Enchanted Forest is the perfect stop on your Canadian Rockies road trip. Filled with fairy tale-themed buildings and characters, wandering through these woods is truly a magical experience.
Day 5: Revelstoke to Kamloops
Next stop, Kamloops! While today’s drive is going to be a bit longer than usual (in comparison to the other days on your drive from Calgary to Vancouver), you can stop in either Sicamous or Salmon Arm en route for some lovely British Columbia views.
- Distance: 212 km (132 miles)
- Approximate Driving Time: From 2 h 30 min to 2 h 40 min
Things to Do in Kamloops
But don’t worry, you’ll still have lots of time to explore Kamloops! These are the best things to do:
- BC Wildlife Park: One of the top things to do on your Calgary to Vancouver drive is definitely visiting the BC Wildlife Park. A rescue and rehabilitation center for injured wildlife, it’s one of the best places to observe British Columbia’s native animals, like bears, elk, bobcats, wolves, and mountain lions.
- Downtown Kamloops: For some cute boutiques and various restaurant options, take a stroll through downtown Kamloops.
- Riverside Park: For a relaxing afternoon, I recommend visiting Riverside Park—a charming public park bordering the Thompson River.
- Kamloops Lake: If you’re looking for a place to escape the summer heat, I recommend heading to Kamloops Lake.
- Kenna Cartwright Park: Another charming Kamloops park, the Kenna Cartwright Park provides incredible views of Kamloops and pleasant trails, perfect for nature walks.
Day 6: Kamloops to Hope
Next, it’s time to head to Hope, BC, one of the top weekend getaways from Vancouver.
- Distance: 203 km (126 miles)
- Approximate Driving Time: From 2 h 10 min to 2 h 40 min
While there aren’t many attractions en route, you can stop in Merritt for a short, relaxing break.
Things to Do in Hope
While there have been many incredible attractions on your Calgary to Vancouver road trip so far, some of the coolest stops are near Hope. These include:
- Othello Tunnels (Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park): An easy and stunning hike through a series of old train tunnels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Othello Tunnels offer incredible views of the Coquihalla River and a glimpse into Canada‘s history. It’s definitely the number one thing to do in Hope!
- Thacker Regional Park: Located near Kawkawa River, Thacker Regional Park is an essential stop if your Vancouver road trip is in September or October, as this is when the coho, pink, and chum salmon start spawning and rearing. It makes for an amazing sight!
- Flood Falls: A short and easy hike through lush forests, the Flood Falls are a tall, thin, and lovely set of waterfalls, and one of the best things to do in Hope, BC.
- Silver Lake Provincial Park: Located in the Skagit River Valley, Silver Lake Provincial Park is a great place to have a picnic, surrounded by picturesque mountains and a serene lake.
If you want to learn more about the great hikes in Hope, check out my article on the best hikes near Vancouver!
Day 7: Hope to Vancouver
Finally, on the last day of our drive from Calgary to Vancouver, we’ll arrive in Vancouver!
- Distance: 152 km (95 miles)
- Approximate Driving Time: From 1 h 30 min to 2 h
Things to Do in Vancouver
While our Canadian Rockies road trip has now officially come to an end, I hope you’ll still visit some of the incredible attractions in Vancouver, including Gastown, Stanley Park, Granville Island, Grouse Mountain, English Bay, the UBC Museum of Anthropology, and the Capilano Suspension Bridge!
And if you’re interested in learning more about the great things to do in Vancouver, check out my other articles:
- The Ultimate Self-Guided Vancouver Walking Tour
- The 15 Best Hikes in Vancouver
- 22 Incredible Hikes near Vancouver
- 6 Epic Whistler Hikes
And That’s It!
I hope you found this article useful and inspiring. Whether you plan to drive from Calgary to Vancouver or drive from Vancouver to Calgary, and whether your itinerary is for 1 day, 7 days, or 14 days, I hope this article helped you decide what to see in the Canadian Rockies!
Thanks for reading the article! If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below, and if you want to see more travel and hike-related content, make sure to check out my other articles.
Photos by Mia and Pixabay.
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- Click here for my walking tours
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