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Ultimate 2 Week Western Canada Road Trip from Vancouver: Itinerary, Tips & Map

If you have only one chance (and two weeks) to explore Western Canada, this is the road trip for you.

As well as including all of the ‘must sees,’ this two week Western Canada road trip itinerary features a taste of the contrasting landscapes that make this region so unique. Think ocean, rainforest, desert and mountains, all in one road trip.

Banff viewpoint on Norquay Road, showing rugged Mount Rundle looming above Banff townsite
Banff National Park

This road trip guide is shaped by 10+ years of experience living and travelling in British Columbia and Alberta. JR and I have tried and tested every single activity mentioned.

Filled with more than 6500 words of local knowledge and advice, this Western Canada road trip guide is intended to be used as a starting point for planning your own trip.

A lone tree rests on the sand on long beach, with calm ocean visible on right hand side and forest on left
Long Beach, Pacific Rim National Park

Adjust the suggestions to your own interests or add a couple of days in the locations that sound most appealing to you.

The guide includes a day-by-day overview of the entire two week road trip itinerary, as well as planning tips to help save you money (and stress!) along the way.

Here’s what to expect:

This post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase or booking through one of these links, we may receive a small percentage of the sale.

Sloped vineyards above Okanagan Lake on the Naramata Bench in Penticton
The Okanagan Valley

14 day Western Canada road trip overview

Time to start planning your once in a lifetime Western Canada road trip! This section of the guide provides an overview of the itinerary with a map and some important need to know information.

Back view of RV driving on Icefields Parkway, with lake on right and huge snow capped mountains looming above
Icefields Parkway

Road trip itinerary at a glance

Before we go any further, let’s have a look at the entire 14 day road trip itinerary from start to finish.

Day 1: Vancouver
Day 2: Vancouver to Tofino
Day 3: Tofino
Day 4: Tofino to Whistler
Day 5: Whistler
Day 6: Whistler to Clearwater
Day 7: Clearwater to Jasper

Day 8: Jasper
Day 9: Jasper to Banff
Day 10: Banff
Day 11: Banff to Golden
Day 12: Golden to Revelstoke
Day 13: Revelstoke to the Okanagan Valley
Day 14: Okanagan Valley to Vancouver

It is noticeable that the majority of this road trip is in British Columbia. I was tempted to call it the ‘ultimate 2 week British Columbia road trip‘ but decided that the inclusion of both Jasper and Banff made it a bit too inaccurate.

If one look at the routing makes you think ‘way too fast!’ then I suggest looking at the alternative itineraries noted at the bottom of the page

Travelling to Canada from Europe? While it is easier and faster to drive long distances in Western Canada compared to Europe, you may find that this itinerary includes way too much driving for your preferences. Again, I would suggest checking out the alternative itineraries section.

On water view of Emerald Lake, surrounded by snow capped mountains and bordered by forest. The lake colour is bright blue
Yoho National Park

Western Canada road trip map

Use the below Google Map for orientation and planning. Each of the suggested activities are marked on the map, with suggested accommodation in each town and city.

Need to know info

  • The best time to drive this road trip is July to September. June is also a good time, though a handful of these activities may have limited accessibility
  • This itinerary is relatively fast paced. If you choose to do most of the activities listed, you will likely be busy all day. Need more down time? Stretch this itinerary over three weeks or skip some of the activities
  • The route and suggested activities are aimed at people who enjoy exploring nature and being active while on vacation
  • I have suggested at least one short, easy hike/walk each day (7km or less). Other hiking trails mentioned are aimed at keen hikers looking for longer, intermediate/difficult level routes
  • Most of the overnight stops are in small towns. During the summer months, accommodation and dining availability and choice can be limited
  • Before you head to Western Canada, learn the how to avoid negative bear encounters and basic outdoor safety
  • Advance reservations (6 months or more) are recommended for Tofino, Whistler, Banff and Jasper in particular
  • This itinerary focuses on free activities over paid ones. I have, however, mentioned half a dozen paid attractions which I think offer one-of-a-kind experiences
  • Keep in mind that this road trip offers just a taste of the activities and hiking trails on offer in these locations. It is impossible to do everything in a 2 week road trip so and likewise, I couldn’t include everything
  • When exploring, be sure to always Leave No Trace (dispose of trash properly, stay on established trails, don’t feed wildlife)
  • A national park pass is required to visit Pacific Rim, Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Glacier and Revelstoke national parks (all mentioned in this guide). The latter five parks are all covered by the same day pass
Narrow moss covered canyon with river rushing through below. There is a fenced bridge crossing the canyon
Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

Day by day road trip guide

Read on to discover a detailed breakdown of this 2 week Western Canada road trip itinerary, including where to stay and what to do each day.

Vancouver (Day 1)

Surrounded by temperate rainforest, mountains and ocean, Vancouver is a strikingly beautiful city.

The downtown area is located the very end of what is known as British Columbia’s ‘Lower Mainland,’ with neighbouring cities (Burnaby, Surrey, Abbotsford) spreading out to the east.

Vancouver is the ideal place to get your bearings before starting your 2 week Western Canada road trip.

Coal Harbour area of Vancouver with paved coastal path next to ocean with skyscrapers in background - Vancouver is one of the most popular destinations for a working holiday in Canada
Coal Harbour area of downtown Vancouver

Best things to do in Vancouver

  • One day isn’t a lot of time in Vancouver. Depending on the length of your journey to Vancouver, you may want to take this day slowly and not see/do that much
  • The Vancouver Seawall around Stanley Park is one of Vancouver’s most unique features. It’s possible to rent a bike or just walk one section
  • The Granville Island Public Market is a firm favourite for tourists and locals alike – arrive with an empty stomach!
  • Of course, a scroll around downtown is essential. Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, is one of my favourite areas, with cobblestone streets, galleries, cafes and boutiques
  • If the downtown areas do not hold any interest for you, consider a trip to Grouse Mountain. Take the challenge to hike to the top via the Grouse Grind (2.5km with 800m elevation!) or ride the cable car. Spectacular views await at the top, plus rescued grizzly bears and a lumberjack show
Close up of steaming Gastown clock in downtown Vancouver with six story brick building in background
Gastown Steam Clock, downtown Vancouver

Where to stay in Vancouver

Looking to stay downtown but want to pay less than $400/night? The stylish rooms at the Moda Hotel aren’t super spacious but have everything you need for a short stay.

On a stricter budget? I’ve heard great things about the YWCA Hotel. The location is fantastic, being walkable to everywhere downtown. The cheapest rooms have shared bathrooms.

There are no campgrounds in downtown Vancouver. If staying one night in the city does not appeal, travel to Vancouver Island one day early.

I would reserve a night at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park or Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park (four months in advance via the BC Parks website).

Side view of ferry railing with calm ocean and islands in background
The ferry ride between Vancouver and Vancouver Island is gorgeous on a sunny day!

Vancouver to Tofino (Day 2)

Vancouver to Tofino driving distance: 330km (+10km sightseeing)
Driving time without activities: 3 hours 30 minutes plus ferry crossing

Adventure awaits on Vancouver Island, across the Salish Sea! After picking up your rental vehicle, head to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal in West Vancouver for the crossing to Departure Bay in Nanaimo.

Depending on where you pick up your rental car, it may be more convenient to travel to Vancouver Island via the Tsawwassen ferry terminal instead.

The ferry time to Duke Point (also in Nanaimo) is longer but the drive to Tofino is a similar length and arguably more straightforward.

If you are travelling with a vehicle on a set itinerary (like this one), I would highly recommend reserving a spot on a specific BC Ferries crossing. It is best to do this a couple of months in advance.

Back view of Gemma standing on rock at Wallys Creek on Highway 4 to Tofino
Wally’s Creek, on the way to Tofino

Best things to do between Vancouver and Tofino

  • First stop on Vancouver Island is Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park near Coombs. An easy 3.2km loop (1 hour) takes in both the Upper and Lower waterfalls plus numerous spectacular viewpoints of turquoise pools, roaring rapids, moss covered cliffs and more
  • Drive 10 minutes west on Highway 4 to Cathedral Grove, the most easily accessible grove of old growth trees on Vancouver Island. Plan to walk 1km to see the biggest tree. This is a very popular roadside stop, so don’t be too disheartened if you are unable to park. Try again on the way back.
  • Port Alberni is the largest service centre in this area. If you need to pick up groceries or supplies, do it here. Top up on gas as well. Phone signal is patchy after this point
  • Leaving Port Alberni, Highway 4 follows the edge of Sproat Lake before winding through several river valleys. If you need a break, head to Taylor River Rest Area. There is river access for swimming
  • About 14km after the rest area is Wally’s Creek, also known as the Kennedy River Cascades. This rocky area features huge boulders smoothed by erosion
  • The Giant Cedar Trail is a great alternative to Cathedral Grove – it features a number of large trees within 500m of the road and is usually a lot quieter. Look for the signage on the right hand side of the road about 5km after Wally’s Creek (19km after the rest area)
  • The road starts to get very windy after this point. Eventually, you’ll reach the Tofino / Ucluelet junction
JR stands next to a huge cedar tree on the Giant Cedar Trail on the way to Todino
Giant Cedar Trail (in my opinion, better than Cathedral Grove!)

Where to stay in Tofino

Tofino is well known for its luxurious beachfront resorts, such as Middle Beach Lodge (adults only), Pacific Sands Beach Resort (dreamy beach houses with floor to ceiling windows) and Long Beach Lodge Resort (soaker tubs, fireplaces).

If your budget doesn’t stretch quite that far, check out Ocean Village on Mackenzie Beach. The distinctive ‘beehive’ cabins sit right behind the sand, offering breathtaking perspectives of crashing waves and sunsets.

Green Point is the one and only vehicle accessible campground located in Pacific Rim National Park (park pass required). The campsites are set into the forest above the beach, with a handful having ‘peek through’ views. Competition for campsite reservations is fierce.

Read More: 8 of the Best (Tried + Tested!) Places to Stay in Tofino, British Columbia

Line of small beehive shaped cabins sit behind the sand at Ocean Village in Tofino
Ocean Village, Tofino

Tofino (Day 3)

The small village of Tofino (pop. 2500) is perched on the very western edge of Vancouver Island. It is a gateway to natural coastal beauty characterised by long sandy beaches, old growth temperate rainforest, misty mountains, rocky headlands and pounding surf.

Pacific Rim National Park protects a swathe of the coastline. This includes Long Beach, an appropriately named 16km stretch of golden sand backed by ancient forest.

Boat view of Tofino harbour area, with other boats moored, forest bordering ocean and mist obscuring mountains above

Best things to do in Tofino

  • If you do one guided tour while in Western Canada, let it be a whale watching trip in Tofino! There is the chance to see grey whales, orcas, humpbacks, sea otters and more. Be sure to reserve in advance
  • For lunch, consider braving the line (which does disappear pretty fast) to get take out at the legendary Tacofino truck. Alternatively, enjoy your meal with a view at the Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn (keep alert for wildlife, we saw dolphins here)
  • In the afternoon, take a walk on one of the many spectacular local beaches – my favourites are Long Beach, Cox Bay and Florencia Bay
  • Feel like a short hike? There are so many options in and around Tofino!
  • Whatever you do, be sure to plan your day so you can watch the sun disappear behind the ocean. Head to any beach!

Here to hike? There are a number of challenging trails in and around Tofino. My favourite is the Cox Bay Lookout, a short, steep and rugged trail above the eponymous beach. Another idea would be to head into Pacific Rim National Park and tick off all of the short trails (Rainforest, Schooner Cove, Shorepine Bog)

Beach view in Tofino with ocean lapping on sandy beach and forested mountains in background
Mackenzie Beach

Tofino to Whistler (Day 4)

Tofino to Whistler driving distance: 335km (+10km sightseeing)
Driving time without activities: 5 hours 20 minutes plus ferry crossing

This will be a fairly long travel day – an early morning start will help enormously.

As previously mentioned, I would highly recommend having a reservation to ensure you have a spot on a specific ferry crossing from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay (this ferry terminal is the most convenient for Whistler).

Be sure to arrive at the terminal within the time stated on your ferry reservation confirmation (usually 60 to 30 minutes before departure). The ferry crossing takes 1 hour 40 minutes.

A huge granite rock looms over Squamish
The Stawamus Chief formation in Squamish

Best things to do between Tofino and Whistler

  • Back on the BC mainland, Shannon Falls is an ideal first stop to stretch and get your bearings. The waterfall is just a five minute walk from the parking lot
  • The small town of Squamish is just a little further up the highway. The dramatic Stawamus Chief, a huge granite monolith, can be seen from downtown. Stop for an early dinner or to get food supplies
  • Last stop before Whistler is Brandywine Falls. Allow 20-30 minutes to walk the easy 1km return trail to the viewpoint
Large waterfall cascades from platform into cauldron
Brandywine Falls near Whistler

Where to stay in Whistler

Whistler has a whole host of accommodation options to choose from. Booking as early as possible is highly recommended.

The Pangea Pod Hotel is right in the heart of the action of Whistler Village, but without the price tag of surrounding hotels.

Families and larger groups may like the Whistler Village Inn & Suites, which offers a number of different room configurations. The location is central but surprisingly quiet.

The closest provincial park campground to Whistler is Nairn Falls, around 25 minutes drive north on Highway 99. Another option is Alice Lake, which is in Squamish (40 minutes south). Reservations highly recommended.

Elevated view looking down on alpine lake, surrounded by snow capped mountains on Whistler Mountain. The views are slightly obscured by smoke
Hiking on Whistler Mountain

Whistler (Day 5)

Whistler is one of North America’s largest ski resorts. But this mountain paradise is a wonderful summer destination as well.

This is particularly true if you love to hike as the winter lift system can be utilised for easy access into the alpine (almost zero uphill climbs necessary!)

Patio seating outside European ski village style buildings in Whistler village
Whistler Village

Best things to do in Whistler

  • After breakfast, board the Village Gondola to reach the peak of Whistler Mountain (2,181m). Take in the extraordinary views and then ride the Peak Express chairlift (Friday to Sunday only) to the Top of the World Summit (2182m). Top tip – buy your tickets online to avoid most of the line
  • Return to Whistler Mountain to take the incredible Peak 2 Peak gondola to Blackcomb Mountain, where more alpine trails await. I’d recommend the easy Alpine Loop (1.4km). When finished, ride the Blackcomb Gondola back down to the village
  • Cool off with a swim in Alta Lake. Note that parking is limited so walk or take the bus if you can (#10, #20, #25 BC Transit buses)
  • In the evening, explore Whistler’s alpine-themed centre and take a photo with the huge Olympic Rings
  • Looking for some down time? Visit Scandinave Spa for some thermal therapy. Access to this adults-only outdoor spa is available without a reservation, though a waitlist does operate at busy times
  • If they haven’t had enough excitement already, kids may love to try the longest zipline in North America

Here to hike? The premier alpine hike on Whistler Mountain is the High Note Trail. The 9.4km route begins from the Top of the World Summit and descends through rugged rocky terrain and meadows to finish at the top of the Village Gondola

Yellow hiker sign on rock at Whistler Mountain, with snow capped peaks in background
There are some many alpine trails at Whistler Mountain

Whistler to Clearwater (Day 6)

Whistler to Clearwater driving distance: 423km (+10km sightseeing)
Driving time without activities: 5 hours 20 minutes

This is a long driving day so I would recommend starting early (pre 9am). I have not suggested many activities between Whistler and Clearwater for this reason.

Clearwater is an excellent base from which to visit Wells Gray Provincial Park, one of BC’s most spectacular protected areas. It’s also a very convenient overnight stop to break up the journey between Whistler and Jasper.

Part of a volcanic field that started forming approximately 3.5 million years ago, Wells Gray is host to 40+ spectacular waterfalls as well as glacier lakes, snow capped mountains and more.

Dry desert landscape with highway on left and railway line on right. There is a tunnel blasted through the rock
The landscape changes dramatically around Lillooet

Best things to do between Whistler and Clearwater

  • Nairn Falls is a must see, situated 25 minutes north of Whistler. The viewpoint is 3km return from the parking lot
  • Enjoy morning coffee in Pemberton, a cute village surrounded by mountains
  • Beyond Duffy Lake, the landscape starts to change dramatically. Stop in Lillooet to take it all in (pick up some treats from the bakery too!)
  • There is a great viewpoint/rest area 30 minutes west of Kamloops
  • It is likely you will arrive in Clearwater in the evening. If you do feel like ticking one waterfall off after your arrival, however, consider Spahats Falls. It’s 10 minutes drive from Clearwater (one way)
  • On the morning of your departure, I would suggest getting up early and driving the Wells Gray Corridor to Helmcken Falls (88km return). Note that the last few kilometers of the drive are on well maintained dirt road
  • On the way to Helmcken Falls, stop at Spahats Falls (if you didn’t visit last night), Dawson Falls (900m return) and the Mushbowl (roadside)
  • An optional stop is Moul Falls. It is accessible only via a 6km return hike. The first half of the trail is flat, wide and very easy. The second half is narrower and rockier, with the final approach to the waterfall featuring some short, steep slopes and a couple of staircases

Reading this wondering why I haven’t mentioned visiting famous Joffre Lakes? Since June 2022, a day pass system has been in place for this provincial park. Passes can only be reserved two days in advance and are in high demand.

A tall waterfall dramatically falls from a rockface below
Spahats Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park

Where to stay in Clearwater

Clearwater is host to a small collection of motels and chain hotels. Outside of town, there are a number of independently operated B&Bs and vacation rentals (usually in the form of cabins).

We usually camp while visiting the Wells Gray area but we will be staying at the Jasper Way Inn during an upcoming trip with my parents. This family run property is not as modern as the chain hotels in town, but the lakeside location looks beautiful.

It is also possible to sleep closer to the park. Across the Creek Cabins features fully equipped individual cabins set into a forest.

There are three vehicle accessible campgrounds in this section of Wells Gray Provincial Park. Reservations are possible for both Clearwater Lake and Falls Creek campgrounds. Personally, we find Pyramid to be more conveniently located for waterfalls but it is first come first serve only.

Side view of large, wide waterfall (Dawson Falls) with layers of cascades
Dawson Falls

Clearwater to Jasper (Day 7)

Clearwater to Jasper driving distance: 318km (+100km sightseeing)
Driving time without activities: 3 hours 30 minutes

The drive between Clearwater and Jasper is pleasant, though there are not many easily accessible roadside activities.

As mentioned in the previous section mentioned, spend the morning of day 7 exploring Wells Gray Provincial Park.

141m Helmckcen Falls plunging into a canyon in Wells Gray Provincial Park
Helmcken Falls

Best things to do between Clearwater and Jasper

  • Valemount is an ideal break (or late lunch) destination, located just over 2 hours into the drive from Clearwater. There’s a pretty authentic Swiss German bakery here
  • Shortly after turning onto Highway 16 you’ll arrive at Rearguard Falls Provincial Park. A steep and short trail leads down to a number of viewing platforms of this thundering waterfall
  • Around the next highway corner is a spectacular view of Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies (3954m). Stop at the Visitor Centre to get a closer look and view indoor exhibits about the mountain. There’s a good café as well
  • If you have the time, make a quick stop at Overlander Falls. Allow 30 minutes to walk to the main viewpoint and back
Looking across fields of daisies to forest, with snow capped Mount Robson Provincial Park looming above. There is a single lone clown at the peak
Sunset at Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Rockies

Where to stay in Jasper

Accommodation in Jasper is high in demand. This combined with the small size of Jasper means that prices are high too. For these reasons, I would recommend booking accommodation in Jasper as soon as possible.

The Mount Robson Inn is a solid downtown accommodation pick. A wide range of room configurations offer particularly good value for families and larger groups. Breakfast is included with every stay and guests also have access to a hot tub. Whistler’s Inn is an ideal alternative for couples.

Campers have a choice of campgrounds in Jasper. We have stayed most often at Whistlers Campground, which was completely renovated for the 2022 season.

Wapiti Campground is located just down the road from Whistlers and is smaller. Both are only 5 minutes drive from town.

Road view of Highway 16 with red clouds above
Driving between Mount Robson and Jasper during a fiery looking evening!

Jasper (Day 8)

Jasper National Park is Canada’s largest, with the small town of Jasper at the centre of it all. With two nights here, you’ll be able to see some of the park’s most impressive sights and also enjoy the charm of the compact Jasper townsite.

Elevated view looking down on canoeist on calm Maligne Lake, approaching peninsula with scattered trees, with background of huge mountains
Spirit Island, Jasper National Park

Best things to do in Jasper

  • With one full day in Jasper, I would prioritise visiting Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake, both located on Maligne Lake Road (100km return)
  • Allow 2 hours to walk the 5km loop along the rim of Maligne Canyon. It includes six bridges, numerous impressive viewpoints and even several waterfalls. Shorter loops are possible as well
  • Continue the drive along Maligne Lake Road to the Medicine Lake Lookout
  • At the end of the road is Maligne Lake itself. Pre-book a cruise to Spirit Island, one of Canada’s most iconic and spectacular sights. Yes, the cruise is super touristy but there’s no other way to see the true beauty of Maligne Lake in such a short amount of time
  • If you have extra time, consider taking a short drive along Highway 16 beyond Jasper. The road parallels the impressive Athabasca River
  • Another scenic drive worth mentioning is Pyramid Lake Road. The drive first passes Patricia Lake before skirting the edge of Pyramid Lake itself. Take a walk on Pyramid Island and then return to Jasper. This drive is best in the morning or evening, when it is less busy

Here to hike? Get an early start and head directly to Maligne Lake. The Bald Hills hike is the best ‘bang for buck’ trail in this area, offering spectacular above treeline views of Maligne Lake. The return distance to the summit is 15km with 715m of elevation gain

Back view of JR walking on wooden bridge crossing to Pyramid Island with mountains in background
Pyramid Island on Pyramid Lake

Jasper to Banff (Day 9)

Jasper to Banff driving distance: 289km (+10km sightseeing)
Driving time without activities: 3 hours 30 minutes

Often cited as one of the best road trips in the world, the Icefields Parkway is a 230km long highway along the Continental Divide. It starts in Jasper and ends near Lake Louise, 60km west of Banff

The road is lined with towering mountains and immense glaciers, providing jaw dropping vistas no matter where you look.

There are numerous roadside viewpoints along the route, as well as hiking trailheads and picnic areas. Be sure to get gas and food supplies before leaving Jasper.

Vehicle dashboard view of Icefield Parkway drive, with twisty road ahead and mountains in the background
Driving the Icefields Parkway

Best things to do between Jasper and Banff

  • Driving the Icefields Parkway without stopping takes just less than three hours. To visit the below sights and stop at half a dozen viewpoints, allow six hours or more
  • Multiple platform viewpoints await at powerful Athabasca Falls (800m or less total walking)
  • Make a quick stop at Sunwapta Falls to see the almost roadside Upper Falls
  • The Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies, with the Athabasca Glacier being the most accessible part. The easy Toe of the Athabasca Glacier hike is 1.4km return
  • The bright turquoise colour of Peyto Lake has to be seen to believed! The walk from the parking lot is uphill, just over 1km return
  • Bow Lake is another great spot to stretch your legs during the latter half of the Icefields Parkway
  • Depending on the time you finish driving the Icefields Parkway, consider making the short detour to see if parking at Lake Louise is available. The crowds have usually lessened after 4pm**

**See note on day 10 regarding Moraine Lake

Elevated view looking down on turquoise coloured Peyto Lake, surrounded by mountains in Banff National Park
Peyto Lake

Where to stay in Banff

While Banff is about double the size of Jasper, it also receives almost double the amount of visitors. The price of accommodation is usually a bit higher too. As with Jasper, I’d recommend booking as early as possible.

Our favourite downtown hotel is Moose Hotel & Suites. It is situated right on Banff Avenue, just a few minutes walk from a huge choice of restaurants, cafes and stores. One of the other highlights of the hotel is the huge roof top patio with hot tub.

There are a number of different campgrounds to choose from in the Banff area. Our preferred campground for tent camping is Tunnel Mountain Village 1. The sites are relatively private and the campground is just a short bus ride away from downtown.

If your budget doesn’t stretch to staying in Banff, consider the nearby town of Canmore instead (still touristy but more of a local vibe, slightly lower prices). The Pocaterra Inn offers one of the best value stays in Canmore.

Budget not an issue? Consider staying in Lake Louise! The Fairmont Château Lake Louise is the most iconic place to stay in the Rockies.

Yellow flowers in foreground with downtown Banff views in background, featuring faux alpine buildings and snow capped Cascade Mountain
Downtown Banff

Banff (day 10)

There are so many different things to do in the picture perfect mountain town of Banff and surrounding Banff National Park.

For many people, visiting spectacular Moraine Lake and Lake Louise is a priority. In this itinerary, however, I have chosen not to include these famous lakes due to the new (2023) restriction that it is no longer possible to park at Moraine Lake.

If Moraine Lake is a ‘must see’ for your group, you will need to reserve a shuttle bus or guided tour. Note that the Park and Ride station is 110km return from Banff.

It’s still very difficult to secure parking at Lake Louise during the day, but it can be worth a try in the late afternoon/evening. For this reason, I have suggested checking on your way through to Banff on day 9.

Back view of JR stand up paddleboarding on Two Jack Lake in Banff
We rented a stand up paddleboard to go paddling on Two Jack Lake at sunrise (part of the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive)

Best things to do in Banff

  • If you’re an early riser and loved Maligne Canyon in Jasper, consider an early morning trip to Johnston Canyon (30km drive from Banff). The 2.4km return hike to the Lower Falls takes less than 1 hour. Johnston Canyon is usually very busy between 10am – 3pm
  • In the morning, explore the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive (24km). Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Walk on the shoreline of the lake or consider renting a canoe ($85/hour)
  • Instead of returning directly to Banff, take a short detour to the Mt Norquay Lookout. It’s my favourite free viewpoint in Banff
  • Feel like a hike? The 2km uphill trail to the top of Tunnel Mountain is well worth the effort (300m elevation gain) as it ascends the slopes of this prominent landmark to reveal a number of spectacular viewpoints over the Banff Townsite as well as Mount Rundle and the Bow Valley
  • If that sounds like too much for you, reserve a spot on the Banff Gondola that ascends to the top of Sulphur Mountain. The views are simply spectacular. I’d recommend taking the bus (route 1) to avoid having to find parking at the gondola base
  • Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring downtown Banff. If the shopping area doesn’t appeal, take a walk along the Bow River to see the falls (close to the Fairmont)

Here to hike? It’s possible to ascend Sulphur Mountain by trail, rather than gondola. The 11km return trip includes 665m of elevation gain. My friend Leigh has written a comprehensive hiking guide. It is possible to take the gondola down instead of hiking, but there is a fee.

View from Banff gondola window showing other gondola car ascending mountain, with views of forest and Banff town below, with Cascade Mountain in background
Banff Gondola

Banff to Golden (Day 11)

Banff to Golden driving distance: 146km (+56km sightseeing)
Driving time without activities: 2 hours

This day is all about Yoho National Park. In my opinion, Yoho is the most underrated park in the Canadian Rockies. Plan to leave the Banff area relatively early to make the most of the day.

Back view of JR walking on wooden bridge, looking up at huge cascading waterfall
Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park

Best things to do between Banff and Golden

  • Make a quick stop at the Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint. Depending on timing, you may be lucky and see a train pass through this impressive structure
  • Parking can be a challenge at Emerald Lake after 11am, so head here next. Enjoy the views, rent a canoe ($90/hour) or walk the family-friendly 5.2km loop trail around the lakeshore
  • On the way back to Highway 1, visit the Natural Bridge
  • Turn east on Highway 1 and drive back to Yoho Valley Road. Please note, this road is 13km long with no services, no phone signal and several very tight switchbacks. Trailers and large RVs not permitted
  • Takakkaw Falls, British Columbia’s second tallest waterfall, is located at the end of Yoho Valley Road
  • Back on Highway 1, head west towards Golden. If you have time, Wapta Falls is a worthwhile stop (3.2km return)
  • Families and thrill seekers may prefer to check out the Golden Skybridge, host to Canada’s highest suspension bridges
  • If you didn’t bring a picnic, Truffle Pigs in Field is the place to go for food in this area. It’s not cheap but it’s the opposite of a tourist trap, with everything is made from scratch, with quality ingredients. There’s ice cream too.

Here to hike? The Iceline Trail should be your priority today. Usually hiked as a 20km loop, the Iceline begins at Takkakaw Falls at the end of the Yoho Valley Road. Allow 7 to 9 hours

Natural rock bridge over fast river, backdropped by a mountain
Natural Bridge, Yoho National Park

Where to stay in Golden

There’s much more to the small town of Golden than the assorted collection of motels, hotels, gas stations and fast food joints on Highway 1.

Take the signed detour and head downtown to discover heritage buildings, trendy bars and unique boutiques, all with the backdrop of the rushing Kicking Horse River and huge snow capped mountains.

Canyon Ridge Lodge‘s quiet, spotlessly clean rooms are a welcome sight after a day exploring Yoho. Outside, there are stunning views and a hot tub, ideal for a post-hike soak. 

If you’re on a tighter budget, Golden has a plethora of motels and chain hotels to choose from, with popular options being the Holiday Inn and Ramada (we’ve stayed at the latter twice).

For camping, consider the 72 site municipal campground, which backs on to the Kicking Horse River. An alternative is to stay at the Kicking Horse Campground in Yoho National Park but you’ll need to secure a reservation early.

Back view of Gemma walking on suspended bridge over canyon
Golden Skybridge

Golden to Revelstoke (Day 12)

Golden to Revelstoke driving distance: 148km (+52km sightseeing)
Driving time without activities: 2 hours

Two more national parks are on the itinerary today – Glacier National Park and Mount Revelstoke National Park. Your day will end in Revelstoke, British Columbia’s best up and coming adventure town.

Stairs leading through forest on Hemlock Grove boardwalk, surrounded by forest and plants
Hemlock Grove boardwalk in Glacier National Park

Best things to do between Golden and Revelstoke

  • Interested in the Golden Skybridge but ran out of time yesterday? Consider dropping by this morning
  • Enjoy the mountain views from your vehicle on the drive to the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre in Glacier National Park. This informative centre is my favourite of its kind in the Rockies
  • Stretch your legs on the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk (350m loop), which traverses a cedar and hemlock forest. I’d also recommend the Meeting of the Waters trail (3.3km loop) but it can be difficult to park
  • Heading out of Glacier National Park, you’ll drive through a number of snowsheds, representing the huge amount of snow (14m!) received here in winter
  • Entering Revelstoke National Park, consider stops at Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail (500m loop, was closed in 2022) and the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk (one short section open in 2023)
  • Arriving in Revelstoke, you have some decisions to make. The Meadows in the Sky Parkway is a 26km paved scenic drive into the alpine, with hiking trails and scenic viewpoints along the way
  • If you’re travelling with kids, you may want to prioritise visiting Revelstoke Mountain Resort, home of the 42km/h Pipe Mountain Coaster (the only one of its kind in Western Canada)

Here to hike? There are so many options for this section! In Glacier National Park, choose between the Hermit Trail (6.4km return), Balu Pass (12.8km) or Abbott Ridge (15.6km). All three trails are very steep. In Revelstoke National Park, Eva Lake (14km) is an easier but still very satisfying day hike

Elevated view of a small city (Revelstoke) at the base of a snow capped mountain
Revelstoke from the Meadows in the Sky Parkway

Where to stay in Revelstoke

Perched on the edge of the Columbia River and surrounded by the Monashee and Selkirk mountain ranges, Revelstoke is a beautiful outdoor playground.

Revelstoke has a great choice of accommodation. If staying downtown is appealing, book a stay at the wonderful Regent Hotel.

The stylish rooms in this heritage building are surprisingly spacious. Better still, the complimentary breakfast buffet is the best I’ve had anywhere in Canada.

Travelling with the family or a larger group? Look no further than the Swiss Chalet Motel. The property is a 10-15 minute walk to downtown, with exceptionally reasonable prices. I stayed in a two bedroom suite with close family and we all had plenty of space.

Campers should make an early reservation for the Snowforest Campground in Mount Revelstoke National Park. It’s not the most spacious national park campground but the convenience (10 minutes drive from town on the Meadows in the Sky Parkway) is hard to beat.

Other local camping options include Martha Creek Provincial Park and Blanket Creek Provincial Park.

Downtown Revelstoke, with mountain in background and two story heritage buildings in foreground
Downtown Revelstoke

Revelstoke to the Okanagan Valley (Day 13)

Revelstoke to Kelowna distance: 197km (+5km sightseeing)
Driving time without activities: 2 hours 40 minutes

The interior of British Columbia is host to a spectacular landscape of dry valleys, lakes and grasslands. This the Okanagan Valley and besides being beautiful, it is also Canada’s second largest wine region.

Kelowna is the biggest city in the Okanagan Valley (pop 140k). If you think you may be craving city amenities by this point, consider a night here.

For me, Kelowna is just a bit too busy. This is especially true in the summer, when the hot Okanagan weather attracts thousands of people from all over BC to this bustling lakeside city.

Vernon and Penticton are small towns located to the north and south of Kelowna respectively. While there is still plenty to do around Vernon, we do prefer Penticton (our home town, so we are somewhat biased!)

A bench is in the foreground, looking out to Okanagan Lake and the city of Penticton resting on the eastern shore. The city is backdropped by mountains
Munson Mountain viewpoint, Penticton

Best things to do between Revelstoke and the Okanagan Valley

  • Have any railway fans in the family? A trip to the Revelstoke Railway Museum would be a worthwhile stop before leaving town
  • The drive along Highway 1 from Revelstoke to Sicamous has plenty of pretty sections but not many places to stop. One of our favourite rest areas is the Last Spike, a historical site celebrating the completion of the railway connecting eastern and western Canada
  • Sicamous is an ideal location for a break. The D Dutchmen Dairy is a family operated farm selling homemade ice cream, cheese and milk. Note that it does get very busy around lunchtime
  • Turn off Highway 1 and towards the Okanagan Valley on Highway 97A. The highway skirts Mara Lake (consider a stop at the provincial park of the same name for a swim!) before travelling through farmland
  • Vernon is 150km from Revelstoke and is a potential overnight destination (see below). If stopping here, my top three activities would be a swim at Kal Beach, a short hike (suggestions here) and a visit to Planet Bee Honey Farm
  • Kelowna is another potential overnight destination. If stopping here, my top three activities would be a swim in Okanagan Lake, a winery visit and a walk along the waterfront promenade
  • Penticton is another potential overnight destination. If stopping here, my top three activities would be a swim in one of the lakes, a winery visit and a trip to Munson Mountain Lookout

Here to hike? The Okanagan Valley is usually very hot during the day in summer. I’d suggest an evening or early morning hike. In Vernon, check out Middleton Mountain. Knox Mountain is a great pick in Vernon. In Penticton, check out the KVR Trail from Vancouver Place to McCulloch Trestle

Dirt trail leading downhill through vineyards on the Naramata Bench in Penticton
Walking the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) Trail in Penticton

Where to stay in the Okanagan Valley

Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton offer a wide variety of accommodation options. Summerland and Peachland are great alternatives.

In Kelowna, our top pick is the Hotel Zed. This renovated motel boasts funky rooms and an ideal downtown location close to Okanagan Lake. It has easy access to Highway 97 as well.

My favourite place to stay in the Vernon area is Sparkling Hill, a luxurious adults-only spa retreat. For a quick overnight hassle-free stop, however, I’d suggest the almost brand new Fairfield Inn & Suites.

In Penticton, the Lakeside Resort has the best location in town. Right on the waterfront, most rooms have views of the leafy downtown area or Okanagan Lake itself.

For camping, we like Ellison Provincial Park near Vernon and Bear Creek Provincial Park near Kelowna. An alternative is Okanagan Lake Provincial Park North near Summerland. Click for more suggestions.

Back view of Gemma walking away along hiking trail with Kalamalka Lake in background, surrounded by rolling hills
Hiking Middleon Mountain in Vernon

Okanagan Valley to Vancouver (Day 14)

Kelowna to Vancouver driving distance: 390km (+20km sightseeing)
Driving time without activities: 4 hours 30 minutes

It’s the last day of your 2 week Western Canada road trip! Time to head back to Vancouver. The journey will take around 5 to 7 hours, depending on chosen route/stops.

For a more detailed version of this road trip section, check out this Vancouver to Okanagan Valley road trip guide.

Beach views in Kelowna, with golden sand bordering a calm lake
Beach in West Kelowna

Best things to do between Kelowna/Vernon and Vancouver

From Kelowna or Vernon, the most direct route to Vancouver is via Highway 97 followed by the 97C, 5A, 5 and 1.

  • The first part of the journey is pretty scenic, with wide open views of Okanagan Lake then a plateau area. Be sure to get gas before leaving Kelowna as there’s only one service station on the 97C
  • Merritt is the best place to stop for lunch/gas/snacks. If you want to stretch your legs, I’d recommend the Godey Creek Trail (1.9km loop). Please note that there is construction happening in this area
  • My favourite place to hike on this route was Othello Tunnels near Hope, but it has been closed since November 2021 due to flooding
  • An alternative would be Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park a little closer to Vancouver
JR is sat with his back to camera, sat at a wooden picnic table looking out to views of Merritt and the Nicola Valley
Godey Creek Trail in Merritt

Best things to do between Penticton and Vancouver

There are two routes possible from Penticton – the same highway combination as above or a similarly timed alternative via Highway 3.

  • The Highway 3 route is scenic but slower. The road is more twisty and has more drop-offs
  • Personally, I’d recommend driving Highway 3 over the Highway 97C/5 combination as there are more interesting places to stop
  • The small town of Keremeos is the fruit stand capital of the Okanagan region – pick up some fresh peaches, apricots or cherries for your journey (season dependent)
  • Princeton is the ideal place to get gas/coffee/lunch/snacks
  • Take an extended break in Manning Provincial Park. Drive up to Cascade Lookout (open July to Sept, 16km return) for amazing views of the surrounding mountains. Rent a canoe or walk around Lightning Lake (5km short loop, 9km long loop)
Looking down from elevated viewpoint of Manning Park area, with resort in foreground and backdrop of mountain peaks, which are highlighted by sunrise colours
Cascade Lookout in Manning Park at golden hour

Where to stay in Vancouver

Returning to Vancouver, you have the option to stay in the city again or overnight close to the airport (YVR).

We’ve stayed at various hotels around Vancouver Airport over the years.

The big chain hotels offer standard, reliable service (Sandman Vancouver Airport, Holiday Inn, Travelodge). A complimentary shuttle to the airport is usually provided, sometimes breakfast as well.

On the upper end, there is a Fairmont right in the airport (the convenience!)

I’m always surprised at the above average pricing for the airport hotels and, for that reason, we sometimes choose to stay in the city instead. The SkyTrain from downtown to YVR takes 25 minutes and costs only $4.45 (+$5 from YVR to downtown).

A river approaches a rockface and thunders through rock canyon below, backdropped by huge mountain
Athabasca Falls, Jasper National Park

Western Canada road trip: Top tips

In this section I will share some final thoughts about planning your perfect Western Canada road trip.

Camping details

The best way to save money while touring Western Canada is to camp.

  • National park campgrounds (Parks Canada) average $30-50/night plus $11.50 reservation fee
  • Provincial park campgrounds (BC Parks) average $20-40/night plus $6/night reservation fee
  • Private campgrounds average $30-70/night

Obviously, the downside is that you’ll need your own camping equipment. An alternative option is to rent an RV, so you can sleep in your vehicle.

It is possible to buy relatively cheap camping gear and accessories at Canadian stores like Walmart. A full set up with an entry level tent (4 person), sleeping bags (2), sleeping mats (2), stove and other essential supplies would cost around $500CAD.

The specific campgrounds mentioned in this Western Canada road trip itinerary are very popular and, as such, travelers should reserve in advance.

  • Reservations for vehicle accessible national park campgrounds usually open in January for the following summer. The exact launch dates are usually revealed during the preceding December.* Parks Canada reservation website
  • Reservations for vehicle accessible provincial park campgrounds in British Columbia operate with a four month rolling window. So if you want to book for 7th August, the date will be available to book on 7th April. BC Parks reservation website

*In 2022, reservation launch dates were in February, with the dates revealed in late January

A set up tent on campsite in Banff National Park, looking out to forest and mountain views
Camping at Tunnel Mountain 1 campground in Banff National Parl

Alternative road trip itineraries

While we think the above 2 week Western Canada road trip itinerary provides a great overview of BC and Alberta, we know that may not be perfect for everyone. It does involve a lot of driving and only short stays at each location.

The great news is that it is easy to adapt the routing to create your own two week Western Canada road trip itinerary.

Other two week itineraries

For many people, Vancouver Island is a destination in itself. Consider putting it on your list for a return visit to Western Canada.

By removing Vancouver Island from the above itinerary, you’ll gain an additional two nights and also save the cost and time of the ferry crossings.

As a replacement, I would suggest staying an additional night in the Banff area and another night in Jasper (another possibility would be to stay an additional night in Clearwater instead).

The adapted itinerary would look like this:

Day 1: Vancouver
Day 2: Vancouver to Whistler
Day 3: Whistler
Day 4: Whistler to Clearwater
Day 5: Clearwater to Jasper
Day 6: Jasper
Day 7: Jasper

Day 8: Jasper to Banff
Day 9: Banff
Day 10: Banff
Day 11: Banff to Golden
Day 12: Golden to Revelstoke
Day 13: Revelstoke to the Okanagan Valley
Day 14: Okanagan Valley to Vancouver

Not interested in going so far north (Clearwater/Jasper)?

Head directly to Revelstoke from Whistler via an overnight stop in Kamloops or Salmon Arm. Spend an extra night in the Banff area and another night in the Okanagan Valley.

This adapted itinerary would look like this:

Day 1: Vancouver
Day 2: Vancouver to Tofino
Day 3: Tofino
Day 4: Tofino to Whistler
Day 5: Whistler
Day 6: Whistler to Salmon Arm
Day 7: Salmon Arm to Banff

Day 8: Banff
Day 9: Banff
Day 10: Banff to Golden
Day 11: Golden to Revelstoke
Day 12: Revelstoke to the Okanagan Valley
Day 13: Okanagan Valley
Day 14: Okanagan Valley to Vancouver

Another idea would be to remove Vancouver Island from the above itinerary and spend more time in Whistler and Golden.

JR sat on the left side of wide Wapta Falls, which is backdropped by mountains
Wapta Fall, Yoho National Park

Three week Western Canada road trip itinerary

Have three weeks to spend on your Western Canada road trip? Excellent! The extra time offers more flexibility and less time driving each day.

I would suggest an itinerary like this:

Day 1: Vancouver
Day 2: Vancouver to Victoria
Day 3: Victoria
Day 4: Victoria to Tofino
Day 5: Tofino
Day 6: Tofino
Day 7: Tofino to Parksville
Day 8: Parksville to Whistler
Day 9: Whistler
Day 10: Whistler to Clearwater
Day 11: Clearwater to Jasper

Day 12: Jasper
Day 13: Jasper to Banff
Day 14: Banff
Day 15: Banff
Day 16: Banff to Golden
Day 17: Golden to Revelstoke
Day 18: Revelstoke
Day 19: Revelstoke to Kelowna
Day 20: Kelowna
Day 21: Kelowna to Vancouver

As you can see, this more relaxed itinerary includes a stay in Victoria (beautiful oceanside Vancouver Island city), an overnight stop in Parksville (lovely beaches, close to ferry terminal) and extra nights in Banff, Revelstoke and Kelowna.

Back/side view of Gemma standing on wooden boardwalk on Rainforest Trail in Tofino, with large mossy fallen trees on left
Rainforest Trail in Pacific Rim National Park near Tofino

More planning resources

The Best Vancouver to Calgary Road Trip Routes: Highway 1 & Alternatives

Where to Find Big Trees on Vancouver Island

The Best Okanagan Valley Wineries: A Local’s Guide

What To Do in Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia

25+ Amazing Vancouver Island Waterfalls You Must Visit

Complete Guide to BC Parks Camping Reservations

11 Amazing Short Hikes Near Tofino, British Columbia

How to Stay Safe in the Outdoors

Bear Safety in Canada: What You Need to Know

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Monday 21st of August 2023

Thanks a lot for your detailed and very helpful tips !

we just had a family road trip for 2 weeks. We did not exactly follow your suggestions, but it was a great source of inspiration for our trip

thank you very much !!



Wednesday 30th of August 2023

Thanks so much for letting me know Sven! Hope you had a fabulous trip.