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Canadian Rockies Road Trip Loop: Detailed 9 to 12 day Itineraries + Map

Want to explore both sides of the Canadian Rockies (Alberta and British Columbia) and drive a circular road trip route? This Canadian Rockies road trip loop may be the perfect choice for you!

View of downtown Banff with sunflowers on left, pedestrian walkway on right, shops in background and mountain rising above
Downtown Banff

Road trippers can easily ‘join’ the loop from either Calgary or Vancouver, Western Canada’s two biggest cities. Car rentals are usually much cheaper when picking up and dropping off at the same location.

This Canadian Rockies loop route is easy to combine with other BC road trip destinations, such as the Okanagan Valley, Slocan Valley (hot springs) and the Columbia Valley (Radium, Invermere).

141m Helmckcen Falls plunging into a lush canyon in Wells Gray Provincial Park. The canyon is surrounded by forest
Helmckcen Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park

JR and I have been exploring the Canadian Rockies (and surrounding mountain ranges) for more than a decade.

This road trip route is very similar to one I recently organised for my parents, who were visiting from the UK. I wanted them to see the most iconic sights in the Canadian Rockies and also some quieter, off-the-beaten-track locations as well.

This detailed guide includes a day-by-day overview of the entire Canadian Rockies loop road trip itinerary, as well as planning tips to help save you money (and stress!) along the way.

Here’s what to expect:

Published December 2023. 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. All prices in this post are Canadian dollars.

Vehicle windshield view of Icefields Parkway in Alberts, with RV driving on two lane road next to huge snowy mountains
Driving the Icefields Parkway

Canadian Rockies Loop road trip overview

Time to start planning a Canadian Rockies loop road trip! This section of the guide provides an overview of the itinerary with a map and some important need-to-know information

Road trip itinerary at a glance

Before we go any further, here is a look at the entire 9 road trip itinerary from start to finish (there is a 12 day version later in the guide):

Day 1: Banff*
Day 2: Banff
Day 3: Banff to Jasper
Day 4: Jasper
Day 5: Jasper to Valemount

Day 6: Valemount to Kamloops
Day 7: Kamloops to Revelstoke
Day 8: Revelstoke to Golden
Day 9: Golden to Banff**

*If beginning in Calgary, add 126km (90 minutes) drive from city. From Vancouver, drive directly to Revelstoke and start the itinerary mid-way through day 7.
**If finishing in Calgary, add 126km (90 minutes) drive back to the city

If one glance at this 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 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.

Canadian Rockies loop road trip map

Need to know info

  • This Canadian Rockies road trip route can be explored in either direction, though I would recommend counter-clockwise (and the itinerary below is written in that direction) to ensure you can visit certain places early in the day
  • The best time to drive this road trip is July to September. June can also be a good time, though some activities and trails will have limited accessibility at this time
  • 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 downtime? Stretch this itinerary over a longer period or skip some of the activities/stops
  • The route and suggested activities are aimed at people who enjoy exploring nature and being active while on vacation
  • Please keep in mind that this Canadian Rockies road trip route offers just a taste of the activities and hiking trails on offer in these locations. It is impossible to do everything in such a relatively short road trip
  • Before you leave home, learn how to avoid negative bear encounters and basic outdoor safety. If you see a bear while driving, stay in your vehicle!
  • When exploring, be sure to always Leave No Trace (dispose of trash properly, stay on established trails, don’t feed wildlife)
Wooden bridge with fence leading onto small island on Pyramid Lake with collection of trees. A mountauin rises above the island in the background. The trees are highlighted with golden autumnal colours
Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park

Day-by-day Canadian Rockies loop road trip guide

Read on to discover a detailed breakdown of this Canadian Rockies loop road trip itinerary, including where to stay and what to do each day.

Day 1: Banff

Calgary to Banff driving distance: 127km
Driving time without activities: 1 hour 30 minutes

*If beginning in Calgary, add 126km (90 minutes) drive from the city. If beginning in Vancouver, drive directly to Revelstoke and read the itinerary from day 7

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

Elevated view looking down on the town of Banff, Alberta, in the Canadian Rockies. The town is surrounded by snow capped mountains
Banff from Sulphur Mountain

For many people, visiting spectacular Moraine Lake and Lake Louise is a priority. I’ve put them on the schedule for day 2.

My top picks for things to do in and around Banff Townsite:

  • Explore the shores of Two Jack Lake and then cruise the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive (24km). Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Walk the shoreline trail or consider renting a canoe ($85/hour)
  • The best free vehicle-accessible viewpoint is the Mt Norquay Lookout. It’s completely free and offers amazing vistas of Banff and surrounding peaks
  • Thrill seekers will love the Via Ferrata course at Mt Norquay! The experience offers a safer way to experience climbing in the Rockies (and the views are AMAZING)
  • 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
Back view of JR stand up paddleboarding on Two Jack Lake in Banff. The lake is very calm and features reflections of Mount Rundle
Two Jack Lake, Banff National Park
  • If that sounds like too much, 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
  • Explore downtown Banff and enjoy the views of the surrounding mountains while browsing the wide range of shops
  • If the shopping area doesn’t appeal, take a walk along the Bow River to see the falls. If you have the time, continue to the Surprise Lookout, which features views of the iconic Fairmont hotel

Side note here regarding accommodation. It’s no secret that Banff is not a cheap place to stay.

If your budget doesn’t stretch to it, consider the nearby town of Canmore instead (still touristy but more of a local vibe, slightly lower prices).

Where to stay

Budget

Our preferred Banff 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

Mid-range

Our favourite downtown hotel is Moose Hotel & Suites (walking distance to everywhere, rooftop hot tub).
In Canmore, the Pocaterra Inn offers one of the best value stays in town

Luxury

For a once-in-a-lifetime visit to Banff, consider the Fairmont Banff Springs or the Rimrock Resort. The latter has truly incredible views across Banff and the surrounding mountains

Day 2: Explore Banff National Park

Driving distance: 133km
Driving time without activities: 1 hour 30 minutes

Start your day with a visit to Banff National Park’s most famous lakes – Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. Please note that Moraine Lake is usually open from late May to early October only.

Iconic Moraine Lake view with ten snow capped peaks backdropping reflective lake
Moraine Lake, Banff National Park

Since Moraine Lake is only accessible by bus and Lake Louise parking is very limited (and also $21/day!), there are two main options:

  • Use the Parks Canada park-and-ride shuttle ($8) located at Lake Louise Ski Resort, 45 minutes drive from Banff. There are regular reservable buses to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, with a Connector Shuttle.
  • 8X Roam Transit bus from Banff to Lake Louise Lakeshore. This reservable express bus takes 55 minutes. The $25 Roam System Wide Pass includes access to the Parks Canada Lake Connector Shuttle to Moraine Lake

In addition to spectacular lakeshore views, both lakes have great hiking opportunities.

Lake Agnes is a very popular destination from Lake Louise, 7.4km return with 390m elevation gain (allow 2 to 2.5 hours, note that it is uphill almost the entire way).

Back in Banff, fill your afternoon with any activities you may have missed yesterday. If you already purchased the $25 Roam bus pass, use it to take the bus to the base of the Banff Gondola (avoiding the need to walk or find parking!)

Red canoes on dock with reflection of mountains on Lake Louise
Lake Louise, Banff National Park

Day 3: Banff to Jasper via Icefields Parkway

Banff to Jasper driving distance: 290km
Driving time without activities: 3 hours 40 minutes

Depart Banff early to visit Johnston Canyon (32km, 35 minutes drive). Suspended metal walkways provide secure passage through the deep gorge to a series of waterfalls.

The 2.4km return hike to the Lower Falls takes less than 1 hour. The Upper Falls are 5km return. Johnston Canyon is usually very busy from 10am onwards, so I would recommend getting here by 9am at the latest.

Looking down on elevated catwalk path crossing deep canyon, heading towards viewpoint of huge waterfall. The canyon cliffs are dotted with trees and rise high above the river below
Lower Falls, Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park

Make a stop in Lake Louise for gas and supplies before hitting the road to drive Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) along the Continental Divide.

Often cited as one of the best road trips in the world, the Icefields Parkway is lined with towering mountains and immense glaciers, providing jaw-dropping vistas no matter where you look.

Driving the 230km Icefields Parkway without stopping takes around three hours. To visit most of the mentioned stops, allow five to six hours. Plan to arrive into Jasper early in the evening.

Elevated view looking down on turquoise coloured Peyto Lake, surrounded by mountains in Banff National Park
Peyto Lake, Banff National Park (yes, it really is that blue!)

My favourite roadside viewpoints are Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, Waterfowl Lake, Weeping Wall, the Big Bend, Tangle Creek Falls and the Goats and Glacier Lookout (all are featured on our road trip map).

My recommendations for must-see places are:

  • Bow Lake – Take a walk along the lakeshore of this beautiful vibrant blue lake surrounded by dramatic mountains
  • Peyto Lake – Uphill 1km return trail (mostly paved) to an elevated viewpoint over a gorgeous turquoise lake
  • Wilcox Pass Trail to Viewpoint – 3.4km return uphill hike to lower viewpoint (red chairs) over Athabasca Glacier, 9.5km return for upper viewpoint
  • Sunwapta Falls – 200m walk to Upper Falls, featuring a bridge viewpoint of a dramatic waterfall cascading into a deep limestone gorge
  • Athabasca Falls – Powerful waterfall accessible within a very short walk of the parking area, optional side trail into the canyon (well worth the stairs!)

Jasper is half the size of Banff. 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 townsite.

Where to stay

Budget

Campers have a choice of campgrounds in Jasper – we usually stay at Whistlers Campground, which was completely renovated a few years ago

Mid-range

The Mount Robson Inn is a solid downtown accommodation pick, with free breakfast and a range of room configurations (great for families/larger groups)

Luxury

Treat yourself with a stay at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. The upscale resort is located on a 700-acre lakeside property with spa, heated pool, golf course and restaurants

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

Day 4: Explore Jasper National Park

Driving distance: 103km
Driving time without activities: 2 hours 30 minutes

Jasper National Park is Canada’s largest, with the small town of Jasper at the centre of it all.

  • Start your day early with a drive on the scenic Pyramid Lake Road (15km return, 30 minutes)
  • Elk are very commonly seen on this narrow and winding road that first passes Patricia Lake before skirting the edge of Pyramid Lake itself
  • Take a short walk on Pyramid Island and enjoy the views of Pyramid Mountain before returning to Jasper and heading to magnificent Maligne Lake (50km one-way)
  • Pre-book a cruise to Spirit Island, one of Canada’s most iconic and spectacular sights
Sunset at Spirit Island, a small forested peninsula in front of a beautiful mountain and lake scene
Spirit Island, Jasper National Park

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 (paddling to Spirit Island takes around 6-8 hours return).

  • On your way back to Jasper, stop at the Medicine Lake Viewpoint. This glacier-fed lake is famous for its ‘disappearing’ water.
  • The second to last destination of the day is Maligne Canyon. There is a choice of loop and out-and-back routes here. The easiest is a very short 600m loop to Bridge #2 featuring impressive views of the rushing water and deep canyon
  • For a longer experience, consider the hilly 5km out-and-back route to Bridge #5. It includes numerous impressive viewpoints and even several waterfalls. There is a loop alternative but it’s less scenic as the path veers away from the canyon
  • Before leaving the Maligne Lake Road area, check out the gorgeous views from the Maligne Lookout. The parking lot is the next right-hand turn after leaving Maligne Canyon
Narrow moss covered Maligne Canyon with river rushing through below. There is a fenced bridge crossing the canyon
Maligne Canyon, Jasper National Park

Day 5: Jasper to Valemount

Jasper to Valemount driving distance (via Mount Edith Cavell): 183km
Driving time without activities: 3 hours 10 minutes

The drive between Jasper and Valemount is scenic and straightforward, though there are not many easily accessible roadside activities. For that reason, I would recommend spending your morning in Jasper National Park.

There are so many options for what you could do this morning but my top pick would be seeing Mount Edith Cavell and the Angel Glacier that flows down its north face.

Back view of JR standing on rock in front of glacial lake, with huge mountain rising above, featuring hanging glacier on right hand side
Mount Edith Cavell and the Angel Glacier

The narrow and winding 27km Edith Cavell Road takes around 45 minutes to drive from Jasper. If you had more time to spare, I would suggest exploring the Edith Cavell Meadows Trail as well.

  • Leaving Jasper, prepare to gain an hour at the British Columbia border (hooray!)
  • Make a stop at beautiful Overlander Falls. Allow 30 minutes to walk to the main viewpoint and back
  • Just around the next corner is Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies (3954m). The best views are found right in the parking lot
  • The Mount Robson Visitor Centre has some great indoor exhibits (and it is free!) and there’s a good café here as well
  • Less than 10 minutes drive further on from Mount Robson is Rearguard Falls Provincial Park. A steep and short trail leads down to several viewing platforms of this thundering waterfall
Wing mirror view of Mount Robson in fall, with road stetching out behind, large snowy mountain and mix of yellow/green foliage
Mount Robson

Turning onto Highway 5 towards Valemount reveals views of the ‘other’ side of the Canadian Rockies.

Valemount is a small village (pop 1052) with a surprisingly good choice of accommodation. There’s an excellent local brewery, a very popular Swiss-German bakery and an entry-by-donation museum.


Where to stay

Budget

Valemount has several private RV parks. An alternative idea is to stay at one of Mount Robson’s provincial park campgrounds. I prefer Robson River over Robson Meadows, but both are good

Mid-range

Canadas Best Value Inn Valemount is a no-frills option while the Comfort Inn & Suites offers more amenities and complimentary breakfast

Luxury

The most upscale place in Valemount is the Best Western Plus. If you’re looking for something a little more unique and local, try Valemount Mountain Retreat Guesthouse

Rearguard Falls with turquoise river cascading down on left and then turning towards background of photo. Forest surrounds the river, with autumnal colour highlights
Rearguard Falls, Mount Robson Provincial Park

Day 6: Valemount to Kamloops

Valemount to Kamloops driving distance (via Wells Gray): 412km
Driving time without activities: 5 hours

Start your morning with a couple of hours of driving through the lush North Thompson Valley.

The star attraction of this day is Wells Gray Provincial Park, one of BC’s most spectacular protected areas. It is a little more rustic (and much quieter!) than the national parks.

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.

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

Once in Clearwater, turn onto Clearwater Valley Road and prepare for 2-3 hours of waterfall chasing!

  • Spahats Creek Falls – 60m high narrow waterfall cascading into deep, wide canyon. It’s just a short walk from the parking lot
  • Moul Falls. Optional stop since it is only accessible via a 6km return hike (half easy, half moderate). Short waterfall in rocky bowl
  • Dawson Falls. Reminiscent of a small-scale Niagara Falls, this waterfall stretches wide across the river. 900m return
  • The Mushbowl – Fast, frothy and rocky waterfall by roadside, just after Dawson Falls parking lot
  • Helmcken Falls – Magnificent 141m high waterfall plunging into a rugged canyon. Short walk from the large parking lot

Beyond Helmcken Falls, the road is unpaved. For travellers with more time, the Ray Farm Trail is a pleasant 3km return (homesteading history, interesting mineral springs). The 1.6km return trip to Bailey’s Chute Trail combines both waterfalls and rapids.

Back view of JR standing on rock in front of waterfall plunging into rocky bowl (Moul Falls)
Moul Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park

Leaving Wells Gray Provincial Park, the drive to Kamloops is pretty straightforward. Watch for the Canadian Mountaineer train on the parallel tracks!

Kamloops has a wide choice of accommodation and eateries. An alternative overnight destination would be Salmon Arm. The drive would take around an hour longer.

Where to stay

Budget

Pauls Lake Provincial Park has a charming forested campground within walking distance of sandy beaches. The park is 25km from Kamloops

Mid-range

Kamloops’ best value accommodation is found at…Canadas Best Value Inn (seriously!) Another good option is the downtown Plaza Hotel

Luxury

For upscale lodgings in the downtown area, book a stay at the Delta Hotel. The location is convenient for restaurants and also when arriving from Highway 5

Front view of Dawson Falls, a wide cascading waterfall with multiple layers, bordered by forest on either side
Dawson Falls, Wells Gray Provincial Park

Day 7: Kamloops to Revelstoke

Kamloops to Revelstoke driving distance: 212km
Driving time without activities: 2 hours 30 minutes

Kamloops is situated in British Columbia’s dry grasslands region and consequently, the landscape looks very different to anything else on this Canadian Rockies loop road trip.

I don’t have that many recommendations for must-see stops between Kamloops and Revelstoke – plan to spend most of your time in Revelstoke itself.

  • Monte Creek Winery is worth a look if you reach it after 11am
  • On a hot day, the Blind Bay beaches on Shuswap Lake can be great for a refreshing dip
  • Salmon Arm makes for an excellent lunch stop. The DeMille’s Farm Market sells fresh produce from the Shuwap region throughout the summer months
  • Just past Sicamous is D Dutchmen Dairy, a family farm selling homemade ice cream, cheese and milk. Note that it does get very busy around lunchtime
  • The drive along Highway 1 from Sicamous to Revelstoke 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

Arriving in Revelstoke sometime in the early afternoon, I’d suggest making the most of the day with a scenic drive on the 26km long Meadows in the Sky Parkway into the subalpine of Mount Revelstoke National Park (park pass required).

Elevated view of a small city (Revelstoke) at the base of a snow capped mountain, with forest fringing in foreground
Revelstoke and Mount Begbie from the Meadows in the Sky Parkway

At the end of the road, there is an uphill 1km long trail to the summit area (1947m). If you’ve never visited the top of a mountain, this is a great way to do it. There is a choice of short trails, all with interpretive signage.

If you’re travelling with kids, you may want to prioritise visiting Revelstoke Mountain Resort instead, home of the 42km/h Pipe Mountain Coaster.

Side view of person sitting in yellow car on Revelstoke Mountain Coaster with views of large mountains behind
Revelstoke Pipe Mountain Coaster

Whatever you do, make sure you spend some time in downtown Revelstoke. It’s one of my favourite mountain towns in BC (friendly vibes, great range of shops and restaurants, plenty of history).

For travellers who have another night to spend in Revelstoke, I would recommend white water rafting with Apex or a hike on the wonderful Eva Lake Trail (14km return) which starts at the summit of Mount Revelstoke.

Where to stay

Budget

Snowforest Campground in Mount Revelstoke Park is convenient for the Meadows in the Sky Parkway. Alternatively, try Martha Creek Provincial Park

Mid-range

The Swiss Chalet Motel offers excellent value for families and larger groups. Basic breakfast included and the property is only 10-15 minute walk to downtown

Luxury

The stylish rooms at the historical Regent Hotel are surprisingly spacious. The complimentary breakfast buffet is the best I’ve had anywhere in Canada

Reflections of surrounding mountains on calm, turquoise coloured alpine lake on a sunny day in Mount Revelstoke National Park
Eva Lake, Mount Revelstoke National Park

Day 8: Revelstoke to Golden

Revelstoke to Golden driving distance: 148km
Driving time without activities: 2 hours

Time to head further into the mountains! Begin the day with a short 500m stroll on the Highway 1 adjacent Giant Cedars Boardwalk in Mount Revelstoke National Park (closed in 2023 but hopefully open in 2024).

Vehicle view of Highway 1 through Glacier National Park, backdropped by mountains with forested slopes
Driving Highway 1 through Glacier National Park

The surrounding valley slopes get steeper and steeper as the highway heads into Glacier National Park. Multiple snowsheds and tunnels provide avalanche protection for the road in winter.

  • Two short hiking trails provide a taste of the surrounding national park – Hemlock Grove Boardwalk (350m) and the Rockgarden Trail (430m)
  • For a longer hike, head to the the Meeting of the Waters Trail (3.3km loop, starts from the Illecillewaet Trailhead).
  • Most of the other hikes in this area of the park are very steep and require most of the day to explore (such as the Glacier Crest Trail).
  • The highest section of Highway 1 is at Roger’s Pass, with an elevation of 1327m. The Discovery Centre here is well worth the stop (free)
  • Before leaving Glacier Park, consider the very short but steep hike to beautiful Bear Creek Falls (1km).

The time zone change, from Pacific Time to Mountain Time is just beyond the park’s border. Unfortunately, you’ll lose an hour when driving east. There are usually construction delays in this area too.

Back view of JR leaning on wooden bridge fence, looking up at mountains above Illecillewaet River
Meeting of the Waters Trail, Glacier National Park

If you do get into Golden early, consider heading east through town towards Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park.

The 3.2km return hike (mostly flat, with some steep sections near the end) takes just over an hour with the destination an impressively wide waterfall surrounded by mountains.

Families and thrill seekers may prefer to check out the Golden Skybridge, host to Canada’s highest suspension bridges, or the Via Ferrata course at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

Where to stay

Budget

For camping, consider the municipal campground, which backs onto the Kicking Horse River. An alternative is the Kicking Horse Campground in Yoho National Park

Mid-range

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)

Luxury

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

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

Day 9: Golden to Banff*

Golden to Banff driving distance (via Emerald Lake, Yoho Valley Road): 187km
Driving time without activities: 2 hours 45 minutes

This day is all about Yoho National Park. In my opinion, Yoho is the most underrated park in the Canadian Rockies.

On water view of Emerald Lake, surrounded by snow capped mountains and bordered by forest. The lake colour is bright blue
Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park
  • The first stop today is Emerald Lake, which is as beautiful (or even more so!) as the name implies
  • Enjoy the views, rent a canoe ($90/hour) or walk the family-friendly 5.2km loop trail around the lakeshore. Allow around 2 hours for the latter
  • On the way back to Highway 1, make a stop at the Natural Bridge, where the mighty (and very cold!) Kicking Horse River has carved out a natural limestone bridge through erosion
Natural rock bridge over fast river, backdropped by a mountain
Natural Bridge, Yoho National Park
  • The tiny community of Field hosts an excellent restaurant (Truffle Pigs) and Visitor Centre as well as impressive mountain views
  • Next up is a scenic drive on Yoho Valley Road. Please note, this road is open from late June until Mid October only and has no services or phone signal. There are several tight switchbacks – trailers and large RVs are not permitted
  • Takakkaw Falls, British Columbia’s second-tallest waterfall, is located at the end of Yoho Valley Road
  • If you have an additional day to spend in Yoho, I would highly recommend a full-day hike on the Iceline Trail or a Burgess Shale guided tour
  • The Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint is the last stop in Yoho. Depending on timing, you may be lucky and see a train pass through this impressive structure.

The remaining distance to Banff is impossibly scenic, with snow-capped mountains surrounding the highway.

If you have any spare time, Kootenay National Park’s Marble Canyon (15 minutes drive) is well worth the detour.

*If starting in Vancouver, plan to stay in Banff for the night and continue to ‘Day 1’ description next. If finishing in Calgary, add 126km (90 minutes) drive back to the city

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

Canadian Rockies loop road trip: top tips

In this section, I will share some final thoughts about planning a Canadian Rockies loop road trip.

Money saving advice

  • Gas is significantly cheaper in Alberta than in British Columbia, even in resort towns like Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise. Be mindful of where you gas up!
  • Most of the overnight stops are in small towns. During the summer months, accommodation and dining availability and choice can be limited. Book early!
  • 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
  • A national park pass is required to visit Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Glacier and Revelstoke national parks. All five parks are covered by the same day pass ($10.50/adult). If you plan to spend seven or more days in the parks (as you would with this itinerary), a Discovery pass provides better value
  • Wells Gray Provincial Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park are completely free to visit
  • The choice of restaurants and cafes is pretty limited on this Canadian Rockies road trip loop route. To save time and money, make your own lunch each day and buy plenty of snacks

Camping details

The best way to save money while touring the Canadian Rockies 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

The downside is that you’ll need 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.

Set up tent on left side of forested Snowforest campground site with firepit and wooden picnic table on right
Snowforest campground, Mount Revelstoke National Park

The campgrounds mentioned in this Canadian Rockies loop itinerary are very popular and, as such, travellers should reserve in advance.

Not mentioned in this post is the collection of excellent first-come, first-serve campgrounds along the Icefields Parkway. Consider staying at least one of these during your road trip (instead of Banff and/or Jasper).

Low angle view looking over wildflowers in Protection Mountain campground in Banff. There are campground buildings and RVs in the background, with forest and mountain rising above
Protection Mountain campground, Banff National Park

Alternative road trip itineraries

While we think the above Canadian Rockies loop road trip itinerary provides a great overview of BC and Alberta, we know that may not be perfect for everyone.

The great news is that it is easy to adapt the route to create your perfect itinerary.

Starting and finishing in Vancouver? Check out our 2 week Western Canada road trip itinerary.

Street view of downtown Revelstoke with heritage buildings on other side of the street, moutnains visible behind
Downtown Revelstoke

12 day Canadian Rockies extended road trip loop

If you have extra time and budget (up to 12 days), I would extend the original loop road trip itinerary like so:

Day 1: Banff National Park
Day 2: Banff National Park
Day 3: Banff National Park
Day 4: Banff to Jasper
Day 5: Jasper National Park
Day 6: Jasper National Park

Day 7: Jasper to Valemoun
Day 8: Valemount to Kamloops
Day 9: Kamloops to Revelstoke
Day 10: Revelstoke to Golden
Day 11: Golden
Day 12: Golden to Banff

This lengthened trip includes one additional night in both Jasper and Banff national parks and a second night in Golden. This would provide a much more relaxed pace and the chance to visit more attractions.

During the full day in Golden, explore the optional activities mentioned in this post such as Wapta Falls, Golden Skybridge or Kicking Horse Resort.

View of large mountain range with some snow capped peaks from Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden
Views from Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Golden

Okanagan Valley detour, 2 additional days

For an interesting contrast to the Canadian Rockies, consider a detour to the Okanagan Valley on your road trip.

The southern interior of British Columbia is host to a spectacular landscape of dry valleys, huge lakes and grasslands. Besides being beautiful, the Okanagan Valley is also Canada’s second-largest wine region. It’s also where we live!

If starting your Canadian Rockies road trip from Vancouver, I would detour via the Okanagan Valley on the way to/from the main loop described in this post. Plan to spend one night in Penticton, Peachland, Kelowna or Vernon.

Highway 97 travels through the centre of the Okanagan and then connects with Highway 1 near Sicamous (west of Revelstoke).

Read our suggestions for things to do between Vancouver and the Okanagan before starting your planning.

Road trippers starting in Calgary could detour to the Okanagan Valley from Kamloops and return to the main loop route at Sicamous. Plan to spend the night in Kelowna, Peachland or Penticton.

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

8 day Canadian Rockies itinerary without a loop

If the concept of the loop doesn’t interest you, consider this alternate 8 day Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary which starts and finishes in Calgary:

Day 1: Calgary to Banff
Day 2: Banff National Park
Day 3: Banff to Jasper
Day 4: Jasper National Park

Day 5: Jasper National Park
Day 6: Jasper to Golden
Day 7: Golden
Day 8: Golden to Calgary

The first four days would follow the same itinerary as guided in this post.

On day 5, take a day trip to the Mount Robson area from Jasper OR explore more of Jasper National Park. Day 6 involves driving the Icefields Parkway again (never a bad thing!)

I have suggested two nights in Golden as the drive from Jasper is reasonably long, especially with sightseeing stops.

During the full day in Golden, explore the optional activities mentioned in this post OR take a day trip to Glacier National Park.

Glacier Crest ridge view looking across to tall mountains with Highway visible below
Glacier Crest Trail, Glacier National Park

More planning resources

15 of the Best Day Hikes in British Columbia

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

What To Do in Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia

5 Awesome Alternatives to Banff, Alberta

The Best Hot Springs in BC: Complete Guide + Map

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Andy & Linda Nette

Thursday 7th of December 2023

Thank you for this Canadian Rockies tours suggestions. For our 50th wedding anniversary, my wife and I have booked and paid a deposit on a 14 day river cruise in April ‘24 on the Danube, but have been unable to generate any excitement about it. After looking at your site, we have decided to forego our deposit, stay in Canada, and book as per your suggestions above. We appreciate the thoroughness of your research.

Gemma

Thursday 7th of December 2023

Hi Andy and Linda,

Wow, what a compliment! I'm sorry that your planned trip failed to inspire you but I'm so glad you've found an alternative! Happy to help :) Make sure you check out our 2 week Western Canada road trip itinerary as well.