Are you planning a road trip through the Canadian Rockies and don’t know where to start? Our detailed itinerary for Western Canada road trip from Calgary to Vancouver includes all the incredible places you can visit, budget & road trip tips and our comprehensive guides to help you make the most of your time in Canada. As locals, we provide you only with the best insider tips in one place.

Taking a road trip through Western Canada will bring you closer to the real wilderness. The Canadian Rockies are the southern extent of the only real wilderness in North America. That means you might meet more wildlife than people.

Canada is a huge country and the absolute best way to see it is going on a road trip. Out of the many road trips you can do across Canada, Western Canada road trip is one of the most popular.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Icefields Parkway scenic drive from Lake Louise to Jasper

Icefields Parkway scenic drive from Lake Louise to Jasper

From Calgary to Vancouver, you will enjoy the fresh mountain air, insanely blue lakes, massive glaciers, huge waterfalls, wildlife, and even a desert in just 2 weeks. Prepare yourself to create lifetime memories!

If you’re new to our blog, you will see that it’s all about outdoor adventures and budget-friendly options – road trip guide at its best! Plus, you will read our local tips which you wouldn’t find elsewhere (trust me, I checked).

We found that most people visit Canada for 2 weeks, and therefore we’ve created such itinerary. If you’re spending more time in the Rockies, we include more resources in each section for even more activities.

This itinerary starts in Calgary, where we live, and finishes in Vancouver. Alternatively, if you’re starting a road trip the other direction, just read from the bottom of the post up.

Our road trip guide is regularly updated ever since it was first published in 2018, as we discover more incredible places in Western Canada.

*In the spirit of full disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission at no extra costs to you. We appreciate your support!

Table of Contents

Summary of 2-week road trip itinerary from Calgary to Vancouver

Following the below road trip itinerary, you will have a chance to visit 10 incredible places:

  • Calgary
  • Canmore
  • Banff
  • Lake Louise
  • Yoho National Park
  • Jasper
  • Kamloops
  • Whistler
  • Squamish
  • Vancouver
Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Northern Lights in Yoho National Park

Northern Lights in Yoho National Park (the best we’ve ever seen were surprisingly in May)

From Calgary in the prairies, the itinerary continues through the Canadian Rockies. Canmore is the first stop, a little mountain town with a lot of easy summit hikes. It continues to Banff National Park, the oldest and most popular park in Canada with picturesque blue lakes.

Then onwards to lesser-known but spectacular Yoho National Park with the 2nd highest waterfall in Canada. Through Icefields Parkway, the scenic mountainous drive among the giant snow-covered peaks that is ending in Jasper (our personal favourite).

Towards the British Columbia province, it goes through Kamloops and then Whistler and Squamish, both very popular towns for outdoor activities. The itinerary ends in Vancouver, one of the top places in the world to live in. And in case you want to continue further, we include a Vancouver Island road trip through its lush rainforests.

Calgary to Vancouver road trip map

You can see all the mentioned places on the map below for easier orientation. Click the icons for more info and share the map with your road trip buddies.

Western Canada road trip budget for 2 weeks

Car rental: 1000 – 1500 CAD
Fuel: 300 CAD
Accommodation: 600 CAD camping – 2800 CAD hotels (campgrounds cost 15-27 CAD per night per site)
Food: 1400 CAD (50 CAD per person per day, including eating in restaurants)
Attractions: up to 2000 CAD
Park Pass: 140 CAD

It depends on your preferences but you will need around 3500 – 6200 CAD for a couple for two weeks (not including attractions). If you are willing to try a road trip in a campervan you might save even more money. With Smile Campervans you can save 2000 CAD on your hotels. If you cook for yourself and minimize paid attractions you can get closer to 3000 CAD.

We realize that Canada is not a very budget-friendly destination compared to other countries in Europe or South America but we share all the tips that exist in the Rockies to keep you and your wallet happy.

You will find all the tips in our day to day road trip breakdown below.

Western Canada road trip from Calgary to Vancouver - camping in Jasper

renting a campervan and staying in campgrounds is a great budget option

The best time of the year for the Western Canada road trip

  • July & August

This is the busiest time. If you’re planning to visit during the summer, you must book accommodation in advance. Some hotels are fully booked 6 months in advance and so are campgrounds. Some campgrounds along the Icefields Parkway operate on a first time first serve basis but you must arrive early during the day to get a spot.

  • June & September

Our recommendation is to travel during June and September. It’s warm outside, it’s less busy and you get to enjoy the most popular attractions without herds of tourists. Especially places like Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are insanely busy during the summer.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake – lakes in the Rockies usually thaw late May to mid-June

  • May & October

While you might encounter some snow during these months, it’s a rare quiet time in the Rockies. Keep in mind that most campgrounds are closed from mid-October to mid-May but if you’d like to stay in hotels, this is a great time.

Another thing to note is that most lakes in the national parks are still partially frozen in May. Moraine Lake Road leading to very popular Moraine Lake in Banff National Park is open mid-May to mid-October. Also, the Yoho Valley Road to Takakkaw Falls in Yoho is open mid-June to mid-October.

  • November to April

Even though British Columbia has milder weather than Alberta, you would most likely encounter problems driving through the Rockies. Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper National Parks is closed a few times in winter due to avalanche. Some days are good and some days are bad, you never know in advance.

For a more detailed breakdown of the seasons, including the best time to see wildlife with newborns and see northern lights, read our post best time to visit Canadian mountains.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - bears in Jasper

Seeing mama bear with cubs is a joy of spring

How to travel from Calgary to Vancouver

Hands down the best way to road trip from Calgary to Vancouver is by renting a campervan.

If you like adventurous trips, book a Smile Campervan from us. It’s a budget-friendly option to see the Canadian Rockies. You will save on accommodation by comfortably sleeping in the campervan and using campgrounds.

Hotels in Banff cost 300 CAD/night in summer which is one of the reasons why we started a campervan rental company so you can sleep in the car. You will have a small kitchen and a bed that folds into a couch. Since it’s a small car, you won’t have any problems with parking next to the popular attractions, as you have when finding a spot for RV.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - scenic drive in Jasper

You will need your own vehicle – distances are big and buses are not common.

If you’d like to stay in hotels, you can rent a smaller car using Rentalcars to compare different car rental companies.

Be prepared to drive between 1500 and 2000 km. Canadian roads through the mountains are wide and almost straight compared to European roads in the Alps or other mountains. You will spend somewhere between 25 to 35 hours sitting in your car in two weeks. But trust us; all of this will be worth it.

Detailed itinerary for your road trip from Calgary to Vancouver

Our day by day breakdown includes all the popular places and also some lesser known gems of the Canadian Rockies.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

Day 1: Calgary

Calgary is the closest airport to the Canadian Rockies. It’s a young city, only a little more than 140 years old since Europeans settled here.

It has the biggest amount of sunny days in Canada – 333 days a year! Chances of good weather are very high. Calgary’s city road system is well designed to get you fast to your destination and you can rarely see congestions (unlike in Vancouver).

Things to do in Calgary

Calgary is on the edge of prairies and landscape is not exceptional. The missing scenery is balanced with many city parks. You will find here the most park areas in all of the North American cities. To give you some ideas about what you can do in Calgary, read our post about 30 things to do in Calgary in summer.

Fun activities in Calgary:

  • City vibe – go to Kensington, 17th Avenue South or downtown area by the Bow River or learn about Canada’s history at Heritage Park
  • Outdoors – Nose Hill Park for a walk with Calgary’s skyline, Fish Creek Park for a bike ride or a walk, Canada Olympic Park for a zipline, luge ride or mountain biking
Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Prince's Island Park in downtown Calgary

Prince’s Island Park in downtown Calgary

Where to stay in Calgary

If you are staying in a tent or camper, the campgrounds are at the city borders. Similar to other cities you won’t find many campgrounds close to downtown. Calgary West Campground is located near Trans-Canada Highway. If you prefer something cozy close to downtown, try River Wynde Executive Bed & Breakfast.

Day 2: Calgary to Canmore

Driving time: 1.5 hour / 115 km

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Grassi Lakes Hike

Grassi Lakes Hike

In the morning you will take Highway 1 to Canmore. From downtown, it is about 20 minutes to the city limits. Once you will get out you can already see peaks of the Rocky Mountains on a clear day. Drive to Canmore will take about an hour.

Things to do in Canmore

In Canmore, you can explore western-like looking town center. Canmore has plenty of hiking options on every side of town. For a bird’s eye view of Canmore and surrounding mountains, we recommend hiking to the summit of Ha Ling Peak or Mount Lawrence Grassi.

Fun activities in Canmore:

  • Grassi Lakes – a short 4 km hike to gorgeous emerald coloured lakes
  • Mountain biking (or cross-country ski in winter) in Canmore Nordic Centre or along Bow River
  • Bike from Canmore to Banff on Legacy Trail – easy and paved 27 km trail, you can return the same way, bike through Goat Creek Trail or take a bus
  • Stand up paddle boarding or kayaking on Rundle Forebay, Bow River or Quarry Lake
  • Heli trip to see Canadian Rockies from above (see pictures in our photo essay here)

For more, read our post: 20 fun outdoor things to do in Canmore.

Canmore accommodation

Canmore has options for every budget. Hotels are usually cheaper than in Banff, so you might consider staying in Canmore and drive to Banff every day. It’s only 20 minutes by car. Camp at Wapiti Campground or stay at best rated Canmore Rocky Mountain Inn.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - scenic view around Canmore

biking around Canmore is constantly scenic

Day 3-4: Banff

Driving time: 25 minutes / 24 km

From Canmore, get back on the Trans-Canada Highway. As you exit the town you will have to stop at park entry booth to purchase Parks Canada Discovery Pass (136 CAD for a group/family). You have an option to purchase daily or yearly pass, but since you’ll be visiting national parks for more than a day, a yearly pass pays off. Our itinerary includes 8 days spent in National Parks.

Purchase your park pass at Canmore Visitor Information Centre if you’re traveling in summer to avoid lines at the booth for Banff National Park.

Things to do in Banff

The oldest and most popular national park in Canada offers endless outdoor options. We compiled a huge list of 100 things that you can do in Banff National Park so there’s plenty to choose from. You may like an easy relaxed day on a boat at Lake Minnewanka or hike up the Tunnel Mountain for panoramic views of Banff and surrounding mountains.

Banff is the only town in Banff National Park and gets very busy during summer. Try to visit the town during weekdays in the summer season to avoid the biggest crowds. Once you go out of town, it’s less crazy. Our road trip itinerary gives you two days to spend in Banff.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Vermilion Lakes

Vermilion Lakes in Banff

Fun activities in Banff:

Read our Banff budget guide for more tips.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - elk in Banff

Secret tip: drive around golf course in Banff before sunset and you’ll see plenty of wildlife

Banff Accommodation

Staying in Banff will be one of your biggest expenses in the budget. Hotels during the high season usually cost around 300 CAD/night. There are some budget-friendly options which include hostels for around 70 CAD/per person.

If you bring your own tent or drive a campervan and stay in the campsites with warm showers, expect to pay around 30 CAD at Tunnel Mountain Campground. Reasonable prices for hotels start at 120 CAD, you can try best-rated accommodation in Banff Mountain View Bed & Breakfast.

Read more: Complete guide to camping in Banff National Park

If you’re planning to stay in town, you need to book your accommodation months in advance. It sells out fast, even campgrounds. You will find more tips about campgrounds at the above link.

Restaurants in Banff

Surprisingly chain restaurants aren’t overpriced compared to the rest of Canada. Our tip – go local! You can find great food in the Balkan Restaurant or The Maple Leaf. Our favourite restaurant in Banff, which is also in Vancouver and other cities, is Old Spaghetti Factory.

Day 5: Bow Valley Parkway (Alberta 1A)

Driving time: 2-4 hours / 60 km

Stock up on food supplies in Banff because the next bigger grocery store is 5 days away in Jasper. Leave Banff early in the morning and you’ll have a bigger chance of seeing wildlife. Heading west from Banff, after about 10 minutes of driving, you will take the exit to 1A/Bow Valley Parkway.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon Hike (entering this cave is no longer possible)

Stay on this road all the way to Lake Louise. Driving itself takes only 1.5 hours but you will definitely want to stop for some great pictures. You should arrive in Lake Louise in the evening.

Things to do on Bow Valley Parkway

Bow Valley Parkway is a wildlife corridor and many species of animals can be seen along the road. Most common are elk, sheep, mountain goat, bear, and wolves. Have your camera ready and drive slow, the speed limit of 60km/hour is there for a good reason.

Popular places you can visit on Bow Valley Parkway:

  • Johnston Canyon to Ink Pots – a very popular hike to several waterfalls all year round. You can go on an ice walk in winter. (it’s 5 km round trip to Upper Falls or 12 km round trip to Ink Pots)
  • Castle Mountain – a lesser known hike to Rockbound Lake hiding behind the Castle Mountain (17 km round trip to the lake or 22 km round trip for a bird’s eye view of the lake)
  • Morant’s curve – a famous spot for photographing train with the Rocky Mountains in the background
Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Ink Pots at the end of Johnston Canyon Hike

Ink Pots at the end of Johnston Canyon Hike

Accommodation along Bow Valley Parkway

If your day extends, you have a few options to stay overnight along the road. Right next to the Johnston Canyon is a Johnston Canyon Campground (closed in 2019). And halfway on the road at the Castle Junction, you can stay at Castle Mountain Campground, a hostel or Castle Mountain Chalets.

Day 6: Lake Louise area

Driving time: 1-2 hours / maximum of 30 km

If you arrived in Lake Louise on the evening of day 5, you probably had a chance to see Lake Louise. If not, wake up early to beat the crowds from tour buses and go for a morning stroll. There’s an easy hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House, you can see the lake, hotel and even ski resort on the other side of the valley.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Lake Louise in Banff National Park

Rent a canoe for 105 CAD +GST for ½ hour or bring your own (you can rent in Banff and go on any lake).

And of course after Lake Louise, don’t forget to visit Moraine Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Canadian Rockies. Visiting Moraine Lake is limited due to its massive popularity. You need to either enter the Moraine Lake Road early in the morning (6 am the latest) or you need to wait until a parking spot opens up and they will let you in. Another option would be to bike to Moraine Lake or book a shuttle bus from Lake Louise. Read our Moraine Lake guide for tips.

Things to do in Lake Louise area

Lake Louise has many hiking trails around. Since most of them are summiting one of the mountains around the lake, you will have the chance to see Lake Louise from above. I highly recommend you take advantage of it.

Fun activities in the Lake Louise area:

  • Dip in the Lake Louise or Moraine Lake (I dare you, it’s cold!)
  • Go biking on Great Divide Trail
  • Hike Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass or to Consolation Lakes in Moraine Lake area (mandatory group of 4 or more in summer)
  • Hike the Beehive circuit or less crowded Mount Saint Piran in Lake Louise area
  • See grizzly bears in the wild from Lake Louise Gondola (38 CAD, not guaranteed but very common)

Lake Louise and Moraine Lake will be highlights on your Calgary to Vancouver road trip.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake, the most famous lake in the Rockies

Where to stay in Lake Louise

You can stay at Mountaineer Lodge, as a good value option or at campgrounds. There are not many accommodation options, it’s just a small village after all and most people choose to stay in Banff.

You can stay two nights in the Lake Louise area and take a detour to Yoho National Park the next day or you can stay in Yoho. If you stay in Lake Louise, you won’t have to drive back from Yoho and it will save you half an hour on your longest day in a car on day 8.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - hiking in Lake Louise

Hiking Mount Saint Piran above Lake Louise

Day 7: Yoho National Park

Driving time: 2-3 hours / 120-170 km

Leave early in the morning and take a small detour to Yoho National Park. You will take Highway 1 towards Golden. In case you don’t mind driving longer, you can visit Wapta Falls at the border of Yoho National Park.

Things to do in Yoho National Park

You can go hiking, kayaking on Emerald Lake, see the waterfalls or just driving around and exploring rock formations.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park

Natural Bridge on the way to Emerald Lake

The biggest task for you will be to decide if you want to visit the Lake O’Hara area or not. Lake O’Hara is a pristine alpine area with very limited access and it’s in high demand. You need to book government operated campground three months in advance. Otherwise, another option is to visit the area for a day trip. In this case, you also need to book a shuttle bus which sells out the minute registration opens in April. For more info, read our guide to Lake O’Hara.

Fun activities in Yoho National Park:

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Kicking Horse River in Field

Kicking Horse River in Field

Accommodation in Yoho National Park

The center of Yoho National Park is a tiny town Field. You can stay at a picturesque lodge at Emerald Lake (350 CAD/night) or Lodge at Lake O’Hara (700 CAD/night). Our suggestion is to try one of the guesthouses that are located on the hillside of Field, Kicking Horse Campground or head back to Lake Louise (it will save you some time for the next day drive).

Day 8: Icefields Parkway

Driving time: 3-8 hours / 230-260 km

Whether you start from Field or from Lake Louise, prepare for a long and intense driving experience. But the ever-changing scenery will make up for it. Don’t forget to fill up in Lake Louise as there is only one gas station on Icefields Parkway with 50% mark-up. From Lake Louise follow signs for Jasper. After only a minute on the highway, you will exit it to Highway 93, better known as Icefields Parkway.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier

Most beautiful places on the Icefields Parkway

Visiting all the places along the road can take more than a week. Most travelers usually do it in 1-2 days. Try to fit these places into your schedule: (organized by importance)

Read our detailed guide about Icefields Parkway for more viewpoints, hikes, and pictures so you get a better idea of what you can expect.

  • Peyto Lake and Bow Summit
  • Parker Ridge Hike or Wilcox Pass Hike (5 or 8 km hike with a stunning view of the glacier)
  • Mistaya Canyon
  • Horseshoe Lake (cliff jumping in crystal clear water)
  • Columbia Icefield Centre
  • Athabasca Falls
  • Sunwapta Falls
  • Bow Lake and hike to the Bow Falls
  • Panther Falls

Our latest find is Glacier Lake in Banff National Park, an amazing day trip ending at a serene picturesque lake with a backcountry campground. If you’re looking for a hike without crowds, this is the one.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Peyto Lake

Peyto Lake

Day 9-10: Jasper National Park

Driving time: 3-8 hours / 230-260 km

After a good sleep and digesting all natural elements from the previous day, you are ready for some stretching in the form of a hike or bike trip in Jasper. You can find some inspiration in our detailed guide of 17 best hikes in Jasper for all levels. If you are coming to the Canadian Rockies for outdoor activities, such as mountain biking, stay longer in Jasper instead of Banff.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Pyramind Lake in Jasper

Pyramind Lake in Jasper

Outdoor things to do in Jasper National Park

Jasper is a better place for outdoor activities than Banff because it’s less visited and there are many more options. You can ride a mountain bike on plenty of single or double track trails around town. You can also bike to Snake Indian Falls (50km) if you like quiet days in the mountains with a surprise at the end. Jasper National Park has many multi-day treks for all levels.

Fun things to do in Jasper include:

  • Hike to Mount Edith Cavel and Valley of the Five Lakes
  • Visit Maligne Canyon, take a boat on Maligne Lake or hike to Bald Hills to see the lake from above
  • Go for a multi-day trek on Skyline trail
  • Hike to the summit of Sulphur Skyline
  • Dip in Miette Hot Springs after a long hike
  • Hike up or take Sky Tram to Whistlers Peak
  • Go swimming or stand up paddle boarding to Lake Edith or Lake Annette (you can bike from town)

More ideas are in our extensive list of 65 adventurous things to do in Jasper National Park.

If you truly love wilderness and nature, Jasper is the place to be.

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Edith Cavell Hike in Jasper

Edith Cavell Hike

Accommodation in Jasper

Hotels in Jasper are smaller than in Banff but there are a lot of family run B&B style houses. Also, compared to Banff prices are more affordable and they sell out just as quickly during the summer. You will also find many nice campgrounds and chalets on lakeshores. Try Pyramid Lake Resort or Wapiti Campground.

Read more: Complete guide to camping in Jasper National Park

Day 11: Jasper to Kamloops

Driving time: 5 hours / 450 km

When you exit Jasper take Highway 16 west towards Kamloops. As you will hit the top of the climb you will be at the Continental Divide and you will enter a province of British Columbia.

After 40 minutes of driving, you will see Mount Robson, the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. Once you reach the intersection with Highway 5, you won’t longer be in the Canadian Rockies. (But don’t worry, you’ll still see plenty of mountains.)

You may even notice the change in types of rock formations and thickness of the forest. The biggest change is in the desert like Kamloops Valley. Kamloops has the warmest summer in Canada.

desert in Kamloops

Kamloops Lake surrounded by desert, a very drastic change in the scenery

Things to do on the way to Kamloops

The drive to Kamloops won’t be as scenic compared to previous days. On the other hand, there are much more options to use motorized vehicles in the forest, such as motorbikes/quads or snowmobiles in winter.

What you can do:

  • Hike to the foot of Mount Robson (4 hours)
  • Stop at Spahats Creek Falls or Moul Falls
  • Hike at Sun Peaks (a small village inspired by European Alps)
  • Go paddle boarding at Heffley Lake
  • Visit Native village in Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park in Kamloops
  • Hike to Balancing Rock
Western Canada road trip itinerary Calgary to Vancouver - Sun Peaks in Kamloops

Sun Peaks in Kamloops

Where to stay in Kamloops

Kamloops is the biggest city in central British Columbia and it has many accommodation options. You can stay at Knutsford Campground or as a family in the Plaza Hotel in downtown.

Tips for Kamloops

You can restock your food supplies for the last part of your trip. If you find the time, go for a short hike to either Peterson Creek Park or Kenna Cartwright Park. Bring water with you, especially during sunny days as it gets very hot.

Day 12: Kamloops to Whistler/Squamish

Driving time: 4 hours / 300 km

Western Canada road trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Balancing Rock in Kamloops

Balancing Rock by the Kamloops Lake

If you don’t want to spend extra time exploring Kamloops, take the exit towards Vancouver and follow Highway 1. The first half of your day might be quite warm as you will drive through desert-like scenery on your 100 km towards Cache Creek. From Cache Creek, follow signs to Lillooet and then continue to Whistler.

What you can do on the way to Whistler

You will be passing Kamloops Lake with a great view of Thompson Valley. Once you reach Pacific Ranges you will have a chance to take photos of mountain peaks along the road. Here are some ideas on how you can spend your day:

  • Take Peak to Peak Gondola in Whistler (64 CAD) and hike in the area
  • Stop at Nairn Falls
  • Visit First Nations Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
  • Go rafting, kayaking, mountain biking or do other outdoor activity
  • Build an Inukshuk (human figure build of small stone blocks)

Where you can stay in Whistler/Squamish

Whistler has a world class skiing resort and you will find all types of accommodation. Bear in minds that staying in Whistler is even more expensive than staying in Banff. You can book Aava Whistler Hotel for better value or use Parkbridge Camping campsites.

If you don’t want to stay in Whistler overnight, we recommend driving another 40 minutes to Squamish where prices are more budget friendly. As an example, Howe Sound Inn & Brewing Company costs about a third of the prices in Whistler.

Day 13-14: Vancouver

Driving time: 1-2 hours / up to 120 km

If you stayed in Squamish and you like mountain biking don’t rush from there and go for a ride on 200 km of single-tracks they have around town. If biking is not for you, drive to Vancouver. It is only about an hour and a half from Whistler and 40 minutes from Squamish.

Western Canada road trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Stanley Park in Vancouver

Totems in Stanley Park

Once you arrive, you will see why Vancouver is one of the top 5 places in the world to live in. Nice scenery, mountains, parks right at the city limits, ocean, and beaches.

Things to do in Vancouver

Vancouver has a mixture of city and outdoor life; well balanced for travelers and citizens. North and West Vancouver is the best place to stay if you want to visit Vancouver’s nature reserves. For inspiration what to do, read our post on how to spend 4 days in Vancouver outdoors.

The biggest highlights of Vancouver:

  • Visit one of 20 beaches
  • Walk around Stanley Park
  • Visit Lynn and Capilano Valley
  • Bike in historic downtown
  • Climb the hills in North Vancouver for panoramic views of the city

Where to stay in Vancouver

Western Canada road trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Stanley Park in Vancouver

Biking and running around Stanley Park is very popular

Good locations to stay in Vancouver are downtown or North and West Vancouver. North Vancouver Hotel with swimming pool just outside Capilano Valley and close to Lions Gate Bridge can be your budget option. Campgrounds are mostly located on the outskirts of the city but Capilano RV Park is almost in the city center.

Bonus: Road trip on Vancouver Island

If you have more time and want to continue on Vancouver Island, we have a great article for you: 32 outdoor things you can do on Vancouver Island.

Western Canada road trip from Calgary to Vancouver - rainforest on Vancouver Island

Lush rainforest on Vancouver Island

Best travel tips for your Western Canada road trip

National park fees

When you enter Banff National Park (or any national park in Canada), you are required to pay an entrance fee. You have a choice of either a daily pass or a yearly pass.

As of 2020, the fees are:

  • 10 CAD per person for a daily pass, 20 CAD for a group/family
  • 69.19 CAD per person for a yearly pass, 139.40 CAD for a group/family

The yearly Discovery Pass is valid for all National Parks in Canada. You can purchase it at the gate when you enter the national park, in the Visitor’s Centre or online here.

Road closures

Current road conditions for Alberta province can be checked here.

Icefields Parkway going from Lake Louise to Jasper is closed a few times each year, usually due to an avalanche. Sometimes it can take days before the road opens, make sure you check the conditions before the drive.

Current road conditions for British Columbia can be seen here.

Moraine Lake Road – Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, one of the prettiest lakes in the Canadian Rockies is only accessible through Moraine Lake Road which is open mid-May to mid-October every year. Outside of this time, the road passes an avalanche zone and can’t be accessed. You can only cross country ski until the viewpoint of Ten Peaks in winter. Visit this page for detailed info about the closure.

Yoho Valley Road leading to Takakkaw Falls is passing through avalanche area and it’s open mid-June to mid-October.

Trail reports

Always check a trail report from Parks Canada before going on a hike. There are occasional closures due to wildlife presence or hazardous conditions. Links for trail reports in each national park:

Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - Bald Hills Hike in Jasper

early season conditions on a Bald Hills Hike

Bear country

If you’re hiking in the mountains of Alberta and British Columbia, you’re hiking in a bear country. You should always carry a bear spray (can be purchased at Visitor’s Centre or outdoor stores), know when and how to use it and make noise while hiking (to let bears and other wildlife know that you’re there as to not scare them)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around bears.


There is a big chance that you will encounter wildlife on your trip. Give them space and learn how to react when you encounter a bear or elk while hiking.

Read our post wildlife in Canada to see what kind of animals you can see here, you will be surprised.

Be respectful of all animals. Pick up brochures in the Visitor Centre or visit Parks Canada website to learn how to behave around them. You should never approach wildlife (and of course not take selfies!). If the animal feels threatened it might charge you. In these cases, Parks Canada has to put the animal down and it’s the person’s fault. In the better case, Parks Canada can give you a huge fine, they are regularly on patrol.

Common rules are:

  • Never feed any wildlife
  • Never get out of the car to get closer to a bear, elk, etc.
  • Give them space and don’t surround them (we’ve seen this too often and you can see how stressed the animal gets)
  • Pull over when taking pictures of wildlife and let faster cars safely pass you
Western Canada Road Trip from Calgary to Vancouver - moose in Jasper

Moose in Jasper – only take pictures from your car and from a safe distance


Alberta province, where Banff and Jasper National Parks are located, have 5% GST. The reason I’m telling you is that it is not automatically added to the price shown. For example, for ½ hour rental of the canoe in Lake Louise, the price is shown 105 CAD + GST, which means you will pay 110,25 CAD. The same goes for all the tours, souvenirs or groceries.

The difference might seem minor but it goes up when you travel from Yoho to Vancouver in British Columbia, their GST is 12%.

Visitor Centre

Visitor Centres are spread along the road in Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, Field in Yoho, Jasper, Kamloops, Whistler, Squamish, and Vancouver.

They sell hiking maps, backcountry permits, souvenirs, bear sprays and provide invaluable information about national and provincial parks. You can ask the rangers about trail reports before hiking for possible closures or to help you book a campground.

Most of them are open year round, usually in national parks, it’s 8 am to 8 pm from May 18 to October 8, and 9 am to 5 pm outside those dates.

Public restrooms

There is always a public restroom in the Visitor Centre or close by, and also along the highway on pull over parking lots. I’m always amazed at how clean they are and supplied with toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Free Wi-Fi

You can access Wi-Fi in public libraries, most Visitor Centres, Tim Hortons (the most popular Canadian coffee place) & McDonald’s.

Travel planning resources for Canadian Rockies

Travel tips

Whatever destination you choose to visit, there are certain steps you should never forget. After plenty of mishaps on the road, we compiled a list of 19 smart travel tips so you don’t have to make the same mistakes as we did.

Packing list

When you visit Canadian Rockies, you’ll see that hiking options are endless. Don’t forget to pack properly and check out our hiking packing list for summer in the mountains.


As one of the biggest expense of your trip, you want to be smart and book your flights in advance. Read our post about how to find cheap flights for more tips. Search engines we use:

Rent a car or campervan

Distances in Canada are huge and public transport very rare. To enjoy your trip to the fullest, you need to book a car or campervan. Options we recommend:

  • Smile Campervans – our budget-friendly minivans with a small kitchen and a bed that folds into a couch!
  • Rentalcars – a huge search engine that compares prices of different car rental companies
Western Canada road trip from Calgary to Vancouver - road trip on Icefields Parkway

Road trip on Icefields Parkway


  • Parks Canada – for campgrounds (the most budget-friendly option in the Rockies)
  • – search engine we use the most for all accommodation
  • Airbnb – for booking accommodation through locals. If you’re not registered yet, sign up and get 40$ credit for your next stay.
  • Couchsurfing – to stay with locals. It’s based on cultural exchange principle where you get a free bed in exchange for providing something of value to your host.
  • Hostelworld – for booking hostels

Read our tips about how to find good & cheap accommodation.

Travel insurance

We never ever travel without insurance. It’s better to be safe than sorry, basically our safety policy. For short or long term travel, we both use and recommend World Nomads, get your quote here.

We sincerely hope that our Western Canada road trip itinerary from Calgary to Vancouver will help you plan your great road trip.

What stop on your road trip from Calgary to Vancouver would you like to visit the most? Share with us in the comments and let us know if you have any questions.

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About Michal Dorica

Hi, I'm Michal, a big sports junkie - mostly mountain biking, trail running, stand up paddle boarding, and playing ice hockey. Together with Maya we started a campervan rental company Smile Campervans to help travelers experience the Canadian Rockies without breaking the bank. I'm here to provide you with tips and ideas for your next trip and make it a worry-less and unforgettable experience.

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