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7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies

posts: 1,430
reviews: 80
7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies

Hi there,

I and my wife are taking 1 week self driving holiday from Vancouver to Canadian Rockies and back to Vancouver. We are doing this in early July 2013. I would like the opinion of those that have been to the Rockies. Please feel free to give your opinion and make suggestions on what to see and do. We are just on 60 and are quite fit for long walks. We love nature and very long wals. This is our plan.

Drive to Whistler and stay 1 night. on 2nd day, drive to Wells Gray Provincial Park and stay overnight. Drive to Jasper and stay at least 1 night, maybe 2. Drive to Lake Louise and stay a night. Stay another night in Banff. or would it be better to stay an extra night in Lake Louise?

1 night in Yoho National park and another night in Kamloops.

Thank you all in advance.

Edited: 9:03 pm, October 26, 2013
34 replies to this topic
Newmarket, Canada
posts: 806
reviews: 36
1. Re: 7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies

You're trying to cover too much ground for 7 days, and you won't be able to see much of the Rockies other than the highways that run through them. All of your time will be spent either in the car, or packing and unpacking from your daily accommodation changes.

Consider extending the time you have or cut back on where you want to go.

If you're limited to just 7 days, then I think you have 3 options. First, skip the Rockies entirely for this trip and enjoy BC. Second, fly to Calgary to rent your car and explore the Rockies from there, and skip BC. Third, if you really want to see both BC and the Rockies, then skip Whistler, and get a one-way car rental from Vancouver to Calgary and fly back.

Vancouver, Canada
posts: 15,007
reviews: 46
2. Re: 7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies

I assume you mean July 2014.

What you are proposing is a LONGER trip than Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne and back to Sydney in a week, with as much to see and do on the way. No time for the Great Ocean Road or Phillip Island or Kosiosko. So, what do you like to do? Race around point to point in your car, or do you like to stop, get out and see a few things along the way?

Fly to Calgary and see Banff and Jasper from there.

Greater Sydney...
posts: 8,780
reviews: 32
3. Re: 7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies

I absolutely agree with DCH - this would be a pure road trip and would drastically short-change the best part of all, the Rockies. General advice is for a minimum of 5 days (not nights) in the Rockies spread between Jasper and Banff, and seven days would be better. There is some nice country driving through BC, but not spectacular like the Rockies, and Whistler is very underwhelming in comparison.

The suggestions put by DCH are good ones and worthy of serious consideration. Mt personal choice would be option 2 followed by option 3. A one-way car hire would most probably require payment of a one-way drop-off fee, but a UK company called Canadian Affair can arrange one-way car hire without a drop-off fee, although it may take a phone call to England to arrange it. Other Aussies and Kiwis have reported successfully doing this.


Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 12,334
reviews: 86
4. Re: 7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies

Hi, and welcome to the TripAdvisor forums, cromansydney!

While there are mountains all the way from the west coast until you hit the prairies in Alberta, they are not all the "Canadian Rockies" ... Whistler is in the Coast Mountains, Wells Gray is in the Columbias. In your itinerary, only Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise and Yoho National Park are in the Rockies. The Canadian Rockies are over 1400 km long, but only 150 km wide at the widest point - they are a mountain range straddling the BC/Alberta border.

If you want to have any time for walking or hiking (and you could fill a few weeks with no problem with the options in just the Rockies alone), you will need to spend more than a single night in each place.

In terms of where to base yourself for the Rockies, have a read through this article: tripadvisor.ca/Travel-g154910-c14815/Banff-N… You will need one base for Banff, Lake Louise and Yoho (although you may wish to change locations for different experiences, but they can all be seen from one base, whether Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise or Field/Yoho) and another in Jasper National Park.

As mentioned, five days in the Rockies is about the minimum, split between Banff and Yoho National Parks, and Jasper NP ... this gives you time to see the main highlights, the most popular sights/sites and attractions. Seven days would be better, especially if you want to spend time hiking. We usually recommend taking two days to drive between the Rockies and Vancouver, unless you want to do it in a long marathon of driving. (10 -12 hours, with no time for sightseeing) So even without Whistler, we would recommend a minimum of 9 to 11 days. Add time for Vancouver and Whistler, and you are easily up to two weeks.

Edited: 10:58 pm, October 26, 2013
posts: 1,430
reviews: 80
5. Re: 7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies

I thank you all for your opinions. Please don't hesitate to add more.

Skipping rockies is not an option. That and a cruise to Alaska, have always been a must in any trip to Canada. I am spending about 5 weeks in Canada and about 1 week in couple spots in USA.

I will be based in Vancouver and do day trips from there.

I am definitely driving from Vancouver and back. I don't mind driving. As I said, we are quite fit and we are happy to take long walks after a long drive. We usually start our day around 6 am or even earlier if need be. I know for some people it sounds like hard work, but not for us. If we skip staying at Whistler and have only 1 night stay between Vancouver and Jasper, and then only 1 stop between Banff and Vancouver, it will give us 6 days in the Rockies if we extend our trip to 8 days/nights.

posts: 2,341
reviews: 45
6. Re: 7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies

it's not a matter of hard work...it's a matter that you will be spending the majority of your time in a car and checking in and out of hotels. if that's alright with you...go for it. i would not recommend it. minimum 9 nights for this round trip is what i'd recommend. the drive from whister to well's grey is a beautiful, full day's drive. do you plan on going to well's grey? if so, you won't get into jasper until supper time or later. if you only spend one night...does that mean you don't plan on seeing any of the sights there? i would recommend you spend the 2 nights you've designated for lake louise/banff...just stay at one or the other to save time from moving hotels. lake louise is very scenic and good for hikers but there are not many facilities there. banff is a town with many shops and restaurants.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
posts: 34,208
reviews: 54
7. Re: 7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies

Vancouver > Clearwater, 1 night

Clearwater > Jasper, 2 nights

One full day on the Icefields Parkway with packed lunch > Banff, 3 nights

Banff > Kelowna, 1 night

Kelowna > Vancouver, 1 night

If you don't need that 1 night in Vancouver, add it to Jasper.

Route map: http://goo.gl/maps/x9nmS

Edited: 12:41 am, October 27, 2013
Greater Sydney...
posts: 8,780
reviews: 32
8. Re: 7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies

I like that plan, Mufti.

posts: 1,430
reviews: 80
9. Re: 7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies

I think I need more than 7 nights. I am happy to allow 8 nights.

Vancouver to Clearwater is 449 km. How bad is the road there? How many hours do I need for that section of the trip? If I start early, I can still have almost a full day for sight seeing at Wells Gray Provincial park if the road is decent, and then a good part of next day.

Sounds like I am better off staying at Lake Louise than at Banff. Shops don't interest me and as far as restaurants are concerned, I just need some place to eat even if it is basic. I like good food, but it is not a priority when on a trip. My priority is sight seeing.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
posts: 34,208
reviews: 54
10. Re: 7 day self driving trip to Canadian Rockies


8 nights? then add a night to Jasper.

The roads are fine here. The map linked in blue printing at the end of post 7 will show you all the driving distances and times in the left sidebar -- about 5 hours to Clearwater, stops extra.

Lake Louise is famously expensive, not a town as you would expect. Compare accommodation between there and Banff, or even Canmore. Banff is not a town from where you go to the park, it is in the middle of Banff National Park so much, much more than shops.

For things to do in Banff (or any of these towns) look on the specific forum for that location. In the green menu bar you will find a tab for Things to Do and for restaurants. Lots to choose from:

Banff NP forum is here: tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g154910-i220-Banff…

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