• Direction : In the early summer it is better to travel from Vancouver towards the Canadian Rockies, because the coast warms up much earlier than the mountains do.  In the autumn it is better to travel from the Rockies towards Vancouver, because the mountains cool off sooner than the coast does.  In July and August the direction of travel makes no difference, from a weather point of view.  It may make a difference from a price point of view.  You may want to compare air fares and one-way drop-off fees on rental cars in both directions.    
  • Mix and match : The itineraries that have been provided on this page represent only a small sample of potential routes.  It would be possible to combine elements of the listed itineraries to create a large variety of trips.  The purpose of providing sample itineraries is not to deliver routes that are set in concrete, but rather to give the first time traveler an idea of what reasonably can be accomplished in a given amount of time.
  • Speed : The itineraries shown here are fairly fast paced.  They are suited to adults who have good mobility.  If you will be traveling with family members or friends who are slower because of their ages or infirmities or who simply like to travel at a slower pace, you will need to adjust your plans accordingly.
  • Driving distances and times : People who live in more densely populated places often do not appreciate the distances between towns in Western Canada.  Gasoline (petrol) stops often are spaced out at intervals of an hour or an hour and a half.  You should refill your gas tank when your gas gauge reaches the half-full mark.  You can consult Map Quest to find out distances and driving times between towns.  Time estimates assume non-stop driving.   
  • Crossing time zones :  The Kootenay-Rockies region at the eastern end of British Columbia is in the Mountain Time Zone, as is the whole of Alberta.  Most of British Columbia, however, is in the Pacific Time Zone.  You will gain an hour if you cross time zones in a westerly direction, and you will lose an hour if you cross time zones in an easterly direction.  If you're driving the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy #16), you cross time zones at the Alberta / British Columbia border, which also is the border of Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park.  If you're driving the TransCanada Highway (Hwy #1), you cross time zones between Golden and Revelstoke.  If you're driving the Crowsnest Highway (Hwy #3), you change time zones between Cranbrook and Creston. 

1-Day Itinerary from Calgary

Drive west on the TransCanada Highway (Hwy #1).  Bypass Banff townsite and carry on to the village of Lake Louise.  Visit Moraine Lake.  Walk to the top of the pile of rocks at the north end of the lake.  Have lunch.  Walk Moraine Lake's lakeshore path.  Drive to the lake of Lake Louise (5 km or 3 miles from the village of Lake Louise).  Walk Lake Louise's lakeshore path or, better still, do the hike to Fairview Lookout.  The trail departs to the left of the boathouse from which they rent canoes.  It's an uphill walk of 1.6 km (1 mile) in one direction.  Drive to Banff townsite.  Drive all the way to the end of Banff's main street, which is Banff Avenue.  Cross the Bow River, turn left, and drive to the back of the National Parks Administration Building.  Walk to the gardens in the front of the building and take the classic postcard photo looking across Banff townsite towards Mount Norquay and Cascade Mountain. Have a look at the Banff National Park Museum on the north side of the bridge if desired or if weather is inclement.  Stroll through the town and have a cup of coffee.  Drive back to Calgary.  

5-Day Itinerary from Calgary

Day 1.  Land in Calgary .  Drive to your chosen mountain base ( CanmoreBanff townsite or Lake Louise).  

Day 2.  From your base, visit Moraine Lake  and the lake of Lake Louise.   You may choose to do a half-day hike from Moraine Lake or Lake Louise.  If you do not hike, you can fit in a visit to Yoho National Park ( Spiral Tunnel viewing point, Takakkaw Falls , natural bridge over the Kicking Horse River , and Emerald Lake ).

Day 3.  Drive to the Columbia Icefields.  They are located on the Icefields Parkway (Hwy #93), the highly scenic road that connects Lake Louise and Jasper.  On the way to the Columbia Icefields, stop to see Peyto Lake, which is just off the Icefields Parkway, about half an hour out of Lake Louise. A popular activity at the Columbia Icefields is a Snocoach ride onto the Athabasca Glacier.  Snocoach rides are sold on a first – come – first – served basis. If you are a very active person, you may be more interested in a 3 – 5 hour guided walk onto the Athabasca Glacier (for which a reservation is essential). Drive as far north along the Icefields Parkway as you feel comfortable before turning around and driving back to your base.  You probably will be able to get as far as Tangle Falls .     

DAY 4.  From your base, visit Johnston Canyon (walk at least to the Lower Falls), drive the Lake Minnewanka Loop, ride the Sulphur Mountain Gondola (if you are an active person you may want to hike up the mountain), and stroll through the Town of Banff.  If you have a morning flight on Day 5, you should drive to Calgary on the evening of this day and overnight there.  If your plane will be taking off around noon, you could spend your last night in the mountains and drive to Calgary on the morning of Day 5.  

Day 5.  Fly home.

 

7-Day Itinerary from Calgary

Day 1.  arrive Calgary, stay Calgary near airport

Day 2. pick up rental car at airport, drive to Banff, check in. Stroll downtown, get oriented, visit info centre. Take Sulphur Mtn gondola if weather is good. Drive Lake Minnewanka Loop - consider boat trip if weather is good.

Day 3.  drive Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise, visiting Johnson Canyon en route. Visit Moraine Lake and the lake of Lake Louise. You may choose to do a half-day hike from Moraine Lake or Lake Louise. If you do not hike, you can fit in a visit to Yoho National Park ( Spiral Tunnel viewing point, Takakkaw Falls , natural bridge over the Kicking Horse River , and Emerald Lake ).

Day 4.  check out of Banff hotel, spend all day driving to Jasper. Take a picnic lunch. Visit Bow Lake, Peyto vpt, Columbia Icefeld area, Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Falls en route. Check in at Jasper hotel.

Day 5.  Check in with info centre, get oriented. Start visiting must-sees in Jasper area:

  • Mt Edith Cavell

  • Jasper Tramway

  • Maligne Canyon

  • Medicine Lake (viewpoint at north end of lake)

  • Maligne Lake/Maligne Lake boat cruise

  • Mount Robson Provincial Park

Day 6.  continue visiting must-sees in Jasper NP

Day 7.  drive Icefields Parkway and TransCanada back to Calgary, turn in rental car.

Day 8.  fly out

 

7-Day Circle from Edmonton

Day 1   Land in Edmonton.  Visit West Edmonton Mall.  Alternatively, visit Whyte Avenue.

Day 2   Drive south on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway (formerly Hwy #2) past Red Deer.  At Airdrie, a few miles before Calgary, turn west.  This will enable you to bypass Calgary's traffic.  Drive through Cochrane to the TransCanada Highway (Hwy #1).  Turn west and continue to Banff townsite.

Day 3   From your Banff base, explore the Lake Louise area ( Moraine Lake and the lake of Lake Louise).  If you do a half-day hike in the Moraine Lake / Lake Louise area, that's about all you'll be able to fit in.  If you do not hike, you'll be able to add a visit to Yoho National Park to the west of Lake Louise.  There you can see the Spiral Tunnels, Takakkaw Falls, the natural bridge over the Kicking Horse River, and Emerald Lake.

Day 4   Drive the Icefields Parkway (Hwy #93) to Jasper, stopping at the several scenic lookout points along the way.

Day 5   Explore Jasper's environs (consider tramway up Whistlers Mountain, Mount Edith Cavell, Maligne Canyon).

Day 6   Spend the morning in Jasper National Park, perhaps at Miette Hot Springs.  Drive to Edmonton in the afternoon.

Day 7   Fly home.

 

10 Days from Edmonton to Vancouver

This can be a stand-alone itinerary.  It also lends itself to being the western half of a three-week trip that is split equally between Quebec / Ontario on the one hand and Alberta / British Columbia on the other hand.  In that case, the traveler would fly between Toronto and Edmonton.

Day 1   Land in Edmonton.  Drive to Jasper.

Day 2   Explore Jasper's environs.

Day 3   Drive the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise, stopping at the scenic lookout points along the way.  Stay in Lake Louise, Banff townsite or Canmore.

Day 4   See the sights in the Banff - Lake Louise area.

Day 5   Banff - Lake Louise.

Day 6   Drive to the Okanagan Valley.  The biggest town is Kelowna, but you also could stay in Vernon, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Oliver or Osoyoos.

Day 7   Okanagan Valley.

Day 8   Drive to Vancouver.

Day 9   Explore Vancouver and its environs.

Day 10   Fly home.

 

14-Day Circle from Calgary

This itinerary could be adjusted to start and end in Edmonton, Alberta or Kalispell, Montana.  Since it's a circular route, any city / town that has an airport could serve as the entry and exit point.

Day 1   Land in Calgary.

Day 2   Drive to Edmonton with detour to Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller on the way.

Day 3   Explore Edmonton.

Day 4   Drive to Jasper.

Day 5   Explore Jasper's environs.

Day 6   Drive the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise.  Stay in Lake Louise, Banff or Canmore.

Day 7   From your chosen base, explore the Canmore - Banff - Lake Louise - Yoho National Park area.

Day 8   More explorations in the Canmore  -  Banff - Lake Louise - Yoho corridor.

Day 9   Drive down the west side of the Canadian Rockies to a point that is on the west side of Montana's Glacier National Park ( West Glacier, Whitefish or Kalispell).

Day 10  Drive the Going to the Sun Road through Glacier National Park and overnight in the Many Glacier / Swiftcurrent area on the east side of Glacier National Park.

Day 11  Explore Many Glacier / Swiftcurrent area of Glacier National Park.

Day 12  Cross the USA-Canada border and drive to Waterton Lakes National Park.

Day 13  Spend the morning in Waterton Lakes National Park, and spend the afternoon driving to Calgary.  Instead of the main Queen Elizabeth II Highway (formerly Hwy #2) that crosses the prairies, consider driving the Cowboy Trail (Hwy #22), which meanders through the foothills on the east side of the Rockies. 

Day 14  Fly home.

 

14 Days from Calgary to Vancouver  

  1. Land in Calgary .  Drive to Canmore, Banff or Lake Louise .
  2. From your chosen base, visit Johnston Canyon, stroll through the Town of Banff, and visit attractions on the town’s immediate outskirts (Lake Minnewanka Loop and Sulphur Mountain Gondola, for example.
  3. From your base, visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise .
  4. From your base, drive up the Icefields Parkway as if you’re going to Jasper.  Drive as far as you feel comfortable before turning around and driving back to your base.  You should be able to include Peyto Lake , the Columbia Icefields and Sunwapta Falls .
  5. Drive to Revelstoke, stopping en route to see the sights in Yoho National Park ( Spiral Tunnels, Takakkaw Falls , the natural bridge over the Kicking Horse River and Emerald Lake ).
  6. Drive south to Nelson.  This will involve catching a free ferry, which operates on a first – come – first – served basis, from Shelter Bay to Galena Bay.
  7. Explore Nelson’s environs.
  8. Drive to the Okanagan Valley .  The largest town is Kelowna , but you also could stay in Osoyoos, Oliver, Penticton , Summerland, Peachland or Narramata.
  9. Explore the Okanagan Valley .  You might like to relax on one of the Okanagan Lake ’s beaches, or you may enjoy doing a winery tour.  Other options include golf and the Kettle Valley Railway.
  10. Drive to Vancouver.
  11. Vancouver
  12. Vancouver
  13. Vancouver
  14. Fly home.  

 

21 Days Circle from Vancouver

  1. Land in Vancouver, cross to Victoria on Vancouver Island.
  2. Explore Victoria.
  3. Drive to Tofino.
  4. Explore Tofino's environs.
  5. Tofino.
  6. Cross from Departure Bay / Nanaimo on Vancouver Island to Horseshoe Bay on the mainland, and drive to Whistler.
  7. Drive to Kamloops.
  8. Drive to Jasper (with two-hour detour at Clearwater to see Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Provincial Park).
  9. Jasper.
  10. Jasper.
  11. Drive the Icefields Parkway (Hwy #93) to Lake Louise.  Stay in Lake Louise, Banff townsite or Canmore.
  12. From your chosen base, explore the Canmore - Banff townsite - Lake Louise - Yoho National Park area.
  13. Canmore - Banff - Lake Louise - Yoho.
  14. Canmore  - Banff - Lake Louise - Yoho.
  15. Drive to Kelowna or one of the other towns in the Okanagan Valley.
  16. Okanagan Valley.
  17. Drive to Vancouver.
  18. Vancouver.
  19. Vancouver.
  20. Vancouver.
  21. Fly home.


21 Days from Vancouver to Calgary

  1. Land in Vancouver, overnight in Vancouver.
  2. Explore Vancouver.
  3. Explore Vancouver.
  4. Take the ferry to Victoria in the morning.  Visit the Butchart Gardens in the afternoon.  Overnight in Victoria.
  5. Explore Victoria's Inner Harbour area.
  6. Drive to Tofino.
  7. Tofino
  8. Tofino (whale watching, walking in old growth temperate rainforests, surfing, etc.)
  9. Tofino
  10. Drive to Nanaimo, catch the ferry from Nanaimo / Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, and drive to Whistler.
  11. Whistler (consider the ZipTrek Ecotour).
  12. Drive to Kamloops, Sun Peaks or Clearwater.
  13. Take a detour into Wells Gray Provincial Park to see Helmcken Falls.  Then drive to Jasper.
  14. Jasper
  15. Jasper
  16. Drive the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise.  Spend the night in Lake Louise (or drive on to Banff townsite).
  17. From your chosen base, explore the Yoho National Park / Lake Louise / Banff area.
  18. As for Day #17
  19. Drive to Drumheller, visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum, and spend the night in Drumheller.
  20. Drive to Calgary, look around downtown Calgary, spend the night in Calgary.
  21. Fly home.

 

For specific information regarding your route options between the Rockies and the Coast, you might find this Traveler Article in the BC forum another good planning resource.


VIA Rail Layover

If you will be breaking your VIA Rail journey for two or three nights in Jasper, you may want to check the layover itineraries in the Inside Jasper National Park section here at TripAdvisor that suggest how you might make use of your time in the Canadian Rockies.

Other itinerary suggestions

Vancouver resident, Paul Beddows, has a non-commercial website that includes a Suggested Route that starts in Vancouver, goes through the Canadian Rockies, and returns to Vancouver.  If you will be doing a one-way trip between Vancouver and Calgary, you can do half of Paul's circular drive.

TripAdvisor member, Judy_in_Calgary, has published some suggested itineraries on her non-commercial website about Calgary, the Canadian Rockies and Vancouver

Tourism British Columbia publishes suggested itineraries.  Go to their map of British Columbia and click on the region in which you are interested.  Then click on the "Distinctive Tours" link on the right hand side of the screen.

Travel Alberta publishes Scenic Road Trips .