Looking to embark on a mega epic Canadian road trip and not sure where to start? Then why not do this Vancouver to Banff road trip?
Not only is this Vancouver to Banff drive next-level gorgeous, but you’ll travel through an astounding, 526 miles (or 847 km) of rugged wilderness.
Therefore, this route will take you at least 10 hours to complete – but probably more if you actually use this Banff to Vancouver road trip itinerary as outlined.
And you really should since there are tons of scenic spots with drool-worthy views for you to admire along the way. I mean, seriously. The Canadian Rockies are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
However, if you’re new to British Columbia and Alberta in general, it can be difficult to know when to stop, what to eat, and where to stay.
Therefore, you’ll need the help of a super-savvy traveler like me, your friendly Girl with the Passport. to help you plan the best ever Vancouver to Banff road trip.
After all, I’ve been to this beyond beautiful country more times than I can count. Yup, talk about the perks of living just below the border.
And now I want to share with you all my most secret tips so that you can plan the perfect Vancouver to Banff drive.
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If you’re booking a trip right now then I IMPLORE you to get travel insurance – even if it’s not from me.
After all, this past year has been a wild ride and I don’t want you to lose money because government regulations have changed.
Truth be told though, I’ve never traveled without travel insurance and don’t think you should either – especialy since I think we’ve all had plans drastically change because of the pandemic.
Therefore, find an insurance agency that covers travel changes related to COVID-19, like my two all-time faves World Nomads and Safety Wing. You can also read more about which policy is right for you in my full review here.
The Ultimate Vancouver to Banff Road Trip
The best place to start your road trip to Banff is Vancouver. This vibrant city on the western edge of British Columbia is the most densely populated and diverse city in Canada.
With a backdrop of mountains, rainforests, and endless waters, Vancouver is a must-visit for anyone planning a Vancouver to Banff road trip!
But, beyond the wealth of outdoor adventures that are to be found here, this city is also home to a thriving art scene and some of the best restaurants in the province.
Best Things to do in Vancouver
- Stanley Park – A must-add to any Vancouver itinerary is Stanley Park. Located in the northwestern part of downtown, the park covers 1000 acres and has so much to offer visitors! There are beaches, trails, and gardens aplenty. Also be sure to hike over 15 miles of forested trails and the boardwalk too. Or you can rent a bike and cycle along the scenic Seawall. The park also has a variety of tours on offer by way of carriage, bus, or trolley. Plus, it’s a great spot for families since it’s home to a miniature railway, the Vancouver Aquarium, a waterpark, and tons of playgrounds.
Pro Tip: While in Stanley Park, don’t forget to visit Brockton Point to see the totem poles and learn about the First Nations people who called this area home.
- Capilano Suspension Bridge Park – A bucket list item for every Vancouver road trip is a visit to this awesome suspension bridge! Hanging 230 feet above the Capilano River, the bridge is 450 feet across. It’s also located on Vancouver’s north shore and takes you through a spectacular rainforest, complete with stunning views. The park also has a treetop adventure, Living Forest exhibit, and a cliff walk for you to enjoy too.
- Whale Watching – Off the shores of Vancouver the waters are home to a wealth of marine life. You can spot everything from humpback whales to dolphins. Therefore, there are a variety of whale-watching tours available. However, do be aware that the best time to see whales here is between April and October. Another highlight of these tours is the incredible views of the city from the water!
- Explore Gastown – One of the trendiest neighborhoods in Vancouver is Gastown! In fact, this area is filled with art galleries, unique shops, and delicious restaurants, making this Vancouver’s original downtown core. So, stroll the cobblestone streets and take in the historic buildings before starting your Vancouver to Banff road trip. Plus, one of the most famous sights in the area is the Gastown Steam Clock. It’s one of only a few found around the world! The coolest part, on the hour it gives a toot from each whistle!
What to Eat in Vancouver
- La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop – With various locations across the city, they have the best tacos. For something different, opt for their popular Al Pastor Tacos.
- Kingyo – A Fun and fabulous Japanese restaurant with delicious small plates and bento.
- Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar – For all the best seafood in Vancouver, you’ll want to indulge in their Seafood Tower.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
- Cambie Hostel Gastown (budget) – This adults-only hostel has dorm rooms that are for women or men only. They also have a great gastropub that’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- The Burrard (mid-range)– Located downtown, this hip hotel is close to many sights, and there’s a coffee shop as well as bicycles for guests.
- Fairmont Hotel Vancouver (luxury) – This castle-like luxury hotel has a spa, restaurants, and pool. Plus, it’s within walking distance of many of the city’s top attractions.
Pro Tip: Make a pitstop in Squamish for the Sea to Sky Gondola on your way to Whistler. The gondola offers epic views of Howe Sound, plus there’s a suspension bridge, café, and more!
Distance and Travel Time from Vancouver to Whistler: Almost 2 hours and 75 miles north of Vancouver
One of the most scenic drives in British Columbia is from Vancouver to Whistler!
Driving along the Sea to Sky Highway, also known as BC Highway 99, you’ll wind your way along the coast and find a number of epic lookouts to enjoy.
Whistler Village is also known for being home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America. However, there’s plenty to do in this charming little village throughout the year even if you don’t ski, including hiking, museums, and spas.
Best Things to do in Whistler
- Hit the Slopes – No Banff to Vancouver road trip is complete without hitting the slopes in Whistler! In fact, two peaks, Whistler and Blackcomb, tower over the village here. So, head to Whistler Blackcomb Resort where you’ll find over 200 runs, nearly 40 lifts, and over 8000 acres of skiable terrain. If you’re visiting in the summer, skiing is still available since the resort offers Canada’s longest ski season, which can run until July! For adventurers, heli-skiing is also an option too!
- Garibaldi Provincial Park – A stunning park in BC, Garibaldi is home to dense coastal rainforests, glaciers, mountains, and lakes. It’s also full of long-distance hiking trails and a few of which are doable in either a full or half-day. One is the High Note Trail. It can be accessed via the Whistler Gondola and Peak Chairlift and is considered intermediate in terms of difficulty. Plus, along the way, you’ll be rewarded with views of Cheakamus Lake – complete with dozens of stunning viewpoints!
- Peak 2 Peak Gondola Whistler – For sweeping views of snow-capped mountains, forests, and lakes, hop aboard the Peak 2 Peak Gondola! The lift at Whistler Blackcomb Resort takes you between the two mountains and hangs over 1600 feet above the valley below. Then, upon reaching the summit, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails and the Cloudraker Skywalk. The Skywalk takes you from Whistler Peak to the West Ridge, where you’ll find a viewing platform with 360-degree views!
- Visit the Train Wreck – A fun and easy hike to add to your Vancouver to Banff road trip itinerary is the Train Wreck. This trail is 10 minutes south of the village, is roughly one mile, and takes about an hour to complete. Just follow the Sea to Sky Trail, across a suspension bridge, and you’ll find seven box cars hidden in the forest. The colorful boxcars are covered in graffiti and have called the forest home since 1956.
What to Eat in Whistler
- Stonesedge Kitchen – One of the best brunch spots in Whistler! Try their breakfast poutine or mac and cheese.
- Pizzeria Antico – Order their most popular pizza, the Margherita Pizza Napolitana, and a craft beer.
- Araxi Restaurant & Oyster Bar – This swanky restaurant serves up locally-sourced Pacific Northwest dishes. Go for the seafood tower and stay for the cocktails!
Where to Stay in Whistler
- Pangea Pod Hotel (budget) – Enjoy affordable accommodation at this quirky hotel with dorms, ski storage, and a rooftop patio bar.
- Summit Lodge Boutique Hotel (mid-range)– A short walk from downtown, this hotel offers balconies, kitchenettes, a spa, a pool, and a restaurant.
- Fairmont Chateau Whistler (luxury) – Stay in a castle in the mountains with all the amenities! There’s a spa, restaurant, pools, golf course, and rooms with stellar views!
Distance and Travel Time from Whistler to Kamloops: 4 hours and 186 miles east of Whistler
Pro Tip: Stops along Sea to Sky Highway to Kamloops include Nairn Falls (a short hike to a waterfall) and Duffey Lake Viewpoint.
At the split of the Thompson River, the city of Kamloops is a great stop along the Trans-Canada Highway on your way from Vancouver to Banff.
You’ll find it full of things to do, including outdoor activities and museums. Even if you need some time to relax during your Vancouver to Banff road trip, this is a great place to unwind as you stroll through riverside parks, enjoy wine tasting, or wander downtown.
Best Things to do in Kamloops
- Enjoy some Wine – Sit back and relax and indulge in BC’s newest wine region. Kamloops is within the Thompson Valley and is home to four award-winning wineries. There’s even a Kamloops Wine Trail that you can indulge in on your own or as part of a guided tour. With distinct wineries, stunning views, and 125 acres of vineyards to explore, you’ll want to add a wine tasting to your Vancouver to Banff drive
- Go Skiing – One of the top things to do in the Canadian Rockies is ski! While Kamloops has a few places to hit the slopes, the best is Sun Peaks Resort! Just a 45-minute drive north of town, Sun Peaks is the second biggest ski area in Canada. It has three mountains, a European-inspired village, and plenty to do during all four seasons. If you’re visiting in the summer, try hiking, golf, mountain biking, and more!
- Kenna Cartwright Park – This park is one of the best places to hike in Kamloops. Situated close to town, it’s home to a trail network that has something for everyone, from easy to difficult. If you’re looking for a great easy hike, take the Tower Trail. It’s a gradual incline that takes you up to a sweeping lookout over Kamloops.
What to Eat in Kamloops
- The Art We Are – With a menu serving up a variety of vegan items, this eclectic café has the best daily soups!
- Jacob’s Noodle & Cutlet – This Japanese restaurant has a cozy vibe and tasty meals! A crowd favorite is the Beef Bibimbap.
- Brownstone Restaurant – For a classy night out, try this restaurant with its seasonal menu. One of the top dishes is the bacon-wrapped elk meatloaf.
Where to Stay in Kamloops
- Delta Hotels by Marriott Kamloops (mid-range) – Located in the city center, this hotel has rooms and suites with views, as well as a restaurant and rooftop pool.
- The Plaza Hotel (luxury) – Set in a landmark building right downtown, this hotel offers free breakfast and even has its very own steakhouse.
- Sandman Signature Kamloops Hotel (luxury) – This trendy hotel is close to the river and has spacious rooms, a sports bar, and an indoor pool.
Pro Tip: Thirty minutes before Revelstoke you’ll find one of the must-stops on any Banff to Vancouver road trip – The Enchanted Forest! Hidden in the forest are whimsical buildings that will delight kids and adults alike!
Distance and Travel Time from Kamloops to Revelstoke: 2.5 hours and 132 miles east
Best known for its winter activities, Revelstoke is the perfect British Columbia road trip stop in the summer too!
In fact, this small town sits on the edge of The Trans-Canada Highway (aka Highway 1) and is almost the halfway point between Vancouver and Calgary.
Surrounded by mountains and on the edge of the Columbia River, it’s ideal for skiing, hiking, paddling, and more during your Vancouver to Banff road trip itinerary.
Best Things to do in Revelstoke
- Glacier National Park – The second oldest national park in Canada is home to over a dozen hiking trails. Many of which will reward you with incredible panoramic views! The park, not to be confused with the one in the US, is about a 30-minute drive from town. Two trails with awesome views are the Abbott Ridge Trail and Hermitt Trail. However, if you don’t have time to hike then stop at Rogers Pass Discovery Centre. This scenic drive is worth it alone but the Centre is an interesting place to learn about what goes into keeping the highway safe during the winter.
- Revelstoke Mountain Resort – With over 3000 acres of terrain to ski, this resort is one of the best places to ski in Canada! But if you’re taking a Vancouver to Banff road trip in the summer then don’t fret! There are a variety of fun things to do in the summer, including mountain biking, hiking, and an aerial adventure park. But one of the top Revelstoke attractions is their Pipe Mountain Coaster! One of only three in Canada, this coaster whips you through the trees, around bends, and is operated by you!
- Revelstoke Dam Visitor Centre – For a unique experience, add a visit to one of Canada’s largest and most powerful hydroelectric dams to your Vancouver to Banff drive! The Visitor Centre has exhibits that showcase the dam from idea to construction. And the highlight is the awesome lookout point at the top of the dam. At 35 stories up, you’ll get an idea of the massive size of this place!
What to Eat in Revelstoke
- Old School Eatery – Set in a historic building, you’ll find elevated comfort food that caters to everyone from vegans to carnivores. Favorite menu items include the Pork Belly Tacos and the Beet Quinoa Burger.
- Bierhaus – For a fun time and great food, this pub has game nights, craft beer, and the best Mac and Cheese!
- Kawakubo – If you’re looking for the best sushi in town, Kawakubo is the place! They also have incredible soups and sake!
Where to Stay in Revelstoke
- Alpine Inn & Suites (budget) – This relaxed motel has traditional rooms, some of which have kitchens.
- Boulder Mountain Resort (mid-range) – Located just outside of town, this resort has adorable cabins and comfy beds.
- The Explorers Society Hotel (luxury) – A boutique hotel with rustic-chic rooms is located right in the heart of town, within a restored century-old building. It has a bar, restaurant, and more!
Distance and Travel Time from Revelstoke to Golden: Just over 1.5 hours and 92 miles east
Pro Tip: This area is smack in the middle of bear country! Be aware of bears when hiking and make sure to bring bear spray.
Another great small town along the Trans-Canada Highway is Golden!
Surrounded by the Canadian Rockies and six of the most incredible national parks in Canada, Golden is a fabulous stop on any Western Canada road trip!
And thanks to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, it’s also becoming one of the top ski destinations in the world – even if you’re not planning a Vancouver to Banff road trip.
Best Things to do in Golden
- Yoho National Park – This bucket list park is full of all sorts of magic. You’ll find waterfalls, lookouts, awesome hiking trails, and crystal-clear alpine lakes. So, be sure to add the Emerald Lake Trail to your BC itinerary! The trail circles the turquoise lake and makes for a very scenic hike. Or, you can choose to paddle the Instagram-worthy Lake instead! Another must-visit in the park is Wapta Falls. Towering nearly 60 feet high, the waterfall can be accessed via a short 3-mile hike.
- Golden Skybridge – This new attraction should be added to any adventurer’s Banff to Vancouver road trip! Cross the highest suspension bridge in Canada in the heart of Columbia Valley. In fact, it towers 400 feet above the canyon below and its signature thundering waterfall, along with a second bridge! Beyond the bridges, there are trails, a zipline, a restaurant, and a rope course to enjoy. Plus, coming soon is a giant Canyon Swing!
- Kicking Horse Mountain – As with many places in the Canadian Rockies, visitors travel here for epic skiing and snowboarding. And Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is perfect for both of those activities and a must-add to your Vancouver to Banff road trip! However, in the summer you can tackle one of the area’s amazing climbing routes or visit a local grizzly bear refuge.
What to Eat in Golden
- Jita’s Café – For affordable dishes that you can eat in or take out try, this vegan-friendly restaurant. A café favorite is the chickpea curry.
- The Wolf’s Den – A cozy cabin restaurant with a true Canadian menu and live music. Ask for their famous Elk Burger!
- Eleven22 – This modern upscale restaurant serves Canadian cuisine and regional wines and beers. Two popular dishes include the Cannelloni and their Duck’s Shepherd’s Pie.
Where to Stay in Golden
- Swiss Village Inn (budget) – Located just outside downtown Golden, this budget inn offers comfortable rooms.
- Glacier Mountaineer Lodge (mid-range) – This ski lodge is close to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. It has a fitness center, sauna, ski storage, and hot tub.
- Rooms at Riveredge (Luxury) – Enjoy mountain views in the city center with large modern rooms, seating, and free parking.
Distance and Travel Time from Golden to Radium Hot Springs: 1 hour and 64 miles south
6. Radium Hot Springs
Sitting at the crossroads of the Banff-Windermere and 95 Highways, the village of Radium Hot Springs is the perfect pit stop before crossing over into Alberta.
Commonly called Radium, it’s the gateway to Kootenay National Park. Therefore, there are a ton of hiking trails in the area, making it a hotspot for outdoor enthusiasts.
But, your first stop should be to the Bighorns Art Sculpture that can be found smack dab in the middle of town. Trust me, it’s awesome and a perfect place to stop during your Vancouver to Banff road trip.
Things to do in Radium Hot Springs
- Kootenay National Park – One of the best parks to add to your Vancouver to Banff road trip is Kootenay! The park is home to numerous hiking trails, waterfalls, and a wealth of wildlife. There are diverse landscapes within, from towering peaks to wildflower meadows. A few amazing trails include Cobb Lake, Stanley Glacier, Marble Canyon to Paint Pots, and Juniper – Sinclair Canyon
- Radium Hot Springs Pools – Between hikes enjoy a soak in the hot spring pools in Radium! Listed as one of Canada’s Historic Places, these springs are open all year long. The springs are also located in Kootenay National Park and offer pure relaxation, complete with epic views. And the best part is there is no smelly egg odor!
- Old Coach Trail – With a trailhead located at the southern end of Main Street West, this is one of the top and most accessible hiking trails in Radium. The trail travels between Radium and Dry Gulch Provincial Park and is ideal for cycling, birding, and spotting big horned sheep. This 9.5-mile out and back trail takes an average of four hours to complete.
What to Eat in Radium Hot Springs
- Big Horn Café – This cute coffee shop is ideal for breakfast or baked goods to go! For hearty eats try their breakfast burrito or their veggie pot pie!
- Horsethief Creek Pub & Eatery – Enjoy traditional pub grub along with an assortment of fine dishes like their Jambalaya.
- Helna’s Stube – For European cuisine, head to this Austrian restaurant with the best mushroom schnitzel!
Where to Stay in Radium Hot Springs
- Motel Tyrol (budget) – This mountain motel is affordable but also includes amenities like a pool and is close to Kootenay National Park.
- Inn on Canyon (mid-range) – Enjoy a hearty breakfast, cozy rooms, and a tea shop at this charming bed and breakfast.
- Headwaters at Eagle Ranch Resort (luxury) – Located 10 minutes south of Radium, this resort offers mountain views, a fine-dining restaurant, and superior rooms.
Distance and Travel Time from Radium Hot Springs to Banff: 1.5 hours and 84 miles northeast
Nestled in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, Banff is a charming resort town in Alberta. The town sits within Banff National Park and is just across the border from British Columbia.
Surrounded by majestic mountain peaks, it’s popular throughout the year, with plenty of attractions that should be added to your Canadian west coast road trip itinerary! You can easily spend a week here but try and plan for at least 2 days after your epic Vancouver to Banff drive.
Things to do in Banff
- Banff National Park – As the first national park in Canada, this is a must-add to every west coast Canada road trip! The park is massive and filled with pristine lakes, towering mountains, and boundless outdoor activities. Within the Banff area itself there are over a dozen hiking trails. One thing to note, prime hiking season usually runs from July to September, with Johnston Canyon being a top hikr! This stunning canyon trail also features a waterfall and is popular all year long.
- Visit Lake Louise – Take the scenic Bow Valley Parkway up to Lake Louise for one of the top day trips from Banff. Less than 40 minutes from Banff, this stunning turquoise glacier lake is a popular road trip stop in Alberta in both summer and winter. In the summer you can hike around the lake or enjoy a paddle on it. Just be aware that the lake will be frozen from late October to early June. So, during the winter you can ice skate on the lake or enjoy a sleigh ride. If you don’t want to drive, you can even take the shuttle or take a day tour from Banff.
- Take the Gondola – For epic views hop aboard the Banff Gondola! As the top attraction in Banff, your ride will take you up Sulphur Mountain. At the top, you’ll find a boardwalk, restaurants, and a visitor’s center. Plus, it’s open year-round!
- Banff Upper Hot Springs – If you’re looking for a relaxing spot to add to your Banff itinerary then indulge in the hot springs. This is Canada’s highest operating hot springs and the facility has everything you’ll need to enjoy your time here, including towels, lockers, and a café.
- Hit the Slopes – Snowboarding and skiing are some of the top things to do in Banff in the winter! In fact, ski season in Banff goes from November through to May. There are also three ski resorts in Banff National Park and they include Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay, and Lake Louise. You can even access all three with one lift ticket.
What to Eat in Banff
- Magpie & Stump Restaurant – This Mexican restaurant is a local favorite. Their Baja Shrimp Tacos are a must!
- The Bison Restaurant – With mountain views, an open kitchen, and farm-to-table fare, this is one of the top places to eat in Banff! Guest favorites include their brunch as well as the Bison Platter!
- The Grizzly House – This iconic restaurant has a lodge-type atmosphere and serves a range of exotic dishes like kangaroo and rattlesnake, as well as fondues. Try their 4-course fondue dinner for the ultimate feast after your Vancouver to Banff road trip.
Where to Stay in Banff
- HI Banff Alpine Centre (budget) – This popular hostel has dorms, private rooms, and cabins. There’s also a restaurant.
- Mount Royal Hotel (mid-range) – With a central location, this hotel offers ski shuttles, a rooftop terrace, and even a bar/lounge.
- Fairmont Banff Springs (luxury) – On the edge of town, this iconic, grand 4-star hotel has seven restaurants, pools, a spa, and stunning views.
Sample 14 Day Vancouver to Banff Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1 – 3 Vancouver
Day 4 – 5 Whistler
Day 6 Kamloops
Day 7 – 8 Revelstoke
Day 9 – 10 Golden
Day 11 Radium Hot Springs
Day 12 – 14 Banff
Alternative 7 Day Vancouver to Banff Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1 – 2 Vancouver
Day 3 Whistler
Day 4 Kamloops & Revelstoke
Day 5 Golden & Radium Hot Springs
Day 6 – 7 Banff