The drive from Vancouver to Banff is one of the most scenic drives in North America, which crosses multiple mountain ranges, stunning lakes, charming towns and various National & Provincial parks of Canada. In Summer, the chances of seeing wildlife is really high. And in Winter, you get to see the true meaning of Winter Wonderland. This itinerary is pretty jam packed and you best be prepared for lots of stunning jaw dropping sceneries that will leave you in awe.
Here’s our 14 day Vancouver to Banff Itinerary (scroll for detailed description and photos!)
- Day 1: Vancouver
- Day 2: Vancouver to North Vancouver
- Day 3: Vancouver to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway
- Day 4: Whistler
- Day 5: Whistler to Clearwater
- Day 6: Clearwater to Jasper
- Day 7: Jasper
- Day 8: Jasper to Icefield Parkway
- Day 9: Icefield Parkway
- Day 10: Lake Louise & Moraine Lake
- Day 11 : Banff Town
- Day 12: Banff to Golden
- Day 13: Golden to Vernon & Kelowna
- Day 14: Kelowna to Vancouver
Know Before You Go
Because of how popular this route and trip is, my number one advise is to plan as early as you can. That will save you tons of expenditure on accommodation. During summer months, hotels, Airbnb’s, car rentals and motorhomes can get really pricey. The best bank for your buck would be to do a mixture of campsites and hotel/Airbnb’s. Dining in Canada can get expensive real quick considering the length of the trip. Our recommendation would be to pack some food that can last for the first few days of your trip, and heat them up wherever possible, while also having easy to eat meals such as Subway, Tim Hortons & MacDonald’s.
For this road trip, the ideal time to do it is between June to September, wherein predominantly lies the Summer months in Canada. In the Winter months from November to April, it is extremely risky to do this drive due to the freezing conditions of the Rockies, resulting in icy roads which winter tires do no good in.
To enter provincial parks in Banff & Jasper, you would need to purchase a pass for each person entering these parks. You can find the fees here. Depending on the number of people & the number of days you would be in the national parks, it might be cheaper to get the family /group discovery pass which includes up to seven people arriving in a single vehicle in a national park. Note that Jasper and Banff National Parks are both able to be used interchangeably and you don’t have to purchase separate passes for visiting these 2 national Parks.
This itinerary is completely free as I love sharing my best tips for roadtrips and travel. Do note that the itinerary is completely flexible and totally dependent on how you want to travel, which is the best part of travelling. If you want to skip certain places, and explore others that are possibly not listed in this post, it’s totally fine!
Alternative 10 day route
Day 1: Vancouver
1. Stanley Park
Rated as the #1 spot to visit in Vancouver by Tripadvisor, Stanley Park is unique and very much gives the world famous Central Park in New York a run for its money. Check out our detailed guide on things to do in Stanley Park here.
2. Canada Place
The vibes on this popular tourist destination is unmatched with the various little boutiques and shops around the area. Coupled with the beautiful mountainous backdrop from North Vancouver, this one is a must see in Vancouver.
3. Granville Island
Similar to Canada place, Granville Island has some amazing vibes along with many boutiques, food stalls, art exhibits as well as studios for glassblowing, jewelry and other types of arts & crafts. There are lots of water activities such as paddle boarding, water cycling and kayaking that can be done in the short narrow inlet called False Creek. The impressive downtown condo skyline spanning across false creek would excite the city lovers and nature lovers alike.
Day 2: Vancouver – North Vancouver
4. Lonsdale Quay & Shipyards Night Market
Lonsdale Quay is easily accessible from downtown via the Seabus, which is a passenger-only ferry that connects Downtown Vancouver with the North Shore of Vancouver. The burning embers of the sunset along with the views of downtown Vancouver is absolutely gorgeous. Shipyards Market which is right next to the Quay has lots of boutique and food stalls to indulge yourselves in.
5. Deep Cove Park
Deep Cove Park is an awesome place to get out on the water by kayaking or paddle boarding and have a small picnic in. A two man kayak costs $69 for 2 hours minimum, while a single person paddle board costs $45 for 2 hours.
6. Quarry Rock (Hike)
A relatively easy hike which should not be missed if you are in North Vancouver. The trail is well maintained due to the volume of hikers if gets. The hike is 4.2km long with 215m elevation, and takes about 2 hours in total. A detailed guide to this hike can be found here.
7. Capilano Suspension Bridge
A popular destination among tourists, Capilano Suspension Bridge spans across luscious green forestry which takes you close to nature while still being near the city.
Being from the lower mainland of BC, there’s a lot more to see within Vancouver. But if you only had 2 days here, these would be the best spots to visit. They’re all accessible using the transit system, so you’d only need to start renting a car or campervan from Day 3.
If you do have more time, or would just like to spend it for Vancouver alone (which I’d highly recommend), check out our recommendations for the best things to do in Vancouver here.
Day 3: Vancouver to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway
And the road trip begins! Head north from Vancouver on Route 99 and start your journey on one of the most scenic roads in Canada, the famous Sea to Sky Highway.
This road will be your gateway to Squamish and Garibaldi Provincial Park, eventually ending in the resort town of Whistler. I have gone into much more detail on things to do on the Sea to Sky Highway in a separate post.
8. Porteau Cove Marine Park
Porteau Cove is a great first stop to kick start the road trip with some spectacular views of Howe Sound. There’s limited parking here, so it’s best to get here early if you want to spend more time.
9. Sea to Sky Gondola
Going up the Sea to Sky gondola is a unique experience. The views from the top are gorgeous, with nature at its best. Ticket prices are $56/adult. The suspension bridge is included in the gondola price and it’s amazing with many trails to be explored at the top. It’s a place that can be explored for a full day, with activities for all ages.
Alternatively, if you do not wish to go up the Gondola, you could hike up Stawamus Chief and get pretty much the same viewpoint. This way, you save money and get some good old exercise in. Detailed guide up the Chief is here!
10. Quercus Point – Browning Lake (Hike)
Getting to Quercus point requires a hike in Murrin Provincial Park. It takes about 35 minutes to get to this viewpoint, with moderate incline. You can check out our detailed guide on how to get here.
If you’d like to skip the hike, it would be a great opportunity to explore the city of Squamish en route to Whistler.
Day 4: Whistler
Whistler is home to some of the most amazing restaurants, and a rustic village town that has very similar vibes to the town of Banff. In the summer, its famous for activities such as ziplining, Bunjee Jumping, Mountain Biking and Bear viewing. The peak to peak gondola is a popular tourist experience at $54 per person, where you get to see stunning 360° views of Whistler Village, mountain peaks, lakes, glaciers and forests. More information can be found here.
11. Brandywine Falls
A 5 minute walk away from the parking lot, the views from the lookout point at Brandywine Falls is absolutely magical. On the opposite side of the falls, you would get to see a valley with a river flowing through, the rapids, a rock wall and snow covered mountain peaks. Look out for the train tracks on the walk here!
12. Alta Lake
Alta Lake has tons of trails that make for a fun day of hiking. Due to low light pollution, it’s also a great spot for stargazing. In the winter, at times it gets frozen enough to ice skate on.
13. Alexander Falls Viewpoint
Alexander Falls is a simple drive-by viewpoint that shouldn’t be missed while in Whistler.
Whistler is a popular holiday destination for many living in the lower mainland due to its charm and easy accessibility being just 2 hours away from the lower mainland. The peak periods in summer (June-July) can get really hectic, so be aware and be prepared!
Day 5: Whistler to Clearwater
Get up and head out early for this one as it’s a long 5-6 hour drive from Whistler to Clearwater with some amazing drive-by locations. For this day, it would be best to focus on the drive, as well as exploring Joffre Lake Provincial Park.
14. Joffre Lake Provincial Park
This Park has a total of 3 lakes; Upper, Middle and Lower Joffre Lake, each having its own charm. Definitely check them all out. If you are not a fan of hiking, then the lower Joffre Lake would suffice, which only takes 5 minutes.
Length: 6km return; Elevation: 295m; The hike between the first and second lake is the hardest, with a steep incline and a lot of stairs. It takes about 3-3.5 hours return in total for the Middle Lake.
Length: 10.9km return; Elevation: 370m; The hike to the Upper Lake gets much easier after passing the Middle Lake. It takes about 5-6 hours return in total for the Upper lake.
15. Seton Lake Viewpoint
The drive from Whistler to Clearwater allows for a stop at this beautiful yet underrated lake, Seton Lake. The iconic road bend with the lake and mountain in the background would leave you in awe of how beautiful BC is.
After the long drive, and probably a tough hike (if you decided to do the upper Joffre Lake trail), it would be best to get some rest upon reaching Clearwater, and start exploring it the next day.
Day 6: Clearwater to Jasper
16. Helmcken Falls
Clearwater is the gateway town into Wells Gray Provincial Park – host to some spectacular waterfalls.
The majestic Helmcken Falls located within Wells Gray Provincial Park is one of the best waterfalls we’ve seen. Just a 2 minute walk from the parking lot, you gotta love that this one doesn’t require any hike to get to!
Spahats Creek Falls and Moul Falls are two other popular waterfalls in the area to explore if time permits.
17. Mt. Robson
Mount Robson stands out so much that it is the first rocky mountain that you would see from this route that marks the pleasantly surprising terrain difference that you would recognize from the BC side to the AB side. Avid hikers from all over Canada come here to explore the Berg Lake trail, an extremely popular multi day backcountry hiking trail.
18. Moose Lake
Continue the drive on into the town of Jasper. But before that, stop by this remarkable yet unknown lake, Moose Lake. Parking is fairly limited here due to it being a boat launch area cum rest area, but makes a perfect lunch or dinner stop.
Day 7: Jasper
19. Patricia Lake
Get up and start Day 7 off with a trip to Patricia Lake in Jasper. The clear blue waters call for a day of kayaking, canoeing or paddle boarding. Rental is available here and is relatively a lot more affordable than most other places. It’s also a great spot for sunrise/sunsets.
20. Maligne Lookout
A great spot to stop at to overlook great views of the mountains with a meadow feel.
21. Spirit Island via Maligne Lake
To get to Spirit Island, you’d have to get on a boat cruise operated by Brewster, and starts at the northern point of Maligne Lake. During summer, the cruises leave every 15 minutes and cost $72/adult for the basic tour. The drive to Maligne Lake is one of the most scenic drives in the Canadian Rockies! So even if the boat cruise does not interest you, you’d still get amazing views en route to the lake as well as at the lake itself.
Other spots to visit in Jasper would be Medicine Lake, Jasper Skytram, The Jasper Planetarium and Maligne Canyon.
Day 8: Jasper to Icefield Parkway
Wrap things up in Jasper and head on down south to Icefield Parkway, which was rated one of the top 10 most scenic drives in the World, and we definitely saw why that was.
22. Athabasca Falls
First stop of day 8, Athabasca Falls. Beautiful falls with great scenery all around! The path to the falls is organized in a well manner that people can enjoy sightseeing near to the falls safely.
23. Tangle Creek Falls
Another great falls to stop by on your way down south on Icefield Pkwy road. Snap them shots and be on your way!
24. Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure
The Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure includes the Ice Explorer Tour on the Athabasca Glacier, and admission to the Skywalk, which is a glass-bottomed cliff-edge walkway where giant glaciers perch above you. Tickets cost about CAD $100/adult, with other tours available as well. Be sure to bring some empty bottles as you can fill them up with the run off fresh glacial water.
If going on the tour doesn’t interest you, be sure to still check out the area. The mountains around the Discovery Centre are absolutely terrific. You could also drive up to the toe of Athabasca Glacier Trailhead and hike up the glacier.
25. The Big Bend
A spectacular drive-by viewpoint of the Rockies to stop by before retiring for the day.
Day 9: Icefield Parkway
26. Howe Pass Viewpoint
Start this day off with an easy viewpoint stop, the Howe Pass Viewpoint. Get immersed into the history of this place by reading the information board at the viewpoint.
27. Mistaya Canyon
Mistaya Canyon is located after a short walk from the parking lot. The descent isn’t too steep but there are lots of stones. So be sure to wear decent shoes.
28. Abraham Lake
The drive to Abraham Lake will require you to get onto David Thompson Hwy, which is a very scenic highway that’s not really talked about enough. Check it out for yourselves.
29. Waterfowl Lake Viewpoint
As you’re continuing to head down south, make a stop at Waterfowl Lake Viewpoint. A great place to stop and have some packed lunch.
30. Peyto Lake
Many people have said that Peyto Lake has one of the best views in the Rockies, and considering how easy it is to get here, we’d have to agree for sure. It takes 20 minutes of an easy hike up to the viewing platform, and the views you are rewarded with are breathtaking. Trail gets slippery in winter, and crampons are highly recommended.
31. Bow Lake Viewpoint
Bow Lake, found within the Icefield Parkways, boasts some of the best views of the majestic mountains here in Canada. The water boasts a stunning blueish green colour with the reflection of the afternoon sun, creating a serene sense of beauty.
32. Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint
After wrapping up at Bow Lake, head over to the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint. With the increasing threat of global warming, lots of glaciers in Canada are disappearing. So catch them while you still can.
Day 10: Lake Louise & Moraine Lake
33. Lake Louise
Start your day 10 off with the iconic Lake Louise. A hotspot for many visitors, the lakes incredible popularity can be credited to its gorgeous turquoise colored waters and the stunning mountain backdrop makes it an obvious reason as to why its so popular. Accessible both in the summer and winter months, canoeing here costs CAD135/hr in the summer and allows for 3 people at a time, while renting ice skates for costs CAD $10/hr in winter.
We highly recommend using the Shuttle Bus service that gets you to Lake Moraine and Lake Louise without having to stress out over getting parking lots as they fill up as early as 7am.
34. Fairview Lookout (hike)
If you had to choose one hike to do in Lake Louise, we would highly recommend this one. Fairview lookout is a short trail with a steady incline the whole way up to the lookout.
Distance: 2.4 km
Elevation gain: 167m
Duration: 1.5 hour return
35. Agnes Lake (hike)
The Lake Agnes trail is right in front of Fairmont Château. The hike up is a gradual sloped trail, with great views of Lake Louise on your way up. Believe it or not, there’s a tea house all the way up the mountain beside Lake Agnes where you can soak in the views and sip on some soothing tea.
Distance: 7.4 km
Elevation gain: 435m
Duration: 3 hour return
36. Little Beehive
After enjoying the short break at Lake Agnes with that refreshing cup of tea, head on up just another 100m elevation to Little Beehive, where you would be able to see the views of the Bow Valley. Get the views of all the 3 lakes in sight, Lake Louise, Lake Agnes and Mirror Lake.
37. Moraine Lake
The brilliant blue-green coloured beauty is one of the most visited places in Canada, and so unsurprisingly, the crowd there does get overwhelming at times, especially during the peak summer months. The climb up the rock piles for the view takes about 5 minutes and is well worth it.
Unfortunately, Moraine Lake is closed for visitations during the winter months due to risk of avalanche.
Day 11 : Banff
38. Banff Town
Take a good amount of time to explore the town of Banff. This magical town has a ton of things to do and is surrounded by picturesque mountains which are definitely Instagram worthy. Check out our top things to do within Banff here!
39. Mount Norquay Lookout
Just on the outskirts of Banff, and a short drive up some curvy roads, awaits the Lookout from Mount Norquay. Stunning views to be seen without any hiking or walking. In the winter, Mount Norquay is open for skiing and tubing. And in the summer, it has a sightseeing chairlift that takes you up to 7000ft in elevation. Find out more here.
40. Lake Minnewanka
Lake Lake Minnewanka is just about 20 minutes drive away from the town of Banff. Lots of activities are done here such as fishing, diving, hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and boating. In the winter, Lake Minnewanka is one of the best places in Banff National Park to view the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).
41. Two Jack Lake
Right after finishing at Lake Minnewanka, if you continue on the road Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive, you will get to Two Jack Lake.
42. Johnson Lake
Just a 5 minute drive away from Two Jack Lake, you will get to Johnson Lake. A great place to swim, kayak and even ice-skate during the winter.
Day 12: Banff to Golden
43. Vermilion Lakes Viewpoint
Say your goodbyes to the Rockies as start our journey back to Vancouver eastwards towards Yoho National Park. Make a stop at Vermilion Lakes Viewpoint and treat yourself to some stunning views.
44. Morants Curve
Morant’s Curve is a beautiful place where the Canadian Pacific Railway passes through right along the Bow River. If you want to capture the train alongside with the beautiful view, its best to do so on a weekday. The train service is most frequent then and goes by almost every hour. There is no guarantee tough as there isn’t a schedule where timings can be viewed due to security reasons. Parking can be found opposite the viewpoint, where about a dozen vehicles can park there at a time.
45. Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake somehow doesn’t get the same attention as Moraine Lake or Lake Louise, but is just as magical as the other two. The 3-person canoe rental rates are much more affordable here at CAD $70/hr.
46. Wapta Falls (hike)
An easy flat ground hike, Wapta Falls is an incredible waterfall with beautiful mountainous backdrops. The trail is well maintained and easy to navigate, and the rewarding views from the hike are amazing.
Distance: 4.8 km
Elevation gain: 125m
Duration: 2 hour return
After completing the Hike, we’d recommend continuing on eastwards and staying the night in Golden, BC.
Day 13: Golden to Vernon & Kelowna
47. Kalamalka Lakeview Drive Lookout
A phenomenal view of Kalamalka Lake from this drive-by viewpoint which has tables and benches to sit back and relax on.
48. Rattlesnake Point (hike)
A nice walk with great views of the lake and some amazing old trees. The trail is a bit steep and rough in places but most people won’t have any trouble.
Distance: 2.3 km
Elevation gain: 70m
Duration: 1 hour return
49. Middleton Mountain (Bluebird Trail)
A shorter but steeper trail, yet relatively easy, make your way up to Middleton Mountain from the zigzag up the trail and stairs. Catch the incredible 360° views from various vantage points.
Distance: 1.6 km
Elevation gain: 89m
Duration: 30 mins return
Day 14: Kelowna to Vancouver
50. Rose Valley Regional Park (Yellow Bell Trail)
Rose Valley Regional Park has various trails, but Yellow Bell has the best views for the least amount of effort amongst the other trails. The trail is well marked and has a few steep portions. Good footwear is definitely recommended.
Distance: 1.6 km
Elevation gain: 90m
Duration: 1.5 hrs return
51. Pincushion Mountain
End the trip off on a high by hiking up Pincushion Mountain, which boasts some incredible views of the Okanagan Valley. This is a hard hike and requires proper footwear as there are steep portions along the trail.
Distance: 3.4 km
Elevation gain: 245m
Duration: 2-2.5 hrs return
And that would mark the end of the this amazing 14-day roadtrip. As compressed and jam packed as it sounds, its very much do-able. Check out our post on the most photographic places at the Rockies where we cover more points of interests.