Seeing the Rocky Mountains is a bucket-list item for many, and after embarking on a Calgary to Vancouver road trip, it is easy for me to see why.
While there are many other wonderful ways to see the mountains, such as by train and plane. There is something special about a Calgary Vancouver road trip. It lets you see each destination up close and you have the flexibility to design your own route.
My road trip from Calgary to Vancouver was an experience I will never forget. The way I made sure it was as successful as possible, was by spending hours researching the route, stops and tips.
There were some bumps along the way, which is why the next time I return to Alberta and British Columbia, I will follow my own advice!
It is also possible to do the road trip from Vancouver to Calgary. Since the route I took was the opposite, I will focus on this. But, the majority of advice I share will also apply for a Vancouver to Calgary road trip.
Must-Book Items for Calgary to Vancouver Road Trips
No time to read the whole article? Here are the most important things you need to book to make your drive from Calgary to Vancouver a success.
Recommended Hotels for a Calgary Vancouver Road Trip
If I could recommend just 3 of the best hotels for a road trip from Calgary to Vancouver, it would be the following three choices.
Best Activities on a Calgary Vancouver Road Trip
There are many incredible places to add to your Calgary to Vancouver road trip itinerary. Some activities can be done spontaneously, such as hiking, sightseeing, and visiting view points.
However, many activities require pre-booking to guarantee the availability works within your schedule. Make sure you book any tours to avoid disappointment.
Consider booking a glacier tour when you visit Jasper to witness the Columbia Icefield. You will board a bus and cross the Athabasca Glacier with an expert guide.
Whale Watching in Vancouver
There is a great opportunity to see Orcas while in the Vancouver area, so make sure you book a whale watching tour.
I booked this whale watching tour that started from Richmond and I would recommend it.
The company guaranteed that if you did not see any whales, you could come back again for free another time. Spoiler alert – we saw many orcas!
How to Plan a Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip?
Driving to Vancouver from Calgary may seem daunting at first, due to the size of Western Canada. Therefore, I made a list to break down how to plan the Calgary Vancouver drive into manageable sections.
- Select the time frame for your road trip Calgary to Vancouver
- Choose your must-see spots
- Check availability
- Set your expectations
- Decide how to manage the drive
- Consider the activities you would like to do
Now, let me explain each of the above points about the Calgary to Vancouver drive in detail.
1. Select the Time Frame to Drive Calgary to Vancouver
Consider the following questions:
- Do you already have set dates when you can travel?
- Or are you open to travelling any time?
- How many days can you spare for your road trip?
This is a good starting point because if you have rigid guidelines for your trip, you will need to plan around this. Essentially, it is up to you how long your trip lasts.
You may you want to create a Calgary to Vancouver 10 day itinerary or convert it to a 2 week road trip.
Although, I would not recommend less than a 7 day road trip Calgary to Vancouver itinerary unless you are willing to cut down activities considerably.
An important date to be aware of is the Calgary Stampede (a rodeo and festival) that usually takes place in Calgary in July. Travelling during this event may cause your flight and hotel costs to significantly rise due to increased demand.
So, if you are not interested in attending this event, research the upcoming Stampede dates and try to avoid it. However, if you want to experience this while you are in Calgary, you could easily add it to the beginning of your journey to Calgary to Vancouver by car.
Alternatively, you can add the Stampede to the end of the Vancouver to Calgary drive.
When is the Best Time for a Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip?
If you are looking for the best weather, you should visit the Rocky Mountains in July and August. That said, take into consideration that this will be the busiest time of the year for a road trip from Calgary to Vancouver.
You can also travel to Calgary and Vancouver in June to beat the crowds, but you will likely experience some rain.
Visiting Western Canada in September or October is another agreeable time because there will be less tourists than in July and August.
However, it can be cold in September– a lesson that I learnt while on my trip! Make sure you read to the end of this article to find out what clothing I recommend you bring on this Alberta BC road trip.
Many excursions do not run outside of June to October, so it is best to book your Alberta to Vancouver road trip within these dates. Plus, many lakes are frozen or roads are closed due to snow in winter and spring.
2. Choose Your Must-Sees in Alberta and British Columbia
Is a visit to Moraine Lake or Lake Louise high on your priority list? Perhaps you are a wine lover and want to visit a vineyard in the Okanagan Valley? Then make sure you firm those sites into your Calgary to Vancouver road trip itinerary and fill other activities around it.
You can create the best route from Calgary to Vancouver by selecting destinations that interest you in a logical order.
Keep reading to find out some of the best sites to see during the Calgary to Vancouver drive. My favourite section of the road trip is between Banff and Jasper.
3. Check Hotel and Car Availability
One of the difficulties I had when planning my Calgary to Vancouver road trip was that I had my ideal Alberta and British Columbia road trip itinerary planned out, but I couldn’t find hotels in the locations or for the dates I wanted.
Therefore, sketch out a rough plan of how long you want to spend at each location and then cross-check with the hotel’s availability.
I will touch on the hotels I stayed at and explain some other recommendations later in this article.
Also – don’t leave booking your car rental to the last minute. The first time I checked a quote for the car rental for my trip from Calgary to Vancouver, it was half the price compared to when I actually booked it a few weeks later.
There’s typically no risk in booking your car rental in advance because many companies offer free cancellation.
Book your Calgary to Vancouver car rental here to find the best available price
Where to Stay on a Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip?
Keep reading to find suggestions for the best hotels for a Calgary to Vancouver road trip. Many of these are hotels that I personally stayed in, visited, or I booked frequently for my clients when working as a luxury travel consultant.
Calgary Airport Hotels
Whether or not you need to book a night in an airport hotel in Calgary, depends on what time you arrive in Calgary.
If you arrive in Calgary before around 11:00 AM, you can continue straight to your first stop. You should have enough time to collect your baggage, pick up a rental car, and drive the 90 minutes to Banff.
Plus, there will be time to explore along the drive.
|Residence Inn by Marriott Calgary Airport||Rating: 9.4 🏆|
Free airport shuttle to/from Calgary Airport
|Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel||Rating: 9.2|
Located inside Calgary airport terminal
Given that my flight arrived later in the evening from Toronto, I stayed at the Residence Inn for one night before beginning our Calgary Vancouver road trip.
The 2-bedroom suite was enough room for my family of 5 (with someone on the sofa bed). The beds were extremely comfortable. Plus, there were plenty of tasty options to fill yourself up at the breakfast buffet.
The Calgary Airport Marriott In-Terminal Hotel would be another good option if you arrive late and decide to pick up the car rental in the morning.
Banff National Park Hotels
|Moraine Lake Lodge||Rating: 9.5 🏆|
Good value and big rooms in Lake Louise
|Rimrock Hotel||Rating: 9.2 |
Located near to Banff Gonolda and Banff Springs. Complimentary shuttle for access to Banff town
|Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise||Rating: 9|
Luxurious hotel located right on Lake Louise
|Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel||Rating: 9|
Upscale mountain resort in the hills near Banff
Jasper National Park Hotels
|Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge||Rating: 8.4|
Upscale log cabins in a stunning resort in Jasper
|Alpine Village Cabin Resort||Cozy log cabins in Jasper||Click here|
|Mount Robson Inn||Rating: 8.6|
Quaint inn in the centre of Jasper
Mount Revelstoke National Park Hotels
|The Explorers Society Hotel||Rating: 9.8 🏆|
Boutique hotel in downtown Revelstoke
|The Sutton Place Hotel Revelstoke Mountain Resort||Rating: 9.2|
Apartments at the base of the Revelstoke ski resort
|The Royal Kelowna||Rating: 9.2 🏆|
Luxurious all-suite waterfront hotel in Kelowna
|Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort||Rating: 8.2|
Lakefront hotel with mountain views in Kelowna
|Four Seasons Whistler||Rating: 9.4 🏆|
Luxury ski-lodge with plenty of amenities, such as free daily wine tasting and a complimentary shuttle
|Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside||Rating: 9|
Great value for money at this 4-star mountain resort, steps from the ski lifts in Whistler
|Fairmont Chateau Whistler||Rating: 9|
Iconic hotel in Whistler with an outdoor heated pool
|Rosewood Hotel Georgia||Rating: 9.4 🏆|
Historic 5-star hotel in the heart of Vancouver
|The DOUGLAS||Rating: 9|
Stylish hotel in Yaletown, an Autograph Collection hotel – suites and apartments available
|JW Marriott Parq Vancouver||Rating: 9|
Luxurious and elegant hotel in Yaletown
Vancouver Island Hotels
|Long Beach Lodge Resort||Rating: 9.2 🏆|
Luxury beachfront resort just outside of Tofino town
|Tofino Motel Harborview||Rating: 9|
Waterfront hotel with impressive views in Tofino
If you prefer to stay in a self-contained apartment or house, check out rental properties here.
4. Set Your Expectations
You could easily spend the first part of your trip in Banff and Jasper in 5-star hotels, such as the Fairmont properties. There are also some lovely hotels at the tail end of your trip in Vancouver.
However, as you cross the province of Alberta into British Columbia, your options diminish because the area is very remote. Therefore, your expectations for hotel quality may have to be lowered in some of these towns.
That being said, it all depends on which route you take. When I left Jasper and headed in the direction of Whistler, I stayed the night in a very rural town midway. Therefore, I knew that accommodation would be extremely limited.
However, you will have more luck in bigger towns such as Revelstoke, Kamloops or Kelowna. Staying in these towns will not necessarily lead to the fastest route from Calgary to Vancouver. Unless, of course, these towns are on your to-do list and the route makes sense for your journey.
If you decide to take the route through Revelstoke and Kamloops, stop to stretch your legs at Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail.
Another option is to book a vacation rental on VRBO.
5. Decide How to Manage the Drive from Calgary to Vancouver
A large part of this holiday will be the driving from point to point. Therefore, you need to take careful consideration into the actual drive.
Think about how many people in your party will participate in the Calgary to BC drive. Also, decide how far you are willing to drive in a day. You need to know this in order to choose your accommodation for the night.
For example, are you willing to cover a lot of ground in a day with over 4 hours of driving? Or would you rather keep it on the lower end with 2 hours? Only you can decide this.
Take into consideration that you may normally be fine with driving a total of 4 hours in a day. But this will add up as you travel across the country and you will start to tire of driving. Remember – you want to have the energy to explore the region too!
The best way to travel from Calgary to Vancouver is by driving as many hours as you are comfortable in one day, and stopping frequently to enjoy the sights.
How Far is Calgary From Vancouver?
One of the most asked questions on this topic is: how long does it take to drive from Calgary to Vancouver? The Calgary to Vancouver drive time is approximately 11 hours if you do not make any stops or detours.
I do not suggest driving from Calgary to Vancouver without stopping because you will miss many of the exceptional sights along the way. The detours that I highly recommend are through Banff National Park, Jasper National Park and Whistler.
Skiing at Whistler Blackcomb Resort is a bucket-list activity, but there are also plenty of things to do in summer too. So I recommend including Whistler if you like hiking, biking, or magnificent viewpoints.
I also travelled further on from Vancouver for a mini Vancouver Island road trip. The driving time from Vancouver to places like Victoria and Tofino (located on Vancouver Island) is reasonable and worthwhile to add to your itinerary.
Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip Map
This is the route I took as part of a 2 week itinerary Calgary to Vancouver.
6. Consider Activities During the Road Trip
There are so many incredible activities to do while in Alberta and British Columbia. Take these into consideration when planning out your own itinerary.
Some activities may need a whole or half a day, so make sure you have enough time.
You may be interested in include these unmissable tours in Vancouver:
Transportation in the Canadian Rockies
Here are my tips on travelling to Western Canada.
- Choose your start point, this could be Calgary or Vancouver because these are hub airports. Each start point is conveniently at the west coast of Canada (Vancouver), or the furthest east point of this road trip (Calgary).
- When booking flights, Air Canada is a favourite airline for travel within Canada. However, you may also see options to travel with Air Transat and Westjet, these are more budget airlines.
- Stay close to the airport on your first night if you are flying into Calgary and if your flight arrives in the evening. You will want to start the drive into the mountains during daylight due to the spectacular views and unfamiliar roads. When you are tight on time, you do not need to spend any time exploring Calgary, unless for the Stampede.
- Rent a one-way car at the airport. You will be charged a one-way rental fee, so book far in advance when there is plenty of inventory and the cost is reasonable.
- Once you have left the city of Calgary and have made your way into the mountains, your opportunity to see wildlife increases. For the part of the journey between Banff and Lake Louise, take the Bow Valley Parkway (1A) rather than the Trans Canada Highway. By driving this road, you will go through the forest. You may have a better chance of seeing more wildlife than on the main highway.
When my family and I drove along the Bow Parkway we only managed to see deer, but I heard that people have been luckier. Your SatNav won’t automatically take you down the Bow Parkway, so you will need to watch for when the road begins and keep following it (even if the GPS is trying to tell you to turn around).
We drove the road between Lake Louise and Banff a number of times because I was staying in Lake Louise. So, we had plenty of opportunities to drive both roads.
5 Best Places to See in Alberta
There are plenty of things to see and do in Alberta, but here are 5 to whet your appetite.
- Moraine Lake
- Lake Louise
- Icefields Parkway
I will explain below each of these places that have made it to my top 5 best things to do in Alberta.
Banff is a good first stop coming from Calgary, because it is located only 90 minutes away. It is a quaint but bustling town with shops and restaurants. It is a good place to pick up some bear spray.
Do not attempt to buy your bear spray online and fly with it in your suitcase – it is not allowed.
You will also find some lovely lakes in Banff, such as Two Jack Lake, Vermillion Lakes and Lake Minnewanka.
Other tours and excursions you may be interested in the Banff area include:
2. Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. Plus, it looks exactly like you see in the photos, even if the sun is covered by clouds.
As of 2023, the road to Moraine Lake is closed to visitors with cars.
Therefore, in order to visit Moraine Lake, you have several options.
- Reserve a spot on the Parks Canada shuttle (includes Moraine Lake and Lake Louise)
- Book a guided tour to Moraine Lake
- Use Roam Public Transit for visitors staying in Banff town (service only in September and October)
To find the beautiful view of Moraine Lake, it is a short 5 minute walk from the car park. You can find the route to the “rockpile” here.
Don’t make the mistake I made and follow where other people are walking. They may be hiking somewhere much further.
I walked about 30 minutes up a trail in the wrong direction thinking I was heading for a peak with a good view of the sunrising over the lake. In my defence it was very dark when I arrived!
If the weather permits, you can rent a canoe from Moraine Lake Lodge to take out on the lake.
The best lighting for photography on Moraine Lake is early morning or late afternoon.
Note: You cannot access the road to Moraine Lake in winter. You can only reach Moraine Lake by the aforementioned methods from June to mid-October.
3. Lake Louise
It is possible to take your own car to Lake Louise, but you need to arrive before 8:00 AM (I arrived at 6:30 AM) to find a parking spot.
If you booked the shuttle bus to see Moraine Lake, you can also use the shuttle that connects Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
While entrance to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake is free, make sure you have purchased a National Park Pass to permit entry to the area. You can buy a Banff National Park pass online, at Visitor Centres upon arrival, and at the park gate to Banff National Park.
Once you have arrived at Lake Louise, walk around the lake front and admire the green water. You may wish to stop for a refreshment inside the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Once you have explored the lakeshore and taken all of your pictures, I suggest you start to climb Beehive Circuit Trail.
This hike takes you up to Lake Agnes where you will find a pleasant teahouse at the top with a view of another smaller lake. The walk will take you around an hour (or more if you stop frequently to rest or take pictures).
On one of my evenings in Lake Louise, I dined at the Lake Louise Railway Station & Restaurant. I loved the setting of the restaurant and the food was good too.
Make sure you book a table in advance and arrive early to have a look around.
4. Icefields Parkway
The drive from Banff to Jasper takes you along the Icefields Parkway. It is a long stretch of road, that takes around 3 ½ hours to drive, without any stops.
The views out of the window are magnificent, but there are also places to get out of the car and explore. For example, Peyto Lake, Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Glacier.
Jasper is a lovely town located at the northern stretch of the Icefields Parkway. In Jasper you can take the SkyTram up to Whistler Mountain (not to be confused with Whistler Blackcomb) and hike to the peak.
Make sure you check out Pyramid Lake too.
From Jasper there are other places that you can reach, including Maligne Lake and the boat cruise from Maligne Lake to Spirit Lake.
Book a tour to experience Maligne Lake and Spirit Island with a guide.
5 Best Places to See in British Columbia
If you are looking for some ideas to add to the British Columbia part of your trip, then look no further. I have listed 5 incredible places below.
- Yoho National Park
Now let me explain in more detail what you can do in each place.
If you are a fan of skiing, this town will likely be on your radar.
But this town isn’t only a good destination in winter. There are plenty of activities to enjoy while there in the summer, such as hiking and biking.
Make sure you go to the Top of the World and if you are brave enough you can walk across the suspension bridge, aka the Cloudraker Skybridge.
The views at the Top of the World are breath-taking and the Winter Olympics Inukshuk is there.
This destination goes without saying. If you are in the area you need to visit Vancouver.
You may fly in or out of Vancouver airport, so it is easy to add a day or two to your itinerary to see the city.
Vancouver has a very cool and urban feel, but it is also close to nature and beautiful parks, such as Cypress Provincial Park.
Some ideas of things to do in Vancouver are:
- Rent bikes or arrange a bike tour and visit Stanley Park
- See orcas in the wild on a whale watching tour
- Visit Granville Island and purchase from the market
- Visit Capilano Suspension Bridge
- Walk to Gastown and see the whistling Steam Clock
- See the city from above on a seaplane
- Enjoy a private city tour with a local guide
3. Tofino and Ucluelet, Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is just a ferry ride away from Vancouver. The island is extremely rural and wild and, in my opinion, an incredible escape from a busy city.
There are some beautiful beaches located on the west coast of the Island, namely Tofino and Ucluelet. Both towns are excellent surfing locations, but they are also great for exploring and hiking.
Here are my top things to do in Tofino and Ucluelet:
- Wildlife watching (including bears)
- Kayaking and canoeing
- Hiking trails
Book your ferry tickets online in advance if you are planning to travel on a weekend during a holiday.
4. Victoria, Vancouver Island
Another spot located on Vancouver Island is Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. Victoria feels rich in history and you will love the colourful Victorian buildings lining the streets.
Make sure you stop by the Fairmont Empress for a drink or to stay the night.
The main attraction of Victoria is Butchart Gardens, which has numerous themed gardens. Any outdoorsy, nature lover should make sure Butchart Gardens is on their to-do list while on Vancouver Island.
5. Yoho National Park
There are many breath-taking National Parks across Canada, but Yoho National Park has got to be a favourite of many. It is slightly lesser known than its neighbour, Banff National Park.
My top picks for Yoho National Park are Lake O’Hara and Emerald Lake.
You can also opt to stay at Emerald Lake Lodge for the night or for an elegant dinner.
Wildlife on a Canadian Rockies Road Trip
When embarking on a Calgary to Vancouver road trip, you are likely going to be on the lookout for wildlife along the way. Here are my tips and advice on the topic.
If you are planning to do any walking/hiking at all, you must make sure you buy bear spray when you arrive at your first potential hiking location, for example Banff.
You cannot carry bear spray in your suitcase on an airplane, so do not buy it before you go.
It is available in shops locally or you can ask your hotel if they have any left behind from previous guests. It is expensive, but it is better to have it and not use it, than the alternative…
Ask the shopkeeper to show you how to use it and then keep it clipped to your backpack for easy access at all times on hikes.
When hiking your group should try to maintain constant noise so you won’t scare a bear because it didn’t hear you coming. You could also play music when you are walking along paths with no other people. For any other hiking paths, you can simply keep talking amongst your group.
During my rockies road trip, I saw a lot of people wearing cow bells. But apparently, bells can actually attract them to you, so I wouldn’t recommend buying any.
Make sure you are wearing suitable clothing for your hikes, such as:
- My recommended hiking boots
- My favourite raincoat
- Baseball cap
- Backpack to carry your reusable water bottle and suncream.
I was scared when hiking that I would see a bear, but in the end I didn’t see one while on a walk. That being said, I always made sure to follow the above instructions, plus I had researched what to do if you come into contact with a bear. I am not an expert, so you can read up on this yourself.
I did see bears in Tofino on Vancouver Island, but that is because I went on a Bear Watching boat ride where I could see them from afar. I went with Ocean Outfitters, but this company is no longer operating.
Another way to see a bear at a safe distance is to go on the Lake Louise or Whistler Gondola. The sightings are not guaranteed and sadly I did not see any at either spots.
Lake Louise has a calendar showing the recent bear sightings which is interesting to see the pattern of bear visits.
If you want to see a moose, the best place to start looking is Moose Lake near to Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park.
I visited in the mid afternoon when it was heavily raining and after patiently waiting for around 30 minutes, I saw a mother and her baby. It was magnificent.
Another animal that I desperately wanted to see in the wild before the end of my trip was an Orca. I knew that my chances of seeing one when in British Columbia was high, so I arranged to go on a whale watching boat tour while in Vancouver.
The company I booked with was Vancouver Whale Watch and they are located a little outside the city, past the airport. I liked that the company promised that if you didn’t see an orca, you would be allowed to come back for free (with no expiry date).
It wasn’t needed in the end – I was extremely fortunate and saw around 15 whales!
Book your Vancouver whale watching experience here.
What to Pack for a Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip?
Venturing out to the Rocky Mountains requires a very active wardrobe, so you will need to bring suitable clothing such as:
- Leggings/active-wear pants
- Hiking shoes
- T-shirts that can be layered
- Light raincoat
- Thicker long-sleeved layer for cooler temperatures
When I visited in September, it was very cold in the mornings and evenings. It could be between 4 to 10 degrees Celsius. Then, during the day it would reach up to 20°c. My mistake was bringing only one pair of trousers and ending up having the wear them almost every evening of the trip!
As part of your hand luggage, or tucked away in your suitcase, you should bring a backpack for all of the day trips. This will be essential to carry your own drinks, snacks, camera, and clothing.
Speaking of cameras, I definitely recommend that you bring a camera with a good zoom lens. Many times, when I was wildlife spotting, I was able to get good close-ups of the animals and my family were struggling with their cameras.
If you have a reusable water bottle, remember to bring it with you. You will need it for the long days out.
You will also be glad you brought your portable charger with you if you like to use your phone a lot throughout the day.
When you are out and about on the mountains, there are toilet facilities, but they are generally very basic and sometimes quite unclean. Be prepared for portaloos in some cases. So, I recommend that you bring hand sanitiser and some tissues for these kinds of situations.
My final word of wisdom for this trip is that you should not go on this Calgary to Vancouver road trip on your own. You need to make sure you have at least 1 other person, but ideally 3 people in total in your group when you go hiking, because safety comes in numbers!
FAQ – Driving Calgary to Vancouver
Is it worth driving from Calgary to Vancouver?
The drive from Calgary to Vancouver is one of the most spectacular drives in the world. In particular, the section from Banff to Jasper, a detour that is worth taking.
You will drive through the impressive Rocky Mountains and see many famous lakes and landscapes.
Where should I stop on a road trip from Calgary to Vancouver?
Some of the best stops along the Calgary to Vancouver road trip include:
Canmore, Banff, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Icefields Parkway, Emerald Lake, Jasper, Revelstoke, Kelowna (Okanagan Valley), Whistler, Vancouver, Victoria, and Tofino.
You may not be able to stop at all of these locations during your journey, so prioritise your favourite and create your route from this.
Is it better to drive from Vancouver to Calgary or Calgary to Vancouver?
Travelling in either direction will be wonderful. However, if it is your first time visiting Banff National Park, the view travelling from Calgary towards the mountains is mind-blowing. You will never forget this moment.
If you are still struggling to decide which way is better, you can check whether the flights and car rental prices are drastically different based on which direction you choose.
Is there a train between Calgary and Vancouver?
There is no train that goes directly from Calgary to Vancouver. However, you can drive from Calgary to Banff (or take a transfer), and take the Rocky Mountaineer train from Banff to Vancouver.
This route is possible in either direction, starting from Vancouver or Banff.
For other Canada road trip ideas, check out my other articles below.
Western Canada articles: