Are you ready to enjoy the full experience of the Canadian Rockies? This Vancouver to Banff itinerary will provide you with the best views of the Rocky Mountains, with stops along the way at Banff National Park, Lake Louise, and many other beautiful national parks.
The road trip from Vancouver to Banff needs a minimum of 7 days to explore this beautiful part of the country entirely. It can easily be extended to 14 days to see British Columbia and Alberta truly.
An ideal road trip to cover all three national parks requires between 10-14 days, depending on your end destination or if you are returning round trip to Vancouver. If you are renting an RV or car, you will likely want 14 days to account for travel time to and from your destinations.
Keep reading to learn more about the best stops on our Vancouver to Banff Scenic Route trip itinerary. We have covered the best times to view the landscape and what attractions and activities you want to visit.
Our guide will be helpful in planning your Canadian road trip if you are driving by car or RV.
Drive From Vancouver To Banff: How Long Do I Need To Drive?
How Far Is Vancouver From Banff?
The distance from Vancouver to Banff is 850 km (approx. 530 miles), and takes 10 hours to drive if you are going to drive straight from one location to the next. The majority of the trip is driven on the Trans Canada Highway 1.
There are multiple routes you can take depending on how much time you have to explore!
The route We will be explaining in detail is a 14-day road trip stopping in Squamish, Whistler, Kamloops, Revelstoke, Jasper National Park, Yoho National Park, Lake Louise, and Banff National Park.
An alternate route option is that you can shorten the road trip down to seven days and focus on just visiting Whistler in British Columbia and spending the rest of your time in Alberta exploring the Canadian Rockies: Lake Louise, Yoho National Park, and Banff National Park.
Best Time Of Year To Drive From Vancouver To Banff
There is no wrong time of the year to embark on this road trip, as every season offers something different in the Canadian Rockies. This scenic drive is also home to many different types of wildlife, so you need to be aware of wildlife crossing signs.
Summer is the best weather on this route and is the best time of year to take this road trip and enjoy the views of the Rocky Mountain peaks, pristine blue lakes for paddling, and unique hiking trails.
If you choose summer, you need to be prepared that trails will be busy and accommodations fill early, so you will need to pre-plan and make reservations for campsites or hotels. A tip for beating the traffic is to start your drive early in the morning and plan for on-the-go breakfast options.
Spring and Fall are still beautiful times of the year to explore these scenic National Parks. However, the weather can be cooler, and some attractions only run seasonally and may not be open.
The bonus to traveling in the Spring and Fall is if you take the road trip in either June or September, all attractions will be open, but they won’t be as busy with tourists.
Winter can be a beautiful time to explore the Canadian Rockies if you enjoy winter activities like skiing/snowboarding, snowmobiling, and ice fishing.
Driving between Vancouver and Banff on the Trans Canada Highway can be very difficult and dangerous in the winter due to rapidly changing conditions and slippery roads.
If you choose to drive from Vancouver to Banff in winter, you will need to have a vehicle with snow tires and be prepared to slow down and take longer to complete the trip.
Best Stops on a Vancouver to Banff Trip
This is one of the most scenic drives in North America, and there are so many family-friendly activities to enjoy, including hiking, swimming, fishing, paddling, exploring national parks, visiting hot springs, and so much more as you explore the Canadian Rockies.
Before leaving Vancouver, make sure you check out some of our favorite spots for families in Vancouver, including:
- The Vancouver Science Centre
- Stanley Park
- Vancouver Sea Wall
- Downtown Vancouver
- Canada Place
- Granville Island.
There are so many fun things to do in Vancouver, so be sure to check out How to Spend 48 Hours in Vancouver with Kids if you want to explore more of Vancouver before heading to Banff.
Depending on the length of the journey, you can pick and choose attractions that best suit your family’s interests. For this guide, we will focus on summer activities as this is the most popular season to take this drive.
- If you are starting your Canadian Rockies road trip from Alberta, be sure to follow along with our Calgary to Vancouver itinerary instead; we give 2 route options for exploring east to west.
Attractions To Explore Between Vancouver to Banff
The shortest route from Vancouver takes you over the Sea to Sky (Highway 99), which takes you along the water of the Howe Sound, which is a fjord to the snowy mountain tops of Whistler.
However, before arriving in Whistler, you will want to stop in Squamish, one of the best Canadian cities for outdoor adventures and the halfway point between Vancouver and Whistler.
Squamish is a great location for a half-day adventure, and the Sea to Sky Gondola is a must-do activity with kids. The gondola is about a 10-minute ride, and the views become more and more impressive as you get higher.
Once at the top, you will enjoy a short walk to a suspension bridge that leads to another amazing viewpoint of the mountains and gorgeous waters below, including Shannon Falls, the third-largest waterfall in British Columbia.
If you plan to enjoy a hike or stay for lunch, you will need at least 3 hours for this stop.
The alpine village of Whistler is located just 45 minutes from Squamish. We would start exploring the Downtown area and checking out the unique shops, and cafes. You may choose to explore the Peak to Peak Gondola at Whistler, which is similar to the Sky to Sky in Squamish.
If you are looking for an active adventure with the kids before continuing the road trip, we recommend the ZipTrek Whistler. They offer a Tree Trek Canopy walk for younger children and a variety of treetop zip lines for older children, including the Sasquatch, which is the longest zipline in Canada and the U.S.A (for children aged 10 and older).
If you are looking for a more relaxing stop, you will want to check out Lakeside Park for a beach day and enjoy some swimming, kayaking, jumping off a dock, playground play, or simply just a picnic from the nearby concession stand.
Another unique option is checking out the suspension bridge and graffiti box cars along the Sea to Sky trail, which is about a 2 km round trip and easy for families.
Depending on the age of your children, Kamloops may be a great place to stop for the night as it is 4 hours from Vancouver and about 5.5 hours from Banff. Kamloops is a great stop for a quick visit with kids as they have multiple great playgrounds and parks that offer cheap entertainment including:
Riverside Park -> Riverside park is home to two amazing playgrounds, a walking trail with a lookout to the Thompson River, a concession stand and picnic tables, as well as a splash pad. Don’t forget to stop at Scoopz Ice Cream shop across the street, which has many ice cream treats.
Westsyde Centennial Park and Petting Zoo -> Home to the Little Farmers Petting Zoo that is open year-round and fun for the whole family. Bring some coins to purchase food for the ducks, chickens, and goats. The park also has a basketball court, bike pump track, splash pad, and playground.
BC Wildlife Park -> Another family-friendly stop is at BC Wildlife Park, which rescues animals from the wild. The park has over 60 species of animals and 200 animals including grizzly bears, cougars, wolves, and birds of prey. The whole park can be explored in about 2-3 hours, so it is a perfect pit stop.
Big Little Science Centre -> This is a small educational center dedicated to science that offers hands-on exploration activities and offers a variety of short science shows. This is a very affordable excursion as the entrance for a family costs under $20.
If you want to push your drive a little further, then you can continue onto Revelstoke, which is about 6.5 hours from Vancouver but puts you closer to Jasper the next day as your drive would be about 5 hours to Jasper National Park.
The mountain scenery in Revelstoke offers a glimpse of the spectacular views you will continue to see as you head toward Banff. Revelstoke is home to jagged mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls, beautiful lakes, and dense cedar forests. Revelstoke is home to some great adventure activities for families to explore and enjoy.
If you brought bikes along with you on this road trip, you would definitely want to stop at Mount Macpherson Park, which offers excellent mountain biking trails that even kids can enjoy. There are lots of biking trails. However, the best ones for the kids are Miller Time and Dusty Beaver, which can be accessed from parking lot 5.
If you left the bike at home but want to enjoy the wilderness, then there are a variety of kid-friendly hikes in Revelstoke including: Meadows in the Sky Parkway, Mount Revelstoke, Arrow Lake, and the Columbia River.
Mount Revelstoke Mountain Coaster features two different mountain coaster tracks that are sure to thrill kids of all ages as it twists and turns up to 40km an hour down the mountain. However, families can control their own speed, making it great for even the littlest rider.
The 1.4km track is powered by the downhill gravity of the mountain as it glides along the track. Kids under age 8 will require a parent to ride with them.
Want to enjoy the water? We highly recommend becoming a River Pirate and experiencing a pirate adventure on the Columbia River with Wild Blue Yonder Rafting Adventures where you will experience pirate stories, and sing-along-song, all while floating down the river and taking in views of the wildlife. Kids will love the opportunity to play with foam swords.
One last amazing stop is the Enchanted Forest, where you can visit British Columbia’s tallest treehouse or explore a large cedar stump house.
Jasper National Park
One of the most popular attractions is the Columbia Icefields SkyWalk which is a glass floor walkway that comes out from the cliff’s edge. This 1km walkway allows you to view waterfalls, and wildlife while listening to a guided tour.
Make sure you check out both the upper and low Sunwapta Falls that are fed by the Athabasca Glacier and thus have clean, clear super blue water rushing over the falls. The upper falls are accessible by a short walk from the parking lot while the lower falls are quieter but require a 1.3km hike to reach the falls.
Jasper National Park offers hiking trails for all skill levels of hikers, including kids. Jasper is a magnificent park to explore, and the best trail for families is the Valley of 5 Lakes, which takes you along five different magnificent lakes. This trail is about 4.5 km and can be done with kids in 2-3 hours.
Make sure you take the Icefields Parkway, which is a 230 km mountain road that connects Jasper National Park and Banff National Park and is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.
Pro Tip: Switch Drivers halfway if you can to allow each driver to truly experience and view the landscape.
Yoho National Park
Yoho offers beauty and solitude and is slightly quieter than some of the other national parks that are easier to access and closer to Calgary. Canoeing in the park offers views of the mountains that look picture-perfect like a postcard.
If you have older kids and like a little bit more adventure, then you might want to try Kicking Horse River Rafting with a trained guide as you overcome the challenges of the river. Local Rafting Companies offer half-day and full-day tour options.
Find one of the most common symbols of Canada (red Adirondack chairs) located in two different locations within Yoho National Park, offering a place to rest and enjoy the views.
The chairs in Yoho National Park are located at Takakkaw Falls and Yoho Lake and are only 4 of the over 200 chairs that have been located across Canada to encourage tourists to explore our country and take in the magnificent landscape that Canada has from the West to East Coast.
Pro Tip: If you are planning on spending more than 7 days in Canadian National Parks, then we highly suggest purchasing a yearly pass as it works out to be more cost-effective.
Enjoy the beauty of water at Lake Louise as you enjoy a family paddle with a mountain backdrop.
The Lake Louise Boathouse rents canoes for an hourly rate of $ 145 CAD an hour, and they can hold a maximum of 3 adults of 2 adults and 2 children that weigh less than 55 pounds. Otherwise, you will need to divide them into 2 canoes. Kayaks are also available for rental.
Take a hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House, which offers spectacular food and views of the Rockies. The trailhead starts at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. This trail can be slightly steep and is about a 6.5km return trip that takes 2-3 hours of hiking. Enjoy a cup of tea and check out the cascading waterfall just below the tea house.
If you are not into hiking, then you can take the Lake Louise Gondola, which gives you the best chance of spotting wildlife, including bears, as the fresh patches of meadow underneath the gondola offer plenty of delicious snacks for bears. The gondola ride takes about 15 minutes from top to bottom and offers spectacular views of the surroundings.
Pro Tip: Arrive early, as parking can be a nightmare, and if you arrive too late, you will need to rely on the shuttle to overflow parking which can take a long time and add hours to your total visit time. We suggest arriving around 7 am to guarantee a parking spot.
Banff National Park
You have reached your final destination of Banff National Park – an outdoor adventurer’s dream location, as the landscape features the natural beauty of mountains, wildlife, historical sites, and clear turquoise lakes.
Dating back to 1885, Banff National Park was discovered and created after railway workers found multiple natural springs, although the history of the park dates back even further as Indigenous communities took care of the land for centuries.
Be sure to start your day off early by visiting the bucket list destination of Moraine Lake first, as the parking can be full by as early as 7 AM during peak season.
Moraine Lake is a glacial-fed lake in the Valley of Ten Peaks and has an elevation of almost 1900 meters. Take the Lakeshore Trail, which is flat and kid-friendly, and weave you through the forested shoreline to the Lake, where you can sit on the rocky edge and simply take in the magnificent view.
If you are looking for some quieter lakes to visit, then check out Peyto Lake and Lake Minnewanka.
Exploring More Of Canada By Road
The Canadian road trip fun doesn’t end in Banff; we also have these detailed guides:
- Continue your journey through the Rockies into the northern United States with this Banff to Glacier National Park itinerary
- In the east? Take on a Toronto To New York Road Trip or try these interesting stops on the drive from Toronto to Boston
- Discover the Best Day Trips and Weekenders From Toronto
- You won’t want to miss these 5 Incredible Scenic Drives in Nova Scotia
- Ready for the most epic cross country adventure? Drive from Toronto to Vancouver
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