Planning A Canadian Road Trip – From The Rockies To Vancouver


We have recently returned from the US after completing one of the classic road trips, Route 66 from Chicago to LA. However, just like Willie Nelson, we ‘just can’t wait to get on the road again‘ but where shall we go?

Having visited the USA a number of times over the last few years we are now looking at their long-suffering neighbours to the north, Canada. In particular, we are looking at the western provinces of Alberta and British Columbia and a road trip through the Rockies from Calgary to Vancouver.

Getting There

There are a number of direct flights from London to Calgary and Vancouver. Somes, such as British Airways to Calgary are seasonal and don’t fly during the winter. Both destinations have a similar flight time of 9 to 9 and a half hours.

Canada has a similar system as the USA when it comes to entry requirements. Visitors travelling to Canada by air require an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) from the Canadian Government. This is worth getting well in advance of your trip just in case there’s an issue with your application.

If you are unsure about the process, you can apply for your eTA application here. This company will help you complete your eTA Canada for a fee and will double-check your application. As with the USA, If you fill out your eTA wrongly you could be denied entry.

When To Go

It’s Canada so the winters are cold, very cold and it’s definitely not the best time to be driving. Winter can arrive early with the chance of snow from mid-October. Although the roads are open all year many of the facilities including petrol stations are closed from November to April.

The best time to visit is from June to early September when the weather is good but this is also the busiest time. We are planning to visit in late September at the start of Autumn to avoid the summer traffic. You can keep up to date with the local conditions by checking the Canadian Government’s weather page.

Planning The Route

Planning the route

We plan to fly into Calgary and get on the Trans Canadian Highway west through Canmore to Banff. We intend to stay for a couple of nights in Banff and hopefully spend at least a night in the nearby Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The hotel sits on the eastern shore of the beautiful turquoise waters of the glacial Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

You will need a National Park pass as you enter the park just past Canmore and you’ll need it for the duration of your stay including the drive to Jasper.

Lake Louise, Banff
Lake Louise, Banff National park

From Lake Louise, we plan to take Canada’s Icefields Parkway to Jasper. The 145mile road passes snow-capped peaked mountains, glaciers and crystal blue lakes. Hopefully we won’t be too late in the season to spot the odd moose or two.

Peyto Lake Alberta
Peyto Lake, Alberta

As you travel north on the Icefields Parkway you will be met with stunning views and areas of outstanding national beauty including a number of lakes such as Bow and Peyto. Mistaya Canyon and the Weeping Wall which is covered in water in the summer and becomes a wall of ice in the winter.

It is worth stopping at the Columbia Icefield and to enjoy a ride on the all-terrain snowcat over the ice field which is the largest expanse of ice in the Rockies.

Athabasca Falls
Athabasca Falls, Jasper

After spending some time in Jasper its’ a drive through the mountains along highways 16 and 5 towards Kamloops in British Columbia, We haven’t decided where to stop as we’ve heard that Kamloops itself isn’t that exciting (although it’s always worth judging for yourself). We are considering a stop around Clearwater and Wells Gray Provincial Park.

After Kamloops, it’s a 4 to 5-hour drive through Cache Creek, then north on BC-97 to join the BC-99 via Lillooet to Whistler. Again, this route is supposed to be very scenic but I just hope we are not too ‘mountained-out’. I doubt it as we are from Wales.

Whistler, British Columbia

Whistler is the largest ski resort in North America however there is still plenty to do in the summer months from arts and culture to the more strenuous activities such as hiking and mountain biking.

We want to try the Peak 2 Peak Gondola ride which spans the mountains of Whistler and Blackcomb. Mel isn’t a big fan of heights but the views are meant to be spectacular and there’s even a chance to see some bears.

Vancouver, British Columbia
Vancouver, British Columbia

The final leg will be from Whistler down to Vancouver along Highway 99, also known as the Sea to Sky Highway or in our case, the Sky to the Sea, We plan to stay in Vancouver for at least a few days to relax after the drive and make the most of this very diverse Canadian city.

Instead of driving back to Calgary we will fly home from Vancouver. We are debating whether to do the drive the other way from Vancouver to Calgary, a lot will depend on the price and timings of the flights.

Are you a Vancouver or an Alberta local, maybe you have you already driven the route. Do you have any recommendations for the trip?

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