Explore the beauty of southern British Columbia, from the stunning peaks of the Rockies to the fertile valley of the Okanagan. This 8-day drive begins in Calgary and ends in Vancouver and offers the outdoor enthusiast numerous opportunities to get into the rugged wilderness as well as indulge in more refined cultural experiences. You'll visit the small communities of the Slocan Valley, see the impressive Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, and hike through the old-growth forests around Revelstoke.

Highlights

  • Dive into Calgary's and western Canada’s past at the world-class Glenbow Museum
  • Canoe the Columbia River Wetlands near Golden and spot a variety of wildlife
  • Climb up to Pulpit Rock for pretty views over artsy Nelson and Kootenay Lake
  • Discover Okanagan wine country and sip wines from the Black Sage Bench
  • Catch a sunset over the Strait of Georgia from the Vancouver Lookout

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Calgary, Drive to Banff (2 hours) Banff
Day 2 Banff to Yoho National Park (1 h 30 min) Field
Day 3 Yoho National Park to Revelstoke (2 h 30 min) Revelstoke
Day 4 Revelstoke to Nelson (3 h 30 min) Nelson
Day 5 Nelson to Osoyoos (3 hours) Osoyoos
Day 6 Explore around Osoyoos Osoyoos
Day 7 Osoyoos to Vancouver (4 h 30 min) Vancouver
Day 8 Depart Vancouver  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Calgary, Drive to Banff (2 hours)

Calgary's skyline with the Saddledome in the foreground
Calgary's skyline with the Saddledome in the foreground

Welcome to Calgary, the gateway to the Canadian Rockies! Instead of staying in Calgary, grab any supplies you need and follow the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1) west toward Banff, a popular base camp for exploring Banff National Park. En route, stop in Canmore for a quick meal and a short stroll. Check out the eclectic PD3 by Blake restaurant where they serve Asian-inspired cuisine from a remodeled 1962 silver double-decker bus.

Banff, a small mountain town located within Banff National Park (Canada's first national park), is one of Canada's most visited destinations and can become quite busy during summer months. You'll find year-round opportunities for outdoor adventures and can access most of the park's iconic sites on a day trip. 

Check out the Banff Park Museum for an introduction to the park and its local wildlife. There's also the Banff Gondola which takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountain for a walk along the boardwalk trail (or skip the gondola and hike up for free). From the summit, you'll have great views of the nearby mountains and can also grab dinner at Sky Bistro. Take an evening dip in the hot mineral waters of the Upper Hot Springs Pool (closes 10 pm) before signing off for the night.

Driving time (Calgary International Airport to Banff): 2 hours (79 miles / 127 km)

Day 2: Banff to Yoho National Park (1 h 30 min)

Cascade Mountain towers over Banff's Main Street
Cascade Mountain towers over Banff's Main Street

Fuel up on breakfast at Wild Flour Bakery and proceed to follow the Bow Valley Parkway, a scenic alternative to Highway 1, west out of Banff. Take advantage of the short drive to Field with several notable pitstops, the first to trek along the cantilevered walkways of Johnston Canyon. Considered one of the busiest hikes of the park, come early to beat the mob.

Choose between the 1.5-mile (2.4-km) Lower Falls trail and the slightly steeper Upper Falls route. Allow two to two and a half hours to complete both, yet if there's interest, plan for a picnic at the Ink Pots, five pristine aquamarine-colored pools beyond Upper Falls. It's another 1.7 miles (2.7 km) one way, but worth the effort. Next, snap photos of Storm Mountain from a convenient viewpoint west of Castle Junction and take pause at the memorial plaque farther along the parkway to read about Canada's World War I Castle Mountain Internment Camp.

Close to Alberta's border with British Columbia sits captivating Lake Louise. Admire the turquoise lake and backdrop of chiseled mountain peaks and Victoria Glacier before taking to the trails. If time allows, hike the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail (around four hours), an intermediate-level 6.6-mile (10.6-km) route with an elevation gain of 1,198 feet (365 m). Conveniently, the trail leads to the less-visited Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse (closes at 5 pm), where you can down thick-cut sandwiches and cups of tea. 

Devote time to discover the equally beautiful—if not more rugged—nearby glacier-fed Moraine Lake. Hike the accessible Lakeshore Trail along the deep-teal lake (1 mile / 1.6 km) or the 3.6-mile (5.8-km) Consolation Lakes Trail. (Best to come closer to 5 pm when the crowds have thinned.)

It's only a 30-minute drive to your accommodation in Field, the only town within Yoho National Park, so stay in Lake Louise as long as you like taking Highway 1 into British Columbia when you're ready. 

Driving time (Banff to Field): 1 hour, 30 minutes (52 miles / 84 km)

Day 3: Yoho National Park to Revelstoke (2 h 30 min)

A calm section of the Kicking Horse River near Golden
A calm section of the Kicking Horse River near Golden

Get in an early morning hike to Wapta Falls (3 miles / 4.8 km) and then press on toward Revelstoke. Follow Highway 1 to Golden, famous for white-water rafting, where you can take a half-day rafting trip through Class III and IV rapids on the Kicking Horse River or kayak a quieter segment in an inflatable kayak (two hours). 

Step aboard the Golden Eagle Express Gondola up Kicking Horse Mountain to enjoy all-encompassing vistas over lunch at the Eagle's Eye Restaurant and then set your watch back an hour to Pacific Coast time and fill your gas tank to take a little detour through Glacier National Park. Stop to check out the Rogers Pass Discovery Center to learn about the significance of Rogers Pass, the area's wildlife, and avalanches and then be sure to traipse the less than a half-mile (400 m) Hemlock Grove Trail through an ancient hemlock forest.

Revelstoke sits on the Columbia River tucked amid British Columbia's Selkirk and Monashee Mountains outside Mount Revelstoke National Park. An outdoor adventurist's (and photographer's) paradise, Revelstoke offers serious powder skiing in winter and an abundance of outdoor summer experiences. Check into your hotel and then see about getting familiar with your surroundings. For a bit of town history, visit the Revelstoke Museum followed by a stroll through town to see 60-some heritage buildings and public art. Cap off the day with a satisfying meal at Woolsey Creek Bistro and linger on the patio.

Driving time (Field to Revelstoke): 2.5 hours (126 miles / 202 km)

Day 4: Revelstoke to Nelson (3 h 30 min)

Alpine meadows blanket Mount Revelstoke in the summer months
Alpine meadows blanket Mount Revelstoke in the summer months

Enjoy a quiet morning in Revelstoke. Break bread at La Baguette and then explore Mount Revelstoke National Park with the iconic steep and snaking drive along the Meadows in the Sky Parkway to summit Mount Revelstoke En route, pause at any of the viewpoints for sweeping mountain vistas. Once at the end of the parkway, take the free summit shuttle bus or trek the short half-mile (1-km) Upper Summit Trail to the Heather Lake summit area. The parkway one-way takes 35 to 40 minutes (16 miles / 26 km) and ascends an elevation of 6,500 feet (2,000 m). (Open May to September.)

Leaving Revelstoke, take your time as you drive south along Upper Arrow Lake, stopping twenty minutes out at Blanket Creek Provincial Park to view the 45-foot (13.7 m) cascade of Sutherland Falls and then continue to Shelter Bay. Here, you'll cross the lake on the (free) 20-minute Upper Arrow Lake Ferry to Galena Bay, taking in the picturesque views. Stop in Nakusp, a quaint village nestled in the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains to grab lunch before venturing east toward the sleepy communities of the Slocan Valley, tucked between the Slocan and Valhalla ranges.

For insight into the silver mining history of the area, visit Sandon, the original Slocan Valley boomtown when silver was discovered in the 1800s and British Columbia's best-known ghost town today. Buy a copy of the Sandon Walking Tour Guide inside the historic City Hall and set out on foot to see the highlights. On your return back to Highway 6, stop in at the Nikkei Internment Memorial Center, an informative museum on the site of a World War II-era camp.

Resume the drive to Nelson and today's final destination. Sitting on the extreme West Arm of Kootenay Lake, Nelson is an artsy town of eclectic shops and restaurants and up to 350 restored Victorian-era heritage buildings, some of which creep up a hill that overlooks the park and beach-lined waterfront. Its main drawcard, however, is the surrounding wilderness of the Selkirk Mountains.

Pick up a Heritage Walking Tour brochure from the visitor center and then walk pedestrian-friendly Baker Street, the city's main drag, to admire the historic architecture. Follow the Waterfront Pathway that runs the length of the lakeshore to hang out next to BOB ("Big Orange Bridge"), the iconic Nelson Bridge, from the shade of a bench or spot on the beach in Lakeside Park. And when it's time for dinner, head over to All Seasons Café to sit under the maples lit with twinkling lights for an artful meal of seasonal British Columbian eats.

Driving time (Revelstoke to Nelson): 3.5 hours (156 miles / 251 km)

Day 5: Nelson to Osoyoos (3 hours)

Osoyoos Lake at dawn
Osoyoos Lake at dawn

Wind your way through the West Kootenays this morning, navigating the undulating Highway 3 toward the South Okanagan. Stop in at the Doukhobor Discovery Center in Castlegar to discover the Doukhobor legacy, Russian pacifists who emigrated to the Kootenays in the early 1900s. Before leaving, head over to the Brilliant Suspension Bridge, a National Historic Site and one built at the hands of the Doukhobor community.

Stop in Greenwood, Canada's smallest city. Savor tasty butter tarts from Copper Eagle Cappuccino & Bakery as you complete a short (self-guided) walking tour of the town's historic structures, including a saloon established in 1899. (You can pick up a free guide from the Greenwood Museum and Visitor Center.)

Resting at the arid southern end of the Okanagan Valley along the Canada-US border sits Osoyoos, a small town on a narrow spit of land ringed by the beaches of Osoyoos Lake, as well as the orchards, farms, and vineyards it irrigates. If you arrive early enough, venture a short distance north to sip wines from the Black Sage Bench, renowned for its premium Bordeaux-style grapes. Check out two notable wineries, Stoneboat Vineyards and Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, where you can reserve a table for an exceptional dinner at The Sonora Room.

Driving time (Nelson to Osoyoos): 3 hours (162 miles / 261 km)

Day 6: Explore around Osoyoos

Southern Okanagan Valley and Vaseux Lake, north of Oliver
Southern Okanagan Valley and Vaseux Lake, north of Oliver

A day to relax and explore the surrounding region. Head north to Covert Farms to pick fruits, taste organic wine, and shop the country-style market, an excellent local-approved spot to stock up on supplies. Then, if it's not too hot (Osoyoos boasts Canada's highest year-round average temps), return to Osoyoos to visit the Desert Center. Learn about this very unique corner of Canada, from the pocket desert to its desert dwellers, including 23 invertebrates found nowhere else in the world.

When the warm, dry weather becomes a little too much, head to Gyro Beach or Cottonwood Beach on Osoyoos Lake. There's also Sẁiẁs Provincial Park (Haynes Point), a skinny peninsula that juts into the lake south of town, that affords a narrow beach and a walking trail through the marsh. Dry off and have lunch from an outdoor table overlooking the vineyard at Nk'Mip Cellars, the signature restaurant of Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Center.

Early evening, make the short drive to Oliver for dinner at Terrafina, a Tuscan-style restaurant belonging to Hester Creek Estate Winery.

Day 7: Osoyoos to Vancouver (4 h 30 min)

Lightening Lake in Manning Park
Lightning Lake in Manning Park

Following Highway 3 out of Osoyoos, zigzag your way across southern British Columbia to Vancouver. Stop in the Similkameen Valley to visit a winery or two, like Forbidden Fruit or Orofino wineries in Cawston, or check out the historic grist mill in Keremeos and purchase fresh-picked fruit from any number of roadside stands in between. 

For a taste of gold rush history, visit Princeton and District Pioneer Museum to see pioneer artifacts from Granite City, Chinese and Salish artifacts, and a considerable fossil display. Stretch the legs and experience the lakes and alpine meadows of E.C. Manning Provincial Park. If you have three hours to spare, hike Heather Trail (12 miles / 20 km) to Three Brothers Mountain and enjoy the colorful views: a carpet of yellow, orange, and white wildflowers (late July to mid-August).

Approaching Vancouver, the scenery transforms from the bright sunlit rock faces of the Coast Mountains to misty coastal cedars and tall firs as you near the coast. Have dinner in the suburb of Richmond for some of the best Chinese cuisine outside of China.

Driving time (Osoyoos to Vancouver): 4.5 hours (247 miles / 398 km)

Day 8: Depart Vancouver

False Creek in Downtown Vancouver
False Creek in Downtown Vancouver

Head to The Naam (open 24/7) for an early morning breakfast before making your way to the airport. If you're feeling indulgent, splurge on a seaplane harbor tour to take in the magnificent scenery of the mountain-and-sea-dominated city from a new perspective. Alternatively, enjoy some more time at Stanley Park, paying a visit to Klahowya Village via the Spirit Catcher miniature train to watch cultural performances. Here you can also purchase souvenirs and gifts of traditional First Nations arts and crafts from the Artisan Marketplace and Métis Trading Post.

It usually takes 30 minutes to travel from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver International Airport but allow extra time in case of traffic. Best to arrive at least two hours prior to your international departure while allowing extra time to drop off your rental car.

Map

Map of Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip: Banff, Revelstoke, Nelson, & Osoyoos - 8 Days
Map of Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip: Banff, Revelstoke, Nelson, & Osoyoos - 8 Days