Drive across British Columbia and Alberta in 16 days to cover the highlights of both provinces' natural landscapes and vibrant cities. Discover Vancouver from a seaplane and Whistler from a helicopter, then hike in Kamloops to look for otherworldly hoodoos. Explore the national parks in Jasper and Banff (Canada's first!) on solo hikes, guided tours, and a boat cruise. On your way to Kelowna, ride the Ice Explorer to Athabasca Glacier, ending with a wine tour in the Okanagan Valley.

Highlights

  • Cling to a limestone cliff on the Cliffwalk at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
  • Eat your way across Whistler on a four-course dinner experience 
  • Look through the most powerful telescope in the Rockies at the Jasper Planetarium
  • Explore Yoho National Park's lakes, waterfalls, and viewpoints with a guide
  • Sample wine and tour wineries in the verdant Okanagan Valley

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Vancouver (BC), Seaplane Tour, Self-Guided City Walk Vancouver
Day 2 Visit Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Afternoon Whale Watching Tour Vancouver
Day 3 Drive to Whistler, Glacier Helicopter Tour, Four-Course Dinner Experience Whistler
Day 4 Free Day in Whistler, Ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola Whistler
Day 5 Drive to Kamloops, Hike the Cinnamon Ridge Hoodoos Trail Kamloops
Day 6 Drive to Jasper (Alberta), Self-Guided Exploration Jasper
Day 7 Self-Guided Hiking Day in Jasper National Park Jasper
Day 8 Guided Tour of Jasper National Park, Visit Jasper Planetarium Jasper
Day 9 Drive to Lake Louise via Peyto Lake, Half-Day Tea House Hike Lake Louise
Day 10 Full-Day Guided Tour of Lake Louise Lake Louise
Day 11 Lake Louise & Moraine Lake Tour, Drive to Banff, Walking Tour Banff
Day 12 Day Trip Yoho National Park Banff
Day 13 Free Day in Banff, Ride the Banff Gondola, Relax in Banff Upper Hot Springs Banff
Day 14 Columbia Icefield Exploration, Drive to Kelowna (BC) Kelowna
Day 15 Free Morning, West Kelowna Afternoon Sightseeing Wine Tour Kelowna
Day 16 Drive to Vancouver, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Vancouver (BC), Seaplane Tour, Self-Guided City Walk

Get a bird's-eye view of Vancouver and its natural surroundings on a seaplane tour

Welcome to the charming city of Vancouver, nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountains. When you arrive, pick up your rental car at the airport, then drive to your hotel to check in. After freshening up, you'll get the best introduction to the city with a panorama tour by seaplane. You'll head to Coal Harbour to board the plane and watch the city unfold beneath you as you ascend. Look for landmarks like Stanley Park and the Lions Gate Bridge and admire the city's natural surroundings. After 20 minutes in the air, touch down back at the harbor and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.

Consider exploring Stanley Park or walk over to Gastown, the city's oldest neighborhood, to stroll down the cobblestone streets lined with historic buildings that house trendy boutiques, restaurants, and cafés. Pause at the Gastown Steam Clock and wait for it to whistle. Head to Granville Island next to wander through the bustling market, browse artisan shops, and admire local art in the galleries. If you visit on a Friday between May and September, you can end your day at the Shipyards Night Market. Venture down the promenade lined with food stalls offering cuisine from around the world and artisanal crafts. 

Day 2: Visit Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, Afternoon Whale Watching Tour

Seek out pods of orcas off the Vancouver coast

Enjoy a free morning to explore Vancouver and its surroundings. If you want to immerse yourself in nature, drive 20 minutes outside the city to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Step onto the swaying bridge spanning 450 feet (137 m) across the Capilano River to enjoy views of the surrounding trees and rushing water below. Then, the Treetops Adventure takes you along a series of suspended walkways and seven suspension bridges above the trees. Don't miss the Cliffwalk, a cantilevered pathway clinging to the granite cliffside, offering dramatic panoramas of the canyon.

In the afternoon, return to the city for a whale watching expedition. Head to Granville Island to board a high-speed catamaran designed for marine wildlife tours. As you cruise, your knowledgeable crew will regale you with tales of the area's history and provide insights into the fascinating marine wildlife that inhabits these waters. Depending on the time of year you visit, you may spot orcas, humpback, gray, minke, or fin, so keep your eyes peeled. Stay out on the water until the sun begins to set, casting a golden glow over the Pacific Ocean.

Day 3: Drive to Whistler, Glacier Helicopter Tour, Four-Course Dinner Experience

Take to the sky on a helicopter tour and land on a snowcapped mountain over Whistler

Trade the bustling city streets for the snow-covered mountains surrounding Whistler, a charming town home to one of the largest ski resorts in North America. The 1.5-2-hour drive will take you along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, one of the most scenic roads in the country. Halfway to Whistler, stop in Squamish to hike the Stawamus Chief Trail to the mountain's summit or ride the Sea-to-Sky Gondola for panoramic views of the surrounding peaks. Back in the car, complete the drive to your hotel in Whistler to check in and get ready for a scenic helicopter ride above the mountainous region. 

Head to the helipad to board the aircraft and ascend over the Coast Mountains. Look out at the glaciers, mountain lakes, and dense forests while enjoying your pilot's live commentary about the area and its natural wonders. Seek landmarks like the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, the Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort, or Garibaldi Provincial Park before stopping for a 15-minute break atop a mountain to stretch your legs and snap postcard-perfect pictures. After 45 minutes in the air, you'll return to the helipad and back to the hotel to get ready for your four-course dinner tour. 

You'll begin at Bearfoot Bistro, where you'll savor an amuse-bouche at the upscale hotel restaurant. Continue to Hy's Steakhouse for the melt-in-your-mouth cajun-crusted blackened ahi tuna. Then, you'll settle in for a full-fledged dining experience at Whistler's esteemed Quattro, delighting in meat or seafood plates accompanied by a signature pasta creation paired with wine. To satisfy your sweet tooth, make your way to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for a dessert, capping off the culinary adventure at FireRock Lounge with an artisan cheese plate.

Day 4: Free Day in Whistler, Ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola

Ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, the world's highest lift of its kind

The day is yours to spend as you wish, so you could venture a ride on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Spanning a distance of 2.7 miles (4.4 km) between the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, the gondola can be boarded at the base of either mountain. Both mountains offer many hiking trails, but if you want to cross the Peak Suspension Bridge, disembark at Whistler Mountain. If you want to go on a guided walk on Horstman Glacier, disembark at Blackcomb Mountain. 

No matter your destination, you'll enjoy the 11-minute gondola ride as it offers panoramic views of snowcapped peaks, glassy lakes, and verdant valleys. Step out of the gondola and admire the surrounding landscape from the viewing platforms. When you get hungry, sit down to enjoy a meal at one of the mountaintop restaurants featuring country delights like poutine (crispy fries topped with cheese curds and gravy). Stay until sunset to watch the sky transform into warm hues of red and orange before taking the gondola back down the mountain. 

Day 5: Drive to Kamloops, Hike the Cinnamon Ridge Hoodoos Trail

Drive along the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway on your way to Kamloops

Say goodbye to Whistler this morning and hit the road for a 4-5 hour drive east to Kamloops, situated at the confluence of the North and South Thompson rivers. Discover more of the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway as you wind through lush forests and alongside glacier-fed rivers. Pass through quaint towns like Pemberton and Lillooet, where you can stop to take a look around as well as find something to eat. Reaching Kamloops, settle into your hotel before switching gears and changing into hiking boots to enjoy a trek along the Cinnamon Ridge Hoodoos Trail

Drive 20 minutes from the city to the trailhead and set off down the 1.1-mile (1.8 km) path through open grasslands and sagebrush. Along the way, you'll spot otherworldly geological formations like the distinctive hoodoos: tall, thin spires of rock formed by erosion over millions of years. After the moderate to challenging hike, return to Kamloops, then find your way to a restaurant overlooking the Thompson rivers. Kamloops is known for its freshwater salmon, particularly sockeye salmon, so you may want to try a smoked or grilled version for dinner.

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Day 6: Drive to Jasper (Alberta), Self-Guided Exploration

Ride the Jasper SkyTram up The Whistlers for panoramic views of the surrounding peaks

This morning, you'll part ways with British Columbia as you set off on another 4-5 hour drive across the provincial border to Jasper, a charming Albertan town in the Canadian Rockies. If you want to grab a bite to eat along the way, stop in the small village of Valemount, where you can also enjoy views of the Rocky Mountains. Back in the car, make a short detour at Mount Robson Provincial Park, home to the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, towering at 12,972 feet (3,954 m). Set out on one of the trails or jump back in the car after admiring Mount Robson.

When you arrive, you'll have the rest of the day to explore the provincial park. An excellent place to start is the Jasper SkyTram, the country's highest and longest guided aerial tramway. Ride the tram to the upper station on The Whistlers 7,425 feet (2,263 m) above sea level and step out onto the viewing platforms to admire the surrounding mountains. After enjoying the view, set off on a hike down one of the mountaintop trails. Then, end the day at Miette Hot Springs, home to the hottest mineral water in the Canadian Rockies. Unwind in the thermal water, soaking up scenic mountain views before checking into your hotel.

Day 7: Self-Guided Hiking Day in Jasper National Park

Take the day to explore Jasper National Park's natural beauty

Spend the day exploring some of the trails in Jasper National Park at your own pace. There are plenty of trails to choose from, but one of the most popular is the Valley of the Five Lakes, as it's an easy-to-moderate loop trail that takes you to five picturesque alpine lakes. The trail also starts in town, so it's easily accessible. Set off down the 2.8-mile (4.5 km) path, stopping at each lake to admire the mesmerizing colors, from emerald greens to vibrant blues.

If you're looking for a more challenging hike, consider the 5.2-mile (8.4 km) Wilcox Pass. This trail starts at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, one hour outside Jasper. It takes you through alpine meadows and along the Athabasca River to different viewpoints overlooking the vast Columbia Icefield and Athabasca Glacier. Those who want to skip hiking can spend the day in town discovering the array of shops, art galleries, and restaurants offering a range of dining options. Pop in and out of the shops for unique souvenirs or indulge in local delights like a bison burger or fresh salmon from nearby waters.

Day 8: Guided Jasper National Park Tour, Visit Jasper Planetarium

You might spot black bears on today's guided Jasper National Park tour

Discover more of Jasper National Park this morning, this time with an experienced guide. Start with a guided trek across the lush Maligne Canyon. Admire its grandeur, carved over centuries by the rushing waters of the Maligne River. Get an up-close look at the dramatic rock formations and waterfalls lining the canyon before continuing to Medicine Lake, which disappears during the summer. Learn about the geological processes that lead to this disappearing act and grab some pictures of the natural landscape during this quick 10-minute stop.

Your guide will also point out any animals they see, such as moose and bears, and teach you about their behavior and habitats. End the tour with a tranquil cruise across Maligne Lake, surrounded by snowcapped mountains, cascading waterfalls, and hidden coves. Disembark at small Spirit Island and discover the different viewpoints, perfect for taking pictures of the serene surroundings. After 1.5 hours on the water, return to the shore and head to the Jasper Planetarium to learn about the stars, planets, and celestial phenomena before heading outside to look through the powerful telescopes. 

Day 9: Drive to Lake Louise via Peyto Lake, Half-Day Tea House Hike

Stop at the glacial Peyto Lake on your way to Lake Louise

Set off on a three-hour drive south to the hamlet of Lake Louise, home to the glacial lake of the same name in Banff National Park, Canada's first (national park). The drive will take you along the scenic Icefields Parkway, where you can stop at Peyto Lake to admire its turquoise waters. Stop at the Bow Pass/Summit parking lot and follow the well-marked paved path to a viewing platform. The walk is only 10 to 15 minutes, and you'll be rewarded with uninterrupted views of the glacial lake and surrounding mountains at the end. 

Complete the drive to your hotel, where you can check in and change into hiking boots. When ready, meet up with your guide for a 4.4-mile (7 km) trek to the Lake Agnes Tea House or 6.8 miles (11 km) to the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. Both trails offer panoramic views of glacial lakes, rugged peaks, and lush forests, so you're sure to enjoy your time either way. When you arrive at one of the tea houses, sit down for a drink before returning along the same trail.

Day 10: Full-Day Guided Tour of Lake Louise

Pick up a trail like the Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail on a guided hike of the area

Today's full-day adventure sees you uncovering more of Lake Louise and the surrounding area on a hike, together with a knowledgeable guide, who will teach you about the national park's rich history and the diverse wildlife that has roamed these lands for centuries. Your guide will tailor the tour to your group's skill level and interests, as there are a number of trails surrounding the lake, but one of the most popular is the 2.8-mile (4.5 km) out-and-back Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail. The path is well-maintained and relatively flat, making it easy to trek around the turquoise waters.

If you follow this trail, enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the impressive Victoria Glacier at the far end of the lake. For a more challenging trek, your guide may take you down the (18.5 km) Highline Trail, which passes lush forests, alpine meadows, and both Lake Agnes Tea House and Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House (one of which you visited yesterday). Both trails give you a good look at the turquoise Lake Louise, but you could also end the night at the Fairmont Château Lake Louise to unwind and grab a bite to eat with scenic lake views.

Day 11: Lake Louise & Moraine Lake Tour, Drive to Banff, Walking Tour

Look up at the sky full of stars in Banff National Park

This morning's hike includes an hour's drive south to visit Moraine Lake, another iconic glacial lake with gemstone-colored waters. Explore the area by hiking the short Rockpile Trail to a rocky outcrop overlooking the water. From this vantage point, you can admire the turquoise lake framed by the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Refuel with refreshments and maple cookies, then hit the road for the hourlong drive to Banff, a resort town within the famous Banff National Park.

After checking into your hotel, wander around town to discover the quaint shops, cozy cafés, rustic lodges, and art galleries showcasing local artists. Next, you'll join an evening walking tour of the national park. See the sun dip below the horizon, transforming the sky into orange, pink, and gold hues, then follow your guide down the 3.5-mile (5 km) trail lit only by your headlamps and look out for nocturnal creatures like owls, coyotes, and foxes. Don't forget to look up to see the sky full of stars uninterrupted by city lights.

Day 12: Day Trip to Yoho National Park

Take in the views of the icy Kicking Horse River in Yoho National Park

Discover one of the lesser-known national parks in the area this morning, Yoho National Park, just 45 minutes west of Banff. Stop at Emerald Lake to admire its beauty against a backdrop of towering mountain peaks and dense forest. Follow your guide down the lakeside trail for an up-close look at the water, then continue to Wapta Falls, accessible by a short trek through the forest. When you reach the viewpoint, look down at the Kicking Horse River plunging over a 98-foot drop (30 m).

Trade one waterfall for another as you work your way to Takkakaw Falls next to watch the water plummet 1,260 feet (384 m) down a sheer rock face (the tallest waterfall in Canada). Your last stop is the Spiral Tunnels Viewpoint, where you can watch the trains navigate the spiral-shaped railway tunnels carved into the mountainside. Throughout the tour, your guide will share stories about the park's geological history, ecosystems, and natural features. You'll also have free time at each stop to explore at your own pace.

Day 13: Free Day in Banff, Ride the Banff Gondola, Relax in Banff Upper Hot Springs

Ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain for panoramic views of the area

Your last day in Banff is free for you to enjoy. Opt to ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain for a gentle way to take in the verdant scenery. At the top, step out onto the observation deck for panoramic views of snowcapped mountains, emerald lakes, and sprawling forests below. With a bit of luck, you might spot a bear on the ride up (or down). If you're in the mood to hike, choose one of the numerous trails, like the Sulphur Mountain Summit Trail or the Sanson's Peak Loop Trail.

However, there's always the option to relax and appreciate the view from the Summit Cafe for a snack or the Sky Bistro for a fine dining experience. When you're ready, take the gondola back to the bottom of the mountain and set out to discover the area, possibly with a walk along Bow River or check out the nearby Banff Upper Hot Springs for a soak in the mineral-rich waters with a captivating view of the surrounding mountains. There's also the option to drive 30 minutes west to Johnston Canyon for a trek to the Lower Falls or Upper Falls.

Day 14: Columbia Icefield Exploration, Drive to Kelowna

Athabasca glacier Columbia Icefields
Board the Ice Explorer and traverse the Columbia Icefield to get to the Athabasca Glacier

Put on your warmest clothes and transfer two hours to Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure, where you can board the Ice Explorer, a vehicle built to traverse the rugged, icy terrain. Board the massive vehicle and look at the mountain peaks and glacial valleys as you climb to the mighty Athabasca Glacier, which began forming over 240,000 years ago. Upon arrival, disembark and step onto the ancient ice while you learn about the glacier's geological history and ecological significance.

Continue to the Columbia Icefield Skywalk, a glass-bottomed walkway extending over the Sunwapta Valley. Enjoy panoramic views of glaciers and rugged peaks as you marvel at the sheer drop below you.

Following this morning's tour, it's time to hit the road again for a 5-6-hour drive west, back into British Columbia, to Kelowna in the heart of the Okanagan Valley. Following the Trans-Canada Highway past towering mountains, pristine lakes, and dense forests, you can pause in the mountain town of Revelstoke (historically known as "the capital of the Canadian Alps") or Salmon Arm on beautiful Shuswap Lake to stretch to break up the drive. When you arrive in the city, check into your hotel and relax for the evening.

Day 15: Free Morning, West Kelowna Afternoon Sightseeing Wine Tour

Spend the afternoon visiting four of Kelowna's iconic wineries

Your penultimate morning in British Columbia is free for you to explore Kelowna at leisure. You could visit Bernard Avenue to shop at the boutiques, peruse local art galleries, or pick up some last-minute souvenirs. If it's nice out, head to Okanagan Lake to partake in water sports like kayaking, paddleboarding, or water skiing on the tranquil waters. Or, pack a picnic and enjoy it on a sandy beach or at a waterfront park. Those who want to stay indoors can visit the Okanagan Heritage Museum or Kelowna Art Gallery.

In the afternoon, set off on a tour of four preselected wineries since the Okanagan Valley's range of microclimates and diverse soil composition make it the ideal place for grape growing and winemaking. The tour is tailored to your interests, so you can choose between visiting wineries in Kelowna East or West. Either way, you can sample delicious wines with a side of idyllic views. At each stop, indulge in a series of tastings to savor wines that reflect the region's terroir and climate. You'll also enjoy delectable snacks that pair perfectly with each wine to complement the unique flavors.

Day 16: Drive to Vancouver, Depart

Stop in the lush Fraser Valley on your way back to Vancouver

You'll get behind the wheel for the last leg of your road trip to make the 4-5-hour return drive back to Vancouver. Drive through the picturesque Okanagan Valley, surrounded by vineyards, orchards, and pristine lakes. As you continue west, the landscape transitions to rolling hills and forested mountains. When you approach the Fraser Valley, and if time is on your side, you may want to explore the local farmers' markets, heritage sites, or wineries. Once you arrive in Vancouver, make your way to the airport to drop off your rental car, then head inside to catch your onward flight. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of Road Trip Across British Columbia & Alberta: Vancouver, Whistler, Kamloops, Jasper, Banff & Kelowna - 16 Days
Map of Road Trip Across British Columbia & Alberta: Vancouver, Whistler, Kamloops, Jasper, Banff & Kelowna - 16 Days