From craggy snow-capped peaks to icy-blue glacial lakes and rushing streams, this epic road trip features a trio of Canada's famed national parks—Banff, Yoho, and Revelstoke—that highlight the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Starting in Calgary, you'll pass through the mountain resort town of Banff and Lake Louise before venturing into the dramatic landscapes of the less explored (and equally stunning) national parks of the Kootenays. Then you'll trace British Columbia's southern border and spend time in Canada's only desert, Osoyoos—the perfect locale to drink wine and discover Okanagan wine country—before ending your trip in Vancouver.

Highlights

  • Explore all sides of the glacier-fed Moraine Lake on the Lakeshore Trail hike
  • Admire Takakkaw Falls, the most impressive in the Canadian Rockies
  • Ascend the scenic Meadows in the Sky Parkway to summit Mount Revelstoke
  • Pamper yourself with a spa, great food, and local wines in the Okanagan
  • 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 Explore around Banff Banff
Day 3 Drive from Banff to Field (1.5 hours) Field
Day 4 Explore around Yoho National Park Field
Day 5 Drive from Field to Revelstoke (2.5 hours) Revelstoke
Day 6 Explore around Revelstoke Revelstoke
Day 7 Drive from Revelstoke to Nakusp (2 hours) Nakusp
Day 8 Drive from Nakusp to Kaslo (1.5 hours) Kaslo
Day 9 Drive from Kaslo to Nelson (1 hour) Nelson
Day 10 Explore around Nelson Nelson
Day 11 Drive from Nelson to Osoyoos (3 hours) Osoyoos
Day 12 Explore around Osoyoos Osoyoos
Day 13 Drive from Osoyoos to Vancouver (4.5 hours) Vancouver
Day 14 Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology, Kits Beach, & Stanley Park Vancouver
Day 15 Depart Vancouver  

Detailed Itinerary

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

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

Welcome to Calgary, the gateway to the Rockies! Starting your road trip adventure from Canada's cowboy capital, collect your rental car and follow the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1) west toward Banff. Pull over in picturesque Canmore for a bite to eat at the town's eclectic PD3 by Blake restaurant for Asian-inspired cuisine served from a silver double-decker bus.

Banff, a small mountain town located within Banff National Park (Canada's first national park), is one of the country's most visited destinations, packed with visitors in the peak summer months. For good reason, Banff provides year-round opportunities for wildlife watching, outdoor adventures, cultural activities, and makes for a great hub for nearby Canadian Rockies icons, like Lake Louise and the Yoho and Kootenay national parks.

Stroll the shop-lined streets to get your bearings as you make your way to the Banff Park Museum for an introduction to the local wildlife. From there, take the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain to walk the boardwalk trail. Enjoy the mountain panoramas and stay for dinner with a view at Sky Bistro. And then indulge in an evening dip in the hot mineral waters of the Upper Hot Springs Pool near the base of the cable car.

Driving time (Calgary to Banff): 1.5-2 hours (79 miles / 127 km)

Day 2: Explore around Banff

Mount Rundle reflected in  Vermilion Lakes
Mount Rundle reflected in Vermilion Lakes

Before the crowds arrive, find your way to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site to understand how the popular park got its start. Walk through a dimly lit rock-lined tunnel to see the grotto discovered in 1883 that lead to Banffs national park designation and then enjoy a morning hike choosing from one of the hundreds of options available. Pick up park maps and hiking tips (and bear spray) from the Banff Visitor Center.

For a challenge, arrange a guided climb (three hours) on the Mount Norquay Via Ferrata (Italian for 'iron way') following a protected climbing route as you clip into a series of fixed iron cables. An easier option (and one of the best hikes from the town center) is to take the Bow River and Hoodoos trails. Starting at Gopher Street, hike past the Bow Falls and Surprise Corner to the hoodoos, odd-looking limestone rock spires (6.3 miles / 10.2 km roundtrip). 

To satisfy your post-hiking appetite, head to Bear Street Tavern and then take to the water on a one-hour cruise of Lake Minnewanka. If you have the energy to spare, consider renting a canoe or kayak instead. Toward dusk, look for wildlife—beavers, elk, ospreys, and bald eagles—along the shores of tranquil Vermilion Lakes followed by pre-dinner drinks and Mediterrasian tapas at Block Kitchen & Bar. Then hang out with real live cowboys as you two-step the night away at Wild Bill's Legendary Saloon.

Day 3: Drive from Banff to Field (1.5 hours)

Johnston Canyon Upper and Lower Falls trail
Johnston Canyon Upper and Lower Falls trail

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 thirty-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): 1.5 hours (52 miles / 84 km)

Day 4: Explore around Yoho National Park

Serene Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
Serene Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

A Cree expression for "awe" and "wonder," start the day early to cover Yoho's highlights as well as to avoid the throngs of travelers. Drive to Emerald Lake and allow 90 minutes to walk the 3-mile (5.2-km) Emerald Lake Loop. Enjoy views of the jewel-hued waters encircled by spruce and firs and the snow-capped Rockies, including the iconic profile of Mount Burgess. Make sure to check out Natural Bridge on your way in or out.

Meanwhile, if it's serious hiking you're after, choose from one or two of over 250 miles (400 km) worth of trails. One of the best hikes in the Rockies is the Iceline Trail, a challenging 13-mile (21-km) roundtrip. It will take you the better part of the day (typically eight hours), but the views alone will supply you the fuel to keep going. 

Then there's the wealth of trails that radiate out from picturesque Lake O'Hara with the longest only 4.7 miles (7.5 km). While it's possible to walk to Lake O'Hara (7 miles /11 km), reserve a seat on the Park's Canada shuttle bus (private cars are not allowed on the Lake O'Hara road) to spend more time enjoying the lake and its surroundings. Take the 2-mile (3.2 km) Lake Oesa Trail to climb an elevation of 787 feet (240 m) to overlook the lake. If you're experienced, opt for one of five Alpine routes for a bit of everything: alpine meadows, glaciers, and wooded hillsides.

Day 5: Drive from Field to Revelstoke (2.5 hours)

Wapta Falls
Wapta Falls

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 6: Explore around Revelstoke

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

Enjoy a relaxed morning with breakfast at Dose Coffee, and then find your way to Mountain Meals to order your lunch to go. From here, explore Mount Revelstoke National Park with a steep and snaking drive along the Meadows in the Sky Parkway to work your way to summit Mount Revelstoke. En route, pause 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 from the Balsam Lake parking lot to the Heather Lake summit area.

Stay awhile and enjoy your Mountain Meals' lunch (there are no food services on the parkway or the mountain) followed by a stroll of any of the trails on offer. There's the intermediate Eva Lake Trail, an 8.5-mile (14 km) circuit through wildflower meadows and boulder fields to the alpine Eva Lake. 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.)

In the afternoon, visit the Revelstoke Railway Museum before taking a 40-minute drive west of town to see The Last Spike in Craigellachie. An important part of Canada's history, it's here you'll find a cairn with a plaque and a piece of railway line to mark the spot where Canada was connected from coast to coast. Back in Revelstoke, head to the popular Mexican joint, The Taco Club, for margaritas, craft beer, and of course, tacos and then mosey over to Grizzly Plaza to catch a live-music performance (July and August) in the heart of downtown.

Day 7: Drive from Revelstoke to Nakusp (2 hours)

Abandoned train trestle bridge converted into a walking trail near Nakusp
Abandoned train trestle bridge converted into a walking trail near Nakusp

Enjoy a leisurely morning in Revelstoke. Break bread at La Baguette and then stock up on picnic supplies from  Le Marché around the corner. Before hitting the road to make your way south to Nakusp to enjoy a quiet afternoon in peaceful environs, stick around in Revelstoke for a little more adventure. Head to Revelstoke Mountain Resort and board your cart at the Pipe Mountain Coaster for an exhilarating ride of twists and turns across ski runs, between glades, and through forests of the Columbia Valley.

Leaving Revelstoke, take your time as you drive south along Upper Arrow Lake. Stop 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 change pace as you cross the lake on the (free) 20-minute Upper Arrow Lake Ferry to Galena Bay, taking in the picturesque views (and maybe enjoying your picnic lunch). Pull over in Halcyon Hot Springs for an indulgent soak in its mineral-rich healing waters with views of the Monashee Mountains. 

Nakusp is a quaint village nestled in the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains in the Kuskanax Valley, best known for its hot springs and scenic location. Breathe deep and unwind with a stroll along the Waterfront Walkway to spend a few hours at the sandy public beach. Dry off with a late afternoon hike along the Wrap Around Nakusp Trail, part of the old Canadian Pacific Railway line converted into a walking trail. If you skipped Halcyon or really like hot springs, rent a bike and pedal to relax in the Nakusp Hot Springs amid an amphitheater of trees.

Driving time (Revelstoke to Nakusp): 2 hours (65 miles / 105 km)

Day 8: Drive from Nakusp to Kaslo (1.5 hours)

Slocan Lake near the town of New Denver
Slocan Lake near the town of New Denver

After a refreshing swim and morning stand up paddleboard venture, head out on Highway 6 toward sleepy New Denver on Slocan Lake to make a point of uncovering the silver mining history of the area. Stop in at the Silvery Slocan Museum, housed in the 1897 wooden Bank of Montreal building, and drive the five-minutes south to the equally sleepy historic town of Silverton. On your return, discover the dark heritage at the Nikkei Internment Memorial Center, an informative museum on the site of a World War II-era camp. 

A little way west on Highway 31A, find your way to 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. From there, continue to follow the spectacular route that weaves its way over rugged hills ending in the pretty town of Kaslo at the western shores of Kootenay Lake. An underrated lakeside gem, the rest of the day is yours to take it easy.

Make your way to the 1898 S.S. Moyie, the world's oldest passenger stern-wheeler, and a National Historic Site. Here you can pick up tourist information on the numerous ways to kayak and canoe the Kootenay Lake and well as scan the in-depth collection of antiques, artifacts, and photos of the region. Afterward, get back into nature with an easy mid-afternoon half-mile (1.1-km) hike to Fletcher Falls. The trailhead is at the top of Fletcher Creek Frontage Road. Then join a two-hour sunset kayaking tour ending a peaceful day with a pint or two of beer from Angry Hen Brewing.

Driving time (Nakusp to Kaslo): 1.5 hours (57 miles / 92 km)

Day 9: Drive from Kaslo to Nelson (1 hour)

Fishing boat on Kootenay Lake and
Fishing boat on Kootenay Lake and "BOB" in the background

For a unique start to the day, enjoy a guided caving tour of the Cody Caves just 25-minutes north of Ainsworth (be sure to make reservations in advance). Then slip into your swimsuit to warm up in the spring-fed horseshoe-shaped cave lined with stalagmites and stalactites of Ainsworth Hot Springs. Another 15 minutes south in Balfour you can lunch on savory pub grub at the lakefront Dock 'n' Duck restaurant before drinking in the lake and mountain panoramas from the world's longest free ferry ride across Kootenay Lake to Kootenay Bay. The trip one way is 35 minutes.

Back in Balfour, 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 (Kaslo to Nelson): 1 hour (43 miles / 70 km)

Day 10: Explore around Nelson

Moody day over the small town of Nelson
Moody day over the small town of Nelson

In spring and summer, there are a host of outdoor activities to experience from kayaking and canoeing deep-blue Kootenay Lake to hiking and mountain biking nearby trails. At the same time, the closeby Selkirk Mountains (and magnificent Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park) in the winter provide conditions for world-class skiing and snowboarding. Meanwhile, as a cosmopolitan city, Nelson boasts more restaurants per capita than San Francisco, blocks of specialty and boutique shops, and access to numerous spas.

Today is yours to spend as you like. To satisfy your breakfast needs, watch the world float by over coffee and baked goods from local favorite, Oso Negro. Then consider paying a mid-morning visit to Touchstones Nelson, a museum of local history and art that features modern displays of First Nations, explorers, miners, and the Doukhobors as well as Nelson's contribution to World War I. 

If you're looking to get outdoors, head to the visitors center for up-to-date information on road and hiking trail conditions before venturing into the remote wilderness surrounding Nelson. For some of the best trails, drive into Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. Here you can hike the two-hour summer-only circuit to Kokanee Lake uphill from Gibson Lake (2.5 miles / 4 km). Driving out the way you came in, and before turning west, you'll find Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, a perfect place to plonk your towel anywhere on the half-mile stretch of sandy beach. 

Come the evening, make your way to the Hume Hotel to listen to live jazz from your cozy candlelit spot in the elegant Library Lounge after dining on "Viet-Modern" cuisine at Yum Son or wood-fired pizzas at Marzano's.

Day 11: Drive from 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 12: Explore around Osoyoos

The Native Chief by artist Smoker Marchand in Osoyoos
The Native Chief by artist Smoker Marchand in Osoyoos

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 13: Drive from Osoyoos to Vancouver (4.5 hours)

Similkameen River near Keremeos
Similkameen River near Keremeos

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 14: Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology, Kits Beach, & Stanley Park

A driftwood-strewn beach of Point Grey
A driftwood-strewn beach of Point Grey

In the morning, head southwest of downtown to the University of British Columbia's ("UBC") campus to dedicate a couple of hours to explore the Museum of Anthropology, a great introduction to the history of the Pacific Northwest. Showcasing spectacular First Nations totem poles and impressive carvings, join a free daily tour to get a better understanding of British Columbia's rich indigenous history.

After that, make your way along the coast to Vancouver's trendy beachside suburb of Kitsilano (locally referred to as "Kits") for an afternoon of picnicking on the beach and swimming in the ocean or the outdoor saltwater pool. From Kits' shoreline, you have some of the best views in the city of Vancouver's skyline and nearby Coastal Range. 

Walking distance from Kitsilano, head over to Granville Island, checking out the restaurants, gift shops, fresh food markets, and local boutique shops that reflect the island's maritime heritage. For a deep-dive of the island's culinary offerings, join a walking food tour that takes you through the bustling Granville Island Public Market.

Just before sunset, work up an appetite by walking (two hours) or biking (one hour) around Stanley Park's Seawall, a 6-mile (10-km) loop around a 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest with views over the city. Time your walk to hit the midpoint at Siwash Rock and Third Beach for the best spot to watch the sun dip below the horizon. 

Day 15: 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 - 15 Days
Map of Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip: Banff, Revelstoke, Nelson, & Osoyoos - 15 Days