Explore western Canada by car on this six-day self-drive trip through the Canadian Rockies. Kick off in the rodeo capital of Calgary with a morning hot-air balloon ride and a self-guided tour around the city. Then, hit the road toward the mountain haven of Banff, where you'll dive head-first into its alpine wilderness. Go horseback riding through the Bow Valley, hike to mountaintop tea houses, soak in historic hot springs, and witness sunrise at Lake Moraine, famed for its incredible beauty.


  • Soak in the highest hot springs in Canada
  • See the world-famous Lake Moraine and its turquoise water at sunrise
  • Ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain on horseback
  • Go on a wildlife safari with an expert naturalist

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Calgary, Explore the City Calgary
Day 2 Hot-Air Balloon Ride, Self-Guided Tour of Calgary Calgary
Day 3 Drive to Banff, Horseback Ride, Sunsets & Stars Walking Tour Banff
Day 4 Sunrise Hike at Moraine Lake, Ride the Banff Gondola, Wildlife Safari Banff
Day 5 Hike & E-Bike Excursion to Johnston Canyon, Soak in Hot Springs Banff
Day 6 Drive to Calgary, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Calgary, Explore the City

Walk across the Centre Street Bridge in downtown Calgary

Welcome to Canada! Your first introduction to the country is the "Cowboy Capital" of the Alberta province, Calgary. You'll land at the Calgary International Airport and pick up your rental car for the next six days. Park up at your accommodation for the afternoon and hit the ground running, getting familiar with "Stampede City." Calgary holds the world's largest outdoor rodeo, the Calgary Stampede, and fully embraces its cowboy culture and agricultural roots. Despite that fact, Calgary is a modern city with lots to explore and experience. 

Set out on a self-guided tour of Calgary this afternoon. Head to the top of Calgary Tower for panoramic views of the city and to see the Rocky Mountains in the distance (you're headed there in a few days). Walk around the outside of Stampede Park, where the largest outdoor rodeo is held every July, go for a walk along the Bow River Pathway, or stroll through the metropolitan oasis of Prince's Island Park

Day 2: Hot-Air Balloon Ride, Self-Guided Tour of Calgary

Stroll through ENMAX Park for beautiful views of Calgary

Start the day off with a once-in-a-lifetime experience—seeing Calgary and the expansive landscapes that surround the city from a hot-air balloon! Float higher and higher as you peacefully ascend into the clouds with your pilot, who will also let you in on local history. You'll soar through the sky for about an hour, with ample time to take photographs and enjoy the beautiful scenery. End your morning in the sky with a traditional champagne toast to your flight.

This afternoon, keep getting to know Calgary on another self-guided adventure through the city. Head to 8th Avenue for great restaurants and shopping. Foodies will want to go in search of bison burgers or Saskatoon berry pie, while history buffs can learn more about Calgary's past at the Heritage Park Historical Village. Outdoorsy types will love spelunking in Rat's Nest Cave or trying out snowboarding at Canada Olympic Park. Fun fact: Calgary hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics.

Day 3: Drive to Banff, Horseback Ride, Sunsets & Stars Walking Tour

Go on a self-guided hike in Banff National Park
Plan your trip to Canada
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Today, you'll get to test out your wheels on the 1.5-hour drive on the famous Trans-Canada Highway from Calgary to the Rocky Mountain enclave of Banff. The drive is gorgeous, with rolling foothills slowly giving way to jagged, snowcapped peaks. Arrive in Banff and take off on your first adventure, a guided horseback riding excursion through the winding Bow Valley. You'll traverse the historic Cave and Basin before heading up the Sundance Canyon Trail and Sulphur Mountain to the Windy Knoll Viewpoint. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, like elk, along the way.

After an exhilarating morning on horseback, keep your day in the great outdoors going with a self-guided hike. There are plenty of options, from leisurely strolls to advanced mountain treks. One of the best is up the Tunnel Mountain Trail to the Lake Agnes Tea House, where your efforts will be well rewarded with a hot drink and fresh baked goods. As evening falls, you'll be treated to a lantern-lit stroll with expert guides on a "Sunsets and Stars" evening walking tour of Banff National Park. See the sun turn a striking ombre of red and orange before searching for shooting stars and shy nocturnal creatures like owls.

Day 4: Sunrise Hike at Moraine Lake, Ride the Banff Gondola, Wildlife Safari

Hike along the edge of Moraine Lake

Start off your fourth morning with a sunrise hike at Moraine Lake. This is one of Banff's most iconic landscapes, with turquoise water, a wreath of pine trees, and sheer mountain peaks surrounding the lake. The best part about coming for sunrise is that the crowds haven't quite descended yet. Head over to the short Rockpile Trail for your best views of the Valley of Ten Peaks. Afterward, you can easily make your way over to Lake Louise for more gorgeous lakefront views or head into the clouds on the Banff Gondola, where you'll see sprawling scenery from the top of Sulphur Mountain

This afternoon, you'll get the chance to learn more about Banff's incredible biodiversity alongside an expert naturalist on a wildlife safari. Hop on a bus for an excursion through the park, where you'll search for some of Banff's animal residents, like the bighorn sheep and elk. If you're lucky, you might even spot a grizzly bear. You'll also learn about Banff National Park's conservation and the incredible efforts being made to protect this fragile ecosystem.

Day 5: Hike & E-Bike Excursion to Johnston Canyon, Soak in Hot Springs

Hike and e-bike through the heart of Johnston Canyon

Get behind a new set of wheels today for your adventures through Johnston Canyon. You'll meet up with your guide at a bike shop in downtown Banff, where you'll hop on your shiny e-bike and make your way 15.5 miles (25 km) to Johnston Canyon, an easy feat with your electric set of wheels. Once you arrive, head deep into the canyon on a self-guided hike and grab lunch at the Blackswift Bistro before heading back to Banff—it's all downhill from here!

End your last day by relaxing in the therapeutic water of Upper Hot Springs. This historic bathhouse has been a favorite local hangout in Banff since 1886 and is the perfect place to find a slice of peace and tranquility after hiking for the last three days. Enjoy your last glimpses of the snowcapped Canadian Rockies and reflect on your incredible trip. 

Day 6: Drive to Calgary, Depart

Enjoy views of Cascade Mountain from downtown Banff
Wave goodbye to the Canadian Rockies today as you make the 1.5-hour drive back to Calgary. If you have a little bit of time, keep exploring the Stampede City or head straight to the airport to drop off your rental car. Safe travels and see you next time!

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Map of Self-Drive Adventure in the Canadian Rockies: Calgary & Banff - 6 Days
Map of Self-Drive Adventure in the Canadian Rockies: Calgary & Banff - 6 Days