This fast-paced road trip takes you across British Columbia on a popular route from Vancouver to Calgary. You'll have 2-3 hours of driving most days, with a couple of free days to immerse yourself in the Okanagan Valley's wine country and Kananaskis Country, the hidden gem of the Canadian Rockies. This itinerary is best suited for those who enjoy great food and wine and want to combine this with outdoor adventures. 

Highlights

  • Combine British Columbia's famous wine region with its most dramatic peaks
  • Enjoy and stock up at local wineries, cellars, fruit orchards, and farms
  • Take in the highlights of the Trans-Canada Highway from Revelstoke to Banff
  • Explore Kananaskis Country, home to spectacular treks without the crowds

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Vancouver Vancouver
Day 2 Vancouver to Kelowna (5 h 30 min) Kelowna
Day 3 Wine Tasting in the Okanagan Valley Kelowna
Day 4 Kelowna to Revelstoke (2 h 30 min) Revelstoke
Day 5 Revelstoke to Yoho National Park (2 h 30 min) Field
Day 6 Explore Yoho National Park Field
Day 7 Yoho National Park to Canmore (1 h 15 min) Canmore
Day 8 Day Hikes in Kananaskis Country Canmore
Day 9 Canmore to Calgary, Depart (1 h 30 min)  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Vancouver

Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver
Stanley Park and downtown Vancouver

Fringed by the Pacific Ocean and backed by the coastal mountains, Vancouver is one of the world's most livable cities with some of North America's best cuisine, rich indigenous heritage, and opportunities for outdoor activities. 

It takes around 30 minutes to get from the airport to downtown. The city center and surrounding neighborhoods are within easy walking or biking distance and all the main attractions are a short distance away. To get your bearings, start with a stroll along the seawall from English Bay to False Creek before wandering the historical, cobbled streets of Gastown and Chinatown

With over 60 different cultures, pick from a variety of international restaurants serving anything from Asian cuisine to seasonal farm-to-table dishes. For dinner, choose from a selection of top-notch eateries—from downtown and the West End to the North Shore and Kitsilano. Keep in mind, Vancouverites love eating out any day of the week so be sure to make a reservation if it's a popular restaurant.

Day 2: Vancouver to Kelowna (5 h 30 min)

Vineyward overlooking a Kelowna subdivision
Vineyward overlooking a Kelowna subdivision

Pick up your rental car and hit the road early (keeping in mind Vancouver's rush hour is from 8-9 am). Follow the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) east to pick up the slower Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3). Once you get out of Vancouver, enjoy the scenic drive as you leave the coastal mountains for the drier interior of the Okanagan Valley. 

The drive takes you through thickly forested parkland alongside the Similkameen River until you reach the turn off for Highway 3A at Keremeos, "the fruit stand capital of Canada." Stop here for a little sustenance and purchase freshly picked Okanagan fruit, jams, and honey, as well as filling Indian curries and samosas. You can even wash it down with a glass of wine from a nearby winery, like Clos du Soleil

Connect with Highway 97 for your first sighting of the Okanagan Valley lakes and pull over in Penticton about an hour south of Kelowna to pick up information on the region's wineries and wine tours from the visitor's center. Continue north along Okanagan Lake, stopping to take a dip before reaching today's final destination and unofficial capital of the valley, Kelowna. Pass through the suburban sprawl to Kelowna's heart, a welcome respite of museums, culture, and park-lined lakefront.

Take a late afternoon stroll along Okanagan Lake, following the 1.5-mile (2.4-km) Waterfront Boardwalk. As daylight fades, check out Brower Hatcher's Bear sculpture (illuminated at night) before partaking in a pre-dinner libation at one of the city's great brewpubs, like Red Bird Brewing or Vice & Virtue Brewing. For dinner, consider RauDZ Regional Table, a relaxed, downtown bistro with a hefty list of Okanagan wines.

Recommended stops and activities:

  • Penticton. Stroll along the tree-shaded shores of Lake Okanagan and peek inside the S.S. Sicamous, an early 20th-century Canadian Pacific Railway stern-wheeler.
  • Summerland. Ride the 1900s Kettle Valley Steam Railway along a historic 6-mile (10-km) track through orchards and vineyards and over a trestle bridge. (Great for kids big and small.)
  • Geert Maas Sculpture Gardens and Gallery. Find prolific rotund bronze sculptures, stonework, and paintings from the Dutch-born artist, northeast of Kelowna.
  • Museums. Deep dive into Kelowna's past (and present) at the Okanagan Heritage Museum, the Okanagan Wine and Orchard Museum, the Laurel Packing House, and the Okanagan Military Museum, showcasing agricultural heritage and history.

Driving time (Vancouver to Kelowna): 5.5 hours (283 miles / 456 km)

Day 3: Wine Tasting in the Okanagan Valley

Terrace overlooks Lake Okanagan and vineyards of Mission Hill Family Estate
Terrace overlooks Lake Okanagan and vineyards of Mission Hill Family Estate

Spend the day visiting the wineries of the Okanagan Valley. The best way to explore is with the flexibility of your own vehicle if you have a sober driver or willing to share responsibilities, but you can also join a local wine tasting tour which includes transport. To make the best use of your time (and reduce driving), focus on one micro-region or set of wineries.

Day 4: Kelowna to Revelstoke (2 h 30 min)

Mount Revelstoke National Park
Mount Revelstoke National Park

Spend the morning exploring downtown Kelowna before hitting the road for the short drive to Vernon. For foodies, there's a number of great cafes, restaurants, and farm-to-table spots to check out along the way—apart from the countless wineries. As you drive north through Lake Country, you can follow the Scenic Sip Trail and sample award-winning wines from leading wineries en route to Vernon. 

Leaving the Okanagan Valley behind, head north on Highway 97 to the snow-capped peaks of Revelstoke. Make a short detour to Sushwap Lake to grab lunch and go for a swim in Salmon Arm, the "Gem of the Shuswap". Here, you'll be out of the desert and surrounded by wooded hills, farms, and the Shuswap Lake-based provincial parks. 

Arriving in Revelstoke, the town 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. 

Before sunset, drive the Meadows in the Sky Parkway, a 16-mile (26 km) stretch road that winds uphill to scenic viewpoints overlooking the valley. A number of great hiking trails begin from its summit. Alternatively, drive here in the morning (opens between 8-9 am) for your best chances of spotting wildlife and to avoid the crowds. Cap off the day with a satisfying meal at Woolsey Creek Bistro and linger on the patio.

Day 5: Revelstoke to Yoho National Park (2 h 30 min)

Canoeing on Emerald Lake
Canoeing on Emerald Lake

Follow the Trans-Canada Highway east through Golden to the town of Field in Yoho National Park. Get ready for a beautiful drive—today is all about the mountains as you wind your way through Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks. Don't hesitate to stop, en route, for various walks and hikes, especially at Giant Cedars Boardwalk. You'll also drive over Rogers Pass, one of British Columbia's famous mountain crossings where, in 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway carved through the Selkirk Mountains and connected the country from coast to coast.

Passing through Golden, this town is famous for white-water rafting and sits at the confluence of the Columbia and Kicking Horse rivers and offers plenty of outdoor adventure for the active traveler.

Just before arriving in Field, take a short detour Emerald Lake, a beautiful turquoise lake where you'll also find Emerald Lake Lodge and a lakeside cafe. Explore the lake by rental canoe or simply relax and take in the beautiful surroundings. If time allows, you can also hike to Takakkaw Falls and bring a  picnic to enjoy at the base of the falls.

Day 6: Explore Yoho National Park

Lake O'Hara
Lake O'Hara

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. You'll have 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). 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.

Note: Private vehicles are not permitted on the Lake O'Hara road. You must either reserve a spot on the Park's Canada shuttle bus (spots fill up months in advance) or walk to the lake (7 miles /11 km).

Day 7: Yoho National Park to Canmore (1 h 15 min)

The town of Canmore near Banff National Park
The town of Canmore near Banff National Park

Leaving Field, it's just over an hour's drive to Canmore through some more of the spectacular scenery of the Canadian Rockies. Canmore used to be a mining town but has seen significant growth as a back-up location to the busier (and more touristy) town of Banff. Depending on who you ask, Canmore and its surroundings are arguably more beautiful and you'll be closer to Calgary for your onward journey.

Driving time (Field to Canmore): 1 hour, 15 minutes (62 miles / 100 km)

Day 8: Day Hikes in Kananaskis Country

Rawson and Kananaskis Lakes
Rawson and Kananaskis Lakes

Kananaskis Country is a region south of Canmore that encompasses 10 provincial parks in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Overlooked by international visitors, this area is held dear by local residents given its lack of crowds, more pristine trails, and equally stunning vistas compared to Banff National Park.

From Canmore, follow the scenic Smith Dorrien Trail (gravel highway) into the heart of Smith-Dorrien Valley and make your way to the trailhead of your choosing. With several peaks over 10,000 ft (3050 m), there are numerous day hikes to choose from.

Day 9: Canmore to Calgary, Depart (1 h 30 min)

Quiet spot overlooking downtown Calgary
Quiet spot overlooking downtown Calgary

From Canmore, it's a short drive to Calgary's international airport. Be sure to leave ample time in case of traffic and to drop off your rental vehicle. En route look for signage leading you to the airport.

Driving time (Canmore to Calgary International Airport): 1 hour, 30 minutes (75 miles / 120 km)

Map

Map of Vancouver to Calgary Road Trip: Okanagan Valley & Canadian Rockies - 9 Days
Map of Vancouver to Calgary Road Trip: Okanagan Valley & Canadian Rockies - 9 Days