One of the best ways to see the most beautiful parts of western Canada is by taking a Calgary to Vancouver road trip through the winding mountain roads.
As you make your way through Canada’s landscape, you’ll pass through trendy urban neighborhoods, rolling foothills under never-ending blue skies, vast and jagged rocky mountains, wineries and vineyards, river valleys and gorges, lush green groves and gigantic cedar trees, deserts and the crystal clear freshwater lakes.
Trust me on this one, it will be one of the most scenic road trips full of adventure you’ll ever take.
If you want sea views and summit scenery, you won’t find a better Canadian road trip!
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What are Your travel Options Between Calgary and Vancouver?
One of the questions I get asked a lot is if Calgary is near Vancouver. If you take a quick look at a map, Calgary may seem somewhat close to Vancouver. In reality, it’s not!
As the crow flies it’s a pretty straight shot, but the rocky mountains provide a bit of a driving obstacle, albeit a beautiful one!
If you drive straight and only stop for gas and a couple bathroom breaks, it’s going to take you 12 hours. But that doesn’t account for traffic congestion or construction, which can occur on any given part of your road trip.
That’s why it’s best to take your time and enjoy the scenic road trip from Calgary to Vancouver (or vice versa)!
This road trip takes you through two provinces. You will start in Alberta and end in British Columbia.
You have a few different options to travel from Calgary to Vancouver on Canadian highways. If you’re renting a car, I would suggest going for a mid-size sedan or something with a little more power than a compact car.
The reason I suggest this is that you can get altitude very quickly through the mountain passes and it helps to have a little extra boost to keep your speed up.
Or you can rent an RV or a motorhome or a camper van and camp as you make your way from Calgary to Vancouver. Doing this can be a super immersive way to see Canada’s wild beauty up close and personal.
There tons of amazing campgrounds along the way and will allow you to make the most of your Calgary to Vancouver road trip.
Outdoorsy has one of the largest selections of RVs and campers to rent. It’s basically like Airbnb but for RV rentals!
How Many Days do You Need for a Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip
Taking 2 full weeks and slowly meandering your way from Calgary to Vancouver would be the ultimate experience. This will allow you to spend a couple of nights in each point of interest. You can still see so many things in 10 days or even a week.
If you take less than a week, you’ll still be able to see the highlights, like the major sites in Banff National Park (including Lake Louise), Yoho National Park and some of the great lakes and wineries of the Okanagan, but you won’t be able to cover everything.
Looking for Alberta specific road trips? Try these 6 Iconic and Unique Road Trips Through Alberta
Road Trip Budget Considerations
The nice thing about this wide open road trip itinerary is that you can experience this trip on a variety of budgets. While Canada isn’t cheap, it’s a great time to visit if you’re from the USA with the exchange rate in your favor right now.
The cheapest way to do this road trip would be to drive in your own vehicle (or a rental) and tent camp the entire way. Most campground sites without power will range anywhere from $20-30 per night.
A rental car will run you anywhere from $30 to $50 per day and try to book a rental that includes unlimited mileage. Some rental car companies limit your included mileage to about 200 miles per day, so be sure to inquire when you’re booking!
As Canadian road trips are a popular summer travel activity, fuel costs seem to be higher in the summer. Websites like Gasbuddy.com will help you find out fuel prices at nearby gas stations, but as a general guideline, it’s going to cost you $40-70 USD per tank of gas.
A Calgary to Vancouver road trip will likely yield 2 tanks of gas minimum.
Don’t forget to pack the 16 most important items to bring on a road trip, either. There’s no worse feeling than thinking you forgot something!
What can you see and do on your Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip?
Now, instead of writing this post as an hour-by-hour itinerary, I’m providing you with all your options. Since there are so many awesome things to do as you make your way from Calgary to Vancouver, you can pick and choose your own adventures!
While there are a few different route variations to take on your road trip, the most direct is the Trans Canada Highway, which is Highway 1.
In this itinerary you’ll be following Highway 1 until Sicamous and then head south on Highway 97A toward Kelowna and the heart of Canada’s wine country, the Okanagan Valley.
And of course, if your starting point is Vancouver, you can follow this exact itinerary in reverse for an equally awesome Vancouver to Calgary road trip!
Whether you fly into Calgary and rent a car or RV, there are some great things to check out in the city.
The Calgary Zoo has pandas from China right now! This is a massive zoo, so you’ll need a day here, or half a day if you’re fast.
Check out the living open air historical museum in Heritage Park Historical Village.
Spend a sunny afternoon walking around the funky neighborhood of Inglewood. There are tons of cute coffee shops and great local artisan shopping. 9th Ave SE is the name of the main street where you’ll find all the old buildings that have been modernized.
Try the Kensington and East Village neighborhoods for breweries, urban architecture and artsy vibes.
Another beautiful spot for an outdoor stroll is the Eau Claire neighborhood alongside the Bow River.
The Peace Bridge is a beautiful spot for photos and amazing views of the downtown skyline and the river grounds are perfect for a mid-afternoon picnic or walk through the market.
Or if you’re up for some adventure, head over to Canada Olympic Park. This is the site that hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics and is now a summer outdoor adventure playground!
Try the summer Bobsleigh ride (yes-ride down a track on a real bobsled), get big air on the zipline or try an eight story platform!
For more adventure and rides, check out Calaway Park, Western Canada’s Largest Outdoor Family Amusement Park.
Downtown Calgary has lots of great restaurants, patios and shops. Stephen Avenue is the pedestrian only street that features free live music in the summer. And for the best rooftop patio in town, check out National on 8th.
For a great dinner, walk over to the Last Best and try the smoked bone marrow. Don’t forget the secret menu item if you order this though.
Ask the server for the traditional luge shot! They’ll bring you a shot of whiskey to pour down the cavity of the bone to pour straight into your mouth. Sound weird and messy? Yup!
But the sweetness of the bourbon mixed with the salty bone marrow juice will definitely please your taste buds.
Where to stay in Calgary
If you’re planning to stay a night or two in Calgary, I recommend a spot either downtown or close to the airport. The Fairmont Palliser has surprisingly reasonable rates for being a Fairmont property in the downtown core!
Or the Hotel Clique Calgary Airport is a great spot near the airport. The rooftop hot tubs are a cool spot to watch planes land and take off!
And finally, Aloft Calgary University is a great central location as it’s right off of Highway 1, the trans-Canada highway which will take you straight to Banff.
Oh, and by the way if you really want to impress the locals, some of us affectionately call it ‘Cowtown.’ This might sound weird, but it makes sense! Calgary is located in the heartland of beef-cattle producing farms (which makes Alberta renowned for it’s Grad A beef). And the proper way to pronounced Calgary is by saying it this way: “Cal-gree.”
Your first stop on your Calgary to Vancouver road trip will be in Canmore, Alberta. This adorable mountain town is like Banff’s little sister. Its located outside of Banff National Park so you won’t need to pay park fees yet.
Stop for some local shopping in the downtown core and have a pint or a bite to eat at the Grizzly Paw Pub. If coffee’s what you need, Blondie’s Cafe is the place to get it.
Or head to Quarry Lake Park for mountain views and a picnic or a pit stop overlooking the lake. It’s also a great spot for a break if you’ve got a dog–it’s also an off leash dog park.
On a hot summer day, it’s also a perfect spot for a refreshing dip in the water! Grassi Lakes Trail is also another great spot for epic views.
There are so many hiking options here as well. Ha Ling Peak is an amazing hike. If you want to tackle this hike, plan for about 4 hours round trip.
Banff National Park
Next stop is making your way to the Town of Banff and Banff National Park. Plan to spend 2 or 3 days here and enjoy the main street shopping with cascading mountains as your backdrop.
Check out some local hikes, hit the hotsprings, chase down some waterfalls (like the famous Johnston Canyon), take a ride in a gondola for summit views and check out the perfect turquoise water of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
Check today’s best deals in Banff National Park on hotels, cabins and mountain lodges here!
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Yoho National Park
This section will be your next stretch on your road trip from Calgary to Vancouver.
This is where you’ll be traveling deep through the rocky mountains, so enjoy the stunning views in this epic portion of your road trip.
I highly recommend going canoeing on Emerald Lake for the perfect rocky mountain experience. Lake Louise is famous for this, but Emerald Lake is a better option and a lesser-known hidden gem.
The water is that perfect glacier turquoise color and if you’re there after 5 p.m. when all the day-trippers leave, you’ll have the lake all to yourself.
As you leave Banff and head toward Lake Louise, be sure to stop off at Morant’s Curve. This is a great vista point to not only stretch your legs, but watch for epic views of the trains passing through the mountain side.
If you’ve ever seen a postcard or a photo of a train passing through Banff National Park, it was likely taken here.
Continue following Highway 1 and you’ll leave Banff National Park and enter Yoho National Park in the province of British Columbia. Keep traveling until you reach the spiral tunnels viewpoint.
This is the fascinating spot where you can view the amazing engineering from the early 1900s in which the railway was built in a spiral pattern through the mountains so that the trains could make the turn.
There’s a parking lot with washrooms and interpretive signage to learn all about the construction of this engineering marvel!
Shortly after you pass Field, BC, you can check out the Natural Bridge. This is a really neat spot where the Kicking Horse River has slowly carved its way through the rock to create a natural bridge.
And even more waterfalls can be found here as well.
As we exit the province of Alberta and enter the province of British Columbia, you’ll be welcomed by the town of Golden; a hot spot for outdoor adventure. This is the place to go white water rafting if you’re after an adrenaline rush.
Check out Alpine Rafting on the Kicking Horse River. Or head to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort for downhill mountain biking. And definitely stop by Kicking Horse Cafe for some kick ass coffee.
Travel Tip: If you love hot springs and adorable mountain alpine villages, take a small 50-minute detour and head south to Radium Hot Springs.
In my opinion this hot spring is much better than the Upper Hot Springs in Banff. So if you loved the one in Banff, you’ll love this one.
As an added bonus, this highway has tons of wildlife viewing opportunities. Elk and bighorn sheep frequent this area.
Be sure to stop for the best Austrian food you’ll have in Canada at the Old Salzburg restaurant.
As you make your way toward Revelstoke, there are a couple cool things to see along the highway.
You can stop off at Canyon Hot Springs where you can dip in the springs and even camp here or rent a wood cabin.
Stop off at the Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail for a quick 10-minute jaunt to stretch your legs and marvel at the gigantic trees.
Revelstoke is another great little mountain town and a perfect pit stop on your Calgary to Vancouver road trip.
If you’ve loved the train viewpoints thus far on the trip, then you might as well spend an hour at the Revelstoke Railway Museum!
Or find some more waterfalls like Begbie Falls or the falls at Moses Creek Community Park.
Definitely head to Revelstoke Mountain Resort for a gondola ride up the mountain and then zip down the mountain on the alpine coaster!
As you leave Revelstoke, the next cool spot to stop at is the Enchanted Forest. Here you can walk through the cedar forest and find hundreds of homemade gnomes and fairy tale scenes!
There are even cute little ponds where you can rent a small row boat and reenact that adorable scene from the Notebook!
Whether you’re on a trip with the whole family or just you and your spouse, it’s an awesome place to wander through for a couple hours.
The Malakwa Suspension bridge is also worth a stop for some scenic views. At one point there were rope swings hanging off the bridge for the more adventurous spirits. Obviously approach any rope swing at your own risk.
If you’re camping or traveling in an RV, the Crazy Creek Campground is a great place to stay. Here you can check out the hot pools and the nearby waterfalls!
>> Read More about 19 Things to Do in Revelstoke all year round
The Shuswap Region
Next up on your Calgary to Vancouver road trip is the Shuswaps (pronounced shoe-shwop). You’ve now left the mountains and the alpine vistas and are entering into the lush warmer climate.
Sicamous and Salmon Arm are great places to stop, either for the day or a couple nights. The lakes here are warm and the area is best known for houseboating!
This is about the halfway point on your road trip and what better way to experience this gorgeous part of Canada than to spend a night or two on the open water!
As you pass through Sicamous, a great spot to stop just off the highway is the ‘Sicamous Lookout.’ This stunning viewpoint has a wooden platform to overlook the valley below.
Head south on Highway 97A toward Enderby. Enderby is a quaint little town and a perfect place to add to your road trip itinerary. The Enderby Cliffs are a remarkable rock formation in which you can access the summit via a moderate 2 hour hike.
Or you can spend an afternoon floating down the Shuswap River.
From the riverside park you can rent tubes, float down the river for a couple of hours and end at a sandy beach where a bus will pick you up and bring you back to your car!
And in the evening, go retro and enjoy a movie at the Starlight Drive-In theatre!
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Second Half of Your Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip
The Okanagan Valley: Wine Country!
I suggest continuing to head south through the Okanagan to experience one of Canada’s best wine regions. You’ll notice on Google Maps that the most direct route for a Calgary to Vancouver road trip would be to continue on Highway 1 (the trans-Canada highway) but traveling through the Okanagan is much more scenic in my opinion.
After you leave Enderby, be sure to stop in Armstrong for a cheese tasting! This town is home to Armstrong Cheese, one of the biggest cheese producers in Canada.
Not much further down the highway is the Log Barn! This is a super fun 30-minute stop where you can feed goats and chickens and stock up on fresh homemade treats like cherry pie and other baked goods, specialty barbecue sauces and the best smoked jerky!
Next up is Vernon! Head downtown and go antique shopping! There are tons of little stores full of treasures. Or spend the day at Silverstar Mountain and try your hand at downhill mountain biking.
Alternatively, if biking isn’t your thing, there are plenty of hikes to enjoy the local scenery and then grab a bite to eat or a beverage at any of the colorful mountain lodge restaurants.
You can head to Davidson’s Orchards which is an awesome family run farm where there’s a fresh produce market everyday, a great little restaurant that serves the best pie, tractor rides for the kids and tons more!
Then spend 30 minutes to an hour at Planet Bee Honey Farm (just down the road from Davidson’s). Here you get to learn all about the fascinating world of the honeybee (including watching how a real beehive works through the indoor glass observatory).
Try fresh made honey and mead (honey wine) they make on site!
As you continue to make your way south, make sure you plan a stop at Kangaroo Creek Farm. Yes, you heard that right!
Just outside of Kelowna you can play with kangaroos, wallabys, capybaras, sugar gliders, pot-bellied pigs, emus and goats!
Continue on to Kelowna, which is the largest city in the Okanagan and is a wine lovers paradise! Tour famous wineries at your leisure or go on a wine tasting tour. Sample fresh local brews at BNA Brewing Co.
Leave your vertigo at home and capture majestic cliffside views of vineyards from the longest suspension bridge in North America. Hike up Knox Mountain. Chill with the locals at Hot Sands beach or the other 29 beaches in the city!
Enjoy a drink on a waterfront patio. Share a romantic dinner at one of the many farm-to-table experiences. Or go guilt-free and dive into a scrumptious burger at the all-vegan and plant-based Naked Cafe.
Carry onward to the Naramata Bench. Here you’ll find dozens of wineries, orchards and beaches that surround the adorable little village of Naramata.
For the ultimate wine tasting vacation, spend a dreamy day along the Naramata Bench and you will be wondering if you’ve been transported to Napa Valley or Tuscany!
I highly recommend staying somewhere along the Naramata Bench for at least a couple nights, or more if you have the time. We rented this adorable vintage vineyard farmhouse.
It was the perfect spot to explore the wineries all day long, and then comeback to our own patio and enjoy some of our purchases overlooking the vineyards!
By this point, you might be in need of some float time in a gorgeous blue lake, so take a quick detour to Kentucky Alleyne Provincial Park. This lake is pure turquoise color and has some serious Caribbean vibes.
Grab your unicorn floatie or kayak and cool down. There’s a great campground here too.
Continue south on Highway 97 toward Penticton for more beaches and peaches! Pick fresh fruit like cherries, nectarines and peaches at the dozens of local orchards and fruit stands.
Or float down the water channel on a tube in the middle of the city!
You can also go for a hike or scenic bike ride through the Kettle Valley Railway trail system–an old railway system that’s been converted to a network of trails for pedestrians, equestrian riding and bike riding.
And if you’re up for it, visit the best nude beach in Canada! But don’t worry, there’s one side separated by a parking lot where nudity isn’t allowed if you’re not into that. Either way, the water is warm and the sand is soft! 3 Mile Beach is located about 5 minutes from downtown Penticton.
Try this gorgeous side trip: Kelowna to Osoyoos Road Trip Itinerary
We’re now getting closer to the last portion of the Calgary to Vancouver road trip as we enter the Similkameen Valley and all the rugged outdoor beauty that comes with it! Head west on highway 3A and choose your own adventure.
Definitely stop for a plunge or a float at Bromley Rock Provincial Park. Access here is great as it’s right off the highway. Don’t miss the Granite Creek ghost town for some fascinating local history.
Hope and Southern British Columbia
As you make your way toward the town of Hope, check out the Othello Tunnels where you can hike through the discontinued railway tunnels and cross an impressive canyon.
You’ll feel like you’re in a completely different world. And for all the action movie buffs out there, you’ll be pleased to know that Rambo was filmed at the Othello Tunnels and Chapman Gorge!
Stop by the visitor information center in town to grab your self-guided walking tour of Rambo filming locations.
Take an airtram over a gushing river gorge at Hell’s Gate. If you’re up for a small but rewarding detour, head north to the Ladner Creek Trestle for a forested hike into the woods to view more of Canada’s railway history.
The summer often yields wild strawberries to pick in the area!
Continue west and walk through the woods to the accessible waterfall of Bridal Falls. Then stop for a relaxing soak at Harrison Hot Springs or explore the outdoor playground and enjoy the many hikes and abundant agritourism experiences.
Mosey down to Cultus Lake for a refreshing dip in the warm water. Spend some time in Abbotsford touring the many berry patches or tulip fields if you’re there in late Spring.
Finally, we’ve reached the end of your Calgary to Vancouver road trip (or beginning if you’re following the road trip itinerary in the reverse).
This bustling coastal city offers something for everyone, so you should plan to spend at least a couple days in Vancouver.
Take some time to peruse the eclectic and vibrant neighborhoods. Stroll through Stanley Park or go for a jog along the Seawall, the place of inspiration for many artists and musicians.
Or find the film locations of your favorite movie or tv show as tons of popular series and are filmed in and around Vancouver. Or take a ride up Grouse Mountain on the open-air roof of the gondola!
And for a quieter and free alternative to the Capilano Suspension Bridge, head up to Lynn Canyon Park for the equally beautiful suspension bridge among the mossy trees and waterfalls.
And if you’re up for more road trip fun, drive the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler, which has to many things to see and do along the way. I’m talking lighthouses, scenic viewpoints and waterfalls.
I like to use Booking.com to find the best hotel deals on hotels as you can easily search by neighborhoods. Check today’s best prices here!
Whether you start in Calgary or in Vancouver, this is one road trip you won’t be asking “are we there yet?”
P.S. Don’t forget your essential travel items!
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