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Are you on the hunt for the best Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary that will take you along the most spectacular places in both British Columbia and Alberta? When planning your own trip feel free to modify our Canadian Rockies itinerary based on the amount of time that you have!
Or maybe you don’t want to spend too much time driving? That’s totally fine as well! Most of our itinerary covers places in the state of Alberta but we chose to fly to and from Vancouver because we absolutely wanted to see killer whales.
I recommend visiting the Canadian Rockies for at least a week, but 2 weeks is way more ideal for a Canadian holiday. And know that no matter how long you choose to spend in this wonderful part of the world you’ll have an absolutely fantastic time!
I did a ton of research while I was planning our very own road trip but one day before we left I discovered that almost all of the hiking trails that I had planned on doing were still completely covered in snow and way too dangerous.
So I pretty much had to wing it but in the end we were able to create an incredibly diverse itinerary that will take you through amazing nature and wildlife sightings like you’ve never experienced before.
Here is our Canadian Rockies road trip guide!
The Ultimate Canadian Rockies 2 Week Road Trip Itinerary
Planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies can feel a little overwhelming sometimes. Especially if it’s your very first time visiting the country the logistics of it all can seem a little daunting.
From figuring out which National Parks to visit to how to get around and where to stay. I will share all of the details of our Canadian Rockies road trip so that if you want you can simply copy paste our itinerary.
Quick facts about our Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary
Starting point – Vancouver. Fly into Vancouver International Airport
End Point – Vancouver. Fly from Vancouver International Airport
Both or one of these can be replaced by Calgary, depending if you want to make it a one way trip.
Mode of transportation – We rented a camper van from Outdoorsy. They are like the AirBnb for campers and RV’s in both Canada and the USA. If you would like your pick up location to be different from your drop off location, this is usually possible at an extra fee.
Best time to plan this trip – Halfway June to end of September
States covered in Canada – British Columbia and Alberta
Parks covered in Canada – Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, Kananaskis Country and Yoho National Park
Duration of itinerary – 2 weeks
Parks Canada Discovery Pass – This allows you entrance to all Parks Canada destinations for the year and is only $145.25 for a family ($72.25 per person).
Best time of the year for a Canadian Rockies road trip
When planning your Canadian Rockies road trip, the time of year that you visit is one of the most important factors to take into consideration. The best time of the year to travel to the Canadian Rockies is summer and early fall.
Winter is not a good idea because a lot of the roads will be closed off due to harsh weather conditions.
Spring can also be very cold and all of the places that are a little higher elevation will still be snowed in or the lakes will still be frozen. This road trip will take you straight through the mountains and that’s not a good idea if all the roads are covered in snow.
The best time to plan a Canadian Rockies road trip is late summer and early fall. By then all of the snow will have melted, the weather will be warm and you’ll be able to enjoy all the activities. Do know that this is also high season and that campings can book up pretty fast during this season.
If you go too late then chances are high that roads will close again because well it can already start snowing in Canada as soon as October.
When to start planning your Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary
How much from before you need to start planning your Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary depends entirely on when exactly you’re planning to go.
If you’re visiting in July and August you’ll have to book your accommodation from before. This won’t give you a ton of flexibility but these two months are peak season for the Canadian Rockies.
When traveling with a camper van make sure to book it in time. Rent an RV or camper through Outdoorsy and you won’t have to worry much about accommodations.
In the peak summer months you will find it very handy to book camp sites in advance, especially in the more popular areas like Banff, Lake Louise or Jasper. All bookings can be made on the Parks Canada Reservation Website.
If camping is not your thing you can find the best accommodations through Booking.com. I’m a big fan of their loyalty program that offers up to 20% booking discount once you reach Genius Level 3. I recommend looking at hotels and B&B’s at least 5 months from before.
When it comes to renting a car I always choose SunnyCars. You can cancel free of charge up to 1 hour before departure and all insurance is included in the price upfront. You don’t need a 4×4 vehicle when exploring the Canadian Rockies.
We planned our trip during the last 2 weeks of June and I arranged our camper van at the start of January. For our camp sites we were able to simply drive up during the day and grab a spot.
Best Canadian Rockies Road Trip Itinerary
Below I’m sharing a suggested itinerary for your Canadian Rockies road trip, based on our own adventure.
Now let’s talk through the day to day itinerary
DAY 1 – VANCOUVER
Fly into Vancouver International Airport and pick up your rental car or camper/RV. From here it’s time to start driving towards Yoho National Park which is about 9 hours driving. After a long flight it’s totally fine if you don’t get a ton of driving done yet today. Just do some basic grocery shopping and drive as far as you can.
You’ll drive along the Trans Canadian Highway 1 towards Kamloops. If you’re traveling with a camper or RV you can find a camp site nearby using the phone app WikiCamps Canada. For our first night we stayed close to Spences Bridge, British Columbia. We found a free camp site, cooked our very first meal and crawled underneath our blankets.
After a 36 hour travel day it didn’t take long before both of us were sound asleep.
DAY 2 – YOHO NATIONAL PARK
Wake up early, grab some breakfast and keep on driving towards Yoho National Park, which sits at the end of British Columbia. On the way you’ll see the scenery changing and once you reach Emerald Lake you’ll be in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. No matter where you look you’ll be surrounded by incredible mountain ranges.
Emerald Lake is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll and can be found after driving up a side road of the TCH near Field. There’s a pretty big parking lot where you can station your car/camper.
💡 TIP – Almost every parking lot is equipped with spaces large enough for RV’s and motorhomes. Our camper from Outdoorsy was still small enough to fit a regular size parking.
We completed the hiking trail around Emerald Lake, which is about 5.2km and has little to no elevation. Pretty much the perfect hike after a long day of driving!
We spent the night at the nearby campsite Kicking Horse Campground. If you want to splurge and stay at an incredible location you should book a night at the Emerald Lake Lodge. Their rooms come with a view over Emerald Lake and the Rocky Mountains.
DAY 3 – BANFF NATIONAL PARK
Rise and shine today because today you’ll visit Moraine Lake at sunrise. Make sure that you arrive 1 hour before sunrise because there’s only one road leading to Moraine Lake and once the parking lot is full this road gets closed off.
❗️2023 UPDATE – As of 2023, Moraine Lake Road will be closed to privately owned vehicles. According to Parks Canada, access to the lake will be by Parks Canada Shuttle, Roam Transit, commercial buses and taxis from June to mid-October.
The trail to the rock pile viewpoint is located on the left once you leave the parking and it takes about 10 minutes to reach the top. It’s easy to find yourself a spot more away from the crowds. Cause no matter what time of day, there will be a lot of other people here.
Drive down to Banff and grab breakfast at Melissa’s Missteak and enjoy the view over the mountains from their second floor. If you’re still tired after this morning grab the best coffee in Banff at Whitebark Cafe and explore the town on foot.
From Banff drive to the nearby Cascade Ponds. Cascade Ponds are a series of ponds that lie under Cascade Mountain and they’re beautiful to visit year round. But in the summer you can hold a bbq here at one of the picnic tables.
The last stop of day 3 of your Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary is Lake Minnewanka and the Lake Minnewanka scenic drive. Hike the shoreline trail for incredible views over the Lake Minnewanka reservoir and its surrounding mountains.
💡 TIP – Since this hike is on the edge of core grizzly territory, there are seasonal restrictions in place. Between July 10 and September 15, cycling is not permitted, hikers must hike in tight groups of 4 or more (carrying bear spray) and dogs are not permitted past the Stewart Canyon Bridge.
The Lake Minnewanka Scenic Road starts close to the Trans Canada Highway exit and it’s a short loop that passes by lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake.
I highly recommend circling this road before sunset or in the early morning the next day for the biggest chance of wildlife sightings. Don’t forget to stop by Two Jack lake for an incredible view over Mount Rundle.
Set up camp at the Two Jack Lakeside Campground. This is a rather popular campground so I suggest checking in at 2pm.
Another option is to stay at Banff. You can stay at one of the most iconic hotels in Canada, the Fairmont Banff Springs or the Mount Royal Hotel, another historic hotel that dates back to 1908 and is located right in the center of Banff.
DAY 4 – LAKE LOUISE
Day 4 of your Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary starts with a drive up to Lake Louise. Start your day early so you can get the most out of your time here. Lake Louise is one of the most iconic places in the Canadian Rockies.
There’s a pretty big parking lot at Lake Louise but during the busiest summer months it can definitely fill up rather fast, especially on the weekend. So make sure to arrive early, that means before 8am to secure yourself a spot. Lake Louise introduced paid parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m during high season. The parking at Lake Louise costs 12.25CAD for a full day of parking per vehicle.
Start your morning by watching the sunrise over Lake Louise and if you’re really lucky (like we were) you can also spot a grizzly bear with her cubs.
By 8am make sure to get in line at the boat dock to be one of the first ones in line to rent a canoe. The dock is run by the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and its open daily in-season from 8.30am to 7pm. The price is 145CAD for 1 hour, which is plenty of time to paddle across the entire lake. It’s definitely not cheap but renting a canoe is definitely one of the top things to do at Lake Louise.
Next up is one of the most fun hikes in the Canadian Rockies, the Little Beehive and Agnes Lake Teahouse. On your way up you’ll first come across Agnes Lake Teahouse where you can grab a cup of their famous tea. Make sure to bring cash with you cause they don’t accept cards.
Afterwards you can continue hiking and after a short burst upwards you’ll reach one of the most spectacular views over Lake Louise and the Canadian Rockies. There are several outlook points at the Little Beehive just be careful when you’re standing close to the edge.
In the evening we’ll drive back down to Banff where you can stay at the same accommodation as the night before. If you want you can drive the Lake Minnewanka Scenic Road again to increase your chances of spotting wildlife.
DAY 5 – KANANASKIS COUNTRY
Kananaskis Country is one of the more remote areas but should definitely be a part of your Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary! To visit Kananaskis Country you’ll need a Kananaskis Conservation Pass ($90/year for 2 vehicles), which can be purchased through the Alberta Parks website. You can also buy a daily pass at $15/day but this only registers 1 vehicle.
We only needed a pass for 2 nights and bought them at the Kananaskis Visitor Information Centre.
💡 TIP – Cell service in Kananaskis Country is pretty much non existent so make sure to download all of your maps and trails from before.
Today we’ll hike the Barrier Lake Trail, one of the very few places in Canada where you’ll find yourself in the Canadian Rockies and also see the prairie.
You can do the trail to the Prairie View Lookout either as an out & back hike or as a loop. I highly recommend doing it as a loop! It will add a couple more kilometers but it’s a lot less dull and you’ll also pass by a waterfall! The total length of the Barrier Lake Trail is 15.4km.
Drive down to the Kananaskis Interlakes Campground, one of the most scenic campgrounds in Kananaskis Country.
We were also greeted by an older female grizzly bear who roams this campground eating flowers wherever she goes.
DAY 6 – KANANASKIS COUNTRY
For your second day in Kananaskis Country you can choose from an abundance of different hikes. there’s the Smutwood Peak Trail, Tent Ridge, Sarrail Ridge or Windtower. We opted for the last one cause at the time of our visit there was still too much snow on the other trails and a high risk for avalanches.
Drive up to Spray Lakes and park at the West Wind Pass Trailhead. Make sure to bring enough layers with you cause even on a sunny day it can get incredibly windy on top of the mountain and the weather can shift in a minute. The hike starts pretty mild and winds up through the forest until you reach the West Wind Pass. For a lot of people this is the end of their hiking journey and while the view from here is already pretty stunning, it’s nothing compared to what you’ll find on top of the mountain!
The path now goes alongside the mountain and for a while it remains flat with some climbing involved. the last part of the hike is another 400 meter climb up on loose gravel rocks. Easy to hike back down but a pain in the ass to hike up. Take small steps and bring hiking sticks with you for some extra support.
Once you’re at the top get ready to enjoy spectacular 360° views!
After your hike get ready to drive back up towards Banff National Park cause tomorrow you’ll drive one of the most scenic roads in the Canadian Rockies!
We camped at the Mosquito Creek Campground, which is really close to Peyto Lake. And no worries, its name is just very unfortunate. You won’t find any more mosquitos here as anywhere else in the Canadian Rockies.
DAY 7 – ICEFIELDS PARKWAY
On day 7 of this Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary you’ll drive one of the most spectacular roads in the entire world. The Icefields Parkway connects Banff National Park with Jasper National Park and with its 232km (144 miles) it’s easy to drive in a single day.
Along the way you’ll have to make several stops cause the Icefields Parkway is dotted with more than 100 ancient glaciers, cascading waterfalls and emerald lakes set in sweeping valleys of thick pine and larch forests.
Below you can find our favorite stops
- Bow Lake
- Peyto Lake
- Mistaya Canyon
- Tangle Creek Falls
- Sunwapta Falls
- Athabasca Falls
After driving the Icefields Parkway you’ll arrive at Jasper National Park where you’ll stay for the next couple of days.
With our camper we chose to stay at the Wapiti Campground. If you’re looking for a hotel then I would either go for the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge or the Pyramid Lake Resort, which gives you an incredible view over one of the most beautiful lakes in the Canadian Rockies.
DAY 8 – JASPER NATIONAL PARK
Start your day early by watching the sunrise over Pyramid Lake, one of the best things to do in Jasper National Park. Head to the wooden bridge that connects the shore to Pyramid Island for one of the best viewpoints.
Next up is the Valley of the Five Lakes Trail, one of the most beautiful and rewarding hikes in Jasper National Park. This easy hike will take you along 5 pristine lakes, one even more beautiful than the other and can be enjoyed by the entire family.
It’s a very popular hike in Jasper National park and the parking lot is located right next to the Icefields Parkway. It’s not the biggest parking lot so I do advise you to arrive before 9am to make sure you can grab a spot!
Next you should head to Downtown Jasper to grab lunch at Jasper Brewing Company.
After lunch it’s time to visit one of the most popular places in Jasper National Park, the Maligne Canyon. Maligne Canyon is the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park, with a depth of more than 50 meters at certain points. You can explore this incredible landmark by crossing 6 bridges built across various points of the canyon. There are several parking lots from where you can start this loop. We started at the fifth bridge which was pretty cool cause that way we saved the best for last! At bridge number 3 you’ll find an impressive waterfall and towards bridge number 2 and 1 the canyon is at its deepest.
Drive back to Jasper and go and grab your canoe gear at Pure Outdoors for tomorrow’s adventure! It’s best to contact them a couple of days from before and if you want to replicate our itinerary you need to ask them for a 24 hour rental that starts the day before at 7pm. Renting a canoe for 24 hours will cost you €100.
Drive up to Maligne Lake and Pure Outdoors will make sure your canoe is already there. All you have to do is unlock it.
Watch the sunset over Maligne Lake and park at the parking lot next to the dock. If you’re with a camper you can still catch a few hours of sleep before getting up in the middle of the night.
DAY 9 – SPIRIT ISLAND
So the goal for today is to reach Spirit Island by sunrise! Spirit Island is one of the most iconic landmarks in Canada’s Rocky Mountains and the only way to reach it is by boat. Everyday at 9am overpriced tourist boats head out to see it but we will already be there at sunrise!
To reach Spirit Island you’ll have to canoe 14km one way which takes 3.5 to 4 hours depending on your skills and physique. Don’t do this adventure on your own, make sure there’s two of you in the canoe. We timed our start 4.5 hours before sunrise which meant we had to start paddling at 1am.
Once you reach Spirit Island drag your canoe on the shore across from it and enjoy the quiet and solitude while watching one of the most incredible moment s from this Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary.
After 2.5 hours we decided to paddle back so we weren’t bothered too much by the currents created by the tourist boats.
After arriving back to your camper/car you can drive back to Jasper to indulge in some much deserved breakfast or lunch. We tried to stay awake as long as possible afterwards on our campsite but by 6pm we were sound asleep that day.
DAY 10 – JASPER NATIONAL PARK
Your last day in Jasper National Park is another hiking day! But with this hike the reward versus the endurance is definitely worth it!
Drive up to the Miette Hotsprings to hike the Sulphur Skyline Trail. I really enjoyed this hike cause the elevation goes gradually and at the very end there’s a bit of a steep climb. But by then you are already above the tree line and you can enjoy the incredible views while hiking up.
And do you want to know the best part? After completing this hike you can take a dip in the Miette Hotsprings.
Since this will be your last day in the province of Alberta and tomorrow will be a long driving day, make sure to also rest enough. We spent the afternoon at Jasper Brewing Company before spending our last night at the Wapiti Campground.
DAY 11 – DRIVE FROM JASPER TO JOFFRE PROVINCIAL PARK
Today you’ll be doing a lot of driving, especially if you also want to see some of the most incredible places in British Columbia.
Make sure to stop by the Mount Robson Visitor Centre for one of the most incredible views over Mount Robson.
Along the way you can also make a small detour to the Helmcken waterfall and later on grab lunch at Kamloops at either the Sandbar Grill or at the Red Beard Cafe and try their hamburger with Brie cheese.
Our final stop of the day is one of the campsites closest to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. We opted for the Rogers Creek Rec Site. If you’re looking for a hotel in the area the closest town is Pemberton.
DAY 12 – JOFFRE LAKES PROVINCIAL PARK
During this hike near Pemberton you’ll pass by all 3 lakes and all of them are vibrant turquoise in color. That is if the sun is shining, otherwise they’ll look more emerald. You’ll pass by the first lake after only 200 meter into the hike but after that it’s a bit of a climb up. My favorite was lake number 2 and from there it’s only a short hike up to lake number 3 which will also take you across a couple of bridges and alongside a waterfall.
I recommend starting your hike in the early morning since it’s a very popular route.
💡 TIP – A free Day-Use Pass is required to hike this trail during high season. Reservations can be made with BC Parks.
After spending the morning at Joffre Lakes it’s time to drive down to Vancouver. A fun activity to do is visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, one of the most popular activities in Vancouver. Tickets are 63CAD, which gives you access to all park attractions.
In Vancouver we stayed at the Capilano River RV Park, a big difference from all of the scenic campgrounds from before but your best option if you also want to visit Vancouver with a camper.
If you’re looking for a hotel in Vancouver then the area of Downtown Vancouver is a really good option.
DAY 13 – VANCOUVER
Start your last day of this epic Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary with one of the best activities to do in Vancouver. Head over to Granville Island where you can board the Prince of Whales which will take you towards the area of Vancouver Island to go whale watching.
🐳 This is the exact whale watching tour from Vancouver that we booked – Vancouver, BC: Whale Watching Tour
During this tour you’ll have a guaranteed chance of seeing killer whales, also known as orca’s.
If you’re up for one more hike then I highly recommend driving up to Cypress Mountain to hike up to St Marks Summit. This 11km round trip will take you through a beautiful forest trail and at the end offers you an incredible view over Lion’s Bay.
On your drive down make a quick stop at Cypress Lookout to watch the sunset over Vancouver. If you’re in the mood for good food I highly recommend booking a table at either Miku Vancouver or Cardero’s Restaurant
DAY 14 – VANCOUVER
If you have a little time before your flight leaves this is an ideal time to simply wander around Vancouver.
Below you’ll find some of my favorite things to do in Vancouver:
- Wander around Queen Elizabeth Park
- Visit the Vancouver Art Gallery
- Enjoy Vancouver’s Beaches
- Exploring Historic Gastown
Afterwards it’s time to drop off the camper or rental car and checkin for your flight back home.
I hope you’ve found this 2 week Canadian Roadtrip Itinerary useful and that you’ll have an amazing time exploring this beautiful region.
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.