Seattle to Banff Road Trip: 11 Best Stops + 2 Itineraries

Seattle to Banff Road Trip
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If you’re thinking about doing a Seattle to Banff road trip, I’m here to tell you it’s completely worth the long drive. Banff is hands-down one of the most jaw-dropping spots in Canada – imagine yourself in a landscape filled with enormous mountains, surreal lakes, and other spectacular natural features. While I’ve been to many parts of Canada over the years, Banff really is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever been to.

I’ve done a ton of road trips starting from Seattle, and this one’s a favorite because you get to cruise through some of the best parts of British Columbia along the way. I’m talking about killer views, from forests and coastlines to mountains, that make you pull over just to snap a picture. It’s not just about getting from Seattle to Banff; it’s about all the cool stuff you’ll see and do along the way.

In this article, I’ll share all my go-to spots on this drive. Looking for the perfect overlook for that epic photo? I’ve got you. Want to know where to grab a good bite that’s not just another fast-food joint? Yep, I’ve got that too. Need a comfy but affordable hotel for the night? I’ve got recommendations. Basically, if you want to know how to really enjoy the Seattle to Banff drive, stick around.

Tips for a Seattle to Banff Drive

Seattle Road Trip

As with any road trip, there are a few key things to remember before turning on the ignition. Here are those tips.

How Far is a Seattle to Banff Road Trip?

There is more than one route to Banff from Seattle. The shortest route is on the Trans-Canada Highway, where you can stop at national parks, natural hot springs, and cities.

If you take this non-stop road trip from Seattle to Banff, be prepared to sit for 11 hours at minimum. The drive is about 600 miles and can vary in length depending on what roads you take and how many stops you make.

The second route is via I-90 E. This route takes you to national parks, cities, waterfalls, and alpine forests. It’s about 650 miles and takes slightly longer at 12 hours without stops.

What’s the Best Time of Year to Do a Seattle to Banff Road Trip?

The good news is that this trip is beautiful year-round and is a great road trip idea for couples.

You can expect clear skies and lush scenery throughout the journey in the summer. Banff and Seattle also have a daily high of over 70°F and cool evenings. This is ideal if you plan on doing a lot of hikes, canoeing, or water activities in general.

In winter, the whole area sees snowfall, and the Canadian Rockies are breathtaking when covered in snow. Of course, you’ll have to remember the freezing temperatures when planning a winter trip.

Banff can reach temperatures of -40°F on its coldest days. Travel in winter if you’re hoping to get a chance to ski, snowboard, or go on sleigh rides.

Can You Drive From Seattle to Banff in One Day?

Yes, you can. However, it would require more than one driver as the total drive time can take up to 13 hours, depending on your route. This turnaround also depends on whether you drive non-stop.

So, while it is possible, it’s not recommended. The best part about a road trip is the stops you make along the way, so, if you can, try to split up the journey into multiple days. 

Seattle to Banff Road Trip Map

Here are the places you’ll stop during this Seattle to Banff Road drive.

Seattle to Banff Road Trip Itinerary

Mount Rainier

Here’s a quick list of where I recommend stopping on a Banff road trip from Seattle:

Route 1:

  • North Cascades National Park
  • Vancouver
  • Whistler
  • Kamloops
  • Okanagan Valley
  • Revelstoke
  • Lake Louise

Route 2:

  • Mount Rainier National Park
  • Spokane
  • Glacier National Park
  • Calgary

How to Drive From Seattle to Banff

Trans Canada Highway

Need help deciding which route to take? Below, I’ll break down everything you need to know.

Scenic Route

As mentioned, following the Trans-Canada Highway is the fastest route to Banff at only 11 hours of driving time. Adding a few pit stops along the way can make the course much longer.

This route is the most scenic, with stops along North Cascades National Park, Vancouver, Whistler, and Lake Louise. This brings the total driving time to about 18 hours.

I’d recommend breaking up this trip into two to three days to get the most enjoyment out of your time.

Fastest Route

The I-90 E route will take roughly 12 to 13 hours to complete. This is the fastest route when driving from Seattle to Banff, with stops that include Mount Ranier National Park, Spokane, and Glacier National Park.

This should bring the total driving time to about 17 hours, and, once again, I’d recommend it to be done over two to three days.

Best Places to Stop on a Seattle to Banff

North Cascades National Park

Make your trip unforgettable with these beautiful stops along the way.

Route #1 Trans-Canada Highway

This is the most scenic route on a road trip to Banff from Seattle.

1. Seattle, Washington

chihuly glass house

Starting in Seattle means you’ll have a wide variety of things to do before the trip begins. I suggest you start early and pick up breakfast at Pike Place Market, which opens at 9 a.m. Here, you’ll have a variety of treats and coffee to choose from.

Since I’m a Seattle native, I could recommend dozens of local coffee shops to go to, but some of my favorites include the following:

  • Victrola Coffee Roasters
  • Storyville Coffee (the Pike Place location is particularly scenic)
  • Cherry Street Coffee House

If you’re not from the city, consider taking some time to explore on your Seattle to Banff road trip. The Space Needle offers panoramic views of Seattle. The beautiful glass museum, Chihuly Garden and Glass, also sits next to it and deserves a visit. Carve out two to three hours in your itinerary to enjoy both places.

2. North Cascades National Park, Washington

north cascades national park

To get to North Cascades National Park from Seattle, you’ll take the I-5 N, turn onto WA-530 E, and finally take the North Cascades Highway, which is about a two-hour drive.

North Cascades National Park is often called the ‘American Alps’ because of its jagged peaks and alpine lakes. Summer is the peak hiking season, with trail options ranging from under an hour to full-day hikes. I also love coming here in the fall because hikes like Blue Lake and Heather-Maple Pass are stunning when covered with fall foliage.

There are countless waterfalls and lakes you can see among the pines. If you’re lucky, you might see a handful of the park’s 300 glaciers if you’re lucky. Even in summer, some highly elevated mountain tops have snow.

You’ll also love going on the drive from Seattle to Yellowstone if you like national parks.

You should note that most of the North Cascades Highway closes from about October until May, so keep that in mind when planning your trip.

Note: Entrance to the North Cascades National Park is completely free!

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3. Vancouver, British Columbia

vancouver to banff drive

It’s another three-hour drive from North Cascades National Park to Vancouver, so I’d recommend calling it a day here on your Seattle road trip to Banff.

I have already covered a Vancouver to Banff road trip itinerary, but here are the highlights. First on the list is a visit to the 405-hectare Stanley Park, filled with towering Sequoia trees and totem poles from the First Nation people.

The Vancouver Aquarium, Gastown District, and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park are also worth a visit. A great way to end the weekend on summer nights is to visit the Richmond Night Market or Granville Street in winter for lively nightlife and street food.

Don’t even get me started on the food in Vancouver – the last time I came here, I essentially ate and drank my way through the city. I recommend Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar for gastropub food and The Magnet if you want a huge variety of local beers to choose from.

4. Whistler, British Columbia

Vancouver to Whistler is only a short hour and a half drive away via BC-99 N and my favorite stop on the Seattle to Banff road trip. The village is known for its snow-capped peaks, sparkling lakes, and lush alpine hiking trails. 

This town has the largest ski resort in Canada — Whistler Blackcomb. The resort has many snow-centered activities to enjoy in winter, from skiing and ice fishing to bungee jumping and dog sledding.

I’ve been to Whistler dozens of times over the years and have also been here in every season. While winter is popular for skiing, I actually prefer the other seasons, so it’s easier to get around, and there’s more to do outside. 

In summer, Whistler comes alive with blooming wildflowers and roaming wildlife. Once again, you‘ll find many outdoor activities here. You can swim on the small beaches of the resort, hike alongside 900-year-old trees, or go boating to escape the heat.

5. Kamloops, British Columbia

kamloops

Whistler to Kamloops is about a four-hour drive via the BC-99 N. The number one thing to do in Kamloops is to visit BC Wildlife Park to learn more about Canada’s varied wildlife, from bears to cougars.

As the temperatures drop, the city turns into a winter wonderland, with skiing and sleigh rides available at Sun Peaks Resort and Harper Mountain. For a culture trip, why not take a street art tour of the city’s many colorful portraits?

Alternatively, you can take another kind of culture trip and do a wine tasting at Monte Creek Winery before having lunch at The Terrace Restaurant.

6. Revelstoke, British Columbia

revelstoke bc

One of the best things to do in Revelstoke is visit its hot springs — especially after that long car drive. To get to Revelstoke, Stay on the Trans-Canada highway, and you should reach the city within two and a half hours.

There are a few hot springs about an hour out of town, but I recommend Crazy Creek Resorts on the way to Revelstoke. This hot spring offers remote relaxation among the alpine trees in mineral-rich pools. 

You’ll need to buy single-entry or day passes at the gate to enter. If you enjoy various activities, Crazy Creek Resorts also has hiking trails, a suspension bridge, and biking available.

7. Lake Louise and Banff National Park, Alberta

Lake Louise is a village just off Banff, about four hours from Revelstoke. You can reach it by staying on the Trans-Canada Highway. A few feet after the Golden Visitor Center, you’ll have to turn right onto BC-95 and then AB-93.

You’ve probably already seen images of this emerald lake without even knowing it. The crystal waters reflect the Rockies in a spectacular show resembling a painting. 

In winter, Lake Louise freezes over, making it the perfect place to enjoy ice skating, ice hockey, and other chilly activities. There’s even an ice bar on the lake that serves decadent hot chocolate. 

The lake typically defrosts by the first of June, and that’s when people gather again to enjoy water activities like a morning canoe ride.

Banff is a very short 38-minute drive from Lake Louise to Banff National Park (more about this below), and you may want to spend a few days in the area when visiting Banff from Seattle. 

Route #2 I 90 E

This is the second route you can take to reach Banff. While a bit less scenic, there are still tons to see.

1. Seattle, Washington

downtown seattle

If you’re taking this route to Banff, I would still recommend getting something to eat in the city. I suggest buying something to include in your picnic basket to enjoy in Mount Rainier National Park.

Pike Place, once again, remains a winner in finding a variety of treats and snacks to add to your lunch. I recommend getting bread at Three Girls Bakery, cured meats at DeLaurenti Food & Wine, or ready-packed meals at Michou Deli for a no-fuss lunch.

2. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

rainier hiking

Roughly two hours from Seattle is the dormant stratovolcano — Mount Rainier. You can enter the park for $30 per car.

The park has so much to see, so don’t be surprised if you can’t see everything in one day. The top thing to do here is, of course, hike these spectacular trails. The easiest but prettiest trails are the Silver Trails Loop and Myrtle Falls, which take you to cascading waterfalls.

Some of the best sunset spots to enjoy here are Chinook Pass, Sourdough Ridge, and Reflection Lakes. Chinook Pass comes alive in summer with multicolored wildflowers, while Sourdough Ridge is most beautiful in winter. By then, the mountains peaking through at the back have a beautiful blanket of snow covering them.

Make sure to buy your America the Beautiful pass ahead of time so you can easily enter all the national parks for a low price.

3. Spokane, Washington

spokane falls

It is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Mount Rainier National Park to Spokane via the I-82 and I-90. You make a few stops along the way to stretch your legs, like Dick and Jane’s Spot. 

This quirky spot in Ellensburg is just two hours away. The art studio is filled with unusual sculptures and super-friendly owners. Almost every inch of this house is a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns. It’s so eye-catching you can even see it from the side of the road.

Once you’ve reached Spokane, you can check into your hotel and go downtown to visit the city’s urban park — Riverfront Park. Here, you can enjoy the last rays of sunlight and explore over 30 sculptures, including the iconic ‘Garbage Goat.’ 

Not too far from here is the Wonder Market Food Hall, where you can pick up something to eat. If you want a more substantial sit-down meal, I recommend the fine-dining restaurant Wild Sage Bistro.

4. Glacier National Park, Montana

Spokane To Glacier drive

Stay on I-90 E for about four hours to reach your next destination. I’ve covered multiple stops you can take on a Spokane to Glacier National Park road trip. The top places you absolutely cannot miss are the quaint towns of Lake Coeur d’Alene, Wallace, and Columbia Falls.

The park has seven entrances, but taking the I-90 E will take you to the park’s western entrance. This is on Going-to-the-Sun Road — the most scenic route, so take your time snapping pictures and taking it all in.

I recommend you take easy trails like Avalanche Lake Trail and Aster Falls as an introduction to the park. While short, these trails offer incredible panoramic views and pass some sparkling waterfalls and lakes. Once you’ve conquered these, you can try more moderate to advanced trails.

Note: The park has an entrance fee of $35 per car.

5. Calgary, Alberta

calgary downtown

Calgary is about three hours away from Glacier National Park, and you can reach it by almost exclusively staying on the AB-2 road.

Driving to Calgary, you should take time to enjoy the charming sites and shops along the three hours. Places like The Candy Store in Nanton and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offer unique souvenirs you can’t find anywhere else. 

Once you reach town, you can explore the Calgary Zoo, the Heritage Park Historical Village, and Calaway Amusement Park. 

6. Banff, Alberta

From Calgary to Banff is a short hour-and-a-half drive via the Trans-Canada Highway. The town is part of the Rocky Mountain Park UNESCO World Heritage Site and a short drive from the park.

Of course, many people visit Banff for the National Park, but you’ll need to buy a pass before entering. You can buy it at the visitor center or on the Banff and Lake Louise website beforehand. 

Set in the Rocky Mountains, outdoor enthusiasts flock to Banff National Park since its in 1885. It’s basically a playground with outdoor activities like hiking, boating, and wildlife watching. In winter, you can also expect skiing and snowshoeing.

Note: Tickets cost about $11, but kids under 18 can enter the park for free.

Seattle to Banff Itinerary (2 Routes)

Banff Highway

I suggest breaking up your stay over two to three days for these routes. Here are the proposed itineraries for both routes.

Route 1

Day 1: Seattle to Vancouver

Mileage: 4 hours, 32 minutes (232 miles) 

Your day starts in Seattle, where you’ll pick up breakfast and a few road-trip snacks. You can spend a few hours exploring the iconic landmarks in the city before starting your journey. Your first stop is the North Cascades National Park

The park is packed with beautiful lakes and trails to keep you busy for hours. Stop by Stehekin in the park for something to eat, a beer, or a refreshing ice cream.

Your last stop of the day is Vancouver. If you have time (and energy), I suggest stopping by one of the city’s parks before stopping by Gastown. Here, you can get food, drinks, and souvenirs before retiring for the night in your hotel.

Where to Stay: I recommend staying at the 3-star boutique Blue Horizon Hotel. It’s in the West End of Vancouver but still close to many attractions, and it even has an on-site restaurant for dinner. (Rates start at $216 per night)

Day 2: Vancouver to Kamloops

Mileage: 3 hours, 56 minutes (219.8 miles)

First on the morning agenda is to get breakfast in Vancouver at Jam Cafe or Cafe Medina. From there, you’ll move on to Whistler, where I recommend spending the afternoon at Whistler Blackcomb.

The final stop is Kamloops, where you can walk around the city on a street art tour or visit BC Wildlife Park for an educational trip. If you’d like to do wine tasting and get a bite to eat, I recommend Monte Creek Winery.

Where to Stay: Wingate by Wyndham Kamloops is a 4-star hotel near downtown Kamloops. It has a wellness spa, an indoor pool, and spacious rooms. (Rates start at $100 per night)

Day 3: Kamloops to Banff

Mileage: 6 hours, 56 minutes (372 miles)

You can enjoy breakfast at your hotel or visit the city for local fare. Either way, you’ll need your strength because today will be jam-packed.

Your first stop is driving to Revelstoke’s many hot springs. There are a few around the city, but I recommend Crazy Creek Resorts or Canyon Hot Springs. Once you’ve spent a few hours here, you can visit town for something to eat. 

I recommend walking through the side streets of Victoria Road to find hidden gems like Village Idiot Bar and Grill for a proper BBQ meal or The Taco Club. After your meal, it’s time to visit Lake Louise and Banff National Park as your last stops.

Where to Stay: High Country Inn is set at the foot of the Banff mountains. After a long day, relax at the dry cedar sauna or indoor pool before enjoying a meal at the on-site Swiss-Italian restaurant. (Rates start at $110 per night)

Route 2

You can take this alternative route instead of Route 1 or use it for your return to Seattle.

Day 1: Seattle to Spokane

Mileage: 4 hours, 8 minutes (279 miles)

Take time to get your energy levels up by grabbing a cup of coffee and breakfast in Seattle. While you’re here, I recommend stopping by Pike Place to fill your picnic basket for Mount Rainier National Park.

Once in the park, you can spend your morning and afternoon hiking to the prettiest views of places like Myrtle Falls, Patriarchs Trail, and Eagle Peak. There are a few places to enjoy your packed lunch, but I recommend sitting near a bubbling waterfall like Narada Falls or Box Canyon.

After spending a few hours working up a sweat, head to Spokane, your last stop for the night. 

Where to Stay: The Davenport Grand, Autograph Collection is a historic hotel in the city center that you’ll love. (Rates start at $152 per night)

Day 2: Spokane to Glacier National Park

Mileage: 4 hours, 39 minutes (272 miles)

You can’t go wrong with having breakfast at Frank’s Diner. The restaurant is inside a train car, which adds to the vintage quirk.

Next, it’s off to Glacier National Park. You can make a few pit stops to stretch your legs, like at Lake Coeur d’Alene, Wallace, and Columbia Falls. You’ll find many hiking and biking trails, water activities, and more at the park.

Where to Stay: Meadow Lake Resort & Condos is 22 minutes from Columbia Falls Park. The resort offers a peaceful and remote stay with spacious modern rooms, a wellness center, and an indoor pool. (Rates start at $90 per night)

Day 3: Glacier National Park to Banff

Mileage: 4 hours, 20 minutes (253 miles)

Start your morning with a hearty breakfast from Nite Owl & Back Room Restaurants before returning to the road. You’ll need to take a short drive to Glacier National Park, where you can spend a few hours hiking, cycling, or going on a guided landscape tour. 

You can pack a picnic to enjoy in the park or eat lunch at one of the restaurants in Glacier National Park. In no time, you’ll reach Banff to end the trip by staying at a nearby restaurant and visiting the town for a late dinner.

Where to Stay: I again recommend High Country Inn for Banff because of its convenient location and affordability. (Rates start at $110 per night)

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You’ll love going on a Seattle to Banff road trip, no matter which route you take.

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