Canada may be known for hockey and maple syrup (both of which I love), but it also has some of the best scenery in North America. You really can’t go wrong on any drive you do up there, but going on a Vancouver to Banff road trip is one of the most picturesque ones you can do. However, you’ll want to know where to stop and what to do to make the most of your time.
I travel to Canada at least a few times a year and do a drive up to Whistler every spring, so I know British Columbia pretty well. The Sea to Sky Highway is one of my favorite routes to do, but there’s a lot more past it that people often don’t discover. That’s why I highly recommend taking a Vancouver to Banff drive to see some lesser-known areas.
This guide will give you some tips on driving there, offer suggestions for which stops to make on a Vancouver to Banff road trip itinerary, and give you two options for the best driving route from Vancouver to Banff.
Tips for a Vancouver to Banff Drive
How Long Does It Take to Drive From Vancouver to Banff?
A few different routes will take you from Vancouver to Banff. There is no right or wrong way, but I prefer to drive the BC-99 N route because it goes through Whistler and Squamish. These spots are too fantastic to miss on a Vancouver to Banff road trip.
People generally take the Trans Canada highway route because it is the fastest and more straightforward route. The Vancouver to Banff driving time is 10 hours when you go this way.
You can also take the BC-5 N road through Jasper National Park. It’s about 12 hours, and you’ll need to set aside more days to see all the sights along the way. However, it’s worth it if you want to pack more for your trip.
What Is the Vancouver to Banff Road Trip Distance?
600 miles (or 950 km for the Canadians) is the average distance between Vancouver and Banff via the scenic route. A straight path will be around 528 miles (850 km). If you decide to take the longer route through Jasper National Park, it will be around 671 miles (1,080 km).
Similar to my Seattle to San Francisco drive itinerary, I highly recommend you take your time on this trip. You don’t want to arrive at Banff completely exhausted and feel like you missed out on all the good stops along the way.
Is It Hard to Drive From Vancouver to Banff?
It is not hard to drive from Vancouver to Banff for the most part. In general, the traffic isn’t too bad, and the road doesn’t have too many twists and turns. You can always have your road trip trivia ready to go to help entertain everyone if you do hit traffic.
The Rockies are beautiful in the winter, but driving may be challenging, so you’ll want to take your time when planning a road trip from Vancouver to Banff. Driving in Canada during the winter can be difficult because of the slick roads, unpaved lanes, and blowing snow. Avalanches and traffic accidents occasionally cause delays in your schedule.
Where Should I Stop Between Banff and Vancouver?
Here’s a quick list of where I recommend stopping on a Vancouver to Banff drive:
- Jackass Mountain
- BC Wildlife Park
- Glacier National Park
- Yoho National Park
- Lake Louise
- Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park
- Shannon Falls
- Britannia Mining Museum
6 Amazing Stops on a Vancouver to Banff Road Trip
Here are some of the best places to stop when driving from Vancouver to Banff by car. You can also do this trip in the opposite direction and go on a Banff to Vancouver road trip.
1. Kamloops & BC Wildlife Park
If you ask me — or anyone else who has been — Kamloops is a fantastic place to visit.
This gorgeous city has hiking trails, bike and wildlife parks, and other exciting locations for your attention. Outdoor lovers like myself frequently travel to Kamloops, as camping, fishing, and other outdoor hobbies are common in this region of British Columbia.
Not far from Kamloops is BC Wildlife Park, where you can find iconic animal species, like bears, elk, bobcats, arctic wolves, and cougars, throughout the park.
Things to Do
- Go snowboarding at Sun Peaks Resort.
- Stroll through Riverside Park.
- Go on a horseback riding adventure.
- Visit the Kamloops Art Gallery.
- Hike at Kenna Cartwright Park.
Where to Eat
- You can have lunch in The Terrace Restaurant at Monte Creek Winery during the summer or picnic on the ranch’s lovely grounds.
- Dine on fresh fish at the high-end Blue Fish Sushi.
- Grab a proper brunch with a mimosa at Hello Toast.
Another fun drive to consider is a road trip to Seattle from Vancouver.
2. Glacier National Park
While Montana has its own park of the same name and a Seattle to Glacier road trip is a beautiful one, Canada also has a Glacier National Park that’s worth visiting. There are tons of hikes here to explore (which you know I love!), but also plenty to do in the towns that surround the park.
While visiting in the winter means some areas won’t be accessible, it also brings many of its own fun activities. You can ski tour in Rogers Pass or rent other snow gear to get out and explore what Glacier looks like covered in snow.
What to Do
- Hike one of the many trails, such as Hermit Trail or Perley Rock.
- Rent a canoe to paddle down the Columbia River.
- Take a stroll on the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk.
- Browse books and grab a latte at Bacchus Books and Cafe.
Where to Eat
- Enjoy amazing tacos at Reposados Tacos.
- Try local beer and burgers at Rockwater Grill & Bar.
- Start your morning with a latte and pastry at Bluebird Cafe.
You’ll also love the Seattle to Banff drive if coming from the south.
3. Squamish & Shannon Falls
Rivers, trails, mountains, and the ocean – the reasons Squamish, British Columbia, is the ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts can be summed up in these four phrases. After all, the town’s tagline, “Hardwired for Adventure,” has a purpose, so it’s one of the more ideal places to stop between Vancouver and Banff.
There’s plenty to do in this area, including rock climbing (or at least watching some impressive ones) and the famous Sea to Sky Gondola. I was amazed at how incredible the views are from the top when I did this, and you can walk around on a suspension bridge as well.
Squamish also has plenty of restaurants and grocery stores, making it ideal to stock up on snacks for kids on a road trip. I stop here every year during my drive up to Whistler for this reason, plus they also have some quick grabs like Tim Hortons (the Timbits are always a hit with my kids).
Squamish is roughly a 10-minute drive from Shannon Falls, which is your next stop on your Vancouver to Banff road trip. With a 335-meter plunge, it’s the third-highest waterfall in British Columbia. It tumbles from a ridge high above, cascading down many ledges before falling with a thundering boom into a rocky pool at the bottom.
What to Do
- Hike the granite monolith named the Stawamus Chief.
- See if you can find some gold at Britannia Mine Museum.
- Spot eagles at the Squamish River.
Where to Eat
- Grab some katsu at Haru Fusion Cuisine.
- Eat a bit of pita at Saha Eatery.
I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to help me plan out my trips and find fun stops along the way. Use my code “BTR5QTP” for $5 off when you sign up!
You’ll need at least two seasons to genuinely appreciate everything Whistler offers, but it’s still a must on your Vancouver to Banff road trip stops. I absolutely love coming here in the summer when the weather is pleasant and warm, as there are many activities outside of skiing in Whistler. Walking around the village and going on hikes are some of my favorites, as well as exploring the local lakes.
Winter is also beautiful up here – I love nothing more than spending a day skiing on the mountain and then coming into the village to enjoy apres-ski (and they really know how to do it well in this town!). My go-to place is always Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub, as they have outdoor seating (with heaters) and live music on the weekends.
There are also several grocery stores in town, so you can restock your family road trip packing list if you’re running low on anything. They also have dozens of stores if you find you need a new coat, swimsuit, etc.
What to Do
- Snowboard on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.
- Ride on the Peak 2 Peak gondola.
- Give the terrifying skeleton a try at Whistler Sliding Centre.
- Relax at Scandinave Spa.
Where to Eat
- Eat a chilled seafood tower at Wild Blue.
- Warm up with some curry at Barn Nork.
- Enjoy Italian-Canadian fusion cuisine at Il Caminetto.
The secret is out: Revelstoke is one of Canada’s top ski resorts, so you’ll want to put it on your Vancouver to Banff road trip. The excellent snow conditions, comfortable temperatures, and breathtaking landscape of this BC mountain village remained a relatively well-kept secret for a time. Adventurers have started to swarm to Revy in recent years, both in the summer and the winter.
With the highest vertical elevation in North America (a whopping 5,620 feet), Revelstoke Ski Resort’s 3,121 acres of terrain will give you a lot of skiing for your money. It’s a skier or snowboarder’s dream vacation spot, and I highly recommend taking the time to go up here.
What to Do
- Go dog sledding with some adorable huskies.
- Head to SkyTrek Adventure Park to do an obstacle course 40 feet above the ground.
- Visit the charming Enchanted Forest to live out your fairy dreams.
Where to Eat
- Enjoy fusion cuisine at Chubby Funsters.
- Grab a healthy snack at Mountain Meals.
- Have some pizza and poutine at Nico’s.
Banff is all about road-tripping and exploring the park’s numerous lakes. While a Seattle to Glacier road trip is a beautiful one in the states, you can’t beat the views in Banff.
Vermillion Lakes, near downtown Banff, will be your first stop before moving on to Two Jack Lake, Lake Minnewanka, and the breathtaking Moraine Lake (go late afternoon or early evening to beat the crowds) before starting your Banff to Vancouver drive. You’ll definitely want to have your road trip quotes ready to go after taking pictures here so you can post them to social media.
What to Do
- Ride the Sulphur Mountain Sightseeing Gondola.
- Visit the historical Cave and Basin.
- Go to Cascade of Time Gardens in the evening for the best views.
Where to Eat
- Head to Silver Dragon for some lovely noodles.
- Enjoy farm-to-table cuisine at The Bison.
- Relish in the Mexican cantina vibe at Magpie & Stump.
Have more time? Head down south to go on a road trip to Glacier National Park.
Vancouver to Banff Road Trip: 3-Day Itinerary
For this route, I suggest taking the Trans Canada highway all the way to Banff.
Day 1: Vancouver to Kamloops
Driving time/distance: 6 hours 58 minutes / 307 miles
There are four ways to travel to Kamloops; I suggest Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon.
Up until the town of Hope, there isn’t much. If the weather is agreeable, Hope is a pleasant little town to pass through briefly. Rollie’s, a reputable restaurant, is located directly behind Chevron. You can grab a lovely brunch here before heading off to Kamloops.
Just a short distance from the highway, Alexandra Provincial Park has a historic bridge that spans the Fraser River. The next noteworthy stop is the Hells Gate Tramway. It may be the only tram in the world that descends to its destination.
Further down the route, Fraser River is visible from a bit of pull-out on Jackass Mountain. The name of this mountain might sound strange, but it has some historical background. The road was also known as “the hill of despair” and was named after the mule tracks that led to the Cariboo gold deposits. As a result of how tiny and steep it was, several mules died from falls.
At the western end of Kamloops Lake sits the next town, Savona. A well-liked pull-out with a magnificent view of Kamloops Lake is not far past Savona.
And from there, you’ll head to Kamloops.
Day 2: Kamloops to Revelstoke
Driving time/distance: 2 hours 36 minutes / 135 miles
The 131 miles of direct travel from Kamloops to Revelstoke should take 2 hours and 36 minutes in light traffic.
Remember to exit the highway when you leave Kamloops and take the side road to see the hoodoos there. Not quite the hoodoos of Alberta, but it is a gorgeous trip.
Together with old pictures, drawings, and relics, the exhibits at the Secwepemc Museum include the oral history and myths of the Secwepemc people. On the South Thompson River banks, a 5-hectare Heritage Park is home to cultural exhibits. Visitors can explore the archaeological relics of a 2,000-year-old Secwepemc winter village site.
The Last Spike historic site is another essential stop along this route. The last spike in the CP rail line was driven here in 1885. This ceremonial spike marked the completion of the coast-to-coast trans-Canada railway and was placed in Craigellachie, close to Eagle Pass.
The abandoned town at Three Valley Gap is also a must-see spot. This is an excellent stop to see the scenery even if you don’t go inside. Be sure to pause at the lookouts to take in the panorama of Three Valley Lake as you stroll among the 25 historic structures from the 18th-century gold rush.
From here, you’ll head on straight to Revelstoke.
Day 3: Revelstoke to Banff
Driving time/distance: 3 hours 21 minutes / 178 miles
When you leave Revelstoke and head towards Golden on this road trip, you pass through Glacier National Park. When you ascend through the mountain pass, the road through Glacier National Park is known as Rogers Pass.
You can see a lot of wildlife along this route section, including bears and mountain goats, in stunning old-growth forests with ancient cedars and alpine meadows that set the atmosphere.
The renowned Johnston Canyon is located 17.4 miles down the picturesque Bow Valley Parkway. This was actually the first place I ever visited in Banff, as I rushed to get there from Calgary. If you go when there’s still snow or ice, make sure to rent microspikes first to make the hike to the waterfalls easier.
The Lower and Higher Falls are two waterfalls located here. The Lower Falls are only 0.7 miles from the parking lot, and the Upper Falls is another 0.8 miles. Views of the canyon’s blue water are available along the trail.
From there, Banff is a short drive away, which is the final destination on your Vancouver to Banff drive itinerary.
Vancouver to Banff Road Trip: 5-Day Itinerary
For this route, I suggest heading down BC-99 N toward Kamloops, then heading down the Trans Canada highway toward Banff.
Day 1: Vancouver to Squamish to Whistler
Driving time/distance: 1 hour 54 minutes / 82 miles
You’ll start your Vancouver to Banff drive by stopping in the fun town of Squamish. This drive to the town is worthwhile because of the waterfalls and mountains that can be seen from the Sea to Sky Gondola.
On the way to Whistler from Squamish, the Britannia Mining Museum is another must-stop. The museum preserves the past and displays objects associated with the mining sector in British Columbia. I’d plan to spend anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours exploring the museum.
After spending some time exploring the museum, head off to Whistler to spend the night and check out the highlights that Whistler has to offer.
Where to Stay: Pinnacle Hotel Whistler has a hot tub and an outdoor pool, and all rooms feature a spa bath and a seasonal gas fireplace for enhanced relaxation. (rates start at $200 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Day 2: Whistler to Kamloops
Driving time/distance: 4 hours 10 minutes / 188 miles
Enjoy a fantastic breakfast at Crêpe Montagne and the views in Whistler Village when you awaken. Whistler’s central business district is essentially an alpine village. Before heading to Kamloops, you can browse the shops or relax at nearby cafes.
Another idea is to leave Whistler early so there’s time to take a break for lunch along the way. You can stop in the little village of Lillooet for lunch. Lillooet’s Cookhouse Restaurant serves some of the best crab cakes.
If you get to Kamloops before dark, I always suggest that people visit BC Wildlife Park. And if you need to kill a couple more hours, spend some time at Sun Peaks Resort. You can find a delicious dinner at Brownstone Restaurant.
Where to Stay: Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites-Kamloops has an indoor pool and a nearby restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (rates start at $159 per night; book your room on Booking.com)
Day 3: Kamloops to Revelstoke
Driving time/distance: 2 hours 29 minutes / 132 miles
It takes 2.5 hours to go from Kamloops to Revelstoke. On Mount Mackenzie, there is a well-known ski resort, Revelstoke Ski Resort, where you can spend time skiing and snowboarding. It’s also worth it to see some adorable huskies running around.
Revelstoke is ideal for mountain biking and hiking, which, of course, I love. If you’re here in the summer, the town hosts many music festivals, like REVY.Live Outside and the Revelstoke Summer Street Festival. Any time of the year, though, I suggest you find at least one of the town’s two breweries for a beer tasting and tour of the distilleries.
Where to Stay: The Glacier House Hotel & Resort has an indoor pool and overlooks Begbie Glacier, located 10 minutes from the heart of Revelstoke. An eight-person hot tub and a sauna are available here. (rates start at $207 per night; book your room on Booking.com)
Day 4: Revelstoke to Lake Louise
Driving time/distance: 2 hours 43 minutes / 144 miles
When you leave Revelstoke, the first stop on your Vancouver to Banff road trip for 5 days has to be Glacier Mountain Park, which has many gorgeous glaciers. You’ll then continue on your Vancouver to Lake Louise road trip to Golden.
Be sure to meet Boo the Bear at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and visit the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre before you leave Golden.
From Golden, you can continue driving to Yoho National Park and explore the hiking trails and gorgeous sights. Check out Emerald Lake, which really lives up to its name.
The Spiral Tunnels are the next stop on the journey. When British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation and a railway network was built, these tunnels were constructed.
After a busy but beautiful day, drive back to Lake Louise and spend the night there.
Where to Stay: Fairmont Château Lake Louise is a four-star hotel in Banff National Park that offers expansive views of Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier. (rates start at $346 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Day 5: Lake Louise to Banff
Driving time/distance: 43 minutes – 36 miles
Wake up to the gorgeous sounds of nature in Lake Louise, preparing you for the final stretch to Banff.
Once in Banff, you can relax and explore some wondrous spots. Be sure to visit Icefields Parkway to witness gorgeous glaciers and stunning valleys and then warm up in the Upper Hot Springs.
Where to Stay: High Country Inn has a hot tub, a dry cedar sauna, and an indoor pool. From every accommodation, you can access free WiFi and see the mountains. (rates start at $140 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Going on a Vancouver to Banff road trip is the perfect way to see this part of Canada!