If like us over here at Ambition Earth you love the great outdoors, taking things at a slower pace and really appreciating what’s around you, a drive from Calgary to Vancouver will be right up your street.
At just over 1000km through the Canadian Rocky Mountains this drive would take you around 13 hrs without stopping – but where would the adventure be in that!? So of course we’ve thrown in some great stopping points for you along the way.
The majority of people heading to the Canadian Rocky Mountains are likely to be landing at Calgary International Airport (YYC) and so this is where we start our journey.
With your bags retrieved and hire car sorted, you will immediately head West directly into the heart of Banff National Park on the AB-1 W/Trans Canada Highway.
Destination 1: Banff
- Distance from Calgary to Banff: 150km
- Driving time: 1.5 – 2hrs
Banff really is a tale of 2 halves, offering some of the best skiing the world has to offer for half the year and some of the best hiking trails for the other half. Whatever time of year you decide to visit however the scenery will take your breath away. With awe inspiring views and dramatic landscapes you certainly won’t run out of places to explore in Banff including natural springs, waterfalls, rivers and lakes.
One of our favourite locations in Banff is Lake Louise which is situated 60 km north of the town. This is a picture perfect location with mirror like waters and jaw dropping scenery.
Our recommendation is to spend around 4 nights in the Banff area to really give yourself enough time to do some hiking and take it all in.
Destination 2: Jasper National Park
- Distance from Banff to Jasper: 300km
- Driving time: 4hrs
From Banff you will head up to Jasper in Jasper National Park on the AB-93 N. This route is around 300km and so it is likely to take you about 4hrs to complete.
As this drive heads right through the heart of the Rocky Mountains you are going to continue to experience some breathtaking views along the way. Some of our favourite locations on this stretch of the journey is Maligbe Lake, the Icefields Parkway and the Athabasca Falls, around 30km south of Jasper. All 3 of these locations are not to be missed.
We recommend setting off early when driving from Banff to Jasper. There’s so much to see along this route that ii will allow you plenty of time to make numerous stops along the way, take photos and if you’re lucky, see a few of Canada’s infamous bears!
Destination 3: Kamloops
- Distance from Jasper to Kamloops: 450km
- Driving time: 5hrs
Driving directly to Vancouver from Jasper is around 800km which would take you over 8hrs – far too long. For that reason, many travellers, ourselves included, prefer to stay in Kamloops for 1 night to break things up a little (we stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott).
The drive from Jasper to Kamloops is 450km / 5hrs without stops so, like the Jasper leg of the journey, be sure to set off early to allow yourself plenty of time to reach Kamloops before sunset.
From Jasper you will need to take the AB-16 for around 100km before taking a left turn into British Columbia onto the BC-5 S. From here you simply follow the BC-5 S for around 340km which will take you straight into the centre of Kamloops.
Destination 4: Vancouver
- Distance from Kamloops to Vancouver: 360km
- Driving time: 3hrs 30mins
And here we have it, the final stretch of your Canadian adventure, heading 360km from Kamloops to Vancouver.
Leaving the Canadian National Parks and great outdoors behind, Vancouver offers everything you would expect from a modern city – nightlife, bars, restaurants and shopping. It is often compared to the likes of San Francisco in California, USA.
As a coastal city, Vancouver offers a lot to a tourist including everything from freshly caught fish in the local restaurants to whale watching tours out at sea.
Vancouver is a fun and vibrant city so you can spend as much or as little time as you like here. If doing this trip from Calgary to Vancouver however to maximise your time in the National Parks we recommend staying for around 4 nights.
Planning this trip or have any advice?
Have you done this route before or are planning to do so in the near future? Let us know your tips and plans in the comments below.