Road Trip: Calgary to Vancouver in One Week

A quaint looking town with brick buildings and flower boxes on the street and the dramatic snow-covered rise of mountains in the distance.

Driving through the center of Banff in late summer. Photo © Jeff Whyte.

Truckers make the trip between western Canada’s two largest cities in 12 or so hours. Many travelers heading to Vancouver from Alberta also drive the route nonstop, while others overnight along the way. But you’re on vacation, so plan on expanding the drive to a weeklong sojourn that will—eventually—get you to Vancouver.

This itinerary could be combined with an “open-jaw” air ticket, that is fly into one city and out from another.

Day 1

Westbound from Calgary, you’ll pass Canada Olympic Park, a good place to explore before hitting the road proper. In Banff National Park, you’ll need to sort the scenic from the really scenic. Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are the natural highlights you won’t want to miss; both are easily accessible from Lake Louise accommodations.

Day 2

Hopefully, you’ve followed my lead and made reservations for the bus to Lake O’Hara well in advance. This is one of western Canada’s most spectacular hiking destinations. Spend the night at Emerald Lake, which is the perfect place for an evening stroll.

Day 3

Ride the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort gondola, then hit the highway for Glacier National Park. Even from the highway, this park is spectacular, so unless you’re a keen hiker or it’s getting late in the day, continue to Revelstoke, where the Meadows in the Sky Parkway climbs through Mount Revelstoke National Park. Spend the night at Revelstoke.

Day 4

Drive south from Revelstoke to Nelson. Break up the trip with a short detour to Sandon, British Columbia’s only ghost town, and to Kokanee Creek Provincial Park to watch spawning kokanee. You’ll find plenty of choices for dinner in Nelson, your overnight stop.

Day 5

Driving through the West Kootenays is a delight, although a roller coaster highway means the trip will take longer than you may imagine. Stop for a swim in Christina Lake en route to an Osoyoos accommodation.

Day 6

Today is an easy day in the southern Okanagan Valley. Visit the Desert Centre before it gets too hot, and then combine tasting sessions at local wineries with beach time down on Osoyoos Lake. Stay overnight at Penticton.

Day 7

Give the direct Coquihalla Highway a miss, and travel down the Fraser River Canyon to Hope. Suburban Vancouver is approaching, so if you feel like stalling the inevitable onslaught of city traffic, take a walk through the Othello–Quintette Tunnels.

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Western Canada.

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