Look, there’s no beating around the bush! We’re totally in love with all the best places in Canada. Not only is it completely vast, with beautiful national parks and vibrant cities like Vancouver and Calgary, it’s also filled with the best road trips with Alberta and British Columbia being no exception. In fact, there’s a heap of places to see on a drive from Vancouver to Calgary that you really can’t miss.
Being one of the more popular road trip routes between the two provinces, a drive from Vancouver to Calgary is a great way to experience an epic taste of what western Canada has to offer.
After visiting British Columbia and Alberta quite a few times, we finally decided to take the plunge and drive between the two cities. In winter of all months!
Now, the first thing we’d say is that this that wintery conditions can be tough once you venture inland, so make sure you have the correct tyres on your rental car before setting off. We ended up making a mistake between “all-weather” and “snow tyres” which meant a detour back to Vancouver. Avoid this by planning with your rental company in advance and don’t get caught out like us.
That being said, regardless of what time of year you visit, you’ll be guaranteed a treat of epic places to see. I mean, British Columbia and Alberta really spoil you on this front! You’ll be pulling over all the time for pics and to explore.
So, to help you along your merry way, we’ve popped some of our best places to see on a drive from Vancouver to Calgary. All tried and tested, it’ll hopefully save you countless hours in searching for the key stopping points along the way.
Have the best time exploring in Canada and drive safely!
One of our favourite cities in all of Canada, Vancouver is a pretty special place to visit in gorgeous British Columbia.
You see, Vancouver is one of those cities that’s got a heap of buzzing neighbourhoods and yummy places to eat.
Take time to explore the city centre, watch a game of ice hockey (this was where we saw our first ever one).
Oh, and take a guided bike ride tour across Stanley Park and visit the Art Galleries, too.
If you’re heading to North Vancouver, be sure to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge (which has a pretty long history in the city).
It’s really easy to partner this with a trip to Grouse Mountain and you either do this as a full day trip or on one of the days you’re leaving Vancouver in your car.
Of course, you’re going to spend some time browsing Granville Market and Gastown (with all their quirky eateries, stalls and indie shops but also be sure to take a short taxi ride from the centre to visit Savio Volpe.
They conjure up some of Canada’s best Italian food that we naturally gorged on.
Just be sure to book a table in advance, especially on the busier weekends.
Read more: Our guide to visiting the best spots in Vancouver
2.) Grouse Mountain
Like I said, if you’re visiting Vancouver, you kinda don’t wanna miss Grouse Mountain… even if you don’t ski!
Here, you can go skiing, snowshoes, cross-country trekking and see the seasonal event that goes on throughout the year.
Even if you go here to watch the sunset over Vancouver in the distance. Now, to get here, you can easily grab a taxi to visit before heading off on your drive from Vancouver to Calgary; but it’s also pretty easy to include as a stop when you start your adventure.
Grouse Mountain is only about 30-45 minutes from the city centre itself, with plenty of parking, too! Just be sure to pack those windbreakers and gloves… the winds can be chilly in summer and freezing in the winter months.
3.) Sunshine Coast
Heading up the coast beyond West Vancouver, You’ll come across the car ferry from Horseshoe Landing to the Sunshine Coast (via Langdale).
Sunshine Coast is the kind of places to see on a drive from Vancouver to Calgary if you’re wanting a more chilled out and relaxing exploring of a pretty unspoilt coastline with little villages with lots of camping and RV sites if you’re travelling in a motorhome.
Don’t expect any vast mountain ranges like you might be used to when thinking of British Columbia (but don’t see that as a negative). You see, this coastal area is totally unspoilt, densely forested with a scattering of quaint little villages to stop by for lunch or for a tipple (for the non-driver at Persephone Brewing Company, which we loved).
Also, the quaint town of Gibson is a gem. Be sure to stop off at Smitty’s Oyster House the Public Market, antique stalls and provincial parks for a ramble whilst driving the route. It’s so relaxing and totally chilled.
Though, if you’re short on time, you can easily bypass the Sunshine Coast and carry up on the Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99) that heads towards Squamish.
Read more: Exploring the Sunshine Coast in Canada
Around a 60-minute drive from Vancouver, Squamish, with a visit lasting around 2-3 hours. This makes it a totally easy stopping point to before continuing your drive up Highway 99 to Whistler.
We loved heading up the Sea To Sky Gondola to explore the mountain trails at the top. Better still, it’s great to head up at any time of the year.
We’ve been in both summer and winter and the trails were gorgeous in both seasons. Just expect to wear snowshoes in the chillier months.
Unfortunately, the Sea To Sky Gondola has suffered two acts of vandalism with their cables being damaged. So, check on their website for access and openings to get to the top.
After heading down from the towering mountains, head over to see Shannon Falls. Now, there are a range of trails to wander the provincial park but if you’re not feeling a longer trail (like the Stawamus Chief trail), head over to this parking lot that’s a few minutes from the falls itself.
Easy and beautiful!
Read more: A day exploring Squamish
About 45-minutes beyond Squamish, Whistler is one of the most famous places to ski, particularly in Canada. Now, it can be a little pricier than other ski spots in Canada but it’s got a heap of slopes that make it a must-visit place for any skiers.
Now, we didn’t take any skis with us on our road trip between Vancouver to Calgary, so we rented them once we arrived. This made it all so much easier.
One thing to note, if you’re arriving in the peak snowy season, be sure to reserve your skis before you arrive. They don’t tend to fully sell out but it’s always best to be safe than sorry.
Most hotel concierges can point you in the right direction to your closest rental spot.
Just like Squamish, we visited Whistler in both summer and winter and loved both! Yes, in the winter you have the opportunity for skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing (all, which we loved in Whistler), but you’ve also got a range of epic things to do in Summer.
We headed out kayaking on the river of Golden Dreams (aka, Alta Creek) that connects the Green Lake to Alta Lake. We booked our excursion with Canadian Wilderness and it was so much fun!
Also, don’t forget about visiting the Scandinave Spa which has a range of heated pools that are so magical in the chilly winter months. We spent a good few hours here.
6.) Sun Peaks
Around a 4.5 hour drive from Whistler, this is a journey you start straight after breakfast to arrive nice and early in the daylight hours. You see, when we did this drive (in the winter), the mountainous route (from Whistler to Kamloops, via Highway 99) was quite icy and blustery, so lots of care is needed if you’re not used to driving in these conditions.
Give yourself plenty of buffer times so you can take it slow and grab yourself some snow tyres if the weather conditions worsen. Ask your rental place before booking and they can advise on the correct tyres needed for your route and season.
That being said, if you’re travelling in the warmer months, this drive is a total breeze (just a little long), just pack some snacks!
We had the most amazing time in Sun Peaks (Canada’s second-largest ski spot), especially for the slopes! You see, they seemed quieter than Whistler, giving us much more skiing time (Without having to queue for ski lifts).
Also, Sunpeaks is a great place to try your hand at ice fishing, too! Now, neither of us know how to fish but this was a really cool experience which we loved.
Turns out, I’m a pro at it too.
I caught a natural rainbow trout (which we popped back in the water). We headed out with Elevated Fishing Adventures and loved it.
Read more: Best things to do in British Columbia
7.) Wells Gray Provincial Park
After spending a few days in Sun Peaks, Wells Gray Provincial Park will be your next port of call. It’s one of those unspoilt places to see on a drive from Vancouver to Calgary that’s totally beautiful.
Around a 90-minute drive (from Sun Peaks), you’ll be able to spend a half-day exploring the park before continuing ever-closer to Alberta. Now, the easiest way to get Wells Gray Provincial Park is to arrive at their Visitor Information Centre that’s just off the highway. From here, you can check in with the rangers to see which routes are open and if there are any updates you need to know before exploring.
Once inside the park, head straight over to Spahats Creek Falls which is well over 60 metres high! Though, one of my absolute favourite waterfalls in all of Canada is Helmcken Falls, perched right within the park itself.
At over 140-metres high, Helmcken Falls is so iconic and beautiful at any time of the year. Though, there is something magical about seeing it surrounded by the snow peaks that form at its base.
Plus, there’s also a heap of gorgeous trails around Moul Falls that’s lovely on a really sunny day.
8.) Mount Robson Provincial Park
After a 150-minute drive from Wells Gray Provincial Park (via Highway 5), head to the fringes of British Columbia at Mount Robson Provincial Park.
Once in the park, keep your eyes peeled for Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. Though, to be honest, you can’t really miss it. If you’re looking for a long and relatively tough hike, head out on the Berg Lake Trail that stretches (there and back) around 27 miles. Just remember, this isn’t for the “new to hiking” kind of person. You should have a good level of hiking experience behind you and go with a guide if you’re not totally sure.
If you’re short on time, stop by the Mount Robson Visitor Centre who can advise on the seasonally open trails to get a taste of the park.
Now, we spent a few hours here and used it as a little resting spot before heading over to Jasper. That being said, you can easily spend much longer if you’re really wanting to head out on the unspoilt trails that line the park. It’s stunning.
Also, if you’ve got time, you can also head over to nearby Cold Fire Creek to join one of the local dog sledging tours that head through the mountains.
Read more: Best places in Canada to visit
After spending a few hours (or days) in Mount Robson Provincial Park, you’re going to follow Highway 16 beyond Moose Lake to arrive in the small town of Jasper.
Now, we’d recommend staying here for around 3-4 days to get a good taste of the area as there’s quite a bit to see and do in Jasper. For us, it’s one of the best places to see on a drive from Vancouver to Calgary, especially as it’s a good anchoring spot to explore the wider Jasper National Park.
Once here, head over to hike Malign Canyon and see its incredible frozen waterfall that’s totally amazing. Also, be sure to take a drive up to Pyramid Lake (in any season).
In the winter months, you can head out fat-biking across the frozen lake. So much fun… though, I can’t say my legs didn’t ache after!
Oh, and if you’re feeling like a challenge, try your hand at ice climbing with a guide.
We spent a whole morning doing this and although it’s tough (for beginners like us) it was pretty fun.
Just make sure to book your tour in advance, as they can be popular at certain times of the year. We headed out with Rockaboo and it was great.
If you fancy giving your legs a rest, head up the Jasper SkyTram for some epic views thousands of metres up!
Wanna squeeze in a little more ski time? Pop over to nearby Marmot Basin for their powdery slopes. We loved the slopes here and it’s such a friendly and fun area to ski.
Read more: Where to explore in Jasper
10.) Icefields Parkway
The main driving route between Jasper and Banff, Icefields Parkway consists of Highway 93 that’s totally easy to follow. For us, it’s one of the prettiest drives and one you can’t miss whilst visiting all the places to see on a drive from Vancouver to Calgary.
One thing to note, each time we’ve visited Alberta, we’ve always had to postpone or delay or trips down Icefields Parkway. This has been due to closures due to avalanche risks. This does happen in the winter months, so always take this into account with your timings. We had to make a pretty large detour (adding around 4-hours driving time) on our last trip.
That being said, if you’re visiting outside of the snowy season, you’ll likely not get any closures at all. Though, it’s always worth remembering.
Along the way, there is a vast amount of stopping points, trails and viewpoints that line the road itself. Honestly, you’ll want to stop around every twist and turn of the highway – the views are spectacular.
As you meander between the Canadian Rockies, be sure to stop off at all the main spots. We’ve added Google Maps links to some of our favourites, like; Sunwapta Falls, see the views at Stutfield Glacier Viewpoint, Tangle Creek Falls and the impressive Columbia Icefield Skywalk.
11.) Banff National Park
After entering Banff National Park (whilst still on Icefields Parkway) hike the trails at Mistaya Canyon and see the stunning upper viewpoint across Peyto Lake.
The latter is a vast glacier lake that’s turquoise in colour and a totally easy find when entering Banff.
If you want to see something a little different, away from Banff, head just off Icefields Parkway to visit Lake Abraham. This is a lake which is filled with bubbles and pretty unique to see.
To take the pressure off (and have a local expert at hand), we booked a tour to visit Pursuit Adventures Guide. Choosing to go with a guide helps as they’ll bring all the ice cleats and snow grips for your shoes. Plus, will help you find the best spots on the lake itself.
For a gorgeous treat, book yourself into the Fairmont Lake Louise that, you guessed it, overlooks one of Canada’s most famous lakes.
We headed out on the trails around Lake Louise, ice-skated across the frozen lake and had the best sleep (and gorge) overlooking the lake itself.
To work off some of those calories at dinner, head on over to ski at Sunshine Village – It’s quite easy to go for a day whilst staying in Banff itself.
If you’ve got time, head out to see the Crowfoot Glacier, Hector Lake and visit Johnston Canyon for the most incredible trails.
Oh, and to fill up, get yourself to Chuck’s Steakhouse for their huge meat feasts.
You’ll leave stuffed.
12.) Canadian Rockies Helicopter tour (Canmore)
After spending time in Banff National Park and as you depart south-west you’ll come across the town of Canmore. This is a great spot to swap your wheels for a ride in the sky! Yup, on a helicopter.
A helicopter tour over the Canadian Rockies is just mind-blowing. The views are just insanely good.
We went out with Alpine Helicopters and they have a range of tours, lengths and prices so you can find the perfect one for you.
If you fancy keeping your feet firmly on the ground, head out with Yamnuska Adventures to explore Grotto Canyon.
Here you’ll get to follow the frozen landscape and even come across centuries-old First Nation pictographs that line the route.
We loved it and only slipped a few times. Ha!
Read more: Helicopter views over the Canadian Rockies
13.) Spray Valley Provincial Park
As you depart Canmore, drive south for around 60-minutes to Spray Valley Provincial Park. You see, it’s one of the places to see on a drive from Vancouver to Calgary if you’re feeling like slowing the pace down and chilling out.
Here, you’ll be able to check into the cosy Mount Engadine Lodge that’s nestled in the deepest countryside. It’s the kind of place that has no phone service, little wifi but lots of charm, roaring fires and plenty of trails to enjoy nature of the region.
We spent a full day here and it was such a relaxing stay, especially after all the hiking, skiing and ice climbing. A much-needed bit of relaxation.
Read more: Our stay at Mount Engadine Lodge
After your massive adventure within British Columbia and Alberta, you’ll finally end in the Albertan city of Calgary. Though, don’t be fooled into thinking it all ends there – Calgary has a lot going for it!
Firstly, make sure to pop into our favourite restaurant, Native Tongues. This place is epic and serves some of the tastiest Mexican food in all of Canada. Plus, they make some killer cocktails which is great after you’re done with all that driving.
Alternatively, head over to Gorilla Whale – a Japanese-fusion restaurant that serves up a feast. We spent all evening devouring their dishes. So good!
For some of the best places to see in Calgary, head on over to Studio Bell; the home of Canadian music and head to the top of the Calgary Tower for those views.