Road Trip Calgary To Vancouver
This post was most recently updated on April 4th, 2022
Who doesn’t love getting out on the open road, with the freedom to drive wherever you want without a care in the world. In Canada, one of the most picturesque trips you can take is from Calgary to Vancouver.
From craggy, snow peaked mountain tops, thick evergreen forests, to crystal clear turquoise lakes, your Calgary to Vancouver journey will have them all!
The total distance between Calgary and Vancouver is 972 km (604 miles), or 10 hours of driving. But that’s if you took the fastest route, and didn’t stop for some of the must see sites along the way.
Calgary To Vancouver Driving
There are a few different options for your Calgary to Vancouver drive. You can either rent a car at the Calgary International Airport, or get a camper from one of the many rental companies.
Depending on how many people are with you, and whether you want to stay in hotels, or camp in the beautiful parks on your trip will decide what’s best for you. Either way, make sure to book ahead. Especially if you plan on doing this trek in the summer months. Motels and campsites can fill up fast.
RV Rental Calgary To Vancouver
- Canadream – Offer everything from camper vans, truck campers, to several different sized motorhomes depending on your needs.
- Cruise Canada RV Rental & Sales – Offer several different sized motorhomes to rent or buy.
- Karma Campervans – Offer self sufficient camper van rentals that sleep two people with pick up and drop off both ways. Can be rented year round.
- Cozy Campers – Offer a camper van rental for two adults and one small child year round.
- Wicked Campervan Rental Calgary – Offer camper van rentals from a 2 seater to a 5 seater.
- Backpackers Loft Campervans – Offer a Dodge Grand Caravan complete with a roof top tent for two.
- Smile Campervans – Offer a Dodge Grand Caravan with a foldable bed for two.
- North Campervans – Offer Dodge Caravans with seating for 5 and a roof top tent for two.
- Fraserway RV – Offer several different sized rentals from conversion vans to full size motorhomes.
- Escape Campervans – Offer colourful camper van rentals across Canada and the U.S.
We chose Karma Campervans because they’re self sufficient and made for two people. The campers are solar powered and come with a heater to keep you warm in the winter. The heater works so well, we even had to turn it down to low. Boondocking was fun. We found the perfect spots to park for free a few nights on our two week road trip from Calgary to Vancouver.
The campers come with all the utencils and cookware needed, a propane stove, a couple folding chairs, a cooler to store your food, and a thick, comfy, duvet for the decent size bed. We added on a porti pottie since we wouldn’t be staying in campgrounds the whole time.
Road Trip Supplies
One of the best things about renting a camper is that you don’t need to bring a whole lot. We had two small backpacks with our clothes, a couple bath towels, toiletries, a camera, cell phones, and an i pad to watch our pre downloaded Netflix movies.
If it was summer, we would have needed sunscreen, bug spray, and maybe a book to read lying by the water.
After picking up our home for the next 14 days, we headed to the grocery store and got stocked up with all our favourite foods and ice for the cooler. Another option if you don’t want to buy ice every few days is paying extra for a fridge. We knew we’d be trying out the different restaurants along the way. So the cooler was enough for us.
Calgary to Banff
It’s a short 2 hour drive to reach Banff in perfect weather conditions. But that wasn’t the case for us. Since it was October in Canada, you have to be prepared for anything. When we left home the weather was calling for mid 60’s (18). Instead we got a foot of snow our first few days in Banff.
Luckily Banff has all the best stores for outdoor clothing supplies. Monod Sports found Jerry a warm pair of gloves. Then we found the softest, most comfortable, thick wool socks at Smartwool Banff. If you’ve never tried Smartwool socks, I recommend you do. They’re moisture wicking, and keep your feet toasty warm in the cold weather, and nice and cool in the summer.
We didn’t have boots with us. So the socks with our Keen hiking shoes worked perfect!
We spent 3 days in Banff and absolutely loved it. You can read more about our road trip to Banff here. The town is so picturesque and easy to get around. A great restaurant worth mentioning is the Magpie and Stump. It’s a very rustic, Mexican eatery with great service, and huge portions. In the nicer weather, you can sit outside on the patio upstairs.
Where to Camp
There are a few campgrounds really close to Banff to stay in. The Tunnel Mountain Village I and II are really popular. But you’d need to make reservations ahead of time. We found a few side streets that were perfect for boondocking. As long as you find a spot later at night, and leave early in the morning, no one will bother you. There were a few other campers doing the same thing.
We parked our camper on Elk Street, and Railway Ave another night. You could also try Mt. Norquay Road, or Wolf Street. We couldn’t get down Mt. Norquay when we were there because of the construction. But all seemed perfectly safe and quiet.
Banff to Lake Louise
The road trip from Banff to Lake Louise is only 37 miles (61 km). If you’re just visiting Banff, you can easily take a side trip to Lake Louise. There are shuttles that run every day, so you wouldn’t even need a car.
There aren’t a whole lot of shops in Lake Louise like Banff. So basically bring what you need ahead of time. There’s one small strip mall with a tiny grocery store, a book store, liquor store, candy store, and a clothing store. Across the road you’ll find a gas station and a restaurant.
The main draw is the beautiful view of the lake. You couldn’t take a bad photo if you tried. Of course, there are plenty of outdoor activities. Try hiking the Lakeshore Trail which goes around the lake. You could also rent a canoe, ski at the Lake Louise Ski Resort, hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House, ride the Lake Louise Gondola, or take a short drive to Lake Moraine which is equally as beautiful.
Where to Stay
If you’re not lucky enough to be staying at the famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, there is a lovely campground just minutes away. There are two parts to the campground. The Lake Louise Hard-sided is open year round, and Lake Louise Soft-sided closes at the end of September.
We stayed here for one night and it gave us a chance to charge up our battery. In the winter no one is manning the gate, so you just pick a spot and leave your money in the box.
If you want to boondock, there’s a good spot 10 minutes before Lake Louise. It’s not completely free, you have to pay $12. But they do have bathrooms there. It’s at Lake Louise Park & Ride (the Lake Louise overflow parking lot). At least it’s an option if the campground is full.
Lake Louise to Jasper
The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper is considered one of the most spectacular drives in Canada. It’s a 3 hour drive when the weather is good. We were really looking forward to it, but the huge snow fall, and slippery roads had other plans. It’s not called the Icefields Parkway Drive for no reason.
Not long out of Lake Louise, Hwy 1 veers to the left, and north becomes Hwy 93 to Jasper. You need to get a national parks pass to drive the road, so you have to stop at a gate. The attendant advised us of the road conditions and said we wouldn’t make it without snow tires on. So that was the end of that. Maybe another trip we’ll make it to Jasper.
Lake Louise to Kamloops
Back on Hwy 1 and heading west you cross into British Columbia from Alberta. You’ll drive through the Glacier National Park, and plenty of cute towns along the way like Golden, Revelstoke, and Salmon Arm that are worth a stop at.
Where to Camp
We found a nice, quiet, campground 30 minutes west of Revelstoke called Crazy Creek Hot Pools Resort. They’re open all year, and have hotel rooms as well as campsites. Since it was snowing and the off season for camping, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
There are 4 geothermal hot pools ranging in different temperatures that are open year round to the public. It was the perfect activity after a slow going drive through the snowy mountains.
Where to Eat
Leaving the next morning we headed to Salmon Arm for a special treat. Called the Shuswap Pie Company, it’s the place to go for a coffee, and the best pies made from scratch. They have over 10 different choices of fruit pies, as well as a large selection of savoury pies. It was too hard to choose just one!
Kamloops to Whistler
If you’re short on time, you could always take Hwy 5 south towards Abbotsford now. But since we were heading to Whistler to see our son, and had plenty of time left, we wanted to take the most scenic route in our camper van.
We stayed on Hwy 1 until Cache Creek, then took Hwy 97 north until we reached Hwy 99 west. There are plenty of lookout points along this road to stop and take the perfect photo and have a picnic lunch.
Whistler in the Fall
Driving from Banff to Whistler was an incredible road trip. You can’t beat the scenery. We arrived in Whistler a few days earlier since we had to skip Jasper. But we got to spend more time with our son. Plus it was his birthday week!
Whistler is known as a top ski resort, but it’s also a year round playground. We arrived in the off season. Skiing hadn’t started yet, and downhill mountain biking had come to an end for the year. But there was still plenty of other things to see and do. Plus it was quieter, and we had no line ups getting into any of the restaurants.
You can read our post on things to do in Whistler for non skiers here.
Where to Camp in Whistler
Just north of Whistler is the Riverside Camping and RV Resort. They’re open year round, and also have cabins and yurts to rent.
South of Whistler is the Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, and the Whistler RV Park and Campgrounds. We camped at the Cal Cheak Campground which was only a 15 minute drive back into Whistler. It’s a beautiful spot along the water, but it’s only open from April to the end of October.
You can’t make reservations ahead of time either. At this time of the year we were one of the few campers around since it was closing in a week for the season. It’s fairly rustic with pit toilets and no showers. Camping is $15 for the night, and there’s a collection box for your money. I’d imagine in the nicer weather, the 55 sites would fill up pretty fast.
Whistler to Vancouver
It’s always sad for your vacation to come to an end. But before we handed our camper van in, we had our final leg to go. The highway from Whistler to Vancouver is called the Sea to Sky Highway. It got this name because the highway starts at the sea (Vancouver), and ends in the sky (mountains) of Pemberton just north of Whistler.
The drive takes approximately 2 hours with stunning views of the canyons, waterfalls, and towering mountains. So if you ever get the chance to take a road trip from Calgary to Vancouver, absolutely do it!