The journey from Whistler to Banff is an experience filled with natural beauty and unforgettable adventures. This epic road trip stretches across two of Canada’s most stunning provinces, British Columbia and Alberta.
The route takes you from the vibrant resort town of Whistler, through the heartland of BC, all the way to the majestic Rockies of Banff National Park. Along the way, there’s an abundance of opportunities to immerse yourself in outdoor activities, from hiking and biking to wildlife spotting and photography.
The drive from Whistler to Banff takes around 10 hours one way without making any stops. But what fun would that be? I highly recommend slowing it down and spend at least 2 days doing this drive so you can experience some of the best of British Columbia. Trust me, you’ll be treated to sweeping landscapes of towering mountains, crystal-clear lakes, and verdant forests.
This drive can easily be done in the opposite direction too, from Banff to Whistler. If you are making the return journey in the opposite direction you came, you can always stop at any places you missed on the journey out. If you are only driving one way, I would recommend adding in more days, depending on what you want to see and do.
I have lived in Whistler since 2016, and ventured this route several times since. Each time I discover something new! I have compiled this list of best stops from Whistler to Banff, including some of my favourites, to help you plan the ultimate road trip!
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What to know about the Whistler to Banff Drive
The journey from Whistler to Banff covers a distance of approximately 800 kilometres (497 miles) and can take up to 9 hours of driving time without stops. The route, primarily along the Trans-Canada Highway, is famously scenic and takes you through some of Canada’s most beautiful mountain landscapes.
The drive can be made year-round, but it’s essential to be aware of the particular challenges posed by different seasons. During winter, the roads can become treacherous due to heavy snowfall and icy conditions.
It’s mandatory to have winter tires fitted on your vehicle between October 1st and March 31st, if you’re planning a winter trip. The tires provide better traction and can significantly improve safety on snowy or icy roads.
Regardless of when you choose to make the drive, always check the weather and road conditions before setting off on your Whistler to Banff adventure.
Whistler To Banff Drive – 22 Best Stops
The first stop on this epic road trip is the resort town of Whistler, which can be accessed via the Sea to Sky Highway – you should check out my guide on the best stops prior to arriving in Whistler.
Located within the Coast Mountain range, Whistler is a hub of outdoor activities that offers something for everyone. There are so many things to do in Whistler in summer, including the famed Peak 2 Peak Gondola which connects Whistler Mountain with Blackcomb Mountain and holds the record for the longest unsupported span of any lift in the world.
If you are visiting in the middle of summer, a great way to spend an afternoon is by lounging at one of the many lakes in Whistler. My personal favourites are Alta Lake & Alpha lake for swimming, and Green Lake for paddle boarding and the mountain views. The closest lake to Whistler Village is Lost Lake.
Winter sports is what the resort is most famous for and Whistler Blackcomb offers some of the best skiing in the world. Some of my favourite winter activities in Whistler include snowshoeing and snowmobiling. A snowmobile tour is the best way to experience some of Whistler’s backcountry in winter. Although on the pricier side, the sense of adventure is more than worth it!
A fun year-round acitivity is Zip-lining. The Sasquatch is the longest zipline in all of Canada and the USA and is offered by Ziptrek tours. It’s important to book in advance as this tour does sell out. Whistler Village is a vibrant place to relax after a day of adventuring. It’s packed with unique shops, great restaurants and lively bars. The pedestrian-only streets are perfect for a leisurely stroll.
Whistler is a hiker’s paradise with trails ranging from easy walks around stunning lakes to challenging alpine treks. The area around Whistler is has some easy hikes like the Whistler Train Wreck Trail, a unique hike leading to a train wreck surrounded by beautiful forest.
For the biking enthusiasts, Whistler offers world-class mountain bike trails in the Whistler Bike Park, and countless cross-country trails around Lost Lake and throughout the valley.
Where To Stay In Whistler
- The Westin Resort & Spa: Located in the centre of Whistler Village, this luxury resort offers stunning mountain views and easy access to local attractions.
- Nita Lake Lodge: Nestled on the shore of a beautiful glacier-fed lake, Nita Lake Lodge offers luxurious accommodations and stunning views.
- Fairmont Chateau Whistler: This classic mountain resort offers a range of luxury rooms and suites, along with numerous dining options.
- Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside: As the name suggests, this hotel offers beautiful mountainside views. Every room includes a full kitchen and a fireplace, making it a cozy retreat after a day of exploring.
- Four Seasons Resort Whistler: This five-star hotel offers polished rooms with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Guests can take advantage of the free town car service, as well as the outdoor pool and hot tubs.
- Pangea Pod: For a more budget-friendly option, check out the Pangea Pod Whistler – it’s located right in the heart of Whistler Village and offers excellent value for money.
Known for its farming heritage, Pemberton is a small town just a 30-minute drive north of Whistler. The town is dominated by stunning views of Mount Currie, which can be seen from just about anywhere in Pemberton. Pemberton is quickly becoming an outdoor recreation hotspot with mountain biking, canoeing, fishing, rock-climbing and hiking all within reach.
On the way into Pemberton, make sure to stop by Nairn Falls which is a roaring multi-tiered waterfall that involves an easy hike. Just north of the falls is the beautiful One Mile Lake is a popular spot for swimming or paddle boarding in summer.
Golf enthusiasts can find a challenging 18-hole course at Big Sky Golf Club, with views of Mount Currie and surrounding glaciers. Mountain biking is another popular summer activity in Pemberton. The local trail network is well-established and offers a variety of trails for all skill levels.
A trip to Pemberton wouldn’t be complete without exploring its rich farming heritage. Consider taking a tour of one of the local organic farms or visit during harvest season to pick your own fresh produce. North Arm Farm is a highlight, offering a wide range of locally grown produce and artisan goods.
Head to the local Farmer’s Market which runs every Friday in the summer, or one of the many cafes in town. Pemberton has several great breweries such as The Beer Farmers and Pemberton Brewing Company.
Finally, for a taste of local culture, be sure to visit the Pemberton Museum. This small museum offers a fascinating insight into the area’s history and indigenous culture. The museum’s outdoor exhibits include several restored historic buildings.
Where to stay in Pemberton
Pemberton Valley Lodge is an excellent spot to base yourself on this Whistler to Banff road trip, particularly if you plan to explore the breathtaking Joffre Lakes. This lodge uniquely combines the luxury of a high-end hotel with the warmth of a quaint mountain lodge.
Being located in the heart of Pemberton, you have easy access to local attractions, shops, and several dining options. It’s just a short drive to the trailhead for Joffre Lakes, making it a perfect starting point for hikers.
3. Joffre Lakes
Your next stop is the breathtaking Joffre Lakes, located approximately an hour drive from Pemberton. Joffre Lakes is one of many stunning turquoise lakes in BC.This popular hiking destination is composed of three turquoise, glacier-fed lakes, each one more stunning than the last. The hike to all three lakes is roughly 10km and can be challenging.
The trail is well-marked and starts with a relatively easy walk to the first lake. The second and third lakes require a steeper ascent. Along the way you’ll cross creeks, pass by stunning waterfalls and witness mountain views. In the summer, the trails are often crowded, so an early start is recommended.
If you visit in winter, the lakes freeze over so you may need microspikes to access the lakes. Joffre Lakes is one of the busiest hiking trails in BC so it’s important to get there as early as possible. I recommend booking a hotel in Pemberton the night before if you want to complete this hike.
4. Duffey Lake
As of 2023 you will also need a day pass to access the trail, which is free and can obtained through the BC Parks website. Please remember that Joffre Lakes is a provincial park, so respect the environment by staying on marked trails and carrying out any trash. There is a backcountry campsite at the third lake but no frountcountry camping.
After passing Joffre Lakes you’ll encounter the breathtaking Duffy Lake – the namesake of the Duffy Lake Road – the very road are driving!
The great thing about Duffy Lake is that it is one of the most accessible alpine lakes in the region. Unlike Joffre, there is no hiking necessary to access this lake.
You can see the lake from your left hand side while driving this road, but it’s worthwhile taking a 5-minute rest stop to appreciate it in all it’s glory. There is a boat launch at the end of the lake where you can park and walk down to the lake. It is best viewed first thing in the morning when the mountains reflect beautifully off of the water.
5. Seton Lake & Seton Lake Lookout
Seton Lake is by far my favourite lake in BC. This stunning clear blue lake is flanked by mountains on either side. This lake is not only the perfect temperature on a hot day, but you can see the bottom and there are no weeds – this is a huge deal for me!
Besides the amazing lake, there is a short hike that leads you to a fantastic view of the lake and a bend in the road known as Duffey Lake U-turn. This is one of my favourite views in BC. and needs to be seen to be believed.
There is no official trailhead and it’s hard to find if you don’t know it’s there. To access the trail you’ll need to park at the pull-out on the left-hand side of the highway just before you drive the “bend” in the road.
If you miss it, there are places where you can turn around and drive back. Once you have parked, there will be a small dirt hill (like very small) on the other side of the road – there should be an obvious opening and a bench showing through the bushes – this is the trailhead!
The next stop on this road trip brings us to the historic town of Lillooet, located at the junction of the Fraser and Bridge Rivers. This area is steeped in both history and beauty with stunning views of the Coast Mountains and abundant wildlife such as eagles, osprey, salmon and more.
Lillooet is a community deeply rooted in history. Once known as the “Mile 0” of the Cariboo Wagon Road, the town was a bustling hub during the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. It was a thriving centre of commerce and trade, attracting gold seekers from all over the world eager to stake their claim.
The First Nations people have inhabited the area for thousands of years, contributing significantly to the rich cultural fabric of Lillooet. The St’át’imc, the indigenous people of the region, continue to share their culture and traditions with the community today.
Today, Lillooet remains a vibrant community, combining its rich history and indigenous culture. Its history is preserved in many local attractions, like the Lillooet Museum and Visitor Centre, where visitors can delve into the past and explore the town’s intriguing evolution.
After exploring the history and culture of Lillooet, take a leisurely drive to the Fort Berens Estate Winery, located on the outskirts of town. This award-winning winery, the first of its kind in the Lillooet region, is a testament to the area’s emerging potential as a premium wine-growing region.
Fort Berens embraces sustainable farming practices, seeking to create wines that truly reflect the unique terroir of this distinctive area. The winery offers a wide range of varietals, including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Merlot, among others.
Lillooet also offers some of the best fishing in BC with local charters offering trips for both beginner and experienced anglers alike. The nearby Harrison River is known as one of BC’s best fly-fishing destinations.
Other outdoor activities in Lillooet include horseback riding, biking, hiking and river rafting. Whatever your choice of activity, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes in the vibrant town of Lillooet.
7. Marble Canyon & Pavilion Lake
Pavilion Lake, a jewel nestled within Marble Canyon, is more than just a picturesque body of water. It holds international significance due to its rare freshwater microbialite formations, which are mineral structures formed by bacteria. These formations are incredibly rare and offer scientists valuable insights into the early evolution of life on Earth.
Given the area’s geological significance, the Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP), a joint venture by NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, is based here. They aim to learn more about the microbialites and how their study might help understand potential life on other planets.
Marble Canyon Provincial Park features towering limestone cliffs and a series of small, sparkling lakes. It’s an ideal spot for camping, picnicking, and hiking. Here you have the opportunity to kayak or canoe across the crystal-clear waters of Turquoise, Crown and Pavilion Lakes.
The next stop on this road trip is Kamloops; located in the Thompson-Okanagan region, it is the largest city in BC situated between two major rivers – the North and South Thompson.
Kamloops has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The region is now home to a number of First Nations, including the Secwepemc (Shuswap), Nlaka’pamux and Lheidli T’enneh.
Kamloops is known for its active lifestyle; with over 300 days of sunshine annually and incredible outdoor activities like fishing, mountain biking, skiing and golfing. It is also a great spot to catch up with friends and family, with an active arts scene and a variety of restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.
- Relax at the lake: Kamloops is home to the famous Kamloops Lake; it’s perfect for swimming in the summer months and makes for spectacular sight when combined with the rolling hills surrounding the lake.
- Explore the Wine Trail: Kamloops is emerging as a noteworthy wine region in Canada, boasting a unique climate and soil condition that contribute to producing wines with distinctive flavours. The Kamloops Wine Trail, a collective of four award-winning wineries, is a must-visit. Privato Vineyard and Winery and Harper’s Trail, the first two wineries in the region, lead the way with their remarkable wines, many of which have received national and international acclaim.
- Mountain Biking: For mountain bike enthusiasts, the Kamloops Bike Ranch is a must-visit. As one of the largest municipal bike parks in North America, it offers a variety of trails for both novice and experienced riders.
- Get up close with wildlife: The Kamloops Wildlife Park is home to over 70 species of wildlife, it’s an excellent opportunity to learn about and interact with the area’s native species, including bears, cougars, and eagles.
Where to stay in Kamloops
Kamloops offers a variety of accommodation options, from quaint bed and breakfasts to luxurious resorts. If you’re looking for comfort and convenience, the Coast Kamloops Hotel & Conference Centre is an excellent choice. Its location in the heart of downtown Kamloops makes it convenient for sightseeing.
For a more rustic experience, The Thompson Hotel and Conference Centre offers spectacular views from its lakeside location.
If you’re looking for an offbeat accommodation option, consider glamping at The Cove Lakeside Resort in Kamloops. This luxurious resort offers a range of accommodation options, from deluxe cabins to luxury tents.
9. Salmon Arm
Many people only stop for gas in Salmon Arm on the journey from Whistler to Banff, and while it may be one of the cheapest places in BC to do so, this town is much more worthy of your time!
Situated on the southern shores of the Shuswap Lake and surrounded by rolling hills and lush forests, Salmon Arm is a small city rich in natural beauty and outdoor adventure.
- Indulge in pie: Be sure to visit the popular Shuswap Pie Company in the heart of the city. This local favourite offers a range of delectable pies, both sweet and savoury, using locally sourced ingredients.
- Taste local wines: As the highest elevation winery in North America, Larch Hills Winery offers a unique cool climate terroir, ideal for producing a variety of vibrant and award-winning wines. Once you arrive at the wintery, you can take a tour of the vineyard, learn about the wine-making process, and sample some of the winery’s signature offerings in their tasting room.
- Go on a hike: For hiking opportunities in Salmon Arm, the Raven Trail is a serene nature walk that’s perfect for all ages and fitness levels. This trail, known for its tranquil beauty, winds through a mature forest and offers spectacular views of the Shuswap Lake. It’s a wonderful spot for birdwatching, with many species found in the area.
Sicamous, often referred to as the “Houseboat Capital of Canada”, is a vibrant community nestled between the Monashee and Shuswap highlands. As such, it offers a diverse array of activities for all types of travellers.
For those who love water-based adventures, renting a houseboat and exploring Mara and Shuswap Lakes is an absolute must. The lakes are adorned with secluded beaches, peaceful coves and are perfect for swimming, fishing, or simply floating under the sunny skies.
One of the must-visit spots in Sicamous is D Dutchmen Dairy. This family-run farm offers a unique farm-to-cone experience, where you can meet the cows and see the milking process before indulging in their famous homemade ice cream. There are over 60 flavours to choose from, including classics and special seasonal offerings. D Dutchmen Dairy also sells a variety of other dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter, all made fresh on-site from their own cows.
With its abundant snowfall, diverse terrain, and miles of groomed trails, Sicamous is a snowmobiler’s paradise. In the winter impressive Monashee and Shuswap highlands transform into a winter playground. Various local companies offer snowmobile rentals and guided tours, catering to everyone from beginners to seasoned riders.
11. The Enchanted Forest
Located between Sicamous and Revelstoke is the Enchanted Forest. This whimsical attraction is a treat for both children and adults. The heart of this attraction is the tallest treehouse in British Columbia, a unique structure that you can climb and witness panoramic views of the forest.
The forest is home to over 350 enchanting folk art figurines and intricately hand-crafted fairytale dioramas that bring childhood stories to life. As you explore the winding trails, you can expect to stumble upon charming scenes from classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Three Little Pigs, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
The Enchanted Forest also offers a self-guided rowboat tour on the serene waters of the Emerald Pond. As you row along, you may spot a collection of whimsical waterfowl and other aquatic creatures.
Just a stone’s throw away from the Enchanted Forest is the Skytrek Adventure Park. This outdoor adventure park offers an array of thrilling activities, with experiences ranging from high-speed zip lines to challenging high ropes courses.
12. Three Valley Gap
Just after the Enchanted Forest is the Three Valley Gap ghost town, a small abandoned settlement and one of the best things to do near Revelstoke.
The area was once home to the Trans-Canada Railway and a vibrant community full of miners, merchants and railway workers. Today, this ghost town has been turned into an open-air museum, with over 25 original heritage buildings on display.
Located at Three Valley Gap is the impressive Three Valley Chateau, a unique attraction that adds to the historical charm of this area. The chateau serves as both a hotel and a heritage site, offering a one-of-a-kind lodging experience steeped in history.
If you’ve ever made the trip from Whistler to Banff before, you’ve probably passed by this beautiful building. I recently stayed here as part of a road trip and it served as the perfect halfway point to split up the drive.
The chateau’s grand architecture, inspired by 19th-century design, stands as a testament to the area’s rich past. Each room is thoughtfully decorated and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains, while the hotel grounds feature a serene lake and beautifully landscaped gardens.
Keep an eye out for Mountain Goats that call the surrounding mountains home! We managed to spot them early evening and the following morning.
Revelstoke, affectionately known as “Revy” is an adventure-filled stop on your road trip from Whistler to Banff that you won’t want to miss. Revelstoke is often over-looked in favour of Whistler, but that’s what makes it worth visiting! With less crowds and a small-town vibe, Revelstoke is a great place to take a break from your road trip.
- Explore Mount Revelstoke National Park: If you’re looking for an incredible scenic drive, look no further than the Meadows in the Sky Parkway. Located just north of Revelstoke, this 26 km stretch of road offers spectacular views of alpine meadows, mountain peaks and wide open valleys. It’s well worth a visit if you want to experience some of the most awe-inspiring views in the area.
- Soak in a hot spring: Canyon Hot Springs is the perfect spot to unwind after a long day of exploring Revelstoke. Located just outside of town, this unique destination offers visitors the chance to soak in natural hot springs surrounded by breathtaking scenery. With a range of pools and spas, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience.
- Revelstoke Mountain Resort: The Revelation Gondola is one of the main attractions at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, offering a unique way to experience the area. This high-speed gondola whisks visitors up the mountain, providing a bird’s-eye view of the stunning Columbia River Valley below. In summer, it takes visitors to a world of hiking trails and mountain biking routes.
- Hit the slopes: Revelstoke is a true gem for those passionate about skiing. Known for its deep powder and varied terrain, it’s a haven that attracts snow enthusiasts from all around the globe. The Revelstoke Mountain Resort is particularly famous, boasting the most vertical in North America. With runs ranging from gentle groomed slopes for beginners to challenging steeps for the seasoned, there is something to cater to every level of skill.
Where To Stay In Revelstoke
Situated in the heart of the town, the Grizz Hotel is located a few minutes walk from Downtown Revelstoke. It is a short drive from Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Mount Revelstoke National Park, serving as an ideal base for any outdoor activities.
The Stoke Hotel is a chic, pet-friendly hotel. Each room boasts a vibrant pop of colour, comfortable beds, and all the amenities you need for a restful stay. The views of the river and their complimentary continental breakfast make this one of the best places to stay in Revelstoke.
14. Rogers Pass National Historic Site
Roger’s Pass is one of my favourite sections of the Highway 1 driving towards Banff. Located in the heart of the Selkirk Mountains, this high mountain pass offers unmatched views of the surrounding peaks, glaciers and alpine meadows. You’ll know you’ve reached Roger’s Pass when the mountain suddenly get incredibly tall. This is one of the most breathtaking sections of this highway.
Rogers Pass was designated a National Historic Site in 1971 for its role in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Although you can appreciate the beauty of Rogers Pass from your car, I highly recommend stopping at the visitor centre to take some photos and learn about this area.
Golden is another town that often gets overlooked on the route between Whistler and Banff. Although it’s known as a truck stop, if you venture further into town you’ll find an array of activities and things to do.
Nestled between the Canadian Rockies and Columbia Mountain ranges Golden is a small charming town and is a must-visit stop on your road trip. It sits between several National Parks making a great home base for any Canadian Rockies trip.
In the winter, the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a hot spot for skiing and snowboarding, while the summer months are perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and river rafting in the raging Kicking Horse River.
- Take a stroll over the Golden Skybridge: The Golden Skybridge is Golden’s newest attraction and the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge. Spanning 538 metres across the Columbia River, it offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. I have ventured across many suspension bridges such as the Capilano, Lynn Canyon and Cloudraker bridges, but the Golden Skybridge was the first to really make me nervous – if you have a fear of heights, just take note that this bridge does cross a very deep canyon.
- Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge: Golden is also home to one of the longest pedestrian bridges in North America, aptly named the Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge. Make sure to take a leisurely stroll along this wooden bridge for views of the impressive Kicking Horse River below.
- Visit a craft brewery: Head to Whitetooth Brewing to experience of Golden’s craft brewery scene and sample some of their beers. Situated amidst the majestic Rocky Mountains and Purcell Range, Whitetooth Brewing Co. draws inspiration from its breathtaking surroundings to craft artisanal, small-batch beers that capture the essence of the vibrant west coast.
- Go whitewater rafting: Whitewater rafting is a great way to explore Golden’s wild and rugged outdoors. The Kicking Horse River is one of the best for whitewater rafting and the best way to experience it is by joining a tour.
- Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre: The Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre is a must-visit spot in Golden. Here you have the chance to observe and learn about these majestic creatures up close, while also helping their conservation efforts.
- Explore Golden Town: The town of Golden is a small quaint local town that seems lost in time. It almost reminds me of something from Stranger Things. I do love this about Golden though, it is one of the few mountain towns in BC that is yet to be commercialized. There are plenty of bars, coffee shops, restaurants and galleries to wander through.
Where to stay in Golden
Golden is a great town to base yourself for exploring nearby Yoho National park. There are a variety of accommodation options for all budget types, from camping and RV parks to hotels, motels, hostels and bed & breakfasts.
The Best Western Plus Golden Hotel & Suites has stunning mountain views and plenty of amenities, while the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort also offers great accommodation options for visitors.
16. Wapta Falls
Wapta Falls is the largest waterfall on the Kicking Horse River and a definite must-see stop while traveling from Whistler to Banff. This stunning cascading waterfall offers spectacular views and a great setting for some epic photos.
Located within Yoho National Park, Wapta Falls is perfect for anyone looking to explore the natural beauty of British Columbia. The trail follows along the Kicking Horse River and is very easy, making it a great family-friendly hike.
The trail to Wapta Falls stretches about 2.4 kilometers each way, with a relatively easy and gentle elevation gain of 30 metres, making it a perfect choice for hikers of all fitness levels.
The great thing about Wapta Falls is it’s far less busy than nearby Takakkaw Falls, but easily as impressive. Wapta Falls is easily signposted along the Highway 1 and is around 30-minutes from Golden.
17. Yoho National Park
Yoho National Park is a great place to spend some time while traveling from Whistler to Banff and I really think it deserves more attention. It has easily become one of my favourite places in Canada.
With its jaw-dropping views, stunning lakes, and mesmerizing waterfalls, Yoho National Park is the perfect stop for any Canadian Rockies adventure.
Located close to Golden, Yoho is renowned for its soaring peaks, cascading waterfalls, and turquoise lakes. At the centre of Yoho National Park is the small quaint town of Field. If you are spending a day or two in Yoho (and I highly recommend you do) you should wander into Field and check out the Truffle Pig Bistro – it is everything you’d imagine from an alpine café.
- Emerald Lake: Emerald Lake is by far the most popular attraction in Yoho National Park, and for good reason. This stunning lake is the largest of Yoho’s 61 lakes and it’s one of BC’s most photographed destinations. A stroll around the Emerald Lake Loop Trail takes about an hour and offers breathtaking views along the way. If you want to splurge, a night at Emerald Lake Lodge is well worth it! Check out my Emerald Lake Lodge review for more information.
- Takakkaw Falls: Second to Emerald Lake is the ever-impressive Takakkaw Falls. If you’re visiting Yoho National Park, Takakkaw Falls is a must-see stop. The falls are one of the highest waterfalls in Canada with an impressive drop of 384 meters (1,260 feet).
- Hiking: Yoho National Park also has some incredible hikes that are perfect for those seeking a challenge. The Iceline Trail is a popular one and takes about 7-hours to complete. This hike offers several lookouts along the trail, including one of the most picturesque views of Yoho Valley.
- Burgess Shale: If you’re interested in the geology of this region, the Burgess Shale fossil beds is also a great place to explore. Located near the Trans-Canada Highway, these World Heritage Site fossil beds are renowned for their incredible preservation of fossils from prehistoric organisms. Only guided hikes are offered here, and you must book through the Parks Canada website in advance.
Of course, there’s plenty more that Yoho has to offer and I highly recommend exploring it further if you have time. Some of my favourite things to do in Yoho National Park include Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, and Lake O’Hara, which I have a full guide on here.
18. Lake Louise
You cannot drive to Banff without stopping by the majestic Lake Louise, one of the most iconic spots in all of Canada.
I have visited Lake Louise in May, June, July and August and I have seen in at sunrise, sunset, in the rain and the snow. This lake is beautiful no matter the time of year or season – and the colour it the water changes throughout year.
The best time to visit Lake Louise is during the summer months when you can explore the area to your heart’s content. There are many things to do in Lake Louise and hiking is by far the best way to explore.
- Walk the Lake Louise lakeshore: The Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail is a gentle 2-km path that follows the shoreline.
- See Lake Louise from above: For the truly adventurous, the Big Beehive is a 11-km trek that exposes hikers to stunning views of the surrounding glaciers and peaks with the highlight being a panoramic view of Lake Louise from above. This and the Little Beehive are two of my favourite hikes in Lake Louise.
- Go Canoeing: Canoeing on Lake Louise is a bucket list experience in Banff National Park. It’s not cheap but it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! If you do want to canoe at Lake Louise, get there early to avoid long lines.
- Sip tea in the mountains: Hiking to the Lake Agnes Tea House is a 3.4 kilometre trail that takes you through beautiful forested trails, past Mirror Lake, and up to the historic tea house perched at the edge of Lake Agnes. Here, at an elevation of 2,135 meters, you can enjoy hot tea and homemade baked goods, while soaking in panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
- Winter activities: If you’re lucky enough to visit during winter, there are plenty of activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
Where to stay in Lake Louise
Lake Louise is one of the most popular destinations in Banff National Park, so it’s no surprise that it is full of great accommodation options. Here are some of my favourite places to stay in Lake Louise.
- Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: Overlooking the serene Lake Louise, Fairmont Chateau is one of the foremost accommodation options in the region. This iconic hotel offers a unique blend of luxury, comfort, and breathtaking views. Here you can relish in the hotel’s world-class dining options, unwind in the award-winning spa, or partake in various outdoor activities. Check out my review of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for more information.
- Lake Louise Inn: The Lake Louise Inn is a great mid-range option. The Inn offers a variety of rooms to fit every budget, from economical suites to loft-style apartments with full kitchens. This hotel features a heated indoor pool and a variety of on-site restaurants. The Timber Wolf is my favourite restaurant in Lake Louise!
19. Moraine Lake
Just a short drive from Lake Louise is Moraine Lake. Often referred to as a “twenty-dollar view” Moraine Lake used to feature on the Canadian $20 bill.
Moraine Lake lies in the Valley of Ten Peaks and is by far the most beautiful lake in Banff. The best time to visit Moraine Lake is during the summer months when the lake is at its fullest and most vibrant blue colour.
Moraine Lake’s iconic turquoise colour comes from rock flour – a fine powder created by glaciers grinding against the bedrock. The rock flour is suspended in the water, giving off a milky teal colour.
Hiking is also popular at Moraine Lake and there are several trails, ranging from easy to difficult. I recommend hiking the Rockpile Trail which takes about 10 minutes to complete and offers the most stunning views of the lake and mountains.
Moraine Lake has grown to such popularity that Parks Canada made the decision to prohibited personal vehicles driving to the Lake. As on 2023 you can no longer drive a personal vehicle to Moraine Lake anymore. To visit you will need to take the Parks Canada shuttle, or book a tour. If you want to visit for sunrise, there are specialized tours for this too.
20. Morant’s Curve
Moran’t’s Curve is one of the top photography spots in Banff National Park. It is a horseshoe bend of the Canadian Pacific Railway located in the Bow Valley near Lake Louise. The CPR was built during 1886-1890, and since then it has become one of the most iconic and photographed locations in all of Alberta.
Morant’s Curve is named after Nicholas Morant, a photographer for the Canadian Pacific Railway who popularized the curve as a photogenic spot in 1909. The curve is surrounded by impressive mountain peaks and vast meadows, making it an ideal place to capture the rugged beauty of Banff National Park.
The best time to photograph Morant’s Curve is during sunrise when the colours are at their most vibrant. It’s also worth visiting in winter as there can be snow on the ground and in the trees. It’s easy to find Morant’s Curve – you can find it at the north end of the Bow Valley Parkway, where they’ll be a designated parking lot on your left hand side (if you are driving south)
21. Johnston Canyon
The biggest attraction along the Bow Valley Parkway is Johnston Canyon, an easy 6.8-km roundtrip hike through a narrow canyon to two stunning waterfalls – the Upper and Lower Falls. It is one of the most popular hiking trails in Banff National Park and it’s not hard to see why – this place is pure magic!
The Lower Falls are a short 1.2km hike from the parking lot and feature a tunnel through the rock that gives an up-close view of the roaring water. The Upper Falls, a bit further at 2.7km from the trailhead, presents a spectacle of water plunging 40m into the pool below.
If you’re planning a winter visit, bring ice cleats or spikes for safety. If you don’t have these, consider joining a guided ice walk tour that provides all necessary safety gear.
The easy hiking trail and accessibility of Johnston Canyon make it one of the busiest places in Banff. If you want to avoid crowds as much as possible, visit early in the morning or late afternoon.
As of 2023, there are restrictions on vehicle traffic on parts of the Bow Valley Parkway. These restrictions apply from May 1-June 30 and Sept 1-Sept 30, restricting access to cyclists only.
You have arrived at your destination! Banff, a town within Banff National Park, is a bucket-list Canadian destination and one of the best places to visit in Alberta. This town hosts an array of must-see attractions, and many of the things to do in Banff are completely free!
Banff National Park is Canada’s first national park. If you’ve ever seen photos of Banff, you’ve probably seen the famous shot of Cascade Mountain from Downtown Banff, which is brimming with shops, restaurants and bars.
- Sample local food & drink: Head to Banff Avenue Brewing Co. or the Three Little Brewery to get a taste of Banff’s craft beer scene. For the best brunch in Banff, Touloulous hits the spot every time (trust me on this one, it’s a brunch you won’t forget any time soon)
- Go Hiking: Hiking in Banff offers an unparalleled opportunity to experience the raw beauty of the Canadian Rockies firsthand. Some of my favourite trails include the Tunnel Mountain trail and Hoodoos trail.
- Bow Falls Lookout: Bow Falls Lookout is one of the hidden gems in Banff National Park that you should not miss. Located near the town of Banff, it offers a spectacular view of a waterfall tumbling down over a series of rocky steps. The lookout is easily accessible by a short and gentle trail that begins at the Surprise Corner Viewpoint.
- Soak in a hot spring: After a long day of hiking, a visit to the Banff Hot Springs offers a soothing respite. These naturally occurring hot springs have healing properties and provide a unique experience of soaking in warm water while surrounded by snowy peaks.
- Cave & Basin: The Cave and Basin National Historic Site holds historical significance as the birthplace of Canada’s national parks system. The site is home to a naturally occurring, warm mineral springs inside a cave where you can marvel at the stalactites clinging to the rock ceiling and feel the warm steam that contributes to a unique microhabitat. The Cave & Basin is a great activity in Banff when it’s raining, or when it’s smoky.
Where To Stay In Banff
Choosing where to stay in Banff depends largely on your budget and preferences. But no matter your needs, Banff has a wide range of accommodations to suit all kinds of visitors.
- Banff Springs Hotel: If you want to splurge on a luxury stay, the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, often referred to as the “Castle in the Rockies,” is an excellent choice. This historic hotel offers stunning views, world-class service, and amenities, including a spa, golf course, and several dining options.
- Moose Hotel and Suites: For a mid-range budget, consider the Moose Hotel and Suites. Located on Banff Avenue, this hotel offers easy access to local shops and restaurants. It also boasts a rooftop pool with panoramic views, a perfect spot to relax after a day of exploring.
- Banff International Hostel: For travellers on a tight budget, Banff International Hostel offers affordable, comfortable accommodations. The hostel is located within walking distance to downtown Banff and offers both private and shared rooms.
- Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets Amenities: One key feature that sets Douglas Fir Resort & Chalets apart from other accommodations in Banff is its waterslide — the only hotel with a waterslide in Banff. The resort offers a variety of other recreational facilities, including a play zone for kids and indoor pools. Accommodations range from studios and suites to rustic chalets and spacious condos, making it an ideal choice for couples, families, or groups.
Parks Canada National Parks Pass Info
If you are visiting or planning a trip to any of Canada’s National Parks, you will need to purchase a parks pass. There are a number of options available.
Single Day Admission:
This option is great if you only plan to spend a day or two in a National Park. Valid for one person per day. See the Parks Canada website for current rates. Children 17 or younger are free.
Group Daily Admission:
This is a great option if you have up to 7 people per one vehicle. It is cheaper than purchasing a pass for each person. See the Parks Canada website for current rates.
Parks Canada Discovery Pass:
A discovery Pass is, in my opinion, the best option for people visiting in groups for a week or more. This is an annual pass and is valid from the day you buy it. It will give you 365 days of entry to all of Canada’s National Parks. I purchased this for my 12 day trip to the Banff and Jasper in 2021 and used it 3 more times in Banff in 2022 and another for Pacific Rim in Tofino. If you are planning on traveling around Canada for an extended period of time, this is worth the money!
The Discovery Pass will cover up to 7 people per vehicle. You can purchase the Discovery pass online or in person when you arrive. See the Parks Canada website for current rates.
Whistler To Banff: FAQ
In my experience, Banff is cheaper than Whistler. This includes accommodation and food. Banff has a lot more options when it comes to restaurants, unlike Whistler it isn’t just fine-dining.
Although you can get a lot done with 1 day in Banff, I recommend anywhere from 2 to 4 days to really experience it.
2 to 4 days is the ideal amount of time to spend in Whistler.
Weekends are the busiest with hour long line-ups to get in and out of town. If you want to avoid traffic, visit on a week day or plan your journey early in the morning or late afternoon.
The distance is approximately 793km
Whistler To Banff: Final Thoughts
The route from Whistler to Banff offers breathtaking sceneries, local culture, and the opportunity to explore many of Canada’s most famous mountain towns.
While planning is key, flexibility can enhance your trip, allowing you to make impromptu stops at scenic viewpoints or interesting sites. Remember to pack the essentials, choose the right vehicle, and book your accommodations in advance. You can check out more of my Canadian travel guides to help plan your trip!
- Lake O’Hara Planning Guide
- Peak 2 Peak Gondola Vs Sea to Sky Gondola
- Best hikes in Whistler, BC
- Best Brunch in Whistler
- Free things to do in Banff
- Best Lakes in Whistler
- Best Waterfalls inWhistler
- Best Lakes in Banff National Park
Rachael is an avid adventurer and writer, originally hailing from London, England. She embarked on a life-changing journey by moving to Canada in 2016. Settling in the picturesque town of Whistler, British Columbia, Rachael found solace in the majestic beauty of the Canadian wilderness.
A City Girl Outside invites readers to embark on their own journeys of self-discovery and encourages them to embrace the transformative power of exploration.