This is a 6-night self-drive road trip that gives you the highlights of some of the most stunning and less crowded areas in Western Canada. I’ve driven this Western Canada Self-Drive Road trip myself many times, as I live in the area, so I am very familiar with places on this trip!
Day 1: Vancouver – Whistler
Day one will be packed with some gorgeous sightseeing opportunities. As you leave Vancouver, you will travel onto the Sea-to-Sky Highway as you make your way to Whistler. I recommend a stop at the impressive Shannon Falls and/or Brandywine Fall (pictured above) before continuing onto Whistler. When you arrive in the village, you can explore the village and you will have the option to take part in some extreme activities like the amazing zip-trekking through the forests that surround the village. There is also something for the very brave, a bungee jump in one of the gorges in the area. There is also the option to take the Peak-to-Peak Gondola, where you will be wowed by the panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. There are also several hikes in the area as well as bike trails that you can explore. Your hotel is located at the base of Whistler Mountain, where you will be able to enjoy leisure time to enjoy the hotel amenities and explore Whistler Village. In the evening there is also the option to participate in the Vallea Lumina, a multi-media night walk in pursuit of hidden wonders.
Day 2: Whistler – Sun Peaks Resort
Depart Whistler for Sun Peaks Resort. On the way, I recommend a stop at the Joffre Lakes and take a leisurely walk to the lower lake for some photo ops. Then on to Kamloops for lunch with many options in town such as Casa Azul Mexican Restaurant, or you can enjoy lunch and wine tasting at Monte Creek Ranch Winery. You will then arrive at Sun Peaks Resort and check into the beautiful Sun Peaks Grand Hotel & Conference Centre.
After settling in enjoy an included excursion on the sightseeing chairlift. Once you reach the top at 6,000 ft elevation you can explore the mountain with 18 hiking trails that range from relaxing strolls to exhilarating summits, all featuring magnificent wildflower displays. After this, you will have plenty of free time to enjoy the hotel amenities, including a big outdoor pool and have the evening at leisure to explore the pedestrian village of Sun Peaks Resort and sample some of the fine dining options the village has to offer. If you enjoy a good spa treatment, I recommend Sun Peaks Spa and The Great Canadian. It’s Heavenly!
Day 3: Sun Peaks Resort – Jasper National Park
Depart for Jasper National Park. The first stop I recommend is at Spahats Falls near Clearwater in Wells Gray Provincial Park. This waterfall is the perfect spot for a photo opportunity. The cut in the mountain that the water has created over millennia is the funnel point for this gushing waterfall as it cascades down into the bowl below. If you want to spend a bit more time in Wells Gray Provincial Park, keep driving past Spahats Falls and two more falls with easy access are Dawson and Helmcken (the most impressive).
Moving on, you can stop at Mount Robson before you reach the Alberta border, and on a clear day, this is one of the more impressive sights of the tour. That being said, even if there is some cloud around, it makes that photograph all the more mysterious. As you cross into Alberta, you will then carry onto the town of Jasper, where you will stay overnight. You will have free time to explore the town of Jasper and have dinner. I recommend dinner at Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen. Seated on the patio you’ll be beside the rushing water in Maligne Canyon. To walk off your dinner (or beforehand) you can explore the well-marked trails around the canyon.
Just a few of the great places to eat in Jasper!
Day 4: Jasper – Icefield Parkway – Banff
Today you will have another early-ish start as there is so much to see and do. After you enjoy breakfast in the hotel, I recommend a drive to Maligne Lake. Enjoy the beautiful views on the way and then there is the option for an additional cost to take a boat tour to one of the most photographed spots in Canada, Spirit Island. After leaving Maligne Lake, you will then travel to the turquoise beauty of Athabasca Falls and Bow Lake. This will be your first taste of the unique colours that the lakes and rivers have in the Rocky Mountains.
Next, you will drive down the famous Icefields Parkway, where you will have the chance to glimpse hundreds of glaciers. You will stop at the Athabasca Glacier, part of the Columbia Icefield, where you will take a world-renowned Ice Explorer onto the glacier. Here you will be able to walk around, take in the beauty and even have a sip of millennia-old water. You will get the feeling of just how fragile our planet really is while you are up there. Your accommodation will be in the Town of Banff for the next two nights at a hotel located in the heart of downtown Banff. If you’d like to add an extra night to your itinerary, I recommend staying at Glacier View Lodge and walking on the glass-floored Glacier Skywalk… plus enjoy the amazing cuisine designed by Executive Chef Terry Port at Altitude Restaurant, before continuing on to Banff.
Day 5: Banff
Following breakfast at your hotel, get ready for a day of exploring. You can start the day off with a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Here you will take in the magnificent views of the valley and mountains surrounding the Town of Banff before doing a tour through the townsite of Banff. Next, I recommend a stop for a stunning photo opportunity at Bow Falls before heading to the magical spires of the Banff HooDoos. You will then circle around to the Banff Springs Hotel, a site with many tales of ghosts, including the mystery of room 873. You will then have the rest of the day to navigate your way around this quintessential Rockies town. There are some fantastic shops for those needing retail therapy along Banff Avenue as well as well-marked paths running beside the turquoise Bow River, both on the town side and the golf course side. Several optional activities can be booked for a discounted rate. These include horseback riding, whitewater rafting, canoeing, known as the Bow River float, hiking, caving, hot springs, fishing (early booking essential) and more. Tonight you will have the option to choose from one of the many dining options the town offers this evening.
For something unique, I recommend taking a tour of Banff in a replica vintage 1930s coach!
Day 6: Banff – Lake Louise – Revelstoke
Get ready for lake day! After breakfast and hotel check-out, head to the Rockies lakes. You will get to see Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Emerald Lake, definitely three of the most beautiful lakes in the area. You will have plenty of free time to walk around the lakes or to rent a canoe and head out across the lakes to see parts that are not accessible by foot. You will travel through Roger’s Pass from the lakes, a past steeped in history before arriving in Revelstoke. You will stay overnight at the beautiful Sutton Place Hotel at the Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Enjoy the many resort amenities.
On your way through Golden, a must-stop is at the Golden Skybridge, which consists of two of the highest suspension bridges in Canada! You can have lunch and enjoy a kids’ play area with mini suspension bridges. There is something for all ages.
Day 7: Revelstoke – End of Trip
Enjoy a lovely continental breakfast in the hotel. As you leave one mountain range, the Selkirk Range, and move toward the Coastal Mountains, there are many stops you can make along the way. The first recommended stop of the day will be at Craigellachie, the site of the famous Last Spike. This location is the historic meeting point of the east and west construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
As you travel into the Okanagan Valley, the desert region of Canada, you can stop at a local farmers market for lunch, followed by a cidery visit.
You can finish up the adventure with a stop at Othello Tunnels. These tunnels were cut from the granite cliffs in 1914 by the Canadian Pacific Railway connecting the Kootenays to the Coast. A total of five tunnels were cut out as part of the Kettle Valley Railway grade. The engineering effort it took to build this route was impressive, especially considering the limited infrastructure of the time. You will have the opportunity to walk through the tunnels and cross the cascading Coquihalla River. This area is also rich in film history, with several blockbuster film scenes shot at Othello Tunnels. You will be arriving back in Vancouver at approximately 8:00 pm after a week of amazing sights, fantastic memories and friendships that will last far into the future.
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