Canada’s showstopper mountains await you in Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Park. In this post, we will share an EPIC 10 day Canadian Rockies Itinerary in a road trip format.
At these national parks located primarily in Alberta, you will see the Canadian Rockies in all their glory. Living in Edmonton, the Canadian Rockies have been our weekend getaway for years, and we really enjoyed all of our road trips here, and continue to do so!
Canadian Rockies Itinerary: An epic 10 day Canadian Rockies Road Trip Itinerary
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Banff National Park was recognized as a national park in 1885. In Banff, you will be mesmerized by stunning mountain views, pristine lakes and rivers, outdoor activities, slow traveling, good food, and great hospitality.
There are five national parks located within the Canadian Rockies. Four of them are adjacent to each other and make up the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks.
These four parks are
- Banff National Park,
- Jasper Banff National Park,
- Kootenay Banff National Park,
- Yoho Banff National Park,
- Waterton National Park
We will explore the 3 national parks (and at least five lakes or more) in 10 days. Here are quick planning tips for your Yoho, Banff, and Jasper itinerary
There are entry fees required at all the National Parks in Canada including at Banff, Jasper, and Yoho. You can purchase a day pass or an annual pass for an individual or family/group. It’s payable at the gate. Make sure to tape the entry pass on your vehicle’s windshield.
The fee is calculated based on the number of days you spend at the park. If you are staying in Banff for 1 to 24 hours, regardless of your accommodation, you will pay for a 1-day entry fee. Similarly, if you stay for additional nights, you pay per day for park entry fees.
All the national parks have the same entry fee and the same rules. For example, let’s say you are driving from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park, and you have paid for your park entry in Banff; so long as the time/day/date are covered, you will not need to pay again.
Just show your pass at the gate. If you are not entering the national parks but are traveling via the Trans-Canada Highway, you do not need to pay any park fees.
- Entry fee for individual parks is $19.60 CAD/day for a vehicle. Parks Canada offers free entry for youth – 17 years and under for National Parks only.
- You can also purchase The Discovery Pass, for unlimited admission for a full year at over 80 Parks Canada, valid for 12 months from date of purchase.
Day 1: Arrive in Calgary Canada and drive to Banff
If you are traveling or flying from the United States or the east coast of Canada, you will most likely arrive in Calgary. Calgary is one of the largest cities in Alberta and is also the nearest airport to Banff National Park.
On day 1 of your Canadian Rockies Itinerary, arrive in Calgary.
To drive to Banff, you can rent a car from Calgary International Airport or from anywhere in the city. Purchase insurance and track the kms that you travel. Many rental companies operate in Calgary, Alberta, including at the airport.
Note you can also hop on a bus to reach Banff town from Calgary. Buses are available to take you from the Calgary airport or major hotels to Banff. Shuttle bus tickets range from about $69 to $169 CAD. Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket counter at the airport.
Driving time from Calgary to Banff is 1 hour 30 minutes. And you can travel via Trans-Canada Hwy/AB-1 W.
Top Hotels/Airbnbs to stay in Banff:
- Rimrock Resort Hotel: Located in Banff town, Rimrock Hotel is a nice 4-star property, with beautiful suites, restaurants on site. For breathtaking views, opt for a room with mountain views. Check out reviews and photos here
- Juniper Hotel: Based a little further away from Banff town, but Juniper Hotel has a gorgeous bistro to die for. We love staying here for amazing morning breakfast views. Click to check prices and availability
- Find Airbnbs in Banff
Restaurants to try out in Banff:
- Magpie and Stump
- Park Distillery and Bar
- Nourish Bistro Banff
- Other eats: Boston Pizza, Good Earth Cafe, Balkan Restaurant
Day 2: Explore Banff town
Next morning, wake up to a warm breakfast in the downtown area. Our pick is Touloulou’s. Today’s itinerary will be an easy one, and will revolve in and around Banff Avenue. So it is a good idea to hang out at a breakfast cafe and enjoy a mountain staycation.
Wander Banff town and explore its beautiful streets. At Banff Avenue you will find tons of photo opportunities as well as souvenir stores to buy goodies back home.
There are tons of free parking lots available in the downtown area. We recommend that you park your car and walk around the downtown area, before driving to the Banff Gondola.
After breakfast and time at Banff Avenue, drive to the Sulphur Mountains Sightseeing area. The Sulphur Mountains are a mountain range in the Canadian Rockies. They are best-known for the 8-minute Banff Gondola ride to the top.
There is free parking available at the Sulphur Mountain Gondola. Washrooms, gift shops and Starbucks Cafe are also located in the complex. Gondola rides start at $59 CAD, and includes a trip to the mountain top and back.
You can easily spend a couple of hours here checking out the valley and soaking in mountain views. There are various levels to explore the scenic views from an 360 degree observation deck to stunning boardwalks and a Sky Bistro!
Our favorite is the boardwalk, where you can enjoy a lovely stroll (2 km) to Sanson’s Peak and the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station—a National Historic Site of Canada.
Sulphur Mountain Gondola is open all year round. During winters, they also organize special events like ‘Christmas on Mountaintop’, Stargazing and festive dining at the Sky Bistro (restaurant).
If you do not wish to pay for a Gondola ride, you can also hike/walk the Sulphur Mountains in about 2 hours.
From Banff Gondola, head to the Bow Falls. The falls are located right by the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel (which has parking and is completely accessible without hiking).
Spend 30 minutes or so at the Bow Falls. And then opt for a Castle Food Tour at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It is a perfect way to relish culinary delights from a master chef, and also learn about the history of this heritage hotel and food in Alberta.
In the evening, it’s time for a walk at the Cascade of Time Gardens. This place is super stunning and it looks like a fairy tale, with the gorgeous mountains and a Tudor Gothic Revival-style administrative building.
The Cascade Gardens are my absolute favorite best photo spots in Banff. They are located not too far from downtown Banff, so you can easily walk to this photo spot.
During summers the daylight hours will be longer, so you can even have a nice stroll as late as 08:00 pm. Gardens are open every day from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm. Access is free.
Day 3: Explore Lakes and Banff Hot Springs
On day 3, drive inside Banff National Park and stop by beautiful lakes. Start the day early to make the most of this drive to 3 lakes – Minnewanka Lake, Two Jack Lake, and Moraine Lake.
Lake Minnewanka is located 11 kilometers from Banff town. The lake is easily accessible by road, with parking spaces available. Not only is it one of the best photo spots in Banff but it is also a great place to kayak or take a cruise to Spirit River, tasting some wine and cheese on the go. The stunning mountains and beautiful lake make for more picture-perfect moments.
At the Lake Minnewanka Loop, you might be lucky and see bighorn sheep. You can also take a leisurely cruise on the lake.
Activities in and around Lake Minnewanka
- Walk or stroll the beautiful lake Minnewanka boardwalk and sightseeing areas.
- A variety of Lake Minnewanka Cruises are available from June to September. More information on cruises, schedules and current prices
- If you wish to hike in Banff, you can go on a 40 minute Stewart Canyon Trail (easy to moderate level hiking).
- If you have additional time on your hands, embark on Aylmer Pass (23.4 km round trip). The trail includes a climb to 560 meters, to reveal a stunning panoramic view of “The Lake of The Spirits.”
Up next is the Two Jack Lake – a pristine lake located on the Lake Minnewanka Loop. Two Jack Lake is perfect for swimming and kayaking. During the summer, it’s a great place to sit back, picnic, or read a book.
Two Jack Lake is where Salil and I got married. It is definitely one of the most beautiful spots in the Canadian Rockies (and one that is not overly crowded)!
Speaking of crowds, Moraine Lake is notorious for that! The stunning site of the mountains, lake, and colorful kayaks at the dock is one of the most iconic images of Banff National Park. It is just so pretty!
It is not difficult to take this shot; the problem lies in finding parking and making your way to the lake.
During the summer months, especially in the afternoons, you might find yourself stuck in traffic (i.e., lining up to find a parking spot). To avoid this, head to the lake in the morning before 09:00 am or after 05:00 pm.
In 2020, even with restrictions on international travel the parking lot at Moraine Lake was filled as early as 5:00 am. We have been lucky to find parking in the evenings (with a 5 to 10 minute wait).
Note that access is closed in the winters, starting from Canadian Thanksgiving day in October.
You can opt for a full day at Moraine Lake too if you like. Come early at 4:30 am or 5 am, find a parking spot and take your sunrise Instagram shots taken, and then spend the entire day outdoors.
Hiking Trails in and around Moraine Lake
- Larch Valley: The Larch Valley hike is one of the easiest hikes in the Moraine Lake area. It lasts for 1-2 hours.
- Sentinel Pass: Sentinel Pass is a continuation of the Larch Valley hike and will take you higher above for incredible views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at an elevation of 732 meters. It’s a 12-km hike (round-trip).
- Consolation Lakes: Another easy hike at 60 meters’ elevation and a duration of 1-2 hours
After a day of hiking (or lake sightseeing) soak in hot thermal waters, while sipping a drink and taking in those gorgeous mountains views.
The Upper Banff Hot Springs are a delight after a long day of hike, or sightseeing. These thermal waters were discovered in 1883, and have been pulling tourists since then. Imagine soaking into warm waters and looking over at the Mount Rundle.
Banff Upper Hot Springs admission fees are $8.30 (adult), $6.30 (youth), and children under the age of 3 are free. Don’t forget to carry your swimwear! If not, you can rent one at the Hot Springs Complex.
Day 4: Day trip to Lake Louise
Lake Louise is THE most recognizable image of the Canadian Rockies. It is located about 90 minutes outside Banff town, in the hamlet of Lake Louise, Alberta.
You can embark on the Trans Canada Hwy and reach Lake Louise (quickest way). There are parking areas, washroom close to Lake Louise.
A glacial-fed lake, Lake Louise sparkles a pristine blue turquoise hue in the summertime, making it perfect for memorable holiday shots, nature photography, and outdoor activities.
The iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is located near the lake, and the town centre of Lake Louise is an excellent area to have a meal, buy souvenirs and candy!
- The most popular activities in Lake Louise include horseback riding day trips during the summer season and sleigh rides in the winter. Read our entire guide to visiting Lake Louise in winter
- Lake Louise Ski Resort is also a popular spot for winter activities in the mountains
- You can rent a canoe from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise’s Boathouse to go deeper and closer to the scenic mountains. Rentals start at $85 CAD per hour.
- For a romantic staycation and celebrations, stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Book one of the deluxe spa treatments whilst enjoying amazing views.
We recommend starting early and staying here for a day. During summers, you can hike the 2.2 mile to the Tea House, which starts on the shores of Lake Louise near the Fairmont Chateau Hotel. It is a moderate trail and takes about 1.50 to 2 hours. You can relax at the tea house, and then embark on a return trip. Keep in mind it is seasonal, and is only open during summer months.
NOTE: Finding accommodation in Lake Louise in the summer is difficult. But if you are lucky we recommend staying here for a few days and continuing to Yoho National Park as a day trip, and then head to Jasper National Park.
If accommodation is an issue, you can still keep your Banff hotel as base, and drive to Lake Louise and back (Day 4), and do the same on day 5 for Yoho National Park.
Day 5: Head to Yoho National Park British Columbia
Yoho National Park is located in the province of British Columbia and forms a part of the Canadian Rockies mountain range. It is a phenomenal place—a protected alpine paradise—and it deserves at least one day on your road trip itinerary.
- Banff to Yoho National Park: 1.25 hours
- Lake Louise to Yoho: 40 minute
You don’t have to pay any entry fees at Yoho National Park, if you have already pre-paid for 10 days at the Banff entrance.
There are tons of things to see in Yoho National Park, but we will stick to a few for a day trip itinerary. We highly recommend stopping by the Takakkaw Falls, the Kicking Horse River, and the ever-so-beautiful turquoise-colored Emerald Lake. You can certainly cover the highlights in a day, as well as fit in a short hike or leisurely canoe ride.
While road tripping from Banff/Lake Louise to Yoho National Park, you will arrive at Lower Spiral Tunnel. This viewpoint is located 7.4 km east of Field on the Trans-Canada Highway (your first stop for the day).
There are informative displays on the Spiral Tunnels and the Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site of Canada. These tunnels were created when British Columbia joined the Canadian Confederation and a railway network was constructed. A quick stop is all you need, but if you wish to capture the trains pass through you will have to wait for a while. (About 25 to 30 trains pass through the Spiral Tunnels every day).
Next on the Canadian Rockies road trip itinerary is the Natural Bridge – a convenient spot to capture the nature-scape of the Canadian Rockies. This is a unique phenomenon in which 2 rocks create a bridge-like structure.
The turquoise blue water that passes through it makes this bridge quite unique. You don’t have to hike or spend hours to get to this beautiful spot. The bridge is easily accessible via the Trans-Canada Highway and parking is available right in front of it.
When heading west, you will come to the turn off for Yoho Valley Road (to Takakkaw Falls). Instead of heading to the falls, continue west on the highway (past the town of Field) and make a turn at Emerald Lake Road. Near the start of the road is the spot from which you can admire Natural Bridge.
From Natural Bridge, continue on to the end of the road to reach the Emerald Lake. The Emerald Lake is enclosed by mountains—President Range, Mount Burgess, and Wapta, and is one of the prettiest places in the Canadian Rockies.
Although accessible in winters too, the lake looks different and has different activities for each season. The area is great for cross country skiing in the winter. Rain is frequent in the summertime, and in June and July you can canoe and hike in and around the lake shore.
There are accessible hiking trails near the lake (first half of 5.5-km circuit). Parking is available nearby and you can also find a gift shop, cafe and restaurant, and the beautiful Emerald lodge for overnight stay.
For lunch, head to the town of Field. It is a small town in British Columbia and is home to only 300 residents. This is an excellent spot for lunch. Eat at the Truffle Pigs Bistro – our favorite!
After lunch, drive to one of the most powerful falls in the Canadian Rockies. About 4 km from the town of Field is the Yoho Valley Road, located off the Trans-Canada Highway are the Takakkaw Falls.
Note that the access to the falls are open from mid-June to mid-October. Also when you are driving it is important to know that the Yoho Valley road is steep and narrow, with a set of switchbacks that makes driving both challenging and interesting.
Once there the Takakkaw Falls will take your breath away! It is one of the highest waterfalls in North America, and it creates a powerful cascade that tumbles 830 feet into the river below.
The scenic drive to the Falls takes about 30 minutes. You can also see wildlife along the way. We recommend not stopping for pictures here; as the roads are steep and narrow, you can easily cause traffic congestion here.
After parking your car, you have to walk a short trail and a wooden bridge to see the Takakkaw Falls. The water rushing down to the edge of the barren cliffs and the surrounding sea of coniferous forest make Takakkaw Falls one of the most picturesque scenic points in the Canadian Rockies.
After a fun-filled day at the Yoho National Park, return to Banff or Lake Louise Hotel.
Day 6: Jasper National Park for 2 days
Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. You can arrive in Jasper town via Banff or Lake Louise, either way, get ready to be mesmerized as you drive the ever stunning Icefields Parkway!
- Banff to Jasper Town: 3 hours, 29 minutes (287.9 km)
- Lake Louise to Jasper Town: 2 hours, 57 minutes (233.0 km)
Use day 6 to drive to Jasper town and really take your time to enjoy the scenic view. We have taken the routes in summer as well as in winter – great views each time! But if you have never driven on winter roads, we recommend that you visit in the summer or early fall months.
If you drive while stopping at a few lookout points, you can easily spend 5 to 6 hours on the road. Always find a safe place to stop by and take in views. Please do not go slow while driving as it could lead to traffic congestion.
For the purposes of his itinerary, we recommend exploring the 2 highlights
Johnston Canyon – Johnston Canyon is located 25 km from Banff and it takes about 2-3 hours to explore, so ensure you add that to your itinerary.
Bow Summit/Peyto Lake – Peyto Lake is one of the most stunning and photograph lakes in Canada. It is located about 100 km from Banff and 188km from Jasper. To enjoy some scenic views, embark on the 2.9-km hike to capture the stunning turquoise-coloured lake.
You will arrive in Jasper town in the evening. So pack some snacks for your (almost) day long road trip. The good thing is that the road to Jasper National Park from Banff is lined with wildlife corridors along with scenic views and watching them is a real treat.
Stay in Jasper National Park for the next 2 nights. Book your stay at Jasper Inn & Suites
Day 7: Jasper Sightseeing
Start your day with breakfast at the heart of Jasper town. You will find cute local cafes to kick start your day!
After breakfast, it’s time to start exploring. Jasper is home to a couple of lakes that are located pretty close to the downtown area. First off, let’s start with Pyramid Lake. This is a kidney-shaped lake located about 5 to 7-minute drive from Jasper town.
This is the prettiest area in Jasper for unwinding and admiring the natural beauty of the Rockies. Pyramid Lake lies at the foothills of Pyramid Mountain—hence, the name. The lake is located at an elevation of 1,180 meters.
During the summer, you can join a canoe tour or go kayaking at the Pyramid Lake.Or hike – the Pyramid Lake Hike is an easy hike (5.2 km one way). It begins near the Jasper Activity Centre parking lot and ends at the end of the Pyramid Lake road, near the wooden foot bridge.
Patricia Lake is another lake, located very close to Pyramid Mountain and lake. During the summer months, you can also swim, canoe, or picnic here and be mesmerized by the stunning mountain backdrops. The lake has a resort with boating facilities (Patricia Lake Bungalows).
Activities at Patricia Lake are similar to its next door neighbour Pyramid Lake. It is a great spot to view wildlife in Jasper National Park.
During summers, you must visit the Jasper Skytram. It is the highest and longest tramway in Canada and located at a height of 2,277 meters above sea level. You can take the Jasper Skytram to the summit lookout area, to enjoy stunning views of the Canadian Rockies.
During the peak summer months, the Skytram opens at 8:00 a.m. During the fall, the Jasper Skytram opens its doors at 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. It is closed in winter. Fees are $52 CAD for adult entry. Feel free to skip the Skytram, if you have already taken the Banff Gondola (and save some cash).
From the Skytram, drive to the Athabasca Falls. The Falls are located about 15-20 minutes from downtown Jasper. These stunning falls are about 23 meters high and are on the west side of the Icefields Parkway—Columbia Icefield. It receives water from the glaciers of the Icefields Parkway, making it the largest river system in Jasper National Park. (We will be heading to the Icefield on day 8)
Athabasca Falls is a great place to hike and capture some of the stunning mountains and waterfalls. While hiking in and around Athabasca Falls, be mindful of slippery surfaces such as the boardwalk, rocks, and the trail in general. During the winter, trail access is closed for safety reasons.
To see the waterfalls up close, you do not need to hike. A short walk along the trail to the boardwalk will take you to these majestic falls.
Close to the falls is the Maligne Canyon. (located about 12-15 minutes away from downtown Jasper). Maligne Canyon is stunning. So over the years, the lake’s waves have beat against the rocks and walls of the hills to create beautiful craters.
The canyon area contains waterfalls, underground stream outlets, birds, and flora and fauna and has hiking trails for all levels. Maligne Canyon Loop Trail is a 3.4-km trail along which you can see waterfalls and go bird watching.
Other things to add to your itinerary
Maligne Lake – One of the most picturesque locations in Jasper National Park is Maligne Lake. The lake is beautiful, with rare turquoise waters and a small islet called Spirit Island.
The drive to Maligne Lake is also one of the most scenic routes in the Canadian Rockies. The drive starts near the town of Jasper and ends at Maligne Lake. Along the way, you can stop at Maligne Canyon and the popular Hanging Valley viewpoint.
The scenic road to Maligne Lake is built along the glacier valley that runs between the Maligne and Elizabeth mountain ranges. This is why you will see stunning mountain peaks, glacier lakes, and tons of wildlife on your way.
Medicine Lake – This is a 7-km picturesque lake located approximately 20 km southeast of downtown Jasper. Medicine Lake is shallow and forms part of the Maligne Valley watershed.
Day 8: Athabasca Glacier & Columbia Icefield Discovery Center
We highly recommend reserving a FULL day to enjoy and explore the Athabasca Glacier. The glacier is best explored as a day-long tour to the Columbia Icefields Parkway, located in the Canadian Rockies.
As you might already know, the Columbia Icefields are the largest glaciers in Canada. Athabasca Glacier is one of the distributions of the Columbia Icefields.
Guided tours, with glacier walks and skywalk services to the Athabasca Glacier, are offered to visitors which commences at the Icefield Discovery Centre. Entry to the Discovery Centre is included in the park admission fees, but tours are priced separately.
The Banff Jasper Collection tour collective offers Athabasca Glacier tours. These guided tours include a trip to Athabasca Glacier and Skywalk. You will be taken to the glacier in a special vehicle and will be allowed time on the glacier surface. Take pictures, walk the surface, and live the experience.
The Sunwapta River is a tributary of the Athabasca River. The Sunwapta Falls is a pair of waterfalls in the same river. The falls are accessible via the Icefields Parkway, which connects Jasper and Banff National Parks. Note that the Icefields are far from Banff (185km from Banff), than Jasper (103km).
Day 9 Hiking in Jasper National Park
Spend your final day in Jasper National Park hiking. Here are a few popular trails
- Edith Cavell Meadows Trail – This is a 6.1-km loop trail in Jasper, of moderate intensity. This trail offers a number of activities, such as hiking and bird and nature watching. Mount Edith Cavell is one of the most prominent peaks within Jasper National Park.
- Sulphur Skyline Trail – The Sulphur Skyline Trail offers some of the most stunning views of Jasper National Park. The Sulphur Skyline trail road is closed for the winter and usually opens in May as the temperatures rise.
After an eventful day at the Sulphur Skyline trail ride, head to Miette Hot Springs. The springs are located right at the trailhead of the Sulphur Skyline hike, which is about 61 kilometers northeast of Jasper.
Whether or not you hike, you must head there to soak in the amazing views and the warm waters of the Rockies. Miette Hot Springs is an outdoor pool, offering a great view of the Fiddle River Valley.
Day 10: Jasper to Calgary via Canmore for lunch
Today’s the day to drive back to Calgary and fly out. We recommend that you start early and make a stop at Canmore before reaching Calgary Airport.
Jasper to Canmore is about 3.50 hours drive. Canmore is a small town located 20 minutes outside of Banff town. If you start at 8:00 am ish, you will be in Canmore by lunch time. There are tons of cafes and restaurants here to relax and have a delicious meal (we actually prefer walking in Canmore town more than Banff, as it’s less commercialised).
- Top Restaurant Picks: Spice Hut, J Bakery, Mexican Aroma Restaurant
- Activities: Canmore Nordic Centre, Grassi Lakes Hike, Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk, Big Head Sculpture, Yoga and recreational centres
From Canmore, you will arrive in Calgary in about an hour. For an overnight stay in Calgary near the airport, stay at our favorite Hampton Inn Suites.
We hope you enjoyed our 10 day Canadian Rockies Itinerary. You can easily adjust this itinerary and make it longer or shorter than 10 days.
Have questions about Canadian Rockies, ask us?