Calgary is a vibrant and relatively young city to explore, largely due to the variety of employment opportunities but then it can also be attributed to the city's location next to some truly inspiring outdoor areas which is why it makes for the perfect place to begin a roadtrip.
And then where else but to take such a roadtrip other than the Rocky Mountains? Yes, Alberta and British Columbia are home to some of the most incredible scenery, luxurious resorts, adventurous activities and amazing food making it the perfect travel destination and even better for taking a roadtrip.
Breakfast in Calgary and hit the road
Start the day with a hearty breakfast in Nellies Cosmic Cafe on 17th avenue where a colorful interior and friendly staff make this breakfast diner experience the best in town.
Having filled up on some delicious pancakes, fried beans, bacon and maple syrup, pick up some freshly made sandwiches, snacks and drinks in the nearby Safeway supermarket before driving north through the city and then west on the Trans Canada Highway (Route 1) for which Banff town is clearly signposted.
Detour to Spray Lakes
Banff is of course the most famous town in Alberta for good reason but rather than heading straight there, take a detour enroute to Kananaskis country (Route 40) where the majestic Spray Lakes and a much more isolated experience awaits.
While Alberta is overflowing with stunning scenery, Spray Lakes is much less visited than neighboring regions and it is here you will find pristine turquoise lakes and a mountain vistas without the tourists crowds and groups of hiking enthusiasts. That being said, Spray Lakes is still set up perfectly for exploring with many picnic areas, toilet facilities, secure parking lots and hiking routes with detailed maps at each trail head.
The best way to experience this area, and these trails in particular, is to stay overnight in the region to maximize the time you can spend outdoors. In this sense, an ideal place to stay in Spray Valley is Mount Engadine which is not overly expensive and offers incredible comfort accompanied by some of the most stunning natural surroundings. With the peace of mind that you are staying in the area, stop off at one of the many trail heads and enjoy a picnic lunch before hiking to a nearby viewpoint for unrivalled views of the valley.
Needless to say, a night at a luxury lodge in these surroundings is the perfect way to finish your first day of adventure.
Sunshine Village (Banff)
Viewpoints and lunch in Canmore
Departing the Mount Engadine after breakfast, take your time checking out the rest of the viewpoints as you return through this beautiful Provincial Park to the Trans Canada Highway and continue east a short distance to the town of Canmore.
Canmore is an idyllic mountain resort town with a holiday atmosphere, ample accommodation options and a mainstreet with many stores, restaurants and bars. Although tourists will often use Canmore as a base to explore the surrounding region, instead use this town as a brief lunch stop as there are many fine eateries around town. The Iron Goat Grill is a great choice from a great barbecue menu but if you wish for something more local, Craig's Way Station is a family owned restaurant who have long offered the best home cooked food in Canmore. Another great way to spend time in Banff is to visit the Upper Hot Springs which are at the foot of this same mountain and with temperatures averaging over 30 degrees, they make for a relaxing way to take in the breathtaking views.
Sunshine Mountain Lodge
In late afternoon and after another day of exploring, continue just 15km onwards to the Sunshine Mountain Lodge which is central to Sunshine Village itself, an incredible ski resort with 10 lifts, and thousands of acres to ski.
Once more, the restaurant in the lodge offers unrivalled views to go with some excellent food.
Explore Sunshine Meadows
After a couple of days on the road, it's time to hit the slopes. Leave the car in the parking lot and take some lessons or for the more advanced, pick up the skis and just go. Sunshine Village is famous for having a lot more snow than any other region in the mountains and for this reason, you can find the ultimate experience anytime between November and May. If traveling outside of these months, there are still some exciting trails to hike from the hotel and serenely quiet mountain vistas to help you unwind with nature. That being said, Sunshine Village is almost as popular in the summer thanks to such trails and Sunshine Meadows in particular offers some of the best hiking routes anywhere in the Rocky Mountains.
Also feel free to check out everything Sunshine Mountain Lodge has to offer and take advantage of the hotel facilities. In the newly renovated West Wing, you will find heated jet tubs, huge sports screens and a general mountain theme which provides a very authentic feel to the mountain resort experience. Fine dining, a busy bar, chaming terraces views and a peaceful quiet you are unlikely to forget: Sushine Mountain Lodge is the ultimate mountain escape which will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to go again.
Fairmont Lake Louise
After enjoying your day on the ski slopes and lunch in between at the Sunshine Mountain restaurant, take to the road again but this time only for a short drive (approximately 40 minutes) to Lake Louise where you can find some truly outstanding accommodation options including the luxurious Fairmont Lake Louise.
Having had a few days full of activities, this is usually a good time to relax, unwind and simply enjoy being on vacation.
Paddle on Lake Louise
Rise early and get outside to the lake. Few places in the world can match the sheer beauty of Lake Louise and there are many ways to take in this panorama, some of which involve driving and naturally, hiking. However, we recommend seeing it from a different perspective entirely and what better way to do this than by renting a canoe and paddling out onto this turquoise expanse of water.
The water is cold, the sky above is intimidating, the mountains are imposing and as you sit in a canoe in the middle of it all, you just might experience the genuine highlight of your trip to the Rocky Mountains.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort/ Swiss Chalet Motel
Choose to have lunch on the road or make the most of the hotel facilities, either way the drive to Revelstoke is filled with more wonderful views including a memorable drive through Glacier National Park and if you should choose to do so, a stop off at the Canyon Hot Springs just before you reach the next stop on this roadtrip, Revelstoke.
Infused with an old world atmosphere and a small town culture that feels so far from any city, Revelstoke is where you can enjoy the simple pleasures in life, such as a spot of sunset fishing in a nearby lake or alternatively a heritage walking tour including a visit to the local museum illustrating the railways which have long traversed these rugged landscapes.
Wine Tour and overnight stay in Kamloops
Having relaxed the previous evening, leave Revelstoke and hit the road for another scenic drive, this time past Sicamous and Salmon Arm to the town of Kamloops. Although unassuming, this town is home to a fantastic wine tasting tour in which you visit 3 different wineries which have been producing new wines in the Thompson Valley in recent years. Nestled beautifully in a natural setting, the wineries are visually appealing but then matched by the experience of tasting the best grapes the region has to offer.
In terms of experiencing everything the mountain regions have to offer, a wine tour really is the perfect inclusion on an itinerary for a roadtrip from Calgary to Vancouver and it makes for a nice prelude to fine food in one of Kamloops fine restaurants with Brownestones being a particularly good places to eat.
Scenic drive to Whistler
Once more, make the most of the day by rising early for the longest ride of your roadtrip from Calgary to Vancouver. Arguably one of the most incredible drives of the trip, there will be many towns, kiosks and cafe's to stop over in between Kamloops and Whistler so make sure to meet people along the way.
That being said, the drive is quite the distance (4 hours) and leaving early is always best to ensure you are not rushed later in the day. Provincial parks line the route for this section but really, much of this day is focused on the roadtrip which is not so bad, after all, the destination is often the journey.
Whistler is a huge resort in the British Columbia mountains and most well known for skiing. Hence, for those of you who are not satisfied with the previous days spent on the slope, this I the perfect chance to have some more. Spread across two immense mountain ranges,, this is the largest ski area in North America and a haven for hikers, bikers or photographers.
Whistler Blackcomb or Summit Lodge Boutique Hotel
There is an endless number of accommodation options and restaurants to suit, while the nightlife will offer a sometimes welcome night out, having spent a week in much quieter locations. Enjoy the facilities and get ready to spend another day of adventure in the surrounding areas the next morning.
Adventures in Whistler and final roadtrip to Vancouver
Finish off this incredible roadtrip from Calgary to Vancouver by taking to the outdoors one last time. Whistler is obviously famous for the ski slopes but it is also an incredible place for other adventure activities, from bungee jumping, alpine hiking, kayaking, mountain biking and even windsurfing on the nearby lakes. Few places in Canada offer the same range of activities and by the time this day is over, you will most certainly have explored the best parts of Alberta and BC.
Located just north of Vancouver, the drive from Whistler is relatively short which will surely be nice having had such an action packed week and covered such a long distance. Following the Trans Canada Highway you will finally reach some large inlets where the road hugs the coastline all the way to the outer reaches of Vancouver, a sublime sight and an incredible way to finish this unforgettable road trip.
Cosmopolitan, diverse and multi-cultural, the city of Vancouver is infused with a wide variety or accommodation, restaurants, parks and a waterfront which will leave you wondering about when is the next time you can return.