Two of my favorite places in Canada are Whistler in BC and Banff in Alberta. In fact, one of my favorite things I’ve ever done during my 2 years living in Whistler was take a road trip from Whistler to Banff. This is one stunning drive and takes in giant snow-covered mountains, pretty waterfalls and bright blue lakes.
The drive from Whistler to Banff is a whopping 895 km (556 miles) so I advise breaking it down into 5 days. If you wanted to drive it in one day it will take 10.5 hours (that’s not including stops or traffic!) Most of the stops I’ve listed in this blog post are close to each other so you don’t have to do any really long bouts of driving.
Taking a road trip is one of the best things to do in Whistler and the Whistler to Banff route is easily one of the most scenic drives in the world. We also recently completed a road trip from Banff to Jasper and the drive from Whistler to Jasper and I must admit both were pretty epic!
Important information – check out if you need an international driving permit, some car rental companies may require you to have an International Driving Permit.
In this blog, I list 15 of the best stops on the drive from Whistler to Banff.
15 best stops between Whistler and Banff
There are so many great places to stop between Whistler and Banff and some are quick stops like Lilooet and Rogers Pass and others are require more time (or even a few nights) like Revelstoke and Lake Louise. The road follows the Trans-Canada Highway (BC-1E) and is considered a fairly easy drive. During the Winter months the snow is cleared regularly of snow and ice, just drive carefully (and pull over if needed) if you get caught n any heavy snow fall.
Keep in mind the weather when driving this route as conditions can get pretty snowy and icy during the Winter months especially around Revelstoke and Glacier National Park of Canada.
How far is Whistler from Banff?
The drive from Whistler to Banff is 895 km (556 miles) in total. To drive it without stopping would take 10.5 hours but that doesn’t include stops for gas, food, toilet breaks or traffic. So, I recommend allowing between 2 – 5 days to complete the awesome drive between Whistler and Banff.
Just under a 30 minute drive from Whistler is the small town of Pemberton. A lot of Whistler locals have moved out this way as rent is cheaper and so there are lots of great restaurants and things to do in this area.
Stop for a coffee at Mt Currie on Arbutus Street, home to the best coffee in the Whistler area. They also have a sister Cafe in Whistler village which you may have seen during your stay there. If you’re hungry you can’t go wrong with the burgers at Mile One Eating House.
If you have time one of the best things to do in Pemberton is to hike to Joffre Lakes – this hike can take up to 5 hours to complete. I would say it’s a medium level of difficulty as there are a couple of uphill sections – a reasonable level of fitness is required for this trail. But, I promise the views along the way and the glacier-fed lakes (gatorade blue in color) are well worth the long hike in.
On the trail you will see evidence of this National Parks glacier history with U-shaped valleys, glacial silts and lateral moraines all to be spotted here. In Summer or on warmer days you can go swimming in any of the 3 lakes but be warned they are very cold – an average water temperature of 45 fahrenheit (7 celsius)!! The Joffre Lakes hike is super-popular and the car parks fill up early so get here early to secure a spot.
Some popular activities to try in Pemberton include horseback riding through the Pemberton Valley and a half-day ice fishing adventure, which is only available in the colder months.
A scenic little town on the Fraser River that is popular for fishing, boating and biking. It’s also one of the hottest places in Canada and has a semi-desert climate.
In Lilooet a visit to the stunning Fort Berens Estate Winery is a must. Try their wine (it’s one of Canada’s leading wine producers) and enjoy the stunning views over the river. The Lilloet Musuem & Visitor Center on Main Street showcases historical memorabilia and the staff are a wealth of knowledge on the town and surrounding areas. There are numerous cute little stores and restaurants along Main Street too.
The city of Kamloops is a great place to spend the first night of your road trip from Whistler to Banff. It’s one of British Columbia’s best kept secrets in my opinion. There’s awesome restaurants, craft breweries and wineries a-plenty. Forno on 5th has a Mediterranean inspired menu and is a lovely modern restaurant in downtown Kamloops. Whilst, Bright Eye Brewing and Monte Creek Ranch Winery are also worth a visit if you love beer and/or wine.
Pay a visit to Riverside Park for a walk in the evening there’s a sandy river beach, various walking trails and live music events some weekend evenings. You can rent a fun water bike here and have some fun on the water! If you’re travelling with kids a great place to take them is to the BC Wildlife Park. This is a zoo which homes native animals like grizzly bears and arctic wolves.
There are two hotels I highly recommend in Kamloops – Best Western Plus a 3 star hotel with an indoor pool and the luxurious Delta Hotel by Marriott
If you’re driving from Vancouver to Kamloops you may be interested in this GPS-guided audio tour that is sure to turn this scenic drive into into a sightseeing and trivia game adventure!
Fun fact – Jurassic World 3 and Twilight Zone were both recently filmed in the Kamloops area.
The Sicamous area has over 1000km of coastline so it’s no surprise that some of the best things to do here are water-related. Swim in the warm waters of Sicamous Beach Park or try kayaking, canoeing or SUP paddle boarding all popular activities here.
Treat yourself to homemade ice cream and artisan cheese at D Dutchman Dairy, this bright red building can’t be missed from the road and is very photogenic. We also loved Blondies Cafe for great coffee and yummy smoothie bowls.
Did you know – Sicamous is known as the houseboat capital of Canada
Spend your first or second night of the road trip in Sicamous, I loved the Pines Motel which is very reasonably priced.
5. Shuswap Lake Provincial Park
A very very popular Summer destination, the park is packed to the rafter from July through to early September!
Situated on the old delta of Scotch Creek the Park boasts 1 km of beach. It’s a great place to visit with children especially as there’s a big grassy play area and a playground. There’s also a lovely nature trail here.
Copper Island is 1.3 km away and if you have a boat (or you can rent one) I advise taking a trip to it. There’s a scenic hiking trail on Copper Island with epic views, it’s about 2.8 km in length.
Boaters may wish to visit Copper Island, located 1.3 kilometres offshore. A 2.8 km hiking trail provides beautiful views of the area. Please note that overnight camping, including houseboats, and campfires are prohibited on the island.
There’s also bumper boats, mini-golf driving range, go-karts, para-sailing, horseback riding, whitewater rafting and jet-skiing available in the Park.
6. Revelstoke mountain and town
‘Small town charm, big mountain adventure” is the motto here in Revelstoke. In the town there’s lots to do, think small museums, a brewery tour, an escape room and even axe-throwing.
Revelstoke mountain is the mecca of alpine mountain biking and offers incredible lift accessed biking. If you’re visiting in Winter – the mountain has 65 ski runs. Whilst, in the Summer you can enjoy the Pipe Mountain Coaster, the Aerial Adventure Park and of course the mountain biking as mentioned above. No matter the season, there’s a full day of activities at the Resort.
Another unique activity near Revelstoke town is the Enchanted Forest – the fairytale themed buildings are great for kids. It’s also home to BC’s tallest treehouse.
I advise spending the night in Revelstoke to break up your journey from Whistler to Banff nicely. I loved the Mount Revelstoke Alpine Chalets!
7. Mount Revelstoke National Park
Mount Revelstoke national park is a great place to go hiking – there’s dramatic mountains, alpine lakes and in the summer very colorful wildflowers. Some of my favorite hikes in Mount Revelstoke National Park include Eva Lake Trail (12 km loop track); Giant Cedars Boardwalk; Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk and Heather Lake.
It’s easily accessible because you can drive through the park and even up to the top of Mount Revelstoke.
8. Rogers Pass
Rogers pass is a stretch of road that passes through the Selkirk Mountains. It does in fact have the highest risk of avalanche of all urban roads in North America!!
Here, you can stop at the Rogers Pass Discovery Center and learn about the history behind the construction of Rogers Pass, and watch the avalanche control movies. The center includes a theater, natural history exhibits, a hall of railway model trains and railway tunnels.
9. Glacier National Park of Canada
Glacier Park is an adventure-junkies heaven. Climb up mountain peaks, camp next to a glacier-fed river, go hiking amongst the stunning scenery and take a mountain bike ride on one of the trails. One of my favorite hikes in the park is the 7.2 km trail that takes you along the abandoned railway tracks of Canada’s first trans-continental railway. You can even explore what’s left behind of the Glacier House hotel – Western Canada’s first luxury mountain resort. A series of avalanches starting in the year 1910 caused the railway line which passed the hotel to be moved, thus taking away their tourist traffic and so it eventually closed and was left to go to ruin!
Did you know – the Glacier National Park is home to the world’s only inland cedar rainforest.
Another lovely hiking trail here is the Asulkan Valley track which is 13.8 km and should take about 6 hours – watch out for glacier views and waterfalls on your way.
Explore more of the great Canadian wilderness at Golden, it’s a popular stop on the route from Whistler to Banff because of its proximity to Yoho National Park, Banff and Jasper.
There’s a rising star of Canadian Ski Resorts – Kicking Horse Mountain Resort located here. Which is slowly becoming a world famous ski destination.
You can also get the chance to walk with the wolves at the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Center. On this unique activity, you will join members of a wolf pack on a hike through the Rockies! You can interact with the wolves and take photos with them and of them!
If you want to stop and spend the night here in Golden, I highly recommend the Best Western Mountainview Inn
11. Wapta Falls
Wapta Falls have been described as a hidden gem in Canada, and being honest the falls are much bigger and more impressive than I expected. A well-trodden 2.4 km hiking trail leads into this huge waterfall standing at 98 feet tall.
The trail is bug heavy so bring lots of spray.
12. Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake is located in Yoho National Park and it’s one of the most popular and photographed in the area. It’s the largest lake in the park and is surrounded by the President mountain range.
Located just a few kilometres off of the TransCanada highway. Emerald Lake gets its name because it looks emerald green on a sunny day it gets its unique color from the glacial waters which refract light.
The hike around the lake, clocking in at about an hour, is a great way to see the lake as well as the world-famous Burgess Shale fossil beds, the Michael glacier, and an avalanche slope carpeted by meadows where moose often graze.
Other than moose you are likely to see bald eagles, ospreys and waterfowl around the lakes edge.
Canoe and rowboat rentals are available to rent here, as are cross-country skis and snowshoes in the winter. Fishing at Emerald Lake is also quite popular during the summer months. There’s a surprising amount of activities available to book here in Emerald Lake. One of the most beautiful hotels in Canada, in my opinion, is Emerald Lake Lodge built right on the lake – it’s a truly bucket-list place to spend the night.
13. Peyto Lake
Peyto Lake is famous for its turquoise blue glacier-fed waters. The brilliant display of blue is fed by the Peyto Glacier high above the lake and part of the Wapta Icefield.
It is located 50 km north of Lake Louise and a popular stop on the drive from Whistler to Banff.
The viewpoint is one of the most spectacular in all of Banff National Park and a super popular spot for photographers. In my opinion, its as pretty as nearby Moraine Lake but without the crowds. The trail to the viewpoint starts at the far end of the car park. The hike up to Peyto Lake Lookout is short and sweet and takes around 10-15 minutes uphill.
14. Lake Louise
Lake Louise is world famous for its gatorade-blue waters and it attracts millions of visitors every year. The Victoria Glacier, the luxurious Fairmont Lake Louise hotel, and the incredible hiking trail and skiing on offer all add to its appeal.
Rent a canoe from the boat dock and see the lake from a different perspective. Worth noting is that Lake Louise is frozen over half the year, so, ice skating is a popular activity during the winter. You can also enjoy sleigh rides, ice climbing, skiing, and snowshoeing during these colder months.
Pop into Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for lunch or spend the night here if you want to feel really fancy.
In Lake Louise you can book onto a full-day hiking tour through the Canadian Rockies taking in sights such as Victoria Glacier, hanging valleys and of course some epic viewpoints of Lake Louise itself.
15. Bow Lake
The gorgeous Bow Lake is approximately 30 minutes north of Lake Louise, off the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) The lake sits at an elevation of 1920 meters and spends most of the year locked away in ice. This makes it a popular spot for winter activities like snowshoeing and ski touring. While during the Summer many tourists rent a canoe and take it out on the lake.
The lake shore here is a great family-friendly hike. If you’re looking to stretch your legs and enjoy the sublime nature along the shoreline, it’s the perfect stop and one of the easiest hikes in Banff. The trail is a nice mellow grade and gains no elevation. It does move over some large sections of roots, so a stroller would not work on the lakeshore trail.
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There’s lots to do in Banff (keep an eye out for a new blog post on that topic) some of my favorite things to do here include the jaw-dropping scenery from the Banff Gondola, a 3 hour white water rafting trip and an awesome Via Ferrata climbing tour on nearby Mount Norquay! You can even do a grizzly bear tour from Banff, where you go in search of the elusive grizzly bear in nearby national parks.
Where to stay in Banff
Fairmont Banff Springs – the epitome of luxury, this giant historic hotel is located within Banff National Park
Banff Rocky Mountain Resort – located in the heart of Banff town, all suites and apartments here have kitchens and fireplaces
Banff Boutique Inn – a quaint 3 star hotel that is very close to the hustle and bustle of Banff town but tucked away enough that you feel at peace
Royal Canadian Lodge – featuring elegant rooms and suites, this intimate Banff boutique hotel offers 99 guestrooms, with a modern mountain-themed décor.
There’s also lots of awesome hostels in Banff for those travelers on a budget!
Thanks for reading my blog, Aimee
It’s easy to see why a road trip from Whistler to Banff is one of the best and most popular things to do in Canada. I mean, not only are there lots of amazing activities to enjoy but there are scenic mountain views, gatorade-blue lakes and the chance to spot unique wildlife like bears, moose and wolves.
Thanks so much for reading. I hope this guide has helped you plan the perfect road trip between Whistler and Banff! If you found this blog helpful, be sure to browse around some more! I have guides on Canadian road trip tips, luxury vacation in Whistler as well as doing a ski season in Whistler and so much more!!
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4 replies on “The best stops on the drive from Whistler to Banff”
I can’t wait to do this drive one day. Glorious!
Wow there are so many beautiful places to stop along this route! I have only heard of a couple of them before, so I’ll save this post for when I plan my road trip here!
We have done this drive and it’s such a beautiful place! I love the Canadian Rockies. For me, the drive from Jasper to Banff on the Icefields Parkway is truly the most spectacular place in the world.
Thanks for sharing!
Oh it is so so beautiful, we can’t wait to return one day!