The Most Epic 5 Day Itinerary & Road Trip into the Canadian Rockies

Written by
Staff Writer
May 14, 2023
Last Update
January 10, 2024
First Published on

Buckle up and get ready for an exhilarating adventure as we embark on the most epic 5-day itinerary and road trip into the mesmerizing Canadian Rockies. From the bustling city of YYC to the charming town of Canmore, the iconic landscapes of Banff, the pristine beauty of Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, the captivating hues of Peyto Lake, this journey will take you on a whirlwind exploration through some of nature's greatest masterpieces. Get ready to witness jaw-dropping vistas, chase unforgettable sunsets, and create lifelong memories in the heart of the Rockies. Let's hit the road and dive into the wilderness like never before!

Photo credit: Matt Masa

Day 1: Arrive in Calgary, and drive to Canmore

Calgary is one of the largest cities in Alberta and is also the closest International Airport near Canmore and Banff National Park. The airport has a large number of rental car companies within the domestic departure level.. You can also book through the Banff Airporter Shuttle service that will drop you off close to the Town Centre, at the Coast Hotel. This will run you about $79.99 one way or $160 return and tickets can be purchased online. Our recommendation is to use Vivo Green, which will run you about $55 pp one way, and will drop you off at the Northwinds Hotel Canmore.

Driving time from Calgary to Canmore is 1.2 to 1.5 hours dependent on the road you take:

  • Fastest Route: Calgary to Canmore on the Trans-Canada Highway. Takes 1 hr 20 min across 122.0 km via the Trans-Canada Hwy/AB-1 W.
  • Scenic Route: Taking an additional 20 minutes to Canmore, you’ll exit towards Cochrane and take Highway 1A from Cochrane to Canmore.

Within Canmore and Banff public transit is free, and between locations, the price to get from Canmore to Banff is $6.

Recommended itinerary for the day:

  • Head into Canmore's downtown area and find a cozy local café (Rocky Mountain Bagel Co and Eclipse Coffee Roasters are just a couple of our favs) for breakfast.
  • The Canmore Museum is  worth a visit if you're interested in the history and culture of the area. Take a peek at the Big Head on the main street, steps away from one of our recommended properties, the Lamphouse, which backs onto the river.
  • Choose a hiking trail that suits your fitness level and interests. Some popular options include Grassi Lakes Trail, Ha Ling Peak, East End of Rundle or the easier Policeman's Creek Trail.
  • Walking Trail - Policeman Creek Boardwalk
  • Hiking Trail - Grassi Lakes
  • For an adventurous experience, consider joining a cave tour. Canmore Cave Tours offer guided explorations of Rat's Nest Cave, where you can crawl through passages and marvel at the unique underground formations.
  • End your day by taking a seat at Rhythm & Howl aour very own restaurant serving up serving up dishes inspired by the surrounding landscapes, using only the freshest, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.
Photo credit: Brayden Tozer | instagram: @lostcoordinate

Top Canmore Lodging Recommendations:

For the budget conscious travelers

For the unique and comfort travelers

For the instagrammable location

Top Canmore Restaurant Recommendations:

For the eclectic flavours: Rhythm & Howl

For the best pizza in town: Rocket Pie

For the best Canmore pub food: Tank310

Day 2, 3 & 4: Travel to Banff National Park and the Townsite of Banff

Banff National Park is a breathtakingly beautiful protected wilderness mecca located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. It is Canada's oldest national park, established in 1885, and covers over 6,600 square kilometers of rugged mountains, glaciers, and turquoise lakes.

To venture in Banff National Park, you'll need to purchase a park pass. Passes can be purchased for up to seven people within one vehicle, and the individual prices can be found here. Entry and service fees are charged at most national parks and national historic sites, where revenues are kept to support visitor services and facilities. If you’re planning to travel into other Canadian National Parks, the Discovery Pass may be an alternative option for you depending on how many days you will be traveling through.

You can also take local transit from Canmore to Banff with Roam Transit. The Route is called Canmore-Banff Regional Route 3, and the schedule can be found here along with the various bus stations.

Driving from Canmore to Banff is about 25-30 minutes by the Trans Canada Highway, watch for the signs to exit into Banff Town Centre and follow the route.


Day 2: Lake Minnewanka and Hot Springs

  • Start your day with breakfast at Wild Flour Bakery, a cozy bakery and cafe in Banff.
  • Drive or take a shuttle to Lake Minnewanka, a lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Hike around the lake, or simply relax and take in the view.
  • How to get there via Transit: Roam Route 6: Daily service operating May - September
  • Take a boat tour around the lake.
  • Head towards Two Jack Lake, a serene and picturesque lake located just a short distance from Lake Minnewanka. Take a stroll around the lake or relax on the sandy beach, taking in the views of Mount Rundle and the surrounding forests.
  • Head back to Banff and have lunch at The Eddie Burger + Bar, a popular local spot for burgers and craft beer.
  • Spend the afternoon exploring Banff's downtown area, which is full of shops, restaurants, and art galleries. You can also visit the Banff Park Museum or the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies to learn about the area's natural and cultural history.
  • In the evening, soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs and enjoy the sunset over the mountains.
  • For dinner, head to The Bison Restaurant, which offers contemporary Canadian cuisine using locally-sourced ingredients.

Day 3: Banff Gondola & Two Jack Lake

  • Start your day early and head to the Banff Gondola. Take the scenic ride up to Sulphur Mountain and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
  • Take the Banff Gondola up - There is only one price per day. The pricing does change based on the day of your visit (weekends vs weekdays) and how far in advance you buy your tickets. Same day tickets are higher but it is one price for the entire day regardless of the time of the day you visit.
  • Hike up Sulphur Mountain
  • Have lunch at the Sky Bistro
  • Spend some time exploring the interpretive center and boardwalks at the summit, which offer information about the local ecology and wildlife.
  • After lunch, take a hike up Tunnel Mountain, one of the best birds eye views of Banff, that will take around an hour and 40 minutes to complete, round trip.
  • End your day with a nice Italian dinner at LUPO , a popular restaurant in Banff that has great specials throughout the week.

Top Lodging in Banff:

Best Stay in Banff

Top Banff Restaurants:

For amazing views and Canadian cuisine

For contemporary cuisine

For quick bites

Day 4: Johnston Canyon

Carved over centuries by the rushing waters of Johnston Creek, this picturesque canyon offers a captivating hiking experience. Visitors can meander along the well-maintained pathways, passing by stunning waterfalls, turquoise pools, and towering limestone cliffs.

Getting to Johnston Canyon by car takes around 30 minutes to get to. Get to Johnston Canyon trailhead by bus with Roam Transit. A one-way fare costs around $2.50-5.00. The route is called Johnston Canyon Route 9 and the stations can be found here. Make sure you reserve your tickets in advance.

  • Start your day by rising early and embarking on a journey to Johnston Canyon, making sure to pack some snacks and lunch for your upcoming hike.
  • Begin your hike towards the Lower Falls, taking in the captivating sights along the way.
  • Continue onwards to the Upper Falls.
  • For a break, find a spot along the trail or at a designated picnic area to enjoy your  packed lunch amidst the breathtaking beauty of nature.
  • Afterward, retrace your steps and hike back down to the parking lot, covering a total distance of 5.3 kilometers (3.3 miles).
  • As the day winds down, treat yourself to an early evening meal and drinks at the Rose and Crown rooftop patio. Take in the views and enjoy the sunshine.

Day 5: Baker Creek & Icefields Parkway

Experience the enchanting turquoise waters of Lake Louise and the mesmerizing hues of Peyto Lake, surrounded by the breathtaking Canadian Rockies.

The Brewster Bus offers direct transportation from Banff to Lake Louise. The bus usually picks up passengers from most hotels in Banff or the Brewster Transportation Centre. The one-way fare is approximately $40.

Roam Transit operates two routes from Banff to Lake Louise. The 8X route, known as the Lake Louise Express, provides non-stop service from Banff to Lake Louise Village. The 8S route, called the Lake Louise Scenic Route, offers a scenic journey to Lake Louise with multiple stops. The one-way fare for Roam Transit is $10, and various pass options are available.

If you prefer to drive, it takes around 40 minutes to reach Lake Louise from Banff. The route involves taking the Trans Canada Highway or Bow Valley Parkway. This option provides flexibility and the opportunity to explore other attractions along the way.

Recommended Itinerary for the day:

  • Start your day early and drive to Lake Louise, one of the most iconic destinations in Banff National Park. If you’re not driving this trip, take our convenient shuttle service that departs from Baker Creek daily with Ten Peaks Shuttle. Hike the Lake Agnes trails, or simply enjoy the stunning scenery.
  • Have lunch at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a historic hotel with beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
  • In the afternoon, take a scenic drive along the Icefields Parkway and stop at Peyto Lake, which is renowned for its stunning turquoise color and breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
  • On the way back to Banff, stop at Bow Lake for more beautiful views.

Top Lake Louise Lodging Recommendations:

For incredible scenery and the cutest cabins

For a funky jacuzzi suite

Top Restaurant Recommendations:

For the rustic lovers

For some brews with a view

For the pub lovers

For the upscale crew

Best scenic viewpoint:

Bow Summit Viewpoint

Best stop along the way to Baker Creek:

Morant’s Curve, only 6 minutes down the road from Baker Creek

To reserve this incredible itinerary, please reach out to our groups and events email when booking multi-property stays. By booking the entire itinerary with your preferred properties from all destinations in the itinerary, you'll enjoy a fantastic 15% discount on your entire booking.

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