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Journey from Vancouver to Banff

Taking a road trip from Vancouver to Banff has been at the top of my bucket list for years since I first saw these beautiful photos of Lake Louise. (Be sure to check out my camera gear suggestions if you want to make sure you capture more awesome colors!)

Of course, I had no idea at the time that the breathtaking blue Gatorade Lake was called Louise, or that there were other beautiful lakes as well. To be honest, I didn’t even really know how to get there or how difficult it would be to get to these Insta-worthy viewpoints on a drive from Vancouver to Banff.

Before my trip, I rightly thought that seeing Banff would be of the same level of difficulty as Patagonia. That’s not it. The best sites are much closer to each other than I thought, and it was easy to see the best highlights in just a few days with my Jucy camper!

This is my second road trip with a Jucy camper and I must say that I love it. They are decorated with everything you need, from luggage storage under the seat, to a mini-kitchen, to a cozy “penthouse” roof tent. It was absolutely perfect for driving from Vancouver to Banff.

You need to take your mobile accommodation to Vancouver, where Jucy is located, which means that you can also see the beautiful city. The trip from Vancouver to Banff takes between 7 and 10 hours, but it’s very scenic! Plus, if you have the time, there’s a great plonk region where you can stop for plonk tastings (and lots of fun tour options you can check out in the Banff area!).

You can also usually find affordable flights to Vancouver than to Alberta or Calgary. Use my flight roulette technique to try to get the Lowest flight hack out there!

I only had four days to complete this itinerary from Vancouver to Banff, so it’s a bit short, but it’s meant to maximize your time so you see all the best places! Here’s everything you need to know to plan your ultimate Vancouver to Banff itinerary!

Day 1: Start your road trip from Vancouver to Banff!

As I said, you will need to pick up your Jucy RV near Vancouver to start your trip from Vancouver to Banff. In fact, you have to cross the US border to pick it up in Washington because it is an American company.

Don’t worry, crossing the border is quick and easy, but make sure you don’t go shopping before you get the camper. Otherwise, you will have to declare fruits and vegetables, and some items are not allowed to cross the border such as citrus fruits or tomatoes.

Once you’ve picked up your RV from the lovely folks at Jucy, head back across the border and head to a grocery store! You will definitely have to eat a few times on the road trip from Vancouver to Banff, so stock up!

Some important grocery stores that I bought for cooking were:

  • Vegetarian burgers with salad rolls
  • Eggs, cheese and soy chorizo for breakfast
  • Cheese tortellini with Pesto sauce
  • Chocolate and soft toys
  • Gallons Of Water
  • Lots of plonk!

First time camping? Check out my complete camping gear guide for beginners!

And if you’re not in the mood for camping, there are plenty of great deals you can find for hotels in the Banff area.

Try to get on the road as soon as possible, because the journey is long, even if you choose the best route from Vancouver to Banff! There are several routes you can take to get from Vancouver to Banff. They say Highway 1 is the most scenic, but I went with what my GPS said was the fastest.

Try stopping in or near Kamloops for lunch and a driving break. Or if you have more time, head to the plonk country and maybe spend the night in Kelowna!

If you’re driving straight to Banff like we were, where you’ll stop for the night will depend on how long it takes to get there. We had a two-hour delay, so after 10 o’clock we were still just outside Glacier National Park of Canada.

Even though I had camping reservations in the village of Banff, we decided to stay near Glacier at the “Hot Springs Campground”. You should definitely try to make reservations for the campsites because they fill up quickly!

Day 2: Emerald Lake, Peyto Lake and the Iceridge Promenade

Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park was beautiful and much less crowded than Louise and Moraine

Another thing I didn’t know before my trip from Vancouver to Banff is that there are four national parks in the same area, it’s not just Banff! Yoho National Park is just to the west, Kootenay National Park is below, and Jasper National Park is just to the north.

Wake up as early as possible and head first to Emerald Lake, located in Yoho National Park. You need a national parks pass that costs only day per vehicle (and good for 2 to 7 people in the vehicle!), which you can get from a small stand when you enter the parks.

The Banff website is a bit confusing as to how much the park passes cost, but you can basically pay per day and that’s good for all of Canada’s national parks. Or, if you’re staying for more than a week, you might as well get the annual pass.

Once at Emerald Lake, take a walk along the path that winds along the left side of it. There you will find a quiet nature trail and small corners to go down to the water.

It was wonderfully warm and sunny when we were there, so I went in the water! It was certainly a bit cold, but I was more concerned about the rocky bottom. So be careful!

You can also rent kayaks, and has a better chance of getting one than at Banff Lakes. They are first come, first served, so unfortunately you can’t book online.

If you have time, there is also a waterfall called Tekakkaw Falls near Emerald Lake that is worth a visit! Below are some approximate times it takes to get to each location so you can see if you have time to go and create your own personalized travel itinerary from Vancouver to Banff.

After Emerald Lake, we tried to stop at Lake Louise to see if we could find a campground, but we quickly turned back. With the beautiful sunny weather in the middle of the day, the traffic was too heavy.

It probably would have taken two hours to get a parking space. That’s why most people say to go there at dawn!

If Lake Louise is busy and especially if you don’t have a rez campsite, head to Jasper to see Lake Peyto! Iceridge Drive is one of the most scenic drives in the area, and it’s where you can find a few campgrounds with more vacancies.

Peyto Lake

You should stop 100% at Lake Peyto because it could be as beautiful as Louise and Moraine! Parking was available and it was only a short 10-minute walk through the pine-scented greenery to get to the viewpoint!

You can also stop at Bow Lake for a quick photo, as it has an exit on the side of the road!

If you are looking for a campsite, continue north along the glacier-lined highway. There are three of them along it, and they become Armies as you move further north.

We ended up finding a bunch of spots available at Silverhorn Creek for only for the night and for firewood. There were no showers or flush toilets, but there were many sites on a beautiful river.

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