While we have only been home for a few days from our road trip from Vancouver to Banff, I have been inundated with requests on replicating or expanding on our recent trip. I like to call our trip from Vancouver to Banff an express trip, because we left on a Monday and were home on a Friday. If you have more time, I suggest you add to this itinerary. However, I wanted to share with you where we went, what we did, and where we stayed to help you start to plan your own trip from Vancouver to Banff, especially if you are traveling with kids like we were!
Part 1 Vancouver to Banff: Vancouver to Revelstoke
Travel Time: 6 hours
Distance: ~550 km
Accommodation: Sutton Place Revelstoke Mountain
We drove straight from the Vancouver suburbs to Revelstoke. It took about 6 hours, stopping just once along the way. We had a busy day planned at the Revelstoke Mountain Resort and wanted to be able to take advantage of as much as the day as possible. While it is light out quite late in British Columbia in the summer (usually until close to 10 pm), much of the resort shuts down around dinnertime (including the restaurants on the ski hill.)
Driving from Vancouver to Revelstoke is quite easy, take Highway 1 out of town and when you get to Hope, hop onto HWY 5, the Coquihalla Highway, that will take you to Kamloops. From Kamloops, you get back onto HWY 1 and that will take you right to Revelstoke.
This is all highway driving and we were able to do this on a little less than one tank of fuel. Which for my Honda Pilot, is about 70 litres and costs around $110 to fill up when gas prices are over 1.60 / litre.
Because we were on a quick trip to Banff and back, Revelstoke was the perfect midpoint to stop for the (day and) night. We chose to stay at the Sutton Place on Revelstoke Mountain Resort because it meant we could park the car until the next day and enjoy all of the summer activities on the hill without worrying about driving back into town at the end of the day. There would be lots of car travel to come. It also offered a swimming pool (one of our family hotel musts, and had large rooms for our crew of 7 – we were 2 adults and 5 kids aged 5 to 15 and chose a 2 bedroom suite (since most of the kids were happy to sleep with us adults, but a 3 bdrm would have probably done us a bit better.)
We priced out other hotels in town, but would have had to book 2 rooms to fit us all in. The Sutton was the perfect choice. It also had a kitchen, which would have been perfect if we were staying a few nights. When we return this winter, I know I will love having the kitchen and being right on the mountain. The gondola was just a few steps from the exit of the hotel! The one thing that I did not like about the Sutton was that it was HUGE and our car ended up being 5 minutes walk from our room and to get to the pool it required walking outside into the “village” and into another building. But other than that, it was perfect!
Part 2 Play All Day at Revelstoke Mountain Resort
We arrived in Revelstoke around 2 pm which gave us just under half a day to enjoy the resort. I would suggest a bit more time, but now that we have done it, we know! The Revelstoke coaster is the big draw to the ski hill in the summer, allowing those non-mountain bikers to experience the thrill of a 1.4 km drop down the hill, reaching speeds of up to 42 km/h.
Because the coaster is so popular, if you have the chance, go in the morning. We did not and there was a wait of almost 2 hours. But that did not worry us. We checked in, got our Play All day passes and then took the Revelation Gondola up the mountain for a late lunch at the Mackenzie Outpost.
At the top of the Revelation Gondola, the kids could have ran around and explored for hours if we had had the time. The alpine landscape is very different than lower down the mountain. The alpine is full of loose rock and is located at over 1600m. The views of Revelstoke below and the surrounding mountains are stunning!
After lunch, our time had come up for the coaster, so we hopped into the queue (of just 5 people) and had our first coaster ride. The Resort has put together an awesome system to avoid giant queues on the hill. There are big screens with numbers on them and when your numbers come up, you can get into the line. This keeps the coaster at capacity without a big queue. If you have a play-all-day pass, you can use your second coaster ride right away, or save it for a bit later.
After one coaster ride we went to check out the Axe throwing. This is available for anoyne 10 years old and over. The age is mostly based on a strength thing, as throwing a hatchet does take a certain amount of strength. The kids absolutely LOVED IT! They loved it so much we paid another $10 to do it again!
We took the gondola back up to the coaster to ride it again and then went over to the ropes course and frisbee disc course. The younger kids did not really like the ropes course, it was quite high and wobbly. The teenager (and me) thought it was cool!
Frisbee gold was a hit for all ages. The shop takes a $10 deposit for the discs and it is an easy for all ages 9 hold frisbess disc course. I suggest you do not skip out on this!
Want more info? I have a post specifically on everything to do at the Revelstoke Mountain Resort. It provides more details on what to do while you are there!
REVELSTOKE COASTER ONLY PASS
Children 6-12 $29 ($12 if riding with an adult)
Under 5 $12
Includes one coaster ride.
Book online in advance or buy same day at the resort (if available)
ACTIVITY HOURS FOR REVELSTOKE MOUNTAIN RESORT
Hiking & Sightseeing Upper Gondola: 9:00am – 5:45pm Lower Gondola: 8:00am – 7:45pm
Pipe Mountain Coaster 8:00am – 8:00pm
Aerial Adventure Park 9:00am – 7:00pm (6:00pm last start time)
Axe Throwing 10:00am – 6:00pm
Mountain Biking 9:00am – 5:45pm (Stoke Climb closes at 4:30)
REVELSTOKE PLAY ALL DAY RATES
Children 6-12 $59
Under 5 $20
Includes up to 2 coaster rides, aerial park access, gondola hiking & sightseeing, axe throwing (age 10+), and disc golf.
Book online in advance or buy same day at the resort (if available)
The Sutton Place Hotel is conveniently located at the base of the mountain. It has direct access to the gondola for summer and winter activities!
Part 3 Golden
The next part of the Road trip from Vancouver to Banff took us on a 2 hour drive from Revelstoke to Golden. Make sure you get gas in Revelstoke (we forgot when we driving out of town) as there is not much in the way of services between these two points.
First Stop: Golden Sky Bridge
There are two things that you should not miss in Golden. The first, is the brand new Golden SkyBridge, Canada’s highest suspension bridge. At 426 feet off the canyon floor, it offers 360 degree views of the Purcell mountains and the Rocky Mountains and the canyon and waterfall below.
GOLDEN SKYBRIDGE HOURS
June – Sept 6th 9am-9pm
Sept 6th to Oct 11th 9am – 8pm
GOLDEN SKYBRIDGE LOCATION
305 Golden Donald Upper Road (Just 2 minutes off Hwy 1)
2021 RATES FOR GOLDEN SKYBRIDGE
Adults $34 Children $17
Beyond the views and beyond the record-breaking height of these two suspension bridges, there is an epic kids playground that most kids could spend hours on! There is also a zipline and ropes course coming soon
If you want to walk the suspension bridges, an hour is enough at the Golden Skybridge. If you have kids, add more time to play at the playground.
Stop 3: Kicking Horse Mountain Resort
The second thing you should not miss in Golden is Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. With views from all directions atop the mountain and experiencing The Grizzly Bear Refuge, and its resident Grozzly, Boo. By observing Boo in his natural habitat, guests have the opportunity to see firsthand how beautiful and majestic grizzly bears really are. Raising awareness of these secretive and noble creatures helps to improve the plight of this embattled species.
KICKING HORSE MOUNTAIN RESORT ADVENTURE PASS
The Adventure pass gives you sightseeing to the top of the mountain as well as a Grizzly interpretive tour. It is the best option to get the most of your time on the mountain. The mountain is also open for mountain biking.
2021 RATES FOR KHMR
Youth (13-17) $42.95
Child (6-12) $24.95
2021 MOUNTAIN BIKING RATES
(Gondola & Catamount Chair):
Youth (13-17) $45.95
Child (6-12) $30.95
(Catamount Chair only rates are cheaper)
As the first Grizzly bear refuge, Boo’s time in captivity has been instrumental in creating many rescue and release programs for Grizzly bears in BC.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort offers panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains, the Columbia River Wetlands and the quaint town of Golden from 7700 ft.
Minimum 2 hours. The Grizzly tour is almost an hour and a visit to the top of Kicking Horse offers unparalleled views. If you have time, allow time to hike at the top.
Part 4 Golden To Canmore
While I am not telling you my Itinerary is perfect, I am telling you what my itinerary was. So after leaving kicking horse in the late afternoon, we drove to Canmore where we would stay for the next three nights. If we were to redo this trip, I would do Golden on the way there and Revelstoke on the way back, or the other way around. I will provide more info at the end on what I think the perfect itinerary would be (after throwing this one together … I may travel a lot, but that does not mean I plan all of the details ahead of time!)
We got into the Worldmark Canmore – Banff in the evening. My parents have a timeshare there, that is why we booked it. The name is a bit misleading, I did not know we would be 30 minutes outside of Banff, but it is a stunning town, and was happy to experience it.
Part 5 Banff in One Day
We had one day to get a first impression of Banff. We jumped at the opportunity to take a tour to give us an overview of the town. We chose to go with Pursuit’s Open Top Touring buses! These 1930’s inspired vehicles give plenty of views, and offer insight into what Banff was like in the 1930s. They stop at viewpoints and tell stories of what made Banff into what it was today.
After our tour we grabbed lunch and then rented bikes for the afternoon. We chose to rent from Snowtips / Baktrax because of their kid’s inventory! They had bikes for all ages as well as the ride-along bike attachment or a carrier! If we had planned better we would have chosen our route in advance, but we ended up riding over to the golf course. The road riding was nice, but the traffic was a learning curve for the kids a bit! We did get to take in the waterfall, which was well worth the trip!
At the end of the day we headed back the 30 minute drive to Canmore for a swim and dinner in our accommodations.
Related: If you love to share your photos online and happened to rent bikes as well! check out my list of Bike Captions for Instagram after you have finished reading this post
Visit Banff Guide
Visiting Banff Guide
There are a few things you need to know about visiting Banff. First, the city lies right in the middle of a National Park. In order to visit the city, you need to have a park pass. You can buy them on the highway, or online in advance.
Most of the parking is paid parking. But what I liked about it was that it was not lot specific. You could renew by the hour (or two) and park anywhere in the paid parking areas. It is also a very walkable downtown, so best to leave your car somewhere convenient and walk around from there.
I would also suggest spending a night in town, that was something we will fore sure do on our next trip!
Part 6 Lake Louise Bucketlist Canoe Trip
I am a bucketlist junkie, if I see a stunning photo, I want to take the same photo. If I see an epic experience, I want to do it too. Well, Lake Louise offered both. A stunning backdrop, and a chance to canoe across the lake with my kids. The weather could not have been more perfect, the lake was like glass and the skies were blue. While the canoe rental is expensive, I honestly think it was well worth it!
After lake Louise we also visited Lake Morraine which was equally (if not more) stunning. You want to allow at least 30 minutes for each lake to get a quick look, add an hour for Canoeing and some time for hiking around Lake Morraine if that interests you.
The toughest part about the visit to Lake Louise is the parking situation. Visiting Lake Louise and Lake Morraine also requires a Parks Canada pass, as they are inside Banff National Park. The Parks Canada website makes it very clear that parking is very limited at both of the parking lots (it also costs to Park at Lake Louise, over $11 for the day pass). What they have done is put together a park and ride shuttle.
You buy your shuttle time in advance online. When you arrive to the park and ride (parking is free) you board the shuttle to either lake. There is another shuttle that runs in between the lakes. We chose to do Lake Louise first, then shuttle to Lake Morraine and then shuttle back to the car. If you drive to Lake Louise and then want to go to Lake Morraine, you have to drive, and then hope there is parking at the second lake.
The Parks Canada site makes it sound like there are big lineups for the shuttle. We went mid-week, and there were no lineups for the shuttle. One time, we were the only group on the shuttle. I will write a post more about how to book the shuttle. (Because it is a government website, it is ridiculously complicated and not-user friendly … what government site is, but I promise, the experience itself was seamless and actually very convenient!)
We spent just over 3 hours to do both lakes and then headed back to Canmore (about an hour’s drive) and enjoyed an afternoon at the pool. We were going home already the next day.
Part 7 Vancouver to Banff Road Trip is Going Home
We packed up early in the morning and were on the road by 9am. We knew it was a long road home, but had commitments to make, hence why it was a quick trip. We drove straight from Canmore back to Vancouver, stopping in Revelstoke (about 4 hours in) to have lunch and get fuel (it was soooo busy there, its a popular meal and rest stop) and continued on to Sicamous. 10km out of Sicamous we encountered dead stop traffic. Thanks to DriveBC (I highly suggest you check it out before you leave and during your trip for all road related matters) we found out there had been a collision and the road was closed. We waited for 20 minutes before turning around and back in Sicamous we headed to Vernon. We were able to divert through Enderby, only adding about 45 minutes to our trip. We stopped once for ice cream and continued the drive back home.
Honestly the kids did great, it was a long time to be in the car. But if I had to do it again, I would have broken up the drove home with a Revelstoke or Golden overnight. While not every road trip is perfect, this is the itinerary we did. Now that we have done it and learned from our planning errors, I have put together an itinerary that (to me) makes more sense over the same amount of days!
Suggested Itinerary Road Trip Vancouver to Banff and back in 5 Days
Day 1 Vancouver to Golden
Drive to Golden and enjoy the skybridge in the late evening.
Revelstoke and enjoy Revelstoke Mountain Resort in the afternoon. Overnight at the Sutton Place on Revelstoke Mountain Resort
Day 2 Golden to Canmore
Get up in the morning and enjoy Kicking Horse Mountain resort and then drive to Canmore. Enjoy an afternoon exploring in Canmore and overnight.
Day 3 Banff Day Trip
Enjoy Banff for the day and either return to Canmore accommodations or stay overnight in Banff
Day 4 Lake Louise and Lake Morraine then to Revelstoke
The lakes can be done in a half day, then drive to Revelstoke for overnight. If you start early enough, you can enjoy the resort in the evening. Overnight st Sutton Place.
Day 5 Revelstoke to Vancouver
If you did not enjoy the resort the night before, an early morning start means the coaster will likely have no lineup. Explore the resort until the early afternoon and then it is a 6 hour drive back home.
Lindsay Nieminen hails from Vancouver, Canada and shares her love of travel on this website. She is passionate about showing others that they should not put off traveling the world just because they have young children or are single parents. She aims to encourage them to seek out adventure, whether it is at home or abroad by providing information on how just about everywhere can be a destination to explore as a family.