The Ultimate West Coast Canada Road Trip Guide
Looking to plan your own west coast road trip? I have put together the ultimate guide to exploring the beautiful west side of Canada, just for you! This itinerary is packed with the most amount of activities as possible in a short amount of time. I'm sharing all the details on how I pulled off this trip, so you can too!
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West Coast (Vancouver to Calgary)
Before hitting the road, opt to spend one week in Vancouver, relaxing and taking the time to explore each nook of the city. I loved Vancouver, it's the perfect balance of city life and coast life. The transit system is also so efficient, it's much easier to travel this way than by car. Just load a Compass Card at any train station, tap your card and you'll be on your way.
Day 1: Stanley Park
Before beginning your day, stop by Café Medina and grab one of their freshly made waffles! These waffles are so light and fluffy I wish I ordered more than just one. You can also add a dipping sauce to pair it with but I thought they tasted best with just a little bit of powdered sugar.
Once you've fuelled up, head to Stanley Park and rent a bike for the day. There are many bike rental shops in the area with similar deals. I recommend Spokes Bicycle Rentals because if you tag them in your Story on social media, they give you 10% off your rental!
Take your time exploring Stanley Park, it's beautiful and there are so many areas to stop and enjoy the beautiful coastline.
This is the bike route we took. You can also cross over to Granville Island on a public ferry for a small fee with your bike. End the day with a Vancouver sushi platter from Akira Sushi and watch the sun go down from the beach.
Day 2: North Vancouver
Time to start the day bright and early in North Vancouver! With the BC transit system, getting to the north part of the city is very quick. The ferries are part of the transit system and crosses waters with great speed! Make your first stop of the day at Lonsdale Quay Market. Take a stroll around the market and grab a tasty bite to eat.
While in North Vancouver, many tourists opt to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge and pay $60 for a ticket. I recommend visiting Lynn Canyon Park instead. The park is free and includes a suspension bridge, a 30-foot icy pool you can cliff jump off and a narrow passageway you can swim in to get to some hidden falls.
After taking plunge in the beautiful cold pool, head to Deep Cove. A beautiful cove where you can rent kayaks or even a boat and explore out into the waters. This is also a fantastic place to take a dip. The water is much warmer than the Lynn Canyon Park pool!
Day 3: West Vancouver
Learn about nature and the importance of biodiversity at the VanDusen Botanical Garden. On your way to the garden, stop by Queen Elizabeth Park where there is a lovely lookout of Grouse Mountain which we will be hiking tomorrow. From there, it's a 15 min walk to the botanical garden.
After learning about our diverse ecosystem and capturing some beautiful exotic plant photos, head to the mind-blowing campus of UBC. The massive buildings and architecture is jaw-dropping. To top it off, the campus is right beside the water! Views, on views, on views! Such a dream to come study here.
Before the end of your day, stop by Pacific Spirit Regional Park. It's a beautiful park near UBC that has many different trails relatively easy to hike.
Day 4: Grouse Mountain
Up for a challenge? Take on the Grouse Grind at Grouse Mountain. Hike the mountain as fast as you can and get a free gondola ride back down. This trek is a great challenge and takes an average of 1-2 hours to complete, depending on your fitness level. Once you reach the top, the view is spectacular. There is also a wildlife sanctuary for grizzly bears and wild elk. Prepare for this trip to take the whole day, bring lots of snacks and come prepared with good hiking gear. For dinner, I recommend trying Juke Fried Chicken in Chinatown, perfect way to satisfy cravings after a long day of hiking.
Day 5: Chinatown & Kitsilano Beach
Enjoy a slow morning with dim sum at Jade Dynasty for brunch in Chinatown. This place has some of the best authentic Cantonese dim sums you can have in Vancouver. Once your bellies are full, make a reservation at The Keefer Bar. They're marketed to have the best cocktails in Vancouver. The bar gets very busy at night so aim to get a table during happy hour, between 3-4 pm. This gives you an opportunity to try some of the drinks at a lower price, however the cocktails come in smaller glasses. They also have a small mini-putt rink in the centre of the bar to enjoy.
End the day with a picnic at Kitsilano Beach. A great vibe with fun people and a beautiful view of the mountains across the water.
Day 6: Gastown & Brewery Hopping
For your last day in Vancouver, relax and spend the day at Kitsilano Beach again. Or, use this time to do an activity you've been longing to do since you got to Vancouver. This time is yours!
Then, head down to Gastown for dinner and to see the famous Steam Clock. I feel like Gastown was meant to be seen at night, with the lights illuminating the area while people rush into bars for an end-of-the-day pint. While there are a few food and drink tours available to try in Gastown, we had our very own brewery tour booked with a friend of ours outside of Gastown.. He took us to the Faculty Brewing Co., Electric Bicycle and R&B Brewing. Although I'm not much of a beer drinker, they had other drinks for me to try and R&B Brewing capped the night with some great pizzas and nachos!
Day 7: Victoria
Depart bright and early to catch the ferry to the city of Victoria! It is recommended to get to the ferry at least 40 min before departure. We were running extremely late and thought we were going to miss our ferry. Fortunately, we arrived at the terminal 15 min before departure and was allowed to board. Phew!
Arrive in Victoria, by mid-afternoon and stop for lunch at Pagliacci's. I had the best seafood lasagna I've ever had here. We sat outside beside a foosball table that we played while we waited for our food. After lunch, stroll through the town of Victoria and grab gelato at Mosi. Victoria is a fantastic place to walk around and explore, so take your time!
For your evening activity, book a sunset whale watching tour with Eagle Wing Tours. There are a lot of whale watching tour companies within the island and in Vancouver, but I recommend this company because they are a local, family-run company with strong values and beliefs in sustainability, conservation, research and education. Check out their website for more information on what they do and for a great whale watching experience.
Before departure, the staff prep you with large snow pants and an insulated jacket. Although it's the middle of summer, it gets chilly on the boat very quickly. The team tries their best to spot marine life. I was eager to see a humpback whale but I knew I was reaching with that goal. We did get to see orcas, seals and even puffins! It's a fun experience on the water, I got to learn so much about these wonderful creatures and what our country is doing to keep these animals safe.
Day 8: Tofino
Depart Victoria at 5 am and begin your day trip to Tofino! If you have extra time and the budget to stay in Tofino for a few days, definitely do it. Many people come here to vacation, but it is a pricy stay. The drive is long and we got stuck in some traffic due to construction on the mountains but nevertheless, Tofino is worth the trek!
Once you arrive in Tofino, there are plenty of nearby surf shops to rent a surfboard for the day. The staff will also direct you to which beaches are best to catch some waves. We surfed for about 4 hours! I was exhausted but it was one of the best days of our trip. After our surfing adventures, we planned to have dinner at Tacofino, but the food truck line was incredibly long. This is a popular place and I heard it's very good so if you don't mind waiting, try it and let me know how it tastes! Instead, we went to a nearby restaurant called Shelter that has tasty clam chowder.
West Coast: Vancouver to Calgary
Day 9: Victoria to Squamish
After a fantastic weekend in Vancouver Island, it's time to begin the trek across the west coast! Take the ferry back to Vancouver and follow the road to Squamish. On your drive up, make a quick stop at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. This is the hotel that was used as the exterior shot of the Tipton Hotel in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody! It's an exciting stop to do, especially if you grew up watching the show like we did. From here, the Sea to Sky Highway is the gateway to Squamish and what a fantastic drive it is! The roads are so fun to cruise down and the view of the mountains by the water is stunning. Take the highway up to Shannon Falls, a short hike to a gorgeous falls view. See if you can spot a few people rock climbing!
If you're planning to have the day in Squamish, take the challenge and do Chief's Peak or Panorama Ridge. They're both challenging hikes, but the views at the top are breathtaking!
Day 10: Squamish to Whistler
I had breakfast from our hostel at Squamish Adventure Inn overlooking the most beautiful view of the mountains. It made me want to stay here a little while longer, but we had so much left to explore!
Make your first stop of the day at Brandywine Falls, a 70m waterfall that also has a few hiking trails and a train track leading into the mountains. Next stop is Alta Lake. This was a challenging place to find because all the roads were closed due to construction but somehow we managed to find some public docks where we could lounge by the breathtaking view and take a dip in the lake. Alta Lake is one of my favourite stops, I wasn't able to find the exact location of where these docks are but we parked on a quiet street and from there it was a short walk to the lake. It's a bit of a hidden gem worth seeking out.
By the evening, take a stroll through Whistler Village. Don't forget to grab a photo by the Olympic rings! Cap the night with a drink at the Amsterdam Cafe Pub. A small but rowdy bar with cheap drinks and a fun atmosphere.
Day 11: Whistler to Kelowna
Most people make their way to Jasper after Whistler, but this itinerary makes a detour to Kelowna! There are plenty of stops to make along the way to Kelowna. First stop is at Nairn Falls Provincial Park, a short 1.5 km hike by a teal blue river leading to the falls.
During the summer months of 2021, BC Parks introduced passes for their busiest parks. These passes are free but need to be booked in advance if you'd like to visit the parks. For more information on how to book, you can visit the Day-Use Passes page.
Book a day pass to hike Joffre Lake today. Save your confirmation code in advance on your phone because there is no service around Joffre Lake to pull it up when you get there. There are three lakes to hike: Lower, Middle and Upper Joffre Lake. Once you get to Upper Joffre Lake, most people stop here, but I recommend continuing to the campgrounds where very few people continue on. The view of Upper Lake from the campgrounds is by far the best view. From there, there is a hike up to a rocky waterfall that is beautiful. After your long hike, come back to Middle Lake and take the plunge in the glacier. It is so refreshing and one of the highlights of my entire west coast trip.
After Joffre Lake, head straight to Kelowna. We ran into many wildfires along the way, it was heartbreaking to see. If you are fortunate to not run into any wildfires on your trip, look out for the view of Mount Currie along the way.
Day 12: Kelowna to Clearwater
When in Kelowna, go wine tasting! We hit up three wineries: Indigenous World Winery, Quails' Gate and Beaumont Family Estate Winery. The Hatch was initially on our list to try but when we got there it was closed due to an emergency between their staff. My favourite winery out of all three is Quails' Gate. It is also the busiest winery and for good reason. Our server Larry was kind and extremely knowledgeable of the wines. He gave us a few additional wines to try from the reserved menu and answered all of our questions. We loved Quails' Gate so much, we came back to have lunch at The Market right beside the estate where they make delicious wood-fired pizzas outside.
After lunch, cool down at the most popular beach in Kelowna: Hot Sands Beach before heading to Clearwater. It's recommended to stop in Clearwater on your way to Jasper as this part of the trip is a long drive. If you have time along your drive to Clearwater, make a detour and check out Green Lake and Kamloops Lake View Point.
Day 13: Clearwater to Jasper
Just three hours from here to get to Jasper, with loads of fun activities to do!
To enter Jasper Provincial Park, you will need to purchase a parks pass at least one month before you depart on your trip. This pass will be delivered to you by mail and should be hung in front of your car so it's visible to park rangers who will grant you access to the park.
Make your first stop in Jasper to Maligne Lake. The lake is so peaceful and a perfect place to rent a kayak or canoe and explore the still waters. You can also book a boat cruise that takes you around the lake over to Spirit Island. Then, take a drive through Jasper National Park and check out the town of Jasper where many people come to relax after their long day of exploring. I also recommend checking out Mount Robson on your way to Jasper which is the tallest peak in the Rockies!
Day 14: Jasper - Day 2
Up and out the door today at 5 am to go wildlife spotting! It's beautiful to see Jasper early in the morning when the world has not yet awoken. On our drive, we spotted elk, deer and even a bald eagle!
For your afternoon activity, hike Sulphur Skyline Trail. Along the way, see if you can spot some more wildlife! What I first thought was a pack of wolves was actually a herd of mountain goats across the highway! At the parking lot of Sulphur Skyline Trail, we ran into some big horned sheep that got a little too close to us. We tried to keep our distance but I suppose people feed them which is probably why they were approaching us. No matter where you're travelling in the world, please always respect the wildlife in natural places, keep your distance and don't disturb the animals.
After about an hour and a half of hiking, you will reach the summit and be surrounded by mountains. It's a great place to stop and have lunch before heading back down. At the bottom of the trail, there's Miette Hot Springs to relax your muscles after your hike. Unfortunately, when we went, the hot springs were closed for repairs, but it's only $6 to relax and enjoy the view when it's open.
On our way back into town, we stopped at a lake beside the highway where people were walking way out into the lake and the water was just up to their knees! I'm not sure how people were walking in this lake because the water was absolutely freezing I could only get a quarter of the way before turning back to the warm sand. The sun was setting in the background and made for a beautiful photo to the end of the day... if you can bear the cold for a bit!
Day 15: Jasper - Day 3
For your last day in Jasper, book a white water rafting tour with Jasper Adventures in the Sunwapta River! The guides are very enthusiastic and amps everyone up for rafting. They provide you with rafting gear to keep you safe and warm as the river is very cold. I recommend doing Class III rafting for your first time as it's just the right balance of intensity, fun and excitement!
Spend the rest of the day cliff jumping at Horseshoe Lake. This place is such an adrenaline rush and the biggest cliff jump I've ever jumped so far. There are some massive cliffs you can take on if you're brave enough! If you're looking for something a little less intense, then check out Mount Edith Cavell a nice hike with views of the Cavell Pond and the Cavell Glacier.
Cap off your last night in Jasper at the Jasper Brewing Company and grab the best poutine I've had in a long time from North Face Pizza just a few doors down.
Day 16: Jasper to Banff
Before heading to Banff, stop at Athabasca Falls. Here, I learned that the Athabasca River links the freshwater ice of the Columbia Icefields to the saltwater of the Arctic Ocean. It also passes through the Great Slave Lake and the Mackenzie River in the North West Territories to get to the Arctic Ocean! I thought this is so cool because I just visited these places. For your next trip, plan to visit the North of Canada which has even more spectacular views that you can check out on my YouTube!
To get to Banff, traverse through the stunning Icefields Parkway. This 232 km road is a beautiful drive, surrounded by rocky mountains and icefields. Park near the Glacier View Lodge and take the short hike to see the Athabasca Glacier and how it's being impacted by climate change.
When you arrive in Banff, treat yourself for dinner on your final night of your trip at La Terrazza, a fine dining Italian restaurant. Then, end the night strolling through the town of Banff.
Day 17: Banff to Calgary
Lake Louise gets very busy especially during the summer months. Show up too late and you'll be struggling to find a place to park. I recommend checking out Lake Louise as early in the morning as possible. We arrived at 6:30 am and didn't have to pay for parking till 7 am. There are fewer people at this time which makes the lake much more enjoyable. While you're here, take the Banff Gondola to the top of the Rockies and enjoy the stillness of the area. When you come back down, enjoy a dip in the hot springs at the Fairmont Hotel with a fantastic view of the mountains.
Time to say goodbye to the Rockies and head to the city of Calgary. Stop by the Calgary Tower and the Bow Skyscraper. Grab a cheesecake slice from Alforno Bakery & Cafe and enjoy a stroll down the Peace Bridge. Before you board your flight back home or on to your next adventure, enjoy one last view of Calgary at Crescent Heights Lookout Point and reminisce of your epic road trip.
Have questions on how to plan your west coast trip? Leave a comment below or send me a message, I'm happy to help!