Itinerary - Driving Vancouver to Banff

Old Jun 29th, 2004, 09:36 PM
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Itinerary - Driving Vancouver to Banff

My husband and I are travelling to Vancouver in May next year and we wish to drive to Banff stopping at various spots along the way. This is my proposed itinerary:

Vancouver to Kamloops - overnight Kamloops
Kamloops to Jasper - 3 nights Jasper
Jasper to Lake Louise - 2 nights Lake Louise
Lake Louise to Banff - 5 nights Banff
Driving Banff to Vancouver in one day (is this unrealistic?)

We want to allow enough time to see the main attractions such as lakes, glaciers, waterfalls etc and not be in a mad rush. Does this sound about right or have I allowed too many or not enough days in any of these places. Also, any suggestions on alternative routes, ie more scenic. Is May a good time to see this part of Canada?
Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Hills is offline  
Old Jun 29th, 2004, 10:21 PM
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You can drive Vancouver to Banff in one day but it can get pretty tiring. We drive Vancouver to Calgary in about 10.5 hours. Most people take about 11... that's with very limited stops. So Banff - Van. would be about 10 hours pretty much straight through.
May is usually OK, but there is a possibility of snow on the mountain passes, especially if it is early May. Late May can be lovely and warm in the daytime. The leaves on the deciduous trees will just be coming out around mid-May in Eastern BC and Alberta.
Vancouver to Kamloops is roughly 3.5 - 4 hours without a stop. Kamloops is not much, IMHO, but OK if you're just stopping there overnight. You might want to consider a slight detour to Kelowna - much prettier, with the lake, and you could tour a winery or two while there.
5 nights is quite a bit for Banff, depending on what it is you like to do - hiking?
You might want to consider taking 1 or 2 less nights in Banff and stopping in Kelowna on your way back to the coast.
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Old Jun 29th, 2004, 10:27 PM
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The mountain lakes thaw at different rates in different years, depending on the timing of spring, but May basically is too early to see the lakes in their turquoise glory.

Some of the lakes, such as Malgine Lake near Jasper, and Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, probably would be thawed by the last week in May.

But Moraine Lake, one of my favourites, typically doesn't look its best until about the middle of June.

The Kamloops - Jasper - Lake Louise part of your itinerary looks good. I think you have too many nights in Banff. Three nights in Banff is sufficient, in my opinion.

You would be better off re-allocating one of the Banff nights to your return journey to Vancouver. While it's feasible to drive from Banff to Vancouver in a day, it IS a long drive. It would be more pleasant to break it up by overnighting in, say, Kelowna.

As a matter of fact, there's really no reason to move from Lake Louise to Banff. The two places are about 50 minutes from each other. You could use Lake Louise as a base for seeing Banff's sights.

Lake Louise is a good base for seeing Banff and Yoho National Parks, because it's more centrally located in the mountains than Banff is.

On the other hand, Lake Louise is a small village with only a few hotels. If you like pubs and night life, Banff would be a better base.

If you want to consider a more circular itinerary that would have you returning to Vancouver via a more southerly route, you might have a look at the messages I posted in a thread entitled, "Canada vacation" at

Hope this helps.
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Old Jun 29th, 2004, 10:30 PM
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Sorry, Taggie, didn't see you there.
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Old Jun 30th, 2004, 04:18 AM
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Hi there,

I can't offer information thats new its just your itinerary seems similar to ours in a few ways. We are going to use the Gold leaf rocky mountaineer from vancouver to banff.. Just thought it may be worth considering..

suzannes is offline  
Old Jun 30th, 2004, 08:26 AM
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the okanagan area (kelowna, vernon or penticton)is really nice. i too would recommend a night or two in that area on one of the ways.
if all you want to do is hike/sightsee and stay in your room then i would recommend lake louise for a base but personally, it is so small that i wouldn't want more then 2 nights there. then i'd want to go to banff for more of a selection of restaurants/shops etc. it's a beutiful drive. banff to vancouver is more rugged and dynamic but vancouver to jasper is really nice to cause you follow a river a long ways.
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Old Jun 30th, 2004, 09:18 AM
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Five nights in Banff seems too long if all you plan to do is see the main sights, but if you are a hiker, or would like to do some whitewater rafting etc. five days may not be enough!!

I agree with all the others who mentioned that Lake Louise and Banff are so close that it doesn't really make too much sense to stay at both locations (Judy must drive much slower than we do - my hubby routinely makes the Banff-Lake Louise trip in 40 to 45 minutes !!).

To vary your route a bit, on your first leg from Vancouver to Kamloops, I would suggest driving the Trans Canada (Fraser Canyon) route. It is much slower than the Coquihalla, but it's a lot more scenic - you'll be driving by Hell's Gate ( a scenic spot with gondola rides over the raging rapids).

And do stop at Kelowna on your way back to Vancouver - it really is a very pretty spot overlooking a gorgeous lake.

Note that in early May there still could be snow in the Rockies; it could even still be snowing!!! We travelled to Jasper at the very beginning of May in 2003, and it was windy, cold (-2C = ~29F) and snowing. The end of May is a much better time - by then it could even be quite warm.
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Old Jul 1st, 2004, 03:30 PM
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If you have the time, instead of staying all those nights in Banff you might consider detouring to see the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palentology in Drumheller. It is a fascinating (be sure to rent the audio tour) trip through pre-history, with skeletons of dinosaurs that we'd never heard of -- that were discovered right in that area. In addition, you get a glimpse of the topography of the "Badlands"...quite a change from the picturesque mountains. We drove Banff to Drumeheller (3 hours), spent about 2 1/2 hours at the museum and then drove back to Calgary (1 1/2 hours). It was well worth the trip. Our itinerary was: Whistler (where we had a meeting) 3 nights, Jasper 3 nights, Lake Louise 1 night, Banff 3 nights, Calgary (from whence our plane departed) 1 night. We thought that was about the right amount of time.
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