By popular demand, here is our western Canada hiking trip itinerary! We’re in no way experts on the area but here’s what we did, where we stayed, and the best places we ate, since many of you asked. I hope this is helpful for those of you planning similar trips! We packed a TON into every day but we didn’t want to miss out and there was so much to see. For the first part of our trip (Banff + Jasper), we traveled with our German friends Melli and Mortiz (Melli and I met as random roommates while I was teaching English in Prague in 2008 and have been good friends ever since). It was so fun to see them, and a HUGE thank you to Moritz for doing a lot of research for all of us in terms of the best hiking spots and affordable places to stay in Banff and Jasper! Matt and I basically showed up like: “We’re up for whatever you have planned!” Lol. We’re jealous because they have a couple more weeks of Canadian adventures ahead of them – wish we could have stayed longer!
Much more in-depth recap posts on the hikes and Vancouver to come throughout the month – I’ll update this post with links to them as I share them, too, so you’ll be able to find them in the future. Happy traveling! Please note this post includes some affiliate links.
**UPDATED** Here are my in-depth posts – read on to see the full itinerary!
- Hiking Lake Louise in Banff National Park
- Hiking Johnson Canyon and Ink Pots in Banff National Park
- Hiking Kootenay National Park
- Driving the Icefields Parkway
- Hiking Jasper National Park
- A Weekend in Vancouver
Western Canada Hiking Trip Itinerary
(Includes Banff National Park, Jasper National Park, and Vancouver)
Day 1: Quick overnight in Calgary
Where we stayed: Fairfield Inn & Suites Downtown Calgary (stayed here because we could use Matt’s Marriott points to stay for free) – included breakfast. There was also a hip restaurant attached to the hotel off the lobby that had great coffee and cold pressed juice!
Restaurants of note: Café Koi (really cozy, eclectic Asian place and the night we had dinner there they had an open mic jazz night going on – so fun! Try their tofu veggie coconut curry.)
- Travel day – fly into Calgary, rent a car. I would HIGHLY recommend renting a car if you do this trip (preferably one with 4 wheel drive) – a lot of the hikes would have been really hard to get to and the drive on the Icefields Parkway (between Banff and Jasper) is amazing too. You will see so much wildlife driving in the parks!
Note: if you want to skip Calgary and head straight to Banff when you arrive that would work too! It’s about an hour and a half drive so it just depends what time you land in Calgary. The sun stays out until about 10 p.m. in that area in summer so you wouldn’t have to drive in the dark. 🙂 I think we’d probably do this if we did this trip again – it would have been nice to have another full day in the mountains and to wake up at our destination on day 2!
Days 2 to 5: Banff National Park
Where we stayed: Bow View Lodge – this place was super affordable, right in the walkable area of town, AND you have access to the awesome hot tub, pool, and sauna at their sister hotel next door. Breakfast is not included, though, so we bought some easy breakfast items (yogurt, fruit, muesli) from the grocery store a few blocks away to store in the mini fridge in our room. Having a fridge was also convenient for hiking lunch food storage – there isn’t really any food in the parks so if you plan to be out all day every day like we were you’ll need to bring provisions. 🙂 I’ll do a post later on about what we ate on the trails!
Restaurants of note: Nourish Bistro (vegetarian restaurant with a fun ambiance – stop by earlier in the trip and make a reservation), Masala (yummy Indian place – their channa masala rocked)
- Morning: drive to Banff from Calgary
- Afternoon: hikes around the town of Banff, accessible from the town on foot without a car. Lots of beautiful little trails to explore – enjoy getting lost!
- Early morning through mid afternoon: hiking at Lake Louise – show up early to beat the crowds! We got there at 7:30. We did an amazing hike called the Plain of Six Glaciers that took us really high up with stunning views. From there, we came back down about halfway and then took another trail to hike to Lake Agnes. We stopped there for lunch – there were a lot of picnic tables. There’s a teahouse there with some drinks and food but we packed our own. From there, we took the more popular/crowded trail back down to the lake and our car! This was a long hike – I’d say about 10 miles total, if not more, and a lot of it was uphill or downhill.
- Late afternoon: quick stop at Moraine Lake (we just did a brief rock scramble to see the views but there are a lot of nice trails around the lake that I would have loved to explore had we had more time/not been super tired already) – show up early to beat the crowds, it was mobbed when we arrived but still insanely beautiful. It’s close to Lake Louise.
- Morning: Johnson Canyon + Ink Pots hike – show up early to beat the crowds – we arrived at 8:30 (the road to access Johnson Canyon doesn’t open until 8 a.m., FYI). This hike was gorgeous – about 7 miles round trip and not too steep. Don’t skip the Ink Pots portion – so beautiful!
- Afternoon: Kootenay National Park – about an hour and a half drive from Banff (Johnson Canyon was on the way) – we hiked Marble Canyon + Paint Pots (so beautiful!) and also did the Dog Lake hike – so peaceful and not many people around.
- Evening: Radium hot springs (just so-so – basically a big swimming pool that was hot, but felt really nice on our sore legs) – it’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Banff and is close to Kootenay National Park so we were nearby. I wouldn’t go out of your way to hit the hot springs but it was a nice end to the day! (It was nicer than the hot springs in Banff, though, FYI.) We ate at a really good German restaurant in town afterwards called Old Salzburg that was delicious – the sausage and sauerkraut was epic.
- Check out of our hotel and drive from Banff to Jasper via the gorgeous Icefields Parkway.
- There are tons of places right along the road to stop and hike and take in the views so plan to spend pretty much the entire day completing the 3 hour drive. We stopped and took pictures and/or hiked at: Bow Lake, Peyto Lake (short easy hike and the lake is stunning), Mistaya Canyon (fun hike), the Athbasca Glacier (a short but very steep hike gives you really nice views of the glacier – you can also hire a guide to take you up on the glacier if you have time, or take a bus trip up there – we just did the hike), Tangle Creek (pretty waterfall on the side of the road that you can do a quick scramble up the side of), Athbasca Falls/River (an easy but pretty hike through some of the falls and down to the river). Be sure to pack a lunch – eating spots are basically nonexistent, but there are tons of turn offs with picnic tables with insanely scenic views right along the road.
Day 6: Jasper National Park
Where we stayed: Mount Robson Inn – highly recommend! Breakfast was included and the rooms were really nice despite the fact that it was motel-style (doors open right out to the parking lot). The rooms also have mini fridges which was again nice for our hiking lunch food.
Restaurants of note: Syrahs (cozy ambiance and great upscale food), The Raven Bistro (ditto – try the seafood pot or African peanut stew).
- Morning to early afternoon: Edge of the World hike (hard to find and off the beaten path but worth it) – short but steep hike with stunning views of the mountains and a pretty waterfall, and Valley of the Five Lakes hike (easy hike – about 5k – with beautiful views and we saw a bear, but thankfully it was across the lake!)
- Afternoon: Patricia Lake (we hiked around one side of it and then found a trail that led back to the street through a beautiful birch wood forest)
Day 7 – Overnight near Clearwater
(partway between Jasper and Vancouver)
Where we stayed: an adorable spot off a very rough country road out in the middle of nowhere called Alpine Meadows Resort. Cute and cozy place – they have a restaurant on site that was really good and also have a lake with free kayaks, paddleboats, and canoes that you can take out whenever you like. Matt lost his sunglasses in the lake, so while you’re there keep an eye out for them. 😉
- Morning: Start driving to Clearwater and stop at the Berg Lake trail hike. This is about 45 minutes outside of Jasper on the drive to Clearwater – it’s a long overnight camping trail but we just did the first 5k to a pretty lake before turning back for 10k total. Nice way to break up the drive!
- Note: if you have time, stop at Helmcken Falls in Wells Grey Provincial Park on the way – we didn’t make it but it’s supposed to be beautiful.
- Afternoon: drive the rest of the way to the Alpine Meadows Resort, spend afternoon paddling around on the lake. 🙂
Days 8 to 10: Vancouver
Where we stayed: English Bay Inn bed and breakfast. This place was pricey but adorable and the breakfast was awesome – multiple courses! Great location, too – just a couple blocks from English Bay beach and the seawall/Stanley Park.
Restaurants of note: Kitaya Sushi (walking distance from our B&B, delicious sushi, and really affordable), Beach Bay Café (walking distance from our B&B, nice ambiance, great seafood and starter salads), Chambar (phenomenal brunch – try the waffles with yogurt and the orange fig marmalade). Gastown is also a great area a short cab ride from where we were staying that we had dinner in one night – tons of cute restaurants and nice to stroll around. I can’t remember the name of the place we went!
- Morning: breakfast at the restaurant at the Alpine Meadows Resort. Enjoy a short hike around the property and a quick swim in the frigid lake attempting to retrieve Matt’s sunglasses – no luck. 😉
- Late morning to late afternoon: drive to Vancouver! Stop once about an hour and a half outside of Vancouver to do a 30 minute hike at a cute spot called Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park. Beautiful waterfall and nice way to break up the drive!
- Evening: dinner out with my brother in Vancouver! He drove up from Seattle to meet us. 🙂
- Morning: hike the famous Grouse Grind up Grouse Mountain! Touristy and super crowded but an awesome workout and still totally worth doing. It was tough – I was impressed so many people were doing it! 1.8 miles straight up with 2,800 feet of elevation gain. Whoa!
- Afternoon: take a ferry over to Granville Island to check out the public market. Foodie paradise!
- Evening: dinner in Gastown – really cool area of Vancouver with lots of great restaurants.
- Morning: enjoy a run on the seawall around Stanley Park! A must do for any runner visiting Vancouver. 🙂 We did 2 miles along the seawall and then 2 miles back along the trails in the park.
- Afternoon: rent bikes and explore more of Stanley Park’s trails! If you get off the main seawall and into the dirt trails in the park (get a mountain bike or hybrid), there aren’t many people around – fun to explore! We spent the rest of the day relaxing on English Bay Beach. 🙂 We got lucky with amazing weather while in Vancouver!
- Evening: watch the sunset on the seawall and say farewell to vacation. Sniff, sniff!
Day 11: early morning flight back home!
What to Wear
Pack a lot of options and layers! In late May to early June the weather was all over the place – everything from cold and lightly snowing to warm and sunny to rainy and cool. It literally changed every hour so be prepared! Our friends that we traveled with had been to this area in May before a few years ago and it was colder and more snowy (some hikes were still closed), too, so be prepared
On any given day I generally had a pair of hiking pants on (new faves are these North Face pants and I also have a great pair from REI), a short sleeved technical tee, a lightweight zip up (like this one), another backup regular long sleeved shirt (this one), a rain coat (I love my Marmot raincoat), and a warmer jacket (I got a lightweight/really packable but warm North Face jacket for the trip). As for my feet, for the first part of the trip that was colder and anytime the trails were muddy or it was wet out, I wore my durable and waterproof Merrell hiking boots with Smartwool hiking socks. When the weather was dryer and warmer, I wore my lightweight and comfortable Brooks PureGrit trail running shoes with Bombas ankle socks.
I also highly recommend wearing a hydration pack! I wore my trusty Nathan hydration vest (carries 2 liters of water) and Matt carried a larger hiking backpack with our food and his water.
I hope this post was helpful! Let me know if you end up using any of the suggestions – would love to hear how your trips are, too!