Pristine lakes, beautiful trails and a place to feel small amongst the mountains. Welcome to the world-famous national parks in Canada! It’s therapy for the eyes and soul to explore the best that mother nature has to offer. 

From the lively Granville Island to the romantic Lake Louise, this road trip has sights and stops for both urbanites and nature enthusiasts.

The best way to experience the sea-to-sky highway and the Canadian Rockies has got to be on a self-drive road tip. If you can set aside two weeks from your schedule to explore what the national parks in Canada has to offer, it would certainly give you a better time to appreciate the sights. If you have lesser time, a one-week trip might require waking up a bit earlier and spending more time on the road, but certainly enough to discover the awe-inspiring beauty along the way.

A good in-between would be around 10 days, which will provide time to explore some of the major attractions along the way, including the national parks, lakes and mountain ranges, without feeling too rushed. It will also allow more time for longer hikes, to reach better vantage points for more beautiful views.

Here we share some picturesque scenery and photo taking opportunities along this itinerary – remember not to leave your camera at home!

1. Vancouver – A paradise for urban explorers and those seeking outdoor adventures

Cycling around Stanley Park, Vancouver. Cycling around Stanley Park, Vancouver.

Cycling is an affordable and relaxing way to explore Stanley Park and its seawall.

From the majestic wonders of Stanley Park to the vibrant historic charm of Gastown, this West Coast gem beckons with its seamless blend of breathtaking natural landscapes and captivating urban sights.

Stanley Park’s Seawall. Stanley Park’s Seawall.

Stanley Park’s seawall offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscape of the Vancouver skyline, Lions Gate Bridge and English Bay.

One of the first things we did when we arrived at Stanley Park was to rent a bicycle and explore Stanley Park section of the famous seawall. The 9km-long stretch at Stanley Park is a paved pathway that circles the perimeter of Stanley Park, offering stunning views of the water, mountains and city skyline. It was quite a comfortable ride with many photogenic spots along the way. It can get quite chilly especially along the perimeter of the seawall, so I’ll recommend slightly warmer clothing for comfort.

Brockton Point Lighthouse, a free attraction at Stanley Park. Brockton Point Lighthouse, a free attraction at Stanley Park.

A seagull perched on top of Brockton Point Lighthouse, one of the many free attractions you can visit on your cycle around Stanley Park.

There are many attractions to be found at Stanley Park, from paid attractions like the Vancouver Aquarium to free sights scattered all around the park. The Vancouver Aquarium is home to more than 50,000 animals from around the world, including adorable dolphins, sea otters and beluga whales. You should check the opening hours and ticket prices before visiting.

If you’d prefer some free attractions, there are many famous landmarks such as the Siwash Rock, Lost Lagoon and even the Brockton Point Lighthouse. They are also great photo taking spots!

Vancouver parks are typically open from 6am to 10pm, you may check out the official website before making a trip.

If cycling isn’t in your plans, you could walk along the scenic pathway too. Walking the whole 9km-long stretch will take you around three hours, so you might want to select a specific section that offers attractions worth visiting.

Gastown Steam Clock located in Gastown, Vancouver Gastown Steam Clock located in Gastown, Vancouver

The Gastown Steam Clock is powered by steam and is one of the only steam-powered clocks in the world. It stands at about 5m tall and is made of brass and cast iron.

A visit to Gastown when you are at Vancouver is a must. It is the historic heart of the city, and is one of Vancouver's most popular neighbourhoods for good reason. Its cobblestone streets, old-fashioned street lamps and historical buildings bring about a unique historic charm. Plus, it’s a great place to snap some unique photos at this oldest neighbourhood in Vancouver!

A crowd gathers in front of the Gastown Steam Clock located in Gastown, Vancouver A crowd gathers in front of the Gastown Steam Clock located in Gastown, Vancouver

A crowd gathers and waits with anticipation for the Steam Clock’s “performance”.

A visit to Gastown will not be completed without visiting the famous Gastown Steam Clock. It chimes a lovely tune every 15 minutes and it was nice being a part of the crowd, eagerly waiting for it to “sing”.

Along the vintage streets of Gastown houses a diverse selection of boutique shops, where visitors can uncover a treasure trove of stylish fashion, local craftsmanship, and one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

Vinyl Records, a record store located in Gastown, Vancouver Vinyl Records, a record store located in Gastown, Vancouver

One of the many cozy stores that you can find along Gastown, Vinyl Records has a huge collection of Vinyl along with friendly staff and a cozy atmosphere.

I visited this cozy record store “Vinyl Records” along the streets of Gastown, and I was amazed at the large collection of vinyl records they had. The store had a nostalgic vibe to it, blending in nicely with the Gastown aesthetic.

2. Granville Island (Vancouver) – A magical escape within the city

Artists and musicians are drawn to Granville Island for its rich heritage and culture. Artists and musicians are drawn to Granville Island for its rich heritage and culture.

Granville Island is full of art and heritage, with open spots dotted around the island with many creatives displaying their crafts.

We were instantly embraced by Granville Island’s lively atmosphere and its enchanting kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and aromas the moment we stepped foot onto the “island”. Located right under the iconic Granville Bridge, Granville Island is technically a sandspit that houses many shops, a public market and craft studios.

Granville Island neon welcome sign. Granville Island neon welcome sign.

Granville Island’s iconic neon sign. This sign is almost 30 years old and greets visitors as they enter the island.

Every visitor entering Granville Island by land will be greeted by the iconic 30-year-old Granville Island neon sign. Granville Island is a bustling hub of art, culture, and commerce in the heart of Vancouver. Entrance to the island is free of charge and I recommend spending at least half a day there to fully explore the many shops and immerse yourself in what the island has to offer.

Interior of Granville Island’s famous Public Market Interior of Granville Island’s famous Public Market

The Public Market is the heart of Granville Island. The soft diffused lighting also makes it great for taking photos.

The market has a wide range of fresh produce, seafood, meats and artisanal food products.

The Public Market is a must-see destination for foodies and known as the “food lover’s paradise”. We were bombarded by the sights and smells of the many unique stores (in a good way). While it may be overwhelming to navigate the maze of flavours from the many shops, here are some of our top recommendations from the market: Lee’s Donuts, The Stock Market (with a rotating menu of fresh soups, stock and sauces) and Oyama Sausage Company

The famous Lee’s Donut, located at the Granville Island Public Market. The famous Lee’s Donut, located at the Granville Island Public Market.

The long queue to Lee’s Donut might seem daunting, but the handmade mouthwatering donuts are simply not to be missed. These Donuts are made in small batches throughout the day to ensure freshness, but they often sell out quite quickly. Their Classic Glazed Donut is the most popular item.

The Public Market opens 7 days a week from 9am to 6pm, which gives travelers lots of flexibility when it comes to trip planning. With so many things to see and do, here’s a map of the island to better plan your route.

Granville Island Public Market
Address: Public Market, 1689 Johnston St, Vancouver, BC V6H 3R9, Canada
Opening hours: 9:00am to 6:00pm daily

3. Shannon Falls – Start of the Sea to Sky Highway

Shannon Falls, start of the Sea to Sky highway. Shannon Falls, start of the Sea to Sky highway.

The evening light falling gently on Shannon Falls, framed nicely by the trees in the foreground.

After spending a day or two in urban Vancouver, it was time to commence our road trip proper. We started our journey via the famous Sea to Sky Highway (officially known as BC Highway 99). It’s a scenic drive from Vancouver to Whistler, with 120km of breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged mountains, and cascading waterfalls.

We stopped by Shannon Falls Provincial Park which is at the halfway mark of the Sea to Sky Highway, approximately 67km away from Vancouver.

Shannon Falls is the third highest waterfall in the province with a height of 335m, with the park offering a few hiking trails ranging from easy walks to more challenging hikes. For those looking for an easy hike, this should be a perfect item in your itinerary – it was a short 20- to 40-minute comfortable hike from the carpark to the vantage point of the falls.

Shannon Falls, a beautiful yet comfortable hike. Shannon Falls, a beautiful yet comfortable hike.

It’s quite a gradual hike up to the vantage point of the falls, with beautiful scenery along the way it makes for a great first hike.

The park is open year-round, although access to some areas may be limited during the winter months. We recommend checking the before planning your trip.

Shannon Falls Provincial Park
Address: BC-97, Squamish-Lillooet D, BC V0N 1T0, Canada
Pro-tip: There are many (and I mean many) vantage points along the Sea to Sky Highway with stunning views – perfect for you to stop and rest, take in the sights, and snap as many photos as you can. 

I recommend having buffers in your schedule to allow for some time to stop for rest at these points along the way. And if you’re a photography geek like I am, you’ll certainly lose track of time while trying to frame that perfect shot among the mountains and lakes.

Photos from the many vantage points along the Sea to Sky Highway. Photos from the many vantage points along the Sea to Sky Highway.

4. Whistler Village – Ski resort in the winter, outdoor playground in the summer

A scenic photo of a house within Whistler Village A scenic photo of a house within Whistler Village

Surrounded by mountains and forests in the background and alpine-style buildings in the foreground, it makes a perfect scene for a layered landscape photo.

Whistler Village in autumn Whistler Village in autumn

The empty cobblestone streets and vibrant autumn leaves in October have made me fall in love with Whistler.

Nestled amidst the majestic Whistler and Blackcomb mountains is the picturesque pedestrian-only Whistler Village that captivates visitors with its charm and natural beauty. The village is at the heart of British Columbia, Canada and is only a two hour drive from Vancouver, making it a convenient spot to visit for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers.

In the winter, the slopes of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are transformed into a winter wonderland, attracting skiers and snowboarders from around the world. The ski trails cater to all levels of ability, from beginner to expert. The best time to visit Whistler Village for winter sports will be from mid-December to mid-April.

In the summer, Whistler Village transforms into an outdoor playground, with endless opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, and other activities. The village is surrounded by breathtaking natural scenery, including glacial lakes, alpine meadows and lush forests. 

The gondola that rides up the mountain provides panoramic views of the stunning landscapes, and the numerous hiking trails allow visitors to explore the wilderness at their own pace. Mid-June to mid-September will be the best times to visit for outdoor activities.

We visited Whistler Village in the off-peak season of October, and the smaller crowds made Whistler feel a bit more cosy.

5. Icefields Parkway – Views that drive you crazy!

Icefield Parkway. Icefield Parkway.

Towering peaks, glaciers, emerald lakes and panoramic views that seem to stretch endlessly in all directions. With each twist and turn in the road bringing another wallpaper worthy scene more beautiful than the last.

Now it’s time for the true road trip experience. The drive from Whistler to Jasper is 740km which will take you about 9 hours. We started our drive early in the day before sunrise and arrived slightly after lunch. For a less rushed experience, you may consider staying at night at Jasper or along the way.

The Icefields Parkway is a scenic drive that runs through the Canadian Rockies, between the towns of Banff and Jasper in Alberta, Canada. It was rated as one of the top drives in the world by Condé Nast Traveller.

Be sure to check out the Parks Canada website for operating hours and maintenance, especially in the winter. Note that you will need a National Park Pass to travel within the National Parks roadways like the Icefields Parkway.

All about the National Park Pass

The National Park Pass is a permit that allows visitors to access national parks, national historic sites, and national marine conservation areas across Canada.

Visitors can purchase the Canada Park Pass online, at any Parks Canada location, or through authorized retailers such as outdoor recreation stores or travel agencies. 

There are single-location passes and a Discovery Pass available to suit the different needs of travellers. I would recommend the Discovery Pass (CAD145.25 for a group of up to 7 people) that covers admission to more than 80 destinations for a year, providing you with the flexibility of exploring the various parks and sites. Having a Discovery Pass can also be a cost-effective way to explore the natural beauty and cultural heritage of Canada.

Wilcox Pass – A vantage point that you simply cannot pass

Red chairs at the top of the Wilcox Pass. Red chairs at the top of the Wilcox Pass.

The view at the top was well worth the hike.

There are multiple hiking trails available within the Icefield Parkway. We decided to try the Wilcox Pass due to its close proximity to the Athabasca Glacier. The start of the trail is roughly a 90mins drive from Banff.

View of the Wilcox Pass. View of the Wilcox Pass.

The stunning alpine landscape that greeted us after a steep hike.

The Wilcox Pass trail is a 9.5km round-trip hike that leads hikers up to an alpine meadow offering spectacular views of the Columbia Icefield, the Athabasca Glacier, and the surrounding mountain ranges. 

If you are lucky, you could potentially spot wildlife along the trail, such as bighorn sheep and mountain goats. We kept our eyes peeled during the hike but were not lucky enough to spot any of these animals. 

We were told by a fellow hiker that he saw a bear awhile back on the same trail, so remember to always keep your bear spray with you and practice bear safety. Bear sprays can usually be found in various outdoor and sporting goods shops, just pop in and ask!

This was a bit more of a challenging hike, but worth it for the beautiful vantage point of the Athabasca Glacier. It starts with a steep climb through a forested area (I’ll recommend taking it slow here as it may be quite challenging) followed by a series of switchbacks that lead to a plateau where hikers will find themselves surrounded by towering peaks and the sound of rushing glacial streams. It then leads to a vast alpine meadow, Wilcox Pass where the red chairs can be found. The total elevation gain is approximately 335m (about the height of the Empire State Building). , Iit can get quite windy at the top so remember to pack along your windbreakers.

Red adirondack chairs at the top of the Wilcox Pass. Red adirondack chairs at the top of the Wilcox Pass.

Park Canada’s iconic red chairs are positioned perfectly to allow hikers to enjoy a perfect view of the Athabasca Glacier.

The Adirondack red chairs were introduced in 2015 as part of Parks Canada's 100th anniversary celebrations and have since become a symbol of the agency's commitment to connecting people with the natural and cultural heritage of Canada.

200 of such chairs are placed in carefully selected spots that offer stunning views, whether it be overlooking a serene lake, a rushing river, or a mountain vista. The idea is to encourage visitors to slow down and take in their surroundings, to pause and reflect, and to fully immerse themselves in the beauty of Canada's natural spaces. Spot some of these chairs during your hike and strike a pose with them!

Foot of the Athabasca Glacier – Get up close and personal with part of the Columbia Icefield

The Athabasca Glacier at dusk. The Athabasca Glacier at dusk.

Behold the majestic Athabasca Glacier.

Just a short 5min drive away from the Wilcox Pass’ carpark, we arrive at the carpark of the Foot of the Athabasca Glacier. It’s one of the most popular glaciers to visit due to its accessibility. We got amazing views just from the carpark. The Athabasca Glacier Trail is about 1.6km long and it’s a gentle walk, a relief after the steep Wilcox Pass trail.

The Athabasca Glacier Trail at dusk. The Athabasca Glacier Trail at dusk.

The short and accessible pathway makes the Athabasca Glacier one of the more popular glaciers to visit.

The Athabasca Glacier is an impressive natural wonder, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The glacier's icy blue color and the sound of the glacial streams create a breathtaking experience for visitors.

The Athabasca Glacier Trail at dusk. The Athabasca Glacier Trail at dusk.

You will be treated with amazing views throughout the day at the Athabasca Glacier, but try to catch the sunset here if it fits into your driving schedule!

We were the last to leave the sight and were rewarded with a nice alpine glow over the glacier. Surrounded by the mountains and the setting sun, we took one last look at the glacier before calling it a day.

6. Town of Banff – The heart of the Canadian Rockies

Banff Town in the afternoon. Banff Town in the afternoon.

A blend of traditional alpine architecture with more modern elements, and with towering mountains surrounding this pedestrain friendly town.

What a lovely town. The Town of Banff is a charming mountain town located in the heart of Banff National Park, Canada's oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Banff is known for its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and abundance of outdoor activities, making it a popular destination for visitors from around the world.

The mountains around Banff are a hiker's paradise, with trails ranging from easy strolls to challenging multi-day treks. There are also opportunities for skiing, snowboarding, fishing, mountain biking, and rock climbing.

Visitors to Banff can explore the town's rich history by visiting landmarks such as the Banff Park Museum and the Banff Springs Hotel, which was built in 1888 and is a National Historic Site of Canada.

A child playing with bubbles at Banff Town. A child playing with bubbles at Banff Town.

Magical sights await us at every corner.

The town blends elements of traditional alpine architecture with modern Canadian style, giving it a distinctive charm. The town is pedestrian-friendly, and many of the streets are lined with benches and flowerpots, providing plenty of spots to rest and take in the stunning scenery.

The top three poplar shops to drop by within Banff town are:

1. Banff Tea Co. - This cosy tea shop offers a wide selection of loose-leaf teas from around the world, as well as tea accessories and gifts.

2. Rocky Mountain Soap Company - This natural body care shop offers a range of skincare products made with natural ingredients, including soap, lotion, and essential oils.

3. The Banff Trading Post - This iconic store is one of the oldest buildings in Banff and offers a wide variety of western-inspired clothing, gifts, and souvenirs.

7. Lake Louise – Turquoise lake surrounded by soaring peaks, there’s beauty in the air

Lake Louise, the famous turquoise lake. Lake Louise, the famous turquoise lake.

As the sun shines perfectly on Lake Louise, its turquoise waters glisten and the surrounding mountains are bathed in a warm, golden light, creating a truly magical and unforgettable sight.

It’s almost a sin to be in Banff without visiting the famous Lake Louise.

Lake Louise is renowned for its stunning beauty. The color of the water is a striking shade of turquoise that changes throughout the day depending on the angle of the sun. There are numerous viewpoints around the lake that offer different perspectives, including the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

One of the best views of Lake Louise. One of the best views of Lake Louise.

One of the best views of Lake Louise can be found just a short walk from the carpark.

Lake Louise offers a variety of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. During the summer months, hiking and canoeing are popular activities. The Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail is a gentle 4km hike that offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The lake is also a popular spot for canoeing and kayaking, with rentals available on-site. In the winter months, Lake Louise transforms into a winter wonderland with opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, and ice-skating.

Another highlight of a visit to Lake Louise are the nearby hiking trails. The Plain of Six Glaciers Trail and the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail are both popular hikes that offer incredible views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers. The Plain of Six Glaciers Trail is a challenging 10km hike that rewards hikers with stunning views of the Victoria Glacier, while the Lake Agnes Tea House Trail is a 7km hike that leads to a charming tea house overlooking Lake Agnes.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise at sunset. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise at sunset.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise at sunset, truly a magnificent end to the day.

The perfect accommodation at such a perfect destination has got to be The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. 

Surrounded by mountain peaks and the Victoria Glacier, we have heard great things about The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and would’ve considered a night or two at this historical destination if not for our campervan. 

With a plethora of activities ranging from hiking, canoeing, and skiing to spa indulgences and gourmet dining, this remarkable hotel seamlessly combines luxury and nature, ensuring an unforgettable stay for all who venture to this enchanted corner of the world.

It’ll be a dream come true to wake up to this gorgeous lake every morning – certainly my accommodation of choice when I’m back to visit Lake Louise.

8. Lake Agnes – End the trip with a cup of tea

The views from the Lake Agnes Tea House is breathtaking, so cater some time to soak in the views and enjoy the scenery. Image credit: Banff & Lake Louise

Lake Agnes Treehouse	Lake Agnes Treehouse

Enjoy the views with food and drinks at the Lake Agnes Tea House. Image credit: Banff & Lake Louise

Ah the famous Lake Agnes Teahouse. The greatest reward after the end of a 3.5km long high hike. The hike took us about two hours, and we passed by Mirror Lake along with a beautiful, forested area before reaching the stunning Lake Agnes and the charming tea house located on its shores.

Unfortunately, the Lake Agnes Tea House was closed during our visit. The Tea House opens from 4 June till Canadian Thanksgiving (9 Oct), from 8am to 5pm daily.

The tea house has been serving visitors since 1905 and serves as a reward for those who took the Lake Agnes Trail. The tea house serves a variety of hot drinks, homemade soups, sandwiches, and baked goods, all of which are made fresh daily using locally sourced ingredients. The stunning views of Lake Agnes and the surrounding mountains make the tea house a popular destination for hikers and tourists alike, who come to enjoy the scenic beauty and delicious refreshments.

Lake Agnes Tea House
Address: Lake Agnes, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0, Canada
Opening hours: 8am to 5pm, daily, from 4 June till Canadian Thanksgiving (9 Oct) yearly


I still remember vividly, my flight back from Vancouver Airport. I had hours to reflect on my road trip, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the life-changing experiences and breathtaking views that I got to experience. From the awe-inspiring peaks of the Canadian Rockies to the tranquil lakes and charming towns that dotted the landscape, every moment was a revelation of nature's unparalleled beauty. 

I would recommend embarking on this road trip to anyone seeking a beautiful getaway. Open your heart to the wonders of the road and prepare to be swept away by the life-changing experiences and countless lovely views that await you on this unforgettable journey.


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Best Time to Visit
There will be something to do in Canada during each of the four seasons. 

Summer in Canada (June to August) is quite a popular time to visit, with milder temperatures and longer daylight hours, it’s a great time for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping or wildlife viewing.

We visited Canada in Fall (September to November) and the autumn colours were simply gorgeous. The weather was slightly cooler, but still pleasant.

Winter (December to February) is the best time for winter sports enthusiasts. The winter months also provide a chance to witness the mesmerizing beauty of frozen landscapes and experience unique winter festivals

Spring (March to May) is a great time for viewing blossoming flowers, waterfalls, and migratory birds. Temperatures are cool and comfortable too

I’ll recommend renting a vehicle if you would like to visit multiple cities and locations in Canada. We rented a Campervan that had a kitchen and bed, it was great experience and it also helped us save a bit of cost by cooking our own meals.

Canada’s local currency is the Canadian Dollar (CAD).

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