Banff National Park Itineraries

The following Canadian Rockies itineraries describe the best way to spend your time in the Canadian Rockies.

If you are planning to visit the Canadian Rockies, it is almost inevitable that your itinerary will include Banff National Park, both for its many and varied outdoor attractions and for its central location, but the town is also a good base for day trips to Canmore, Kananaskis Country, and Yoho National Park, or an overnight trip to Jasper National Park.

You can book one accommodation for your entire stay or spend an equal number of nights in the various parks. If you have a family or like the convenience of staying put for your entire vacation, it is practical to book a room in Canmore, Banff, or Lake Louise and use it as a base—spending your days in Banff National Park, but also venturing farther afield, with, for example, one day scheduled for Yoho National Park and another for a Canmore/Kananaskis combo.

While we have suggested a one-week Canadian Rockies itinerary below, we have also developed itineraries to specific destinations on these pages:

Banff National Park Itineraries
Jasper National Park Itineraries
Yoho National Park Itineraries
Canmore Itineraries
Kananaskis Country Itineraries
Waterton Lakes National Park Itineraries

Canadian Rockies in One Week

This itinerary combines the best of the best—the best-known natural highlights, the hikes you won’t want to miss, and the most scenic drives. Understand that you will not see all of the Canadian Rockies in one week, but you won’t miss anything major either.

This itinerary starts and ends in the gateway city of Calgary.

Day 1: Fly into CALGARY, pick up a rental car, and head for the mountains. After settling into your Banff accommodation, spend the afternoon wandering along BANFF AVENUE, including a stop at the visitor centre and a walk along the BOW RIVER to the FAIRMONT BANFF SPRINGS.

Day 2: Head to LAKE MINNEWANKA for the morning’s first tour boat departure. After a picnic lunch at TWO JACK LAKE (the prime picnic table is on a chunk of forested rock attached to the mainland by a rock causeway), take the BOW VALLEY PARKWAY to the village of LAKE LOUISE. This is your overnight destination, but it’s worth driving up to the lake itself to watch the sunset.

Day 3: Rise early to visit LAKE LOUISE, one of the world’s most photographed lakes, before the crowds arrive. Nearby MORAINE LAKE is surrounded by mountains and glaciers, but access is by bus only, so make reservations well in advance. Head to YOHO NATIONAL PARK and spend the afternoon driving through the steep-sided YOHO VALLEY and then visiting turquoise-coloured EMERALD LAKE.

Day 4: Go whitewater rafting down the KICKING HORSE RIVER. Head north along the ICEFIELDS PARKWAY, stopping at the CROWFOOT GLACIER overlook, beautifully blue Bow Lake, and the high lookout platform above PEYTO LAKE. As dusk falls, keep your eyes out for wildlife such as bears, elk, and moose. Bunk down for the night at Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge en route to JASPER.

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park

Peyto Lake.

Day 5: Continue to Jasper and take a boat tour on MALIGNE LAKE to photogenic Spirit Island. As a rule, the lake is less windy in the morning and there are fewer crowds. After lunch, head west to MOUNT ROBSON PROVINCIAL PARK and view the park’s namesake peak as the sun sets. Return to Jasper for the night.

Day 6: The ICEFIELDS PARKWAY is dotted with scenic pullouts and day-use areas. You will have stopped at many of them on the way north, but the COLUMBIA ICEFIELD was left for this return trip. Here, choose between an Ice Explorer tour onto the glacier and the hike to WILCOX PASS, for a sweeping view of the glacier-filled valley. Continue south to CANMORE and wander along the main street to find a restaurant that suits your taste.

Day 7: Allow time to visit Calgary’s CANADA OLYMPIC PARK before heading out to the airport for your flight home.

Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park

Lake O’Hara