Are the Canadian Rockies worth a visit? Oh yeah! It was about time we discovered the splendors of Western Canada!
We live in Quebec, and we already had the chance to visit the eastern provinces, but the budget required for a trip to the west had so far discouraged us. With the pandemic, the west has suddenly become more affordable and simpler than the rest of the world.
A trip full of wonderful memories, and breathtaking vistas more than a hundred times, how about this? Follow our 19-day itinerary in the Canadian Rockies with your kids!
You will see below, the first few days are quite busy. We planned more relaxed days at the end of the trip, to rest 🙂
Be warned that the road is in many places the attraction itself. The landscapes are breathtaking!
Our RV Road Trip
In the summer of 2020, we were charmed by the RV road trip that we did with Canadream. We really enjoy having all of our stuff with us all the time, including a toilet and shower lol!
We, therefore, booked a second time with them a “Saver 4” (large enough for 2 adults and 2 young children). We never know in advance exactly what model we will have, but we save a good amount of money. And again, we weren’t disappointed: our RV was super clean, the beds comfortable, fully equipped with bedding and kitchenware. Our RV was even “winterized”, or adapted to the colder temperatures of fall/winter (our trip was from September 29th to October 17th).
So you will see in the itinerary below that we slept mainly at campsites, or free safe places. We also bought our annual pass to visit the national parks (with this pass we were able to access all the parks that required an entrance fee).
Day 1: Flight Montréal-Calgary
Our direct flight with Air Canada from Montreal to Calgary, Alberta went perfectly. We love to fly! It was our first flight in a long time: we were so excited lol
We slept that night at the Comfort Inn & Suites Airport North, located near the airport because we landed late at night.
Day 2: RV Pick-up and Calgary
We took possession of our RV in the early afternoon, and it all went like a charm. We decided to take their “Gold Package” insurance plan to have windshield protection. We knew we were going to be driving over 2,100 km, so we might as well not take a chance.
Then we toured Calgary a bit, and noticed that the people are REALLY friendly! People were saying hello to us on the street!
Night: We slept in the parking lot of a Walmart in Calgary, located near Highway 1A, which we were going to take the next day.
Day 3: 3 Sisters Mountain, Lake Minnewanka, Banff Upper Hot Springs
Early in the morning, we went shopping for groceries at Walmart and then left. Please take note that the refrigerator in our RV was large enough to store all the items purchased, and the freezer is large too.
Then we took Highway 1A to get to the 3 Sisters Mountain (about 1 hour 40 minutes drive).
We did a short hike to see the 3 Sister Mountain: a very pretty mountain, and the creek was crystal clear… and freezing! It allowed us to split the driving, stretch our legs, and give us our first glimpse of the landscapes that awaited us.
Then we went for a boat trip on Lake Minnewanka (1h30 drive): magnificent! We loved it! The motorboat we rented cost us 125$CAD for 1 hour, and we had it to ourselves.
Then we went to the Banff Upper Hot Springs where we relaxed for an hour in 40°C (or 104°F) water.
Night: Trailer Court Campsite, with lots of trees, full hook-ups, quiet
Day 4: Banff Gondola and Johnston Canyon
We had pre-booked for the Gondola ride in Banff. The view going up is magnificent, as it is on top of the mountain! There are activities for the kids to do. The walk on the boardwalk is superb. Note that at the top of the mountain, it is 10 ° C colder than at the bottom, and it was very windy. Plan a good 2 hours at the top of the mountain.
Then we drove about 40 minutes to get to Johnston Canyon, which is awesome! The very easy hike, which runs along the canyon and its turquoise river, takes around 2.5 hours round trip to get to the high fall. That’s wonderful!
Banff is a very pretty town with lots of restaurants and shops. It reminded me of the village of Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.
Night: again at Trailer Court Campsite
Day 5: Lake Louise, Moraine, Bow and Abraham
Ah, the famous Lake Louise! Yes, it is really turquoise! Why is the water in lakes and rivers in the Canadian Rockies so often turquoise?
When the meltwater from a glacier begins to flow in the spring, it carries glacial silt or rock meal with it. Rock flour is very light and stays in suspension for a long time in the water of lakes and rivers. The sunlight reflecting off these particles is what gives lakes and rivers their spectacular turquoise blue or green color!
These 4 lakes are gorgeous. Lake Louise is magnificent, very touristy, unfortunately. But most people stay close to the Fairmont Hotel to take their photos. We walked a little further along the lake, and then we were alone.
Moraine Lake is almost more popular than Lake Louise, and it’s also breathtaking. The parking lot was full at 6AM because everyone goes there to see the sunrise which is spectacular. There is a shuttle that can take you to Moraine Lake. You must reserve your place beforehand by phone or on the internet (8$CAD per person, 6 years old and over). The shuttle ride takes 20 minutes.
Bow Lake definitely charmed us! Emma-Kate played on the beach for a long time, it was sweet and peaceful.
Then we drove to Abraham Lake (a 1.5-hour drive), where we spent the night in a free campsite, right on the lakeshore. There was hardly anyone there, it was magical to be alone, on the edge of such a beautiful lake!
Create Sweet Souvenirs
You will create beautiful and sweet memories during this superb trip, which you can immortalize on your personalized map of Canada!
Day 6: Columbia Icefield Skywalk, Sunwapta, and Athabasca Falls
Visiting the Columbia Icefield Skywalk was fabulous. I highly recommend it to you. We did the free audio tour, and it was very, very interesting.
We could have done the expedition to hike the Athabasca Glacier, but we had been to a glacier in Iceland before, and walking on ice is not that great in my opinion. Seeing the glacier from afar, in all its splendor, that’s hot!
What is special about the Athabasca Glacier is that it feeds the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans!
Then we admired Sunwapta Falls (30 mins drive) and then Athabasca Falls (20 mins drive), both were beautiful. The hikes to see these falls, and all the hikes done elsewhere so far were very, very easy. It’s more about walking than hiking. The paths are wide, well tapped; no problem pushing a jogging stroller in it.
Night: Whistlers Campground, Jasper (where we were camping, there were no trees). The campsite is huge, and new in areas, but without vegetation. We saw elks there! There is a park for the children to play in.
Day 7: Rafting
On day 7 we rafted the Athabasca River with Jasper Raft Tours (they accept young children and even dogs). Our guide, Joel, was really cool, and we learned a lot. This is the activity my 8-year-old Emma-Kate loved the most of our trip! It’s very safe. There are a few rapids on occasion, we get a bit wet, but nothing dangerous.
Note that the water of the river is 4°C. At this temperature, if you fall in the water, it takes between 2 to 8 minutes (depending on your body fat level lol) to get hypothermia. Then your muscles freeze, and you sink to the bottom like a rock!
Then we did the Jasper SkyTram. Again, I had booked in advance (preferably due to the pandemic). The SkyTram goes VERY high, and when we got to the top, we hiked about 1 hour each way to get to the top of Mount Whistlers. It was very cold and very windy: dress accordingly! It was snowy at the top, and it was October 5th. The view from the top is breathtaking!!
The town of Jasper really isn’t quite as pretty as Banff. Personally, I found it ordinary. It may be more attractive in the summer with a more festive atmosphere 😉
Night: again at the Whistlers Campground
Day 8: British Columbia
We had to change the time because we crossed the border between Alberta and British Columbia!
We left Jasper and drove to Mount Robson Provincial Park (a 20-minute drive), where we made a quick stop. Then, on our way to our next campsite, we stopped at Mount Terry Fox (a 20-minute drive), and then went to admire the Rearguard Falls. Interesting: it’s at Rearguard Falls that Chinook salmon end their journey, coming from the Pacific!
Night: Wells Gray Golf and RV Park, we were on the edge of a river. There is a golf course on the campsite, where Clinton played. The owners are very friendly, and there is a playground for the children.
Day 9: Getting to Whistler
On our way to Whistler (the city, not the mountain in Alberta “Whistlers“), we made a quick stop in Kamloops to buy groceries and then stopped at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. We walked to the “lower lake”, and wow it was so beautiful! Breathtaking!
We could have hiked to see the “middle lake” and the “upper lake”, but since the drive to Whistler was very long (total of 6h), we couldn’t see them. It will be for another time!
Night: Riverside Camping & RV Resort, large campsite, with large trees. The RVs were quite close to each other, but the trees gave us some privacy. There is a playground for children.
Day 10: Whistler
Oh, that Whistler is a beautiful city! Very touristy though. As beautiful as Banff, prettier than Jasper. Whistler reminded us a lot of Mont Tremblant, Quebec. The 2010 Winter Olympics took place in Whistler!
We walked around Whistler, shopped a bit (the stores are quite expensive, even though there were sales).
Then Clinton went to play golf at Nicklaus North Golf Course, a superb golf course where he saw a bear on a hole! For real!!
Meanwhile, Emma-Kate and I stayed in town. There is a great playground for the kids, where Emma-Kate played a lot. We had lunch on a sunny terrace near the park.
Then, we went to the municipal library (for real!) and we read together. It really was a perfect moment: Emma-Kate was sitting on a big couch, and the sun was dancing on her, while she was reading a book. Everything was calm and peaceful. A sweet mother-daughter moment!
Finally, Clinton came to join us for supper.
The best food, inexpensive, great atmosphere restaurant in our opinion is the El Furniture Warehouse.
Night: again the Riverside Camping & RV Resort
Day 11: Ferry for the Island of Vancouver
We had planned to do the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish, but it was raining a lot that day and the clouds were very dark. On the Sea to Sky Gondola website, there is an image of the view from above, updated regularly, and we couldn’t see anything! So we decided it would be for another time!
On the way from Whistler to the ferry to Vancouver Island (not the city of Vancouver), we stopped at Brandywine Falls, and they were very pretty, despite the rain.
We took the ferry at Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island with our RV. We had to arrive 1 hour early, and close our propane tank well before boarding the boat (regulations). On the ferry, there is a small playroom for young children (Emma-Kate played babysitter), a restaurant, and a shop. There are also plenty of comfortable seats to sit on. The crossing lasts about 1h40.
When we got to Vancouver Island, we had no campsite reserved for the night. We drove to Port Alberni, where we parked our RV at Walmart for the night. Everything went great!
Day 12: Tofino
We didn’t have very long to drive to get to Tofino, and wow the road is breathtaking, once again!
As soon as we got there, we went to Long Beach and spent a few hours there. The sun was blazing, it was beautiful! It was still quite cold because of the wind. There were several surfers having fun in the waves, but we were dressed like Eskimos!
Emma-Kate and I played on the beach, barefoot, trying to avoid the waves chasing us without getting wet. It was a really beautiful and sweet moment for us 2. It’s rare that I play with Emma-Kate, but then I really had fun with her. A precious souvenir has been created!
At one point, though, a wave was too fast and too strong, so Emma-Kate fell into the water, dressed in all her winter clothes. A real crisis, poor lil sweetie! I went to change her right away since it was cold, and then we left the beach to discover the small town of Tofino, which is very pretty.
Night: Crystal Cove Beach Resort, has its own beach, the most beautiful campsite we have ever seen! New bathrooms, wifi, extraordinary playground for children, Starbucks.
Day 13: Tofino
We spent the day on the beach, playing and relaxing. It was warmer that day, bright sunshine, we were comfortable without a coat (it was October 11).
We played in the waves again, Emma-Kate and I. I read a good book to relax. We ate in a good little restaurant. A real beautiful day of vacation!
Night: again at the Crystal Cove Beach Resort
Day 14: Ucluelet
Ucluelet is a nice little town 40 minutes from Tofino. We hiked the Lighthouse Loop and wow! Breathtaking again! The view of the stormy sea, and the magical forest of this corner of the island, was magnificent!
Again, we took the day super relaxed!
Night: again at the Crystal Cove Beach Resort
Day 15: Ferry to Vancouver
We drove back from Tofino to Nanaimo (a 3-hour drive), and there was construction on the road, so we had to drive back pretty early.
Our ferry was at 1 pm, but again we had to arrive 60 minutes early. This time the ferry was late. We got off the boat around 4 p.m., then went to our campsite directly.
Night: Capilano River RV Park, not a very nice campsite, and the area isn’t great either, but there is a mall within a 5-minute walk (handy, because it rained a lot during our stay) and we only had to take 1 bus to downtown Vancouver. There is also a playground for the children to play.
Day 16: Vancouver
We walked around Vancouver Downtown all day.
We did the FlyOver Canada activity, it was very impressive! Although Clinton and I had a nausea on our way out lol
And we really liked the Gastown Steam Clock, it’s impressive.
Vancouver is a beautiful city, very cosmopolitan, that’s what makes it so charming!
Night: again at the Capilano River Park
Day 17: Vancouver
On this last day of our trip, it rained a lot lol. We went to see a movie at the cinema, located in the shopping center 5-minute walk from the campsite. And we shopped around a bit.
Night: again at the Capilano River Park
Day 18: Bringing Back the RV
We had to bring the RV back between 8 AM and 10 AM so we left quite early as we had about a 1-hour drive to get to Canadream in Vancouver.
Everything was quick and easy when we brought back our RV. I had done a quick clean-up, and we had emptied the gray and black water tanks. Within minutes, the Canadream crew called a cab for us to get to our hotel. Very helpful!
We chilled at the hotel for the rest of the day.
Night: Sandman Hotel Vancouver Airport, hotel with pool and spa (for Emma-Kate), and very close to a Tim Hortons.
Day 19: Flight back home
Direct return flight from Vancouver to Montreal. Our flight was late so we landed in Montreal at 11:50 PM. Since we were tired to drive back home, we spent the night at the Marriott Airport Hotel.
Night: Marriott Airport Hotel, is a gorgeous hotel! Super comfortable beds, superb bathroom, breathtaking view of the airport 🙂
- If you don’t speak English, no stress: all the tourist and road signs are in both English and French.
- I was reluctant to go to Western Canada, because it’s quite expensive, compared to many exotic destinations. What is my opinion after our trip? Western Canada is REALLY worth a visit. This is the most beautiful part of Canada! The landscapes are breathtaking! This is not an exotic trip, however.
Here is how much our trip cost us, for 2 adults and 1 child of 8 years old.
- Direct flights with Air Canada, Montreal-Calgary + Vancouver-Montreal: total 279$CAD per person
- RV rental (including bedding, kitchen items, additional insurance, additional km): 2,476$CAD (does not include the additional cost of not bringing the RV back to the point of origin)
- Gas: 841$CAD for 2,200 km
- Taxi + Ferries + Bus + Parking: 443$CAD
- Camping + Hotel: 1069$CAD
- Meal (groceries + restaurant, including alcohol): 1,596$CAD
- Activities: 1,014$CAD
Immortalize your precious souvenirs
All the sweet memories you created for yourself during this trip, immortalize them on your personalized map of Canada! Hand-drawn, it is unique and will dress your wall with a wanderlust touch 😉
Tell me in the comment below: have you ever visited Western Canada? Are you planning to go there soon? I look forward to hearing from you!