I’m not going to take credit for planning this grand Canadian road trip. That’s all my sister and she did a great job! We took 5 days and started driving from Vancouver. It was uncommonly hot that week and the storm came as we left Kelowna, so we really got lucky. Aside from a couple of stressful moments near popular destinations and being stuck in traffic one time the trip was fantastic. Here is a guide to how to make the most of it.

Stop one: Overnight at Halcyon Hot Springs

Great little resort with a few cabins spread out on the edge of a hill overlooking a lake. The rooms are spacious and cozy with a separate kitchen. Pretty much all of them have a little deck and look out onto the mountains. In the main building are the 3 hot spring pools: crazy hot, crazy cold, and warm. On a lower level is a large pool, this one closes a little early and opens quite late (after checkout). The resort is a bit off the main path and involves a ferry ride as a part of the highway. The fairy comes once an hour, and you can get out of the car to enjoy the view during the quick ride over.

Address: BC-23, Nakusp, BC V0G 1R0

Tip: Drink some local beer, there are many options.

Stop two: Emerald Lake

The colour of the water is truly majestic, the views everywhere are amazing, and the hike trails vary in complexity. There is enough here to do for a good few hours if not an entire day. We rented a canoe and took it around the lake for an hour. I could’ve easily spent two because the lake is bigger than it seems. Bring a picnic for a snack to make the most of your visit and hike. Before heading out, do some shopping at the park store (they sell North Standard Trading Post stuff!). Unless you’re just walking around the lake, the hikes are pretty steep walks up so proper hiking gear is important.

As you drive towards Banff there are multiple opportunities to pull over and do some brief site seeing. At this point of the road trip the mountains, pines, and glacier rivers are everywhere. A few lovely spots to have a picnic and see some odd historical sites.

Stop three: Johnston Creek

We tried to go to Lake Louise but this location is so insanely popular now that the parking lots are full by 6 am with cars and tour buses. I can only imagine how crowded it is around the lake. What we really wanted to see is Moraine Lake but since it is located behind Lake Louise the whole thing was just a nightmare. We tried twice, gave up, and instead went to see some waterfalls at Johnston Creek. It’s a fairly easy hike on the side of a tall cascade of water. You can hike pretty much all the way to the top with multiple viewpoints and rest stops. And at the top, on a nice day, you’ll see a rainbow!

Stop four: Banff Gondola Park 

Another spot you can easily spend a day in! If you’re brave enough you can hike all the way up. For everyone else, there’s the gondola and then the wooden stair path to the top of the mountain where the historic weather observatory is located. The view from the observation deck is breathtaking – mountains everywhere! The restaurant at the top is quite nice as well, we had a lovely snack with some local beers. For overnight, we stayed in Canmore. It is a smaller town with a few wineries and cool nighttime spots to hang out in. Banff is generally more pricey and harder to find accommodations.

Tip: get tickets ahead of time online to avoid the lineups.

Stop five: Kelowna wineries

Driving back towards Vancouver we went through the Okanagan Valley. We stayed overnight at an AirBNB, and had a nice dinner in Kelowna and some local beers for a nightcap. The wineries are in clusters and all fairly close to the main route but it’s good to have the map of the valley. You can find a map at most wineries or a local information center. Here are the wineries I liked the most:

Gray Monk Winery: lovely winery, has a nice selection, and a beautiful restaurant with a nice menu and a deck overlooking the vineyard.

Indigenous World Winery: the winery merges modern culture with Indigenous history. There is a great selection of wines served by lovely and very knowledgeable people.

Tip: Pull over and buy some fresh fruit and cherries from a local farmer.

The Hatch: as soon as you enter the yard you know this place is different from the rest. In their own words, The Hatch is a tasting emporium. Ran by a bunch of ‘rebels’ with tattoos and loud music this place is super fun. The wine selection is quite unique as well. The labels are custom-made by a local artist and each label has a story as interesting as the wine itself.

Quails’ Gate Winery: a luxurious spot with a beautiful view, a large area to walk around and ponder, and an amazing restaurant. Having already done the tasting we picked our favorite wine, half of the things on the menu, and set there for a few hours in blissful mist enjoying our meal. Great end to the road trip!

Your ultimate Vancouver to Alberta road trip: Winery scenes in Kelowna

To see the road trip on Instagram see #xoBC18.

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