Taking the scenic route through the Canadian Rockies in an RV is a “Bucket List” summer vacation. If it’s not already on your list, we promise you’ll be adding it by the end of this blog.
With scenic camping options along your route, endless sightseeing and must-stop photo opportunities, meandering through Banff National Park in an RV is a fantastic way to enjoy a vacation. Beginning from the Town of Banff and heading northwest through the park, here are six stops we think you’ll want to visit on your RV road trip.
1. Sunshine Village Summer Gondola
Consider an early start from the Town of Banff -- leaving by 8 a.m. should let you beat the crowds. Just 9 km driving west along the Trans-Canada Highway 1, take the exit to Banff Sunshine. Drive 15 km on the Sunshine access road and you’ll see the gondola up to the resort. In the winter, this is your gateway to skiing and snowboarding, but in the summer, the gondola allows you to take in a wildly different landscape revealed once the snow melts. From Sunshine Village, take the Standish Chairlift up to take in the views of alpine lakes and meadows. If the wildflowers are in bloom, we suggest taking the time to do one of the hikes accessible from this area.
2. The Lake Louise Summer Gondola
Make your next stop the hamlet of Lake Louise. Take the exit up to the Lake Louise Ski Resort, where a gondola ride will give you expansive views of the nearby mountain ranges. Don’t forget to drive to the iconic lake itself to snap a photo, rent a canoe, or enjoy one of the many hikes that leave from the lake. Looking for a break from driving? If you’re arriving in Lake Louise between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., the shuttles are a great way to avoid traffic and busy parking lots. Park in the Lake Louise overflow lot before the town exit and take a shuttle to the lake. Stay the night at the Lake Louise campground, which is equipped for RVs, or continue your drive north.
3. Bow Lake
From Lake Louise, take Highway 93 North. It’s a beautiful thirty-minute drive to Bow Lake. This pull-off is RV-friendly, with plenty of room to stop, take your time, walk around, breath the fresh mountain air and enjoy the view of Bow Lake and Bow Glacier.
4. The Waterfowl Lakes Campground
Back on the road heading north, stop at Waterfowl Lakes another twenty minutes down the road. Snag a first come, first served campsite early, then enjoy the hikes leaving from the area. Chephren and Cirque lakes are both accessible from a path leading from the campground. Pack a lunch, zip up to one lake, take a break, then hike back to the junction to meander up to the second lake. It’s a secluded hiking option that will feel like a real wilderness experience. If you have a kayak or canoe, it’s worth bringing with you to enjoy a paddle on the Waterfowl Lakes at sunset.
5. Parker Ridge Trail
The next morning, drive 50 minutes north on the 93 from the Waterfowl Lakes Campground and you’ll hit the Parker Ridge trailhead. Located at Banff National Park’s northern boundary, next to Jasper National Park, you’ll gain about 200 m of elevation on this 5 km return hike. The steady ascent is well worth it for the view of the Saskatchewan Glacier.
6. The Athabasca Glacier
From the Parker Ridge trailhead, continue north to Jasper National Park. In about 15 minutes, you’ll see the Athabasca Glacier on your left. It’s rare to see a glacier this big so close to the road, so take the time to park the RV and hike up to get a close-up view. For an even closer look, check out The Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure and The Glacier Skywalk.
ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR RV DRIVERS IN BANFF NATIONAL PARK
• Use transit and shuttles to explore the park so you can spend more time exploring and sightseeing.
• Park your RV at your campsite or designated RV lots, as marked.
• If you’re driving through the Banff or Lake Louise townsite, head out before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
• Walk or bike the trails in Banff and Lake Louise. Bike rentals are available to rent at local shops.
• Visit ExploreThePark.ca for complete transit and shuttle schedules. It’s also a great resource for enjoying the park vehicle-free.