You all know I’m a lover of road trips, but driving from Seattle to Banff is one of the most scenic ones you can do. The majority of it takes place in Canada, which is a country I can’t get enough of. From maple syrup lattes to delicious poutine, I’m obsessed with not only the food but also the majestic terrain there. That’s why I recommend that everyone go on a Seattle to Banff road trip at least once in their lives.
Banff holds a special place in my heart because it was actually the first solo trip I ever took. I flew into Calgary, got my rental car, and headed west, having no idea what I’d discover. While I picked winter to go (a bit of a tricky time to drive, depending on how much snow they have), I quickly fell in love with the area. The town itself was fun to browse through shops and try local food, and there was no shortage of outdoor adventures.
While it’s an easy flight from Seattle, doing the Banff drive from Seattle is even better. You’ll pass through some of my favorite cities in British Columbia and see way more scenery than flying over it. Here are some tips to keep in mind before going on your road trip from Seattle to Banff, my recommended stops, and a sample itinerary.
Tips for a Seattle to Banff Road Trip
The most successful road trips rely on expert planning and good preparation (I should know – I’ve gone on many drives from Seattle before). Use these tips for a smooth Seattle to Banff National Park journey.
How Long Is the Drive From Seattle to Banff?
A drive from Seattle to Banff takes up to 11 hours non-stop, and you’ll cover around 600 miles. You’ll get the most out of your holiday if you split the drive into a few days. This way, you can take in all the beauty of the landscapes and landmarks throughout your trip.
Remember, a Seattle to Banff road trip falls within international travel, as you’re crossing the border from one country to another. Keep valid identification with you at all times, and double-check that the relevant border-crossing documentation is up to date.
How Many Days Are Ideal for a Seattle to Banff Road Trip?
Your trip will include incredible stops in interesting places and fun road trip activities, making four to five days enough time to get the full Seattle to Banff road experience. With an entertaining itinerary featuring diverse activities, you might even be tempted to squeeze in slight detours.
Enjoy the benefits of setting your own pace and being able to do things like hiking, sightseeing, picnics, and curious explorations in the small towns along the way. You’re in store for magnificent scenery and unique experiences in charming little nooks.
What’s the Best Time of the Year to Visit Banff?
Your ideal time for a Seattle to Banff road trip depends on things like your budget and the activities on your holiday bucket list. Weather conditions are another significant factor, as all travelers have their own preferences.
For summer lovers who want warm weather, Banff is best between June and August. Winter lovers (I’m talking to you, ski enthusiasts) will experience the best slopes between November and February.
Unlike winter in Vancouver, this area gets plenty of snow. I went during the winter, and while I didn’t ski, I did enjoy snowshoeing during this time of year.
The best time to visit Banff for delightful weather plus the perks of lower accommodation prices is in the spring, from March to May. The town retains its nature paradise allure, and reasonable rates make your travels even sweeter.
In the fall (September to October), the biggest bonus is a quieter period with fewer crowds.
What Should You Pack When Visiting Banff?
I love being snug when I travel, and having the essentials always makes each road trip more enjoyable. This short list of must-haves will ensure you’ve covered the basics.
- Warm sweaters: You can never go wrong with enough sweaters, both light and warm, so you’re comfortable during every part of your on-road adventures.
- Fleece tops: Throw a few fleece tops into your travel bag (along with sufficient pants and leggings), and you’ll be well-prepared for hikes, city walks, and lake visits on the way.
- Comfortable shoes: Every road tripper will confirm that comfy kicks are non-negotiable. So pack your favorite pairs and get ready for a host of discoveries as you traverse from Seattle to Banff.
- Sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses: Good sun protection, stylish hats, and sunglasses will come in handy on those bright days with pleasant temperatures.
- Water bottle: Staying hydrated throughout your trip will ensure you’re energized, so keep your water bottle filled. However, don’t overdo the liquid intake because too many potty breaks on the road can get interruptive.
Seattle to Banff Road Trip Map
This map will give you a snapshot of your Seattle to Banff drive.
8 Places to Stop on Your Seattle to Banff Road Trip
When you decide to leave your everyday worries behind and set out on a well-deserved break, nothing beats a road adventure. A Seattle to Banff trip is the perfect way to get in touch with nature, especially when you live in a busy city.
This road trip features astonishing mountain terrain, pristine lakes, beautiful rivers, and picturesque towns. Below are eight fantastic stops that I guarantee you’ll enjoy.
This awesome road trip starts in Seattle, the much-loved Emerald City. You’ll definitely want to spend a couple of hours soaking up the best of the world’s “coffee capital” before burning some rubber.
Fueling up before a drive is one of the most effective (and delicious) ways to get you in the mood, and Seattle’s popular foods will give you all the hype you need.
My top suggestions include lobster rolls (check out Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls downtown) and the undisputed Seattle dog. There are many great food trucks in town and numerous coffee joints for a one-of-a-kind Seattle cup of coffee (Victrola Coffee Roasters is one of my favorites).
If you want to try local beer, head to Old Stove Brewing for beer and waterfront views, or look up some other popular Seattle breweries in the area.
With a full belly and a taste of Seattle, it’s time to get road-tripping. Make your way north toward Everett and Marysville, driving through the Mount Vernon region. Along the way, you can stop at North Cascades National Park for a little nature detour and spend a day trip in the North Cascades.
There are tons of hikes around the North Cascades to do if you have the time, with my favorite ones being Heather-Maple Loop and Blue Lake.
The Canadian border awaits, and Abbotsford will serve as your welcome city as it sits along the USA-Canada fringe. As you journey to Hope, you’ll pass the mountainous town of Chilliwack, rewarding you with marvelous views.
- North Cascades National Park: This is a brilliant hiking area. Immerse yourself in Washington State’s natural beauty with a serene walk on a Cascades trail.
- Harrison Hot Springs: This quaint Canadian village community near Harrison Lake is a pretty spot for pictures.
- Cascade Recreation Area: This is the park to visit for your first picnic lunch in Canada.
Want a shorter road trip? You’ll love driving from Seattle to Vancouver.
Your next stop is Hope, 164 miles from Seattle. If you’re keen to explore the area, make Hope your first overnight stay.
On route, you have the opportunity to visit the majestic Bridal Veil Falls. The park lies near the Fraser River, an easy 10 miles from Chilliwack—a great option for a quick detour.
Once you reach the stunning Bridal Veil Falls, the most impressive feature is the 197-foot waterfall cascading over the rock’s edge, forming a ‘veil’ (hence the name). Getting to the waterfall is a short 15-minute walk, so you also get some moderate exercise. Make sure to take loads of striking pictures in this verdant mountain escape.
Hope is just 30 minutes away from Bridal Falls. During a self-guided walking tour, you can spend the rest of the day meandering around town. You can’t miss the more than 80 chainsaw wood carvings sprinkled around town during your Banff road trip from Seattle, an iconic landmark.
Fun fact: The 1982 film “Rambo: First Blood” was filmed in Hope. It’s a little nugget of the town’s history that the locals are only too happy to rave about.
Where to Stay in Hope:
- High Hopes Bed and Breakfast has cozy rooms with private balconies where you can enjoy the unmatched river and mountain vistas. (Rates start at $136 per night.)
- Evergreen Bed & Breakfast offers comfortable stays close to popular attractions, including Hope Mountain. (Rates start at $105 per night.)
After leaving Hope, continue north along the Coquihalla Highway toward Kamloops. This stretch takes about two hours, and you’ll complete 126 miles. If you favor taking it easy, I recommend a second overnight stay on your road trip to Banff from Seattle.
Kamloops is one of my favorite places to visit in Canada, and you can pack a whole lot of activities into one day here. Top attractions include Kamloops Lake, near which you’ll find the coolest clay hoodoo rock formations. British Columbia Wildlife Park is also up for grabs for a half-day excursion.
If the detour bug bites, head to Sicamous, an hour and a half (86 miles) from Kamloops. More gorgeous lake and mountain scenery beckons here, where you can enjoy your favorite outdoor activities. Behold amazing views from the Sicamous Lookout, then return to Kamloops to wind down for the day.
Where to Eat in Kamloops:
- Hello Toast and Frankly Coffee﹘for delicious breakfast and brunch options
- BOLD Pizzeria﹘for the best pizzas in town
- Sandbar Grill﹘for tantalizing gourmet burgers
- ATLAS Steak + Fish﹘no need to explain; it’s all in the name
- The Noble Pig﹘for a unique brewhouse and upscale pub dining experience
Where to Stay in Kamloops:
- Sandman Signature is one of the best hotels in Kamloops, with two on-site restaurants, a gym, and a bar. (Rates start at $103 per night)
- The Plaza provides hotel stays at surprisingly affordable prices right in the city center. (Rates start at $68 per night)
- Hampton Inn boasts the perks of an indoor swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and games room. (Rates start at $124 per night)
Once you’ve painted Kamloops red and white (because of the Canadian flag), all roads lead to Revelstoke on your Seattle to Banff driving trip — 2 hours and 30 minutes (132 miles) away. The ride is blissful, thanks to the idyllic river and lakes lining the highway.
When you get to Revelstoke, prepare to line up more wild adventures, as I suggest you make this your final overnight stay before you get to Banff. That’ll secure enough time to have a grand old time in this rainforest haven.
Things to Do in Revelstoke:
- Go wildlife-spotting: You might be lucky enough to spot mountain lions, grizzly bears, and reindeer in Revelstoke’s abundant forest areas.
- Go whitewater rafting on the Glacier-fed Illecillewaet River.
- Visit Mount Revelstoke National Park: Grab my day hiking packing list and explore the great Canadian outdoors in true nature baby fashion.
- Experience a thrilling joyride on the Pipe Mountain Coaster at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. You can also hop into the Revelation Gondola for sublime views of the region’s sprawling mountain ranges.
Where to Stay in Revelstoke:
- Sutton Place is the perfect hotel when visiting Revelstoke in the winter. The ski-in-ski-out suites (i.e., ski-to-door access) make for superb rides. (Rates start at $144 per night)
- Basecamp Resorts Revelstoke offers affordable luxury right in the middle of the forest. (Rates start at $87 per night)
- Regent Hotel has it all: sweeping views, on-site restaurants, a sauna, and live entertainment. (Rates start at $166 per night)
5. Glacier National Park of Canada
You’re getting closer to Banff, so it’s finally time to head to Canada’s Glacier National Park. This is not to be confused with the one you’d visit if you were doing a Seattle to Glacier National Park road trip in Montana.
The trip from Revelstoke to Glacier is a quick half-hour ride (29 miles), so there’s no need for a sleepover. At the 521 square mile park, you can hike, enjoy a picnic, and take mesmerizing nature photographs of the wondrous surroundings. This lush, expansive area features enormous mountains, thick forests, and over 100 glaciers, so you’ll want to stop here on your Seattle road trip to Banff.
Things to Do at Glacier National Park:
- Visit the Rovers Pass Discovery Center to learn about the park’s fascinating history.
- Take a stroll along the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk.
- Explore any of the park’s tranquil trails: Among the best are Glacier Crest, Meeting of the Waters, Rockgarden, Loop Brook, and Asulkan Valley.
After your time at Glacier National Park, head to Golden, just 40 minutes (36 miles) away. This short journey on your Seattle to Banff road trip leads to a quiet little town where you can do some self-directed exploring and fill up on tasty grub before making your way toward Banff.
For amazing views and an enthralling experience in Golden, walk across the highest suspension bridge in Canada at the Golden Skybridge. You’ll feel like you’re floating 426 feet above the Columbia Valley. You can go ziplining or whiz up and down for heart-thumping adventures on the Railrider Mountain Coaster.
Other attractions include the timber-framed Kicking Horse River Pedestrian Bridge and the Golden BC Museum. Here, history lovers can get their fix by learning about the town’s background and all sorts of facts about the Ktunaxa and Kinbasket peoples and their territory.
Where to Eat in Golden:
- Reposados﹘for mouth-watering tacos and burritos
- Eleven22﹘for yummy comfort food
- Jita’s Cafe﹘for the best vegan wraps, curries, and soups in town
- Ronin Noodle Bar﹘for scrumptious Asian fare
- Nagomi Sushi﹘for affordable sushi meals
I love using Roadtrippers for all my road trips because they show you all the fun stops to make along the way. You can get $5 off if you sign up with my code BTR5QTP.
7. Banff National Park
Less than an hour (45 miles) from Golden is Alberta’s Banff National Park, the next stop before you reach your final destination when visiting Banff from Seattle. You’ll travel along the Trans-Canada Highway (also called Highway 1) to get there.
Banff National Park is part of the Canadian Rockies and is celebrated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its dynamic natural and cultural history. The area is yours to discover, whether you choose a bike ride, a nature walk, or a scenic drive.
There are so many areas to discover here, so I recommend spending at least a few days if you have the time. Plenty of hikes are in the area, and I loved doing Johnston Canyon when I was there. If you visit during the winter, you can rent crampons from a local shop in town to walk on the snow and ice.
- Lake Louise: With sparkling turquoise waters, this is a picture-perfect location for mountain backdrops and quiet reflections. Summers allow canoeing and kayaking opportunities, while ice skating is the most popular winter activity on the lake.
- Victoria Glacier: Sitting above Lake Louise, this is one of the most exquisite glaciers in Banff National Park.
- Lake Minnewanka: This stunning lake is one of the largest and longest in Canada, with fabulous mountain scenery.
Best Curated Experiences in the Banff Area:
- Enjoy a horseback riding experience along Bow River in Banff National Park.
- Voyage down Banff National Park’s Bow River in an exciting guided canoe tour.
- Get a taste of the Western way with a Banff wagon ride, plus a traditional cookout.
When you leave Banff National Park and travel east from Lake Louise, continuing on Highway 1 for 45 minutes, you’ll get to Banff. You’ve made it to your final destination, a charming town so full of character that it’s well-liked for weekend getaways from Vancouver. The first time I came here, I was completely in love with this adorable town.
Your first stop in town is the lively Banff Avenue, adorned with unique architecture, boutique shops, romantic eateries, and a few museums. There’s plenty of sightseeing to do and more culinary activities on the menu to get a real feel of town.
Attractions include the Banff Gondola, the Cascade of Time Garden, the Bow Falls, and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies has wonderful exhibitions and collections capturing the region’s history.
For the ultimate relaxation activity, visit the Banff Upper Hot Springs for a thermal bathhouse experience amidst the lofty Canadian Cascades mountain range. It’ll spoil your well-earned road trip as you prepare to close your Seattle to Banff holiday journey.
Seattle to Banff Itinerary: 4-Day Road Trip
I love planning out an itinerary because it sets out my journey and provides scope for maximizing my time on the road without missing any rip-roaring action.
Whether it’s a travel plan for exploring one city, like this four-day Seattle itinerary, or a travel program for an entire road trip, a clear guide always helps. Here’s my suggested four-day itinerary for your Seattle to Banff road trip.
Day 1: Seattle, Washington, to Hope, British Columbia
Driving Time and Distance: 2 hours and 50 minutes (164 miles)
Day one of your Seattle to Banff road trip consists of a manageable 164-mile drive that should take less than three hours. You’ll be journeying from the Emerald City in Washington State to the town of Hope in British Columbia.
No road trip can begin without good food, and Seattle is a treasure trove of excellent eateries, especially downtown. My favorites are Vinnie’s Raw Bar (an oyster mecca), Pike Place’s Market Grill, Japonessa Sushi Cocina, and Noi Thai Cuisine.
When the tank and your tummy are both full, hit the road and head to Canada’s border. Cities like Abbotsford and Chilliwack provide quick detour opportunities once across. There are loads to see and do in locations like North Cascades National Park and the Cascade Recreation Area, prime tourist attractions.
Where to Stay: High Hopes Bed and Breakfast offers cozy accommodations and lovely mountain views less than two miles from the town center. (Rates start at $136 per night)
Day 2: Hope, British Columbia, to Kamloops, British Columbia
Driving Time and Distance: 2 hours and 10 minutes (126 miles)
On the second day of the trip, leave Hope for Kamloops, the halfway point between Seattle and Banff. This will be roughly two hours on the road, with a chance to get some heart-pumping holiday action on the agenda.
You should be ready for some adventure at this point in the trip, and Kamloops has many hiking trails where you can let your inner treehugger out. You can go for a mountain trek in spring, summer, and fall. In winter, you can go skiing in Kamloops’ outer skirts.
This region has some of the most divine lakes in British Columbia, such as Kamloops, Pinantan, Knouff, and Jacko Lakes. Let your time spent here inspire you to reconnect with nature in a special way.
Day 3: Kamloops, British Columbia, to Revelstoke, British Columbia
Driving Time and Distance: 2 hours and 20 minutes (132 miles)
Leaving Kamloops on day three, the second half of your road trip will unfold. As you enter Revelstoke’s plush rainforest terrain, you’ll be amazed by how enchanting this region is.
This is a nature wonderland, from the wildlife to the unending mountain landscapes to the rivers and lakes. Make stops at Mount Revelstoke National Park and Revelstoke Mountain Resort for unforgettable outdoor activities.
Day 4: Revelstoke, British Columbia, to Banff, Alberta
Driving Time and Distance: 3 hours and 15 minutes (176 miles)
On the last day of the road trip, you’ll cover quite a bit of ground, with numerous attractions on the way from Revelstoke to Banff. This remaining stretch is just over three hours, so you’ll have to balance travel and activity time.
You can diversify your experiences on the fourth and final day. Explore the best parts of Glacier National Park before moving on to the town of Golden. The Golden Skybridge is just one of the highlights here. You can follow that up with a museum visit at the Golden BC Museum and some gift shopping downtown.
When you get back on the road and head toward Banff National Park, you’ll officially be leaving British Columbia and entering Alberta. This is your last chance to soak up any outdoor activities that earlier parts of the trip didn’t allow. You can ruminate about life’s beauty while appreciating the scenes at Lake Louise.
You’re now ready to drive to Banff, where you’ll be concluding your expedition. Savor the best of Banff’s attractions, like the town’s buzzing Avenue, as you embrace your road trip’s curtain call. Hopefully, you’ve made terrific holiday memories on this 600-mile, two-nation journey.
Where to Stay: Canalta Lodge has spacious rooms and intimate spaces that are great for socializing, like an outdoor fireplace, barbecue area, and on-site coffee shop. (Rates start at $124 per night)
Whether you see a few or all of these stops, you’ll love going on a Seattle to Banff road trip.