Car camping – (n.) A type of camping which involves driving rather than walking to a campsite.
car camping has got to be one of my favorites. Mostly because I love that you can wing everything last minute and call any place you can pull over to ‘home’ for the night… which if you know me, you know that’s so me!
For my Western Canada trip, which was during the long weekend in August, we didn’t plan anything other than booking our flights and reserving a rental car. I booked an open jaw flight arriving in Vancouver with a departure from Calgary, and then booked a matching car rental reservation with pick up at Vancouver’s airport and drop off at Calgary’s airport. I always use kayak.com to search for the best car rental rates. The flight round-trip fare was $370 CAD, direct flights! I found this sweet deal through yyz deals. If you’ve never checked their website out, do yourself a favor and click here to see the best airfare deals.
There is many different routes for making the trip from Vancouver to Banff. We literally went whichever way felt right at the moment…just going with the flow. You can see a map of the route we took and some of our stopping point by clicking here.
Where to stay?
All of the spots we stayed at during this trip were completely free. The first night we pulled into Joffre Lakes Trail head parking lot, click here for the exact location. This was a great spot cause while the next morning everyone was fighting for parking spots in that lot, we rolled out of our bed and got right on the trail. The second night we pulled into a first come first serve camp ground in Glacier National Park called Illecillewaet Campground (good luck pronouncing that). We just parked in the main parking lot of the camp ground. There was only us and a couple other cars when we got there around 10PM but to our surprise by the time we woke up in the morning the lot was packed as more people must have come later to stay there overnight as well. The third night we stopped at a random parking lot near Lake Louise. It was right behind HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre, which I wouldn’t really recommend since the train track was right there and we kept getting woken up every time a train passed by. The last night we stopped at a parking lot at Tunnel mountain that had the best view of the valley and surrounding mountains–click here to see the exact location. I really loved this one. It was the least busy and had the most epic view. There is also a convenience store nearby if you want ever need anything. Almost all of the nights we had more people joining us in the parking lots to also camp out.
Here are some of the highlights of the trip:
- Lion’s Gate Bridge
- Lake Louise – a tourist mecca. Try going very early in the morning to avoid the crowd. You can rent kayaks here at a rate of $95/hour for two persons. The famous Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise would be right behind me in this picture. They do offer non hotel guests to dine in at the restaurant inside that faces this view.
- Moraine Lake – only about 20 minutes drive from Lake Louise. This view point is only a short walk away from the parking lot. Again, this area can get really busy with tour buses dropping 100’s of people here. Try going early in the morning if you like to have the view to yourself. Fun fact: this view is called the ’20 dollar view’…. scroll down if you want to know why!
- Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House hike– This hike starts from Lake Louise and I would 100% recommend it. It was my favorite hike from the trip. It’s only 6.8 miles round-trip and it would take most people 4-6 hours to complete. Keep in mind the Tea house is not the end of the trail. The trail keeps going to the glaciers but due to shortage of time (literally had to go straight from here to the airport) I only went to the tea house and back. Take enough water with you cause even the tea house does not have water. They use the lake water for their teas!
- Waterfowl Lakes– This lake and its attached campground is on highway 93, on the way to Jasper. We stopped here for a few hours during the day to have lunch and relax with this view. Taking a hammock with us was the greatest idea. It’s the perfect way to relax and take in all the beauty that surrounds you here.
- Highway 93– This picture does not even do justice of the beauty of this drive. Seriously one of the best drives of my life- besides California’s Highway 1. You’re surrounded with rugged mountains as far as you can see, 360 degrees around you. There are tons of turquoise Lakes on this drive to stop by at too. Keep reading if you want to know some of them.
- Whistler; Green Lake– I was driving by this lake when I decided to pull over cause it was too magical to pass. The reflection was too real! This lake is just a short drive north east of Whistler village.
- Peyto Lake – One of the amazing lakes you can stop at while driving on Highway 93! There is about a 10-15 min hike to get to this view point. Keep in mind it’s only a view point. There isn’t really a solid trail from here down to the lake but you can free style it if you have hiking shoes on. The color of this lake is just absolutely unbelievable. You have to see it to believe it.
- Bow Lake– This lake is literally right beside highway 93. You can pull over slightly to the side of the road and you will be right here with this view. How amazing is that! This is another great spot to have lunch and stop at on your way to Jasper
- Emerald Lake– This lake is in Yoho National Park which is before you approach Banff if you’re driving from Vancouver. Emerlad lake is another stop that is definitely worth it. There is a lodge, cafe, restaurants right beside the lake. Again, it can get really busy with tourists around so I recommend to keep walking along the lake and soon you’ll find a secluded spot to yourself. You can also rent kayaks here for $95/hr.
We also visited Shannon falls in squeamish, Whistler and Joffre Lakes in B.C. but unfortunately due to the wildfires the visibility was so limited.
This trip was 5 days, 4 nights and I find it was plenty of time to see everything without feeling too rushed. Again, the whole route and the stops we made is in the map below.
Let me know if you’re making a trip out here too and need an recommendations. 🙂