16 Stops To Enjoy On the Calgary to Golden Drive

The drive from Calgary to Golden or vice versa is a beautiful one with plenty of jaw-dropping stops along the way. If you have planned a trip to Banff or Canmore but have also factored in time to see some of the beautiful attractions in Yoho National Park, you may be wondering how to make the best out of your time in this part of the world.

Being a huge fan of road-tripping, we have driven to Golden more times than I can remember. Each time, we try to make the most of our time and explore something new. Whether you have time to hike, canoe on Emerald Lake, or just have time for a quick stop at Morant’s Curve, here are our favorite stops between Calgary and Golden, or Golden to Calgary!

How Far is the Calgary to Golden Drive?

Without any stops, the drive from Calgary to Golden takes three hours (264.4 km)  and travels almost solely on the Trans Canada unless you take the Bow Valley Parkway detour from Banff to Lake Louise. Though realistically, with just a few stops, the drive will take you all day.

Can You Drive From Calgary to Golden in One Day?

Yes, you can drive from Calgary to Golden in one day, though to make the most out of your road trip, we suggest taking two days to explore Banff and Yoho National Park a bit.

Can You Drive from Calgary to Golden in the Winter?

When driving in Western Canada during winter, it’s important to exercise extra caution especially if there has been recent snowfall. Although not a requirement in Alberta, it’s best to have winter tires on your vehicle. Drive according to the conditions, and don’t speed.

From October 1 to April 30, winter tires or chains are mandatory on most British Columbia routes. It’s essential to stay updated on driving conditions in Alberta via 5.11 Alberta and British Columbia via Drive BC.

Insider tip: Fill up your tank before you get to Golden. Gas is significantly cheaper in Alberta than in British Columbia!

The Best Stops on a Calgary to Golden Road Trip

Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary

On your way, from Calgary to Golden, one of the first major places you’ll come across is the small city of Cochrane. Located in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Cochrane, is the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, which is home to 35 magnificent wolfdogs and a great place to stop with kids who have an interest in animals.

The Wolfdog Sanctuary allows visitors to observe and learn about wolfdogs, and even get up close to them and interact. Their mission goes beyond providing a safe haven for displaced wolfdogs as it also raises awareness about these majestic animals. Guests can enjoy a leisurely walk around the sanctuary or book an interactive tour to learn about wolfdogs in Canada.

Barrier Lake

Barrier Lake

If you don’t mind venturing off the highway a bit, then Barrier Lake is a worthwhile detour in Kananaskis. Barrier Lake is one of the first lakes you’ll visit when driving into Kananaskis Country from Calgary. In the summer, you can expect a bright blue lake that sits right under Yates Mountain, and from its shores, you can get a great view of Mount Baldy while enjoying a picnic here.

Albertans really love this lake as there is a small beach area to relax at, easy parking, and if you have a stand-up paddleboard or kayak, it’s a very fun lake to paddle around on. Although if you want a great vantage point, and have the time for a hike, make your way for the Prairie View Trail that sits above Barrier Lake.

Lac Des Arcs

Lac Des Arcs

Lac des Arcs is categorized as a hamlet within the Municipal District of Bighorn No. 8. It is located on the south side of the Bow River, right near Exshaw. You’ll see it on your right-hand side as you are driving from Calgary to Golden, and as long as you are awake it’s pretty impossible to miss.

Lac Des Arcs is far from the prettiest lake in the Rockies, mainly due to the LaFarge cement plant that will undoubtedly appear in all your photos of the lake. Regardless, it’s still a nice spot to stop, although it’s typically very windy. There are a few pull-off points so you can pull over and enjoy the view, which is usually pretty busy during the summer months. In the winter, Lac Des Arcs is one of the best places to enjoy a wild ice skate with ice bubbles!



No matter the season, Canmore is a must-stop on any Western Canada road trip, and we are not just saying that because we live here! There is so much to do in Canmore, you could spend many summers and winters here and never scratch the surface.

If you only have time for a quick stop, we recommend grabbing a coffee at Eclipse before walking Main Street. Look for the Policeman’s Creek Boardwalk to take a short but lovely stroll next to the ducks.

If you have more time in Canmore, we promise you won’t get bored. Rent a paddleboard and enjoy the Canmore Reservoir, hike to Grassi Lakes or through Grotto Canyon, or rent a bike and enjoy an epic bike ride along the Legacy Trail (which goes all the way to Banff if you are in for a long day!)

Vermilion Lakes

Fall in Banff
Vermilion Lakes on a beautiful fall day

You’ll pass Vermilion Lakes on your left-hand side as you are driving from Calgary to Golden. They are popular stop-off points on any road trip as they are the closest lakes to the Town of Banff and a super popular Alberta lake to head for sunrise and sunset. It’s a marshy area that is fun to paddle around, but the highlight for me is the few boat docks in the area. This is where I love to head with a book and enjoy the Mount Rundle views.

Johnston Canyon

Johnston Canyon - Banff Waterfalls

You have two ways once you leave Downtown Banff to get to Golden, one is the fast way, which is along the Trans Canada, and the other is along the Bow Valley Parkway, which is the scenic route that connects Banff to Lake Louise.

There are many stops along the Bow Valley Parkway, but perhaps the most famous stop is Johnston Canyon. Johnston Canyon is a popular spot in Banff as it’s a nice easy hike the whole family can enjoy on a maintained trail. It’s great to walk in both the winter and summer, though in the summer you can expect the trail to be incredibly busy. Because of this, we recommend trying to be at the trailhead before 9am or after 5pm for a more crowd-free experience.

There’s a gift shop here, as well as a restaurant if you want to stop for some snacks or a meal.

Morant’s Curve

Morant's Curve

While still on the Bow Valley Parkway, just before you get to Lake Louise, you’ll pass a spot on your left that overlooks the train tracks down an epic valley. This is called Morant’s Curve and is quite a photo hot spot in the Rockies, especially in the winter, with the scenery covered in white.

We recommend stopping no matter the season, get out and head to the viewing platform and keep your fingers crossed that a train may pass by!

Lake Louise


Whether you decided to take the Trans Canada to Lake Louise or you opted for the scenic Bow Valley Parkway, one thing is for sure, you are going to end up at Lake Louise.

If you have never visited Lake Louise before, chances are it’s high on your Banff itinerary. Summer at Lake Louise is a beautiful and busy one, but it’s well worth carving out a day for, especially if you want to enjoy any Lake Louise hikes. We recommend plotting out how you’ll get to Lake Louise, as it’s not as simple as rocking up and parking. It’s a busy area during the summer, and parking is nearly nonexistent unless you plan to arrive before 7am. We recommend looking into the Lake Louise shuttle and opting for a hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House or Plain of Six Glaciers.

If you book the Parks Canada shuttle, you can also access the Lake Connector shuttle that gets you to Moraine Lake! Confused by all this shuttle nonsense? We break it all down here!

Sherbrooke Lake

sherbrooke lake in yoho
Sherbrooke Lake

Sherbrooke Lake is a hidden gem between Calgary and Golden that is very easy to miss while driving. This bright blue lake is not on many itineraries and attracts significantly fewer visitors than popular lakes nearby, like Emerald Lake or Lake Louise. Sherbrooke Lake is not located right off the road, but instead, it’s a short 3km hike to reach the spectacular lake with very little elevation gain.

The trail leading to the lake meanders through the woods for several kilometers, eventually revealing stunning vistas of Mount Ogden and Mount Niles once you reach the lakeshore.

Take in the beauty of the bright blue lake without hordes of people around. If you want an extended hike, you backtrack to the Paget Peak Trail and continue to Paget Lookout or scramble to Paget Peak.

Paget Peak

Paget Peak in Yoho National Park
Paget Lookout

Paget Peak is often recommended to those who want to start scrambling in the Canadian Rockies. It’s an easy scramble, with nothing technical involved. It’s also one of the shorter scrambles you can complete in the Canadian Rockies, making it a great option for those who want to get out but don’t have an entire day. However, this is no short stop as this Yoho hike up to the peak takes at least half a day.

Once at the summit, scramblers are provided incredible views of Kicking Horse Pass and the Great Divide Glacier. Most notable is the hanging glacier on Cathedral Mountain across the valley. However, if you want something shorter, it’s more popular to hike to Paget Peak Lookout (photo above), which requires gaining about 500 meters of elevation, so not for those short on time or not looking to hike.

Spiral Tunnels

Spiral Tunnels

The railway engineering feat known as the Spiral Tunnels is located along the Trans Canada on the right-hand side before you reach the small BC town of Field.

What are the Spiral Tunnels? In the late 1800s, connecting British Columbia through the Rocky Mountains presented a challenge. Despite its proximity to the US and Pacific Coast, the steep grade of Kicking Horse Pass posed difficulties for trains. This led to the creation of the Spiral Tunnels.

Even today, trails pass through the Spiral Tunnels, and visitors can admire the stunning views from either of the two viewpoints. Although approximately 25-30 trains travel through the tunnels each day, there is no fixed schedule, so visitors may have to rely on luck to catch a quick glimpse of them.

Takkakaw Falls

Takakkaw Falls, “Tak Falls” for short, is the second-highest waterfall in Canada and one of the most impressive waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies. At 373 meters high, the falls are fed by the meltwater of the Daly Glacier, part of the Waputik Icefield and are a true sight to behold. Tak Falls are only accessible in the summer as this is when the Yoho Valley Road is open.

The best part is Tak Falls doesn’t require any effort to get views of it. You can drive right up to the parking area in Yoho and get grand views of the falls. However, Tak Falls does require a bit of a detour off the Trans Canada to reach as they are some ways down the Yoho Valley Road.

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake is the largest lake in Yoho National Park and is surrounded by the President Range, and we consider it a must-visit on your way to Golden. Once you lay your eyes on this BC lake, it’s pretty easy to figure out where Emerald Lake gets its name as the glacial waters refract light in a vibrant display of color.

The color alone would be enough to move you, but the surrounding landscape leaves you speechless. The President Range mountains surround the lake, forming a natural amphitheater of the grandest scale with towering peaks and forested banks.

Once at Emerald Lake, you can rent a canoe and get out on the water (canoe rentals are also much cheaper here than at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake). Another fun way to get active after being in the car all day is to walk around the entire lakeshore, which takes about an hour or so and has no elevation gain. Or do none of those things and just grab a bite from Cilantro Cafe and enjoy the sunshine and views!

Wapta Falls

wapta falls

The next best stop on your Calgary to Golden road trip is Wapta Falls, which is the largest waterfall of the Kicking Horse River. Wapta Falls is 18 meters high, but what’s really impressive is that it is a whopping 107 meters wide! Getting there requires a short hike (5km round trip) with a minimal elevation gain that takes a few hours to complete, so make sure to leave enough time for this gem.

There are a few lookout points from above, but I highly recommend hiking down to the base of the falls for the best views. If you really feel like getting sprayed in the face, you can walk up a short hill in front of the falls for the best views.

Golden Skybridge

Golden Skybridge

The Golden Skybridge is right off the Trans Canada right before you reach the town of Golden. This is a must-visit if you want to face your fear of heights!

It’s not every day you can walk 426 feet above a vast canyon with nothing between you and the valley floor besides a small bridge. Surrounded by the Columbia Valley, walking across this Skybridge while a river and waterfall crash is one of the most memorable experiences to have in the area. It’s great for kids and families, too, as there’s a play park for the children, a beautiful outdoor eating area, plenty of nature to take in, an axe-throwing area, a zipline, and a brand-new mountain coaster!

Book Your Golden Skybridge Tickets Beforehand


Hiking to Gorman Lake

You have made it to Golden, one of British Columbia’s most charming towns. Though it’s very different from Banff and Canmore, there are many things to do in this town. We visit Golden multiple times a year and always have a great appreciation for it.

If you are visiting in the summer, embark on a Via Ferrata adventure with Kicking Horse Mountain Resort or indulge in some adrenaline-pumping downhill mountain biking. One of our favorite hikes in the area is to Gorman Lake (photo above). If seeing a grizzly bear is high on your list, it’s in Golden that you can meet Boo the Grizzly Bear that is a resident at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

If traveling through Golden in the winter, a day of skiing at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a must, but Golden is also super popular for snowmobiling, or sledding, as Canadians call it. There’s nowhere to snowmobile in Banff, so we like to visit Golden when we want to enjoy that activity.

Where to Stay in Golden?

Enjoying the views from The Aspens near KHMR

We’ve visited Golden multiple times, and we always stay at different places each time. There are so many hidden gem accommodation options in the area. Unlike staying in Canmore or Banff, many more private BC cabins and chalets are available due to looser rental units’ restrictions. We’ve stayed at all the following options and loved all of them!

Cedar House Chalets

Cedar House Chalets provided us with a comfortable place to stay and great views over Kicking Horse Mountain. Each of these Golden chalets comes with a full kitchen, good WiFi, a fireplace, and most come with even a hot tub!

Golden Cabins in BC

All Season Chalet

If you don’t mind being a bit far from Downtown Golden, I would recommend staying at one of these cabins tucked away in the wilderness. Next to the Kicking Horse River with views of Mt Vaux, this was our favorite place to stay in Golden.

The Aspens

This private and sheltered little cabin is just far enough outside of the hustle and bustle for peace and quiet, yet close enough that you’re never too far from the action. Kicking Horse Ski Resort is just steps away from the cabin.

Renting a Car in Canada

Renting a Car in Canada

If you don’t have your own car, it’s best to rent a car in Calgary. You can rent one at the Calgary International Airport (YYC) or Downtown Calgary. You can either rent a one way or do a return trip. One-way rentals often cost more, and there is nowhere to drop off a rental in Revelstoke, so you’ll have to plan to drop it off in Kamloops or elsewhere. We like to use Discover Car Hire and RentalCars.com to find the best deals.

Plan Your Trip to the Canadian Rockies

  • Tours (New in 2024): The Banff Blog is partnering with one of the leading tour companies in Western Canada so readers can experience the magic of the Rockies with other travelers – without having to think about a thing. See all our 2024 tour offerings here!
  • Get to Banff or Canmore Without a Car: The Banff Airporter provides fantastic service connecting you from the Calgary International Airport (YYC) to Banff or Canmore.
  • Get Around: We suggest renting a car to get around. You can search for rental cars on Rentalcars.com. Or embark on an epic campervan trip. We like to compare prices on Motorhome Republic and Outdoorsy.
  • Cheaper Airfare: We also use Going to watch for cheap airfare deals!
  • Hop On, Hop Off: This tour is taking Banff by storm. It’s exactly what it sounds like, hop on and off a bus bound for all the best attractions at your own pace!
About Natasha

Natasha calls Canmore, Alberta home. After traveling across seven continents and 90 countries with Cameron, she settled down in the stunning Canadian Rockies. She loves to help others travel and make their planning easier. She is a winter enthusiast and loves to snowboard, ice skate, and snowshoe and enjoy all the fantastic summer opportunities in Banff like hiking, scrambling, and biking. You can find her in the mountains or enjoying a coffee by the river. Learn more on the about us page!

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