Compiled by the Road Trip Alberta team
Last updated on January 5, 2024
With the fastest route from Vancouver to Edmonton totalling over 1,200 kilometres in length, this is certainly a big trip. Even though you can find direct flights connecting the two cities, we will always suggest a road trip as there is SO much to see along the way.
Below you’ll find information on the many ways to travel between the two cities, and if you go by land, many of the fun things to do along the way.
About the Route
From a coastal city through the mountains and then arriving into Canada’s northernmost provincial capital, this drive – no matter which route you take – has a little bit of everything! While there are many options for different routes to take from Vancouver to Edmonton, we’ve outlined three below, each of which has its own benefits. And if you’re planning on doing a return round trip, we suggest taking a different route each way!
Fastest Route from Vancouver to Edmonton
Spanning 1,263 km, this route is the shortest of the three and will take approximately 14 hours. Starting on Highway 1 (known as the Trans-Canada Highway), you’ll follow this until you arrive in Hope, British Columbia. Once through Hope, you will then take Highway 3 east (the Crowsnest Highway). You’ll follow Highway 3 to Princeton, where you’ll then turn north onto Highway 5A to Merritt.
From Merritt, take Highway 5 north (Coquihalla Highway), passing through Kamloops. You will stay on Highway 5 until the small town of Tête Jaune Cache where you will then merge onto Highway 16 (Trans-Canada Highway), eventually crossing the Alberta, British Columbia border. The Trans-Canada will take you straight to Edmonton. However, we recommend to make a stop in Jasper National Park along the way and if you do a Parks Canada pass is required (*note that it is not required if you are just driving through).
Also important to know is that winter tires or chains are required on most routes in British Columbia from October 1 to April 30. Considering you will spend a lot of time driving in the mountains, the utmost care is required.
Alternate Route #1
If Banff is on your bucket list, then this is the route for you. This route will take around 15 hours and 30 minutes of drive time, with a total of 1,363 km.
The first part of your journey is the same as the primary route until you reach Kamloops; and it’s here where things start to change. In Kamloops, you will exit onto Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada Hwy), passing through Salmon Arm, Revelstoke, and the town of Golden.
You’ll follow Highway 1 into Alberta, eventually hitting Banff National Park. Similar to Jasper, you will need to purchase a Parks Canada pass if you plan to make any stops within the park.
It is then a quick drive from Banff to Calgary. Following Stoney Trail NW in Calgary, you’ll make your way around the outskirts of the city, where you’ll get onto Highway 2 north (the Queen Elizabeth II Highway, also known as the QEII) for the remaining 3 hours’ drive from Calgary to Edmonton.
Alternate Route #2
This final route is our recommendation if you want to switch things up and aren’t pressed for time. It is a long one – clocking in at 1,516 km, with a driving time of approximately 17 hours and 20 minutes. Believe us it’s worth it to take you through a lesser-visited (but highly scenic!) part of Alberta.
Starting on Highway 1 heading east from Vancouver, turn onto Highway 3 west, just past the city of Hope. Highway 3 is where the majority of your journey will take place (approximately 10 hours) until you’re well into Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass. Note that while on Highway 3, you’ll drive over two major mountain passes, the Blueberry-Paulson Summit and the Kootenay Pass (aka Salmo Creston Pass). While they both offer beautiful scenery, storms will often lead to pass closures during the winter, so be sure to plan accordingly.
From Highway 3, you’ll turn north onto Highway 22 (otherwise known as the Cowboy Trail). From there, you’ll turn onto the 533 at Chain Lakes Provincial Park, making your way toward Highway 2 for the remainder of your trip. (Alternatively, Cowboy Trail continues north for quite a bit longer if you find yourself with additional time to take the slow road.) Otherwise, it will be at least a four-lane highway for the last 3 hours of your journey, where you’ll see Alberta’s largest city before driving north from Calgary to Edmonton.
Ways to Get from Vancouver to Edmonton
If you’re travelling by car, we suggest leaving Vancouver in the early morning hours to make the most of your trip. If you don’t have your own vehicle and plan on renting a car there are many places in Vancouver to do so. We suggest booking via RentalCars.com, to select the cheapest rate or book with whichever company you prefer.
Remember that while Alberta’s (and BC’s) highways are in great shape and well-maintained, snowstorms can wreak havoc for days at a time, and construction can slow things down in summer. We suggest checking the current road reports (for both BC and Alberta) before you leave. Also, take note that during the winter months some specific highways in BC require cars to be equipped with snow tires (it’s the law!).
Rider Express is the only company that offers bus service from Vancouver to Edmonton. It takes about 20 hours and a one-way ticket costs around $190.00. Tickets can be purchased in advance online.
The journey on the train from Vancouver to Edmonton is considered to be one of the most scenic train trips in all of Canada and possibly North America. The 26-hour approximate trip aboard Via Rail will take you through the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Tickets start at $200 for a one-way journey, and there are sleeper cabins available for 1 or 2 people which include meals for a higher ticket price.
By Private Transfer
There are no companies explicitly offerings private transfer from Vancouver to Edmonton at this time, but you can find some that do the Vancouver to Calgary route, which would be a big part of the trip. (And maybe you’ll be able to sweet-talk your way into having them make the extended trip for the right price?)
- Urban Limousine offers top-class limousine transportation and provides service from downtown Vancouver to Calgary city centre. The price varies depending on the car type but ranges from $1,880-$4,000.
- Quest Limos also offers a luxury transportation service, with a fleet of vehicles to choose from.
Both Vancouver (YVR) and Edmonton (YEG) are home to international airports and offer non-stop flights to and from via Air Canada, WestJet, and Flair Airlines. The flight takes roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes with airfare ranging between $200-$350 (at the time of writing, expect higher prices for last-minute flights). Flying is the fastest mode of transportation, but with so many road trip routes, the drive can be a fun one!
Taxi and Uber are both possible options, but extremely expensive and potentially hard to find someone willing to drive that far.
While Vancouver to Edmonton is not typically a popular route on Poparide, if you’re not too picky on your departure date, joining a carpool driving this route may work out for you.
Fun Things to Do Along the Way
This is a historic landmark, and a short stop here can easily be made during the first 2 hours of your journey. Hope Slide is a great place to stretch your legs and learn the history behind Canada’s second-deadliest rockslide. While you’re there stop in at the Hope Cascades & Canyons Visitor Centre.
If you skipped stretching your legs in Hope, then we suggest a stop in the city of Kamloops, another 4 hours down the road. Find some good options to eat here, but if you also just want a quick chance to stretch your legs, try the Tower Trail for some good exercise and even better views. If you want also want to make your trip over two days, this is a good spot to spend the night.
Yellowhead Pass National Historic Site
Yellowhead Pass is a great place to stop for a nice view and a selfie to mark your trip. Stretch your legs and take in the stunning meadows and steep mountain slopes.
Jasper National Park
Jasper possesses many similar amenities to Banff but on a smaller scale. There are so many things to do in Jasper that we’re sure you’ll fall in love. Given that it’s another 4 hours to Edmonton from here, maybe stop for another overnight so that you can squeeze in some fun activities. (Why yes, we just suggested turning your one-day drive into three, but we ain’t sorry about it!)
Things to Do Along the Alternate Routes
Salmon Arm Waterslides
The Salmon Arm Waterslides are a great stop if you’re travelling with kids. In the heart of the Shuswap, this outdoor waterpark boasts seven waterslides, two hot tubs an arcade, and a gift shop. This is also a good opportunity for an overnight stay to break up your trip.
Banff National Park
Of COURSE, you’re going to want to stop here (and Lake Louise), before you get to the Banff townsite. There is no shortage of things to do in Banff National Park. Explore the townsite, hike, ski, and soak in the hot springs—the options are endless!
Cross Iron Mills
Need a shopping break, anyone? Located right off Highway 2 just north of Calgary, Cross Iron Mills is the biggest one-level shopping centre in Alberta. With over 200 stores and a large food court, a stop a Cross Iron Mills is a great way to break up the last leg of your journey.
The Donut Mill is the perfect place to stop for a quick and delicious pastry snack. You can’t miss it – the storefront is a large windmill on the west side of the highway in Red Deer (along Gasoline Alley – and there is a very good reason why this spot is listed on our “foodie” road trip Alberta bingo card.
The Creston Valley is home to four great wineries. The Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery is the highest-rated in the area, with good food on offer as well. And if you want to indulge in taste-testing different wineries in the area, then this is also a good place to stop for the night to break up the drive, so you won’t need to worry about driving after a couple of glasses!
This is a historical landmark you’ll drive through as you make your way down Highway 3 in the Crowsnest Pass. We recommend stopping at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre for a stunning view of the remnants of Canada’s deadliest rockslide and to see and hear first-hand what happened the night Turtle Mountain fell.
These waterfalls are the perfect place to stop for a leg stretch and a snack right near the turnoff to Highway 22. Take in the stunning view of the falls from the observation deck, and if the weather is nice enough, walk down to the water and dip your feet.
Arrival in Edmonton
You made it!
For more information on your ultimate destination, check out our complete guide to what to do in Edmonton. And if you’re also looking for a place to rest after that long journey, the following are some suggestions.
Hotels in Edmonton
Luxury – Nothing beats the iconic Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. You can’t miss a stay here as it offers spectacular views of the Edmonton River Valley and features a restaurant and spa. Close to many Edmonton attractions and located right in downtown Edmonton, this hotel is worth the splurge even if it’s just for one night!
Mid-range – The Mettera Hotel on Whyte is close to the shopping and vibrant amenities Whyte Ave is known for. Fitting in with the funky vibe of Old Strathcona, Mettera Hotel on Whyte offers rooms decorated in fire, earth, air or water themes. Additionally, this boutique hotel features a cozy library with a fireplace!
Budget – Close to Whyte Ave and West Edmonton Mall, Travelodge by Wyndham Edmonton South gives you access to Edmonton sightseeing without breaking the bank. Great for kids, it also has a hot tub and pool and also includes a complimentary continental breakfast.
Want more suggestions for accommodations? We’ve got an entire guide to Edmonton hotels.