A Beginner’s Guide to Planning a Canadian Rockies Motorhome Trip

06 Mar 2019

Dreaming of something extra-special for your Canadian Rockies adventure? Seeing it by motorhome offers the thrill of the wilderness with some welcome home comforts. Here’s how to start planning your trip for a taste of the van life.

Picture the scene: sunrise over the mirror-like waters of an impossibly still lake. Nothing stirs as you stand with a fresh cup of coffee, and you take it all in. It’s waiting for you, and you’re already there. You didn’t have to get up an hour earlier to go and see it, in fact it’s just a short walk from your cosy bed and breakfast - your RV.

It’s moments like these that stick out from my Canadian honeymoon on the road, many of which were made possible by the flexibility of our hired RV. Road tripping was something we’d always fantasised about, and it turns out Canada is ideal for RV first-timers hoping to experience one of the world’s most scenic drives. You can take the open road wherever you want and see the true meaning of awesome (note: don’t miss the Icefields Parkway). Plus, your motorhome allows you to indulge in a hassle-free campsite set-up, to unpack your things, cook and get a great night’s sleep. So here’s how to get started on planning your own RV road trip through these breathtaking mountains.

Choose your own adventure

An RV road trip is the epitome of a tailor-made Journey, starting with whether to do a one-way drive or a return round trip. The most popular route into the Rockies is from Calgary, which is just a 90-minute drive from the quaint town of Banff and its impressive mountainscape. Or, take the route from cultural Vancouver via a series of popular small towns before exploring Jasper, Banff and beyond. Your Travel Expert can share ideas and hidden gems to help you build your perfect itinerary. Either way, because motorhome hire rules mean you can’t get your RV until the day after you land, it’s a great excuse to book a night or two in a hotel, relax and explore your starting city before hitting the road.

Picking your home from home

The type of RV you choose isn’t just about how many of you are coming along for the ride. Think about how you’re most likely to spend your downtime with your partner, friends or kids. Will you prefer it cosy and snug, or with a little more room to stretch your legs on board? If you’re on the road during the cooler months, a spacious inside will make it easy for everyone to split their time between hanging out on board and keeping warm next to the crackling campfire. Summer on the other hand lends itself to something more compact as you’ll likely be off-board, watching the sunset over mountain peaks while the barbecue does its thing.

Finding your place in the wilderness

Sure, you’re taking your bed with you, but within the national parks you can’t park your RV just anywhere to sleep.

There are hundreds of turn-up-and-camp sites throughout the Rockies in forests, at shorelines and in the shadow of sawtooth mountains. These ‘self-registration’ sites are perfect if you’re down for the all-in adventure and are happy with few on-site facilities. Your RV is good to run off its battery and propane tank for a night or two in these sort of campgrounds, especially as the electrics will recharge once you’re back on the road.

If a little planning doesn’t take the wanderlust out of your tyres though, start looking at reservable campgrounds once you’ve booked your RV. These bigger campsites come with the added bonus of electricity, running water (hello, water pressure!) and a place for you to get rid of your bathroom water.

With these larger campgrounds you’re also likely to reap the benefits of campsite shuttle buses into town, popular sites and trails. So leave the RV behind for the day and hop off to sample local craft beers, relax at one of the many hot springs, or gain altitude on a gondola ride.

Campsites are in high demand from both the locals and international travellers, especially in the summer and over public holidays. So get to self-registration sites early in the day for your spot, and if you’re reserving, search the Parks Canada website once you’ve booked your RV.

Cooking in the mountains

Burgers off the barbecue, toasted marshmallows under the stars - however you choose to spend your meal times, your RV’s kitchen will help you add some home-cooked food into the mix too. Having the freedom to prepare simple meals or snacks in your motorhome isn’t just budget-friendly, it can be convenient. Some beauty spots in the Rockies don’t have cafes or restaurants, or if they do, they may be closed during the off-season. Stopping by your RV for lunch or a snack before kayaking on Emerald Lake or venturing underground to Canmore Caves with a full belly is the definition of having it all.

So before you head to Walmart, check out what fridge, freezer and cupboard space you have on board so you don’t over purchase. Make a few extra portions of whatever you’re cooking too - it’ll help conserve propane and electricity if you’re staying at an unserviced campground, and you’ll appreciate having something ready to heat up after a hard day’s adventuring.

Enjoy the ride

Finally, it wouldn’t be a road trip without an ultimate soundtrack. So choose your playlist and prepare for an incredible ride. Where will the road take you?

Laura Day

I'm a lifestyle writer specialising in food, travel and wellbeing. I love seeking out the best places for my coffee and food fix before exploring new destinations by hike or by bike. Follow me @laurafday