Home to some of the best scenic drives in Canada, British Columbia and Alberta road trips wind through bold scenery and unforgettable vistas. Discover open spaces to explore, from verdant forests and waterfalls, to desert-like landscapes. If you're a Canadian road trip planner, try these three routes through Western Canada.
Scenic Road Trip: Edmonton to Prince Rupert (Highway 16)
Edmonton to Jasper (366km)
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jasper National Park's natural beauty is a quintessential part of any classic Canadian road trip. Jam-pack your day in Jasper and stay overnight to experience the stars of the Dark Sky Reserve. Stop by the 50-metre-deep Maligne Canyon, then continue on for a boat tour to Spirit Island on the azure Maligne Lake, wander the historic township and ride the SkyTram for panoramic views of the region.
Jasper to Prince George (375km)
Head west to keep the epic scenery coming along the mountain pass including Mount Robson in your rear-vision mirror, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Pull over at one of the roadside viewpoints to gaze up at the 3954-metre giant or stop for longer and hike or ride out to Kinney Lake. Continue on with a visit to Rearguard Falls Provincial Park, where a short 10-minute walk gets you to the Rearguard Falls Viewpoint. Halfway to Prince George (about two hours on) stretch your legs again with a walk through ancient red cedars at the accessible Ancient Forest/Chun T'oh Whudujut Provincial Park. Located in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh, the park protects a portion of the world's only inland temperate rainforest.
Prince George to Buckley Valley (455km)
At Vanderhoof, the geographic centre of British Columbia, take a slight 60-kilometre detour north to Fort St. James Historical Site. There, journey back to the late 19th century to see Canada's largest collection of wooden buildings restored to the fur trade era and spend a night in the historic Murray house.
On your drive through the Bulkley Valley, stop by Twin Falls, a pair of 160-metre waterfalls cascading from the glaciers of Hudson Bay Mountain. Refuel at Two Sisters Cafe downtown and then continue winding your way through the valley. (Please respect First Nations visitor restrictions passing through communities along this stretch and employ minimal impact practices).
Terrace to Prince Rupert (145km)
Consider a 100-kilometre side trip to the Nass Valley and Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park, Canada's youngest lava flow. Download the auto tour guide to marvel at waterfalls, sunken forest, black lava contrasted with green moss and new spurts of vegetation. (The visitor centre and Nisga'a villages are currently closed to visitors. Respect these communities and be self-sufficient while travelling and return directly to Terrace).
In Prince Rupert, learn the history of the region at the the Museum of Northern BC, stroll through Cow Bay and its streets lined with murals, little shops and cafes. Grab a local and seasonal brew from Wheelhouse Brewing Company or dine with waterfront views at Crest Hotel.
Off-the-Beaten Path: Vancouver to Calgary via Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3) and the Cowboy Trail
From Vancouver to Calgary (and vice versa), travel the Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3) and the Cowboy Trail, crossing the Continental Divide and historic towns with sweeping scenery and contemporary culture.
Vancouver to the Similkameen Valley (397 km)
Head out of Vancouver towards the verdant Fraser Valley on Highway 1. Mountains flatten into lush farmland before passing the cascading water of Bridal Veil Falls. Stretch your legs with a hike at E.C. Manning Provincial Park and enjoy an overnight stay at Manning Park Resort. While the climate might get drier as you head into the Similkameen Valley, you can whet your whistle in Keremeos with a frizzante wine on the patio of Corcelettes Winery, one of a growing number of vineyards in the area.
Osoyoos to Christina Lake (146 km)
Stop by the first Indigenous-owned vineyard in Canada, Nk'Mip Cellars, in the arid landscape of Osoyoos. Learn about the rich culture of the Osoyoos Indian Band at the nearby Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre. Continue on to take a dip in one of Canada's warmest lakes, Christina Lake.
Kootenay Rockies (395 km)
Historic Gold Rush era towns line the Crowsnest (Highway 3) as you venture east through the West Kootenays. At Castlegar, take the alternative Highway 3A route to Creston that includes a sail across Kootenay Lake on the longest free scenic ferry ride in the world. Break in Nelson and explore the charming town that attracts artists and adventure seekers alike with its accessible mountains, lakes and cool shops.
Head back onto Highway 3 at Creston and pre-register to paddle the ponds of the Kootenay Columbia Discovery Centre wetlands on a naturalist-guided canoe tour. Step back in time at Fort Steele Heritage Town (a short detour from Cranbrook) and on a self-guided heritage tour of Fernie, founded in 1898.
Crowsnest Pass (71 km)
Leave British Columbia behind as you drive up Crowsnest Pass into Alberta and across the Continental Divide. Visit the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre to see Canada's deadliest rock slide, which occurred in 1903 when Turtle Mountain fell onto the mining town of Frank. Explore the underground at Bellevue's mine. Above ground, let your passengers relax at small-batch brewery The Pass Beer Co, before continuing with your Alberta road trip.
Southern Alberta (100 km)
Head off the highway for a refreshing stop at Lundbreck Falls, where the rushing Crowsnest River plunges 12 metres below into a deep canyon pool.
The rocky mountain foothills become rolling prairies as you travel through Southern Alberta. Take a break in Fort MacLeod to visit The Fort Museum of the NWMP and the First Nations Interpretive Centre to learn about the Indigenous history of the area and the founding of the town by the North West Mounted Police in 1874.
The Cowboy Trail (242 km)
Giddy up by following the Cowboy Trail through cattle country all the way to Calgary. Drive south on Highway 22 to reach Bragg Creek to explore artisan boutiques and antique shops before taking a hike to Elbow River in Bragg Creek Provincial Park. Head back north to loop around onto Highway 1A to stroll along Cochrane's old-fashioned Main Street storefronts with an ice cream from MacKay's. Continue to burn calories with a walk along Bow River's footpaths or a hike up the hill to see Cochrane's famous "Men of Vision" statue.
Finish your trip in Calgary with a celebratory steak at Caesar's Steak House, a local institution since the 1970s.
The Classic with a twist: Vancouver to Calgary via the Sea-to-Sky and the Rockies-Kootenay.
The road between Vancouver and Whistler is one of the best scenic drives in Canada, making the Sea-to-Sky Highway a fantastic addition to your Vancouver to Calgary road trip. Discover the Kootenay Rockies region as you take in another spectacular route between Alberta and British Columbia.
Sea-to-Sky Highway (153 km)
Leaving Vancouver, the Sea-to-Sky Highway hugs the curves of the Coast Mountains as you wind your way up Howe Sound, passing the granite monolith of the Stawamus Chief in Squamish on the way to the alpine village of Whistler and through the mountain-hugged farmland of Pemberton.
Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon (387 km)
From Lillooet, mountains meld into a more lunar-like landscape as you enter the Thompson Okanagan area and the city of Kamloops. Home to quirky craft breweries, Kamloops is an ideal pitstop before heading to lakeside Kelowna. Stay a night here to go wine tasting at one of 40 wineries within 20 minutes of town. For a leisurely ride, rent an e-bike to explore the Myra Canyon Trestles or the 50-kilometre Okanagan Rail Trail, which follows the gentle grade of the original CN Rail lakeside line.
Driving north to Vernon is equally beautiful, winding along Okanagan Lake. Head to Kalavida Surf Shop to get set up with paddleboards to go out on Kalamalka Lake -- its warm water takes on different hues of blue depending on the time of the year.
Nelson to Kimberley (259 km)
Arrive and fuel up at Oso Negro before taking a short but steep hike up to Pulpit Rock to be rewarded with sweeping views of the charming city below. Take a tour of Valhalla Provincial Park and the backcountry of Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park with High Terrain Helicopters for a spectacular view of the Kokanee Glacier.
Banff and Lake Louise (439 km)
Get your camera ready for the scenic drive into Banff, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. As part of your Banff road trip, rent a kayak from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to experience Lake Louise and its Victoria glacier backdrop.
Canmore and Kananaskis
Make a stop in Canmore to discover local art at one of the many galleries. Just out of town, hike the four-kilometre Grassi Lakes Trail via either the easy route with a gentle incline to an incredible turquoise lake or the more challenging forested way with beautiful views of the town and Bow Valley Provincial Park. Stay a few days in Kananaskis Country, where you'll find 4,000 square kilometres of mountain parks to explore.
End your journey in cosmopolitan Calgary with a celebratory cocktail at the trendy Model Milk bar. Calgary to Vancouver driving vacations can follow the same route in reverse.