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Canada by car: three road trips through British Columbia and Alberta

Seton Lake, Lillooet, BC - credit: Daniel Ernst

Canada by car: three road trips through British Columbia and Alberta

Home to some of the best scenic drives in Canada, British ColumbiaExternal Link Title and AlbertaExternal Link Title 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)


To get from Alberta to the West Coast, switch up the well-known EdmontonExternal Link Title to Vancouver External Link Titleroute with a road trip from Edmonton to Prince RupertExternal Link Title.  

Mount Robson Provincial Park, BC - credit: Destination BC/Megan McLellan
Mount Robson Provincial Park, BC - credit: Destination BC/Megan McLellan

Edmonton to Jasper (366km) 

Fuel up with a coffee from TranscendExternal Link Title in Edmonton and hit Highway 16 to Hinton for a three-kilometre morning stroll around the world's longest freshwater boardwalkExternal Link Title at Maxwell Lake.


Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jasper National ParkExternal Link Title's natural beauty is a quintessential part of any classic Canadian road trip. Jam-pack your day in JasperExternal Link Title and stay overnight to experience the stars of the Dark Sky ReserveExternal Link Title. Stop by the 50-metre-deep Maligne CanyonExternal Link Title, then continue on for a boat tour to Spirit IslandExternal Link Title on the azure Maligne Lake, wander the historic township and ride the SkyTramExternal Link Title 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 RobsonExternal Link Title 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 ParkExternal Link Title, where a short 10-minute walk gets you to the Rearguard Falls Viewpoint. Halfway to Prince George (about 2 hours on) stretch your legs again with a walk through ancient red cedars at the accessible Ancient Forest/Chun T'oh Whudujut Provincial ParkExternal Link Title. Located in the traditional territory of the Lheidli T'enneh, the park protects a portion of the world's only inland temperate rainforest.


Next, rest up in Prince GeorgeExternal Link Title and indulge in upscale comfort food at The Twisted CorkExternal Link Title.


Prince George to Buckley Valley (455km) 

At VanderhoofExternal Link Title, the geographic centre of British Columbia, take a slight 60-kilometre detour north to Fort St. James Historical SiteExternal Link Title. 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 houseExternal Link Title.


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 CafeExternal Link Title 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)

Tracing the Skeena RiverExternal Link Title, the drive from TerraceExternal Link Title to Prince RupertExternal Link Title is a climatic end with waterfalls scattered among towering mountains and clouds dancing in the valleys. 


Consider a 100-kilometre side trip to the Nass ValleyExternal Link Title and Nisga'a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial ParkExternal Link Title, 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 BCExternal Link Title, stroll through Cow Bay and its streets lined with murals, little shops and cafes. Grab a local and seasonal brew from Wheelhouse Brewing CompanyExternal Link Title or dine with waterfront views at Crest HotelExternal Link Title.


Return to Jasper along the same route, enjoying the views are no less spectacular in reverse or consider extending your journey with BC FerriesExternal Link Title' route to Vancouver IslandExternal Link Title


Off-the-Beaten Path: Vancouver to Calgary via Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3) and the Cowboy Trail


From Vancouver to CalgaryExternal Link Title (and vice versa), travel the Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3) and the Cowboy TrailExternal Link Title, crossing the Continental Divide and historic towns with sweeping scenery and contemporary culture.

Keremeos, Similkameen Valley, BC - credit: Destination BC/Hubert Kang
Keremeos, Similkameen Valley, BC - credit: Destination BC/Hubert Kang

Vancouver to the Similkameen Valley (397 km)

Head out of VancouverExternal Link Title towards the verdant Fraser ValleyExternal Link Title on Highway 1. Mountains flatten into lush farmland before passing the cascading water of Bridal Veil FallsExternal Link Title. Stretch your legs with a hike at E.C. Manning Provincial ParkExternal Link Title and enjoy an overnight stay at Manning Park ResortExternal Link Title. While the climate might get drier as you head into the Similkameen ValleyExternal Link Title, you can whet your whistle in KeremeosExternal Link Title with a frizzante wine on the patio of Corcelettes WineryExternal Link Title, 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 CellarsExternal Link Title, in the arid landscape of OsoyoosExternal Link Title. Learn about the rich culture of the Osoyoos Indian Band at the nearby Nk'Mip Desert Cultural CentreExternal Link Title. Continue on to take a dip in one of Canada's warmest lakes, Christina LakeExternal Link Title.


Kootenay Rockies (395 km)

Historic Gold Rush era towns line the Crowsnest (Highway 3) as you venture east through the West KootenaysExternal Link Title. At CastlegarExternal Link Title, take the alternative Highway 3A route to CrestonExternal Link Title that includes a sail across Kootenay Lake on the longest free scenic ferry ride in the worldExternal Link Title. Break in NelsonExternal Link Title and explore the charming townExternal Link Title 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 CentreExternal Link Title wetlands on a naturalist-guided canoe tourExternal Link Title. Step back in time at Fort Steele Heritage TownExternal Link Title (a short detour from CranbrookExternal Link Title) and on a self-guided heritage tour of FernieExternal Link Title, founded in 1898.


Crowsnest Pass (71 km)

Leave British Columbia behind as you drive up Crowsnest PassExternal Link Title into Alberta and across the Continental Divide. Visit the Frank Slide Interpretive CentreExternal Link Title to see Canada's deadliest rock slide, which occurred in 1903 when Turtle Mountain fell onto the mining town of Frank. Explore the undergroundExternal Link Title at Bellevue's mine. Above ground, let your passengers relax at small-batch brewery The Pass Beer CoExternal Link Title, before continuing with your Alberta road trip.


Southern Alberta (100 km)

Head off the highway for a refreshing stop at Lundbreck FallsExternal Link Title, 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 AlbertaExternal Link Title. Take a break in Fort MacLeod to visit The Fort Museum of the NWMP and the First Nations Interpretive CentreExternal Link Title 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 TrailExternal Link Title 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 ParkExternal Link Title. Head back north to loop around onto Highway 1A to stroll along CochraneExternal Link Title's old-fashioned Main Street storefronts with an ice cream from MacKay'sExternal Link Title. 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" statueExternal Link Title


Finish your trip in Calgary with a celebratory steak at Caesar's Steak HouseExternal Link Title, 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 WhistlerExternal Link Title is one of the best scenic drives in Canada, making the Sea-to-Sky HighwayExternal Link Title a fantastic addition to your Vancouver to Calgary road trip. Discover the Kootenay Rockies regionExternal Link Title as you take in another spectacular route between Alberta and British Columbia.

Canmore, Alberta - credit: Travel Alberta/Katie Goldie
Canmore, Alberta - credit: Travel Alberta/Katie Goldie

Sea-to-Sky Highway (153 km)

Leaving Vancouver, the Sea-to-Sky HighwayExternal Link Title hugs the curves of the Coast Mountains as you wind your way up Howe Sound, passing the granite monolith of the Stawamus Chief in SquamishExternal Link Title on the way to the alpine village of Whistler and through the mountain-hugged farmland of PembertonExternal Link Title


Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon (387 km)

From LillooetExternal Link Title, mountains meld into a more lunar-like landscape as you enter the Thompson OkanaganExternal Link Title area and the city of KamloopsExternal Link Title. Home to quirky craft breweriesExternal Link Title, Kamloops is an ideal pitstop before heading to lakeside KelownaExternal Link Title. Stay a night here to go wine tastingExternal Link Title at one of 40 wineries within 20 minutes of town. For a leisurely ride, rent an e-bikeExternal Link Title to explore the Myra Canyon TrestlesExternal Link Title or the 50-kilometre Okanagan Rail Trail, which follows the gentle grade of the original CN Rail lakeside line.


Driving north to VernonExternal Link Title is equally beautiful, winding along Okanagan LakeExternal Link Title. Head to Kalavida Surf ShopExternal Link Title 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 NegroExternal Link Title before taking a short but steep hike up to Pulpit RockExternal Link Title to be rewarded with sweeping views of the charming city below. Take a tour of Valhalla Provincial ParkExternal Link Title and the backcountry of Kokanee Glacier Provincial ParkExternal Link Title with High Terrain HelicoptersExternal Link Title for a spectacular view of the Kokanee Glacier. 


Banff and Lake Louise (439 km)

Get your camera ready for the scenic drive into BanffExternal Link Title, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. As part of your Banff road trip, rent a kayak from the Fairmont Chateau Lake LouiseExternal Link Title to experience Lake LouiseExternal Link Title and its Victoria glacier backdrop.


Canmore and Kananaskis

Make a stop in CanmoreExternal Link Title to discover local art at one of the many galleriesExternal Link Title. Just out of town, hike the four-kilometre Grassi Lakes TrailExternal Link Title 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 ParkExternal Link Title. Stay a few days in Kananaskis CountryExternal Link Title, 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 MilkExternal Link Title bar. Calgary to Vancouver driving vacations can follow the same route in reverse.