Whether you are a Canadian traveller or someone visiting our great country from overseas, the province of British Columbia, along with the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, is a fantastic place to spend a couple of weeks exploring.
We start our suggested itinerary in the city of Calgary, Alberta, and continue on through the phenomenally beautiful Rocky Mountains to the coastal areas of British Columbia and then returning to Calgary along a different, though still amazing, route.
There are many fantastic places to visit, many more than what we can list here, but this will give you a hint of what you can experience along the way.
Please note that if you are travelling in the fall, winter or spring, that British Columbia has a mandatory winter tire law, so make sure your vehicle is properly equipped. Some off the beaten track places may not be open during the winter season, check websites for open dates and hours.
All drive times listed are based on distance, so you may find yours longer due to picture or rest stops, or if you decide to stop for an activity or site not listed. Wild animals are visible throughout the Rockies and along most of the highways, exercise caution when driving in indicated wildlife areas and please, never get out of your car to approach any wild animal.
FYI: Some places listed here might be temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
I. The City of Calgary
You are going to start your trip in the city of Calgary, which is home to the famous Calgary Stampede in July, along with tons of places to have some fun. This is the city where most people start their adventures into the Rockies, as Banff is located less than two hours drive away. If you can, we suggest scheduling at least one day to enjoy the city itself.
- One Day Tour of Calgary
- Weekend Trip Itinerary Ideas Calgary
- Calgary & Banff Trip Ideas
- Places to See in Calgary
Walking Tour Downtown Calgary
What better way to explore Calgary than hitting up its downtown core, the heart of the city. Calgary’s downtown is much larger and more spread out than many other cities, offering a wide range of things to see and do, but all still within walking distance.
If you would like a bird’s eye view of the city itself and the nearby Rockies or have a meal with a view that can’t be beat, take a ride up the Calgary Tower. The 360-degree views are incredible on clear days!
This is a great place to spend the day for kids and adults of all ages. One of the best zoos in Canada, the zoo is home to a wide variety of animals and is set in a beautiful location in the Calgary river valley. During special times of year you can experience other activities or exhibits here, such as the Zoo Lights during the Christmas season.
A historical village and living museum, this site gives you a bit of an insight of how life was in the wild west of Canada. There is food, fun, and a self-guided walking tour that takes you through the buildings and exhibits.
Forts were a big part of the shaping of the west of this country, and this fort has been made into a national historic site. It is not just a great place to get a sense of the history of the fort and RCMP, but also of the First Nations of the area.
The Hanger Flight Museum
Formerly known as the Aero Space Museum, this is a unique place to visit in Calgary. This museum is home to a wide variety of exhibits about the history of flight, along with multiple planes and helicopters.
This whimsical, copper castle structure is an entertaining new museum that will take you on a ride through Canada’s musical history with cool artifacts and interactive displays. Test your skills at the drums, electric guitar or in the sound-recording room.
II. Calgary to Banff
Distance from downtown Calgary: 138 kms / 129 kms
Drive time: Approximately 1.75 hours / 1.5 hours
You can easily spend a whole day just travelling from Calgary to Banff, but if you are in a hurry, just take Highway 1 out of the city, it is the most direct and has a higher speed limit as it is a divided highway for most of the way.
If you have the time, instead, take Highway 1A out of Calgary. It is a much more interesting highway and less travelled although the speed limit is lower and the road is a two lane, rather than being divided. About 40 minutes from the city, along this route, you will find the small town of Cochrane.
If you want to go a bit off the beaten track, head to Big Hill Springs Provincial Park. It is a short 15-minute drive outside of town and, while small for a provincial park, well worth the stop. Here you can hike a well-marked trail to see some pretty little waterfalls.
Cochrane itself has some great little shops in the historical center, along with some of the best ice cream you will ever have. The family owned and operated Mackay’s Ice Cream shop offers locally made ice cream in a wide variety of flavours.
If you are a history buff, stop for a couple of minutes to visit the Historic Cochrane Ranch Site. Going back to the late 1800’s, this ranch was the first large operating cattle ranch in the area. If you happen to be visiting on a Saturday morning in the summer, you will also be able to catch a farmer’s market here.
From Cochrane you are going to travel on to the town of Canmore, located right at the edge of Banff National Park. You can continue on Highway 1A the entire way or choose several junctions to head south to connect with Highway 1. This is where Google Maps or a GPS is handy. It’s going to take about 55 minutes of driving to get to Canmore.
Canmore is the kick-off point for the Rockies and is surrounded by amazing peaks like the Three Sisters. The town is a great stopping point if you want to do a bit of shopping on the quirky main street, or snag a yummy bagel and coffee from the Rocky Mountain Bagel Co. .
There are plenty of hiking, climbing and biking opportunities in the area in the summer, along with cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. If you are interested in doing outdoor activities, it is best to swing by the Visitor’s Center to get trail maps and find out if there are any wildlife or conditions warnings.
Your next stop will be at the Parks Canada gate to enter Banff National Park. You need to pay a fee to enter the national parks, either a daily fee or a year pass. If you are seriously considering spending several days in Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, Yoho, or any other Parks, you may want to purchase the year pass. This is valid for more than 100 parks and historic sites in Canada for a full year.
The town of Banff offers a wide variety of restaurants, hotels, camping areas, outdoor activities, fantastic views, historic and cultural spots, and you may even catch some wildlife on the streets of the town.
Cave and Basin National Historic Site
This is an interesting place that gives you some history on the Park and the origin of the hot spring waters. From exhibits to demonstrations and guided tours, you can spend an enjoyable hour or so here.
This is a must see while in the area. A short trail will take you to some nice lookout areas, but if you can’t walk, or don’t want to, you can still get some great pics from the banks of the river itself.
Banff Gondola/Via Ferrata/Sunshine Meadows
Canadian Rockies with its awe-inspiring snow-capped mountains and glaciers hanging on precipitous cliffs make for a trip of a lifetime and the untouched beauty of the Rockies is best enjoyed through views from up above. Head up to the top of Sulphur Mountain on the Gondola or explore Mt. Norquay on Via-Ferrata or hike the continental divide at Sunshine Meadows.
Bankhead/Lake Minnewanka Loop
Located outside of Banff, towards Lake Minnewanka, this is a ghost town worth exploring. Interpretive signs take you through the long-abandoned mining community and its history. Usually there is no one else around, so you may have the whole site to yourself. Be aware there may be bears or other wildlife in the area.
Banff Upper Hot Springs
How can you pass up an opportunity to rest your travel-weary bones in some natural hot springs with a fantastic view? This popular spot offers a large pool to soak in and is open year-round. If you are considering visiting the Cave and Basin site listed below, make sure you check out the deal for the pass that gives you access to both places.
III. Banff to Lake Louise
Drive distance: 57 kms
Drive time: approximately 40 minutes
You might think that the short drive between the town of Banff and the town of Lake Louise would not have anything super special to see other than excellent views of the mountains, but there is an amazing spot to visit off the old highway – Johnston’s Canyon.
Instead of heading down the faster-divided highway, travel on Highway 1A, which cuts off from the main highway just a short while after you have left the town of Banff.
Highway 1A gives you an opportunity to see a lot more wildlife and scenic views which are easy to pull over and take pictures of.
The site of Johnston Canyon is a popular one for both locals and travellers, the earlier you can get there in the day the better. To really see anything here you do need to hike up the well-worn trail to the lower falls. The incredible views of the canyon and the rushing waters, not to mention the lovely trail through the trees, will provide you with some beautiful pictures and fantastic memories. If you are looking for a longer, less travelled path, you can continue up to the upper falls, which are gorgeous, but the trail is a bit steeper. There is also a small restaurant and gift shop here that are open during the summer season. The trail is open year-round but slippery during the spring and fall months.
The small town of Lake Louise offers a few hotels, motels, and campgrounds, along with some shops and, of course, the Visitor’s Center. During high season it is recommended to make hotel or campground reservations in advance.
The famous turquoise lake of Lake Louise is of course the highlight of the area. Chateau Lake Louise provides high class accommodations and meal choices, the lake has canoeing and kayaking during the summer and skating during the winter, and you can choose from a variety of hikes in the immediate area, including one that takes you to a teahouse high on the mountain.
Lake Louise Gondola
You don’t need to be skiing to access this gondola, in fact, if you are visiting during the summer and want to see some wildlife, this is an excellent option. Along with the phenomenal views you will get to experience Interpretive Programs and the Center.
One of the most photographed lakes in the country, Moraine Lake is also the one featured on the back of the Canadian $20 bill. This beautiful spot, only 14 kms from the town of Lake Louise, is definitely worth a visit while you are in the area.
**During peak tourist season, you will have to park at Lake Louise Overflow Parking lot and take the shuttle to see the two lakes due to extremely high traffic.**
IV. Lake Louise to Jasper
Drive distance: 233 kms
Drive time: approximately 3 hours
The route between Lake Louise and Jasper, through the two National Parks, will take you through spectacular mountains, glaciers, icefields, and along the river valley. There are many places to pull off the Icefields Parkway to take pictures, along with a variety of activities and plenty of hiking opportunities. Plan to take all day to get to Jasper, because along with the pictures stops and activities you will find that the two-lane highway is a bit slow going, with steeper passes and all the mountain curves.
From the town of Lake Louise, you want to take the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) north. The junction is about five minutes out of town, follow the road signs. There are so many places to stop along this highway that in this article it is impossible to list them all, but there are a few major ones that you should keep your eyes open for. The first is the pull out for Bow Summit and Peyto Lake. The glacier fed lake offers a photo op that you won’t want to miss out on. There is a short paved trail that you will need to walk to get to the summit where the best views are from.
About a half hour farther up the highway you will come across Saskatchewan Crossing, which is your last opportunity to get gas along the highway. This was a historic place used by fur traders and explorers since 1807. You will also find a gift shop, restaurant and accommodations here.
Just up the highway from Saskatchewan crossing you will want to keep your eyes open for the Weeping Wall, on the right-hand side of the highway. This is a series of waterfalls that fall more than 100 meters off Cirrus Mountain. Farther up the road you should be able to glimpse Bridal Veil Falls across the valley.
The biggest attraction along the highway is the Columbia Icefields Discovery Center and Glacier Skywalk. The glacier is accessible by tours from the Discovery Center, where you can also purchase your entry to the Skywalk. Not only can you walk on a glacier, you will also be able to feel as if you are flying as you venture out onto the glass bottomed skywalk.
Heading north, you will see Tangle Falls come up on the right-hand side of the road but look for the parking lot on the opposite side and be careful when crossing. About 45 kilometers from the Columbia Icefields, you will find the access road to Sunwapta Falls on the left. This is worth a stop as they have an impressive drop off of about 18 meters. There is a path that takes you to the viewpoint of the upper falls and then continues to the lower falls. There is a lodge and restaurant nearby if you are looking for a unique place to stay.
About fifteen minutes north of Sunwapta you will come across the Kerkeslin Goat Lick. Watch for slow to 50-kilometer signs with an image of a goat. Mountain goats come to this area to lick the salty mineral deposits and they are often along the roadside or on the road itself. You will find a small parking area on the left side of the road if you would like to stop for a short hike. Follow the trail up to the lookout area that offers views across the Athabasca River to the impressive surrounding mountains.
Once you arrive into the town of Jasper, you will find plenty of hotels, shops, restaurants, activities and campgrounds.
Just outside of the town of Jasper you will find an impressively powerful waterfall. While not high, the sheer amount of water flowing over the class five waterfall will impressive you. A short walk takes you to the best viewpoints, or you can choose to do a slightly longer hike around the area.
This amazing canyon is over 50 feet deep and is considered one of the most interesting canyons in the parks. Interpretive signs will take you along the well-worn trail and bridges, past waterfalls and beautiful scenery. To do the entire hike you will need about four hours in total.
Not to be confused with the canyon of the same name, Maligne Lake is another must see while in the area. You can canoe, kayak, and even swim in the cool waters here, or take a boat tour to see Spirit Island, one of most beautiful places you will set your eyes on.
Mount Edith Cavell
An excellent place to get close up to a glacier, Mount Edith Cavell is the most prominent peak in the area. Take the short hike on a well marked trail to see Angel Glacier and Cavell Glacier.
Just like the other skytrams in the Rockies, this one offers amazing views of the surrounding peaks and valleys, along with trails along the top to allow you to explore on your own.
Planetarium at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Jasper has one of the largest dark sky reserves in the world, so it makes sense to visit the planetarium here to get a good look at the heavens. There is a dome theater and telescope here and you don’t need to be a guest at the lodge to enjoy them.
** Add Edmonton to Your Trip – Edmonton to Jasper Circle Tour **
V. Jasper to Wells Grey Provincial Park
Drive distance: 318 kms
Driving time: approximately 3.5 hours
Travelling west from Jasper on Highway 16 you will find several lovely rest stops which will provide you chances to not only stretch your legs but enjoy the scenery and some history.
You will cross the Alberta/BC border, so don’t forget to turn your watch back an hour. Mount Robson Provincial Park is located about a half hour outside of Jasper and should be your first stop along this route. Mount Robson is the highest peak in the Rockies at 3,954 meters above sea level and this stop will give you the chance to take some pics of the peak, as well as check out the Visitor’s Center here. During summer months there is a gift shop and restaurant that are open. Camping is available here as well.
A very short distance down the road, on the left-hand side you will find the rest stop at Mount Terry Fox Provincial Park. Along with some very clean (and warm, if you happen to be travelling in bad weather) bathrooms, there is a nice picnic area, interpretive signs and a short hike down to some neat lookouts of the river. Rearguard Falls Provincial Park is also in this area, which is the end of the long journey that Chinook Salmon take.
Adventure activities abound here, including hiking, rafting, skiing, fishing, swimming, biking, golf, paragliding and more! It would be very easy to spend several days here enjoying the outdoors.
The best place to stay while in Wells Grey is in Clearwater, where there are a variety of accommodations and campgrounds.
VI. Wells Grey Provincial Park to Kamloops
Drive distance: 123 kms
Driving time: approximately 1.25 hours
Leaving Clearwater, you will head south on Highway 5 to the city of Kamloops. Along the way stop at the Louis Creek Fire Monument, just under an hour away from Wells Grey.
The Wildfire Dragon Monument and Spirit Square, just off Highway 5 is in remembrance to those afflicted by the raging wildfire that destroyed the area in 2003. If you want to get off the highway and take a back route to Kamloops, take the ferry from McClure to skirt the Lac du Bois grasslands protected area.
Arriving into the city along this route will give you some great photo opportunities and lasting memories. Kamloops itself is host to a wide variety of sites and activities, along with plenty of accommodation and restaurant options.
BC Wildlife Park
While you may have had the opportunity to see wildlife along the highways as you travel, this is an excellent site to visit to get information about the local wildlife. A wide variety of animals to see, along with exhibits and demonstrations makes this an enjoyable stop for all ages.
Kamloops Heritage Railway
For train lovers, this is a great place to visit to see some beautifully restored trains. Here you can ride the rails on a historic steam train or get a behind the scenes visit to see restored train cars and engines.
Kamloops Museum and Archives
In place since 1937, the archives and museum here hold an amazing amount of history of the area. Well worth an hour or two, there are plenty of both permanent and rotating exhibits to enjoy.
Privato Vineyard & Winery
This family owned, boutique winery has won several awards for their wines and is a hidden gem in the Kamloops area. A tasting room will give you an opportunity to try out some of their excellent wines and if you like, you can take a tour of the garden, vineyard and winery.
Sun Peaks Resort
During the summer months the resort offers plenty of opportunities to hike, bike, and golf; during the winter you will find excellent skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities.
VII. Kamloops to Whistler
Drive distance: 299 kms
Driving time: approximately 4.25 hours
When you have had enough of enjoying the Kamloops area, head on out on Highway 1 west to Cache Creek, just an hour away. Stop here for gas or snacks if you like before turning north on to Highway 97, the historic Caribou Highway. You will turn left onto Highway 99, where you can stop at the Historic Hat Creek. Here you can explore the history of the roadhouse and B.C. Express, along with enjoying a stagecoach ride and other fun activities.
Highway 99 is going to take you on a wandering journey through mountain byways, with incredible views and numerous places to stop, walk, rest and take pictures. This is called the Gold Nugget Route. Make sure you stop at the viewpoint at Lillooet. This is Mile zero for the 1858 Cariboo Wagon Road. At Pemberton you can stop to see Nairn Falls – there is a wooded trail leads to the falls. The journey will take you to the famous mountain village of Whistler, where you will find beautiful hotels and amazing restaurants amongst some of the most gorgeous scenery you will find anywhere.
Peak to Peak Gondola
Part of the longest and highest lifts in the world, this gondola has actually made the Guinness Book of Records. This is definitely a once in a lifetime experience and only a small part of what is available at Whistler Blackcomb.
Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
Take a step into the culture of the First Nations here with a visit to the Cultural Centre. Showcasing the art, history and culture of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations, this centre gives visitors an opportunity to learn more about the area through stories and exhibits.
Audain Art Museum
A fairly recent addition to the village, the art museum was established in 2016 to provide visitors an opportunity to appreciate the amazingly diverse art of British Columbia. Guided tours are available and included in the admission fee.
VIII. Whistler to Tofino
Travel distance: 372 kms
Travel time: approximately 6.5 hours (please note this includes a ferry)
The Sea to Sky Highway is one of the most travelled in the province but understandably so, as it provides amazing views and scenery along the route. Today you will be heading south towards Vancouver to take a ferry to Vancouver Island and then on to Tofino. Head south on Highway 99 and be prepared for lots of stops along the way.
Less than half an hour down the highway from Whistler you will come to Brandywine Falls Provincial Park. The falls are a spectacular 70-feet long with an easily accessible viewpoint.
The Tantalus lookout point on the right side of the road will give you a chance to stop and take some pics of the Tantalus range in the distance. The lookouts and viewpoints along the highway are well marked with signage indicating where they are, so you don’t have to worry about missing them. The town of Squamish is about another 30 minutes farther, and here you will find the Sea to Sky Gondola. Ride to the summit for great views and take advantage of the interpretive walking trails available at the top, with unique viewing platforms and a suspension bridge.
In the area you are also going to find the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, in which resides one of the largest granite monoliths in the world. If you have time, doing some hiking here.
From Squamish continue on Highway 99 to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and follow your GPS or the road signs to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry that will take you to Nanaimo. Ferry times may vary, you can reserve your space online.
Arriving into Nanaimo gives you the opportunity to enjoy some activities in the area, including the unique Nanaimo Bar Trail. Just stop at the Visitor’s Center for a brochure. Along this route you will be able to try out a variety of sweets, including the classic Nanaimo Bars, deep fried Nanaimo Bars, Nanaimo Bars cupcakes, and so on and so on. Of course there are many other things to experience in Nanaimo as well, since it is the 3rd oldest city in British Columbia, such as The Bastion, which was built by Hudson’s Bay workers in 1853 and has three floors of exhibits to enjoy.
Leaving Nanaimo, you travel on Island Highway E/BC 19 to the town of Parksville, where you should take a short 5-minute detour to Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. There are two stunning waterfalls here that you can view, surrounded by the old growth forest that the island is famous for.
Coombs is your next stop along the route, mainly to visit Coombs Old Country Market. Along with an opportunity to visit the shop, eat some ice cream, or grab some unique snacks, one of the best things about the market is the goats on the roof. Yes, it’s true, just look up! Butterfly World, in Coombs, is much more than it seems, stop to visit to see the amazing butterflies along with turtles, tortoises, reptiles and koi. You are going to continue through Port Alberni to Tofino. The town is a popular spot for whale watching, beaches and nearby wilderness areas. It can be very busy during the summer months; it is advisable to reserve accommodations or campsites in advance.
The Carving Shed at the Wickaninnish Inn
Home to the late carver Henry Nolla, the carving shed gives you a chance to see how the famous carvings are created.
Tofino Heritage Museum
You can find this interesting museum right in the downtown area of Tofino. With fantastic stories of the families of the area, along with interesting historical and cultural exhibits, this is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon.
Historic Walking Tours
Hosted by the museum, there are several tours available to provide you with history and stories. Please note that these tours are only available in the summer months and have a suggested donation fee.
Hot Springs Cove
An off the beaten track destination, the springs are located on an island just off the coast. There is a short boardwalk to take you to natural springs with phenomenal views. Only accessible by plane or boat, this activity should be booked in advance.
IX. The Pacific Rim
Drive distance: 210 kms from Tofino, 197 kms to Victoria
Driving time: approximately 3.75 hours from Tofino, 3.5 hours to Victoria
The gorgeous Pacific Rim National Park is located south of Tofino and you have to pass back through Port Alberni to access it. If you have time, stop to visit the McLean Mill Historic Site in Port Alberni, where you can learn about the history of the logging community, see old original buildings, and restored logging equipment around the site including a steam donkey, logging trucks, graders, and lumber carriers. The Maritime Discovery Centre in Port Alberni is also worth a visit, as it is constructed from an original lighthouse and provides information on the history of the maritime culture on the west coast of the island.
Most visitors spend time at Long Beach, on the famous West Coast Trail, surfing, hiking, fishing or paddling to the Broken Group Islands. There are interpretive programs and First Nations cultural experiences to be enjoyed as well. Unless you are camping, the majority of accommodations are available in Ucluelet, or Tofino, so plan your days accordingly.
X. On to Victoria
Drive distance: 197 kms from Pacific Rim, 316 kms from Tofino
Driving time: approximately 3.5 hours from Pacific Rim, 4.25 from Tofino
If you are travelling to Victoria from Tofino, you will return along the same highway to Nanaimo, then head south along the coast on Highway 1.
A half hour from Nanaimo you will come across the charming town of Chemainus, which has an amazing number of murals to enjoy. Another 20-minute drive will take you to Duncan, which is home to more than 40 beautifully carved totem poles.
There are several vineyards in the area that welcome visitors, and Duncan is also home to the Pacific Northwest Raptor Center. The Center is an excellent opportunity for travellers to see birds of prey and demonstrations.
The historic Kinsol Trestle is found nearby. It is one of the tallest free-standing and most spectacular timber rail trestle structures in the world.
Your destination today is the beautiful coastal city of Victoria, which has an abundance of history and culture. The parks and harbour, along with historical buildings such as the iconic Empress Hotel, make this city a place that visitors will want to spend several days in.
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A national historic site and a unique place to visit in the city of Victoria, the Castle is a piece of history from the Victorian Era, built by a coal baron. Filled with the family’s original household items, displays and exhibits, allow for at least two hours to enjoy this site.
Royal BC Museum
This is one of best museums in Canada and well worth a half day to full day visit. Conveniently located in the center of the city, the exhibits here focus on 9,000 years of human history along with the longer natural history of the area.
The Maritime Museum of British Columbia
Being located on the ocean, it makes sense that Victoria is home to this Maritime Museum. Built to provide visitors with a history of marine life and culture of the Pacific Northwest.
The Butchart Gardens
An incredible display of a variety of plants and flowers, Butchart Gardens has been around for more than 100 years and has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada. You need at least half a day to enjoy the gardens, café and gift shop.
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
One of the most popular sites in the city, the Butterfly Gardens are a unique place to spend some time. Thousands of butterflies surround you as you make your way through these gardens to learn about the different types and try to catch some pictures of them!
XI. The Island to Vancouver
Drive distance: approximately 115 kms
Driving time: approximately 3.25 hours (this route includes a ferry)
Departing Victoria, you will head towards Swartz Bay on Highway 17. This is a different route to take you back to Vancouver. You will take the ferry from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen, which is located in the city of Delta.
From here you can make your way through Delta and Richmond, to the city of Vancouver, or to any one of the surrounding cities to stay. The metro Vancouver area includes Vancouver, West & North Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster, Surrey, White Rock, Delta, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Langley, Maple Ridge, and Port Moody, all which provide an abundance of sites and activities to experience.
It is impossible to list every activity or site here, so this is just a taste of what you may find to keep you busy.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Probably the best-known site in the Vancouver area, this site offers much more than just the bridge. The 450-foot-long suspension bridge hangs 230 feet above the river and is the start of an adventure that includes an incredible cliff walk, a treetop walk, story center, and a living forest.
This 405-hectare park is easily accessible from the downtown core of the city and offers multiple biking and walking opportunities through different landscapes. The popular seawall walk takes you around the edge of the park, while other trails lead through old growth trees and wetland areas. View finely carved totem poles and a rose garden among other sights here.
The original settlement area that has grown into the city it is today, this area is actually a national historic site. Full of quirky shops and restaurants, the historic sector is also home to one of the only steam clocks in the world. It chimes every fifteen minutes, giving visitors lots of opportunities to get some videos and pics of this unique sight.
A fun, unique area to spend some time, Granville Island has a variety of shops, restaurants and activities, along with a fresh food market and seasonal events. There is history here too, so take the time to explore and get to know the Island.
VanDusen Botanical Garden
The gardens change with the seasons and offer a unique way of enjoying the outdoors in the center of the city. Along with the gardens, here you can find one of the few hedge mazes in North America, made of 3,000 pyramidal cedars all planted in the autumn of 1981 and slowly grown into the form of the maze one finds today.
X. Vancouver to Penticton and the Okanagan Valley
Drive distance: 412 kms
Driving time: approximately 4.75 hours
When you are ready to continue travelling on, you will be taking the southern route to get to the Okanogan Valley area through some beautiful countryside and interesting areas. Head out of the city on Highway 1, passing through Abbotsford and Chilliwack and on to the mountain town of Hope.
During the month of April, in Abbotsford, you can see amazing tulip fields! About half an hour before you arrive in Hope, you will see the turn off for the famous Harrison Hot Springs. Not only do you have a chance to relax in the springs here, there is also a quirky Sasquatch Museum where you can decide if it is myth or reality.
The town of Hope is a good place to get out to stretch your legs as well, with its walking tour of the 80-plus wood carved structures throughout the town. You can get your Chainsaw Carvings walking tour brochure from the Visitor’s Center.
From Hope you will leave the main highway to travel on a southernly route on Highway 3. This highway, referred to as the Crows Nest Pass Highway is the southernmost rail and highway route through the Canadian Rockies.
Keep your eyes open for the Hope Slide Rest Area, where you can view the historic Hope Slide. Two interpretive signs tell of the story of the massive rockslide. The Hope Slide was one of the largest landslides ever recorded in Canada.
An hour down the road you will come to E. C. Manning Provincial Park. This park is located in the Cascade Mountains and has endless outdoor activities available, such as swimming, hiking, camping, boating, fishing, biking, hunting, horseback riding, and interpretive walks. This is one of the most popular provincial parks and can be quite busy during high season. The Rhododendron Flats’ Interpretive Walk is interesting, especially in mid-June when the rare and lovely shrub, the Red Rhododendron, blooms.
From Manning, another hour and a half of driving will take you to the neat little mining town of Hedley, which became famous in 1897 with the discovery of gold. Travellers should stop to explore the Mascot Mine, which has become an interpretive center that provides guided tours. The Hedley Museum is also a great place to see artifacts and exhibits based on the history of gold mining here.
At Keremeos you come to the junction of highways, where you will turn on a northern easterly route on Highway 3A towards Penticton. Keremeos is a small town which holds a lot of both natural phenomena and history. The river is a perfect place for a dip or a tube ride on a hot day, but the most interesting natural area is the Keremeos Columns, which are unique volcanic monuments, created in the same fashion as the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Please note that to view these there is a difficult hike involved, please plan accordingly.
There are plenty of wineries in the region to visit and sample at, and the area has recently have been named “one of the world’s 5 best wine regions you’ve never heard of”. Another unique place to stop here is the Grist Mill, where you can see flour still being ground, amongst other exhibits and, of course, get some fantastic fresh baked goodies at the on-site café.
Your destination today is the Okanagan Valley, which is part of the Thompson Okanagan Region which encompasses an area approximately the same size as Ireland and is home to 90 communities and over 200 licensed wineries, not to mention the numerous orchards and farms that provide fresh produce. This region was officially certified as the first destination in the Americas to have successfully achieved the Sustainable Tourism Accreditation.
Turning north onto Highway 97, Penticton is the next town on the route and may be your stopping point for the day, depending on your travel plan. Along with Penticton, there are many places to stay in the region, from traditional hotels and campgrounds to B&B’s, cabins, and farms.
The Peach Ice Cream Shop
Generally known as “the peach on the beach” this is a fun stop to get some great cold treats and snap a selfie at this fun building. Located right on the beach of Okanagan Lake, you might as well get in some sand time as well.
Craft Breweries and Ale Trail
There are five craft breweries in Penticton, so if you need a break from wine tastings these are the places to visit. Pick up a copy of the Penticton Ale Trail passport at the Visitor Centre or any of the breweries and get it stamped at each brewery for your chance to win great prizes.
Kettle Valley Railway
Just twenty minutes outside of the city you are going to find the historic steam train of the Kettle Valley Railway. Ten miles of track takes you through vineyards and orchards, across a bridge and along the only preserved section of this historic track.
Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park
Some of the best climbing can be found here in this provincial park along its canyons. Hiking trails are also available for use and there are lots of wildlife sighting opportunities. Novices can book a guided climb with one of the reliable companies in the city.
The way to truly experience the lake is on the water. Sailing, houseboating, power boating, parasailing, and swimming from the many beaches are all activities that you may want to consider as you travel through the area. Grab a sunset dinner cruise on a tour boat or rent your own vessel to enjoy time on your own. You may even get a chance to see the elusive Ogopogo, the world famous lake monster that is said to inhabit the lake.
XI. Experiencing the Okanagan Valley to Kelowna
Drive distance: 50 kms
Driving time: approximately 45 minutes
The drive between Penticton and Kelowna will take you through a multitude of orchards, vineyards and beach areas as you continue through the Okanagan Valley.
There are two main towns along the highway, the first being Summerland. Here you can stop to get fresh fruit (during the summer months) at one of the many vendors lined along the highway or stop in at Summerland Sweets for some tastings. Giant’s Head Park here offers excellent views of the lake from viewpoints along the road and for those who would like to get some walking in, you can hike to the top to see even farther. Of course, there are plenty of wineries in the area if that is what you are looking for. You can download an attractions map from the Summerland website.
The second town along the way is Peachland. The name should say it all, as this is a great place to get fresh produce from the many orchards here or to visit yet another vineyard. Check out the unique Parrot Sanctuary as you are passing through, they rescue abandoned and abused exotic birds and let visitors have the chance to get up close and personal to learn about care of these beautiful birds. Hardy Falls is also a great place to get out to stretch your legs and see some beautiful scenery. A short five to ten-minute walk will take you through a canyon to reach the falls. In late fall you can view the salmon running in the river.
The city of Kelowna offers a variety of activities, accommodations and restaurants, and with the general good weather, you may find you want to spend several nights here.
SS Sicamous Okanagan Heritage Museum
Open seasonally, this site gives visitors a chance to see what an impact the sternwheelers and tugs had on the province. There were once sternwheelers and tugs all over the lakes and rivers of BC, with few remaining today.
The Japanese Gardens located in central Kelowna offer a piece of quiet space in the city. This is a seasonal garden which has all the traditional aspects of Japanese gardens, including the koi.
Check out a sustainable way to visit the wineries in the area with one of the suggested itineraries in the area.
There is something that is so much fun about picking your own fruit, and in this area, there are plenty of places to choose from to do just that. The fruit options will change as the summer progresses.
XII. Kelowna to Revelstoke
Drive distance: 197 kms
Driving time: approximately 2.5 hours
Along the route there are several things to see and do though, so driving this short distance may take the entire day.
Stop in the town of Vernon to visit the interesting, historic O’Keefe Ranch to get a glimpse into western life in the province. Founded in 1867, this is a town on its own. Nearby you will find the Planet Bee Honey Farm & Meadery, where a visit will allow you to not only taste the mead and other honey products, but also watch the bees working away to make their delicious honey.
Down the highway you will come across the small town of Sicamous, where you can stop to treat yourself to a tasty, homemade snack at the D Dutchman Dairy. Continuing on, you will come to Craigellachie, where you can find the historic marker for the Last Spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Fun for kids of all ages, this forest is full of enchanted figures and fun miniatures.
Three Valley Gap
Three Valley Gap is the next stop along the route, if you want you can stay at the hotel here. Otherwise just stop in for a visit, the historic buildings and exhibits in the Historic Ghost Town provide for much entertainment. Revelstoke is the main place to stay in the region, with plenty of hotels, campgrounds, resorts, shops and restaurants to enjoy.
Meadows in the Sky Parkway
This is such a cool place to visit that it is worth the effort to get there. Drive yourself up to catch the Summit Shuttle, then just enjoy the stunning views, the historic fire tower and the alpine flowers.
Gondola Ride at Revelstoke Mountain Resort
Venture up the gondola for breathtaking views and hiking opportunities, along with a great breakfast or lunch spot!
Revelstoke Railway Museum
This seasonal museum is one of the best rail museums in the country and affords visitors a chance to see some fantastic rail exhibits along with preserved engines and rail cars.
XIII. Revelstoke to Glacier National Park
Drive distance: 47 kms
Driving time: approximately 30 minutes
The journey today will take you to many of the sights in the park. Look out for the many pull offs and signs indicating there is something interesting to stop and see.
The Giant Cedar’s Boardwalk Trail is found approximately 20 minutes outside of the city. This short half kilometer boardwalk will get you out amongst the cedars that can be hundreds of years old.
Your next stop should be at Canyon Hot Springs Resort where you can soak your worries away in the mineral springs. This is also one of the few places in the area that has cabins to stay in.
The Hemlock Grove Boardwalk Trail can be found about 15 minutes farther down the highway from the hot springs. This is another very short walk that will take you through this amazing forest.
The Loop Brook Trail is another 10 minutes farther and a bit more challenging but still less than a 2-kilometer walk. The trail takes you past old railway pillars and through interesting terrain.
A great stop along this highway is the Roger’s Pass Discovery Centre, which, of course, provides you with all the information you would like about the discovery of the Pass and the history of the area. With a theatre and exhibits, this is a great place to visit!
The next notable stop is at Bear Creek Falls. Less than a mile long, this easily accessible trail takes you to a beautiful waterfall. From here it is only about a 45-minute drive to the town of Golden. There are no hotel accommodations available in the park itself, visitors who are not camping can stay in Revelstoke, Golden or Field.
XIV. And onwards to Yoho National Park
Drive distance: 81 kms
Driving time: approximately 55 minutes
Yoho National Park lies along the western side of the Continental Divide and offers so many natural wonders and outdoor activities that it will be hard to choose what to do while you are there.
You may have spent the night in Golden or chosen to camp along the route, or maybe are coming from Revelstoke. No matter how you are travelling the highway, it is fun to stop in Golden to see some of the sites.
Take a walk across the Kicking Horse River Pedestrian Bridge, at 151 feet across, it’s the longest freestanding timber frame bridge in Canada.
The Golden Museum is also worth some time to learn about the fantastic history of the town and the area. For a bit longer of a stroll, take a hike to the beautiful Thompson Falls, named after the explorer David Thompson, who came through the area in 1807.
Spectacular scenery greets you as you travel into Yoho National Park. Here you can find 28 mountain peaks, over 400 kilometers in hiking trails and an amazing number of waterfalls. Most travellers stay in or around the town of Field, where you will find the most hotels, shops, restaurants and campgrounds.
Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge
One of the most beautiful turquoise lakes in the area, you can check out the natural bridge and the Kicking Horse River than runs there, carving its mark through the rock.
Part of the Kicking Horse River, this is the largest waterfall on the river. There is a 4.6 kilometer walk that take you through amazing scenery to reach the base.
Burgess Shale Fossil Beds
Please note that these are accessed by guided tour only and it is advisable to make reservations well in advance. Part of the oldest and most significant fossil beds in the world, this is such a unique place to visit that it has been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also take some time at the Visitor’s Center which hosts many exhibits about the area.
During the summer months you can stop at the viewpoints to see this cool sight. There are about 30 trains a day that still pass this way, and at the viewpoints you can learn about why the tunnels were made and how they work.
Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site
In the same area as the Spiral Tunnels you will come across the highest point in the pass on the TransCanada Highway.
XV. Continuing on to Radium Hot Springs
Drive distance: 131 kms
Driving time: approximately 1.5 hours
There are many picture worthy stops and spots along the short route to Radium Hot Springs and you should be able to find pull outs to accommodate you when you want to stop. You are going to pass back through the town of Golden and head south down Highway 95 to get to your next destination.
Radium is considered one of the best mountain getaways in the province and you will certainly find enough to keep you occupied here if you choose to spend a whole day in the area. The village offers accommodations, restaurants, camping and, of course, the springs themselves. There are many hiking opportunities to be had in the area, along with other adventures activities. Tour operators and outfitters can be found in the village to help you visit the most remote areas.
Valley Zipline Adventures
This fun-filled, seasonal adventure takes you on seven ziplines over a period of an hour and a half. Zipping over and through the Dry Gulch Valley, your views will be of the Columbia Valley Wetlands and the incredible Purell Mountain range.
Radium Hot Springs Pools
Sporting a beautiful backdrop of the Kootenay’s, the pools range from 37ºC and 40ºC, and it is a family friendly facility, with spa services available. You can choose to purchase a one-time entry or day pass for multiple entries.
Scootin Kootenay Tours
Why not head out on a Segway tour to experience the area in a completely different way? This is a unique off-road experience that you are unlikely to find anywhere else.
Rafting in the Rockies
Another adventure awaits you as you board your raft to take on the Class II and Class III rapids along the Kootenay River. There are two trips available that are open to rafters and visitors of all ages and abilities.
XVI. Radium Hot Springs returning to Calgary
Drive distance: Approximately 260 kms
Drive time: Approximately 3 hours
The end of your journey has arrived as you return to the city of Calgary. Departing Radium you will find that you are returning along some of the same route as you started off on, so if you weren’t able to visit some of the sites before, you could consider putting them into your schedule now. Today you will continue through the spectacular Rockies, travelling through Kootenay National Park. There is plenty to do here. From Radium, take Highway 93 northeast to meet up with Highway 1 at Castle Junction. From there you will be returning through Banff and Canmore to the city.
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