Road trips across BC and Alberta are the backbone of many Canadian childhoods, including my own. Sitting in the back of my parents’ green Cherokee, blasting my Walkman so I didn’t have to hear my dad’s cheesy covers of Fleetwood Mac, is a memory that I still cherish 13 years later. Our family road trips were an annual ritual, and I was lucky enough to see much of Canada’s beauty this way. A particular memory that sticks out is walking through the ice fields at the glacier parkway near Jasper. I remember thinking how miraculous it was. I was only 11 at the time, but I knew how special it was to be standing on the vast thick sheet of ice, being engulfed by the ice cliffs around me.
And the ice cliffs are only the beginning of the incredible scenery on offer! Canada is constantly in the spotlight for being one of the most beautiful countries in the entire world. So, this summer, why not forget about those awfully long airport lines and the low Canadian dollar, and enjoy travelling your backyard.
Here are a few suggested routes in Western Canada to inspire your next summer road trip. Along the way, you’ll find amazing activities and attractions, accommodations that range from charming log cabins to lavish resorts, and a wonderful selection of great restaurants to try.
Route 1: Calgary → Fernie → Kimberley → Osoyoos
If you live in Calgary or surrounding Southern Alberta, heading west to the Okanagan is a wonderful choice. With so many great destinations set amongst a beautiful Rockies backdrop, be prepared for days jam-packed with outdoor fun. At night, retreat to a fabulous resort or serene log cabin after hiking the mountains, experiencing quaint local townships, or tasting famous Okanagan wines.
Conveniently located on Highway 3, Fernie is an old mining town surrounded by the Canadian Rockies and renowned for its myriad of outdoor activities including mountain biking, hiking and kayaking. While offering an abundance of wonderful mountain accommodations ranging from quaint, authentic log cabins, to luxury resorts with fabulous amenities, Fernie is for sure a worthwhile destination to stop in.
Spend a few hours experiencing Fernie culture by walking the downtown centre and exploring to local shops and restaurants. Afterwards, walk or hike one of the many beautiful trails nearby, as Fernie’s mountain scenery is breathtaking. Try your hand at mountain biking at Fernie Alpine Resort – it’s famous for its variety of excellent runs. If you’re travelling with kids, visit the Aerial Park & Zipline at the resort, which offers a mini track that’s free for small children.
Insider’s tip: while walking through the downtown centre, stop by Beanpod, a traditional bean-to-bar café, where they make their own chocolate and gelato in-house. Don’t miss a chance to witness traditional chocolate making techniques!
Enclosed by the Kootenay Rockies, Kimberley is a vibrant community with an abundance of European charm. Walk through the downtown “platz” – a pedestrian-friendly walking area, and be greeted by the huge town cuckoo clock!
Known as the “City of Festivals”, Kimberley’s summer events include the famous JulyFest and Round the Mountain Festival. There are a number of recreational activities to keep families busy like whitewater rafting or fishing, and Kimberly is also home to one of the largest municipal parks in Canada – great for hiking or biking. Visit the underground mining railway and afterwards have a delicious meal at one of Kimberley’s popular restaurants.
Note: on your way to Osoyoos from Kimberley, consider stopping off in Nelson where you will find really fantastic art shops and friendly cafes along highly regarded Baker Street. Nelson is known for its welcoming and eclectic community, and is really worth the visit if you have the time.
Osoyoos is a summer traveler’s paradise. Deemed as one of Canada’s best wine countries, spend your day exploring the beautiful vineyards and tasting some of the best wines BC has to offer. There are plenty of beach resorts and modern condos available for your stay, many of them steps away from the lake. Relax by the water and engage in water sports like boating, paddleboarding and skidooing are some of the most popular and accessible activities in Osoyoos.
Did you also know that there is a 4000 sq.ft. desert model railroad for viewing in town? An impressive site, all the models are hand painted and there are 45 computer-controlled trains running through various intricate landscapes. The detail in the work is incredible!
Stop by Jojo’s Coffee Shop for an excellent breakfast or lunch – Leavetown guests receive a free drip coffee with any purchase!
Route 2: Vancouver → Revelstoke → Golden → Banff → Canmore
Get out of the city and head east along Highway 1 in search of stunning mountain scenery and endless outdoor pursuits. This route hits some of the country’s hottest tourist spots and along the way there are plenty of excellent viewpoints, winding mountain roads, and wildlife-spotting opportunities.
As a vibrant mountain community, Revelstoke is a widely popular ski resort. However, when the snow begins to melt and summer is in full effect, Revelstoke offers a plethora of things to do and see. Take in the forest-covered mountains, and feel at peace while being by the Columbia River. In the evenings, enjoy free family-friendly music events at Grizzly Plaza.
Relax in Canyon Hot Springs, paraglide over the Selkirk and Monashee mountain ranges, hike over glaciers and around alpine-lakes or paddleboard Revelstoke Lake. Revelstoke is a vast outdoor playground, suitable for all ages. Be sure to check out Revelstoke’s exciting new Pipe Mountain Coaster, a track that can take you for a relaxing coast through the mountain trees, or a white-knuckling, pulse-pumping charge!
Consider lodging at Sutton Place, where fabulous amenities and luxurious rooms await you.
Snug in between the Columbia Mountains and the Rockies, Golden is a small community that’s packed with alpine adventures.
Situated at the edge of Golden township, Kicking Horse Resort hosts a number of unique experiences and fabulous accommodations. Visit Boo, the resident orphaned Grizzly at the Grizzly Bear Refuge Centre, or check out the Northern Lights Wolf Centre. At Kicking Horse, you can also ride the gondola up to 7700 ft and hike along ridgelines and straight up to one of the areas accessible peaks. To make a mountain-adventuring day even more spectacular, consider grabbing a bite at one of the most unique and elevated restaurants in North America. Eagle’s Eye Restaurant is on the top of the Purcell Mountains, providing you with an unforgettable view and the ultimate dining experience after your day of hiking. You’ll feel on top of the world!
Banff is world renowned for its stunning landscapes. Packed with wildlife, great restaurants, fabulous accommodations, breath-taking mountain views and glacier blue lakes, it’s impossible to touch upon all the wonders of this area.
While you’re in the area, make sure to visit famous Lake Louise. The mountain-range backdrop amidst the aqua blue lake is nothing short of magical. While you’re there, start at Lake Louise and hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House. Perched by the side of the alpine lake, this family-run tea house offers specialty teas and amazing homemade baked goods. It’s a family-friendly affair, usually taking hikers 1-2 hours to reach the charming attraction.
Lake Louise is just one of many stunning mountain lakes sprawled throughout Banff National Park. Another is the famous Minnewanka Lake, or take a drive a little further to Lake Moraine. A day-trip to Johnston Canyon to walk alongside the ice-blue river is both scenic and relaxing. Nearer to Banff township, visit the Cave and Basin National Historic Site that has a fully accessible underground cave, which makes for an incredibly unique experience. If you’re looking for a soothing, relaxing day, look into the Upper Hot Springs Pool, where you can lounge in a hot spring with majestic mountain views. If you want even more of that mountain scenery, take a ride on the Sulphur Mountain Gondola that takes you to the summit of Sulphur Mountain. From there you can walk several scenic hiking trails, including the self-guided interpretive Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk to Sanson’s Peak.
Canmore is a great stop for those who love their days to be action-packed. Located 5 minutes outside of Banff National Park and just 20 minutes from Banff town, Canmore is the perfect base for exploring the Alberta Rockies. Though tucked away in nature, Canmore has a bustling downtown city centre full of delicious restaurants, cafes, and culture-rich venues.
Hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking and golfing are all easily accessible, and fit to fulfill all exploration needs. If you’re looking for a really unique experience, book the Adventure Cave Tour, where a guide will walk you through ancient caves. Don’t forget to bring your camera; the scenery will set everything for you – no need to hunt for that perfect shot!
There’s a long list of luxurious and family-friendly resorts available in Canmore, all equipped with great amenities. This destination is sure to be a highlight.
Route 3: Vancouver → Whistler (plus a coastal trip through the Sunshine Coast)
Vancouver is a great base that’s close to so many beautiful towns and scenic adventures. A variety of experiences await you, as Vancouver is near to a host of mountain ranges, or coastal regions. No need to plan a trip focusing on one or the other, when both coastal towns and mountain getaways are easily accessible.
The Sunshine Coast hosts a number of charming towns along its beautiful shoreline, creating the perfect environment to immerse visitors in BC’s coastal scenery. Board the ferry, and enjoy the peaceful cruise over the Pacific Ocean. Be sure to be on the lookout for wild marine life, as BC waters are rich with life!
Spend some time in Gibsons, a fishing community along the Howe Sound and Strait of Georgia. This town offers a relaxing and picturesque stop.
Proceeding along the coast, stop in Sechelt, and witness its vibrant arts community. Sechelt offers rocky beaches, and great subathing opportunities. Try kayaking around the beautiful inlet and around some of the stunning nearby islands.
Treat yourself to a stay at the unrivalled Painted Boat Resort for an incredible taste of coastal luxury including harbour views, a nearby rainforest and fantastic amenities.
After a dose of coastal scenery, travel to the mountains for a wonderful change of pace. Tucked among towering snow-capped peaks, surrounded by beautiful parks and host to a charming and lively village centre, Whistler is truly a magical getaway. There are a number of amazing accommodations that allow you to stay right in busy downtown Whistler, or a little further away where it is more quiet and peaceful.
While you’re visiting, be sure to take a trip on the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, where you will travel between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and witness majestic alpine views. Once off the gondola and on the mountain, there’s a vast network of walking/hiking trails available to all visitors. Enjoy a family-friendly walk through mountain rubble, or test your limits along ridgelines and climbing steep elevations. The views of both these mountains are incredibly rewarding.
Spend your day shopping the streets of Whistler Village and treat yourself to meals from one (or a few!) of the town’s fabulous restaurants.
Endless Road Trip Inspiration
These suggestions are just a few of many wonderful road trip routes that will create lasting memories. Talk to our Destination Experts about planning your Canadian road trip. Simply call our experts at 1.877.902.1616, or browse our wide selection of vacation rentals along your desired route if you’d like to consider soaking up some summer sunshine on one of these adventure-packed road trips!