Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back

Tripoto
4th Sep 2017
Photo of Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back by Jens Van De Voorde

In 2017 I went on a roadtrip in Western Canada with my girlfriend. We're a couple from Belgium so it was quite a journey for us to get there in the first place. We took the train from Antwerp to Amsterdam airport (Schiphol), flew from Schiphol to Toronto and finally from Toronto to Vancouver. It took us about 24 hours but the roadtrip made every second of it worthwhile. We planned the whole trip all by ourselves to reduce costs to approximately €2300 per person. We hope that this story can help other travelers who want to experience an amazing roadtrip in Western Canada just like we did. All of the pictures in this story are taken by me or my girlfriend.

Day 1

Vancouver:

At the beginning of our trip we decided to explore the city for a couple of days so we could rest a bit after our journey of 24 hours to get to Vancouver. We arrived late in the evening and were exhausted so we didn't do much the first day.

Day 2

On the second day we did a free walking tour to get to know the city a bit better. In a tour of approximately 2 hours the guide showed us the most important places of downtown Vancouver. I higly recommend the tour because you get to see and know some places a lot better. Some eye-catchers on the tour are Gastown and the steamclock, Vancouver Lookout, Canada Place, statue of gassy jack, ... We were lucky to have a very lively guide who guided us with a big smile during the whole tour.

Gastown Steamclock

Photo of Gastown, Vancouver, Brits-Columbia, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde

After the tour we went to Stanley Park and Vancouver Seawall for a nice walk. Bare in mind that it's a 45 minute walk from Gastown to Vancouver Seawall so put on your best walking shoes. If you're not in for the walk, you can always rent a bike at the numerous bike rentals along the waterfront. The totem poles and the Brockton Point Lighthouse are real eye-catchers on the eastern part of Stanley Park.

Day 3

On the third day we took the bus to Granville Island. I highly recommend to go to the Granville Island Public Market for lunch. You can buy all kinds of fresh food and enjoy eating it on the pier with a nice view over False Creek. After lunch we went for a walk to Kitsilano Beach park which is a very quiet beach to enjoy a nice little walk.

Roadtrip:

On the fourth day we went back to Vancouver International Airport to pick up our rental car for the roadtrip. Afterwards we went to pick up our tenting gear at rent-a-tent Vancouver. We were ready to start our roadtrip!

Day 4

Our first stop was at Harrison Hot Springs but I wouldn't recommend it because there's not a lot to do out there except enjoying the view of Harrison Lake and relaxing. Next up were the Othello tunnels, a couple of old train tunnels. Those tunnels are a real eye-catcher that you wouldn't want to miss if you're in the area. They're a nice combination of the wits of mankind and nature's beauty. We spent the night at Barefoot Beach Resort (camping) in Penticton.

Othello Tunnels

Photo of Othello Tunnels, Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, Hope, Brits-Columbia, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde
Day 5

We started our fifth day buying groceries for the next couple of days. After that we lunched at Kelowna and drove beside some of the numerous wineries in the area. The rest of the day consisted of driving because of the 4 hour drive to get to Nakusp (from Penticton). We didn't mind the driving because a large part of the trip was along the beautiful Highway 6, also known as 'The Needles' because of the large number of pine trees along the road. We spent the night at Three Island Resort (camping) in Nakusp where we slept right beside Summit lake.

Day 6

A 2 hour drive to Nelson was the start of day 6 of our roadtrip. In Nelson we did the Pulpit Rock Trail, a 2 hour hike on rocky paths in between the pine trees. The view you get when you reach the summit is really worth the effort! We spent the night in Kootenay tenting at Birchgrove RV Park & Marina on a nice spot beside the lake.

Day 7

On day 7 we felt the need to do a cultural activity so we went to visit Fort Steele on the way. For me personally it's a must-do when you're in the area. It's a nicely reconstructed fort where history meets you and it's just astonishing with the Rockies as background. Later on we went to Radium Hot Springs to set up our tent at Redstreak Camping Ground and enjoy a swim in one of the hot springs to relax.

Fort Steele

Photo of Fort Steele, Brits-Columbia, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde
Day 8

We finally reached the Rocky Mountains on day 8. Our first stop on our way to Banff was Numa Falls but unfortunately the bridge to get to the waterfalls was broken. But still it was something impressive, nature's power at its best!

Numa Falls

Photo of Numa Falls, East Kootenay G, Brits-Columbia, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde

Next up were the paint pots and Marble Canyon. The paint pots are natural rubiginous mineral sources and were used by the First Nations for paint. A five minute drive gets you to Marble Canyon which is quite a stunning canyon. You can also hike from Paint Pots to Marble Canyon (3 km) but bare in mind that you'll also have to walk back to get to your car.

Path between Paint Pots and Marble Canyon

Photo of Marble Canyon, East Kootenay G, Brits-Columbia, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde

The next stop before setting up our tent in Banff was Johnston Canyon. You can choose between a hike to the lower falls (about 1 hour in total) or to the upper falls (about 2-3 hours in total). Personally we only went to the lower falls. It's a very nice canyon but it was pretty crowded especially compared to Marble Canyon. Afterwards we set up camp at Two Jack Lakeside camping in Banff. Banff is a really nice little city to stroll around in and have a nice dinner in one of the many restaurants.

Day 9

We started off the nineth day visiting Bow Falls in Banff. The falls are nice but nothing compared to the other falls we saw on the rest of the roadtrip. But it's not too far away so it's worth the visit when you're in Banff. After strolling around a bit in the city we went to Lake Louise (town).

First we went to the amazing Moraine Lake but we were unlucky to be there on a rainy, misty day. We couldn't see any of the beautiful mountains in the background but the lake on its own is something very magical. Luckily we planned to come back to Moraine Lake a couple of days later and hopefully have some better weather. We spent the night at Camping Lake Louise.

Moraine Lake

Photo of Moraine Lake, Improvement District No. 9, Alberta, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde
Day 10

It was still rainy on day 10 but that didn't stop us from going to Lake Louise itself. It's a very nice lake but Moraine Lake is much prettier. Afterwards we went to fill up our tank to make sure we had enough gas to make it to Jasper (there's only 1 gasstation between Lake Louise and Jasper!).

Lake Louise

Photo of Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde

After Lake Louise we were ready for the 3 hour drive along famous Icefields Parkway. We'd read and heard about how mesmerizing that road is and to be honest it exceeded all our expectations! Icefields Parkway is definately the most beautiful and amazing road I've ever driven on. The only disappointment was the weather that day. Luckily a couple of days later we would drive along Icefields Parkway for a second time hoping for better weather. Not only the drive right through the Rockies is amazing but several stops along the way are a must-see. First stop was Peyto Lake but due to the bad weather conditions we couldn't see the lake from the viewpoint.

Next stop was Mistaya Canyon, one of the many beautiful canyons in the Rocky mountains. Beware that the canyon is formed by rapid waters. If you slip into the canyon there is almost no chance of getting out alive. So personally I wouldn't take risks like the people on the photo below for the sake of a 'perfect' instagram post. There are warning signs all over the place telling people not to step on the slippery rocks.

Mistaya Canyon

Photo of Mistaya Canyon, Icefields Parkway, Improvement District No. 9, Alberta, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde

One hour further we reached Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. There's not much to do out there except when you want to buy tickets for a drive on the Athabasca Glacier, the Glacier Skywalk, a boat trip on Maligne Lake or a combination of them. We planned to go on the Glacier Skywalk but to be honest it was a bit pricy so we passed. It's a nice construction but the location just isn't that great, we've seen places along the road that were a lot more interesting and a lot cheaper. The drive on the Athabasca Glacier could be a cool experience that we would've considered doing if the weather conditions weren't that bad that day. We didn't mourn too long about it because the view of the glacier from a distance is pretty nice.

The last two stops before setting up camp in Jasper were some amazing waterfalls: Sunwapta falls and Athabasca falls. They're both must-see eye-catchers when you're in the area. Another way of nature showing its strength! We stayed the night tenting on Whistlers campground in Jasper.

Athabasca Falls

Photo of Athabasca Falls, Improvement District No. 12, Alberta, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde
Day 11

Our first day in Jasper (11th day of the trip) we went to Maligne Canyon and Maligne lake. After a 15 minute drive we reached Maligne Canyon were you can hike several distances marked by several bridges. It's a really nice hike along another great canyon in the Rockies! After a hike of about 1,5 hour we drove on to Maligne Lake. The drive to Maligne Lake takes about 1 hour but it's really worth every minute. At Maligne Lake you can choose to hike, rent a canoe or take a boattrip. Real eye-catchers are the old boathouse where you can rent the canoes and Spirit Island. The hike along the lake is nice and relaxing but put on your best hiking shoes because easy and more tricky paths alternate each other.

Once we were back in jasper we decided to take the Jasper Skytram to Whistlers Peak. Instead of taking the cable car you can also hike to the summit. The views you get at Whistlers Peak take your breath away. A real must-do when you're in Jasper!

Whistlers Peak in Jasper (Jasper Skytram)

Photo of Jasper SkyTram, Jasper, Alberta, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde
Day 12

Our second day at Jasper (day 12 of the trip) we originally wanted to go to Mount Edith Cavell (Permit is necessary and can be bought in Jasper!). But because the trip so far wore us out, we decided to stroll around in town a little and do some groceries to restore some energy for our second drive through Icefields Parkway that afternoon. If we would've stayed one day longer in Jasper we would've certainly done the hike at Mount Edith Cavell so it's a pity we didn't knew that up front.

Our first passage along Icefields Parkway was a bit ruined by bad weather but luckily the weather on the day of our second passage was just marvelous. So we were thrilled to start driving on this beautiful road once again. We did some of the stops of our previous passage again like the Athabasca glacier and Peyto Lake. The first time we were unlucky that we couldn't see the lake but now we could gaze at its beauty! It's quite strange that the same path to the viewpoint which was covered in snow just 2 days before, now was green and shining bright because of the sun. Once we reached the viewpoint our jaws dropped by seeing beautiful Peyto lake shaped like a wolf's head.

Peyto Lake

Photo of Peyto Lake, Improvement District No. 9, Alberta, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde

Our last activity of the day was going to Moraine Lake for the second time, especially because the weather conditions were just perfect that day. With the sun reflecting on the crystal clear blue water of the lake it was one of the most beautiful things we'd ever seen! We spent the night at Camping Lake Louise.

Moraine Lake

Photo of Moraine Lake, Improvement District No. 9, Alberta, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde
Day 13

It was time to head back to Vancouver on day 13 of our Canadian Roadtrip. We left behind the Rockies and went to Revelstoke. Our first stop on the way were Takakkaw Falls. The road to the falls is curvy with some hairpin bends so it's practically impossible to reach it with an RV. Once you're off the Trans-Canada-Hwy it takes about half an hour along Yoho Valley Road to reach the falls but they're totally worth it! "Takakkaw" is Cree for "It's magnificent", I personally couldn't come up with a better name for it.

Takakkaw Falls

Photo of Takakkaw Falls, Columbia-Shuswap A, Brits-Columbia, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde

Once we were back on the Trans-Canada-Hwy we drove through Glacier National Park and the Rogers' Pass and eventually stopped at the Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail. The name of the trail already explains a lot. It's a 500 meter long hike along a wooden boardwalk in between giant cedar trees which are over 500 years old. We set up our tent at Williamson Lake Campground in Revelstoke where we slept right beside the lake.

Day 14

We started day 14 with a visit to Three Valley Gap Ghost Town near Revelstoke. It's a heritage town and a museum in one where you can go back in time. Their collection of old timers is quite impressive and they even got some trains and airplanes on display. It's amusing to spend an hour strolling around.

After that we went straight to Cache Creek to set up our tent at Historic Hat Creek Ranch. After setting up camp we spend some time visiting this authentic historic site. It used to be a key location where miners would stock up on supplies during their long trip North. It was really nice to spend the night at such a great historic site.

Day 15

On day 15 we drove to Whistler. First stop on the way was the viewpoint of Seton Lake in Lilloet. It's a nice little place to rest out a couple of minutes but after all of the beautiful lakes we'd seen already it just didn't draw a lot of our attention. Except taking a view you can't really do a lot out there. We started to take the amazing lakes for granted I guess. Nairn Falls on the other hand was a nice stop to see another astonishing waterfall. So after all we didn't start taking nature's beauty for granted because it kept amazing us time after time.

Seton Lake

Photo of Seton Lake, Brits-Columbia, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde

After setting up camp at Whistler RV and campground we did the Whistler Train Wreck Trail. I highly recommend doing the trail because in the 1,5 hour hike you don't only cross a nice little suspension bridge but you get to walk in between the wreckage of a derailed train! In total there are 7 painted box cars like the one on the picture below.

Whistler Train Wreck Trail

Photo of Train Wreck, Whistler, Brits-Columbia, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde

In the evening we strolled around in Whistler. It's a nice little city which is very popular as a ski resort. It even hosted a part of the winter olympics in 2010. If you like cable cars you can always take the Peak2Peak Gondola but we didn't do that because we already took the Jasper Skytram and it isn't that cheap.

Day 16

Next up on our roadtrip was al little trip to Vancouver Island on day 16. But before taking the ferry to Nanaimo we stopped at Shannon Falls. You would think that we would get indifferent after all those waterfalls but it kept taking our breath away. The Shannon falls is the third highest waterfall in BC and the water just glides off the rock wall.

Shannon Falls

Photo of Shannon Falls, British Columbia 99, Squamish, Brits-Columbia, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde

Our last stop before heading to Nanaimo was the Britannia Mine Museum. It's an old mining facility that used to be one of the largest mining operations in Canada during the 1920s and 1930s. But what made it so special back in the day was the fact that you could only get there by boat. So basically it was a small community of miners and their families. Furthermore you can even go on a small underground tour taking an old mining train in one of the many mining tunnels.

After that we took the ferry at Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal. After a boat trip of about 2,5 hours we finally arrived in Nanaimo were the rain was pouring down on us. Not the most pleasant conditions to set up your tent. It kept raining all night long at our campsite near Westwood Lake.

On day 17 we went to Victoria to make a little city trip. Some nice eye-catchers are the inner harbour, Fisherman's Wharf, Craigdarroch Castle and Beacon Hill Park. It's a nice city but if we would do this roadtrip again we wouldn't include Vancouver Island anymore except if we would stay a week longer so we could explore more of the island (Tofino, ...). You can also go on a whale watching tour but we went on such a tour in Vancouver two days later.

Beacon Hill Park

Photo of Vancouver Island, Brits-Columbia, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde
Day 18

Our roadtrip ended on day 18. We took the ferry from Swartz Bay Terminal in Victoria to Tsawwassen Terminal south of Vancouver. We went to Rent-a-tent to bring back our camping gear and drove to Vancouver International Airport to hand in our rental car at Alamo. We spent the rest of the day going to our bed and breakfast in Burnaby and we booked a Whale watching tour at Granville Island for the next day.

Day 19

On our last day before heading back home we went on a 3 hour whale watching tour with Wild Whales Vancouver. We had the luck to spot a group of killer whales in English bay. Whilst looking at the majestic creatures, our guide (a marine biologist) told us a lot of interesting things about killer whales and the ocean in general. Our guide and the captain of the ship treated the animals with the utmost respect by not sailing too close to them and following them for only half an hour. It was a great end of an amazing journey.

Spotting some killer whales

Photo of Wild Whales Vancouver, Mast Tower Lane, Vancouver, Brits-Columbia, Canada by Jens Van De Voorde

On day 20 we flew back home with camera's full of pictures and a mind full of great stories to tell.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and maybe it could even help you plan a trip to Western Canada. Below are some extra photo's.

Photo of Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back by Jens Van De Voorde
Photo of Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back by Jens Van De Voorde

Maligne Lake

Photo of Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back by Jens Van De Voorde

Maligne Lake road

Photo of Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back by Jens Van De Voorde

Our tenting spot at Birchgrove RV Park and Marina

Photo of Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back by Jens Van De Voorde

Fort Steele

Photo of Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back by Jens Van De Voorde

Jasper Skytram

Photo of Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back by Jens Van De Voorde

Athabasca Glacier

Photo of Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back by Jens Van De Voorde

A nice campfire

Photo of Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back by Jens Van De Voorde

Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria

Photo of Roadtrip Western Canada: from Vancouver to the Rocky Mountains and back by Jens Van De Voorde
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