CANADA | The ultimate two week roadtrip through the Canadian Rockies (part 1)

by kimberley
Jaw dropping landscapes, breathtaking views and memories which will last you a lifetime; this is the ultimate two week roadtrip through the Canadian Rockies!

With a driving distance of more than 1000km, this ultimate two week roadtrip through the Canadian Rockies takes you along one of the most scenic drives in the world, showing you the absolute best of Western Canada.  Starting in Vancouver, British Columbia and finishing up in Calgary, Alberta, you will experience mesmerising coastlines, vast mountain ranges and an abundance of wildlife. 

*It goes without saying, but I must remind you that Canada is HUGE (among one of the world’s largest countries). Driving from one place to another takes a lot longer than you might expect; something we discovered the hard way!

Obviously, you are never going to be able experience everything that BC and Alberta has to offer in just two weeks. However, this itinerary will certainly give you more than an introduction to this beautiful country. I guarantee you will want to return after your roadtrip through the Canadian Rockies ;). 

Itinerary Map

Before getting into the nitty gritty, I thought it would be useful to put together a map. The below allows you to visually see the route and also some of the key stopping points/attractions.

Day 1: Vancouver

Start your Canadian adventure by flying into and exploring the coastal city of Vancouver. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coastal Mountains, this city has one of the most picturesque backdrops that I have ever seen. Some of our highlights included cycling through Stanley Park, watching the seaplanes takeoff and land from the harbour and tucking into some great food at Granville Market. We felt that one full day here was sufficient to get a feel of what the city has to offer. 

Besides, you haven’t come to Canada just to spend your time in the city have you!

Granville Market Vancouver

Day 2 & 3: Victoria, Vancouver Island

Say goodbye to shiny skyscrapers and urban life; it is time to pick up your rental car and head to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. Getting there will require you to take a ferry from Tsawwassan to Swartz Bay with BC Ferries. They provide frequent daily services with a travel time of 1.35hrs.

Victoria has a very European feel about it, especially with its most recognised landmark; the Parliament Buildings. Architecturally, the Parliament Buildings resemble that of British and European structures, and as you watch the horse drawn carriages go by, it is easy to forget that you are in Canada. Parliament overlooks the beautiful inner harbour which is a sight which should not be missed at sunset.

Parliament Victoria

With two days in Victoria you can explore the grounds of Parliament, admire Fisherman Wharf’s floating homes, learn about Canada’s natural and human history at the Royal BC Museum, and lastly (and more importantly), go Whale Watching. This was the main reason why we visited Victoria and we were lucky enough to spot humpbacks, porpoises and orcas!  

Orcas Victoria

Day 4: Cowichan Valley – Horseshoe Bay (via Nanaimo)

Its time to leave Victoria and make your way towards Cowichan Valley. Within 30 minutes out of the city, you will already be met with some incredible views; make a quick pit stop at Malahat Lookout to admire the views looking over Saanich Inlet. 

Malahat Lookout

A further 30 minutes on from the lookout, and past Shawnigan Lake, is where the Kinsol Trestle lies; one of the worlds tallest free standing railway bridges. It has not been used as a railway service in a long time and is now open to the public, allowing you to cross the bridge as part of an easy hike/trail in the area. It crosses the Koksilah River which you are able to access by walking down the (very!) steep pathway.

View of Kinsol Trestle from top

Our last stop before reaching Nanaimo was in Ladysmith, where we went in search for the Stocking Creek trail. This is an easy loop trail which meanders right through the forest, leading you to the creek and to a small waterfall. When we visited, there was not a soul in sight so we had it all to ourselves.

Finally as you reach Nanaimo, it is from here that you board the ferry which takes you back across to the mainland and to a very quaint seaside village called Horseshoe Bay. With just one night in this village, I recommend using this time stocking up on car snacks and getting an early night in preparation for the next day! 

Day 5: Sea to Sky Highway – Whistler

Rise and shine! Hit the road as early as possible and experience one of the most scenic drives in the world; the Sea to Sky Highway. It is only 102km to Whistler but there is so much to see and do on this stretch of road. 

Begin your day by hiking the Murrin Loop Trail (duration 1.5 hours). Follow signs up the steep trail to Quercus Viewpoint to witness spectacular views of Howe Sound, only made more spectacular by the sense of achievement you will have once you reach the top! We spent a good hour here soaking up the amazing atmosphere.

Next up is Squamish and the Shannon Falls. I’d like to point out that due to how accessible these falls are, they are incredibly popular. Beautiful no less, but I found the area to be very crowded (especially after coming from the Murrin Loop Trail). However, I think a trip to these falls is definitely worth a visit.

The main car park is a little on the small side, but if you arrive early, you should be able to get a spot. The falls are then located only a 5 minute walk from there. Our original plan was to move onto the Sea to Sky Gondola after the falls, but unfortunately it was closed when we were there due to vandalism. *I believe it is due to reopen in spring 2020. 

There are several trails in the area varying in different levels of difficulty, making it easy to spend an afternoon here. 

The last stop before reaching Whistler is at a second impressive waterfall; Brandywine Falls. Again, just another short walk from the car park, the falls are best viewed from the platform at the end of the trail. Before reaching this however, you will need to cross a railway track along the way, providing a perfect photo opportunity.

Day 6: Whistler

A 20 minute drive on from the Brandywine Falls and you will have reached Whistler. Whistler is renowned for being a ski resort and ultimately, a winter destination. However, during the summer it transforms its ski slopes into mountain bike runs and offers a wide range of outdoor activities which don’t require snow.
 

If you’re an adrenaline junkie (like us), Whistler is home to the longest zip line (1.2 miles) in North America called the Sasquatch. I cannot recommend this more highly as you quite literally soar 600m above the trees from one mountain (Blackcomb) to the other (Whistler). If you want to doing something even more extreme, 20 minutes out of the resort is the Whistler Bungee. Here you can jump 50m over the Cheakamus River, where you will be rewarded with a free t-shirt afterwards!

On a slightly lighter note, you cannot visit Whistler without doing the Peak 2 Peak 360 experience. This experience provides 360 views of Whistler and its incredible landscape. You may also spot a black bear or two from the gondolas. 

It is also worth mentioning how incredibly beautiful this resort is; it has that whimsical ‘Disney’ charm about it. When you aren’t going at it hard on the activities, Whistler is a delightful place to take a stroll along its local trails, grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants, and do some window shopping (or even some shopping – just be aware of the price tags, Whistler is not cheap!)

Day 7: Whistler – Kamloops

Prepare yourself for one of the longest legs of your whole roadtrip. The drive from Whistler to Kamloops is about 300km, which takes 4 hours nonstop. But since you are in one of the most beautiful places in the world, believe me, you are going to want to stop. lots. I would schedule 5+ hours of driving for this day.

Our first stop off point for the day was at the Joffre Lakes, roughly an hour from Whistler and past the town of Pemberton. They consist of 3 lakes; lower, middle and upper. The lower lake is the most accessible, just a short walk from the car park. As a consequence, this lake is heaving.  We were also very lucky to get a parking space, so I advise getting there as early as possible. This was the first lake for us to see which had that iconic emerald colour that everyone had told us about.

*The middle lake is a 3km hike from the lower lake; something we unfortunately did not feel we had time to do. However, I understand that the crowds more or less disappear.

Once you have finished up at the lakes, continue your roadtrip through the Canadian Rockies on route 99. Enjoy the remainder of the drive admiring the beautiful countryside and the most mesmerising shift in landscape, as you make your way towards Kamloops. There are multiple stop off points along the way. Two of our favourites were by Duffey Lake and Seton Lake; these are absolute musts! 

It is likely that you will arrive at Kamloops in the evening. For these purposes, we use Kamloops as a quick nightly stopover, before heading off to Jasper early the next day.

If you have any questions regarding any part of the itinerary above, please feel free to leave a comment! 🙂

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2 comments

Ellie December 24, 2019 - 12:06 pm

Love this 💙 It’s on my list to do so it’s great to have some inspo on where to start – Sounds like a great trip! Looking forward to part 2!

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kimberley December 27, 2019 - 12:41 pm

Thanks Ellie! I am glad you like it 🙂

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