May is spring in British Columbia, and apart from a few northern and higher-altitude locations, the snow has melted, and the ski season is over. There's a lot of variation in climate across the province: northern, inland, and mountainous areas are typically colder than the wetter coastal regions. In spring, temperatures and rainfall can be variable, but May is generally a relatively warm month, and the days are getting longer.
Vancouver, on the southwestern coast, stays mild year-round and has a minimum May temperature of 48°F (9°C) and a maximum of 62°F (17°C). Inland areas, although colder than the coast in winter, tend to be warmer in the spring and summer. For example, Kelowna, in inland southern British Columbia, has a low of 44°F (7°C) but a high of 70°F (21°C). Meanwhile, in the province's north, temperatures remain cold. For example, Fort Nelson, in northeastern British Columbia and at roughly the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska, has a minimum of 39°F (4°C) and a maximum of 62°F (17°C).
Crowds & Costs
May is the shoulder season for travel to British Columbia and a good time to enjoy the outdoors before the (relative) busyness and higher summer costs. With the ski season generally ending in late April, popular ski towns (such as Whistler or Squamish) will be in a transitional phase before the summer season, and you may find accommodation discounts. By May, other non-ski-centric towns will likely reopen their tourist facilities, such as information centers.
Where to Go
Squamish is an excellent destination for May travel. Drive the scenic, 75-mile (120-km) Sea-to-Sky Highway between Vancouver and Squamish, traveling through the lush temperate rainforest with sweeping ocean and mountain views. Either drive the whole route in one day or stop at viewpoints and hike along the way. Squamish, between Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains, is known as Canada's "outdoor recreation capital." Try rock climbing, rafting, windsurfing, hiking, biking, scuba diving, paddleboarding, kayaking, or just relaxing and enjoying the views over a local craft beer.
Flower lovers might want to check out southeastern British Columbia's Creston Valley in the Kootenay Rockies this month. With a relatively mild climate, warm spring temperatures arrive earlier here than in some parts of the province, meaning the beautiful spring blossoms do, too. The Creston Valley Blossom Festival is held over a long weekend in May. Enjoy parades, markets, and flower displays. Visitors to the Creston Valley can also drive up to the Kootenay Pass, one of North America's highest mountain pass roads, or hike through the mountains or among the old cedar forests.
What to Do
Garibaldi Provincial Park is one of the eight provincial parks around Squamish that keen hikers won't want to miss. With glaciers, wildflower meadows, and saw-tooth peaks, Garibaldi offers many moderate-to-challenging hiking routes. One option with great views is the Garibaldi Lake trail, an intermediate 11-mile (18-km) trek through thick forests of fir trees that leads you up to an elevation of 2,690 feet (820 m). From the lookout, enjoy the view of the turquoise lake and glacier beyond.
With snowmelt from the mountains entering the rivers in May, this is a great month to go whitewater rafting or kayaking—be sure to don a wetsuit as the water will be cold! Some great rivers for shorter trips include the Thompson River near Lytton, the Kicking Horse River near Golden, and the Elaho River near Squamish. For a multiday adventure in more remote areas, head to the Chilcotin River in central British Columbia or the Babine River in northwestern British Columbia. Various rivers in British Columbia cater to different experience levels.
Events in May
Swiftsure Sailing Race, Victoria. Racing yachts converge on Victoria for this annual yacht race, one of the longest-running in the Pacific Northwest.
Creston Valley Blossom Festival, Creston Valley. Enjoy the spring blossoms in the Kootenay Rockies, as well as parades, activities, and markets.
Traveling to British Columbia in May? Check out these great itineraries
Sea-to-Sky Highway: Vancouver to Whistler - 5 Days. Beginning and ending in dynamic Vancouver, discover British Columbia's rugged beauty beyond the city as you follow the spectacular Sea-to-Sky Highway to the year-round outdoor destination of Whistler.
Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip: Banff, Revelstoke, Nelson & Osoyoos - 9 Days. Discover the Canadian Rockies, including the Kootenay Rockies and the southern end of the vine-striped Okanagan.