Beginning and ending in Vancouver, this epic 15-day road trip takes you on a counter-clockwise journey through Western Canada's greatest hits. Explore the pristine wilderness of five national parks as you wind your way through diverse and remarkable landscapes—from the rugged Canadian Rockies to the old-growth rainforests of Vancouver Island—with plenty of adventurous excursions in between.

Highlights

  • Brave Vancouver's soaring treetop suspension bridge
  • Ride a gondola up Sulphur Mountain for panoramic views across Banff
  • Take a walk across one of the Columbia Icefield's ancient glaciers
  • Follow the spectacular Sea-to-Sky highway along the Pacific Rim
  • Spot humpback whales & orcas off the coast of Tofino

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Vancouver Vancouver
Day 2 Explore Vancouver: Suspension Bridge Park, Aquarium & Cycling Vancouver
Day 3 Drive Through the Okanagan Valley to Kelowna Kelowna 
Day 4 Drive to Banff via Yoho National Park Banff
Day 5 Explore Banff, Ride the Gondola to Sulphur Mountain Banff
Day 6 Follow the Icefields Parkway to Jasper Jasper
Day 7 Discover Jasper National Park, Columbia Icefield Excursion Jasper
Day 8 Drive to Clearwater & Wells Gray Provincial Park Clearwater 
Day 9 Drive to Kamloops & the Southern Interior Kamloops
Day 10 Drive to Whistler, Canada's Adventure Capital Whistler
Day 11 Drive to Vancouver Island & Tofino Tofino
Day 12 Explore Tofino, Whale Watching off the Pacific Rim Tofino
Day 13 Drive to Victoria, Discover British Columbia's Capital Victoria
Day 14 Return to the Mainland, Drive to Vancouver Vancouver
Day 15 Depart Vancouver  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Vancouver

Vancouver's spectacular waterfront setting
Vancouver's spectacular waterfront setting
Welcome to Vancouver, Western Canada's coastal metropolis where sea and mountains meet. Upon arrival, pick up your rental car and head to your accommodations to get settled in. This cosmopolitan and modern city is enriched by the influence of Native American, Asian and English cultures, and its compact center is easy to explore on foot, with highlights like Stanley Park, Chinatown, and historic Gastown all within easy reach. If you're feeling hungry, head to Granville Island's vibrant waterfront market, where you can sample local specialties in a buzzing, open-air atmosphere.

Day 2: Explore Vancouver: Suspension Bridge Park, Aquarium & Cycling

Free Day in Vancouver
Head to the beach for a colorful Vancouver sunset
Today is free to discover more of Vancouver at your own pace. A great place to start is with a bike ride or walk along the Stanley Park Seawall, a 6-mile (10 km) paved loop with magnificent views of the mountains, ocean, forest, and city. While you're at the park, take the opportunity to visit the world-renowned Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center, one of the five largest aquariums in North America.

If you're looking for something a little more adventurous, climb the Grouse Grind Trail, (known as "Mother Nature's Stairmaster") up to the towering local landmark of Grouse Mountain. You can also skip the hike and opt for a scenic cable car ride to the summit, where panoramic views of the Lower Mainland await. Or head 15-minutes out of the city to brave the dizzying bridges, treetop walkways, and cliffside stairs of the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Day 3: Drive Through the Okanagan Valley to Kelowna

Vineyards overlooking Kelowna and Okanagan Lake
Vineyards overlooking Kelowna and Okanagan Lake
Leave the city behind today as you hit the road towards the Okanagan Valley. The history and culture of this region are strongly tied to the land, with semi-nomadic indigenous tribes using the valley as hunting and fishing grounds in the summer and semi-subterranean house encampments in the winter. Europeans came first to trade in furs, then later established cattle, agricultural, and mining operations. The area is full of museums and heritage sites, living testimonies of this rich and turbulent past.

Today, the Thompson-Okanagan region is renowned for its golf courses, orchards, ski resorts, and vineyards, not to mention the diversity of its landscapes. The highest point of the Canadian Rockies is found here, as well as a waterfall twice as high as Niagara Falls, and the only desert environment in Canada. Your destination for the night is Kelowna, the valley's unofficial capital that sits on the park-lined shores of Okanagan Lake.

Day 4: Drive to Banff via Yoho National Park

The reflective waters of Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
The reflective waters of Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park
Continue east today, driving into the Canadian Rockies and towards the popular mountain town of Banff. Along the way, you'll pass through the magnificent scenery of Yoho National Park. Named for a Cree expression of awe and wonder, this protected area is home to snow-capped mountains, glittering lakes, and diverse wildlife—be on the lookout for eagles, elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, moose, cougars, and even bears as you drive. Crossing into Alberta, you'll reach your base for the evening in Banff, located within the eponymous national park.

Day 5: Explore Banff, Take the Gondola to Sulphur Mountain

Spend the day exploring all Banff has to offer
Spend the day exploring all Banff has to offer
One of Canada's most visited destinations, Banff provides year-round opportunities for wildlife watching, outdoor adventures, and cultural activities. Choose your own adventure today—stroll the shop-lined streets to get your bearings, make your way to the Banff Park Museum for an introduction to the local wildlife, explore the trails of Bow Falls, or join a rafting excursion through Johnston Canyon.
 
For incomparable views over Banff, ride the town's iconic gondola up Sulphur Mountain to walk the boardwalk trail. After enjoying the mountain vistas, you can stay for dinner with a view at Sky Bistro, or indulge in an evening dip in the hot mineral waters of the Upper Hot Springs Pool near the base of the cable car.

Day 6: Follow the Icefields Parkway to Jasper

Follow the Icefield Parkway past mountains and glaciers
Follow the Icefield Parkway past mountains and glaciers
Your exploration of the Rockies continues today with a drive along the Icefields Parkway, a famous 144-mile (232 km) stretch of highway that winds through some of the most beautiful scenery in Canada. Surrounded by soaring mountains and glaciers, you'll pass the reflective waters of Bow and Peyto Lakes before entering the gates of Jasper National Park. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, deer, elk, moose, and black bears that roam near the roads as you make your way to the charming town of Jasper for the night.

Day 7: Discover Jasper National Park, Columbia Icefield Excursion

Reach the secluded Spirit Island by boat
Reach the secluded Spirit Island by boat
Explore more of the largest Canadian national park in the Rocky Mountains today. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jasper National Park covers over 4,200 square miles (10,878 km²) and shelters the great glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, as well as countless hot springs, lakes, and waterfalls. A great place to start is with a visit to Maligne Lake, where you can hop on a boat to visit the famous Spirit Island. Other highlights include Maligne Canyon, Athabasca and Sunwapta Falls, and a ride on the Jasper Tramway to the summit of Mount Whistler.

In the afternoon, embark on a glacier adventure as you board a giant, specially-built Ice Explorer vehicle to travel across the sheer ice of the Columbia Icefield towards Athabasca Glacier. Along the way, you'll learn about the fascinating history and glaciology of the area before stopping for a walk on the ancient ice.

Day 8: Drive to Clearwater & Wells Gray Provincial Park

Views across Spahats Waterfall near Clearwater
Views across Spahats Waterfall near Clearwater
Turn west again today as you make your way towards Clearwater, the gateway to Wells Gray Provincial Park. Upon arrival, you can set out on a hike to explore more of the park or take a drive to visit some of the area's famous waterfalls. Ten minutes north of town you'll find the high, narrow Spahats Creek Falls, with secluded Moul Falls another 15 miles (and a 2-hour scenic hike) down the road. The dramatic Helmcken Falls is an hour away, and if you're lucky you'll spot black bears grazing along the roadside en route. 

Day 9: Drive to Kamloops & the Southern Interior

Drive towards the Southern Interior and Kamloops Lake
Drive towards the Southern Interior and Kamloops Lake
Today's drive continues west towards Kamloops, a small city in British Columbia's mild Southern Interior. En route, you can explore more waterfalls as you leave Clearwater, take a detour through Bonaparte Provincial Park, or join a rafting expedition down the Thompson River. Upon arrival in Kamloops, stretch your legs with a walk along the city's riverfront, then sample locally-grown food in one of the many downtown restaurants.

Day 10: Drive to Whistler, Canada's Adventure Capital

Travel between summits on Whistler's Peak2peak gondola
Travel between summits on Whistler's Peak2peak gondola
Today's drive takes you to the outdoor lover's paradise of Whistler. Upon arrival, take a walk around the chalet-style pedestrian village, pamper yourself in one of the town's many spas, or ride to the top of the ski area via the Peak to Peak Gondola. The world's longest unsupported cable car, it runs between the summits of Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains and provides easy access to alpine hiking and biking trails. 

Day 11: Drive to Vancouver Island & Tofino

The scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway between Whistler and Vancouver
The scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway runs between Whistler and Vancouver
Continue towards the Pacific Ocean today, following the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway to Horseshoe Bay, where you'll catch the ferry to Vancouver Island and the coastal city of Nanaimo. Then, head west across the island on one of Canada's most spectacular stretches of road, passing through a landscape of old-growth rainforests, waterfalls, and rivers. As you reach the island's west coast, you'll get settled in for the night in the laid-back town of Tofino, located on a narrow strip of land overlooking the tranquil Clayoquot Sound.

Day 12: Explore Tofino, Whale Watching off the Pacific Rim

A breaching humpback off the coast of Tofino
A breaching humpback off the coast of Tofino
The popular village of Tofino is the starting point for excursions along the coast of Pacific Rim National Park and the nearby forests of Clayoquot Sound. Sea kayaking, surfing, and coastal hiking excursions are all available, but the star attraction of the area is its whale watching cruises, where you can spot orcas in their hunting grounds around Sea Lion Rock.

Prime whale watching season follows the whales' migration schedules, which run from spring through summer. You'll have the chance of spotting gray and humpback whales as well as the orcas that frequent these waters year-round. Tours are done in a small, 12-seater zodiac boat, giving you an intimate, up-close look at these magnificent creatures.

Day 13: Drive to Victoria, Discover British Columbia's Capital

Drive east through the old growth Cathedral Forest
Drive east through the old-growth Cathedral Forest
Head back to the east coast towards the town of Parksville, passing through the giant pines of the Cathedral Forest en route. Recommended stops along the way include the murals in Chemainus, the Native American Museum in Duncan, and the famous Butchart Gardens, considered the most beautiful in the country. Then continue down the coast to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. This sophisticated city has an English character as much in its architecture as in its traditions. 

Take some time to get to know the coastal capital at your own pace. Highlights include the picturesque marina,  outdoor Public Market, and the Parliament Buildings. Head to the Royal Museum for a deep dive into British Columbia's rich culture and history, and don't miss a stroll down Canada's narrowest street—the atmospheric Fan Tan Alley in Chinatown.  

Day 14: Return to the Mainland, Drive to Vancouver

Travel back to mailand B.C. by ferry
Travel back to mainland British Columbia by ferry
Bid Vancouver Island farewell as you drive to Swartz Bay, then take the 1.5-hour ferry to the mainland Tsawwasen Terminal and continue to Vancouver for the afternoon. Spend your final evening in the city checking off any highlights you may have missed and enjoying a final sunset over the Pacific.

Day 15: Depart Vancouver

Sunset over Vancouver's coastline

Your adventure draws to a close today as you enjoy a final morning in Vancouver. When the time comes, you'll head to the airport to return your rental car and catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of Western Canada Road Trip: From the Rockies to the Pacific - 15 Days
Map of Western Canada Road Trip: From the Rockies to the Pacific - 15 Days