Take a Road Trip through British Columbia
A road trip through British Columbia, the prettiest Canadian province, will take you through deep forests, rugged mountains and wide valleys. It’s worth it to rent a camper van or an SUV, or (if you plan on staying a while) to buy a car – preferably with 4-wheel-drive. This will allow you to drive to remote locations that would otherwise be difficult to reach. Offers are available on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. We recommend a modified pickup truck, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner or Jeep Cherokee. Alternately, you can get a minivan – however, they are not suitable for all logging roads and will force you to stay closer to the highway. On your road trip though British Columbia, you’ll encounter wild animals, visit beautiful sites, light a campfire and unwind at turquoise mountain lakes. The world is your playground! Anything is possible when it’s just you, your friends, a car and the world’s most beautiful province.
Begin in Vancouver
It’s best to stay at a central hostel or Airbnb while searching for a car rental or purchase. Take your time and don’t rush into anything, as you may end up paying more than you need to. In the meantime, explore Vancouver: stroll through the thrift shops in East Vancouver, visit Granville Island or track down famous blockbuster film locations in Downtown Vancouver. You can also go to bars in Gastown or Yaletown to get a taste of the city’s nightlife, or take a bus to discover the surrounding area.
Hang out on Jericho Beach, trek through Lynn Canyon or, if you like a challenge, do the steep hike up the Grouse Grind. Vancouver is so multifaceted that it is impossible to get bored there. Once you have the perfect car, register it at ICBC. As the vehicle insurance is not cheap, here’s a tip: to save money, obtain a BC driver’s license beforehand.
On the Road: From Vancouver to E.C. Manning Provincial Park
Your first stop will be east of Vancouver: Golden Ears Provincial Park. Breathtaking trails will guide you up the park’s mountains, where you can set up camp for the night. After descending the next day, get on Highway 1 to Chilliwack Provincial Park. Camp next to the water – it’s perfect to cool off a bit. This park has something for everyone: quiet, deep blue lakes in the highlands (Lindeman Lake and Flora Lake), as well as massive lakes for water sports (Lake Chilliwack).
Your next stop will be Hope, where you’ll follow in Rambo’s footsteps. Visit several impressive filming locations as you journey along old railway lines through dark tunnels and deep canyons. Everything looks exactly like it is in the movie.
The road will return to the mountains, where you’ll leave Highway 1 and take the road to E.C. Manning Provincial Park. The beginning of Highway 3 is adorned with steep mountain ranges. The park has a picturesque landscape filled with dense coniferous forests and wild rivers. Be prepared to spend a few days here to enjoy the park’s beauty in its entirety.
After E.C. Manning Provincial Park, the climate and vegetation change rapidly. At dawn, golden hills still shrouded in mist stretch out before you, making you question whether you aren’t driving through Tuscany instead of Canada. The further you travel inland, the more vineyards and orchards fill the landscape. The roadside is dotted with fruit stands where you can buy very reasonably-priced fruit. The region also has plenty of fancy wineries.
In towns like Osoyoos, Penticton and Kelowna, everything revolves around water sports. In summer, popular activities include wake surfing, fishing, as well as boat cruises on the large lakes of Okanagan.
The most charming stop on this leg of your road trip through British Columbia is a little town called Nelson. Here, you’ll find activists, artists and outdoor athletes residing in Victorian-inspired architecture. Continue on north of Nelson through the barren landscapes until you reach the Rocky Mountains.
Back on Highway 1, just beyond the super popular ski and snowboarding resort of Revelstoke, you’ll get into the majestic Rocky Mountains. Until Golden, the road runs through beautiful national parks with peaks just waiting to be climbed. After passing Golden, you’ll reach Yoho National Park, one of the most beautiful parks in the country. Yoho Valley is known for its huge waterfalls. Rivers, fed by melting glaciers, flow into beautiful mountain lakes. You will be amazed!
If you’re near the province border, take a quick detour into Alberta. At Lake Louise, where you’ll find the two most beautiful lakes in the world (Lake Louise and Moraine Lake), take Highway 93. This highway goes by both these lakes, showcasing the incredible beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. This road also runs along deep canyons, ice fields, waterfalls and more gorgeous lakes. You might even see some grizzlies and moose along the way.
After Jasper, head back into British Columbia to the imposing Mount Robson, which stands around 4,000 m tall. In the surrounding region, you can go on incredible hikes through the wild Rocky Mountain terrain.
After leaving the Rockies behind, the never-ending planes of British Columbia extend as far as the eye can see. We recommend you listen to a relaxing road trip mix while cruising along forgotten highways. You can turn it off for a little bit once you reach Wells Grey Provincial Park – the perfect location for catching salmon and trout in the streams. In the park, there are dozens of hiking trails leading to lakes that are ideal for paddleboarding and kayaking. This region also boasts several beautiful waterfalls. The most famous one is Helmcken Falls, a 141-meter-high waterfall that plunges into the depths of a volcanic rock crater. The spray of the water creates cloud-like mist that swirls in the air, reflecting the sunlight.
At Little Fort, get off Highway 5 and continue in the direction of Williams Lake, where you’ll find the Fraser River running through a deep canyon. Farewell Canyon is a favorite, particularly among mountain bikers, thanks to its steep slopes. From Williams Lake, take the route along the Fraser River to Prince George. This industrial town is nothing spectacular, but it’s a quicker road to the Coast Mountains.
Off the coast of British Columbia’s Coast Mountains, you’ll find the Haida Gwaii archipelago. There are numerous islands to explore here. You can hop on the ferry in Prince Rupert to get to Graham Island. This island is a secluded paradise for those craving beautiful nature strolls or some peace and quiet. If you prefer to be away from busy beaches and large surfing crowds, Haida Gwaii is the place for you. There’s a good chance that you’ll have the place all to yourself, and you can take long, meditative walks on the beach, with hardly a soul in sight. The same goes for strolling through the island’s natural forests.
The Sea to Sky Highway
Re-energized from your trip to Haida Gwaii, it’s time to go back to civilization. On Duffy Road between Lillooet and Pemberton are several BC highlights that you won’t want to miss! One of them is the Seton Lake Lookout. Another famous attraction is Joffre Lake. One of the most beautiful hikes in the country, Joffre Lake Hike takes you from one breathtaking lake to the next. There is also a glacier at the end. You’ll find a great camping spot called Strawberry Point, located directly next to Lake Lillooet at the end of Duffy Road.
After eating a late morning brunch in Pemberton, take the Sea to Sky Highway south to Whistler. This world-renowned ski resort has a great nightlife that you should explore. Since you’ll likely be hungover, we suggest you spend the next day relaxing with the locals next to one of the nearby lakes. South of Whistler is the gateway to Garibaldi Provincial Park where you can explore scenic hikes up the Coast Mountains and discover even more spectacular lakes. Before continuing on to Sunshine Coast, we recommend first spending a few days in Squamish. Here you can go hiking, rock climbing and kayaking down scary rapids.
Horseshoe Bay signals your arrival at Sunshine Coast. Sunshine Coast has its own unique charm, especially when it comes to fishing. Fresh fish is served in the restaurants at the harbors – Smitty’s Oyster House has the best oysters! In some places, you can do short hikes along the coast. Smuggler Cove Maria Provincial Park, in particular, offers gorgeous hiking trails. The fjords allow the seawater to reach far inland. In some areas, the strong tides create massive waves, which are perfect for surfing. Be sure to explore the fjords on a boat.
Chatterbox Falls, which are located at the end of Jervis Inlet, are only accessible by boat, which means it’s a quiet area with few tourists. Your trip ends in Powell River, where you can take the ferry to Vancouver Island. Before you do this, though, we recommend you spend a night at Tin Hat Mountain. Here, you’ll experience one of the most beautiful sunsets in Canada. The sun sets behind the Coast Mountains, showering the nearby fjords in gold. A truly spectacular experience.
Vancouver Island is surprisingly big. Plan accordingly and allow at least a few days to explore the island. From Comox, travel north, past Campbell River’s Elk Falls, to Cape Scott Provincial Park. Here, you’ll find untouched nature and beautiful green forests. The rough, cold north rarely shows its pleasant side, but when it does, it turns into one of the most beautiful regions in Canada. Back on the road, south of the Vancouver Island Mountains, there’s Strathcona Provincial Park. You can go on multi-day hikes here and climb the massive mountains to experience sublime views. Vancouver Island’s west coast is right in front of the mountains.
Tofino and Ucluelet (both located in Pacific Rim National Park) offer opportunities to go whale-watching and hiking through dense rainforests. The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail runs south of the west coast. Don’t worry! You don’t need to hike the whole 50 -kilometer trail, but parts of it lead to beaches you cannot reach by car. They are definitely worth checking out.
The last stop on your road trip through British Columbia is Victoria, a university town. Discover this pretty city by visiting its great restaurants and strolling through the trendy stores.