Thursday, 12 July 2012 9:37 AM
If you're planning a road trip holiday in North America, British Columbia is an amazing destination to choose, thanks to its fantastic scenery and appealing attractions. In fact, some of North America's finest mountain highways can be found here, making it an option incredibly well suited to exploring by road. Read our guide to find out what to include on your itinerary through the Canadian Rockies.
Where to begin
When it comes to exploring the Canadian Rockies by car, national parks should feature prominently on your itinerary. However, before you make your way to stunning destinations such as Banff and Jasper, start your journey in vibrant Vancouver. Arriving into the local airport, you can take some time to settle in and get your bearings before exploring the city more thoroughly the next day.
A good way to do so is by climbing aboard the hop-off, hop-on San-Francisco-style trolleys, which travel all over the city and offer you plenty of flexibility in terms of what you see and do. Commentary will run during your journey, so you can learn all about the sights you are passing, while you will be free to disembark at any that interest you. One of Vancouver's top attractions is Stanley Park, where you can see the Lions Gate Bridge and harbour.
Beginning your road trip in earnest the next day, you can start travelling towards some of Canada's most exciting national parks, visiting a variety of charming destinations en route. For example, you will have the chance to go to Manning Provincial Park, which is great for walks, and stay in the attractive town of Penticton, situated in an area renowned for its lush vegetation, beautiful beaches and balmy climes.
Spend the next morning exploring the lovely Okanagan Valley, before hopping behind the wheel once more on your way to Revelstoke. This drive is particularly scenic, punctuated as it is with sublime waterfalls, clear lakes and majestic mountains. After spending the night in Revelstoke, you can begin your journey to Banff, Canada's oldest national park.
Today is bound to be a highlight, as you will drive through the incredible Glacier National Park. This has approximately 700 miles of walking trails through alpine meadows and verdant forests, so if you are a keen hiker it might be worth organising your itinerary to spend some time here. Your journey will end with your arrival into Banff, which is a busy resort town as well as a national park.
There is a lot to see here, so it is a good idea to spend a full day discovering its key attractions. Among the top things to do is take a boat tour on Lake Minnewanka, while you can also visit Bow Falls and enjoy a trip on the Sulphur Mountain Gondola. Banff National Park is famous for its classic Rockies scenery and spans 6,651 sq km, so you certainly will not find yourself short of photo opportunities – head to the lovely Sunshine Meadows to be surrounded by beautiful flowers.
The next day's drive will take you along the incredible Icefields Parkway, one of the very finest mountain highways in all of North America. The scenery here is truly stunning, so be prepared to stop for photos once or twice, before reaching Jasper. You can then spend a day touring Jasper National Park, spotting its incredible wildlife – including bighorn sheep, bald eagles and elk – and discovering sights like Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon. Alternatively, if you are something of a thrill seeker, try white water rafting on the Athabasca River.
The tail end of your road trip is a great time to relax and slow down the pace a little. Leaving Jasper, you can stay in the historic 100 Mile House – which is famous for its role as a stop for travellers during the gold rush – for a few nights, before enjoying a day or two relaxing in the popular resort of Whistler. Here, you can try all sorts of exciting activities, including windsurfing and hiking, or choose something a little calmer, such as a canoe tour through the tranquil wetlands.
A short two-hour drive will take you back to Vancouver, completing your circuit around the wonderful national parks of the Rockies. You will have the chance to see any sights you missed here at the beginning of your adventure, as well as shop for souvenirs, ahead of starting your journey home.