This is part 2 of the Travel BC Guide for a 21-day epic BC road trip from Vancouver to Jasper, Banff and Okanagan wine country. It will help you continue on one of the most scenic adventures of a lifetime.
The drive continues through the breathtaking Canadian Rockies from Jasper to Banff along the Columbian Icefields Parkways, one of the most scenic drives in the world. The natural beauty of the area will leave you in awe. Cross the Continental Divide back into British Columbia then travel to Okanagan Wine Country. If you love wine, you will be in your glory here. There are more than 180 wineries in the Okanagan Valley, with stunning lake views, rolling mountains, sandy beaches, orchards and vineyards.
Leave the semi-arid desert behind and the highway winds its way through the Cascade Mountains into the coastal rainforest. Travel into the fertile Fraser Valley to explore Vancouver, a culturally diverse city surrounded by mountains and water. It is the largest city in BC and the third largest city in Canada.
The entire trip will be about 38 hours driving time, without stops and covers more than 2,822 kms. If you are renting a vehicle make sure you have factored in enough mileage allowance. Adjust the routing to meet your needs and time available.
There is a lot more information in this BC Travel Guide than you would typically find in one article, so we have broken this guide down at the halfway mark into two sections to make it more manageable for the reader. We have also added a few more detailed mini-guides for BC travel along the way to give you more to choose from.
We hope this BC travel guide will save you time and be a valuable resource for your incredible journey. Please leave any comments, questions or suggestions below and remember to subscribe so you will see the next update.
Looking for more incredible adventures of a lifetime in BC? Be sure to check out these articles to help start planning your trip:
– Road Trip – Top things to do driving from Victoria to Pacific Rim National Park
– Discover some of the best prehistoric rock carvings found in BC
– Explore the Sea-to-Sky Highway, one of the most scenic drives in North America
– BC Travel Guide: 21-day road trip Part 1 – Vancouver, Jasper, Banff and Okanagan wine country
– Top 10 things to see and do in Victoria, BC – a city guide
Day 11, 12, & 13 Mount Robson to Lake Louise/Banff area – 4 hrs, 22 mins (360 kms) without stops. Stay three nights in the Lake Louise/Banff/Canmore, Alberta or Field, BC area.
- Remember to turn the clock ahead one hour. Alberta is on Mountain Standard Time.
- Make sure your gas tank is full and check your tires and water levels. There are limited services available along the Columbian Icefields Parkway.
- Weather can change quickly. Dress in layers and wear weather proof clothing and good sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots with good non-slip grip.
- Drive the parkway in daylight hours.
- Always be cautious of wildlife on or near the highway.
- Do not feed or approach wildlife and stay at least 30 meters away from all animals. Pets must be on a leash at all times. Elk are aggressive and dangerous between May and October. Parks Canada says to keep a minimum of three bus lengths away from elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats and 10 bus lengths away from bears, cougars and wolves. Read more about wildlife safety on the Parks Canada website.
- Do not wander beyond marked boundaries.
- You are traveling in a high mountainous area, always check on road and hiking trail conditions. Some areas open at the end of June.
Start the day early. The drive through the breathtaking Canadian Rockies from Jasper to Banff, along the Columbian Icefields Parkways, is one of the most scenic drives in the world. The distance between Jasper and Lake Louise is 233 kms and will take 2 hrs and 56 mins without stops. Don’t rush through this spectacular area and allow at least one full day to explore it. Take advantage of viewpoints and other stops along the way. In our opinion, it is much more scenic driving from the north to south.
Suggested stops from Mt. Robson to Lake Louise
- 32 kms outside Jasper, stop at the powerful Athabasca Falls. Take the short 1 km easy return hike to the falls. Do not go beyond marked safety boundaries.
- Take time to see the Columbian Icefields. It is an adventure of a lifetime. Experience walking on the ancient Athabasca Glacier then go out on the glass bottomed Skywalk for incredible views. Do not cross barriers on the glacier. They are there for your protection. People have lost their lives falling into deep hidden crevasses. Be sure to make a reservation at this attraction. Find out more.
Where to stay in the Lake Louise/Banff/Canmore, Alberta area
Motorhome Park and Camping – There are 13 Parks Canada sites. They offer a variety of accommodations from RV camping, camping, fully equipped campsite already set up and an oTentik option. These A-frame oTentik cabins blend the camping experience. Each cabin sleeps 6. Book a campsite reservation in the National Park.
Here are some of the sites to choose from:
- Lake Louise Campground – 1 km from Lake Louise Village.
- Johnston Canyon Campground – near Johnson Canyon and 25 kms from Banff.
- Tunnel Mountain Campground – 2 kms from Banff.
- Castle Mountain Campground – 34 kms from Banff.
Day 12 & 13 – Tour Banff National Park Area
Banff National Park is the oldest and the first National Park in Canada. It is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks. Stop at the Banff Visitors Centre to pick up maps, brochures and up-to-date information.
IMPORTANT – Starting in 2020, reservations are required on all Parks Canada shuttles. The shuttle reservation service opens on April 1, 2020. Find out more about reservations.
During peak season from May 15 to the middle of October, Lake Louise Shoreline and Morraine Lake parking lots are full by sunrise and reservations are required on the shuttle. If you stay in the Banff area, you can take advantage of Roam Public Transit to various attractions. Check schedules here.
Consider visiting this area in early May or in late September when the attractions and trails are less busy. Taking a guided tour in the area is also a great option.
Make sure to try a bison burger offered at many restaurants in the area.
Suggested stops Banff, Lake Louise and Canmore area
- Explore Cave and Basin National Historic Site. Take a tour to see the hot bubbling turquoise waters of the mineral pools, view the cave, walk along the upper and lower boardwalk and Marsh Loop. See the 1914 Bathing Pavillion. Consider taking a lantern tour if you are visiting from June through September.
- Relax in the thermal waters of Banff Upper Hot Springs. The admission to the hot springs includes Cave and Basin. They have been open since 1886 and are the highest operating, elevated hot springs in Canada. You can even rent a historic bathing suit to wear.
- Scenic 48-km Bow Valley Parkway runs between Lake Louise and Banff, parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway. A travel restriction is in place along a 17-kilometre section of the road from the Canyon Campground to the Fireside Picnic Area. It is closed 8 p.m.-8 a.m. from March through June 25 to protect the wildlife in the area.
- Take a one hour cruise on Lake Minnewanka. The lake is about a 15 minute drive from Banff.
- Lake Louise is world famous for its glacier-fed emerald coloured waters. The iconic luxury hotel Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise overlooks the lake. See the view of this stunning lake from their rooftop webcam.
- Morraine Lake is another glacier-fed lake with vivid green coloured waters. This lake sits at a very high elevation and usually remains completely frozen until sometime in June. It is located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The lake is located 14 kms from Lake Louise and the road is closed from October to early June.
- Johnson Canyon trails to the waterfalls are extremely popular. Try visiting in the early morning to avoid the rush of hikers.
- Take in stunning mountain views of six mountain ranges from the Banff Gondola. See their live webcam views.
Day 14 – Glacier National Park – stay one night or continue to the Okanagan wine country to spend an extra night there. 5 hrs, 12 mins (433 kms) without stops, overnight in Vernon
- Remember to turn the clock back one hour. British Columbia is on Pacific Standard Time.
Today you will mostly be driving and taking in the majestic views of snowcapped mountains. If you were spending more time here, there are many other hikes and sights to explore. Take your time and take full advantage of the numerous viewpoints along the way. If you plan to visit Emerald Lake or Takakkaw Falls, make sure roads or hiking trails are open and visit before 9 a.m. of after 6 p.m.to avoid the crowds.
Suggested stops at Yoho National Park
- Stop at the Yoho National Park Visitor Information Centre to see exhibits about the world’s most important fossils at Burgess Shale, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Download a Parks Canada guide to the park.
- Kicking Horse National Historic Site marks the highest point of the Trans-Canada Highway at 1,627 metres.
- Great Divide – walk or bike on a paved road for a 2 hour return trip to see the historic archway for the Continental Divide.
- Burgess Shale – Take a short but challenging full day guided hike (7 hours) to view some of the world’s most important fossils at Burgess Shale, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. These fossils are more than 5 million years old and the world’s first complex marine ecosystems. Can you imagine this area was once a seabed high up in the mountains, far from today’s oceanbed. Read complete scientific information about the area and view an interactive gallery.
- Emerald Lake is about a 20-minute drive from Lake Louise and not far off the Trans-Canada Highway. Turn on Emerald Lake Road, 1.6 kms west of Field. Picnic on the shores of the beautiful emerald green lake or have lunch at the Emerald Lake Lodge. There is an easy 2-hour return hike around the lake.
- Takakkaw Falls is one of the highest falls in Canada. Take the scenic Yoho Valley Road turnoff 3.5 kms east of Field. It is a 13-km drive to falls. Be sure to stop at Spiral Tunnels viewpoint.
- Wapta Falls is an easy 1.5 hours return hike. The waterfall plunges 30 metres into the Kicking Horse River.
- If you are looking for a thrill and can swim, try whitewater rafting. Rivers tend to run faster in the beginning of the season.
- Find out more about Yoho National Park.
- Download a map of the area.
Suggested stops in Glacier National Park
- Watch along the road for black bears and mountain goats in this area.
- Glacier National Park is the second oldest National Park in Canada.
- Rogers Pass National Historic Site marks the engineering marvel of building and completing a transcontinental rail line connecting BC to the rest of Canada in 1885. Rogers Pass cuts through the Selkirk Mountains. Eight major bridges were built just east of Rogers Pass, including the world’s tallest bridge structure at the time, Stoney Creek Bridge. Winters were extremely harsh in this area and kept the tracks closed most of the time. Snowfalls during the season exceeded 12 metres. Find out more about Rogers Pass.
- Stop at Rogers Pass Discovery Centre. This museum is a replica of a snowshed used by the historic railway. Exhibits showcase the history and wildlife of the area, as well as providing an interesting display about avalanches.
Where to stay in the Vernon
Day 15 & 16 Explore the Okanagan Valley – from Vernon to Osoyoos, 2 hrs, 31 mins, (176 kms) without stops – spend two nights – Penticton and Osoyoos
You are entering wine country. The Okanagan region stretches over 250 kms and has more than 180 wineries to visit. This area has 84% of BC’s vineyard acreage covering four official sub-regions. The Okanagan Valley boasts stunning lake views, sandy beaches, gentle rolling mountains, vineyards, orchards and fruit stands. It is a popular recreation destination in the summer with more than 30 beaches in the area with lots of water activities. In the fall it is harvest time where you will find the freshest bounty and in the winter there are many ski resorts.
Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton, Okanagan Falls, Naramata, Keremeos, Oliver and Osoyoos are popular destinations year-round. This whole area takes pride in its Farm to Table, a term that means fresh vegetables and fruits are plentiful and that beef, poultry and pork is sourced locally. Stop along the route to taste seasonal offerings of fresh apple cider, homemade gourmet specialty foods and baked goods. Many of the orchards and fruit stands are open from May 1 through October.
Keep a lookout for the legendary Okanagan Lake monster, the Ogopogo. The green 25–metre-long snakelike creature is just as famous as the Lock Ness monster in the Scottish Highlands. Many have claimed to see it through the years and I am one of them. I was about ten years old at the time and viewed it along with 15 others, including adults and children. That sunny summer afternoon we saw three distinct, snakelike humps raising out of the waters of Okanagan Lake, near Wilson’s Landing. We did not see the creature’s head. No one had a camera. I remember being afraid for my dad’s safety as he was out in the lake fishing at the time. He returned safely back to our cabin and said he never saw the famed Ogopogo we all had seen.
Learn more about BC Wine in the Okanagan.
Suggested stops in the Okanagan Valley
Vernon Take a tour of the historic O’Keefe Ranch, founded in 1867. Learn about the history of the area and about ranching. The ranch was once a stage coach depot. They offer a cowboy dinner show on Fridays, later in the summer. Visit Davidson Orchards and right next store to it is a honey farm. Taste some award-winning mead At Planet Bee. Find out about the wildlife of the area at the Allan Brooks Nature Centre or follow Vernon’s Tasting Trail.
Kelowna is located in the centre of the Okanagan Valley. Take a stroll on the 2 km long waterfront boardwalk. If you are there on a Wednesday or Saturday, check out one of BC’s largest Farmers Markets. There are 40 wineries within the area offering award-winning wines with tasting rooms. Find out more about guided wine tours. Take your own wine tour or find area beaches using maps provided by the Kelowna Visitors Centre.
Penticton is located between two lakes, Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. Both lakes offer sandy beaches and swimming. There are more than 80 wineries to explore in the area. You will also find craft breweries, a cidery and a few distilleries. See the largest surviving historic stern wheeler in BC, the S.S. Sicamous. The boat traveled the shores of the Okanagan from Penticton to Vernon from 1914 until 1936. Take a 90-minute ride on the historic Kettle Valley Steam Railway through orchards and vineyards. Visit Nixdorf Classic Cars to see over 100 restored classic cars from 1936-1970. Float down the lazy river on the Okanagan River water channel in Penticton.
Many of the wineries offer restaurants with incredible views and boutique accommodations. Here are just a few of our favourite wineries or explore all the wineries in the area using the Wines of BC wine map.
Kelowna: Quails Gate
Naramata Bench: Poplar Grove Winery,
Okanagan Falls: Blasted Church Winery,
Oliver: Burrowing Owl Estate Winery,
Vaseux Lake Provincial Park is located just outside Okanagan Falls on your way to Osoyoos. The Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary is an important conservation area and provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. California big horn sheep can sometimes be seen on the rocky ridge overlooking the lake. Campsite are available inn the park. Watch for more photos and information on the Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary that we hope to post soon.
Where to stay near the Okanagan
Hotels There are so many choices. Stay on the lakefront, in a vine,yard or somewhere with a spectacular view. Here are a few suggestions: Penticton Lakeside Resort, Kelowna’s Capri Hotel or Kelowna’s Sparkling Hill Resort for a health wellness experience.
Motorhome Park and Camping – Check out the RV and camp sites in the Central or Southern Okanagan.
Day 16 – Osoyoos
Continue to Osoyoos, where you will find the warmest freshwater lake in Canada. Download a visitors guide to the area.
Suggested stops in Osoyoos
- The Nk’Mip Desert Culture Centre features the culture and the people of the Osoyoos Indian Band. Visit the reconstructed village and take a stroll on the walking trails through sage bushes. Learn more about the centre.
- Osoyoos Desert Centre sits in what is known as a pocket desert. Take a self-guided or guided tour along the 1.5 km boardwalk. The dry shrub grasslands is an endangered ecosystem. This area is run by the Desert Society of Osoyoos.
- Osoyoos Desert Model Railway a world-class miniature world of up to 45 computer-operated trains.
- Visit some of the wineries in the area, a distillery, or craft brewery.
- Enjoy the beaches.
- Take a walk to Haynes Point to watch the sunset or sunrise.
Where to stay in Osoyoos
Hotels – Stay at Coast Osoyoos Beach Hotel which is on a private beach. Or try Hyatt’s Spirit Ridge Resort which is on the grounds of the Nk’Mip Cellars, North America’s first Indigenous-owned winery and the Nk’Mip Desert Culture Centre.
Motorhome Park and Camping – Nk’Mip RV Park and Campground or Sẁiẁs Provincial Park (Haynes Point)
Day 17 – Osoyoos via Hope Princeton to Vancouver – stay in Vancouver four nights 5 hrs, 36 mins (441 kms) without stops
Suggested stops from Osoyoos to Vancouver
- Sacred Spotted Lake is a mineral lake. It is located just outside Osoyoos, heading west on Highway 3 about 10 km. Blue, green and yellow spots appear on the lake, depending on the mineral concentration, as the waters evaporate during the hot summer. The appearance of the spots depends on the water levels of the lake.
- Similkameen Valley runs from Osoyoos to Princeton. It is home to many award winning wines. There are many tasting rooms for wine, ciders, and wine vinegars.
- Fruit orchards line the road heading into Keremeos. You will notice the numerous colourful fruit and vegetable stands, depending on the season.
- Hedley is a historic mining town. It produced 86 tons of gold.
- Manning Park Provincial Park is located in the Cascade Mountains. The park adds a cooler freshness to the landscape as the highway leaves the Okanagan’s semi-arid desert lands and transitions into the coastal rainforest. This is a year-round resort area offering lodging, camping, picnicking, hiking and winter activities. Manning Park is filled with spectacular alpine wildflowers from the spring into the fall. It is a prime birdwatching area with 206 species of birds. The park offers Dark Sky events for stargazing. Stop at Lightning Lake to stretch your legs and enjoy the view of this unusual lake that drains in two directions. Watch for the abundant ground squirrels. Here is a list of hiking trails in the park. Read more about the park
- Stop at the Hope Slide viewing area to see how powerful nature can be. On January 9, 1965, four motorists were killed in the the largest landslide recorded in Canada. The slide destroyed 3 kms. of Highway 3 and buried it under more than 47 million cubic metres of rock, mud, and debris – up to 500 ft deep in some locations, states the BC Ministry of Transportation.
- Othello Tunnels is a unique BC experience and an engineering marvel. These incredible tunnels pass through solid granite along the Coquihalla Gorge, once providing a rail connection between the B.C. coast and interior Kootenay Region.
- Harrison Hot Springs is a resort town noted for its healing hot mineral waters. Take a dip in the public pool or stay at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort.
- Relive history of the Hudson’s Bay fur traders and California gold prospectors at the Fort Langley Historic Site.
Day 17-21 – Explore Vancouver – stay four nights or more
- Vancouver, B.C. is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Surrounded by majestic mountains and sea, it is a wonderful walkable city with great transportation. Ride a bike around the seawall of world-famous Stanley Park. Visit the Market at Granville Island, then hop on a harbour ferry for a little self-guided tour. Visit Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, and then consider taking the Skytrain to Surrey and back. If it’s a clear day, take the gondola up Grouse Mountain. The sweeping views of the mountains, city and water are breathtaking. Don’t miss the Grizzly Bear Habitat up on Grouse. Watch for our Vancouver Guide coming soon. Check for available accommodation here.
- Extend your stay a little longer and consider taking a 7-14 day cruise up the Inside Passage to Alaska from Vancouver or drive south to visit Seattle, Washington.
Don’t miss Part 1 of this epic BC Travel Guide to help plan a trip of a lifetime to Vancouver Island, Pacific Rim National Reserve, Whistler and into the Canadian Rocky Mountains, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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