Is there anything quite so lovely as a well-planned and executed road trip? The freedom of the open road, the discoveries of new places, spaces and people along the way, it’s all so fantastic. And with its excellent and well-maintained highway network, Canada was made for exploration by automobile. We’ve asked some of our fellow travel experts to chime in with their own favorite road trips in Canada to help inspire your road trip holiday planning. These great Canadian road trips are among some of the most scenic, adventurous and joyful journeys you can pack onto four wheels.
11 of the best Canadian road trips from coast to coast
Note: Due to COVID-19, access to some Canadian regions and provinces may be limited. Check for updated travel information for Canada here.
Vancouver to Calgary
The route from the west coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, inland towards Alberta can follow several highways. One of the most scenic road trip routes is Highway 3, the Crowsnest Highway, that skirts along the border with the United States. This road trip encompasses several stunning mountain ranges, wide valleys and many small friendly towns along the way. Planning this as a road trip loop via a return trip along Highway 1 through Banff makes this journey anywhere from one to three weeks+ in duration, depending on how long you wish to spend in each destination along the way.
Departing Vancouver, the choice to follow the road less travelled occurs in Hope, where the road eastward divides into three options; Highway 1 through the narrow and dramatic Fraser Canyon, Highway 5 to Merritt via the high alpine Coquihalla Highway, and the Crowsnest Highway 3 towards Princeton and the southern Okanagan Valley.
The panoramic Crowsnest Highway meanders and climbs through the Coast Mountains, descending into the sprawling desert-like Okanagan Valley and its towns of Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos. This holiday land region of lakes, family-friendly resorts, wineries, and bike trails makes for a great pit stop. Or choose to camp by the Kettle River or next to Christina Lake, one of the warmest in Canada.
The entrance to the Kootenays past Grand Forks into Castelgar reveals steep mountain peaks, glaciers and lakes. Detour to quirky and delightful Nelson or enjoy a step back into the past at Fort Steele in Cranbrook before taking time in Fernie for mountain hiking, biking or touring the picturesque mountain town. If travelling with littles, stop in Sparwood to see gigantic mining trucks before crossing into Alberta and past Frank, site of one of the largest landslides in Canadian history.
Before hitting the big lights of Calgary, veer east to Head-Smashed-in Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site. This impressive outdoor First Nations interpretive centre showcases 6,000 years of Plains Buffalo culture and its ancient way of life. Our road trip along this route in the early 2000s remains one of our most memorable family holidays.
Calgary to Vancouver
The route from Calgary, Alberta, to Vancouver, British Columbia, is home to enough adventure, activities, and attractions that the journey could take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months. Two of Canada’s major cities tied together between almost 1,000 kilometres of Trans-Canada Highway 1. Done without stopping, the trip takes around 11 hours, but can easily be stretched out for as long as you want.
Starting in Calgary, which is home to the famous Calgary Library, the Calgary Stampede, Studio Bell National Music Centre, and the beautiful Bow River as it snakes its way through the downtown core and under the iconic Peace Bridge. Then from Calgary to Banff, it’s rolling prairies, foothills and mountain peaks. Once in Banff, you can take the Banff Gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain for magical views of the mountain town. Or face your fear on the Via Ferrata on Mt. Norquay or hike to see stunning waterfalls and canyons.
As you continue west along the scenic drive of Highway 1, you’ll pass world-famous Lake Louise. This iconic destination is a great place to stop and stroll the lakeshore near the Fairmont Lake Louise, or head a short distance to Moraine Lake for more outstanding mountain views. As you make your way west from Calgary, you’ll pass through four National Parks; Banff, Yoho, Glacier, and Mt Revelstoke. For anyone looking for epic hikes and wilderness, this is paradise.
If you’re just up for something quick and fun, try the one-man roller-coaster that goes down the mountain in Revelstoke. Got kids in tow? Be sure to stop at the Enchanted Forest before you reach the Shuswap Lake area where you can rent a houseboat in Sicamous or a cottage on the shores of the Lake.
Not far from here is Kamloops, where you can enjoy mountain biking, visiting the Secwépemc First Nations Museum, or BC Wildlife Park. From here, you can opt to head south on a short detour to the Okanagan Valley. With Kelowna, Penticton, and other towns along various lakes, Canada’s Okanagan Valley wine region is the perfect place to do winery tours or rent a boat for a day on the lake.
As you continue west to the coast, the mountains open up to the wide Fraser River Valley, providing stunning scenery before arriving in Vancouver, one of the world’s most beautiful cities. From Matt of MustDoCanada
Banff to Jasper
Once upon a time my family and I did an epic road trip across Alberta. We covered just about everywhere one could visit, but the leg that really stands out was the journey from Banff to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway. This is one of the most iconic drives in the world, and one of the best Canadian road trips in the land.
I am not one to normally ooh and ahh over scenery, but I was actually breathless on this trip. Driving alongside the majesty of the massive snow-covered mountains took my breath away. From Banff, head west about 57 km to admire the glacier-blue lakes of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, both picturesque lakes surrounded by mountains that represent iconic Canada.
A stay at the majestic Chateau Lake Louise is a bucket list item for many, but you don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to enjoy area hikes, book a horseback ride or rent a canoe. Grizzly bears can often be spotted from the 14-minute Lake Louise Gondola ride.
The winding Parkway on route to Jasper reveals breathtaking glacier-topped mountains around every bend in the road. We stopped at the Athabasca Glacier and went on the Columbia Icefield Adventure. The Columbia Icefield Adventure is an absolute must-do. The ride in the giant Ice Explorer vehicles (my then-three-year-old’s beloved Ice Bus) is amazing in itself. And hiking out across 400-year-old snow is an unforgettable experience.
For the daring and the curious, the Columbia Icefield Skywalk is worth discovery. Book timed tickets in advance to secure your shuttle bus seat and entry to this unique and scenic attraction. The views from the Skywalk onto the Athabasca Glaciar and Rocky Mountain peaks are unforgettable. As the route continues north to Jasper, keep eyes peeled for wildlife in the hills, including bears, elk, and big horn sheep. From Corinne at Have Baby Will Travel
Edmonton to Jasper National Park
In all honesty, the route from Edmonton to Jasper, Alberta, is almost wholly about the destination. It’s a lengthy drive – 366 km along the Yellowhead Highway – and the best of the scenery starts just as you arrive into Jasper National Park.
This idyllic mountain destination is certainly worth the long stretch in the car, and the drive itself, while not the most scenic until the end, does offer some interesting stops along the way.
At roughly the halfway point from Edmonton, make a stop at the Edson Galloway Station Museum and catch a glimpse of the historic wild west nature of the region. A little further along, park the car in Hinton and take a walk along the 3 km Beaver Boardwalk. This might be your best chance to spot Canada’s elusive national animal.
As you near Jasper itself, be sure to stop at the Miette Hot Springs to soak in the hottest natural springs in the Canadian Rockies. The water (which is kept between 37 and 40 degrees celsius), will certainly ease any aches and pains accumulated over the trip, and limber you up for all of the epic outdoor activities available to you in the great outdoors of Jasper National Park.
Jasper National Park is the largest park in the Canadian Rockies. It’s home to a Dark Sky Preserve and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of active adventures, including hiking, climbing, canyoning, canoeing and wildlife viewing. Local highlights include a paddle or cruise out onto Maligne Lake, hiking to Athabasca Falls and heading up the Jasper Skytram for incredible mountain views. From Dalene of RoadTrip Alberta
One of our all time favorite Canadian road trips was driving west to east through New Brunswick. Along the way we went whale watching, walked on the bottom of the ocean, zip lined overlooking a lighthouse, and hiked past waterfalls. To say it was one of our all time favorite road trips is an understatement.
In St. Andrews we set sail on a tall ship for a whale watching adventure, and it did not disappoint. We saw finback whales, dolphins, seals, and even a bald eagle. During the voyage we learned about the tides in the area, the ocean creatures, and even some New Brunswick history. It was the perfect beginning to our New Brunswick road trip.
From there we made our way to Saint John, home to the oldest farmer’s market in Canada. Make time to explore the New Brunswick Museum and learn about the area’s history, and its connection to the sea.
Continuing eastward, we found ourselves at St. Martins sea caves. This places deserves two visits, one at low tide, and once at high tide, just to see the water level difference. After your first visit to the caves, head to Fundy Trail Parkway for a drive with spectacular views and hiking. Return to the sea caves to see the tide difference. It will blow your mind.
One of the major attractions in New Brunswick is Fundy National Park. With over seventy five miles of trails, it’s worth staying a couple of days. There are over twenty five trails with waterfalls, so make it a priority to hike one of them.
Don’t miss Hopewell Rocks, another great example of low and high tide. This is where everyone wants to walk on the bottom of the ocean, just be sure to bring some mud friendly clothing and a towel. From here, head to Cape Enrage where you can zip line while you pass a light house overlooking the Bay of Fundy. From Kirsten of Kids Are aTrip
Niagara Falls to Montreal
Starting in Niagara Falls and ending in Montreal, this road trip is perfect for a one-week itinerary. There is so much to do in Niagara Falls, from zip lines to jet boats and classic cruises, it is easy to spend two days enjoying the fun attractions in town.
The next stop on your road trip should be the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Such a contrast from Niagara Falls, this charming town is perfect for wine tasting, biking, and exploring town. After enjoying the small-town feel of Niagara-on-the-Lake, spend a couple of days in the big city of Toronto. There is so much to see and neighborhoods to explore, but be sure to go to the top of the CN Tower, check out the Hockey Hall of Fame and St. Lawrence Food Market.
You can then break up your drive to Montreal with an overnight stay in Gananoque and spend a day exploring the Thousand Islands. You can take a boat ride over to Boldt Castle (passport required so only when the U.S. border is open.)
Complete your road trip with a few days in Montreal. The Old Port offers the charm of Europe with family-fun attractions including pedal boats, biking, zip lines, and Voiles en Voiles adventure course. Leave time to also visit the Biodome and Botanical Gardens, or head out to Parc Jean Drapeau to swim or visit La Ronde amusement park. From Tamara of We3Travel
Halifax to the Cabot Trail
The Cabot Trial traverses some of the most gorgeous scenery in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia. Meandering along the northern section of Cape Breton Island, one-third of the celebrated Cabot Trail runs through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, famous for its picturesque views and where lush, forested river canyons carve into the ancient plateau, edged by rust-coloured cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
This road trip from Halifax to Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail can take anywhere from a few days to a week, depending on how much time you have to enjoy the drive and views (hint: you should take your time).
From Halifax, head northeast to the Canso Causeway, the gateway to Cape Breton. From here, follow your GPS and heart’s desire to distilleries like the Glenora Inn, museums and interpretive centres, and Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.
When you reach the National Park, enjoy the winding road and pull out to take in the incredible views. The Park has 26 scenic walking and hiking trails to choose from, including the magnificent Skyline Trail which takes between 2-3 hours to complete.
Bird watch at the Big Glace Bay Migratory Bird Sanctuary, go kayaking or embark on a whale watching cruise in Pleasant Bay, and of course, stop in for chowder or lobster suppers (in season) along the route.
Toronto to Collingwood
Collingwood sits on the southern shores of Georgian Bay along the Niagara Escarpment in southwestern Ontario. While it’s just two hours from Toronto, there is much to do and see in the area, making it a perfect road trip destination.
If you are taking Airport Road from the city, there are some great spots along the way that are thoroughly worth the detour.
Creemore, voted one of the 10 prettiest towns in Canada, is filled with beautiful century homes and tree lined streets. The lovely cafes, shops, book stores, antique stores and galleries beg you to pop in and nourish your body and mind. Those who enjoy craft beer should pop into Creemore Springs brewery for a tour and tasting.
Heading west, the village of Glen Huron at Mad River is a great place to stop and hike (6.6 km) along the river banks. Stop in at Giffins for sweet treats like their famous butter tarts or apple pie.
This is Mennonite country, so you will more than likely come across a buggy or two along the road, especially if travelling on Sundays, so drive carefully.
For the wine enthusiasts, there are several wonderful local wineries around the Collingwood area. Some of these include: Roost Wine Company, Georgian Hills Vineyards, Coffin Ridge Vineyard & Winery, and Dunridge Farms.
Collingwood’s downtown area has been designated a Heritage District, the first municipality in Canada to have the Heritage District designation. The beautiful Century homes with their gingerbread detailing and wrap around verandahs are delightful; many of the store buildings also echo the same gingerbread detailing, and depict some of the history of the town on the murals along their outside walls.
At the marina, you can still see the massive grain elevators that stand as a relic of the era when goods were shipped to Chicago and Thunder Bay via rail. Find out more about its rich history at the Collingwood Museum. Up for more adventure? Head to the Scenic Caves, where you can zipline, explore the area history, and geology, go on a tree top adventure, or walk across the 420 ft suspension bridge.
The village of Blue Mountain Resort is a short drive from town. It’s a great place to spend a weekend away to explore the region and enjoy the restaurants, amenities and kid-friendly attractions at the resort. From Rossana at Life is Full of Adventures
Vancouver to Lilloet
One of the most scenic drives in the world, the Sea to Sky Highway 99 showcases coastal British Columbia at its finest. The journey from Vancouver to Whistler and north to Lilloet winds its way below coastal mountain cliffs, along the deep blue Howe Sound fjord, past waterfalls, provincial parks, rivers, mountains, towns and myriad attractions.
From Vancouver, head north along Highway 99 and stop for a visit and pan for gold at the Britannia Beach Mine Museum. Admire the spray of Shannon Falls, then take a ride up the Sea to Sky Gondola south of Squamish for an interpretive hike with a First Nations guide. The views of Howe Sound, the Stawamus Chief, and Sky Pilot mountain from the Sea to Sky’s suspension bridge and viewing deck are unforgettable.
Whistler’s small-town mountain vibe offer something for everyone in every season, whether it’s epic skiing and riding in winter, or hiking, mountain biking or swimming in Alta or Lost Lakes in summertime. There’s no shortage of dining or accommodation options for families or couples, whether it’s in the Village or in Creekside.
Continue your road trip past Whistler to Pemberton and north along the incredibly scenic Duffey Lake Road. The winding open road from Pemberton to Lillooet is part of the Discovery Coast Circle Route. It climbs through narrow canyons overlooking rivers, past mountains, lakes and waterfalls.
Popular attractions along the Duffey Lake Road include Nairn Falls and Joffre Lakes Provincial Parks, the latter having some of the busiest hiking trails and park areas in the province. Once the largest settlement west of Chicago and north of San Francisco as well as the terminus of the first road built into the interior of B.C., Lillooet has a golden history. The community boasts some of the hottest summer temperatures in the province, and its Golden Miles of History Tour is named for the wealth of gold dust mined from the downtown section of Main Street that also became the supply hub for the Cariboo Goldfields.
Vancouver to Tofino
Vancouver to Tofino is one of the best road trips in Canada, whether you are planning to go in the summer or the winter. While a winter Canadian road trip might not sound ideal, Tofino rarely sees snow and Sutton Pass is the only area where you will likely encounter winter driving conditions.
To get to Vancouver Island, take the Tsawassen or Horseshoe Bay BC Ferry Terminal to Nanaimo. The ferry offers stunning views of the coast along the way. The ferry takes between 1.5 and 2 hours depending on which terminal you use. Reservations are recommended in the summer months and especially on long weekends.
Once in Nanaimo you can take a side trip north to nearby beaches in Parksville and Qualicum Beach along the way. These Oceanside communities are great places to stop and stay for family fun like biking, kayaking, beach combing and even cave spelunking.
The winding drive across Vancouver Island to Tofino from Nanaimo takes about three hours. A popular stop on the way is “Goats on the Roof” in Coombs, just west of Parksville. The Old Country Market (with those goats on its grass roof) started as a small fruit stand and has grown into a large market with fresh produce and international foods to tourist souvenirs.
Further west, the large stand of old-growth trees in Cathedral Grove in Macmillan Provincial Park is also a must visit. Cathedral Grove has some of Canada’s oldest trees, with several over 800 years old!
The former fishing village of Tofino is known for its stunning coast line that can be enjoyed all year round. Whether you want to surf, hike, whale or storm watch or just enjoy the slower pace of life in a coastal Canadian town, there are plenty of reasons to take a road trip to Tofino. From Lindsay at Carpe Diem Our Way
Winnipeg to Calgary
For a fun and unique trip in Canada, head from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Calgary, Alberta. Winnipeg is a fun and educational city to explore with the Canadian Museum For Human Rights, children’s museums, outdoor living history forts and a cool downtown area to explore. We also enjoyed visiting the Assiniboine Zoo where they have a Polar Bear tunnel that you stand in and watch the polar bears swim around right above you.
Once you have explored Winnipeg, head to Riding Mountain National Park. This National Park has fun hiking trails and a beautiful clear lake and beach to explore. Next up is Waterton Lakes National Park where you can hike up and look out over the town and the gorgeous blue water, look for bears (we saw many while we were there) or enjoy an adventurous hike through a creek bed. Then head into town for a delicious dinner.
From Waterton, head to Dinosaur Provincial Park where you can go for a hike through the Badlands and see actual dinosaur bones. The unique landscape and hoodoo formations are great fun to explore in the park. Complete your trip road trip in Calgary, Alberta, and enjoy some of the attractions listed at the top of this article. From Bryanna at Crazy Family Adventure
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