North Thompson & Columbia Icefields Loop, Thompson Region — BC
443 km (275 mi)
This rewarding road trip offers access to broad sweeping valleys, dozens of fishing lakes, ranches, breathtaking waterfalls, ancient glaciers and mountains that touch the clouds. The North Thompson & Columbia Icefields Loop is more than a drive through the mountains. It takes you through two national parks with plenty of opportunity for wildlife viewing as you travel one of Canada’s national treasures.
Venture off from Kamloops on BC 5 north to Sun Peaks, the second largest recreational ski area in Canada and year-round resort village with ongoing events. Continue on to Barriere in the Lower North Thompson where you’ll find dozens of fishing lodges, set up ranch style.
Waterfalls and Wilderness
The largest community in the North Thompson Valley is Clearwater, considered the gateway to rugged wilderness most people imagine all of Canada to be. Take your time in Wells Gray Provincial Park where you can view the amazing vista of Helmcken Falls or walk behind Moul Falls, which plummets 35m into the canyon below. We dare you to keep count of the number of waterfalls along the way.
Lakes, Rivers and Mountains
Paddle in the quiet of Murtle Lake, the largest non-motorized lake in North America. View bears in their natural habitat on the fringe of Canada’s only inland rainforest and go bear watching river safari style at Blue River. Ride the rapids near Valemount and hike the iconic Berg Lake Trail at Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Then take to air. Nothing quite compares to the 360-degree view of the valley below from a helicopter. Heli-hike Berg Lake Trail, heli-tour the glaciers and in the winter, snowmobile in the alpine.
Tour the Glaciers
Just past Valemount, take Hwy 16 east to Jasper and Jasper National Park, where you’ll be amazed by the diverse ecology and glacier-laden area of the Columbia Icefields. Tour the glaciers year round and for four months of the year, you can visit Maligne Lake, the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies which is home to the world-famous Spirit Island.
There’s nothing quite like seeing animals in their natural habitat. Moose, elk, mountain goats, mountain lions, bears, wolves, and other furry and feathered creatures live along this loop.
Do not feed or approach the animals you encounter. When they become friendly with humans, both your life and theirs can be threatened. If there are babies around, the mother is usually not far off. Be careful while driving, as wild animals do tend to run out on the road. Hikers should stick to marked trails and avoid any scented personal care products that might attract wildlife.
Unique Mountain Towns
Stay in the beautiful mountain community of Jasper with stunning vistas, ever-changing landscapes and activities that range from the mild to the wild. As you drive south on BC 93 you’ll come to Lake Louise and Banff. You’re in for a truly quintessential Canadian experience here. Free your mind in the area spas and relax in the hot springs. Spend your time exploring the streets and shops with all Canadiana you could hope for.
From Banff, travel west on the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) to return to Kamloops, via Golden and Revelstoke where you can continue on another journey through this ecological and geological diverse area.
Need to Know:
|Loop Distance:||443 km (275 mi)|
|Duration to drive:||Six hours to three days.
Recommended to stay and explore along the way.
|Best time to drive:||Year round.
Snow tires and chains highly recommended in the winter months.
|Watch for:||Wildlife on the road.
Not uncommon to have snow at higher elevations in the summer.
Watch for black ice on the roads in winter.
Barriere Tourism Information Booth
4353 Conner Road
Barriere, British Columbia
British Columbia Visitor Centre
at Mt Robson
Valemount, British Columbia
500 Connaught Drive
Clearwater Visitor Centre
425 E Yellowhead Hwy
Clearwater, British Columbia
Kamloops Visitor Centre
1290 Trans Canada Hwy
Kamloops, British Columbia
Valemount Visitor Centre
785 Cranberry Lake Road
Valemount, British Columbia
Banff Visitor Information Centre
224 Banff Ave.
Lake Louise Visitor Information Centre
Village of Lake Louise, Alberta