North Thompson & Columbia Icefields Loop, Thompson Region — BC
443 km (275 mi)
The North Thompson Valley stretches from Kamloops in the south to Mount Robson in the north. It includes the communities of Barriere, Sun Peaks, Clearwater/Wells Gray, Blue River, and Valemount. 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 mountain playground that’s a perfect place for alpline sightseeing, hiking and biking. In the summer outdoor festivals and concerts take place most weekends and you won’t want to miss the Mountain Cross Cart Course. From Sun Peaks, continue on to Barriere in the Lower North Thompson where you’ll find dozens of fishing lodges, set up ranch style making for a perfect getaway.
Waterfalls and Wilderness
The largest community in the North Thompson Valley is Clearwater, considered the gateway to rugged wilderness. 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 35 m (115 ft) 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. Explore the fringe of the world’s only inland rainforest. 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 wilderness.
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. For four months of the year, you can visit Maligne Lake, the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies, 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
Along this road trip the opportunity to stay in the beautiful mountain communities is easy. Explore the Sun Peaks village on foot to admire the alpine scenery, take in an outdoor concert or browse boutique shops. Jasper has stunning vistas, ever-changing landscapes, and activities.
Drive south on BC 93 to Lake Louise and Banff, you’re in for a truly quintessential Canadian experience. Free your mind and relax in spas and hot springs.
From Banff, travel west on the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) to return to Kamloops, via Golden and Revelstoke.
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
4629 Barriere Town 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