Vancouver to the Rockies

Three Routes – Three Fantastic Road Trips

When you plan your road trip from Vancouver to and through the Rocky Mountains, your toughest decision will be which route to take. We’ve chosen three routes that all lead to the same destination. However, there are vastly different adventures along the way!

Route 1 – Hope to Osoyoos on Hwy 3 (Crowsnest Highway), then north on Route 97

If you seek adventure filled with amazing wine, great food, and abundant fun, be sure your road trip takes you east on Highway 3 then north on Route 97.  Beginning in Vancouver, your drive will be approximately 12 hours. Your route takes you through the cities and towns of Princeton, Osoyoos, Oliver, Penticton, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Vernon, Sicamous, Revelstoke, and then through the Rocky Mountains to Banff. We strongly advise you carve out time to visit some places along the way.

This route takes you through some incredibly fertile land that yields delicious wines and juicy fruits. The city of Osoyoos has the claim to fame of having the warmest freshwater lake in Canada, making its warm sandy beaches the perfect place for a dip. Osoyoos is also Canada’s only arid desert, where you’ll find unique flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the country.

Osoyoos

It’s here you’ll find some of the world’s more awarded and delicious wines. Between Osoyoos and Kelowna, there are upwards of 172 amazing wineries. History buffs take note, the first recorded vineyard planted in the Okanagan was located at the Oblate Mission in Kelowna in 1859. The grapes were made into sacramental wine for the celebration of Eucharist.

In the warmer months, take in a drive-in movie at the Starlight, North America’s largest drive in movie screen. It’s a short drive north of Vernon in Enderby. From there it’s a gorgeous drive through the Shuswap, where you’ll find a young wine industry, as well as beautiful lakes and beaches. When you arrive in Revelstoke, the mountains beckon. Enjoy your drive through the mountain passes as you take in the grandeur of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Route 2 – Fraser Canyon on Hwy. 1 (Trans Canada) with a Coquihalla option.

The most commonly used route between Vancouver and the Rockies is through the Fraser Canyon. The entire drive can be done by staying on the Trans-Canada Hwy. After Hope, you continue northwards through the Fraser Canyon, which is a winding and scenic section of road.

If time is an issue, another highway option is to take advantage of the Coquihalla Highway (BC-5N). This faster route connects from Hope to Kamloops. Taking this road can save you approximately an hour of driving time.

Kamloops Sunset

Photo Credit: Andrew Strain

Either route you chose to take will bring you through the scenic and majestic mountains of Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park and Yoho National Park, then on to Banff National Park. Glacier National Park boasts incredible views for hiking enthusiasts of all skill levels. Imagine hiking through old growth forest and allowing the majestic splendor of the Columbia Mountains to envelop you as you watch for various local flora and fauna.

This is a particularly interesting route for history buffs as well, as your drive will take you through Craigellachie, where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railroad was driven by Sir Donald Smith on November 7, 1885. In nearby 3 Valley Gap, be sure to explore the area’s ghost town! Wander through the village and imagine life as someone caught up in the gold rush of 1862. 3 Valley Gap also has something for the antique car enthusiast – an auto museum!

Route 3 – Hope-Princeton – Hwy 3 (Crowsnest Highway) through Manning Provincial Park to Kootenay National Park

If time is no object and you wish to explore and indulge in some of mother nature’s most amazing amenities, stay south and follow the Hope-Princeton (Hwy 3) and continue through Manning Provincial Park to Osoyoos. After taking in a few wineries and fresh fruit stands to gather up the essentials, continue to Boundary Country, through Grand Forks. Continue to Castlegar, then head north and connect with the Banff-Windermere Parkway (Hwy 93S). This road leads you through Kootenay National Park where you’ll have the opportunity to soak your travel weary bones in the mineral rich pools of Radium Hot Springs.

Cascade Lookout, Manning Park

For nature lovers, this route offers several scenic hikes through areas such as Marble Canyon or the Paint Pots. For budding photographers, the Paint Pots offer a treat for your lens. This unique natural phenomenon is created by unusual physical and chemical activity and has a history of use by both Aboriginal and European groups. The rich hues of yellow and red were used for ceremonial purposes, cooking, as well as rock paintings. The Paint Pots are considered a sacred First Nations site, so please treat the area with respect.

Whatever route you choose on your journey between Vancouver and the wonderful destinations in the Rockies, you’re guaranteed to be treated to majestic mountain views and welcoming hospitality! Drive safe!