Information from Intrepid
There’s nothing quite like Canada’s south-west, with snow-capped mountains on the city skylines, rugged wilderness to explore all year round, top notch hiking, world-class surf breaks, whale migration routes, and that fresh, crisp British Columbia air. Experience the natural wonder of Canada’s west on this 20-day active Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid. Beginning in Vancouver, you’ll traverse weaving highways lined with alpine scenery, through Wells Gray Provincial Park and Jasper, Banff, Yoho and Glacier national parks. Cross the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island, and discover the culinary hub of Victoria and the beachy town of Tofino. The Canadian Rockies and Vancouver Island are nature at its absolute finest.
- Ferry , Private vehicle
- Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night), Camping (with facilities) (15 nights), Hostel (2 nights), Hotel (2 nights)
- Wells Gray Provincial Park
- Overnight Canoe Trip
- Jasper National Park - Entrance Fee
- Visit to Maligne Lake
- Banff National Park
- Visit to Lake Louise
- Visit to Moraine Lake
- Yoho National Park
- Glacier National Park
- Mt. Revelstoke National Park
- Rogers Pass Discovery Centre
- Ferry to Vancouver Island
- Ferry from Vancouver Island
- Get wild in Jasper National Park, where it’s possible to spot moose, elk, deer, bears and coyotes among the sea of evergreen pine and spruce trees.
- Lakes, mountains, glaciers – the Rockies feature an array of striking landscapes that are remarkable no matter what time of year you visit.
- Set out by canoe and camp overnight on the remote shore of Clearwater Lake, where you can fall asleep under a blanket of stars.
- Compact Victoria is perfect for exploring on foot, and its younger population is reflected in the thriving bar and dining scene of the city.
- Vancouver Island is an ideal viewing point on a whale migration route as they head north to Alaska for the summer or down to Mexico for the winter.
Day 1: Vancouver Welcome to Vancouver, Canada. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm at the hotel, where you can introduce yourself to your fellow travellers and tour leader. If you arrive early in Vancouver, why not take a walk around the Victorian buildings in the historic Gastown neighbourhood or wander through the behemoth urban forest that is Stanley Park. Captivated by Vancouver and worried you won’t have enough time to see what the city has to offer? Remember you’ll be back to bookend your journey.
Day 2: Whistler Today, leave Vancouver behind and travel to the outdoor mecca that is Whistler. Drive along the Sea to Sky Highway, widely considered one of the most scenic routes in the world, with a stop at Squamish along the way. If time permits, it may be possible to take a short hike to the massive granite monolith known as The Chief before continuing to Whistler. While there are no included activities planned for your time in Whistler, there are plenty of optional activities to take part in during your stay. Hiking, mountain biking, zip-lining and kayaking are just some of what’s on offer. Have a chat to your leader about how to go about booking and taking part in these activities. You’ll have time today on arrival to get your bearings before you settle into the campground for the night.
Day 3: Whistler Rise and shine for a free day in this outdoor adventure hub. Remember that all activities in Whistler are optional and some may come at an additional cost. Zip-lining tours are an amazing way of getting an aerial view over Fitzsimmons Creek and, if you’re lucky, seeing some bears along the way. During the warmer months, hiking is a great (and inexpensive) way to get the lay of the land, just keep in mind that the rugged terrain can make for challenging trails. There are also some great cycle networks in Whistler, so you have the option of hiring a bike and riding to one of the nearby lakes. Don’t forget to spend some time exploring Whistler Village, a charming pedestrian-only town with plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants.
Day 4: Wells Gray Provincial Park Make sure you’ve got a book, a podcast or some sparkling conversation ready as you settle in for a long drive to Wells Gray Provincial Park (approximately 6–7 hours). You’ll arrive in time to set up camp for the evening on a rustic cowboy ranch. Enjoy a cold beverage in an authentic saloon and then relax with dinner by the campfire. Complete the classic North American campsite by crafting s’mores (marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers) and sharing stories over the crackle of the flames.
Day 5: Wells Gray Provincial Park This morning you’ll travel deeper into Wells Gray Provincial Park, disembarking at Clearwater Lake. Pack your camping equipment into a canoe and cruise into the water. On a sunny day the name of the lake is particularly apt, and if you work up a thirst while paddling you can drink the pristine water around you, no filter necessary. After some instruction from the canoeing guides, paddle about 2.5–4 hours to a secluded beach campsite. Set up camp for the night and spend some time swimming or exploring before cooking dinner. The campsite tonight is a little more basic than others on the trip. It has tables, fire-pits and tent sites, but only pit toilets and no showers. But trust us, the stunning location more than makes up for the rustic facilities.
Day 6: Wells Gray Provincial Park Wake up lakeside and choose whether to set out on a short, unguided hike from the campsite or enjoy a relaxing breakfast on the lakefront. Pack up your gear and hit the water again, alighting along the way at another beach for a picnic lunch. Back at the starting point, help unload and store the canoes and then drive to the ranch, checking out some amazing waterfalls along the way.
Day 7: Jasper National Park Hit the road bound for Jasper National Park, a journey which should take around 5.5 hours. Along the way you'll see views of Mt Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. You'll arrive in the afternoon, giving you time to head out on an optional walk. Try and catch a glimpse of the area's wildlife such as moose, elk, deer, bears and coyotes. If you’re lucky enough to spot one or more of these beasts in their natural habitat, remember to keep your distance of at least 100 metres from predators (bears, coyotes) and 30 metres from all other animals. One optional activity that may be of interest if you arrive with a few hours of daylight to spare is the Jasper SkyTram. This tramway ascends to 2300 metres above sea level to a great vantage point in the Rocky Mountains with breathtaking views.
Day 8: Jasper National Park/Maligne Lake Today you’ll make a visit to of Maligne Lake. Make sure you’ve got a charged phone or camera ready to capture shots of the jagged mountains and bright green pine forests that surround these glacial waters. Take a hike around the area and then choose whether you’d like to pay for an optional cruise around the lake, including a visit to Spirit Island. This tiny ‘tied’ island is one of the most photographed spots in the Canadian Rockies for a reason, so if you can afford it the optional cruise is worthwhile.
Day 9: Banff National Park Take a scenic morning drive through mountain scenery on the famous Icefields Parkway, which connects Jasper and Banff National Parks (approximately 4 hours). There will be numerous opportunities to stop at viewpoints and waterfalls along the way. This includes visits to the ice fields of Athabasca Glacier, where you can choose to either admire from a distance or explore on an optional guided tour. On arrival at your campground in Banff, get your bearings with a brief walk. You'll be spending the next three nights here, so settle in and start planning what to do in your free time.
Day 10-11: Lake Louise/Banff National Park Over the next two days you'll visit the pristine Lake Louise and stunning Moraine Lake with hiking opportunities at both locations. Banff is Canada's oldest national park, with valleys and mountain chains formed between 55 and 80 million years ago. You'll also have ample free time to explore Banff and take part in optional activities. As always, your leader is there to help, so pick their brain for advice on which (if any) you wish to participate in. Options include a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain, a dip in the natural hot springs or exploring the hoodoos and falls of Bow River valley by foot. There are many trails of different lengths, allowing you to hike for as long (or short) as you wish.
Day 12-13: Yoho National Park/Golden Today drive for around two and a half hours to a place so beautiful its name comes from a Cree word that means awe and wonder – Yoho National Park. On arrival, take a walk down the Kicking Horse River and visit Takakkaw Falls (the second-highest falls in Canada at 384 metres). If time permits, you’ll also visit Emerald Lake, which (perhaps unsurprisingly) is an arresting shade of cyan. Your two nights in Yoho National Park give you ample time to explore the terrain and take part in optional activities. Thrillseekers might want to give whitewater rafting a go. Half- and full-day options are available for rafting, giving you the chance to get wet and wild on class III to class IV+ rapids. For those who prefer to approach nature in a calmer way there are plenty of great trails – ask your leader for a recommendation that matches your fitness level.
Day 14: Glacier National Park/Kamloops This morning, travel through the high mountain clearing of Rogers Pass to reach Glacier National Park. Stop at Rogers Pass Discovery Centre for a look around and (depending on time and conditions) take a short hike through an old-growth area of cedar and hemlock. As one of the world's most active avalanche areas, most of the rugged, mountainous area of Glacier National Park is inaccessible for day hikes. Drive through Mount Revelstoke National Park, which contains part of the world's only temperate inland rainforest, and (if time allows) explore the area on a short hike. The destination today is the town of Kamloops. Keep in mind that the drive today will take approximately 6–7 hours, so get those devices and reading materials ready.
Day 15: Vancouver Make the journey back to Vancouver (approximately 4-5 hours). The arrival time depends on a variety of factors such as weather, but you should expect to be back in the city before 3 pm. Vancouver is the largest city in western Canada and well worth the place to begin the second stage of your North American adventure. Please note that you may farewell some of your travellers today who aren’t making the journey to Vancouver Island. Meet up with your group at another briefing at 6 pm, where there may be some new adventurers joining you! Afterwards, why not head out in the Gastown neighbourhood or to one of over 40 craft breweries in Vancouver – Mount Pleasant is a brewery hotspot.
Day 16: Victoria To start the Vancouver Island trip, you’ll have to get over to the Island! Take a ferry across the Strait of Georgia to Victoria, BC (approximately 3.5 hours). With its landscaped gardens and preserved historical buildings, it is one of the most British-influenced cities in North America. However, with a recent injection of hip bars, shops, restaurants and young residents, the city is evolving into something more cosmopolitan. Wander through Victoria’s abundant parkland and make your way into town to kick back with the young locals in a bar or restaurant. The afternoon and evening are yours to explore.
Day 17: Victoria Victoria is known for its outdoor activities so on your free day here, perhaps indulge in a spot of whale watching or take a tour of the famous Butchart Gardens. If that isn’t your thing, check out the excellent Royal BC Museum to learn about the natural and human history of the area. The city has also been hit by the craft beer revolution, and is home to Canada’s first brewpub, so why not meander your way to relax and experience the Canadian hospitality for yourself.
Day 18: Tofino On your way out of Victoria, have a quick stop in the eastern port of Nanaimo before heading on to Cathedral Grove for a walk around the majestic Douglas fir trees, which are more than 800 years old and untouched by the modern world. A picnic lunch will be needed to admire this towering forest. You’ll continue on your drive to the relaxed seaside town of Tofino (total journey approximately 4.5 hours, not including stops). As well as being named the best surf town in North America, Tofino is also a perfect spot for storm chasing and outdoor activities such as kayaking, whale watching and hiking.
Day 19: Tofino Today is free for you to explore Tofino and its surrounds, with many possible optional activities. Take a kayak out on Clayoquot Sound, relax on one of Tofino’s sandy beaches or take a stroll and go tide pooling. Alternatively, you have the option to sign up for a whale-watching tour. Tofino lies along the route of the annual grey whale migration. Each year, up to 20,000 grey whales leave the waters of the Baja Peninsula and head north to the nutrient-rich feeding grounds of Alaska and the Bering Sea. This 20,000 kilometre round trip is thought to be the longest migration of any creature in the world. Whale-watching trips can often be combined with wildlife viewing and hot springs tours. A bear-watching trip by boat through the calm waters of Clayoquot Sound near Tofino is another popular option.
Day 20: Vancouver From Tofino, you’ll travel to a ferry port and cruise back to Vancouver. The total travel time from Tofino on this day is around 5.5 hours. There may be time for an activity with your group leader in the afternoon, however there is no included accommodation for the night.