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Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

Birmingham, United...
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Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

Hello, we are planning to go for our honeymoon to Canada this September. We want to spend a few days in Vancouver but then travel by road to Calgary and fly back from there. We have about 13 nights in total, probably spending 5 in Vancouver, so would have 8 nights to get us back to Calgary.

What route would folk suggest? My hubbie-to-be is a keen photographer so the more scenic the better. That said, as it's our honeymoon and I will be driving I'm keen to make sure it's relaxing and that we're not travelling really long distances each day.

Any advice would be massively gratefully received!

Thanks all!

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

Unless you really want to go out of your way (and avoid a lot of worthwhile places), you'll typically be taking Highway 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway) for most of that trip. It is a very scenic route and since you have a few days to drive it (it can be driven in around 12 hours non-stop), you'll probably enjoy it a great deal.

The main choice you'll have along that route is how to tackle the stretch from Hope to Kamloops. Highway 1 through the Fraser Canyon is definitely more scenic, but is also slower (1 lane in each direction the majority of the way along a road carved out of the steep, curving walls of a river canyon that runs through mountains). The Coquihalla (Hwy. 5) is a much faster route that is not quite as scenic but not without its own highlights.

You should probably plan at least one overnight stop somewhere on Shuswap Lake. Sicamous or Salmon Arm are both options, or if you're camping there are several places to choose from.

The best stretch of that route, in my opinion, is from Revelstoke to Canmore, when you're in the Canadian Rockies and go through no less than four national parks (Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho, and Banff). If you have the time, which it sounds like you do, you might want to include a side trip to Radium Hot Springs (driving down Hwy 93 through Kootenay National Park to get there) and a stop in Lake Louise.

Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

Hi HemeraBirmingham ~ and welcome to the Forum

Your plan is a great one for 13 nights to Calgary. And September should be a nice month for it weatherwise. Just to give you a heads up for your planning, each forum, to the top right, has a Top Questions box with information about commonly asked questions. As well, in the sidebar to the left, each forum has its own "Things to Do." On the British Columbia forum, there is some great information to help with your question, such as this:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g154922-c120076/Briti…

I'll just mention that the first Monday of September is Labour Day here, a very busy weekend on the roads as people are travelling on the last weekend before school starts. Once you are east of Vancouver, there's lots of room on the roads.

Hwy 1 from Kamloops to Revelstoke to Lake Louise etc. is arguably the most scenic route to the Rockies. It also follows the original CPR railroad bed and contains several historic places of interest to see. More scenic than the route up to Clearwater and Valemount to Jasper. Mount Robson could be done as a day trip from Jasper.

Some areas to look into for your 8 days of travel would be: The Okanagan Valley, from Osoyoos north to Vernon' the West Kootenays, around Nelson, Kaslo, Nakusp, Creston; Hwy 3 from Hope eastward for scenery; and even the Fraser Canyon from Hope to Lytton, or at least the hour's drive from Hope north to Hell's Gate for the aerial tram experience.

Some other treasures on the forums are trip reports:

On the British Columbia forum, in first position of the topics listings, with a push pin Sticky, you will find Trip Report Collection. These TRs will give you some real experience information.

On the Canadian Rockies forum, you will be able to link to TRs by looking in the Top Questions. The title is more obscure there, something like "what are some itineraries?" But these are in fact Trip Reports.

And finally, to help you do some further research, have a look at:

www.hellobc.com and

maps.google.ca to get directions for driving routes, distances and driving times.

Scenery is rampant here no matter where you go. The best thing you could do is use some of the information linked here to find out what places on the way hold the most appeal and interest to you. Then perhaps put together a draft itinerary and post it here. That would give us something to work with and provide more specific suggestions to work it up into something that would be really nice for you.

Your travel plan might look something like: 4 nights Vancouver, 1 night enroute (perhaps Kelowna (via Osoyoos) or Salmon Arm), 4 nights Banff, 3 nights Jasper, 1 night Banff to shorten the drive to Calgary for your flight out.

Hope this helps get you started.

Edited: 05 June 2011, 15:56
Canada
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3. Re: Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

You will have a couple of options. Hwy 5 - the Coquihalla - is pretty much a destination highway - there is some scenery for sure, but nothing more, so I'd not recommend it in your case.

Check out google maps or www.drivebc.com (has drive times and webcams) and also www.hellobc.com for better ideas of drive times and what you might want to do or where you might want to stay.

Hwy 1 from Vancouver to Spences Bridge then across to Merrit and then Peachland to Kelowna - on to Revelstoke and Banff then Calgary. The section of Hwy 1 from Hope to Spences Bridge is very scenic, although this would be a "long" route (see a map).

Hwy 1 to Hope then Hwy 3 (Crowsnest) to Princeton then to Penticton - Kelwona etc. Or from Princeton east to Osoyoos to Castlegar then horth to Revelstoke and on.

There are quite a few options and 8 days will give you a nice trip.

Hwy 1 is still more coastal, the Okanagan is BC's desert country and the Kootenays (Castlegar area) is different again.

Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

One more thought. The Rockies are the main draw here which is why my road plan suggestion is heavily weighted toward the Rockies. But you could also consider

3 nights Vancouver, 2-3 enroute, 3 nights Banff, 3 nights Jasper, 1 night Banff.

We really are a big province. 2 UKs will fit into the southern half of BC where you are thinking of travelling. Driving distances are fairly long.

e.g. Vancouver to Osoyoos, 5 hours. Osoyoos to Cranbrook/Kimberley, 6 hours. Cranbrook to Banff, 4 hours. There's 2 nights enroute right there. I think that's why researching the areas YOU would really like to see is so important. Those 2 nights enroute need to work really well and once the local posters have an idea of what appeals to you, the route will fall into place.

Edited: 05 June 2011, 18:12
Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

I would strongly recommend that you plan for 5 of your 8 nights in the Banff/Jasper corridor, and yes, you do need to drive up to Jasper and back again.

That only leaves you with three nights for the drive. You have been given excellent advice and now you'll have to do the difficult job of making some decisions about your personal priorities. We can't really set those for you. :>

I'd be inclined to suggest one night in the Okanagan somewhere (Kelowna and environs), going via the route IslandWest has suggested so that you can take in a bit of the Fraser Canyon. Second night in Revelstoke, going via the Arrow Lakes ferry along Highway 6 from Vernon and then north through Nakusp to Revelstoke.

Plan on really taking your time between Revelstoke and Banff National Park. Night 3 might be Lake Louise, or you might look at Field, depending on what you want to do. Nights 4 and 5 would be Jasper, giving one full day to see Jasper, then back down the Icefields Parkway (it is worth doing twice - you won't regret it) to Banff Townsite for nights 6 and 7 and finally night 8 in Calgary before your flight out.

Vancouver, Canada
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6. Re: Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

I should add that the driving days are a lot of driving (by English standards, going for 6 + hrs in a car here isn't all that unusual), so you would have to decide how much driving you do in a day. If you think of it this way, 6 hrs of driving is only three hours after breakfast and another three hours in the afternoon before dinner. You get used to it.

Birmingham, United...
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7. Re: Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

Hi all,

Many, many thanks for all your replies. You've given me a lot to think about and I've taken onboard what you've all said and will post a suggested itinerary in a day or so and get some feedback.

It seems like everyone is suggesting that it's a better option to drive to Jasper and back along the 93, rather than taking the 5 to Jasper, which by the sound of it isn't such a nice drive?

Many thanks again!

Port Moody, Canada
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8. Re: Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

Actually the reason people are suggesting alternates to hwy 5 is because they are more scenic/dramatic.

We travel hwy 5 regularly on our way back to the prairies. There are some wonderful spots along the Thompson River, the opportunity to visit Helmcken Falls at Wells Grey Park, the amazing Mt Robson vista BUT the more dramatic scenery lies to the south via Rogers Pass.

I particularly like the suggestion by Vancouverite to travel through Nakusp and up the Arrow Lakes to Revelstoke. The suggestions you're being given are based on the folks here having driven/visited the routes and wanting you to get the most out of your trip to the Rockies.

...and I will reiterate, yes, you should drive the Ice Field Parkway twice!!!

9. Re: Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

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Tacoma
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10. Re: Vancouver to Calgary by road - which route to take?

Hi everyone, I concur with all the above! Any place in the fore mentioned areas are just beautiful! You can't go wrong. Good for you to do your homework. Chek out photos of the area which will help detemine what you are looking for and interested in. Plus if you are hikers, trails galore to explore. We are planning a trip to the Rockies come August. So much to do, see and visit. Have to pick and choose what & where you want to go. Happy travels.