Travelling the USA, Canada and Australia



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Western Canada – Vancouver and the Rocky Mountains

It’s the classic trip to the Canadian West: Flight to Vancouver, visit of the wild coast of Vancouver Island followed by a round trip through the national parks of the Rocky Mountains. Quite a few tourists take the ferry through the Inside Passage to Prince Rupert and approach the parks from the north. We chose the southern route through the valleys of Fraser and Thompson River. Rather unclassically, our journey ends in Calgary.

We spend three days in Vancouver, the only major city on Canada’s west coast. Then we take the ferry to Vancouver Island and spend the next day in Victoria, the “British” capital of British Columbia. By the way, this is where the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) begins at the Mile-0-Marker, with 7,821 kilometers the third longest road connection in the world. We continue north across the Kinsol Tresle (a gigantic wooden bridge construction) and the cities of Duncan (City of Totems) and Chemainus (City of Murals).

At Parksville the only main road to the west coast turns off; at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park two magnificent waterfalls are worth a stop. The road – a dead end – finally ends in Tofino in Pacific Rim National Park. Here, the Pacific is raging at Long Beach where hundreds of tree trunks pile up on the beach. Our way back follows the same road; this time we stop at MacMillan Provincial Park where we admire an 800 years old Douglas fir at Cathedral Grove. The last night before the crossing we spend in Nanaimo, the second largest city on the island.

The first destination on the way to the mountains is Cypress Provincial Park. Up here, part of the 2010 Winter Olympics took place. We follow the TCH upstream in the Fraser Valley, drive past Abbotsford, the raspberry capital of Canada, take a short look at Harrison Hot Springs with its hot springs and at Hope, a city full of wood-carved sculptures. Then we reach Hell’s Gate, a narrow gorge where deep down the Fraser River roars. A cable car runs across the gorge – it’s definitely worth a ride. The next town, Kamloops, is the central supply center for the entire region.

Next stop is Wells Gray Provincial Park, which comes up with a great viewing tower and two waterfalls. We cross Mount Robson Provincial Park and reach Jasper on the Yellowhead Highway. Since the following days lead through a total of six National Parks and the highlights are literally overwhelming, here is a brief overview of the most important sights:

Main Attractions in the National Parks

National ParkProvinceMain CityAttractions
JasperABJasper* Mount Edith Cavell
* Valley of the 5 Lakes
* Maligne Canyon
JasperABIcefields Parkway* Athabasca Falls
* Sunwapta Falls
* Columbia Icefield
* Athabasca Glacier
* Sunwapta Pass
Banff (North)ABIcefields Parkway* Mistaya Canyon
* Bow Pass
* Peyto Lake
Banff (North)ABLake Louise* Lake Louise
* Lake Agnes
* Little Beehive
* Moraine Lake
YohoBCGolden* Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint
* Takakkaw Falls
* Natural Bridge
* Emerald Lake
GlacierBCGolden* Rogers Pass
* Hemlock Grove Trail
* Loop Brook Trail
RevelstokeBCRevelstoke* Meadows in the Sky Parkway
* Skunk Cabbage Trail
* Giant Cedars Trail
KootenayBCHarrison Hot
* Numa Falls
* Marble Canyon
* Vermilion Pass
Banff (South)ABBanff* Sulphur Mountain Gondola
* Bow Falls
* Tunnel Mountain

From Banff it is only a one hour drive to Calgary in Alberta, the largest city between the metropolitan areas on the west coast (Vancouver) and the east (Toronto, Montréal). It is the week of the Calgary Stampede, and so our tour through the Canadian Rocky Mountains ends in the midst of cowboys and cowgirls.

Route Description

01Vancouver Airport (YVR)Vancouver025 km
02VancouverVancouver060 km
03VancouverVancouver000 km
04VancouverLighthouse Park050 km
05VancouverVictoria125 km
06VictoriaParksville165 km
07ParksvilleTofino200 km
08TofinoNanaimo210 km
09NanaimoHarrison Hot Springs245 km
10Harrison Hot SpringsKamloops335 km
11KamloopsClearwater130 km
12ClearwaterJasper320 km
13JasperJasper060 km
14JasperLake Louise240 km
15Lake LouiseLake Louise030 km
16Lake LouiseRevelstoke270 km
17RevelstokeGolden155 km
18GoldenBanff240 km
19BanffBanff020 km
20BanffCalgary130 km
21CalgaryCalgary Airport (YYC)020 km
Total3.030 km

The Journey in Pictures