Hélène, Henri and their 3 kids, a Belgian family, lived in New York as expats for a few years. During these years abroad, they took every opportunity to discover the continent. One of their trips took them to Western Canada. They take you on a roadtrip from Vancouver to the Rockies.
We started with a city trip to Vancouver and continued with 12 days of sea, mountains, lakes and wildlife experience. We explored the beauties of Vancouver Island and observed orcas and whales in their natural environment. On our way to the Rockies, we discovered Wells Gray National Park, a hidden gem of British Columbia. We also enjoyed the breath-taking views of the Rockies on the Icefield Parkway between Jasper and Banff. In 15 days, we stayed an average of two nights per location and we drove a total of 2,000 km and spent 26 hours on the road. This itinerary is from August 2014.
We began our trip in Vancouver. We rented bikes and explored the 400-hectare Stanley Park and enjoyed scenic views of water, beaches, mountains, park and the Lion's Gate Bridge, along Stanley Park's famous Seawall.
We also visited Gastown, the Harbour Centre Tower (beautiful views of the city, the sea and the mountains) and Chinatown and its peaceful Chinese Garden. We also made a stop at the olympic village. We stayed at The Sylvia Hotel, a beautiful boutique hotel, ideally located on English Bay, close to Stanley Park and just 5 minutes from downtown Vancouver. Built in 1912, The Sylvia Hotel is a city landmark and one of Vancouver's greatest treasures.
We took the ferry to Vancouver Island (from Vancouver Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo) and then crossed the island to Tofino, well known as a surfers’ paradise. We hiked in the Pacific Rim National Park and to Long Beach. The beach is beautiful but the water is very cold even in the middle of the summer!
We also went on a bear watching tour by boat. At low tide, bears are coming down to some beaches and rocks to eat shellfish. Great experience!
We stayed in an Ocean view cabin at the Middle Beach Lodge, very nice lodge with stunning sunset views ont the Pacific Ocean.
We crossed back the island to go to Steep Island, a tiny island in the heart of Discovery Passage (the "Water Highway" to Alaska). We stayed at the Steep Island Lodge : an incredible lodge with a few very comfortable cabins with a huge deck overlooking the Discovery Passage (at night, you can see the big cruise ships heading to Alaska). All the meals are included and are delicious (homemade bread, fresh fish and vegetables, by far the best meals of our trip!).
To get to the island, you go to the Campbell River Marina and somebody from the lodge will pick you up with their boat (it's a 15 min boat ride).We spent a whole day on the boat on an eco-tour. Imagine stunning views, a gourmet lunch in the magic of Desolation Sound, Discovery Islands and Johnstone Strait. We had the opportunity to see a gray whale, 6 orcas swimming around our boat for an hour, sea lions, and Pacific white-sided dolphins. It was just the five of us and 3 crewmembers. An amazing day!
After taking back the ferry to the mainland, we drove on the Sea-to-the-Sky Highway (Highway 99) from Vancouver to Whistler and Pemberton. We made several stops on this scenic road to watch the incredible views, mountains, waterfalls...
Wells Gray Provincial Park
Moul Creek Lodge : a fantastic bed and breakfast with 3 independent suites in a log cabin (build by the owners), close to Wells Gray Provincial Park entry.
Our journey continued to Clearwater, at the edge of Wells Gray Provincial Park. The first afternoon we hiked to 2 beautiful waterfalls : Moul Falls, the fun part is you can actually walk behind these falls ! On our way back we stopped at Helmcken Falls with its impressive 141m drop!
The next day we went on a guided tour with Gy from Discover Wells Gray. We hiked the "Trophy wildflowers meadows and alpine mountains"; our day was a mix of wildlife, flower meadows and alpine lakes and mountains. Beautiful day!
After our hike, we finished the day with one of the most magical moments of our life : watching the salmon jump at Bailey’s Chute. It is an overwhelming experience that you can witness from mid-August till the end of September.
On our way to Jasper, we stopped at various point of views, it is a quite scenic road.
The first afternoon, we hiked the Valley of the five lakes trail, this is an easy 2-hours hike around 5 clear lakes with unique shades of jade and blue.
The next day, we went to Maligne Canyon in the morning and spent the afternoon hiking at Maligne Lake (the Moose Lake Loop). The views at Maligne Lake are stunning.
We stayed in a comfortable rustic cabin at Becker's Chalets just south of Jasper with nice views on the river and the mountains.
To end our 2-weeh roadtrip We drove down the Icefields Parkway from the North to the South and made various stops on what we think is one of the world's most scenic drives.
These are the "must-do's" (but there are lots of point-of-views, just stop whenever you feel like it) :
- Athabasca Falls
- Columbia Icefields
- Weeping Wall
- Waterfowl Lake,
- Mount Cephren
- Peyto Lake
We also went to see the Takakkaw Falls (second highest waterfall in Canada with a drop of 381m !), hiked the Emerald Lake loop (another jewel of the Canadian Rockies, one of the few lakes with a trail all the way around it).
Picture of Peyto Lake
Start your day early (to avoid the crowd) when you visit Moraine Lake. We hiked the lake shoreline and then did some canoeing on the lake. The views are stunning.
On our way back we stopped at Lake Louise but it was so crowded that we didn't stay very long.
Instead, we took the Lake Louise Gondola (on the other side of the valley) and were lucky to see a grizzly bear just under us from the open chair lift. On the top there is a very interesting Wildlife Interpretive Centre and of course scenic views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Louise.
Spending the afternoon in Banff, wandering and doing some shopping is the perfect way to end this roadtrip before taking back the plane in Calgary.
We spent our last nights at Cathedral Mountain Lodge, in a luxury log cabin in the heart of the Rockies central to all the activities of Banff and Yoho National Parks. On top of that, their restaurant is delicious.
- The Orcas near Vancouver Island
- Flying salmons in Wells Gray Provincial Park
- The scenic road of the Canadian Rockies (Icefield Parkway)
This roadtrip is still on my bucketlist, so please share your tips below.
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