With winding mountain roads cutting through the remote reaches of British Columbia and Canada’s wild Yukon, this 1,390-mile scenic highway takes travelers all the way to beautiful Alaska. This road trip is unlike any other you’ve experienced before!
Quick Note: Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the border between the U.S. and Canada is currently closed to non-essential travel. While some Americans are permitted to travel on the Alaska Highway, you must have a legal, valid reason to do so. You must also follow all the laws of Canada while you transit through the country. Tourism and sightseeing is not a valid reason for travel, and this post is strictly meant for post-pandemic travel plans.
Originally built during World War II to connect Alaska with the contiguous United States, the Alaska Highway has seen drastic improvements since it’s opening in the 1940s.
No longer a treacherous dirt road, it’s paved and ready for your modern-day road-tripping rig!
This scenic highway begins in the town of Dawson Creek, British Columbia. With a population of about 13,000 people, Dawson Creek will be one of the larger towns on your route.
Load up on groceries and fuel, check over your road trip packing list, because you’re in it for the long haul!
Road Trip to Alaska: Alcan Highway Itinerary
Stop One: Dawson Creek (Mile 0)
Welcome to Dawson Creek, where your adventure officially begins! Brush up on the famous route’s history at the Alaska Highway House Interpretive Center.
Here, you can watch an educational film about the highway’s construction and explore some of the equipment used in the rigorous building process. This was no small project!
If you’re planning to spend multiple days in Dawson Creek, you’ll have plenty of time to take a trip over to the Kiskatinaw Bridge. Check out this bridge’s quality craftsmanship.
Built during the construction of the Alaska Highway, the Kiskatinaw Bridge was the first curved wooden bridge in Canada and is one of few that remain intact today.
Ready to hit the road? Dawson Creek features a fun sign marking the start of the Alaska Highway. This marker makes a great photo opp to commemorate the beginning of your road trip.
Let the journey begin!
Stop Two: Charlie Lake (Mile 52)
The first scenic stop along the Alaska Highway is Charlie Lake. This magnificent lake sits right next to the road and is a convenient pull off to enjoy the views.
Don’t be shy, go take a closer look! There are two wonderful parks along the lake’s shore, Charlie Lake Provincial Park and Beatton Provincial Park.
Charlie Lake Provincial Park, on the west shore of the lake, offers some short scenic hiking trails, a boat launch, and a campground with full hookups.
Stretch your legs, take some memorable photos, and relax by the water!
Stop Three: Muncho Lake (Mile 462)
This next lake is definitely a sight to see while you road trip to Alaska!
Similar to Charlie Lake, you can’t miss this one because the Alaska Highway runs right along its eastern shore! Muncho Lake is a jaw-dropping jade-color. No filter needed!
With a backdrop of towering mountains and pristine wilderness, you’ll want to stay here for days, which is actually possible if you snag a camp spot.
Strawberry Flats Campground in Muncho Lake Provincial Park is a great place to spend a night or two. Most of the campsites here even offer direct access to the lake for fishing and the ultimate sunset viewpoint. You can’t beat that!
While you’re here, take a hike on one of the area’s awesome trails. The 3-mile Stone’s Sheep Trail offers hikers an epic view of Muncho Lake and the surrounding landscape. Be on the lookout: there’s always a possibility to see stone sheep and caribou!
Stop Four: Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park (Mile 496)
Bathing suit? Check. Towel? Check.
You’re ready to soak and relax at Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park.
As the second largest natural hot springs in Canada, there’s no wonder why this remote paradise is on so many traveler’s bucket lists! It’s a wildly spacious pool for soaking, but it’s also right in the middle of an incredibly beautiful boreal forest.
Make your way from the parking area to the hot springs using the boardwalk trail. You’ll feel like you’ve entered into a fairytale!
The Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park has a campground for those wishing to spend the night. Keep in mind, the sites tend to fill up quickly, so plan to arrive in the morning!
Stop Five: The Sign Post Forest (Mile 635)
Looking for a sign? Well… Here’s over 77,000 of them!
Make a stop to walk through Watson Lake’s most popular attraction: the Sign Post Forest.
It’s encouraged to bring a legally obtained sign representing the town you’re visiting from! Make your mark on the growing forest and add to one of the posts.
This interesting tradition was founded by a soldier who decided to mark the distance to his hometown while working on the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942. It’s said that he was homesick for his small Illinois town.
Interested in learning more about the history of The Sign Post Forest? The Alaska Highway Interpretive Centre is only a 5-minute walk away!
Stop Six: Whitehorse, Yukon (Mile 872)
Welcome to Whitehorse, the capital of Canada’s Yukon territory!
With a population of around 25,000 people, this is the largest town you’ve seen in a while. Whitehorse maintains a small-town vibe with friendly locals and rich history.
There’s a lot of fun activities to do in Whitehorse, and it’s often recommended that Alaska Highway travelers spend multiple days here.
Witness the Northern Lights
This spectacular light show is most commonly viewed in the wintertime, but it can make appearances during late summer and fall when the days begin to grow shorter.
To see the Northern Lights, you’ll have to take a drive out of town to escape any bit of light pollution. The darker the better! Bring some hot chocolate and camp chairs to enjoy your evening under the stars.
Walk Under the Midnight Sun
For those visiting in midsummer, you may be able to experience the midnight sun.
Long summer days have a whole new meaning when you travel this far north!
Hike in Miles Canyon
Explore along the Yukon River, and wander through the area’s most magnificent natural feature.
Here, you will see how the river’s powerful flows wore through the basaltic lava rock to form Miles Canyon.
Takhini Hot Pools
Another soak? Yes, please!
The beautiful outdoor pool at Takhini Hot Springs is the perfect place to relax for the day.
If you’re searching for a place to stay the night, there’s a nice campground with full hookups and a welcoming hostel right on location.
Explore the Local History
Become immersed in Yukon history at the MacBride Museum’s downtown location. Connect with the groundbreaking events that founded today’s modern Yukon and the people who originally inhabited the rugged landscape.
For some more on the mining history, the MacBride Copperbelt Mining Museum offers a fun and interactive interpretive experience. A great excursion for all ages!
There’s still more to discover! Visit the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site, and check out the fully restored riverboat. Before modern roads, riverboats connected the area to the outside world.
Stop Seven: Kluane National Park and Reserve (Mile 1,016)
After an exciting stay in Whitehorse, it’s back on the road toward Haines Junction.
Calling all mountain lovers! From Haines Junction, outdoor enthusiasts are urged to stop by Kluane National Park and Reserve.
Home to the largest non-polar ice fields in the world as well as Canada’s tallest mountain, Mount Logan, this park is a dream for mountaineers and front country users alike. Just from the road, visitors can view wildlife and the towering peaks of the Icefield Range.
Looking for a short hike to get your steps in? Head out on an easy ½ mile hike along the Soldier’s Summit Trail to witness the site of the Alaska Highway’s official opening.
For those looking to spend the night, the campground at Kathleen Lake offers tremendous views, and it’s a great basecamp for area hiking. Many people choose to spend multiple nights here because of the vast outdoor recreation opportunities!
As you explore Kluane, keep on the lookout for grizzly bears, black bears, Dall sheep, wolves, and mountain goats!
Stop Eight: Destruction Bay (Mile 1,083)
Wondering how this sweet little community along the Alaska Highway earned such an ominous name?
After a severe storm destroyed materials and buildings during the route’s construction, the name Destruction Bay seemed appropriate!
At the northern tip of Kluane Lake, Destruction Bay makes for a great place to pull off the highway and take in the views.
For those who have been fishing along the drive, Kluane Lake is a great place to put that license to use! Cast a line into the icy cold waters for a chance to catch one of the legendary monster trout.
Stop Eight: Delta Junction (Mile 1,390)
It’s the end of the road but the beginning of your next adventure.
From the end of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction, AK, you now have to decide whether you will head north towards Fairbanks to explore the wild landscape of Denali National Park or make your way towards the coast in Anchorage.
Wherever you end up next, we know that adventure waits for you there!
Pin This Guide to Road Tripping to Alaska Along the Alcan Highway!
The fresh air, lush greenery, and snow-capped mountains are just a few of the many remarkable traits about Vancouver you’ll notice upon your arrival.
Located in Western Canada, Vancouver is a seaport situated on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Because much of its land meets water, this coastal city merges aesthetic pleasure with recreation, the key formula for first-class experiences.
Having lived in Vancouver for nearly nine years, I’m lucky to have been able to call this city my home and I’m thrilled to take you on a scenic, multicultural adventure through Vancouver.
This 2 day Vancouver itinerary will guide you through the history and culture of what makes Vancouver the city it is today.
Your trip will focus on exploring downtown but you will also venture to other main attraction points throughout the city, including its surrounding suburbs.
There will be no shortage of views on this trip—you’ll be feasting your eyes on beautiful scenery and mouthwatering food. Welcome to an authentic journey through Vancouver!
Weekend in Vancouver Itineray
Day 1: Dive into Vancouver’s trendy food scene, learn about the local culture, and marvel at the city’s views
Note: You can get around on your first day by foot and by using Vancouver’s transportation system. More information about using transit in Vancouver can be found at the end of this itinerary.
Wake up to coffee, donuts, and art
Begin at the intersection of E King Edward Ave and Main St. and take your time as you walk down South Main into the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
Main St. has everything. Boutiques house many of its local artists and designers’ crafts, accessories, and clothing. Cozy coffee shops, pubs and breweries, and large chain to small independent grocery stores can also be found here.
If you’re like me and you experience extreme indecision when it comes to deciding what to eat, Mount Pleasant is the place to be when you need a variety of dining options to choose from.
Every summer, Vancouver celebrates the local culture and history at its mural festival, allowing artists to create large-scale public murals throughout the city.
More than 250 murals exist throughout various neighborhoods of Vancouver, and Mount Pleasant exhibits nearly 100 murals alone.
Download the printable map available on their website here, and check out the variety of impressive murals during your walk, plus downtown skyline views.
Make sure to stop by 49th Parallel Café & Lucky’s Doughnuts at the corner of E 13th Ave and Main St. As they’re made from scratch daily, their donuts have become one of the locals’ favorites and are a must-have during your visit.
The Peanut Butter and Jelly and their Old Fashioned are my favorite, and of course, accompanied by their freshly brewed coffee—it’s the best combination.
Just make sure to leave some extra room in your stomach so you can try the other locals’ favorite, Cartems Donuts, located further down Main St. at E 6th Ave.
They carry a range of classic and unique flavors, and they offer both yeast and cake donuts as well as vegan and gluten-free options. They’re a little more on the pricy side (about $1.50 to $4 CAD per donut), but it’s worth trying at least one!
Tour Vancouver’s Chinatown
One of the reasons why I love Vancouver is because of how easy it is to navigate around the city. You can easily travel between most neighborhoods whether by foot, public transit, or car.
Hop on the #3 or #19 bus toward downtown, or, if you prefer traveling by foot, continue walking into Chinatown. The difference is a 15-20-minute bus ride or a 25-30-minute walk.
As you enter Chinatown, you’ll immediately notice the difference in architecture with its fusion of eastern and western style buildings, many constructed by brick. The streetlamps are painted red while its distinctive black street signs include both the English and Chinese names.
Chinese immigrants have played a fundamental role in defining the culture and heritage of this community, and besides English, Cantonese is the common language spoken by locals here.
It became the first full-scale Chinese classical garden outside of Asia after its construction in 1986. An abundance of history and symbolism is embedded in the architecture of the garden’s courtyard and bridges, as well as the other features of the garden such as its rock formations, pond, and plants. Admission prices, tickets, and visitor information can be found here.
Next door is the Sam Kee Building, which has been recorded by the Guinness Book of Records as the most narrow commercial building in the world with the ground-floor depth measuring only 4 feet 11 inches. There is a $15 entry fee, but you can still admire this unique building from the outside and save your money.
At this point, you’ll be face-to-face with the grand Chinatown Millennium Gate, which signifies the entrance to Vancouver’s Chinatown. This gate represents the entrances similar to those found in southern Chinese villages, with three ornate arches adjacent to each other and the center arch being the largest.
Inscribed at the center of the arch are the Chinese characters that read, “remember the past and look forward to the future.”
This gate is just one of many interesting sights to see in Chinatown, so if you’re interested in checking out more of Chinatown’s architecture and historical landmarks, follow this map that guides you around all attraction points in roughly one mile.
Grab a snack at New Town Bakery
By now you’ll likely be hungry for lunch, and you’re in luck. You’re only a half block away from New Town Bakery & Restaurantwhere you’ll catch a whiff of the freshly baked savory and sweet steamed pastries wafting out their door.
Besides the pastries, this family-run restaurant also serves Hong Kong-style food. However, I suggest skipping the restaurant food and indulging in the assortment of baked goods instead, because there are much higher quality Chinese food restaurants that I will suggest later in this Vancouver itinerary.
Although they’re often busy, the service is fast. Grab a ticket number from the dispenser at the front to get a spot in line to order and make sure you have cash or debit on hand to pay.
I highly recommend their coconut buns, pineapple buns, steamed buns, BBQ pork buns, and egg tarts—basically, anything your heart desires at this point because once you see, smell, and taste how delicious one baked good is, you’ll want to indulge in all the rest.
Grab lunch at one of the best Chinatown restaurants
Still hungry? Or want to try something else? Here are my top favorite dining spots in Vancouver’s Chinatown:
Phnom Penh: The line to eat at this Vietnamese-Cambodian restaurant is always long, but the food is worth the wait. It’s rated highly among locals and tourists and has won awards year after year. You have to order their most famous and addictive Marinated Butter Beef and the Phnom Penh Deep-Fried Chicken Wings.
The Ramen Butcher: I used to eat out at ramen places a lot in Vancouver for the reason that it has never once disappointed my taste buds. The Ramen Butcher is just one among the many on my list of favorite ramen shops. Their broths are packed with flavor, and it’s the perfect meal to eat when you’re craving something warm and comforting (especially on a rainy or overcast day in Vancouver).
Virtuous Pie: I’m neither vegan nor vegetarian, but I’ve found myself coming back to this plant-based pizza restaurant more than once. They serve individual-sized (10-inch) thin-crust pizzas, which are all made from scratch, in-house. The Superfunghi and Pesto CBR are my favorite.
Umaluma Dairy-Free Gelato: It’s hard to believe their ice cream is dairy-free because of how creamy and smooth the texture is. They have a large menu of unique flavors, and I guarantee you’ll wish you had a bottomless stomach so you could try every single ice cream flavor—it’s that good!
See the Gastown Steam Clock
Walk about 10 minutes to the corner of Cambie and Water Street, and you’ll see Gastown’s famous antique steam-powered clock.
It’s one of the few working steam clocks left in the world, and every 15 minutes, the clock whistles to tell the time.
The Steam Clock was built in 1977 over a steam grate located above the city’s underground heating system of steam pipes, which was purposed as both a monument and for keeping homeless people from sleeping on the street where heat emits through the grate.
After checking out the steam clock, wander around Gastown to appreciate the charm of its cobbled streets and historic architecture.
Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood and walking through this district feels like you’re walking backwards through time. Casual pubs, upscale wine bars, farm-to-table restaurants, souvenir shops, and trendy boutiques also line the streets, so there’s a lot to see and do here.
Note: The Downtown Eastside of Vancouver (on E Hastings St., and especially the blocks closest to Main St.) hosts a number of complex social issues, including a large homeless and drug-using population. If you’re not a city dweller or seasoned traveler to have ever encountered communities with concentrated poverty, this note is more of a heads up of the sights you may see than it is a warning about your safety.
Regardless of where you are, it’s always important to be street smart and remain aware of your surroundings when traveling. Generally, people will leave you alone if you don’t bother them, but if anything, I recommend staying on the cautious side and avoid walking through this area.
Soak in the sweeping downtown skyline views from the waterfront
Just a few minutes away, and you’ll be at Vancouver’s Waterfront.
This part of Vancouver is absolutely breathtaking, and no matter how many times I came here, I never became sick of the views.
Located inside Harbour Centre is the Vancouver Lookout, which will present you with 360-degree aerial views of the stunning downtown skyline.
Nothing beats a birds-eye view of the windows of the city’s skyscrapers glinting beneath the sunlight or the illuminating city lights reflecting against the harbor at night—the sights are magical! At this time, the Lookout is currently closed to walk-in visitors, but you can book reservations here.
Since you’re already at Harbour Centre, it’s worth it to check out the rest of this unique complex as itis a favored spot among locals and tourists. This multifunctional building serves students, shoppers, customers, and working professionals, as it is home to a university campus, a mall, a food court, and businesses.
Yes, you read that correctly, it’s a revolving restaurant. At 553 feet high, you can simultaneously enjoy fine dining and panoramic city views. Every hour, the restaurant completes one revolution, so you don’t ever have to get up from your seat to see the city from different vantage points.
The main courses from the dinner menu range from $36-$95 CAD, so if you aren’t looking to splurge, just skip this.
Check out the beautiful Waterfront Station
Across the street from Harbour Centre is Waterfront Station. Although it’s a public transportation facility, it stands out from all other stations in Vancouver.
You’ll immediately notice from its exterior its grandeur design. It boasts classical-style white columns along the exterior and interior. It’s also the terminus station for Vancouver’s trains, SeaBus, and helicopters.
It’s pretty impressive for a transit station, so take a minute to drop by and take a look inside.
Wander past Canada Place
Continue walking along the perimeter of Waterfront to see the colossal size of Canada Place.
Canada Place houses the Vancouver Convention Centre, the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, Vancouver’s World Trade Centre, and FlyOver Canada.
Large public and private events are often held inside, including celebrations during holidays like Canada Day and Christmas. Luxury cruise ships also dock here from time to time.
Check out FlyOver Canada
Did you know you can fly across Canada in eight minutes?
Well, of course not literally, but FlyOver Canada offers a simulated adventure that takes you on an east-to-west journey through Canada.
On this short amusement ride, you will be immersed in a large display of the extraordinary Canadian landscapes. Through its impressive special effects, you will feel as though you are actually flying.
The entire experience lasts about 30 minutes (you will watch a pre-show before your actual flight “takes off”). Tickets for this attraction can be found here.
Stroll the Canadian Trail
Finish up your Waterfront tour by exiting Canada Place and walking around its outside perimeter that borders the harbor.
The path of this promenade is called the Canadian Trail, and throughout your walk, you will see that the ground is marked with the names of Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories (time to brush up on your Canadian geography!).
This is also a great spot for taking pictures of the waterfront views!
Explore Downtown Vancouver
Head up Granville Street, and you’ll be submerged in the bustle of downtown with its premier retail stores and endless dining options.
Pacific Centre is one of the busiest malls in Canada and it contains a blend of high-end department stores to popular North American retailers. If shopping is not your thing while you’re traveling, feel free to skip this.
Otherwise, if you’re like me and you’re on a budget (and you aren’t an impulse buyer), you can also window shop. I find it really interesting to see the differences among retailers in different cities because it reflects in the fashion culture of locals.
Grab a unique hot dog from JAPADOG
After checking out some stores, turn left from Granville St. onto Robson St. and walk three blocks over to JAPADOG.
It was once a food stand but has since evolved into a restaurant, which specializes in hot dogs that include elements from Japanese cuisine like okonomiyaki, teriyaki, and tonkatsu.
If you’ve only ever had an American-style hot dog, of course seeing yakisoba noodles or dried seaweed atop your hotdog will catch you off guard, but it’s an absolute must-have here as part of Vancouver’s food scene.
The hot dog combinations are genius and I guarantee that your first bite will be an explosion of flavor!
If you’re not feeling adventurous, you can opt for a plain sausage without toppings, but I strongly recommend trying their specialties.
While you’re here, please try the Age Ice, which is a deep-fried bun filled with ice cream and the Butter & Shoyu flavored fries. I’m salivating just thinking about it!
Wander the beautiful Central Public Library
Walk two more blocks toward Homer St. and you’ll arrive at Vancouver’s Central Public Library. You don’t have to be a bookworm to go here; it’s enough to just gander at the sight of the library’s palatial design.
You’ll notice the architecture resembles a roman amphitheater. It’s a beautifully built library that has a sustainable green roof and public rooftop garden.
Besides its expansive collection of books, there are nine floors that include exhibition spaces dedicated to art installations, a family theater, meeting rooms, a reading room, and an eating lounge. Feel free to roam the floors or just take a peek at its beauty from the outside.
Stroll around Robson Square
Head back onto Robson St. toward Howe St. and on your left will be Robson Square.
If you’re here in Vancouver in November through February, you can skate here at this outdoor ice-skating rink—a perfect winter activity.
You can also rent skates if you don’t have a pair of your own. The square is also a great open space to take a seat and rest or socialize with friends.
Enjoy the art scene
If you’re into discovering Canada’s artwork, to your right is the Vancouver Art Gallery (the front entrance faces the next street over on W Georgia St.).
Featuring Canadian and international art, this gallery draws attention to the achievements of First Nation artists and art from the region of the Asia Pacific. It’ll take you around one hour to tour the entire gallery.
Before you enter the beach (near the corner of Morton Ave and Denman St.), you’ll see some expressive human-like sculptures called the “A-maze-ing Laughter” that inspires cheery and playful interactions among visitors.
Once you enter the beach and are facing the water, on your left across the sand is a six-meter tall, human-made stone sculpture called “Inukshuk” that symbolizes the Inuit culture. To your right, you’ll likely see many bikers and pedestrians on a pathway, which is the English Bay Seawall that takes you into Stanley Park.
After you’ve moseyed the beach, take a seat on one of the logs placed along the sand. As the sun begins its descent, you’ll be mesmerized by the sky’s gradual transformation from a brilliant crimson color into twilight.
Have dinner and dessert in Vancouver’s West End
Further down Robson St. to Denman St. is Vancouver’s West End neighborhood.
You’ll find more clothing stores, souvenir and coffee shops, and a variety of restaurants. Nearly every type of cuisine exists here—there’s North American comfort food, classic Italian pastas, Japanese tapas, Korean street food, and the list goes on.
Because of the abundance of food, I can’t pick only one restaurant to recommend. So, here’s some of my top favorite restaurants in the West End:
Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House (Their dishes are more expensive, but the food is high quality and delectable! Visit during their happy hour from 3-6pm and order their fresh shucked oysters and other happy hour menu items.)
Dinesty Dumpling House (You can’t eat here unless you order their steamed pork soup dumplings! All of their other dumplings are some of the best I’ve had, and their other dishes are exceptional too. I’ve never been disappointed by their food.)
Nook (Another incredible Italian restaurant with superior pasta and pizza.)
Guu with Garlic (Known as the first Izakaya/Japanese tapas restaurant—perfect for trying a variety of reasonably-priced high-quality small dishes enjoyed with sake or Asian beer.)
Espana (Spanish food packed with flavor in every bite. The Chorizo Scotch Eggs and the Daily Paella are a must-order here.)
Cactus Club Cafe (Between casual and upscale Canadian fare, you can order anything from sushi, grain bowls, deluxe salads, burgers, pasta, and steak. This restaurant is located on Beach Avenue right on English Bay Beach—you really can’t say no to oceanfront views during your meal!)
Here’s some of my favorite dessert places in the West End:
Bon Crepe (Try their Japanese-style crepes, matcha soft-serve, or parfaits.)
Breka Bakery & Café (Has an assortment of fresh pastries and baked treats, and it’s open 24/7!)
True Confections (This place is my guilty pleasure, and I’d come here late at night whenever my sweet cravings started to kick in. It specializes in cakes, cheesecakes, and pies. The Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake is my guilty pleasure.)
See Granville St. come alive at night
By now, you might be tired from walking around downtown, so if you want to give your legs a break, hop on the #5 bus by Denman St. and Morton Ave., and it’ll take you down Davie St. eastbound to Granville St.
Although you were on Granville St. earlier this afternoon, this is a very different side of Granville that you have yet to experience.
At night, Granville wakes up by lighting up its many massive neon-lit signs that show the names of the bars, clubs, and theaters along this street. Take in the view as you walk up Granville toward W. Georgia St. The energy here is refreshing, fun, and carefree, and it’s the perfect place for a street photo op.
Grab a beer and let the scenic night views inspire you
Take the Canada Line train from the Vancouver City Centre station on W. Georgia St. and ride two stops (about four minutes) to Olympic Village.
A couple worthy spots for enjoying great beer in Olympic Village is Craft Beer Market (a large venue with over 100 beers to choose from) and Tap & Barrel (a small but cozy pub with patio views and a smaller but good selection of craft beers).
End your night in peace and comfort by gazing out across the waters of False Creek. To your right, the Science World dome will be glowing, and straight ahead, the roof of BC Place will be illuminating in vibrant hues. At the center of this cityscape, the still waters capture and reflect the dazzling city lights, producing a gentle luminescence.
Get inspired and luxuriate in this breathtaking scene for as long as you want—the rest of the night is yours.
Science World is a science museum with interactive displays and exhibits catered to youth, so it’s great for family visits. Unless you’re traveling with children, I suggest skipping this.
BC Place is Vancouver’s 50,000 seat stadium that hosts major events like soccer and football.
Day 2: Start your morning at one of the world’s most beautiful city parks, then journey into Vancouver’s outskirts
Note: Since you’ll be starting off your day today covering more distances and exploring more of Vancouver’s southern suburbs, I recommend using a car today to travel between destinations.
Go for a morning bike ride, walk, run, or drive through Stanley Park
Free to enter, Stanley Park is Vancouver’s largest park that is made up of the Vancouver Seawall (a 17-mile uninterrupted path bordering the water), beaches, wildlife, historical landmarks, restaurants and cafes, and the Vancouver Aquarium.
Whichever way you explore Stanley Park, you will be blown away by the sights and the endless amount of activities you can do here.
If you like to exercise first thing in the morning, you can complete the 10km-loop around Stanley Park. Otherwise, you can go on a leisurely drive around the park and stop at the marked lookout points to take some pictures.
You can also capture some photos of the iconic Lions Gate Bridge at the midpoint of the Stanley Park loop. You’ll actually walk beneath the bridge itself, which sets up some great photo opportunities of the bridge. The alternative is that you can park at the lot by the Prospect Point Lookout to check out the bridge from there.
A few notes:
Unfortunately, the Vancouver Aquarium is temporarily closed to the public as they are remodeling and there is no reopening date set in place at this time. More information about this can be found here.
If you want to bike around the park, I suggest either renting bikes at Coal Harbour at EzeeRiders Bike Rental Seawall, Seawall Adventure Centre, or any of the bike rental shops located on Denman St. near Alberni St. You can bike along the Seawall into the park. If you tire easily, I suggest renting an electric bike. It’s a great option for when you need a break from pedaling, and you can also travel a lot faster.
Directions and transit information can be found here.
The Granville Island Public Market is a renowned fresh and specialty food market. It also sells many unique crafts from local artisans.
Outside of the Public Market are seafood restaurants with waterfront views, gift shops, local clothing boutiques, performing art theaters, art galleries, and its very own brewery: the Granville Island Brewing Company.
After your adventure in Stanley Park, you’re likely starving. So take this opportunity to refuel with some coffee or tea (try JJ Bean Coffee Roasters) and try a variety of foods from the different vendors inside the Public Market.
For some of the best baked goods, try A Bread Affair, Lee’s Donuts, or Terra Breads. If you can manage to practice some self-control here, try not to overstuff yourself because I will be taking you to lunch next—and you will be satisfied!
Granville Island is small enough that you can walk around the entire perimeter of the island. A few places worth stopping at to check out is the Sea Village with its tiny boat homes and the Giants Murals—concrete plants with colorful giants painted on the entire exterior.
Located at the back of the Public Market on the dock beneath the Granville Street Bridge is the Aquabus dock. You can take a short ferry ride around the creek on the Aquabus, and also get off at certain stops around downtown. This ferry ride is one of Vancouver’s quintessential experiences—you can’t skip this!
With about 27% of Vancouver’s population being of Chinese ethnicity—and this percentage is likely higher now as this data is taken from the last available census in 2016—Chinese, and specifically, Cantonese cuisine has long been an integral part of Vancouver’s food culture.
If you’ve never had dim sum before, you’re about to experience something very special. If you’re like me and enjoy eating a variety of foods in one meal, dim sum is the perfect choice!
Trust me, your tastebuds will thank you for introducing them to so many different flavors and textures.
Traditional dim sum is served family-style, with tea, and includes a large range of small savory and sweet dishes such as shrimp dumplings, rice noodle rolls stuffed with pork, and steamed buns filled with sweet custard.
Because the dish sizes are traditionally small, you might think that it’s not enough food. This is au contraire at Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant as they serve larger than usual pieces of dim sum items. They don’t skimp out on the fillings, which is an essential component to dim sum.
Spend the afternoon at the park
You might be wondering, why would I go to the park while traveling?
It sounds mundane, but the parks in Vancouver are unlike any other city parks I’ve seen in my lifetime. There are more than 230 parks in Vancouver, and my favorite is the stunning Queen Elizabeth Park.
Just a few minutes away, and you’ll see that this park is more than just a stretch of lawn.
Inside the park is the Queen Elizabeth Quarry Gardens, an enormous and colorful garden with a variety of flowers, shrubs, and trees—all perfectly arranged. There’s really nothing like being in a majestic setting such as this.
The park is free to enter (besides a parking fee if you choose to park at the lot located at the top of the park), and contains art sculptures, a dancing fountain, outdoor sports courts, an upscale skyline-view restaurant, and a conservatory filled with exotic plants, flowers, and birds.
Queen Elizabeth Park is also the highest point in Vancouver, which is just another reason why this park is worth visiting. The elevated views of downtown are spectacular from this park.
Directions and parking information can be found here.
Ticket information for entry into Bloedel Conservatory can be found here.
Dining and reservation information for the Seasons in the Park restaurant can be found here.
While there is an entry fee, this is another gorgeous park in Vancouver that is worth checking out for its lake, tranquil meditation garden, and maze that you can walk through. It’s only a 4-minute drive away from Queen Elizabeth Park.
The First Nations collectively make up the different groups of Indigenous people who are the original inhabitants of Canada, and their cultures span over thousands of years.
The Museum of Anthropology represents Canada’s West Coast through its displays of artifacts, crafts, and gigantic sculptures. The museum itself is also physically beautiful, with its floor-to-ceiling glass windows that offer a view of the inlet, neighboring islands, and mountains in the distance.
I recommend spending at least a couple of hours here to get a fulfilling experience.
While you’re here on the campus grounds of the University of British Columbia (UBC), you might have already noticed how beautiful the campus is.
Vancouver is a popular setting for movie and TV show directors, and UBC is the 9th-most popular filming location in the world. The movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the TV series Supernatural have both been filmed on campus. Feel free to roam around and check out the campus!
Have dinner and bubble tea in Richmond
About 30 minutes, and you’ll arrive to the south suburbs of Vancouver: Richmond. Richmond has the highest immigrant population in British Columbia, and over half of its population is Chinese.
The food culture is undoubtedly strongly influenced by the Chinese, making Richmond renowned for having some of the best Chinese food.
There are over 800 restaurants in Richmond, which means I would be doing a disservice to Richmond if I only shared one recommendation. This was difficult, but I’ve narrowed my list to five of my favorite Chinese restaurants in no particular order:
Shanghai River: Serves Shanghainese food (which comes from Shanghai, China’s largest city by population)—You must order the soup dumplings!
HK BBQ Master: Vancouver’s best Chinese-style soy sauce chicken, barbeque duck, and crispy roast pork.
Xi’an Cuisine (Located inside the Richmond Public Market): If you are craving noodles, this is where you get your fix. Plus, it’s extremely affordable. Just make sure you have cash on you as it is cash only.
Kirin Seafood Restaurant: It’s a little pricier, but it has high-quality, authentic dishes like braised fished and slow-cooked meats. You must order the Peking Duck! Table reservation information can be found here.
You haven’t completed your Richmond experience without boba, or as it’s commonly called by Vancouverites, bubble tea.
Bubble tea is a tea-based, sweet beverage filled with chewy tapioca pearls. There’s usually a seemingly endless menu of flavors to choose from, and the fun part with most bubble tea shops is that you can adjust the drink to your liking.
Whether you want it less sweet, blended with ice into a slush, or with the addition of other tasty toppings, it’s a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth without feeling too full.
Here’s are my top three recommendations for bubble tea in Richmond:
Mr Mustache Bubble Tea: It might sound bizarre, but this is just one of those things where you can’t knock it until you try it—Order your tea with cheese foam. It combines salty and sweet flavors, kind of like salted caramel.
The Bubble Tea Shop: I know this was strictly for bubble tea recommendations, but besides quality bubble tea, this shop also serves delicious bubble waffles.
Wind down in Steveston
South of Richmond is Steveston, a quaint fishing village notable for its Fisherman’s Wharf where you can buy fresh catches of fish.
It’s also known for the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site where you can walk through and learn about the preserved and restored community of canneries, shipyards, and stores dating back to the 1800s.
Draw your evening to a close by going for a serene stroll around Garry Point Park. Although you won’t see the downtown skyline views from here, you will behold a delightful contrast in scenery with the park’s vast open lands and fishing boats gently teetering in the harbor.
Even in the suburbs away from the city, Vancouver’s trademark peaks can still be seen in the distance. The mountains are an embodiment of vitality, adventure, and beauty—all of which you’ve absorbed in the past two days. This is the true Vancouverite experience!
Additional Points of Interest in Vancouver: Itinerary Extras
Since this is a 2 day Vancouver itinerary best suited for a weekend trip, I had to leave out other visiting points as it would require more time to travel to and get the most out of these places.
They’re technically not part of Vancouver since they’re further away, but they’re still worth checking out while you’re in Vancouver. If you are visiting for longer than two days, I highly recommend visiting the following places:
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park: It’s not the cheapest, but it’s something worth doing at least once to cross it off your bucket list. The suspension bridge will take you across the Capilano River and through the forest. If you’re afraid of heights, this may not be for you because you will be 230 feet high up among the treetops.
Grouse Grind at the Grouse Mountain: This is not for the faint of heart. If you love exercise and physical fitness challenges, the Grouse Grind will take you up the steep face of Grouse Mountain in 1.8 miles. It’s not a long distance, but the incline is the challenge, as there is a total of 2,830 stairsteps you must climb up to reach the peak. Alternatively, you can ride the gondola up to the top to explore the attractions and other mountaintop trails that are less difficult.
Whistler: If you’ve ever seen the town of Banff, Canada, you’ll notice the striking resemblances it has to Whistler. Whistler is a popular destination for winter activities and has the largest ski resort in North America (it also held the 2010 Winter Olympics). To get to Whistler, you drive up the BC Highway 99, also known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway. The drive to Whistler on the Sea-to-Sky Highway is like the Canadian version of road tripping through California’s coastline on the Pacific Coast Highway—it has endless spectacular ocean views. Even during the warm summer season, there are still plenty of outdoor activities you can do in Whistler.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
Because I lived in Vancouver, I never had the need to find a hotel. But my visiting friends and family had almost always chosen Airbnb as the more affordable option.
The bulk of hotels in Vancouver are located downtown, while some are located in Richmond near the airport. For this itinerary, either downtown or near the YVR airport in Richmond are ideal locations for completing this itinerary.
Here are a few suggestions!
Chic Downtown Condo: This spacious loft-style one-bedroom Airbnb is a fantastic choice for those who want to be in the heart of it all. Gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows allow in tons of natural light and offer sweeping Vancouver views, while being easily walkable to all points downtown.
Gastown Converted Loft: This open, spacious space has serious Brooklyn loft vibes. Complete with a modern kitchen, high ceilings, exposed brick and other lofty details, and a cozy private bedroom, this is a great choice for people who want some hipster flair to their accommodations while sticking to a budget. There’s also a rooftop lounge area! In the heart of Gastown and close to so many attractions!
Two-Story Richmond Townhouse: For a stay in the heart of Vancouver’s hip (and delicious) Richmond area, this duplex is a fantastic choice. It’s budget-friendly and spacious (over 1000 square feet) with an outdoor patio space for relaxing. Close to all public transit, but also close to the international airport in case you are flying in and out of the city for this Vancouver weekend itinerary.
Weather in Vancouver
Vancouver is known for its year-round rainy weather, but the temperature is moderate as it rarely gets unbearably cold or hot (the temperature averages between 42 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit).
For this itinerary, I recommend visiting during the summer months when it’s the sunniest, warmest, and rains the least—from July to August.
Whether or not you visit Vancouver during the drier months, I recommend packing layers like a waterproof and windproof jacket, rain boots, and comfortable and supportive walking shoes. And don’t forget your umbrella!
Safety in Vancouver
As mentioned throughout this Vancouer itinerary, the city is incredibly accessible.
It’s a safe city, despite having a few rough patches, and the transportation system here is reliable and easy to use.
I recommend familiarizing yourself with Vancouver’s Translink system by reading through their Rider Guide found on their website here.
Saving on Your Vancouver Itinerary
Vancouver is one of the more expensive cities to visit, but there are ways to make the most out of your trip even when you’re on a budget.
This is why I included many free activities and more reasonably priced places to eat at throughout this itinerary to make your trip more affordable!
Staying at an Airbnb will also help to reduce your overall travel costs.
That’s what Instagram tells you expect when you plan a trip to Banff, and in fact, Instagram and social media are probably a large part of the reason why you’re planning a trip to Banff in the first place.
The truth is that Banff has exploded in popularity in recent years, making it essential to be extremely mindful when planning your Banff trip so as not to end up getting disappointed by crowded trails, closed parking lots, and overly difficult hikes.
This post was written in conjunction with my lovely sister-in-law, Pati, who originally hails from Brazil but has made Calgary her home.
She spends her weekends and free time hiking in Banff and further afield in Alberta, and she has kindly agreed to share her wisdom from being an Alberta local and showing visitors around Banff all her favorite parts of the park.
Here’s what she thinks you need to know before you plan your trip to Banff!
Your expectations will be high – and they should be!
If you plan to visit the Canadian Rockies, you probably have your expectations on high mode already!
For me, for years, the place I later discovered to be Moraine Lake, was my background screen on my computer. So, you know you are set for a fantastic trip.
In my case, I was not disappointed; more than that, it ended up being the place where I choose to live when immigrating to Canada.
Before my first trip in 2016, I did extensive research, and I still believe that the places that I visited for the first time were good choices.
After living for almost three years close to Banff, I’ve included my original recommendations for a first time trip to Banff, but I’ve also made some adjustments to my original list and have a more local touch.
Give yourself enough time to enjoy Banff
Please keep in mind the duration of your trip.
Yes, one week in Banff would be excellent, as it will allow you to fully discover the place and go on some beautiful Banff hikes, but I know that for many people, this is not possible.
So my suggestion of the minimum time in Banff is three full days with a two-night stay. Anything else just isn’t enough!
Prepare for crowds
In the past few years, the tourism scene in Banff has skyrocketed.
While the epic landscapes and scenery will not let you down, be prepared for the crowds.
Be aware that you will have to be waking up early to guarantee a visit to some of the most popular attractions, and there may be some traffic, especially in the main town!
Plan your visit to Banff for the right time of year
To make sure that the lakes will not be frozen, it is best to visit from June to September.
With only around four months to see the lakes in their unfrozen beauty and the growing popularity of Banff, we have the recipe for a packed tourist place!
In my opinion, for a summer adventure, July is the prime time for hiking in the middle of wildflowers.
But overall, inside the June to September window, I prefer visiting in September.
Visiting Banff in fall
The last two weeks of September are the best to see the colors of the fall leaves and yellow aspen, and yet also to have fewer visitors.
In the first week of October, the chances of seeing snow increase; things are not frozen yet, and the lakes and landscapes look fantastic!
However, in October, there is a high chance of having overcast weather all day and a chance of heavier snowfalls.
Any travel after this has no guarantee: roads may be closed, and places that I list here might not be accessible until the next year.
Also, keep in mind that any travel after early-September could mean below-freezing temperatures (especially during the night) so, plan your clothing accordingly.
Accommodations in Banff
To be entirely honest with my experiences in four different hotels in Banff, accommodations in Banff are expensive and are really not that good.
Be prepared to pay the price of a four-star hotel and be delivered with the quality of two stars!
I never stayed in the fancy five-star hotels and resorts in Banff to say if, in that case, they are worth the money. But keep in mind that you are inside a National Park, so accommodations are limited.
For camping, the booking opens in January and usually, in a matter of hours, it is booked for the entire year!
Alternatively, you can stay in Canmore (a town just outside the park). It will still be expensive, but the quality for the price can be much better.
Note: you cannot trust the pictures on the booking websites! In the past, I booked places that had gorgeous photos, but in real life, it was not the same quality. They can perform miracles in the advertisement pictures, so keep your expectations low regarding hotels here!
Transportation in Banff
There are options for public transit from the Calgary airport to Banff by shuttles, as well as inside the National Park by bus.
But honestly, things are so far away that renting a car will make it easier to move around.
I know that this is the exact reason why some places have the parking lots full at 6:00 am, and you will be contributing to that, but to give you perspective, Calgary is 130 km away from Banff, and the town of Banff is 58 km away from Lake Louise.
So, if you have lots of time in Banff, it can be helpful for everyone to use public transportation to the most crowded places (Lake Louise and Lake Moraine).
In my humble Banff-affectionate opinion, this is a mandatory place to see when you plan your visit to Banff. I mean, did you even go to the Canadian Rockies if you did not visit it?
Lake Louise is to Banff what Eiffel Tower is to Paris: the heart. There is a reason why this is the most famous place, and I still remember the chills I had when I saw it in person for the first time.
It will be spectacular in any weather, but a sunny day adds color and contrast to your view and pictures.
Tips for Visiting Lake Louise
Lake Louise has a huge parking lot, but it can be filled quickly. Plan to arrive before 9 AM or after 6 PM during spring, summer, and fall.
In winter, I never had much trouble with parking. And yes, Lake Louise is accessible all year round!
Even frozen over, Lake Louise is magical since you can ice skate on it, see professional ice sculptures, or walk and stand in the middle of one of the most famous lakes in the world, completely frozen over, while you are surrounded by snowy mountains and chilly air that can be as cold as -30°C.
There are two hotels at a walking distance from the lake: Fairmont Château Lake Louise (that is literally in front of the Lake) and Deer Lodge.
At the parking lot, there are public washrooms available, and there will always a national park ranger checking if you have the Park Pass (it must be displayed on the windshield of your car).
If you have the time and are feeling adventurous, you can also go to several hikes that depart from here (4 of the 9 hikes in this Banff hikes list start from here!).
If this is the case, arrive early in the morning, so you have time to enjoy both the lakes and the hiking!
In recent years, Moraine Lake is becoming more and more famous.
Several people claim it to be prettier than Lake Louise, a statement that we can dispute.
It is for sure one of the gems of the Canadian Rockies, but I credit this popularity to the fact that it is a challenge to get there.
Near Lake Louise, you will need to drive through a narrow secondary road for 12 kilometers uphill. But this road is often shut since the parking lot fills up extremely early.
The final piece that makes Lake Moraine so challenging to see is the fact that the road that gives access to it is closed from mid-October to mid-May because of the avalanche risk.
Tips for Visiting Moraine Lake
The parking lot at Moraine Lake is considerably small, and it’s also the departure point to several popular trails, leading to even more people needing to park here.
This means that usually by 6 AM, the entrance to the secondary road is closed by the park’s staff because the parking lot is already full!
In the fall of 2020, the road was already closed around 5 AM on weekends since the most famous hike to see the larches (Larch Valley) starts from the Moraine Lake.
Yes, even in the pandemic without any foreign travelers — it’s that insane!
Apparently, there is a trick that you have a chance to enter if you drive by 8 AM, as this is the time people who only went to see the sunrise at Moraine Lake are leaving.
They will open the road to the lucky people passing there for just a few moments as the first cars are leaving. This, of course, is not a guarantee, but you may have a shot!
Moraine Lake Insider Tips
An alternative if you do not see yourself waking up at 3 AM is to go there at the end of the day.
A few weeks ago, I stayed overnight in the Lake Louise area, and I went to visit Moraine Lake after 7 PM as the road was open again.
I still saw the pretty lake with the ten peaks behind it, but I did not have much time to explore around before getting dark and definitely had no time for any hike.
Finally, you also have the option to use the Roam Public Transit that departs from Banff town and can take you to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.
It is back now for the larch season, but always check, as buses do not go year-round to all places and they were also affected by the COVID-19 situation, so do check online before relying on it.
So, now you know all about the almost-mystic Lake Moraine. The fact that I just spent more time writing about how hard it is to get there than about the Lake itself says a lot!
Visiting the Banff gondola and Sulphur Mountain
Views, views, views! Here, you are going to see the Canadian Rockies from the top.
The gondola put you at 2,281 meters elevation with a 360-degree observation deck.
I have visited in summer and winter, and both were magical. I saw the entire Banff town, the most prominent mountains around, and even Lake Minnewanka at a distance.
Up there, you have the option to have fine dining in their restaurant or enjoy a hot beverage in the café area. Outside the building, you can also explore a small, well-maintained trail to the Cosmic Ray Station, a National Historic Site of Canada.
This is the place of a former laboratory active in the 1950s that was the most important cosmic ray observatory in Canada, helping to understand how the sun influences the Earth.
Are you feeling like some exercise? You can hike to the top of Sulphur Mountain as well and ride the gondola back down (paying the fee for a one-way gondola trip, of course).
It will be a 5-kilometer one-way hike with an elevation gain of around 740 meters. This is not a walk in the park, but it’s doable for a person of average fitness, as this is a trail full of switchbacks so the incline is not too steep.
It is also one of the safest hikes to do as a tourist since the trail is well-maintained, close to the Banff town, and literally right below one of Banff’s main attractions.
Tips for Visiting Lake Minnewanka
Near Banff town (so far away from Lake Louise/Moraine), we have one of the biggest lakes in the Canadian Parks, Lake Minnewanka.
The description is simple: a vast lake surrounded by mountains. I feel small every time I visit there, the giant half forested, half rocky walls around it even resemble a fjord.
A boat trip sightseeing here in the summer or seeing the frozen lake in winter are both equally memorable.
The vastness and openness of this place make the crowds spread out, and here you can be in a main tourist attraction and still find yourself completely alone, unlike at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
Please take care and do not wander, as this is the edge of the core habitat for grizzly bears. Hiking on most of the trails in this area is only permitted in groups of four people or more and carrying bear spray.
Tips for Visiting Johnston Canyon
Note: As of September 2020, access by car to Johnston Canyon is closed due to COVID-19.
Here you will get a different kind of landscape: no lakes or mountains, but instead, a fantastic creek forming a canyon and spectacular waterfalls.
The full walk to the upper falls is 2.5 km long (one-way) full of bridges and steel passages.
I hiked it in the winter, and it was almost like magic: the frozen waterfalls, the silence, it was like time was also suspended with the ice.
As early as November, you can walk in the winter landscape here, and the rock formations become breathtaking covered in ice and snow.
In summer, parking is not as complicated as in the famous Lakes, but it gets crowded, so an early morning visit will give you more peace.
Additional Places Worth Visiting in Banff
The five places listed above are what I consider the core attractions of Banff National Park, and they can easily take three full days and give you a great idea of why this region is one of the most beautiful in the world.
Below, I will mention a few other places that can add an extra sparkle to your visit. There is no right or wrong here: there are endless stops to see in Banff, so enjoy!
Surprise Corner Viewpoint: To see Sulphur Mountain and the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
The Cave and Basin National Historic Site: Natural thermal mineral springs, the birthplace of Canada’s National Parks.
Banff Upper Hot Springs: To experience for yourself the thermal waters. *As of September 2020, it is closed due to COVID-19.
Vermilion Lakes: Near Banff town, Lakes in between the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks.
Banff Park Museum and Banff Downtown: history, restaurants, bars, galleries.
Bow Lake: a good alternative in case you want to run away from the tourists in Lake Louise.
Peyto Lake: This stunning lake deserves a post on its own! Currently, the entire area is closed for construction, and access is strictly prohibited until Summer 2021.
Peyto Lake is also more distant, along the road going to Jasper, so it makes sense to include it in if you are visiting both National Parks.
Other Parks Nearby Banff
Banff is the most famous of the Canadian National Parks for a good reason, but some other adjacent Parks can give you striking lesser-known views and far fewer crowds.
You can also consider visiting the following Alberta National Parks: Jasper, Waterton, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks. You will not regret it!
Western Canada, specifically locales in and around Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta, offers blue lakes, rugged terrain, and dramatic mountain vistas worthy of the best hikes.
Much of the terrain is found Banff National Park, Canada’s first National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site which welcomes over 3 million visitors each year. While Banff is a skiing mecca in the winter, in the summer, hiking in the mountains is the thing to do.
The Park encompasses just over 2,500 square miles of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains and sits adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway, a primary East-West artery connecting the towns of Banff and Lake Louise.
Just an hour and a half’s drive west of Calgary, Alberta, Banff National Park should be included on any itinerary of must-visit hiking destinations, and it’s one of the main reasons to love Canada and all the incredible nature it has to offer.
Banff and Lake Louise proper are typically what com to mind when thinking of outdoor excursions in the National Park because the towns are central to the best day hikes and trailheads and each offer wide ranges of accommodations, restaurants, and amenities to make a Canadian Rockies adventure complete.
There are countless hikes you can do in the Banff area, but these are the best day hikes in Banff for all difficulty levels, from easy to experienced.
9 Best Hikes in Banff National Park
Lake Louise Lakeshore Trail
Even if you don’t recognize the name Lake Louise you have probably come across pictures of its pristine turquoise water, red canoes, and mountain backdrop before. It is undoubtably the most popular spot around Banff National Park, the primary image of Banff on Instagram.
Tackling the 2.9 mile out-and-back trail is an easy trek with minimal elevation gain. It is heavily trafficked but paved for a majority of the way before transitioning to a packed dirt path making it stroller accessible and family-friendly.
It offers stunning views of Mt. Collier and Mt. Victoria North Peak on your way out and of the picturesque Fairmont Chateau hotel on the return. Lake Louise Lakeshore trail is partially shaded in a dense forest and follows the water’s edge which makes for cool temperatures even on hotter days.
While there is parking at the hotel, visitors often find the lots at capacity so plan on going quite early or in the late afternoon, particularly in summer months.
Lake Louise Lakeshore trail is also well suited to transition into a longer hike by combining with other nearby spurs like Devils Thumb, Beehive Circuit, or The Teahouses trails. Each begin and end at the Fairmont Chateau and follow the initial path along the Lake Louise’s shore.
The Teahouses Trail
The Teahouses trail is a 12.3-mile loop with substantial elevation gain at 3,530 feet affording arguably the best views of the Fairmont Chateau and Lake Louise in the distance.
Glacier scenes, waterfalls, alpine lakes and, of course, a visit to two historic backcountry teahouses are all experienced on the moderately steep loop.
The small log cabins which now act as privately-owned cafes, were originally built in the early 1900s to service the Canadian Pacific Railway. Today, both the Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouses serve hot and cold beverages (coffee and tea are go-tos) as well as sandwiches and assorted sweets.
There are some tradeoffs as Lake Agnes Teahouse has a slightly larger menu and is better suited for families, but Plain of Six Glaciers is more remote with fewer crowds.
It might be hard work to make it to the spots but certainly worth the trip, once you grab a quick rest and a well-deserved treat before the return hike. Make sure to take cash for the transaction if Plain of Six is your destination.
Beehive Circuit Trails
Another convenient variation to the Lake Louise Lakeshore trails are the Beehive Circuits.
Little Beehive (5.6 miles out and back) and Big Beehive (6.4 miles loop) take you from the shore of Lake Louise to nearby unique “beehive” rock formations.
The routes can be combined to form an 8-mile loop by following some portions of each path. No matter the final combination, you are rewarded with stellar views of Lake Louise and the Fairmont Chateau, where your hike began.
When paired together, the trails cover slightly less elevation than the Teahouses but in less distance. In total, the circuit covers around 3,000 feet so prepare for a steeper ascent.
Any variation which follows Big Beehive also takes you near Agnes Lake Teahouse where a full lunch or brief refreshment is up for grabs.
One last variation to check out from Lake Louise Lakeshore trail is Devils Thumb. Do note this is a very technical hike and requires significant skill to do, so it’s not a hike to do unless you are a skilled hiker. Ask at the Visitor Center for more information about the hike to see if it’s the right one for you.
This route, which also starts from the Fairmont Chateau, is an alpine lake hike covering 7.4 miles and nearly 2,900 feet.
The trail is quite similar to Big Beehive, in fact you will be able to catch glimpses of the same incredible rock formations and pass the Lake Agnes Teahouse too, but Devils Thumb takes you a bit higher and deeper into the backcountry.
Devils Thumb is a perfect option for those hoping to tag some rock climbing onto their hike.
Giant Steps via Paradise Creek
In close proximity to the Lake Louise grouped trails, but beginning from a separate trailhead, is Giant Steps. Giant Steps is a 12.8-mile hike with difficult rating.
Hikers are rewarded by reaching the trail’s namesake waterfalls, a cascading series of alternating water features and pools. The trail and falls are spectacular anytime May through October, particularly during the spring melt when water levels are at their highest and most intense before slowing toward the end of summer and fall.
Depending on your schedule and transportation, and because parking at the Fairmont Chateau and Lake Louise can be a challenge, it may be helpful to checkout Parks Canada and Roam Transit websites for shuttle schedules before heading toward the hotel.
The shuttles are convenient, well-timed, and cost-effective. If you choose to stay in Banff, there are also several great hikes that begin closer to town and you won’t have to guess at crowds, timing, or parking availability.
Sulphur Mountain (near Banff town)
One such hike takes you up Sulphur Mountain, a steep, but moderate 6.3 mile out and back trail rising 2,400 feet and accessible right from downtown Banff.
It offers panoramic views including those of town, the Banff Upper Hot Springs, Sulphur Mountain, and the Banff Gondola.
Plan to stop for lunch at the Gondola top at one of three restaurants – Sky Bistro, Northern Lights, or Peak Patio.
The trail includes several switchbacks and areas for scrambling, thus can be quite technical at places. Check the gondola schedule if you wish to cut the trail in half by downloading by machine power!
Spray Loop Trail and Bow Falls
Also easily accessible right from downtown Banff is the Spray Loop Trail.
The 7.6-mile path follows Spray Creek south from town and Bow Falls, with passing views of the Banff Gondola, Sulphur Mountain. Bow Falls viewpoint is located just near the trailhead and makes a perfect pair to the hike.
Elevation stays fairly steady creating a good route for trail running and several river access points lead from trail to water’s edge, although you stay fairly removed from the water throughout the hike.
The trail is very shaded and wonderful for warm days with no cloud cover. Spray Loop is prime for river and falls views but does not afford many of the mountain vistas found on other Banff National Park routes.
Cory Pass Loop
If you are on the hunt for more advanced terrain, including difficult rock-climbing routes, look no further than Cory Pass Loop.
The trail circumnavigates Mount Edith with views of neighboring Mount Norquay. It is similarly close to downtown Banff, about 10 minutes’ drive, and easily accessible from the Trans-Canada Highway but the terrain is only suggested for experienced travelers.
The trail covers an elevation gain of over 3,800 feet in just over 8 miles and is steep and exposed at times. Most who have hit this trail before will tell you taking the loop counterclockwise is best because the alternative sets you up for quite a steep descent. In fact, this is one route for which you don’t want to forget your trekking poles.
Cory Pass rewards hikers with stellar views of Mt. Cory and the valley below. Pay close attention to weather patterns before heading out. Rain can make the slopes muddy difficult to navigate, especially on steep sections.
Eiffel Lake and Tower of Babel routes
Last but not least, Eiffel Lake and Tower of Babel routes should top off your list of Banff area hikes before departing the National Park.
Access is partway between Lake Louise and Banff but closer to the Lake Louise side and the turnoff to Moraine Lake Road is just before reaching the final drive to the Fairmont Chateau.
Eiffel Lake is a 7.3-mile-high-alpine trail beginning at the base of Moraine Lake. A moderate elevation gain of 1,870 feet ends at a quiet backcountry lake and serves as an easy resting point before the return hike. Plan for around 3 hours in and back.
The trail is narrow, making passing other hikers inconvenient at times. This can be avoided if you choose an early morning start or late afternoon return. The trail opens up after a series of switchbacks and is a decent mix of tree cover and open space.
Tower of Babel Route begins at the same trailhead but shoots off in the opposite direction from Moraine Lake covering much more technical terrain. In fact, the route should be reserved for advanced climbers.
Novice hikers will prefer the tower views from Eiffel Lake route as the terrain consists of rock scramble with little path options. The route covers 1.8 miles, not so short when you’re primarily scrambling, and it is ideal for rock climbing and bouldering.
These trials and routes are just a small portion of the vast adventure opportunities available in Banff National Park but fully representative of the beauty of Alberta and its surrounding terrain.
Anchored by nearby Revelstoke Mountain Resort, the fast-growing outdoorsy town offers year-round thrills and family fun.
Not a skier? No worries. Summers in Interior BC offer just as much, if not more, adventure. World-class hiking, climbing, and dining await — here’s your ultimate summer in Revelstoke weekend itinerary!
Whether you’re visiting Revelstoke on its own or as part of a road trip from Vancouver to Calgary, there’s plenty to do in this charming town and neighboring National Park to fill 2-3 days, easily!
Your Perfect Weekend in Revelstoke: A 3 Day Itinerary
11 a.m. Explore Mount Revelstoke National Park
Pack a picnic lunch and head up Mount Revelstoke for the afternoon.
Access to the park is just off the Trans Canada Highway 3km outside of Revelstoke’s town center and parking is available after a scenic 26 kilometer drive up Meadows in the Sky Parkway.
Visiting the park is best during snow-free season of July through September when hikers can take full advantage of trail access. Shoot for July or August to catch the wildflowers in bloom.
Points of interest in the park include historic fire tower at summit, alpine lakes, and a memorial honoring Revelstoke’s rich history in ski-jumping.
4 p.m. Check-in at the Stoke Hotel or Poppy’s Guest House
Lodging options in the area run the gamut between car camping approved parking lots and the boutique Explorer’s Society Hotel.
If you are looking for something in the middle, try a room at the newly renovated Stoke Hotel or hostel-style Poppy’s Guest House.
Poppy’s tagline is “your gateway drug to Revelstoke” as it ends up being many traveler’s first stay in the area.
Each offers a walkable location to downtown and opportunities to meet other like-minded travelers.
5 p.m. Early dinner at Village Idiot Pizza
A meal at “the Idiot” is a must when traveling through Revelstoke. The menu has something for everyone but pizza and a caesar (Canadian for Bloody Mary, eh) is the way to go.
Grab a seat at the back porch railing and listen to passers-by to be in the know on happenings around town. Don’t skimp on the dipping sauces. Garlic aioli and the restaurant’s take on chalet sauce are crowd favorites.
6:30 p.m. Live Music at Grizzly Plaza
Pull up a plastic chair (they are provided by the city) and join literally everyone else in town for free live music. T
he Revelstoke Arts Council sponsors a new act each night during summer months and artists cover a full range of genres.
If you fancy an ice cream, there are several options by the bandstand including The Roxy and The Sugar Shack. Take a jacket as the weather gets pleasantly crisp during summer nights.
8 a.m. Bakery Breakfast
Breakfast and coffee options are plenty in the area and many spots bake their goods in house.
Dose and Modern Bakeshop are the easy places for a quick cup of coffee and meal to-go before the day’s outing. A croque monsieur (hot ham and cheese) is a Canadian staple worth waiting for in a brief line.
10 a.m. Downtown Farm and Craft Market
Meander through the closed-off streets near Grizzly Plaza and shop local selections of fruits, vegetables, baked goods, flowers, and local crafts.
You will find all the ingredients needed for a home-cooked meal if space allows at your hotel. If you do end up cooking yourself, supplement your picks with a meat selection from Ray’s Butcher Shop on nearby Victoria Road.
12 p.m. Head up to Revelstoke Mountain Resort for the afternoon
Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) boasts the greatest vertical terrain in North America at 5,620 ft.
You’ll need to come back in the winter to access that descent, but you can still reach a good portion via the Revelation Gondola which operates year-round. A single gondola ticket can be purchased if you want to experience the view from mid-mountain.
From there, take your choice of mountain biking, hiking, or the mountain coaster for the way down. Grab lunch at the mountain base village before tackling your afternoon adventures. MacKenzie Tavern, La Baguette, and The Rockford are your go to’s there.
5 p.m. Cocktails and dinner
Hop into Quartermaster Eatery for some of the town’s best cocktails. Their barkeeps have perfected the smoky old fashioned.
If you are staying for dinner, the cote de boeuf is worth every Canadian cent and is meant to share. If you prefer something more casual, cross the street to Pam’s Kitchen. They have some of the best curry around and the restaurant was just remodeled in 2019.
8 p.m. Late night fun
After good fare, head over for drop-in curling at the Revelstoke Curling Club where the beers are cheap and the curling is cheaper. Get there early as the club caps capacity at about 40 people.
If you happen to be in town during the winter season, plan to attend a Grizzlies’ game. The local Junior B ice hockey team typically has sell-out crowds and games are a community event.
If you’re a late-night socialite, slide into Traverse, the town’s only nightclub. It usually gets geared up around 11 p.m. and is a great way to groove the night away.
10 a.m. Ease into Sunday
Sunday mornings are laid back in Revelstoke.
The regular coffee spots are buzzing and it’s the perfect time to window shop, visit one of the town’s several parks, or take a 30-minute walk on the Big Eddy Greenway or the Illecillewaet Bridge Trail, both walking trails near the city center with views of Mount Begbie and the Illecillewaet and Columbia Rivers.
Alternately, hop in your car and drive to Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail in Revelstoke National Park, a beautiful rainforest walk just outside the city.
12 p.m. Lunch in Big Eddy & McPherson Trails
Big Eddy Pub, across the Columbia River from Revy, has all one could want for Sunday lunch and they specialize in smoked meats. You’ll be sure to meet a few folks fresh off of the nearby McPherson mountain biking trails.
There is easy trailhead access if you venture over to the trails yourself to hike or bike. Make sure to take the detour to Begbie Falls.
5 p.m. Movie Night
Grabbing a movie at Roxy is a perfect way to wind down an epic weekend in Revelstoke. They usually have two different movies playing each week, and you can check their website or marquee for details.
Rugged and extreme in its vast beauty, Tofino is the jewel of a visit to Vancouver Island in Canada. This seaside Canadian village offers adventurous travelers an array of cool things to see and do in Tofino.
Tofino itself is only a small coastal village but is perfectly located adjacent to the stunning Pacific Rim National Park and the neighboring fishing village of Ucluelet.
The town center has sweeping views over the Clayoquot Sound and is the tip-off point for loads of adventures and sightseeing on both land and water.
Here are the most fabulous things to do in Tofino and its region, plus some practical tips on how to get to Tofino.
GoBlack Bear Viewing in Clayoquot Sound
Our absolute favorite activity in Tofino was a zodiac boat tour to neighboring inlets to see black bears foraging on the shoreline for food. Donning a waterproof and super warm floatation suit (trust me you need this as the trip gets cold!), the group poses for photos before departure.
We then head out very early in the morning for an exhilarating fast boat ride to far-flung coves only reached by boat. The bears in the region are completely protected from human existence and we get to watch them safely and without interference from the water as they stroll around their protected beaches.
The scenery is so serene and untouched that simply visiting these environments is a profoundly cool experience. Being rainy and cold, even in July meant the bears were particularly active the morning we visited and we managed to find more than ten bears across different beaches including a couple of mother and cub pairings. We were even able to witness two young male cubs have a bit of a stand-off for territory.
In addition to the bears, these trips also give you a birds’ eye view of other curious wildlife such as sea lions, seals, and marine birds. A truly memorable experience.
GoKayaking on Clayoquot Sound
You will be hard-pressed to find a more tranquil experience than gliding along in a kayak on Clayoquot Sound. Amplify the experience by choosing a sunrise or sunset tour option to experience the sights with the orange sunlight glistening across the water.
Due to tidal conditions and strong currents operators require you to join an organized tour group for safety purposes but the benefit of this is that they know the most beautiful spots to take you. Kayak tours are readily available from many tour operators in town and can normally be booked on the same day or one day prior.
Go Hiking in Pacific Rim National Park
The Pacific Rim National Park is a rugged coastal environment that is a hikers’ paradise. From flat rainforest boardwalks to cliff edge scenery, this reasonably small National Park packs in some highlights with epic hiking trails and scenic viewpoints at every turn.
It is recommended to allocate at least two to three days to enjoy the park in full and you will need to purchase a National Parks pass prior to visiting. You will then have free roam to explore some of the most gorgeous hiking trails you will find in Canada.
The hugely popular Wild Pacific Trail Lighthouse Loop starts out close to the town of Ucluelet and combines gorgeous rainforest trails, crashing ocean cliff views, and pretty beaches. This hike is an easy 2.6 km loop with only a few short climbs – nothing too strenuous.
Passing the Ucluelet lighthouse as well as many other memorable photo opportunities along the way means this walk is quite breathtaking. If the weather is warm take a short detour off the loop down to pretty terrace beach with its aqua waters beckoning you for a swim or paddle.
For those looking to complete the full Wild Pacific Trail, there is a 5-kilometer extension to the lighthouse loop that travels between Big Beach to Rocky Bluffs plus the 1 km loop at the Ancient Cedar Trail. Emerge yourself in the rainforest canopies to enjoy this iconic BC walk in full.
For those after a short scenic stroll, the Rainforest Trails extend either side of the Pacific Rim Highway give a great insight into the historic old-growth forests that dominate the landscape around Tofino. These hikes are perfect for those with less mobility or younger kids as the trails are boardwalks with handrails providing easy access into the rainforest. There are some fabulous giant trees and interesting plant and animal life to be spotted.
For a little bit of seclusion mixed with a nice beach try out the Halfmoon Bay trail taking you on a short walk through the rainforest ending at scenic Halfmoon Bay. Starting on the Willowbrae Trail this short 1-kilometer hike links up to Halfmoon Bay via a long set of stairs.
Go Swimming on the Beaches of Tofino
Beaches around the Tofino area are windswept and a little wild which is what I think adds to their allure. There are a number of well-known beaches in the area and many of them have the same look and feel – sand rippled from the strong winds and stray logs skewered across the beach hinting at the extreme storms that hit at times.
Realistically, this seaside holiday destination is not where you come for long hot days on the beach, but there is something about the wildness of Tofino’s beaches that entice you to throw yourself into the waves at least once. The water is crisp and clear and sitting on the sand afterward admiring the view and activity happening around you is part of the enjoyment.
Our favorite beach was Long Beach with its deep sandbanks that stretch for over 16 kilometers in length. Long Beach is the best spot for long beach walks!
Loads of surfers’ crowd into Tofino throughout the year to ride the big waves that can whip up on many of the beaches on Vancouver Islands west coast. Watch them from the shoreline to see their moves.
Go Shopping and Indulge in Café Culture
Tofino has an eclectic main street filled with cool cafes and pubs as well as some interesting art galleries and shopping. It’s a great place to go for a relaxed wander or to fill in a lazy afternoon.
Look a little more closely at the telegraph poles in town and you can also see the resident bald eagles diving for food from their perches. They are quite fascinating to watch. If you stand on the high side of the street you get awesome water views behind the town and you are reminded of how pretty a place Tofino is.
Some great places to eat include the Shed Tofino which is a trendy pub slash cafe that was essentially packed the entire time we were in Tofino. Serving up burgers, healthy bowls, and other quick bites this place has a really friendly and bustling vibe that beckons you to sit in.
Shelter Restaurant and Wildside Grill are also popular dinner options.
If you are searching for a bite on the run, the Tacofina Cantina food truck located on the road into Tofino seemed to have a regular line up of customers waiting for their tacos and burritos.
Visit Hot Springs Cove
Another favored day trip from Tofino is to visit Hot Springs Cove in the Maquinna Provincial Park. This trip can only be done by joining an organized tour as the location can only be reached by boat or seaplane.
A 1.5-hour boat trip provides the opportunity for some more wildlife viewing with grey whales, sea lions and otters often spotted on the journey.
Nestled in a rocky shoreline, these British Columbia hot springs are reached via a further short thirty-minute boardwalk from the boat dock. The naturally formed pools cascade via waterfalls from the warmest to the coolest the closer you get to the ocean.
Getting to Tofino
Tofino is located on the western coastline of Vancouver Island, roughly a 340 km drive from the Schwartz Bay Ferry Terminal which is the main ferry terminal from Vancouver. Read more on how to get to Tofino from Vancouver here.
Alternately, you can catch the Vancouver Ferry to Duke Point Terminal in Nanaimo which is closer with 207 kilometers of driving to reach the pacific coast and Tofino.
The road is windy and very scenic in parts, particularly once heading across the island from Parksville to Tofino so it is recommended to allow a half-day or more to take your time and make some scenic stops along the way.
If you are flying into the capital, Victoria car rentals are aplenty and will allow you to make the drive towards Tofino.
Tips for Visiting Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park
The summer weather in Tofino and the surrounding region can be sunny and warm one moment and then blustery, cold and wet the next.
Generally speaking, you can reach highs of 15-19 degrees in the middle of summer but the temperature generally feels slightly chilly nonetheless. Lots of layers will be your best friend for exploring here so that you can adjust to the constantly changing temps.
Tofino experiences a lot of rain so bring some wet weather gear to continue your adventures rain, hail or shine. Solid, comfortable hiking shoes are a good investment.
Don’t forget to display your National Parks Pass for parking in any areas of the National Park! Many of the carparks to local beaches also fall within the park so it is easy to be caught out.
National Parks Passes can be purchased for day visits or longer periods. All details can be found on the Parks Canada website.
Getting around Tofino and the surrounding National Parks will require your own car. Best to rent a car from either Victoria or Nanaimo on your arrival to Vancouver Island, where there are more choices and better prices.
Hopefully, this outline helps you plan a trip to experience all the natural wonders of Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park, and inspire you to travel beyond B.C.’s most known destinations like Whistler and Vancouver. It’s’ a nature lovers paradise with so many beautiful sights and fun things to do in Tofino!
About the Author
Karen is an avid traveler always searching for her next active, nature-based travel experience with her husband and two young daughters. Her hope is to inspire other families to travel and discover the beautiful world via her website www.bigadventuresforlittlefeet.com.au
The city of Vancouver is located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia in Canada.
The city’s mild climate and location surrounded by ocean, mountains, rivers, and lakes make the area a popular destination for outdoor activities with fantastic hiking trails near Vancouver.
Downtown Vancouver is in close proximity to the North Shore Mountain range and the Garibaldi Mountains with some excellent mountain scenery and spectacular lakes to explore.
The largest island off the west coast of North America, Vancouver Island, has fantastic coastal hiking trails through spectacular old-growth forest and long stretches of trails right on the beach with the opportunity to see marine animals such as whales, orcas, dolphins and more!
When staying in downtown Vancouver in the center of the city you are close to several amazing forest and mountain trail hikes near Vancouver that can be reached by the local public transport system such as the Grouse Mountain, Lynn Headwater Park, Quarry Rock, and the Baden Powell trail.
A short drive from the city, also within reach by public transport there are several challenging backcountry wilderness mountain trails such as hiking to Garibaldi Lake and The Stawamus Chief.
The Best Day Hikes in Vancouver
Grouse Mountain located about 15 minutes by public transport from Downtown Vancouver. It is a beautiful mountain close to the city center rising 1250 meters (4100 feet) above the city.
The mountain is a popular location for outdoor activities inside the city with fantastic ski runs and facilities for snow sports in winter and home to the challenging Grouse Grind hiking trail and several other exhibitions and entertainment on the mountain in summer.
The Grouse Grind trail has quite a reputation when it comes to hiking in Vancouver, as it’s known as one of the toughest challenges the city can throw at you! It is a steep hiking trail up Grouse Mountain with about 3000 stairs climbing 853 m (2800 feet) vertical over a distance of 2.9 km (1.8 mi).
It is a one-way trail; you can only go up the mountain hiking the Grouse Grind and have to go down using the Skyride Gondola for $15 CAD for the ride down the mountain.
The other option is to hike down with a steep trail with some technical parts called the BCMC trail. The Grouse Grind only takes about one and a half to two hours on average to reach the top, but it is a steep hike. Grouse Mountain is easily reached by a shuttle from Canada Place in Downtown Vancouver, making it one of the easiest to get to hikes in Vancouver.
Lynn Headwater Park
The beautiful Lynn Headwaters is a massive regional park located in the city of Vancouver with 74 km of hiking trails for all skill levels to explore.
The trails in the park vary from easy flat routes to more difficult backcountry trails including more uphill and even some scrambling. It is amazing to find such beautiful forests located inside the city, making it possible to actually go hiking in Vancouver and not just near it!
The Lynn Headwater Park is easy to navigate to by public transport from Downtown Vancouver: a quick ride with the sea bus, and from there, bus #228 goes all the way to Lynn Valley Center.
The Lynn Loop is an easy, fairly flat 5.2 km trail passing through a forest filled with Cedar and Hemlock trees and next to the running water of Lynn Creek. The route is well-marked and the trail is wide and easy to follow.
The Headwater trail is a longer trail at 14km: not too steep, but a bit more challenging.
For a harder climb, attempt the Lynn Peak trail, a steep climb with an elevation change of 720m over 4km. This trail is often compared to the Grouse Grind and takes about 4 hours to complete with epic views of Vancouver and Mount Seymore rewarding you at the end of a tough Vancouver hike!
Baden Powell Trail
The Baden Powell trail is a challenging 48 km trail connecting Deep Cove with Horseshoe Bay on Vancouver’s North Shore.
There are a lot of steep climbs with a total ascent of 4860 m over the route. To hike the complete trail, you need a full day, as there is nowhere to camp on the route.
The trail does however have several parts that can be reached easily, so you can hike different parts of this trail, so you don’t have to do the whole stretch in one go if that’s too intimidating.
The four sections of the trail commonly hiked are: Deep Cove to Lynn Valley, Lynn Valley to Grouse Mountain, Grouse Mountain to Cypress Mountain and Cypress Mountain to Horseshoe Bay.
The trail from Lynn Valley to Deep Cove goes from Lynn Valley park, starting at the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, a beautiful 50m high suspension bridge, a popular free alternative to see the well-known (and expensive) Capilano suspension bridge. This part of the Baden Powell trail passes several beautiful landscapes, including views of Deep Cove, the Seymour River, and Lynn Creek.
The Quarry Rock trail in Deep Cove is an easy 3.8 km hike with beautiful views. Quarry Rock is a large rocky outcrop with amazing views close to the ocean in Deep Cove. The trail overlaps with the Baden Powell trail.
Epic Hikes Near Vancouver & On Vancouver Island
Garibaldi National Park, Whistler
Garibaldi National Park is a wilderness park between Whistler and Vancouver on the coastal mainland. The park gets its name from the glacier-ringed Mount Garibaldi located inside its borders.
This spectacular park is amazing for hiking near Vancouver, with more than 90 km of excellent trails clearly marked, leading you to some of the most beautiful glacial lakes and viewpoints in British Columbia.
The trail winding to the amazing Garibaldi Lake at an elevation of 1450 m is a bucket list hike to do in the park! The hiking trail is an 18 km out and back route and takes on average 6 hours to hike. This perfect turquoise glacial lake hedged by beautiful mountain peaks makes for unreal views.
The lake is a great place for a swim during this strenuous walk. It is possible to extend the route by hiking to either Panorama Ridge or the Black Tusk peak.
Both these hikes are long day hikes and are often done as backpacking trips camping either at Garibaldi Lake or Taylor Meadows. The park is located close enough to Vancouver allowing for long day hikes from Vancouver, granted you get an early start.
The trailhead leading to Garibaldi Lake, Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge is in the Rubblehead parking area, located 35 km from Whistler and 70 km from Vancouver. The park can be reached from Vancouver by public transport with the Parkbus.
The Stawamus Chief
The Stawamus Chief hike outside the village Squamish near Vancouver is named after the massive granite rock ‘The Chief’ you climb during this amazing hike. This huge rock is very famous for rock climbing.
The Chief has three peaks that you can summit during this hike. It is a challenging hike with a total elevation gain of more than 900 meters. The three peaks are separate, so you go down after climbing one peak before you start to go up the next.
The total distance of the hike to all three peaks is about 8 km and takes most people 4 or 5 hours to complete. Getting to the top of each peak is challenging and hikers make use of chains and ladders to scramble to the top of the granite rock in some sections.
The views of Howe Sound and Garibaldi Provincial Park are incredible from the top of the peaks of the Chief. The hike follows the same path up and down. It is possible to only climb the first peak or only peak one and two, which will take a lot less time.
The granite rock gets very slippery when it is wet and it can be dangerous, so this hike is better to do in summer in dry weather. The Chief is right next to Highway 99: only about 55 km from Vancouver and less than 5 km south of Squamish. There are daily buses from Vancouver to Squamish, making it easy to get to from Vancouver.
The Juan de Fuca Trail, Vancouver Island
The Juan de Fuca marine trail is a beautiful coastal hiking trail over beaches and forest along the coast of Juan de Fuca provincial park on Vancouver Island.
This challenging hike on Vancouver Island is a backpacking trail and you have to carry all the food, gear, and supplies you need for the duration of the hike.
The total distance of the Juan de Fuca hiking trail is 49 km through dense forest with plenty of hills to conquer. The hiking route starts from China Beach, close to the town Sooke in the south, to Botanical Beach located close to Port Renfrew in the north.
The trail takes an average of 4 days to complete. There are campsites to stay along the way, and no pre-booking is necessary, you can leave the camp fee in a deposit box on site.
Plenty of marine animals can be seen when hiking on the beach; keep in mind to always keep an eye out for bears on the route and feel free to explore the intertidal pools. Bear Beach has beautiful pools filled with barnacles, mussels, anemones, and other interesting animals.
There are several trailheads on the Juan de Fuca trail with car parking making it easy to do day hikes or to hike only a part of the trail. Parkinson Creek, Sombrio Beach, and China Beach are all quick to reach from trailheads, each with car parking.
Doing Vancouver island day hikes along the trail and spending some time on these beaches is great. Sombrio is a very nice beach to come for the weekend. The beach has a beautiful hidden waterfall in the forest and is one of the most popular beaches for surfing on Vancouver Island.
Transport to the Juan de Fuca Trail can be arranged with the West Coast Trail Express from Victoria. To get to Victoria from Downtown Vancouver takes about 3 hours by car and ferry. The ferry trip is beautiful, passing islands (and seeing marine life with a bit of luck!)
To get to Victoria by public transport use the SkyTrain’s Canada Line and bus service to get to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, take a ferry to the Swartz Bay terminal on Vancouver Island, and take bus #70 to downtown Victoria.
The West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island
Famous for being one of the toughest and most beautiful multi-day wilderness hikes in the world, the West Coast Trail hiking route on the west coast of Vancouver Island is an experience pursued by numerous adventurers every year.
The fauna and flora on this trail is unreal. This 75 km multi-day hike challenges hikers with tough terrain; hours of walking on the sand, pools of mud, and about 70 ladders to climb — with all your gear to boot. It is a 5 to 7 day hike, which requires carrying your tent, supplies, food, and gear for the whole route.
A key difference between this and the Juan de Fuca hike is that you have to complete the entire trail. There are not other trailheads to start or exit on the way.
Part of what makes this trail so special is that the majority of the hike is on miles of extensive, white sandy beaches, and you can pitch your tent on the beach every night!
When not hiking on the sand, the trail goes through spectacular indigenous forest; however, this is where it can get very muddy and tough when it rains.
The wildlife you can see on the West Coast trail is incredible, from terrestrial animals like deer, bears, and wolves in the forest to marine animals like orcas, whales, and dolphins while hiking on the beach.
Only 30 people are allowed to start hiking the West Coast trail per day, so booking this trail early is important. Transport to the West Coast Trail can be arranged from Victoria with the West Coast Trail Express.
The Trans Canada Trail
Also known as The Great Trail, the 24,000 kilometers (15,000 miles) route is the longest recreational trail in the world and stretches over the massive country of Canada connecting the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans.
The complete trail has only been hiked by a few people, taking more than two years of committed full-day daily hiking to complete. The trail is made up of about 400 different sections, and it is said most Canadians live so close to the trail that they can get there within about 30 minutes.
The West Vancouver part of the Trans Canada Trail starts in Horseshoe Bay, along the Seaview Walk, and then splits into an upper and lower trail.
The upper trail across the Upper Forested Lands is good for hiking. Where the Great Trail passes through Vancouver’s Burnaby Mountain Conservation, it connects many different walking routes in the area. In Vancouver, more than 42 km of trails are part of the Great Trail and 24 km of these trails are next to the ocean, either on shoreline pathways or on the seawall.
About the Author
Campbell from South Africa and Alya from Russia have been traveling the world together searching for the best hikes and dives on the planet since the day they met in the Philippines in 2014. A lot has happened on the way, starting their successful travel blog Stingy Nomads, getting married, and they are still traveling!
Most travelers to Ontario focus on three destinations: Toronto, Ottawa, and Niagara Falls.
While there’s nothing wrong with them, I don’t feel they showcase the incredible and beautiful wilderness this province has to offer. So instead, in this itinerary, I will take you to three of my favorite national / provincial parks on this 10 day Ontario road trip.
At Georgian Bay Islands National Park, you will watch the most spectacular sunrises. In Killarney Provincial Park, you will hike The Crack for phenomenal views of the La Cloche Mountain Range. In Algonquin Provincial Park, you will canoe by day and sleep under the stars by night.
If you like an active vacation and lots of incredible scenery, this is the perfect Ontario road trip itinerary for you.
Your Perfect 10 Days in Ontario: Road Trip Itinerary
The park is known for its incredible sunsets, windswept pines, and rocky geography. The park protects 63 islands and the largest, Beausoleil Island, is home to several activities for visitors.
How to Get Here
On Day 1 drive from Toronto Pearson Airport to Georgian Bay Islands National Park. First, you will need to get to Honey Harbour Boat Clubs Marina, which is located about 2 hours north of Toronto. From the marina, it is a 20-minute boat ride to Beausoleil Island.
If you are staying in roofed accommodations on the island (see next section) you can take the Parks Canada DayTripper boat shuttle. If you are camping on the island, you will need to arrange a boat taxi to the island.
Where to Stay
There are four options for accommodation in the national park: Cedar Spring campground, primitive camping, oTentiks, and cabins.
Cedar Spring Campground – The campground has 45 sites for tent camping that are close to flush toilets, showers, and other facilities.
Primitive Camping – There are eight campsites on the island for tent camping that are more secluded and don’t offer any facilities. I like Honeymoon and Tonch North the most. The campsites at Honeymoon and Tonches can be reserved online in advance, however the other campsites are first-come-first-serve.
oTENTik – The park has a few semi-permanent tent structures that you can rent for a minimum of two nights. They sleep up to four people. You’ll have a proper bed (bring a sleeping bag) and roof over your head, with flush toilets nearby.
Cabins – There are also two sets cabins that can be rented for a minimum of two nights: one set at Cedar Spring (each sleeps 6 people) and one set at Christian Beach (each sleeps 4 people). The cabins offer beds, a picnic table, cookware and other gear.
In all of the above, you should reserve online in advance.
How Long to Stay
I think three nights is the perfect amount of time to spend in Georgian Bay Islands National Park.
That will give you two full days to enjoy the park. From my experience, the park can see thunderstorms / overcast skies persistent for an entire day, but usually not multiple days in a row.
Having the extra night means you decrease the probability of missing out on an awesome sunset due to weather.
What to Do
Hiking: Beausoleil Island has numerous trails for hiking. The trails on the south side of the island are flat and wide, with sugar maples above and pine needles under your feet.
The trails on the north side of the island are rocky and less defined. I find these trails a lot more beautiful, but be sure to watch for the trail markers as it’s easy to get lost here.
My personal favorite hike is Fairy Trail. This is a loop trail around Fairy Lake, a lake in the top-center of the island. I also love the hike to the lighthouse, which is a stop along the Georgian Trail on the west side of the island.
Biking: Bikes can be rented at the visitor center. Many of the trails on the southern part of the island are flat and wide enough for biking.
Swimming: There are some awesome swimming spots throughout the islands. Beausoleil Point (the most southern point of the island) is probably my favorite place.
A sandy beach stretches out from the shoreline underneath a foot of water, which makes playing frisbee or other games really fun. Honeymoon also has a decent beach, but it would be one of the busier places to swim in the park.
Sunset Gazing: Georgian Bay offers some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. The sunsets are best on the north coast of the island, in my opinion.
Killarney Provincial Park is perhaps the most beautiful park in Ontario. The water ranges from jet black to Gatorade blue; the rocks range from pink granite to shimmering white quartz.
Located on the northern shore of Georgian Bay and stretching across the La Cloche Mountain Range, Killarney protects a truly special pocket of Ontario wilderness, making it an essential stop on your Ontario road trip.
How to Get Here
On Day 4 drive from Honey Harbour Boat Clubs Marina to Killarney Provincial Park. The drive is just under 3 hours, but I think the incredible beauty of Killarney will make up for the drive time.
Optional Detour: Along the highway to Killarney, you will pass a turn for Killbear Provincial Park. This stop would only require an extra ~20 minutes of driving each way.
The park is small and there isn’t much to do that couldn’t be done in Killarney or Georgian Bay Islands, which is why I don’t dedicate more time to it in this Ontario itinerary. That said, the Lookout Trail (1.5 hours return) is excellent and worthy of a quick detour.
George Lake Campground – The campground has numerous sites for car camping and has washroom and shower facilities.
Backcountry Campsite – If you are comfortable hiking or paddling to a campsite, Killarney offers excellent backcountry campsites. There is only one campsite per lake in the park, which means reservations need to be made well in advance (4-5 months in advance) if you are to get one of the nicest campsites.
Yurts / Cabins – At George Lake Campground, there are two cabins and six yurts available for reservation. The cabins sleep five people and the yurts sleep six people.
Killarney Mountain Lodge – This lodge is located just outside the park and offers many cabins of different sizes. I stayed here when visiting Killarney with my parents and really enjoyed it. The lodge is located right on the shore, there is a great restaurant and a huge common room with comfy leather chairs and a stone fireplace. Perfect after a long day in the park!
In all of the above, you should reserve online in advance.
How Long to Stay
Since you will likely arrive in Killarney Provincial Park in the afternoon after three hours of driving, I recommend staying for three nights.
This will allow you to have two full days in the park: one for canoeing and one for hiking.
What to Do
Hike The Crack: The Crack is the most popular hike in Killarney. It’s a little over 6 km return, yet it requires 4 hours of hiking because it is so strenuous.
There is a lot of steep hiking to do. The view from the top is incredible, but you’ll be wiped afterward.
Hike Silver Peak: Silver Peak is the highest point in Killarney and offers stunning views of the many lakes below. Beyond the lakes, you can see all the way to Georgian Bay.
The trailhead is a little tricky to access as you’ll need to rent a canoe and paddle to it. Definitely get a map with your canoe rental! The hike itself requires 5-6 hours, so this is a full day activity and you’ll want to get started early.
Canoe from George Lake to Killarney Lake: Rent a canoe from George Lake and go for a paddle. Two quick portages will bring you to Killarney Lake, which is the perfect place to have a picnic lunch.
There is some stunning geography in this area of the park. There are several cliffs of varying colors – white, black, brown, and pink. George Lake can get windy, especially in the afternoon, so ensure you wear your life jacket and stay by the shore if the wind starts picking up.
I’ve written a blog post with everything you need to know about visiting Killarney, which should help you plan this part of the trip.
Days 7 – 9: Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park is Canada’s oldest provincial park. Covering nearly 8,000 sq km, this park is bigger than some European countries!
There are over 2,000 km worth of canoe routes. Needless to say, canoe camping and Algonquin go hand-in-hand!
How to Get Here
On Day 7 drive from Killarney to Algonquin Provincial Park. The drive is 3.5 hours, but the area around Algonquin gets busier if you’re driving on a weekend. I recommend getting started on this drive early in the morning.
Optional Detour: The drive will take you through the town of Huntsville, which is a very popular town for cottagers in the summer. There are some cute cafes, thrift shops, and camping gear stores in the downtown area. If you have time to stop for a quick lunch here, I recommend it!
Where to Stay
Backcountry Camping: For Algonquin, I highly recommend doing a canoe camping trip and staying at backcountry campsites. If you are new to canoe camping, Algonquin has excellent outfitters you can rent you with all the gear you need.
I’ve worked with the company ‘Algonquin Outfitters’ before and they are excellent. You can even hire a canoe guide to take you, which I highly recommend for beginner canoeists.
Your outfitter will be able to help you choose a canoe route that is well suited for your abilities. In addition, they can help plan out meals and ensure you’re well prepared for an amazing adventure.
Lodges: If backcountry camping is not your preference, there are also three lodges in the park. I haven’t stayed at any of these lodges myself, but I’ve heard great things about Killarney Lodge (not to be confused with Killarney Mountain Lodge in Killarney Provincial Park).
Additional Options: There are also options for car camping, yurts, and other types of accommodation. The Algonquin Park camping webpage has details on all of the options.
Though, again, I recommend canoe camping in Algonquin. It’s an essential part of the Canadian summer.
How Long to Stay
In this Ontario road trip itinerary, I’ve budgeted three nights in Algonquin Provincial Park.
If you’d like a taste of canoe camping, you could reduce this to two nights. Whereas if you’re feeling ambitious or already love backcountry camping, you could adjust to four nights.
What to Do
Canoe Camping: Spend your days paddling under the sun and your nights staring up at the stars. Collect firewood and cook your meals over a fire. Take breaks to swim in the lake or lay out on the warm rocks. You may even be lucky enough to see a moose.
Backpacking: If you decide you’d like to backcountry camp, but aren’t interested in canoeing, there is a 2-night backpacking trail that is really nice. The Highland Trail is a 36 km loop with nice campsites along the way.
Canoeing: Even if you don’t go out for a multi-day canoe trip, you can still rent a canoe for a day and explore some of the lakes. The lodges typically have free canoe rentals. Otherwise, you can rent a canoe from one of the park’s outfitters.
Hiking: There are a few awesome hiking trails in Algonquin. Barron Canyon is a popular short (2 km) hike with a great view. Centennial Ridges is less busy and longer (10 km) but also offers excellent views.
Photography: Algonquin is a super popular destination for landscape and wildlife photographers. There are some locals who run photography tours in the area, which will take you to lesser-known areas of the park.
On the final day, you’ll leave Algonquin Provincial Park and drive back to Toronto.
Depending on what you have next on your trip (a flight departure, perhaps) you may have time to stop in Gravenhurst for lunch on the drive back. The town was nearby the camp I used to work at, so I spent many days off here. The Oar Restaurant is really good and has an outdoor patio!
Additional Information for Planning an Ontario Road Trip
Weather: This itinerary is only suitable for travel in the summer or early autumn. Generally, by early June the weather has warmed up for the season (20 C) and will peak at 30-35 C in late July.
Bugs: Mosquitoes and Black Flies are often an issue early in the season, and will be the worst in Algonquin Park in June and early July.
Best Time to Go: For the reasons above, I think the best time to travel in Ontario is early August. The weather is still very warm, but the bugs are almost non-existent by then. However, if you’re comfortable with a couple of bugs in the early evenings and cooling temperatures, any time between mid-July and late-August would be suitable.
Packing: As you’ll be doing a lot of outdoor adventuring, it’s important to have decent outdoor clothing (especially if you will be canoe camping in Algonquin). I have a canoe camping packing guide in this post that you can use for planning, as well as this road trip packing list!
About the Author
Mikaela is the voice behind Voyageur Tripper, a blog dedicated to outdoor adventure travel. Mikaela spent several seasons working as a hiking and canoeing guide throughout Canada. She now balances weekend adventuring with a full-time job, and writes stories, resources, and travel guides for her blog. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook to follow her travels.
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Welcome to another installment of my guest post series, “Offbeat Travel.” This time, I bring you Dawn Nicholson of 5 Lost Together who is sharing her experience in a tiny town called Taloyoak in Northern Canada’s Nunavut territory, located in the Arctic Circle. Read on below!
My home country of Canada is a very popular travel destination, especially this year when we are celebrating 150 years as a nation. Most travelers are overwhelmed by the sheer size of Canada, which can make it difficult to see the varied regions, from the Canadian Rockies to the vast Arctic regions.
Since most Canadians live around the 49th parallel, near the US border, this is where most tourists spend their time. However, the majority of Canada’s land mass is sparsely habited wilderness that few travelers get to see.
For us southern Canadians, we get a good laugh out of visitors that want to see icebergs and polar bears on their visit to Canada. You have to fly many hours north to see these quintessential Canadian icons and very few Canadians or tourists make it up to the Canadian Arctic, also called “The Great White North.”
I was lucky enough to visit a small community in Nunavut as a teacher accompanying high school students on an exchange last year. This allowed us unprecedented access to the community and people as we were guests, not tourists. I feel so fortunate to have been able to visit this remote part of Canada and most importantly to learn about the Inuit people and culture of Canada.
If you do find yourself in a remote Canadian Arctic fly-in community, you will be rewarded by some truly unique and fantastic experiences.
Highlights of the Canadian Arctic
1. See the Arctic Landscape in Nunavut
It is surreal to look out over the landscape and take in the Arctic permafrost. Since you are above the tree line, the horizon of white stretches on indefinitely. With no noticeable landmarks outside each settlement, it is a wonder how the Inuit navigate the land.
2. Experience Inuit Culture
The Inuit are the indigenous people of the region and have lived in this harsh environment for thousands of years. The Canadian territory of Nunavut was created in 1999 as part of a lands claim process between the government and Inuit people. While the Inuit no longer live a nomadic lifestyle in igloos, the culture is being carefully preserved.
Elders in the community are revered and play an important role in maintaining traditional ways. It is interesting to see the blend of modern society and traditional ways in the community. Traditional clothing made of sealskin and furs are sewed carefully be the women of the community. Hunting, ice fishing and going out on the land are important parts of life here still.
3. See the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is on most people’s bucket list. You actually don’t have to travel all the way up to Nunvaut in the Canadian Arctic to see this amazing phenomenon. There are many places in northern Canada to view them during the winter months. In fact, below the Arctic circle is often thought to be better for viewing than above. Seeing the Northern Lights will require some patience to get the conditions just right.
4. Eat Traditional Foods
For centuries, the Inuit have lived off a diet rich in meat and fat to sustain them through the extreme winters. Packaged food and fresh vegetables are now flown in regularly, but traditional foods still play an important role in Inuit communities.
Arctic char is a delicious fish that is a popular staple in the Arctic and is often eaten raw or in a stew. Caribou and musk ox are also popular and easy for visitors to sample.
For the more adventurous eaters, you can try seal and even polar bear. It may sound barbaric eating these animals, but Nunavut’s small population and careful quotas show that it can be done sustainably.
5. Go Ice Fishing in the Canadian Arctic
I visited in May and when we went ice fishing the ice in Nunavut was still over 2.5 meters deep. The Inuit are skilled at using augers to drill the holes for ice fishing, but they still use a simple dowel with line and hook. Ice fishing requires a lot of patience, so make sure you come prepared with hot drinks and very warm clothes.
6. Experience Extreme Days and Nights
Days where the sun almost never sets makes you realize how close to the North Pole you are in the Canadian Arctic. There is something about watching the sun set at 1 am in the morning over the frozen tundra that is simply magical. It can be a challenge to sleep in the “summer” months and blackout blinds are a must. Likewise, in winter you will need to be prepared for hardly any daylight in Nunavut.
Be sure to pack warmly and include plenty of winter clothes!
Conditions are extremely unforgiving and harsh in the Canadian Arctic and it takes winter camping to a whole new level. With Inuit guides, camping out on the land is a truly unique experience. Historically, the Inuit have used dog sled teams to move around on the land. Now, they use snowmobiles and kamatiks, a sled that is pulled by a snowmobile.
8. See an Igloo Being Built
Igloos are symbolic of the far north of Canada and for hundreds of years been used to create homes and shelters out of compacted snow. Building an igloo takes an incredible amount of skill to construct. They are exceptionally strong and provide excellent protection from the cold and wind. The Inuit no longer use these for housing in Nunavut, but are working on passing this tradition down to the next generation.
9. See the Wildlife
Polar bear tours are very popular from Churchill, Manitoba and in the Spring you can even see newborn cubs. Further north, you can see migratory animals like caribou, musk ox, belugas and narwhals. Unfortunately, since we didn’t do any tours in Nunavut, the only wildlife we saw were skins and furs.
Planning Your Trip to the Canadian Arctic
An Arctic trip is almost impossible to do independently and will require booking a tour to be able to experience these Arctic highlights in Nunavut. Entry points to the Canadian Arctic are Yellowknife, Iqaluit, and Churchill. There are small cruise ships that travel into the Northwest Passage in the summer months and visit a number of wildlife hotspots and Inuit communities.
Be prepared to spend some money to reach this remote area of the world as flights and tours are not cheap. However, you will be getting to see an area of Canada that few people have seen and experienced.
About: Dawn Nicholson loves traveling and blogging about her adventures traveling and living overseas with her three kids at www.5losttogether.com. She has visited over 50 countries and believes strongly in traveling now with kids by whatever and any means possible – backpacking, sailing or living as expats overseas. You can follow her adventures and musings on Facebook and Instagram
Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you purchase something using one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no added cost to you. No BS – I only recommend accommodations, services, and products I truly believe in.