Maps
Hiking in Mount Robson Provincial Park.

Rainforest to Rockies: The Signature Circle Route

7-10 Days, 2195 km (1363.91 mi)

Take your time and experience BC’s natural grandeur between sea and sky. Travel through ever-changing landscapes on an extraordinary signature circle route.

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Embark on an expansive Rainforest to Rockies circle route from the Pacific Ocean to the Canadian Rockies and back again. Tailor the timing to your own pace as you loop along highways and byways through big cities and mountain towns alongside lakes and forests. Witness British Columbia’s highlights and highest peaks on this unforgettable journey.

Part 1

Vancouver to Kamloops

Capilano Suspension Bridge | Destination Vancouver/Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Welcome to a city surrounded by impressive nature. In Vancouver, glass towers mirror the green-blue Pacific Ocean. The city’s accessible and scenic Seawall encircles Stanley Park’s lush rainforest, framed by the mountains on Vancouver’s North Shore. Travelling north along the Sea-to-Sky Highway 99, views include the striking ocean and mountain panoramas of Howe Sounda UNESCO-designated biosphereand its small islands.

In the mountain town of Whistler, the 4.4-km PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola ride between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains offers gasp-worthy views of deep, fir-and-spruce-lined valleys. Beyond Pemberton and moving northeast, see jade-hued Lillooet Lake, the community of Lillooet, deep canyons, and raging rivers. From Cache Creek, the colours dramatically shift again into golden rolling hills and tan and copper-coloured canyons along the Thompson River, as Highway 1 brings you to sports-loving Kamloops. It’s a great base for hiking, biking, and exploring cultural experiences under sunny skies or set off from here to explore the BC region known as the Cariboo

Part 2

Kamloops to Valemount

Helmcken Falls in Wells Gray Provincial Park | Andrew Strain

This leg promises outdoorsy thrills like trail hiking, water activities, and waterfall-watching. Journeying north toward the Canadian Rockies, arrive in Clearwater, the gateway to Wells Gray Provincial Park. Carpeted with inland temperate rainforests, the 5,145-sq-km park includes Helmcken Falls, where water plummets 141m from a volcanic plateau. Mineral springs and lava beds add rich geological intrigue.

More adventures roll out along Highway 5. Discover the community of Blue River, where bears and kokanee salmon thrive in the North Thompson Valley, before arriving in the village of Valemount. In addition to mountain biking and whitewater rafting, a backcountry excursion to Hamber Provincial Park lures experienced hikers. Hamber is one of seven contiguous parks comprising the UNESCO Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.

Part 3

Valemount to Jasper

Emperor Falls on the Berg Lake Trail | Brayden Hall

Wildlife surprises abound, from bears to bighorn sheep, as you travel east toward Mount Robson. Rough-hewn and pyramid-like, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies (3,954 m) is called Yexyexéscen (“striped rock”) by the Secwécpemc People.

Mount Robson Provincial Park trails, from alpine meadows to the Valley of a Thousand Falls, yield unforgettable views. Along the Kinney Lake Trail, ancient yellow cedars and glacier-fed waters await. (Be sure to check access options and book campsites in advance!)

Highway 16 transitions into a new province, Alberta, and its Jasper National Park, with stunning Maligne Canyon just 15 minutes outside the town of Jasper.

Part 4

Jasper to Golden

Yoho National Park | Dave Heath

Larger-than-life scenery defines the Icefields Parkway journey south on Alberta’s Highway 93. The colossal Athabasca Glacier and turquoise Peyto Lake and Bow Lake feed your sensory overload, and there are ample photogenic pullouts.

Swing west from Lake Louise into UNESCO-recognized Yoho National Park, featuring nearly 30 peaks over 3,000 m high. View the multi-drop, 373-m Takakkaw Falls or canoe aptly named Emerald Lake. Dive into the past and discover 500-million-year-old fossils on a guided Burgess Shale hike at the Mount Stephen and Walcott Quarry trilobite beds.

Segue back via Highway 1 into modern mountain life in Golden and enjoy a local craft beer or brave the Golden Skybridge suspension bridges.

Part 5

Golden to Cranbrook

Radium Hot Springs | Kari Medig

Revitalizing and relaxing experiences await down the Rocky Mountain Trench along Highways 95 and 93/95.

In Kootenay National Park, unwind in 37℃ mineral water at Radium Hot Springs Resort. And if hot springs sound like your perfect way to relax on holiday, there are plenty to melt into. Take the Hot Springs Circle Route, which features Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, Canyon Hot Springs, Halcyon Hot Springs Resort, Nakusp Hot Springs, and Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort.

Ornithology buffs treasure the protected, 17,000-hectare Columbia Valley Wetlands, home to more than 260 bird species that live between the Rocky and Purcell mountains. In Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park hike through pastoral meadows with western anemones and red paintbrush flowers. 

This rugged East Kootenays terrain morphs into rolling hills, lakes and farmland in the Columbia Valley through Invermere and Fairmont Hot Springs. An inexhaustible list of outdoor adventures beckons as you enter the mining and railway towns of Kimberley and Cranbrook.

Part 6

Cranbrook to Vancouver

St. Eugene Golf Resort | Kari Medig

Nature and culture intertwine on this home stretch. Experience Cranbrook’s Indigenous-owned and -operated St. Eugene Golf, Resort & Casino with championship golf, restaurants, and the Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre, which celebrates and shares the resilience, culture, history, and experiences of the Ktunaxa Nation.

Moving westward on Crowsnest Highway 3 from Cranbrook, admire the densely forested Purcell, Selkirk and Monashee mountains and pass through the Kootenay Pass, BC’s highest mountain pass, between Creston and Salmo. The alpine ecosystem shifts magically into antelope brush, western bluebirds, and tiger salamanders in the semi-arid Okanagan desert and the town of Osoyoos. Through Keremeos and the Similkameen Valley, enjoy fruit right off the tree and small-batch wineries. Farther west, dark-sky-watching and camping await in E.C. Manning Provincial Park.

At Hope, where the Fraser and Coquihalla rivers meet, explore trails along fast-flowing rivers and wooden chainsaw carvings before following Highway 1 back to Vancouver, bringing with you more memories and escapades than you can share in one telling. 

Please note: Remember to check for access information and note which parks or areas require advance booking or have other unique conditions.

 

Header image: Mount Robson Provincial Park | Megan McLellan

Driving Directions

Part 1 - Vancouver
  • 6.25 km
  • 12 min
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