Witness the powerful effects of nature on this scenic route through diverse mountain landscapes, starting and ending in Vancouver.
From Vancouver, head north along the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway. The road winds around rock faces, cliffs, and trees and offers incredible vistas of Howe Sound. Stop at the roadside Britannia Mine Museum on the way to Squamish.
Continue along the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Squamish, which bills itself as the “Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada.” Look for bald eagles by the river, watch kitesurfers at the Squamish Spit, tackle the mountain bike trails, or try river rafting. Take a break in town by sampling fare from one of the local proprietors—including a stop at one of Squamish’s many breweries or cideries.
Make sure to allocate ample time in Whistler. Along with outdoor adventures such as biking, bear watching, hiking, or riding the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, there are more urban pursuits in the Village, such as shopping and dining. Make sure to visit the cultural exhibits at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre for insight into the ancient Indigenous cultures of this area.
Continue driving north of Whistler to quiet (and pretty) Pemberton. Or, drive on to Lillooet, which is known for being the start of the road for the Cariboo Gold Rush. As a result, there are some interesting historic sites to discover.
From Lillooet, there is the option to drive south to Lytton, or northeast through grasslands and canyons (the northeast option is shown on the map). If you’re taking the northeast route, visit Historic Hat Creek Ranch to sample pioneer life and then continue on to Lytton.
South of Lillooet, Lytton is known for being “Canada’s Hot Spot” and is also a huge river rafting destination. The Fraser Canyon landscape includes rivers that rush past steep walls and gorges, and farmlands flanking the mountains. To gain an appreciation for the power of the Fraser River, stop at Hell’s Gate to ride the air tram over the white water at the river’s narrowest point, just 35 metres (115 feet) wide. Visit historic Yale en route to Hope.
Hope is a major junction for road trip travellers, some of whom drive through and miss the unique attractions in the area. View the chainsaw carvings that are scattered throughout town, and walk through the nearby Othello Tunnels at Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, which were blasted out of solid cliffs.
Natural mineral water at Harrison Hot Springs makes this a logical place for a stopover and a relaxing plunge into steamy pools. The artificial lagoon at Harrison Lake is also a prime spot for kicking back outdoors, if the weather serves.
From Harrison Hot Springs, choose either the northern or southern bank of the Fraser River to return to Vancouver. The northern route (shown on the map) follows scenic Highway 7 past Mission, Maple Ridge, and Pitt Meadows while the more direct southern route follows Highway 1 past Abbotsford, Fort Langley, and New Westminster.
Featured image: High Note Trail, Whistler Mountain | Blake Jorgenson
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