With summer soon to be a distant reflection in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look ahead and embrace the fall. The only thing more beautiful than B.C. in summer are the golds, yellows and reds of the foliage that transform the province every autumn. Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a weeklong adventure, these 7 road trips around the province make the seasonal switch all the more inviting.
Just about anywhere on Vancouver Island is a scenic experience in itself, but the drive to Ucluelet is especially remarkable. Situated on the edge of the Pacific, and surrounded by Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, this little fishing town is the perfect destination for a fall weekend getaway. Spend the afternoon watching (or catching) the waves at Long Beach or hike the Wild Pacific Trail. You can also visit the Ucluelet Aquarium, Amphitrite Lighthouse or continue 40 minutes down the road to the surfing town of Tofino.
Before starting the windy stretch of road across the island, swing by Coombs to stock up on snacks and meet the goats that live on the grass roof of Coombs Old Country Market. En route down the Pacific Rim Highway (also known as ‘Canada’s Surf Highway’), a walk through Cathedral Grove is a must. The Old Growth Forest is home to some of the largest Douglas Fir and Red Cedar trees in Canada.
The Sea-To-Sky Highway
If you’re looking for a quick day trip out of Vancouver, a drive up the Sea To Sky is always a treat on a clear day. This 121 km stretch of highway to Whistler from downtown Vancouver weaves up the coast with an incredible view of the Sunshine Coast and the islands of Howe Sound. Grab lunch in picturesque Squamish, see who can spot Diamond Head peak first and drive out to the Squamish Spit to get an up-close look at the kite surfers. Even if your journey stops here, this outdoor-adventure town is well worth the short drive from Vancouver.
If you continue up to Whistler, stop by Brandywine to take in the breathtaking 70-metre waterfall that this provincial park is famous for. If you want to really make a day of it, drive past Whistler to the Pemberton Valley for dinner and a view of Mount Curry.
The Duffey Lake Road
If you’re looking to venture on a road less travelled, drive up past Whistler and Pemberton and over Duffey Lake Road — a winding stretch of road that’s notorious for its switchbacks, single lane bridges and dramatic mountain scenery. This stunning highway takes explorers on a gradual route to the Interior by way of Lillooet, a Gold Rush town, that in 1860 was the 2nd largest North American centre west of Chicago. Even today, the quaint main streets of Lillooet look like they’re right out of an old Western film.
Wildlife runs rampant along this relatively quiet road — it’s not uncommon to see black bears, marmots, deer, or even moose and bighorn sheep along the drive. The scenery quickly shifts from temperate rainforests and glaciers to a dry desert landscape as you drive north from Lillooet, eventually leading to Marble Canyon, Kamloops and Shuswap.
The Rocky Mountain Trench
An exploration of the province isn’t complete without a trip to the Canadian Rockies. B.C.’s Rocky Mountain Trench spans 250 km from Golden to Cranbrook, offering passengers a stunning glimpse of the province’s natural beauty. The variety of wildlife that inhabits this corridor includes bighorn sheep, elk, deer, coyotes, caribou and bears. The region’s national parks and attractions, such as the Northern Lights Wildlife Wolf Centre, Radium Hot Springs and the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook, help break up the drive and make the trip all the more rewarding.
The Okanagan Valley and KVR
A tour through the vineyards of the Okanagan is a must for any wine enthusiast. Take a leisurely drive from Kelowna through to Keremeos, stopping at some of the many wineries along the way (we recommend hiring a driver or joining a bus tour so you can fully enjoy the tasting experience). To really get the most out of that fresh fall air, spend an afternoon biking along the trestles of the Kettle Valley Railway. The once functional railway system now spans almost 650 km of connected pathways, giving bikers a one-of-a-kind experience — especially when it comes to enjoying the changing fall foliage.
If heading up to Northern B.C. is on your 2020 bucket list, now is the time to make the trip, before the temperatures drop and the roads get dicey. The charming town of Smithers is located along the Yellowhead Highway at the base of Hudson Bay Mountain. Smithers is a popular fishing destination in the summer and ski destination in the winter. In the fall, you can enjoy the shops, spas, breweries and German-style sausage shops that populate the town’s Bavarian-style buildings along Main Street.
Smithers was settled in 1913 as a railway town in the Wet’suwet’en territory. During your stay, learn about the region’s rich indigenous culture by visiting the ‘Ksan Historical Village in Hazelton and the ancient Gitxsan village of Gitanmaax. When it comes to watching the changing leaves, there’s no better way than taking a hike along the beautiful Bulkley River.
Just a 40-minute ferry ride to Langdale from Horseshoe Bay is the Sunshine Coast. This 180 km stretch of coastal beauty is populated with small coastal settlements. Once you’re back on solid land, grab lunch in Gibsons and work your way up to Lund and Desolation Sound. This breathtaking stretch of coastline offers incredible kayaking and other water-borne tours; it’s not uncommon to see pods of orcas and other marine life frolicking in the water.
Wherever your fall adventures take you, don’t forget to pack hand sanitizer and wear your masks when social-distancing isn’t possible. Finally, always check your route before setting off to make sure the roads are clear. With that — happy road tripping!