Travelling by RV allows you to bring the comforts of home into the wild nature of BC, thanks to camping options that range from full-service glamping sites to rustic, natural retreats. Here are some ideas to help you plan an RVing adventure from BC’s Coast to the Rocky Mountains.
Pick your route.
Trans-Canada Highway (Vancouver, Kamloops, Revelstoke, Golden, Banff)
The Trans-Canada (also referred to as Highway 1) is a direct and well-travelled RV route. If you’re not comfortable with mountain driving, exit the Trans-Canada at Hope for the Coquihalla Highway. Connect back to the Trans-Canada in Kamploops, or continue through the Okanagan Valley via Kelowna and Vernon and reconnect in Sicamous. Spend time in the mountain parks; locomotive fans will want to check out the railway museum in Revelstoke and the Spiral Tunnels in Yoho National Park.
For a change in scenery, consider taking Highway 8 off the Trans-Canada at Spences Bridge, which traces the Fraser Canyon along the Nicola River.
This route travels BC’s coastline with breathtaking views of the ocean on one side and jutting rock on the other. Be aware that the road can be narrow and twisty, with sharp corners and some steep areas (especially the Duffy Lake section).
A more direct option is to take the Trans-Canada route, and then connect to Highway 5 in Kamloops.
Highway 3 and the Kootenays (Manning Park, Osoyoos, West Kootenays, Banff)
The Highway 3 route from Hope and on through the Kootenays is a spectacular drive, passing through parks, small towns, and mountain ranges. Be aware, Allison Pass through Manning Park has some steep grades.
Consider these stops:
- Stop and detour in Keremeos to visit a Similkameen Valley Winery.
- Detour in Nelson and visit Ainsworth Hot Springs. From Nelson, catch the Kootenay Lake Ferry to Creston (you’ll be surrounded by nature on the longest free ferry trip in the world).
- From Cranbrook, detour to Kimberley, then head up Highway 93/95 to Fairmont Hot Springs, Radium Hot Springs, and connect to the Trans-Canada in Golden.
Make the time to take your time.
Depending on your route, driving from Vancouver to the Rockies is approximately 800 km (500 mi) —equaling eight to 10 hours driving time—up and over several mountain passes. Routes go from coastal waters, through rainforest, desert, wine and orchard country, mountain ranges, small towns, parks, and historic railway and gold rush sites. Give yourself time to stop, stay, and explore along the way.
Renting an RV? Make it a one-way trip.
Many RV rental companies allow you to pick up your rental in Vancouver and drop it off in Calgary (and vice versa). Click here for more tips on renting an RV in BC.
Where to camp with an RV.
Find RV-friendly campsites here. After a long drive, avoid having to back in by calling ahead and reserving a site with a pull-through spot.
Parks on the way.
No matter the route you choose, you’ll pass through both provincial and national parks. Here are just a few to visit:
- Garibaldi Park off Highway 99. Hike to Garibaldi Lake for stunning views of the park.
- Wells Gray Park off Highway 5. This is one of BC’s larger parks, at 541,516 hectares (1,338,115 acres), and it’s full of natural wonders like volcanoes, waterfalls, mineral springs, and glaciers.
- Mount Robson Park off Highway 16 (from Highway 5). Here you’ll see the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies, and the view of Mount Robson does not disappoint.
- Glacier National Park off the Trans-Canada Highway. Home to glaciers, old-growth forest, alpine meadows, and Rogers Pass, the final link in Canada’s national railway.
- Yoho National Park off the Trans-Canada Highway on the western slopes of the Canadian Rockies.
- Whiteswan Lake Park off Highway 93 (from Highway 3). On your way in, keep an eye out for Lussier Hot Springs, a natural spring set in the forest beside the Lussier River.
- Manning Park off Highway 3. In the heart of the Cascade Mountains, Manning is an all-season recreation destination.
- Gladstone Park off Highway 3. A short hike to Christina lake, one of the warmest and clearest lakes in Canada.
- Kootenay National Park on Highway 93 is home to Radium Hot Springs.
When should you go?
Spring, summer, and fall months are the best times to be on the road, but high-elevation areas are known to have snowstorms in April, May, and October.
Reserve your Provincial park campsite here.
Plan your Trans-Canada Highway route here.
For up to the minute BC road conditions visit Drive BC.
Explore other BC road trip routes.
Featured Image: Driving along Highway 3 next to the Kootenay River. Photo: Keri Medig.