Category: Parks & Wildlife

BC Road Trip: Coast to the Rockies by RV

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)
Rogers Pass on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Rogers Pass on the Trans-Canada Highway. Photo: @_miss.mandy_ via instagram

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.

Highway 99 to Highway 5 (Vancouver, Whistler, Lillooet, Clearwater, Valemount, Jasper)
Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99).

Sea to Sky Highway (Highway 99). Photo: Destination BC

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)
Sinclair Canyon, the entrance to Kootenay National Park and Radium BC.

Sinclair Canyon, the entrance to Kootenay National Park and Radium Hot Springs.  Photo: Kari Medig

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:

 

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. 

San Juan River on BC's coast.

San Juan River on BC’s coast. Photo: @theworldinwhich via instagram

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.

Plan ahead.

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.

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5 Places Locals Are Loving to Cross Country Ski in BC This Week

British Columbia has more than 50 cross-country skiing areas and countless more options in provincial and national parks. Here are five photos showing where locals are making the most of the great, early-season conditions.

1. Sovereign Lake Nordic Club near Vernon

2. Fernie

3. Tetrahedron Provincial Park on the Sunshine Coast

 

Luxury living in the Tetrahedron. #sunshinecoastbc #exploreBC

A photo posted by Dolf Vermeulen Photography (@dolfvermeulen) on

4. Pemberton

5. Larch Hills Ski Area near Salmon Arm

 

Snowland #photooftheday #day976

A photo posted by Evan Buhler (@evanbuhler) on

Additional Links: 
Cross-country skiing in BC

Don’t forget to tag your photos with #exploreBC for your chance to be featured in one of our upcoming blog posts.

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Wildlife Viewing in Mount Robson

Spring is here and with the warm weather it brings, it’s the best time of year for wildlife viewing in Mount Robson Provincial Park. Mount Robson, located in the Canadian Rockies, is the second oldest provincial park in BC and it’s designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its 217,000 ha (536,219 ac) of pristine wilderness terrain make it a thriving wildlife habitat. You can often spot wildlife along the highways before you even enter the park, as they seek the new spring growth coming up in the valley. These amazing creatures can be difficult to spot, but if you know where to look, there is a good chance to catch a glimpse and get a great photo along your journey. Here are some examples of the wildlife you may spot in Mount Robson Provincial Park, courtesy of the staff at the British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Mt. Robson:

Black Bears

Black bear strolling through the grass at Mt. Robson Provincial Park.

Black bear at Mount Robson Provincial Park. Photo: Robert Snache via Flickr

Black bears begin emerging from their winter hibernation in mid- to late-April and their need to fill up on food will drive them to the newest spring growth. This means that through to mid-May, the best chance to spot one will be along the highway on the north side of the park. The south facing side of the road gets the most sunlight and plants such as fireweed and dandelion, which is the bears’ favourite at this time of year. As the sun rises higher in the sky, the bears migrate to the south side of the road, where the high-nutrition spring growth flowers begin blooming. Bears will generally feed in the early morning, then again a little later in the day, showing up along the highway whenever their bellies get empty. This may be as often as every few hours.

Grizzly Bears

A mama grizzly bear and her cub sniffing for food along the highway at Mount Robson Provincial Park.

Mama grizzly bear and her cub at Mount Robson Provincial Park. Photo: xinem via Flickr

Spring is typically the only time to see grizzly bears in the valley floor at Mount Robson. Once the snow leaves, these solitary creatures move to higher ground as they forage for food. They can occasionally be seen alongside the highway, usually at higher points of the road. In past years, grizzlies have been spotted at Yellowhead Pass in the east end of the park, as well as south of the park in Albreda. In the spring, grizzlies often forage for food on south-facing avalanche slopes. Use your binoculars or spotting scope to scan avalanche slopes, watching for movement. Grizzlies have often been spotted on the avalanche slope, viewable from the deck behind the British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Mt. Robson.

Moose

A moose drinking water in shallow water at Mount Robson Provincial Park

Moose at Mount Robson Provincial Park. Photo: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr

Moose are very shy and are one of the most difficult large animals to spot. They enjoy eating marsh grasses and browsing on willow branches, so the best place to see these majestic creatures is in marshy areas or along riverbanks. The marshes at the east end of Moose Lake are a great place to watch for moose, as the wetlands are easily visible from the highway. When out walking, you can see signs that moose have been in the area by watching for bushes that have been browsed – branches with the leaves stripped off and the tender tips of the branches broken. Dawn and dusk are the best times of day to see moose.

Waterfowl

Starratt Sanctuary in Valemount British Columbia with the Canadian Rockies in the background, reflecting off of the water

Robert W. Starratt Sanctuary, Valemount. Photo: Wendy Dyson

Spring is the best time of year to view waterfowl, including mallards, teals (Blue-winged, Green-winged and Cinnamon), ruddy ducks, shovellers, scaups, widgeons, bufflehead, golden-eyes, ring-necks and wood ducks, as they migrate through the area, making the valley a birdwatcher`s paradise. The Canadian Geese are nesting, so it is a great time to see goslings (baby geese). The R.W. Starratt Wildlife Viewing Sanctuary in Valemount is a lovely spot to see a wide variety of bird life. The sanctuary is also a moose habitat, so there is a chance to see them as well. In the early evening, beaver and muskrat are active in the area, so as you walk the trail (which has two viewing towers along the way), there’s an opportunity to see them in the waters. Be sure to bring your binoculars!

Know Before You Go

The British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Mt. Robson keeps a log book where visitors can record which animals they have seen in the park and where, so stop by to find out where the most recent viewings have been. It is important to respect the wildlife you see as you travel through the valley. Do not approach any wild animals and refrain from feeding them or leaving food or garbage out. When you see wildlife along the highway, pull well off the road, take a couple of photos and then continue on. Your stop should be limited to a couple of minutes to show respect for the animals and other visitors to the park. Please stay in your vehicle.

Related links:
Bird Watching in Valemount, British Columbia
Hiking in Mt. Robson Provincial Park
Parks & Wildlife in British Columbia

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Places to Bird Watch in Osoyoos

After a winter of skiing, snowshoeing and enjoying fresh mountain air, springtime in British Columbia’s South Okanagan is a refreshing change. The smell of fruit blossoms and sounds of birds make walking around the picturesque town of Osoyoos so enjoyable, and the valley bottom offers a plethora of wildlife to view.  Many endangered bird species are found in eco-sensitive areas, and Osyoos is fortunate to have several protected areas for bird viewing. Here are five places for great bird watching, courtesy of the staff at the British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Osoyoos.

Osoyoos Desert Centre

Humingbird at Osoyoos Desert Centre

Hummingbird at Osoyoos Desert Centre. Photo: Kevin Lam via Flickr

The Osyoos Desert Centre has 27 ha (67 ac) dedicated to maintaining the desert in its natural state, including a 1.5-km (1-mi) boardwalk where visitors can read about or take a guided tour to learn about the creatures of the desert. This boardwalk can be accessed by a 4-km (2.5-mi) trail that starts from the British Columbia Visitor Centre @ Osoyoos. This trail follows the old irrigation canal that, decades ago, was used to supply water to the orchards in the area. When visiting the centre, keep an eye out for hummingbirds, Western and Mountain bluebirds, quail, Golden eagles, and Red-tailed hawks. It’s best to visit in the morning, as it gets very hot in the afternoon and most creatures are savvy enough to hide from the scorching sun and heat during the day.

Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre

The outside walls of the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre with the desert hills in the background and blue skies above.

Nk`Mip Desert Cultural Centre. Photo: Amber Strocel via Flickr

The Nk’mip Desert Cultural Centre offers another guided or self-guided walk that focuses on the history of how First Nations people once used the desert land. The natural grasslands of the desert offer several birds species to watch for including White-throated swift, Brewer’s sparrow, Lark sparrow and Say’s phoebe. There is even a chance to see a black-throated sparrow, though they are rare in this area. This walk is unique in that it’s one of the few areas where you can see the terrain in its natural state. The trail is constructed in such a manner that no buildings are visible as you enjoy the serenity of the desert.

Haynes Point Provincial Park

Haynes Point Provincial Park, where you can see and hear the common loon, is located 2 km (1.25 mi) south of Osoyoos.  White-throated swifts, canyon wrens, great-horned owls and yellow-headed and red-winged blackbirds can be viewed from look-out towers and viewing benches located along the trail.  The trail is gravel, but in places there are footbridges & raised boardwalk sections over the lower lying areas.  Haynes Point Provincial Park is dog-friendly; however, they ask that you keep your four-legged friend out of the wetland trail area.  An information kiosk is located at the beginning of the trail and provides excellent information and much appreciated shade.  If you decide to walk the length of Haynes Point (approximately a 45-minute walk), you can stop at a designated “dog swimming area”, where everyone can cool off and likely spot a wood duck paddling by.

Osoyoos Oxbows

The Osoyoos Oxbows at Road 22 is a Riparian area. The wetlands are adjacent to a marsh and meadow and there are many birds in the area. An information kiosk and parking area is found at the Okanagan River Bridge. If you hike north, you’ll follow the river channel for 18 km (11 mi) to McAlpine Bridge north of Oliver. Walking south, you can access the Oxbows and see many birds, including Cinnamon teal, Willow flycatcher, Yellow-breasted chat and Grosbeak. You may be fortunate enough to see a nesting Osprey on the bridge, just above your head.  Various species of owls can be found in the Oxbow area, and it’s adjacent to the South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre for Owls (SORCO) and within walking distance from Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, where wine tastings are by donation to SORCO.

Vaseaux Lake Wildlife Centre

Vaseaux Lake in Oliver with grasslands on either side of the lake, rolling hills in the background and blue skies with white wispy clouds above.

Vaseaux Lake in Oliver. Photo: Tim Buss via Flickr

Vaseaux Lake Wildlife Centre is located on Highway 97 between Oliver and Okanagan Falls.  Birds can be viewed from a 400-m (1,300-ft) boardwalk along the lakeshore to an observation tower and blind.  Cliff birds can be viewed across the highway from McIntyre Creek Road.  This is probably one of the most popular birder trails in the area.  In the spring, you have the chance to see Western meadowlark, Red-naped sapsucker, swallows, bluebirds, woodpeckers and more.  Driving past the area on the highway, Trumpeter swans are sometimes seen near the lily-pads, just a stones-throw away from the highway and parking lot! Vaseaux Lake has such an abundance of birds that they have a banding station there. Keep an eye out for California Bighorn Sheep which frequent the bluffs nearby. The birding trails are host to so many other wetland creatures, including the painted turtles. They can be seen sunning themselves on a log, and it’s such a treat to see so many all at the same time. 

Meadowlark Nature Festival

The Meadowlark Nature Festival held annually in mid-May is a birder’s dream.  Visitors “flock” to the area for this popular five-day, multi-disciplenary event, featuring more than 70 guided tours, including many bird tours, that take participants from Canada’s unique desert in the South Okanagan to the alpine meadows high above the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. Be sure to bring sturdy hiking boots, check the difficulty level of the hikes in advance, and for everyone’s enjoyment, please leave your dog at home.

Related links:
Bird watching in Osoyoos, British Columbia

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Explore BC’s Wildlife with @johnemarriott

Discover BC through the eyes of its locals! Each week we #exploreBC through a different Instagrammer who share their favourite local spots and experiences.

This week, we’re featuring @johnemarriott, one of Canada’s premier wildlife photographers. This week, he will be sharing some of his favourite wildlife shots from throughout the province.

The silhouette of a wood bison against a gray sky in Northern British Columbia by @johnemarriott.

“It’s always a thrill to travel the roads in Northern British Columbia and watch for these big behemoths along the right-of-ways. Despite the fact I grew up in Salmon Arm in the interior of BC, I had no idea that our province had wild bison until my first trip up the Alaska Highway in 2002. Watch for this guys around Liard Hot Springs, in particular.”

A white-coated Kermode bear walking across a creek in the Great Bear Rainforest, with mossy rocks and trees surrounding him.

“There are few experiences quite like watching one of the world’s rarest mammals, the kermode bear (a black bear with a double recessive gene that makes 1 in 10 white), fish for salmon in the lush Great Bear Rainforest south of Prince Rupert. There are fewer than 400 kermode bears in the world, all found only in British Columbia, so I feel privileged that I’ve gotten to spend time photographing them every year since 2008.”

A Grizzly bear looking curious amongst the grass at Mussel Inlet in the Great Bear Rainforest.

“I was leading a photo tour into a remote inlet in coastal British Columbia in late October 2013 and we hadn’t had much luck finding grizzly bears. On our final day, in the pouring rain, we came across this gorgeous bear that sat and posed for us just meters in front of our zodiac. It was a magical experience with a beautiful animal that I won’t soon forget.”

Mountain goat sleeping on a mountain cliff under one sole tree near Golden

“I was driving the Trans-Canada Highway near Golden, British Columbia last spring when I suddenly noticed this guy laying on a cliff up above the highway to my right. From a photographer’s perspective, it was a stunning scene, with the one lone tree providing company (and contrast) to this big billy goat taking a break from a life of wandering these harrowing mountainsides.”

Bull moose with big antlers poking is head through the shrubs with skinny trees in the background in Kootenay National Park's Marble Canyon by @johnemarriott

Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies is one of Canada’s most scenic national parks, but it also comes with a healthy population of wildlife. I spent a week following this big bull and a buddy of his through the regenerating forests near Marble Canyon, which where burnt to a crisp during a massive forest fire in 2003. While the fire temporarily created a stark barren landscape, today its lush new growth attracts all sorts of animals, big and small.”

Humpback whale breaching with water spraying off its body, mountains in the background and blue sky above near Bella Bella

“You’ve got to be kidding me! I think I must have said those words a hundred times off the north coast of Vancouver Island on the glorious sunny day that my photo group came across this playful humpback whale, which thundered in and out of the water over and over and over again for almost two hours one summer afternoon. We never did figure out what it was doing (showing off for the photographers?), but we were definitely grateful for the experience.”

A close up of a wild gray wolf and its piercing yellow eyes near Prince George

“Few animals in British Columbia are harder to photograph than wild wolves. I’ve spent years tracking and following certain packs in Alberta and British Columbia and every once in a while run in to incredible situations with wolves that defy all stereotypes. This particular wolf near Prince George early one spring morning (4:55 am!) was incredibly inquisitive and nosed all around me, but wandered off when a pack mate howled in the distance.”

About @johnemarriott 

John E. Marriott grew up in British Columbia and credits long summer days fishing the creeks of the Shuswap with his Dad for giving him a passion for the outdoors that has led to a 20-year career as one of Canada’s premier wildlife photographers. You will have seen his images on the covers of Canadian Geographic, Canadian Wildlife, and British Columbia Magazine. For more of John’s wildlife photography, visit his website.

Looking for more BC experiences and destinations? Follow us on Instagram at @hellobc.  

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