[This is Part 1 of 2 road tripping Canada from Victoria to Jasper. Part 2 here.]
One of the most gorgeous road trips you can do in your lifetime is cross-Canada, from Vancouver Island in the Pacific Ocean, through the temperate rainforests of Western British Columbia, through the dry wine country of Eastern BC, and through the sheer granite mountains of Alberta's Rocky Mountains. Canada's Highway 1 takes you through more protected National and Provincial Parks than you'll have time for in a single trip, and more than I could count!
1000km of impressive scenery.
The Canadian Parks system is top notch. Provincial Parks (PP), too, are often hidden gems, like Goldstream PP on Vancouver Island and Stawamus Chief PP in Squamish, and shouldn't be overlooked. Campgrounds are generously laid out, often with showers, and hiking trails are well-maintained. Two thumbs-up for government regulation, and in 2017, for the Canadian Parks' 150th anniversary, all national parks were free.
Mount Revelstoke National Park
Mt Revelstoke is literally 100m off Canada's Highway 1. At 260km^2, it's a relatively small park, but the 26km switchback-style Mountains in the Sky drive takes you from 470m to 1800m elevation. It's one of the few inland temperate rainforests that gives way to alpine forests and amazing wildflowers in the spring.
Hiking trails and lookouts are littered along the drive--or you can brave the 10km straight-uphill hike from the bottom to the top! While most of the lower elevation and shorter summit hikes are safe, you're in grizzly and black bear territory, and the more adventurous alpine hikes require groups of 4 to hike.
Looking down at the town of Revelstoke and the Columbia River--yup, the same one that empties into the Pacific Ocean in Portland, Oregon.
The old Summit Fire Lookout, a Canadian National Historic Place, for illustrating "the emphasis placed on strong government regulation of the forests as a renewable resource."
Heather Lake at the summit.
One of the red chairs scattered around Canadian National Parks hiking trails.
Fall colors at the summit.
Descending from the summit. There's multiple connected small loops <5km in total, or you can link into 6-10km longer hikes.
Glacier National Park
Just 50km along your drive on Canadian Highway 1 is Glacier National Park. There's glaciers to see, but the heart of the park is Rogers Pass, the highest point along Highway 1. To our surprise, (and I'm not a history buff), it's rich with railway and alpine mountaineering history.
The Canadian Pacific Railway, completed 1885, linked East and West Canada.Credit.
The Glacier House, built 1886, was the definition of opulence at the time. It was a premier tourist destination. Credit.
The Glacier House. Perfect backdrop for a vampire-railway novel! Credit.
The railway and Glacier House attracted Swiss Alpine guides, and Glacier NP is considered the "first center of alpinism" in North America according to the AAC. Simul-climbing, anyone?Credit.
View from near the Illecillewaet Campground, site of the old Glacier House.
Definitely in bear country. Except for the interpretive trail loop, it's illegal to hike with fewer than 4 people (unless you're a warden with kevlar and a shotgun).
The Glacier House ruins along the 1885-Meeting of the Waters 4km interpretive trail loop. That's the stove heater on the left. Imagine it in the late 1800s!
Big boulder! Definite problems on it, but very slick quartzite.
Meeting of the Waters.
Meeting of the Waters.
Yoho National Park
Yoho's part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, comprised of 4 contiguous national parks (including Jasper and Banff) and 3 provincial parks, spanning the BC-AB border. It's in the heart of the Canadian Rockies with 28 peaks over 3000m high. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being "one of the world's most significant fossil sites," where Burgess Shale is unique in preserving the soft parts fossils.
Wapta Falls on the Kicking Horse River.
Start of the Emerald Lake Basin trail, 12km RT, 370m elevation gain starting at 1300m. While most stay around the lake, this was the most delightfully surprising hikes we did.
Emerald Lake Basin Hike: start in a conifer forest near the lake's basin.
Emerald Lake Basin Hike: The top slowly opens up into a giant amphitheatre, the remnants of an old glacier.
Emerald Lake Basin Hike: looking the other direction inside the amphitheatre.
Emerald Lake Basin Hike: Burgess Shale. On your way back when you reach the lake bed, continue around the other side of the lake to your starting point to learn more from the interpretive signs!
Sights Along the Highway 1 Drive
Some of the most drastically changing landscapes you'll see in a single drive:
Starting in Western British Columbia, Vancouver Island at Goldstream Provincial Park, with typical Pacific Northwest lush temperate rainforests.
Driving East across the Cascades into the rain shadow of Central British Columbia leads you to wine and apple country.
Okanagan Lake near Kelowna.
Stop by one of the many fruit stands in the Central British Columbia orchard region! Me, 2007, on my first Canadian road trip with my college girlfriends.
Driving even farther East into Eastern British Columbia, in the Rockies of Revelstoke and Glacier regions, gaining altitude into alpine forests.
More from the Pacific Northwest and Canada