This province is very rugged, with mountains covering most of its area (and great ski towns like Whistler, Revelstoke, Golden, and Fernie), and home to many different First Nations and their totems. There are high and dry plateaus in the interior, with Okanagan and Shuswups providing both stunning lakes and world-class wineries. And don’t skip the Coast and Vancouver Island which share their rocky beauty, tall, tall trees, and whales and other sealife. And while in Vancouver, check out “Hollywood North”, and the shopping, dining, and nightlife.
Main Tourist Areas of British Columbia
To help in exploring the province, we have divided our British Columbia content up into five major regions:
Here is the route of the #1 TransCanada highway from east to west:
Leaving the Alberta border, you have a full day of driving through mountain ranges of the beautiful BC’s Canadian Rockies. You pass through Yoho National Parkto Golden, and cross the Columbia River which drains the southern BC Rockies, and then cross the Rogers Pass in Glacier National Parkthrough the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains.
The highest point on the Trans-Canada is at the Kicking Horse Pass on the border between Alberta & BC, with an elevation of 1643 metres. The Roger’s Pass is 300 m lower (though there, the surrounding peaks are higher)
As you descend into the Interior of BC you arrive at Revelstoke, a city on the banks of the now-massive Columbia River system, there filled out from meltwater from the central Rockies and held back upstream by the Revelstoke Dam and the Mica Dam.
From there, the highways winds westward past Three Valley Gap and through Eagle Pass into the prettyShuswap Lakes region, and the towns of Sicamous and Salmon Arm famous for its fleet of houseboats. To the south of Shuswap Lake is the sunny and hot Okanagan Lake region. The only major city on the Trans-Canada Highway is Kamloops, where the North Thompson River joins the South Thompson.
From Kamloops, you head south on the fast and four-laned (twinned) Coquihalla, or west-then south on the Main #1 Route though the high plateaus of the Thomson River to Lyttonand through the Fraser Canyon past Hell’s Gateto Hope.
From here, you can catch the ferryacross the Georgia Straight to Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. The ferry ride is typically 90 minutes. From there it’s a two-hour drive south through towns like Cowichan, Duncan, and Mill Bay to Victoriaand “Mile 0” of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Tofino is NOT the “End of the Trans-Canada Highway”
Many people have enquired with our website about the sign in Tofino, that claims to be the “Western Terminus of the Trans-Canada Highway”, and we have been interviewed by travel journalists from around the world on this topic.
Tofino-End Of The Trans-Canada Sign-NOT really
The sign was erected back in 1912 by that town’s council to encourage construction of a cross-Canada roadway, suggesting it should end at the westernmost point possible. When the highway route was selected in the post-World War II era, it the federal funding for it was focused on connecting major population centres and provincial capital cities (see Highway History). That is why the official highway passes through/by Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay, uses a ferry connection to Nanaimo, and connects south to Victoria. At the time, back in 1953, the BC government extended the 4-lane Island Highway (#19) north from Nanaimoup to Campbell River, providing high-speed highway connections between the island’s major population (and commercial/tourist) centres.
The two-lane route to Tofino, Highway 4, was an unpaved gravel forestry road from 1959 until 1972, when it was paved, and is currently getting improved in a number of sections. This road was not paved until a decade after the Trans-Canada Highway was deemed completed. The highway connects the communities of Parksvilleand Qualicum Beach, Port Alberni( a deepwater port long important to the lumber industry) and Tofino& Ucluleton the west coast of the Island. The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve was created in 1970, and was the impetus for the paving of Highway 4. The road has two high points, Port Alberni Summit (400 metres, about 9 km east of Port Alberni), and Sutton Pass (elevation 240 metred, about 40 km W of Port Alberni) west of Port Alberni.
The road between Qualicum Beach and Tofino has narrow shoulders, steep and long ups and downs, and is NOT RECOMMENDED for cyclists, wishing to do a cross-Canada route. Stick to the official Trans-Canada Highway, and start/end your Pacific leg at Victoria.
Officially, the Yellowhead Highway Begins (or ends) at Winnipeg, and it shares the route of the Trans-Canada Highway main route between Winnipeg and Portage la Prairie. From there, the Yellowhead follows a northwest diagonal route through Yorkton,Saskatoon, Lloydminster (straddling the Alberta-Saskatchewan border), Edmonton, Hinton, and Jasperbefore crossing into British Columbia.
The first junction of interest is at Tete Jaune Cache where there is a junction with Highway5 (which cuts diagonally SW to Kamloops, and then becomes the Coquihalladown to Hope, the Fraser Valley / Lower Mainland and Vancouver.
From Tete Jaune Cache the Yellowhead heads northwest, passing magnificent Mount Robson, and through the communities of Prince George, Smithers and Terrace before hitting Prince Rupert on the coast, before a ferry ride to Haida Gwai (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands)
The #3 Crowsnest Highwayfollows southern railway routes close to the Canada-US border, from Medicine Hat, Alberta(where it is also the #3 highway) and passing through Lethbridge, Fort MacLeod, and the Crowsnest Pass(both a location and a municipality) along the southern tip of Kootenay Lake to the southern Okanagan at Osoyoosand ending at Hope, where it connects to the main Trans-Canada route into Vancouver.
From the east, you pass through Sparwoodand Fernieand the major market centre of Cranbook. From there you head south to Crestonon the south en of Kootenay Lake, and then head south toward the US border through productive farmlands and then through the Kootenay Pass (elevation 1,775 m or 5,823 ft; watch for wintertime avalanche closures here) to Salmoand Castlegar.
From there you head west through Bonanza Pass (1,535 m or 5,036 ft) at Nancy Green Lake and then to Christina Lake, and meander through several small towns like Grand Forks before you descend into the Okanagan Valley at Osoyoos.