YYZ –> YVR –> YYZ in our 2011 Toyota Highlander… with some stops along the way
- In general, we tried to stick to a maximum of 7.5 hours of “driving” per day. By “driving” I mean when you put the destination into your GPS and it says 7.5 hours away. Because realistically 7.5-hour distance turns into 10 hours with all the stops.
- We were also set on making the trip in 7 days, so if time isn’t a huge concern you could really stretch it out
- Make sure you never have less than half a tank full of gas. Once you leave Ontario (even in northern Ontario) there are a lot of places where there are ZERO gas stations… Always be prepped
- We only did front country camping since we weren’t equipped to do backcountry camping
- However, if you do backcountry camping there are a lot ~~cooler~~ campsites you can visit. For campsites I would suggest booking sooner rather than later- a LOT of the Ontario ones at least were booked up pretty far in advance. Same with BC.
- Also when we were traveling a lot of provinces were still in Stage 3 which meant that we couldn’t camp in provincial parks as out of province ppl so we had to stick to National parks to camp. This might be different now though. There are a lot of BEAUTIFUL provincial campsites in BC that we couldn’t do so maybe see if you can do this now (see Manning Park)
- There are LOTS of bears in BC. If you are camping/hiking buy bear spray/bear bells.
DAY 1- Toronto –> Sault Ste Marie
Honestly, this was not our favourite leg of the trip. SSM probably has way more to offer than we were able to get from it but we were only there for a very short time and weren’t able to get much done. COVID restrictions probably had a lot to do with this
All that aside you can also stop for a coffee break before this in SUDBURY to see the BIG NICKEL haha. It has nothing on the eastern Ontario gem that is the Big Apple but it’s kinda fun.
I did enjoy the drive around Pancake Bay. We stayed in a hotel in SSM but I have heard good things about both Rabbit Blanket and Agawa Bay Campgrounds. *Agawa is apparently a bit close to the highway*
DAY 2- Sault Ste Marie –> Sleeping Giant Provincial Park (Outside Thunder Bay)
This leg of the drive is absolutely incredible. I am still amazed at how dense the forests are and how vast this province is. Superior country is aptly named.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
- Great campground (Mary Louise)
- Cool views
- Apparently some good hikes but we only stayed one night so didn’t get to those
Thunder Bay itself is a fine town, we stayed at a fun hotel and got a good deal on the way back. Also look into Kakabeka Falls, which is apparently a beautiful camping option near here. The Terry Fox Memorial is very nice to stop at, the view and setting, along with his famous story make it an emotional experience.
Wakami Lake Provincial Park
- Beautiful drive in and out of this less popular campground
- We did this on the way back *see way back route
- Waterfront campsites here on a cold lake which is really nice to swim
- Bald eagles and huge owls in the trees
- Lots of Bears
- *Remote* (no cell service)
- Not on any direct route but worth a detour
- The closest town (Chapleau) is not that close so make sure you’re stocked before leaving there if you go into town
DAY 3- Sleeping Giant to Winnipeg
Winnipeg is pretty much a necessary stop. However, Kenora is a really nice cottage area still on the Ontario side that is basically Winnipeg’s Muskoka and could be a fun alternative or addition
We didn’t have a ton of time here but I would recommend Little Sister Coffee Maker for a coffee
The Beer Can is a really cool Beer Garden that serves all local craft beers. It was a popup when we were there last summer. It was on Main St. at the time but I believe it is moving this year. Worth checking out for an outdoor pint!
We ate at the Earl’s in downtown Winnipeg, which is always pretty good. They have a massive patio and are right on Main Street. That said, there are tons of great restaurant options in the city, we were just there when things were still opening up last summer.
DAY 4- Winnipeg to Saskatoon
We stayed in Saskatoon with some friends. Saskatoon was super fun. They had a bunch of cool bars, restaurants, and zero Covid cases.
When we were there we went to the river to hang out at Sutherland Recreation Area - its a trail and a beach and an off-leash dog park. Cool place to bring a blanket and some beers (but beware with food because there are dogs EVERYWHERE). Real good times.
Great Cajun food at a place called Bon Temps Cafe
They also had good cocktails if I remember correctly (maybe too much fun in Saskatoon)
Also, check out Thirteen Pies Pizza Bar
Pizza makes you feel like you’re ready to party and it’s also a bar so you can party. They also do takeout if you want to take the party on the road. I had a few Moscow Mule’s here.
Other than that Saskatoon is just a gem in the Prairies. Really cool homes, some great art galleries, and cafes. I truly believe it is way better than Regina so I don’t even mention Regina other than this.
DAY 5- Saskatoon to Banff
Banff we splurged and stayed in a super nice hotel called the RIM ROCK hotel. It was gorgeous and made for punny jokes. It’s originally like $600 but we got it for $300 lol. Is it worth it? who knows. Banff is worth it though! Go to Banff.
Tunnel Mountain is a fun and short hike you can do that’s about an hour or so from start to finish from Banff Village. Bring bear spray. There is a lot to do in Banff from hikes, to eating, to walks, kayaks, etc. BANFF, BANFF, BANFF.
Also in BANFF, you need a park-pass. We may have scandalously skipped this step, we may not have, who can ever really tell when you’re having so much fun in Banff.
- Also while we were around Banff we went to Moraine Lake which was BEAUTIFUL and worth the visit. Lake Louise is also cool, both are highly busy. Aim for a weekday if possible, the parking lots are MADNESS.
DAY 6- Banff to Revelstoke
- So we were originally supposed to go Banff- Kelowna (BC) however there was a MAJOR accident on the highway and we were stuck for about 4 hours. It got super dark and we had to camp in a parking lot in Revelstoke (if only we had budgeted our accommodations in Banff).
- However if for whatever reason this also happens to you I have a beautiful parking lot recommendation for you to stay in! Sutton Place Revelstoke (parking lot 3) 8/10 parking lot. Just ask at the front desk and they give you a camping permit.
- They offer FREE overnight parking even if you don’t stay at the hotel and there are always people camping
- PRO TIP - you can brush your teeth and stuff in the lobby bathroom
- IN TERMS OF ROUTE- 10000% drive from Banff National Park through Yoho National Park through Glacier National Park. Incredible drive
- Alternatively, you could take the 95 south, to the 93, or the 93 the whole way. This brings you down through Invermere, Fairmont Hot Springs, etc.
Eventually, you make it through Cranbrook and can take the 3 West from there. We took the 3 east on the way back for a portion. It is incredible and well worth it. However, you can still hit it after Kelowna which I’ll go into later.
DAY 7- Revelstoke to Vancouver
- We stopped for lunch in Kelowna (about 4 hours away from Van). Since this was a long driving day we didn’t care about the scenic route- SEE BELOW FOR ALTERNATE ROUTE
DAY 8-DAY 20ish VANCOUVER/WHISTLER
You made it. Well done. SO many things to do here. So many sights to see. The list is truly endless but I’ll throw some favourites down below:
Our week-long stopover in Van City turned into a much longer one. We loved every minute of it. Spending time with the fam, eating well, and enjoying a break from the confines of the Highlander, rain or shine. Can’t wait to get back…
There are so many amazing hikes and walks but just a couple towards Whistler that I really like are Brandywine Falls, Garabaldi Lake, and Function Junction Train walk (might have a different name but google this and you should find it)
Blackcomb Peak has Overlord Trail to Lakeside Loop, not a difficult hike, more of a walk, but incredible vistas on a decent day. As seen in our photos, not the most visibility this day
THE WAY BACK
THIS IS THE ALTERNATE ROUTE OF YOUR DREAMS (you could drive this way from Kelowna in either direction and I think it is so so worth it)
Leaving Vancouver and heading towards Abbotsford is the way to go. Abbotsford will always live in infamy as a sub-optimal place to be. HOWEVER, The drive from Van to Abb offers INSANE views of Mt. Baker on a clear day and those alone are worth the trip.
Take the 1 to the 3 and drive through Chilliwack (beautiful).
From there take the 3 through Hope etc. and then you hook up with the Crows Nest HWY
Manning Park is BONKERS. It wasn’t open when we were there and I was less than pleased. Amazing camping, fishing, etc.
*Mega bear country*
From there you keep on trucking up toward Princeton. Then stay south toward the Okanagan. If you don’t stay in Manning park this is all doable in a day.
Osoyoos is a top-notch, one of a kind, desert-diamond, cue the tumbleweeds type of town. It has a vibe that hints at endless American summer and I’m not afraid to say that I’m into it.
From here you can go the normal way through Penticton, Summerland, and Peachland along the lakes and see all the Okanagan has to offer (WARNING: it’s a lot to look at. Hands on the wheel). Wineries etc. it’s worth a dedicated weekend or more.
You can also go the crazy route, up Anarchist Mountain toward the 33, then through the back door past Big White into Kelowna. This is also a cool drive, but the other way is a must.
DAY 22- Kelowna to Glacier National Park
- We chose to camp in Glacier National Park since we loved driving through the first time. Would recommend staying in Glacier or Yoho if possible since it’s so gorgeous. We stayed in Loop Brook which also had a little hike on the grounds (which we didn’t do lol)
- Alternatively, I’ve heard really good things about Kootenay National Park which is just south of Yoho National Park.
DAY 23- Glacier National Park to Calgary
- Again, a WILD drive through Glacier- Yoho- Banff parks en route to Calgary. If you don’t want to stay in Banff then alternatively you can stay in Calgary then do a day trip to Banff which is an hour and a half away.
- We stopped at Emerald Lake which was also BEAUTIFUL.
- Definitely would recommend spending 30 minutes or so here minimum. There are cottages there but they be pricey.
- Really cool, a tad touristy but off the beaten track so not bad. There is also a short hike you can do but we just drove, parked in the lot, and walked around the lake through the forest.
DAY 24- Calgary
Calgary is a fun city but once again, COVID limited our ability to do much in the way of social interactions. We were lucky enough to safely visit with some family and friends.
We had a nice dinner at a good spot called Bridgette Bar
Lulu Bar is their sister restaurant and had the same low key vibe with good food and cocktails
The Lime / Bird scooters that you can rent everywhere in Calgary are a decent way to get around.
Canmore is also a really interesting town with a ton of mountain views, hikes, biking trails etc., and is definitely worth a visit as well.
DAY 26- Calgary to GrassLands National Park
- En Route from Calgary we stopped at Dinosaur Provincial Park aka the badlands. You can actually camp here too but we weren’t able to since it’s a provincial park (see above). You can still visit though and walk/hike/skip/drive-through. It’s SO cool. Literally in the middle of the prairies, it’s a dinosaur graveyard that looks like mars. I would recommend stopping by.
- Grass Lands is a national park in Saskatchewan by the border of Montana. We camped approx 1km from the Montana border so it looks like the outback.
- It’s also home to the “Darkest Dark Sky preserve” in Canada. Since it’s in the middle of nowhere there is zero light pollution and the sky looks like a planetarium.
- Definitely recommend camping here. Even the drive here was super interesting. It is an extremely unique landscape and I think Saskatchewan is underrated.
- SOME CAVEATS:
- 1. it was really hot when we went - no shade.
- 2. Make sure the forecast calls for clear skies otherwise clouds block the stars.
- 3. Make sure if you camp here you arrive before sunset. We took too long and had to drive in the dark which was terrifying. Not a lot of cell service on the way in so you have to trust the maps. It’s very dark and there are a ton of Deer. No exaggeration we saw 50 deer diving face-first into the road. No joke, deer everywhere. We were driving 10 km an hour.
- 4. it’s truly in the middle of nowhere, there are some bugs.
DAY 27- Grasslands to Winnipeg
Round 2 in the Peg
Lots of cafes and places to walk in the city.
Human Rights museum is also worth a visit
DAY 28- Winnipeg to Thunder Bay
We stayed at the Courthouse Inn which is a cool converted hotel and we called and got a pretty good deal… around $50 for the night
DAY 29- Thunder Bay to Wakami Lake Provincial Park
- Last night on the road and we wanted to camp. Wakami was one of the only front country campsites halfway from Thunderbay to Toronto that had availability (SO many places were booked in Ontario!!).
- In the end, it was super cool since a lot of the campsites were on the edge of the lake. We were at Maple Ridge campsite 33. Would definitely recommend it- most of these campsites have private access to the lake for some swimming. Make sure you get a lakefront one. We saw bald eagles, foxes, etc.
DAY 30- Wakami Lake to Toronto