Last updated: March 23rd, 2020
If the thought of being behind the wheel while driving amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in the world gets you going, then this is the article for you. As world travellers that specialize in Canada travel, we’ve done some epic road trips in our lifetime, including the Australian East Coast, the Oregon Coast, California, and parts of Mexico, Malaysia, Peru, and New Zealand. Still, nothing compares to the 150-day road trip across Canada in 2017. Comprising over 27,000 kilometres of asphalt (and some dirt roads as well), we got to explore Canada from coast to coast to coast. However, not everyone has 150 days to dedicate to driving across Canada. Therefore, we wanted to dissect some of the best parts of our Canadian road trip so that you can experience a slice of Canada on your next road trip vacation.
While there are many other road trips not listed here, as well as a variety of incredible destinations that may not include an iconic road trip, we believe these 13 itineraries below are the best road trips in Canada and a great way to design your own Canada tour.
However, if we missed one, please let us know.
Let’s get started.
Icefields Parkway, Alberta
How could I not start an article about Canada’s best road trips without first mentioning the Icefields Parkway, which has often been ranked as one of the best road trips in the entire world? Stretching 232 kilometres through both Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, this highway invites you into a journey of mind-blowing scenery, including mighty mountains, waterfalls, turquoise-coloured lakes and rivers, and glaciers too. While the drive from Banff to Jasper really only takes upwards of three-four hours, you’ll probably want to budget an entire day for all the stops you’ll be making to take photos, short hikes, or even full-on tours at the Columbia Glacier. Popular stops include Lake Louise, Peyto Lake, Columbia Icefield, Sunwapta Falls, and Athabasca Falls, just to name a few. For those coming from Calgary to Banff, you just continue towards Lake Louise and then head North on highway 93.
Best time to go: This Alberta road trip is best from June to September, although May works as well. October is also good if you don’t mind a higher chance of rain in exchange for much fewer tourists. From November until April, you should expect snow and ice. This is also a beautiful time to do the road trip, but you’ll need to be much better skilled at driving and to expect delays. In addition, many things such as the Columbia Icefield tour are closed.
Cowboy Trail, Alberta
If you’re looking for some prairie and mountainous “wild west” scenery, Alberta’s Cowboy Trail is the road trip for you. Primarily located just south of Calgary, you could start your experience in the province’s biggest city, taking time to explore the many things to do in Calgary such as the Glenbow Museum, Heritage Park, Studio Bell, or the new central library. If you’re up for a party, time your visit with the Calgary Stampede, which is known as the greatest outdoor show on Earth. You could even stop by the Alberta Boot Company and grab yourself some authentic Cowboy boots or other Western-style clothing.
While the actual “Cowboy Trail” refers to Highway 22, which travels all the way from the Edmonton area down into the USA, our favourite part starts around Bragg Creek and takes you down past Turner Valley, Black Diamond, Okotoks, High River, Longview, and down towards Pincher Creek. You’ll pass a lot of stunning scenery and historical sites such as the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site as well as a number of Western-style towns before winding up in the Rocky Mountains such as the Crowsnest Pass and Waterton Lakes. If you’re not wanting to continue into the USA, you could return to Calgary via Highway 2, stopping to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo-Jump.
Best time to go: This is one of the best road trips from Calgary and is best done between May and October.
Banff to Vancouver via the Trans-Canada Highway
While the Trans-Canada Highway can take you across the entire country, the most beautiful part, in our opinion, is from Calgary to Vancouver. After just an hour so, you’ll arrive in Banff with nothing but gorgeous scenery for the remainder of the drive. This 900-kilometre slice of the Trans-Canada takes you through Banff National Park, Yoho National Park, Mount Revelstoke National Park, Glacier National Park of Canada, and finally into Vancouver, which is nestled next to the Pacific Ocean. While this drive can be done in one very long 12-hour day, you’ll obviously want to take as long as possible to make use of the incredible national parks you’ll be driving through. There’s also a number of side trips you could take, such as highway 93 down into Radium Hot Springs, and Highway 97, which will take you down to Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley.
Best time to go: This largely depends on what you aim to do. The safest time to go is during the warmer months when the highways are clear. However, if you’re into skiing, this is one of the best places in the world to shred powder, which is typically best between January and March.
Road Trip around the Okanagan Valley, BC
While the Okanagan Valley isn’t really known as a specific “road trip”, it is home to one of Canada’s most famous wine regions, a gastronomic hot spot, and beautiful Lake Okanagan. There are all sorts of beautiful towns to visit, such as Kelowna, Penticton, and Vernon. There are all sorts of award-winning wineries, farm-to-table restaurants, and sandy beaches as well. This also happens to be one of Canada’s warmest regions, which can hit 40-degrees Celcius in the summer months.
Best time to go: June to September for the warmest temperatures. April, May, and October are also great and a bit cooler.
Sea to Sky Highway, BC
This is the shortest road trip mentioned in this article but a great one to take if you’re in the Vancouver area. The Sea to Sky Highway links Vancouver to Whistler, which are less than two hours apart, making this one of the most popular road trips from Vancouver. Driving along the coast, this is a great place to see the beautiful west coast. Popular stops include Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver, Shannon Falls, and the Britannia Mine Museum. There’s also the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, which provides unforgettable views and a suspension bridge and of course, Squamish and Whistler, which provide all sorts of adventurous activities. In addition, don’t forget to experience Vancouver whale watching while in the city as well as all the other fun things to do in Vancouver.
Best time to go: July to September is Vancouver’s dry season, but if the rain doesn’t bother you, almost any time of year is good. If you’re into skiing or snowboarding, January to March is best.
Vancouver Island, BC
Vancouver Island is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in Canada and is home to some of the best things to do in British Columbia. Not only does it have one of the mildest climates in the country, but it’s also home to a variety of landscapes, including rainforests, mountains, rugged coastlines, and scenic towns and cities, making it a great place for a BC road trip. It’s also home to beautiful gardens, epic hikes, surfing, scuba diving, and whale-watching tours. Two of the most popular places to visit include Victoria and Tofino, which are on opposite sides of the island. While driving between the two, don’t forget to stop at Cathedral Grove to marvel at the massive trees as well as the many other parks and towns along the way. Finish the trip with one of Tofino’s stunning sunsets.
Best time to go: a West Coast road trip is best between March to May and September to November. Summer is great too but is very busy and expensive.
Before you go, check out our article about things to do in Victoria BC.
Dempster Highway, Yukon
As Canada’s only all-weather road that goes past the Arctic Circle, the Dempster Highway has become one of the most unique road trips in Canada. However, this is not your average highway. The Dempster Highway is a 700-kilometre extremely isolated dirt road with only one service station (they also offer accommodation and a restaurant) option along the way in Eagle Plains. This road trip takes a little more preparation than the others and will be much harder on your vehicle than any other road trip mentioned in this article. However, for those who choose this adventure, you’ll be rewarded with incredible arctic scenery and the chance to drive all the way to Tuktoyaktuk and the Arctic Ocean!
Best time to go: The best time to go would be in the warmer months between May and early October. The road is open year-round but the driving becomes much more dangerous in the winter. Spring will bring a lot of bugs, summer will bring a lot of tourists, and the fall has no bugs and beautiful fall foliage (hint: our favourite time is the fall). However, if you time your arrival in Inuvik for mid-July, you might be able to experience the Great Northern Arts Festival.
Georgian Bay Coastal Route, Ontario
Looking for one of the best road trips from Toronto? With more than 30,000 islands and over 2,000 kilometres (1,243 miles) of shoreline, the Georgian Bay Coastal Route loops around the Bay from Toronto and features some of Ontario’s most stunning scenery. Some of the most popular stops include the Bruce Peninsula, Parry Sound, and Killarney Provincial Park. There’s also beautiful Manitoulin Island, which is the world’s largest freshwater island, as well as Wasaga Beach, which is the world’s largest freshwater beach.
In addition, you could also extend the road trip and add in the Chatham-Kent Corridor, which is comprised of 23 small communities overlooking Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair, and the Thames River. Basically, it goes from Toronto to Amherstburg, which makes this one of the most popular road trips from Toronto. This route is popular with motorcyclists but is equally impressive on four wheels. Without a doubt, the most famous stop along the way is Niagara Falls Canada.
Best time to go: Summer is great but also busy. Shoulder season in late August to mid-September or in the spring from May to June is also great. Either way, this is one of the best things to do in Ontario.
Lake Superior Circle Tour, Ontario
While the entire Lake Superior Circle Tour takes you to both Canada and the USA, you could opt to do a half-circle tour and just stay on the Canadian side. Either way, it’s a beautiful drive and a really cool place to get out in nature. Lake Superior is absolutely massive and will make you feel as if you’re driving alongside the ocean. It’s home to some incredible scenery as well as some interesting history from the war between Canada and the USA. In fact, you can even go scuba diving to see shipwrecks. Popular stops include Sault Ste. Marie, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Ruby Lake Provincial Park, Pukaskwa National Park, and Thunder Bay. This is one of those places where you should plan to spend at least a few days and perhaps go camping, hiking, or enjoy some time on the lake. It’s a great road trip Ontario for those who love the outdoors.
Best time to go: The warmer months from May to October. July and August will be the busiest. Before going, don’t forget to enjoy one of the many awesome things to do in Toronto!
Montreal to Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec
For those wanting to experience a world-class city like Montreal, followed by a scenic road trip, the Gaspe Peninsula is the one for you. This 9-hour trip takes you along the St. Lawrence River, from Montreal to Quebec City, and up to the Gaspé Peninsula. Known for its pine forests and looming cliffs, the Gaspé Peninsula is a stunning place to visit. Some of the highlights include visiting the pierced rock in Percé, spending some time at the Parc de la Gaspésie, and taking a boat tour to Bonaventure Island. Obviously, the cities of Quebec and Montreal aren’t so shabby either. This is a great road trip for those wanting to mix urban and rural fun.
Prince Edward Island Coastal Drives
With so many beautiful coastal drives, the hardest thing might be picking the right one. Then again, you could always do all three. The tourism board has three road trips they recommend, which include the North Coast Coastal Drive, Central Coastal Drive, and Points East Coastal Drive. The North Coast will introduce you to its Mi’kmaq culture as well as some unique stops, including a potato museum and a college for the Highland arts. The Central Coastal Drive includes the Red Sands Shore and the Green Gables Shore region. This area is great to experience the beautiful red sand that PEI is famous for as well as the historical landmark of Anne of Green Gables. Lastly, there’s the Points East Coastal Drive, which is characterized by its parks, trails, and lighthouses. Either way, you’ll be treated to an array of stunning coastal views and delicious seafood along the way.
Best time to go: The Eastern Canada road trip is best in the warmer months, as many attractions close in the winter. Want more ideas? Here are other things to do in Prince Edward Island.
Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia
For those visiting the East Coast, don’t miss a scenic drive on Cabot Trail, which is easily one of the best things to do in Nova Scotia. Cradling the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the Cabot Trail has become one of the most famous road trips in Canada and the most famous East Coast Canada road trip. At 300-kilometres in length, most of which hugs the coastline, this road trip is perfect for those who love the ocean and incredible views. Traversing through Cape Breton Highlands National Park, there are all sorts of places to stop off and go for a hike as well. One of the most popular hikes is the Skyline Trail, which takes you up to the peak of the highlands for jaw-dropping views of the Atlantic Ocean. There are also some small communities of Celtic and Acadian descent, which are also home to many artisans. This is another road trip that only takes 3-4 hours to complete but is better done over one day or more.
Best time to go: June to September is best for good weather but October is great to see the fall foliage.
Spending more time in Nova Scotia? Don’t forget to enjoy some of the best things to do in Halifax!
The Viking Trail and Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Known to locals as “The Rock”, Newfoundland is one of the most unique and beautiful provinces in Canada. It has its lively music, food, culture, and a really friendly laid-back charm. It’s also a great place for a Canada road trip thanks to Gros Morne National Park and the Viking Trail. In fact, there are many great road trips in Newfoundland but this one stands out as the best. If you’re looking for incredible scenery, wildlife, adventure, and ancient history, there’s no better place to go. It all starts with Gros Morne National Park, which is home to landlocked fjords, mountains, forests, and barren cliffs, and the sea. It’s also home to the only place in the world where you can walk on the Earth’s mantle. There’s also loads of wildlife, including moose and caribou. Then there’s the Viking Trail, which takes you from Gros Morne National Park up to St. Anthony’s. This is the tip of Newfoundland and home to the thousand-year-old Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. Both Gros Morne and L’Anse aux Meadows are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Best time to go: June to early October is the best time for good weather. It’s also the only time L’Anse aux Meadows is open. For more, check out our article on the best things to do in Newfoundland
Road Trip Canada – Canada’s Trans-Canada Highway
The Trans-Canada Highway is the most epic and incredibly long road trip you can take in Canada. It stretches across the country through all 10 provinces. Starting in Victoria, it ends in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Some of the (many) highlights awaiting road-trippers include Vancouver, Banff National Park, the Alberta Badlands, Toronto, Ottawa, Quebec City, Montreal, Fundy National Park, and Gros Morne National Park, just to name a few. In fact, there are far too many highlights to include here. Just make sure you have a lot of time. Stopping only to sleep, this trip will take approximately 7 days. Personally, I’d want at least one month to do the whole journey from coast to coast. Add in an additional 2-4 weeks if you plan on going North to the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Best time to go: April to October for optimal weather coast to coast. However, some parts of Canada still get snowstorms up until May.
We hope you enjoyed this list of incredible Canada road trips. If you have any others that you’ve done and recommend, please let us know in the comments below.
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