Follow The Trans-Canada Highway
The Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy #1) has the largest volume of the three primary east/west roadways going into and through the mountain parks of western Canada. It is arguably the fastest route through the region, so if you need to get from Regina or Calgary to Vancouver in a hurry, take the #1. But understand that a lot of other folks are doing the same thing, so you can encounter volume delays. This is particularly true when the road narrows to 2 lanes, as you travel through tunnels in mountain passes, during stretches of road construction in the summer, or when there is an avalanche risk in winter.
The town of Walsh is located just west of the Alberta/Saskatchewan border, and the friendly staff here, in the Travel Alberta Visitor Info Centre are eager to answer your questions.
Medicine Hat is located 40 minutes west of Walsh on Hwy #1. Located about 2 hrs west of Swift Current and 3 hrs east of Calgary, “The Hat” is a great place to stop for a snack or a meal, gas up and change drivers. If you wish to linger, Medicine Hat offers some very good accommodations, including camping sites. The most visible landmark here is the world’s tallest tepee! Originally constructed for the Calgary 1988 Olympics, this 20 story high structure is a tribute to Canada’s First Nations people.
History buffs will want to tour the Medalta Potteries factory. Explore this National Historic Site at your own pace with the help of a costumed interpretive guide.
Continuing west, you will arrive in Brooks in just over an hour. Brooks has a population of about 14,000 people so it offers a full range of services. Be sure to stop at the Brooks Aqueduct, Lake Newell and Tillebrook Provincial Park.
Kids of all ages will love Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just 30 km northeast of Brooks.
Following the #1 again, about an hour west of Brooks, turn left onto Hwy #842 and follow the road signs through the Village of Cluny, to the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park. For centuries, Western European nations have been fascinated by the mystique of North American Indian culture, with its dances, ceremonies and tepees. Experience it all at the Blackfoot Crossing.
From Blackfoot Crossing, you are about 1-1/2 hr east of Calgary, although an amazing side trip from here is north to about 1-1/3 hr to Drumheller, and the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
There are many exquisite and scientifically significant fossils at The Tyrrell; none are as beautiful as this ammonite. Measuring 62 cm (24.4 inches) in diameter, this specimen is the most brilliant ammonite ever recovered in Alberta.
As you continue westerly from the Blackfoot Crossing, you will reach Strathmore in less than an hour. By 1905, the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) had developed a demonstration farm here complete with an irrigation system. The farm was designed to act as an instruction model for settlers, many of whom had never farmed before. It also supplied the tourist trains that were travelling to the Rockies, with the vegetables and flowers needed for the dining cars and CPR hotel facilities.
Today, with a population of 12,000 residents, Strathmore is well-equipped to meet the needs of weary travellers any time of the year. The community is sure to really “kick up its heels” during Heritage Days at the end of July. One of the highlights of this annual celebration will be the only “Running with the Bulls” event in Canada. Come see these fearless men and women run for their lives!
Calgary is a young and vibrant city with a population of more than one million. The city’s history dates back to 1875 when a troop of North West Mounted Policemen found the ideal place to build a fort. Colonel James McLeod came up with the name “Fort Calgary”, after his home in the Scottish Highlands. Visit Fort Calgary today to discover the rich scarlet history of the North West Mounted Police. It is located on 9th Avenue S., just east of downtown at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers.
Explore the Lougheed House, a National Historic Site. Also located in the heart of Calgary, this Senator’s mansion was built in 1891. Experience its architectural grandeur, and linger in the lovely Beaulieu Gardens until nightfall.
The Glenbow Museum is where intriguing stories from Western Canada connect with extraordinary art and artifacts from around the world. One of the permanent galleries at the Glenbow uncovers the traditions, values, and history of the Blackfoot Confederacy, a First Nations who have lived for thousands of years in the plains of Alberta and Montana. Another dynamic gallery, Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta presents the story of Southern Alberta through the stories of 48 mavericks – adventurous, hard-working and spirited men and women.
Only minutes from downtown, the Calgary Zoo hosts over 1,000 animals from around the world. The Calgary Zoo’s Prehistoric Park features life-sized dinosaurs in their recreated geographical environment. Take a stroll through Prehistoric Park for a 65 million year tour through Western Canada’s past and an era when dinosaurs ruled supreme.
From February to October of 2010, dinosaurs came alive in the Calgary Zoo’s Prehistoric Park. The “Dinosaurs Alive” exhibit with its 20 life-size animatronic dinosaurs brought new life and excitement to the zoo’s Prehistoric Park. Children and adults were thrilled by the new dinosaurs. They brought an element of realism and hair-raising sound to the park and helped to demonstrate the Alberta Badlands dinosaur history. But don’t worry. If you missed the animatronics, there are still plenty of dinosaurs in the park.
From the Prehistoric Park to the Splendour of the Rocky Mountains, the Calgary Zoo has got you covered. So if you are collecting “Wow Moments”, be sure to visit the zoo and enjoy the Calgary attractions listed above. If time permits, check out Heritage Park, Canada Olympic Park, and Calaway Park.
Next up on the Alberta portion of the Trans-Canada Highway: Kananaskis Country.
Note: Kananaskis Country consists of 13 different provincial parks and recreation areas. We don’t have room in this guide to give you a comprehensive overview of all of those areas. For more information please see our companion guide Experience Kananaskis Country & The Cowboy Trail.
Follow the embedded links for more info about Banff National Park.
Crossing the border into BC, you enter into Yoho National Park and soon arrive at the village of Field. Be sure to soak up the magic of this special place, before pressing on to Golden, where endless adventures await. Most park visitors want to see a grizzly up close, but that isn’t always so safe or easy, so when in Golden, be certain to visit Boo at the Kicking Horse Resort. And if wildlife is your thing, book a photo opportunity with the wolves at the Northern Lights Wolf Centre.
The British Columbia (BC), section of the Trans-Canada winds through high mountain passes, covered tunnels and leads you through Revelstoke and on to Kamloops.
Revelstoke is located on the Trans-Canada Highway, almost half way from Golden to Kamloops, on the banks of the Columbia River. Revelstoke is nestled in between the Monashee Mountains and Eagle Pass, to the west, and the Selkirk Mountains and Glacier National Park, to the east.
Revelstoke was founded in the 1880s when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) built their rail line through the area. The town was named after Lord Revelstoke, the head of a United Kingdom (British) banking firm that saved the CPR from bankruptcy and the town has maintained its close ties to the railroad ever since. To learn more about the rich local rail history, check out the Revelstoke Railway Museum and be sure to attend Railway Days. railwaydays.com.
Other signature events each year include the Revy Rail Jam, Revelstoke Music Festival, Glacier Slowpitch Challenge, and Timber Days – a competition celebrating Revelstoke’s logging heritage.
Enjoy free live entertainment every evening, all summer long at the Grizzly Plaza. The heart of Revelstoke’s historic downtown comes alive with bands, theatrical productions and magic acts.
Summer also brings unlimited recreation opportunities such as hiking, mountain biking, caving, fishing, caneoing, and the very popular ziplining. Heli-hiking is this region is simply stunning and when you are ready to relax, head to the hot springs.
Revelstoke has had a love affair with skiing and ski-jumping since 1915. During the winter, Revelstoke has the world class snowmobiling, heli, cat-skiing and some of the best backcountry skiing in the world. The Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR) offers world-class lift, snowcat, helicopter skiing and guided backcountry experiences, right from the resort village base. Its eight passangers gondola serves the longest vertical decent in North America.
Departing Revelstoke, travel west along Hwy #1 where you will discover several family attractions including a ghost town, enchanted forest, adventure park with zip line, historic rail site, and a suspension bridge on your way to the Shuswap and Kamloops.
Or take Hwy #23 south to soothing hot springs, artisans, golf, Kootenay Lake, Nelson.
The communities of Sicamous and Salmon Arm are in very close proximity to the Shuswap Lake, a major water recreation hub within the interior of BC, and a striking contrast to the arid climate found in Kamloops.
Kamloops is located at the junction of the Yellowhead (Hwy #5) and the Trans-Canada (Hwy #1) and is therefore an important hub for visitors to the mountain parks.
Kamloops receives more than 2,000 hours of sunshine each year, making it the second sunniest city in BC. Summers are typically hot, so residents and visitors flock to Riverside Park, located in the city centre along the banks of the Thompson River. It is the venue for a free nightly concert during July and August, called Music in the Park.
Spring comes early, often allowing golfers to hit the links before the end of March. Autumn is usually mild – the perfect time to get outdoors to enjoy the magical colours of the back country on horseback.
Winters bring dry powder snow to the mountains so head to Sun Peaks, a family friendly, year-round, three mountain resort with a vibrant European-style village and ski-in/ski-out accommodation. Located 45 min. north-east of Kamloops, Sun Peaks is also the perfect place to escape the valley heat and the city crowds in the summer. Ride the chairlift and go hiking or mountain biking amongst colourful alpine flowers.
Carry on westward along the Trans-Canada through Cache Creek and beside the banks of the mighty Fraser River, through Hell’s Gate Canyon on a leisurely, scenic and historic route. One of the treats is the McAbee Fossil Beds, at which you can take a tour and even go digging to find a fossil. Located 65 kilometres west of Kamloops and 13 kilometres east of Cache Creek, these fossil beds are privately operated. Surf up dll-fossils.com.
Continue west to Vancouver where the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games were held. Grouse Mountain was one of the Olympic venues and here you can see two grizzly bears in a wildlife refuge, soar high above the valley floor on a zipline, or enjoy a romantic dinner overlooking the city.
The view from the Capilano Suspension Bridge has thrilled visitors since 1889. Shop at the Trading Post, sample the cuisine, or attend a First Nations cultural experience. The Vancouver Aquarium, in Stanley Park, is home to over 70,000 fascinating creatures from the Arctic to the Amazon. Great family fun!