With so many natural beauties to see in Canada, a road trip is the perfect vacation idea for spring, summer, or early fall. If you are planning a trip along the beautiful west coast of Canada, two wonderful destinations are the cities of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Whitehorse, Yukon.
But are you able to see both cities on a single road trip? And what is there to see between them?
Can you drive from Vancouver to Whitehorse? A road trip from Vancouver to Whitehorse is lengthy but can be completed within a week. A 1488 mile (2,396 km) trip, this journey takes around 30 hours of steady driving along the fastest route. Driving about 310 miles (500 km) a day, this trip will take around one week.
The fastest route between Vancouver and Whitehorse follows BC-1 east out of Vancouver, continuing when it transitions to 97 N outside of Cache Creek, British Columbia, until Prince George, where you will hop on to BC-16 W, then BC-37 N, then Yukon 1 W to Whitehorse.
Along this route are many natural beauties, a wealth of fun Canadian cities of all sizes, and lots of opportunities for stops and exploration. Read on to learn about some of the best gems along this route between Vancouver and Whitehorse!
Things to Do Between Vancouver and Whitehorse
There are many historically and culturally vibrant towns you can visit and scenic parks and views you can take in along the way during your trip from Vancouver to Whitehorse. The following are some of the most popular pit-stops worth checking out:
If you are not from Vancouver but have flown in or driven in for the sake of this trip, this is definitely going to be your first destination to explore. Explore the city on foot or rent bikes. If you want to relax before taking off on your trip, a visit to the scenic Stanley Park or Queen Elizabeth Park could be just the thing for you.
Explore the Granville Island area of Vancouver, a former industrial site now home to restaurants, galleries, and theaters, or a more classic part of town, the Gastown district, home to cobblestone streets, studios and bars. Visit Canada’s largest aquarium, the Vancouver Aquarium.
Take a steep hike (the “Grouse Grind”) or a ski-lift up Grouse Mountain to get a stunning view of the land you are about to set off across. Walk across all 450 feet of the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which dangles daintily 230 feet above the Capilano River.
Seton Lake & Lillooet
Perhaps it is not good form to begin your trip with a detour. But if you venture a little ways off of BC-1 through the town of Lillooet, you will come to the stunning Seton Lake Recreation Area.
The view here, stunning, tranquil waters underneath cool blue mountains, is enough the justify adding an hour or so to your total trip.
Pull into the car park and take in the view, before heading to quaint little Lillooet for a bite to eat or a glass of wine. For those interested in Japanese-Canadian history, this town is a gem: Visit the Miyazaki House, former home of Japanese immigrant, doctor and community leader Dr. Miyazaki, as well as the Japanese Canadian Internment Memorial Garden. Grab a drink at the Fort Berens Estate Winery or the Cliff and Gorge Vineyards.
Just off the highway in Williams Lake, you will find the Scout Island Nature Reserve. This is not a deep-woods stop, but it is an excellent opportunity to get out, stretch your legs, and walk beautiful nature trails, eat a picnic, etc.
For more intense hiking opportunities, check out the Churn Creek Protected Area or the Williams Lake River Valley Trail. Stop through the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin to learn some history about the area, and check out the largest saddle collection in western Canada.
While your purpose in this road trip is probably not to spend too much time in large cities, your trek along Highway 97 will take you through the town of Prince George, “The Gateway to the North.” The largest city in northern British Columbia, Prince George is an excellent destination to get a hot meal, stock up on any supplies you may need, and spend some time taking in the luxuries of a city before you hit the road once more.
If you want to take your time and explore a bit more, Prince George features excellent hiking and wildlife observation in parks such as the Cottonwood Island Nature Park, Purden Lake Provincial Park, and Eskers Provincial Park.
Take the steep, short uphill hike to the top of Teacup Mountain, where you will be met with a stunning 360-degree view of the landscape around you.
Lastly, for the history and science fans, Prince George offers a great selection of museums that could make for a good “indoor” stop along your way. Some of the best are the Prince George Railway Museum, the Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre, and the Huble Homestead Historic Site.
After Prince George, you will be hopping on BC-16 W, the TransCanada highway. You will make the transition once again from inland mountainous landscape to coastal landscape: your views out the window will become greener, more forested, lusher.
A roughly five-hour drive (438 km) from Prince George, you will find an excellent opportunity to get out, take in the views, and even take a hike in the district of New Hazelton.
It will be well worth your time to take a brief detour north of New Hazelton to see the masterwork of the Hagwilget Canyon Bridge. This stunning suspension bridge stretches elegantly over the Hagwilget Canyon on the Bulkley River.
Constructed in 1931, the bridge spans 262 ft (80 m) across the canyon. Marvel at the bridge from a distance, or dare yourself to drive across the canyon before you head on your way!
The historic downtown area of Old Hazelton may also be worth a visit, and be sure to catch a glimpse and snap a picture of the majestic Roche De Boule, the mountain peak that towers above New Hazelton.
The New Hazelton Lookout and Waterfall Trail present a perfect opportunity for a shorter woodland walk that provides an excellent view over the valley and the town.
You will want to gas up your car before heading on. As you turn up BC-37 N just past New Hazelton, a long stretch of road that is as remote as it is stunning opens up in front of you.
This stretch is through the Swan Lake/Kispiox River Provincial Park, which offers a rich masterpiece of landscapes: grandiose, snow-capped ranges of mountains stretching high above lush, straight and majestic pine forests, with crisp, crystal rivers winding their paths through it all — all of it under open, bright skies.
Highway 37 will take you all the way to the Yukon border, where you will hop on Yukon 1 W, the Alaska Highway. Again, wherever you may stop, the greatest part of this portion of your trip is going to be the views you see as you go: the northern mountains get taller and icier, the trees change, and the sky changes. Look out your window and make your way across Yukon to Whitehorse.
The capital city of Yukon, the quaint mid-sized city of Whitehorse is the stopping point of this road trip and can be a fun place to explore.
If you are interested in checking out yet another startling suspension bridge over a canyon, then be sure to visit Miles Canyon, hike its many trails, and walk across its 25-meter suspension bridge, which was built in 1922 and offers stunning views of the river and the surrounding landscape.
If you are in search of more wildlife, you may be interested in making the 30-minute drive from Whitehorse to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.
A guided tour at the wildlife preserve will lead you through views of moose, caribou, mountain goats, elk, thin-horn sheep, and other animals distinctive to this region. Both guided bus tours and hikes are available on the 350-acre preserve.
The Trip Back to Vancouver
If you have flown into Vancouver and are flying out of Whitehorse—and have been taking your tip in a rented car—you do not have to worry about your return journey.
However, if you are in your own car, you are going to have to figure out your next steps, unless your plan is to remain in Whitehorse.
One option, of course, is to continue back down the same route you initially took to Whitehorse, returning to Vancouver by the same roads and through the same towns.
There are some advantages to this method. For one, it might be easier to keep your return trip as quickly as possible if you are driving a route that is now familiar to you.
It is also best if you have already made stops along your way and perhaps are not so tempted to detour for substantial amounts of time to visit or see places you have already seen. For a slow road trip there, and a quick one back, traveling the same route can simplify the process.
But if you are interested in drawing out the trip more and visiting more towns and landmarks, or you just want to make your accelerated trek back on new roads, and through a slightly different part of the country, you might consider taking another route home that is just slightly longer, or a comparable distance.
One great alternate route back to Vancouver from Whitehorse that adds just around an hour continues following highway 1 at the border of British Columbia, instead of transferring over to 37.
This route will take you much further east, beyond the mountains, and through some beautiful Canadian plains out to Fort Nelson, before continuing south through Grand Prairie, Grande Cache, and Mt. Robinson Provincial Park and Kamloops, before crossing back over the southern mountain range before returning to Vancouver.
If you are taking this alternate route back to Vancouver, here are some of the things you might make time to stop and see or do:
Here’s a quirkier one. Stop in Watson Lake for a slightly less earthy hike: a trek through the “Sign Post Forest.” Very much what it sounds like, this attraction features rows and rows of old, bizarre, and just plain regular signs from all over the world.
Wander through the forest of signs and see what you can spot!
For another unique experience in town, visit the Northern Lights Centre to experience a virtual version of that northerly phenomenon through the facility’s state of the art panoramic video and surround sound features.
If you have been unlucky enough not to spot the real deal thus far in your trip, this might be an excellent opportunity to fake it!
Stone Mountain Provincial Park
If you are still feeling the itch for some wilderness exploration at this point in your trip, this provincial park, Stone Mountain, right along Highway 97 before you come to Fort Nelson is just the spot.
You will catch the amazing views of this park from the Alaska Highway if you just keep driving, but pull over to see the lakes up close, go for a hike, or even take a kayak out for a spin on one of the lakes.
Klua Lakes Protected Area
Also right off of this driving route, this remote wilderness area offers opportunities for wildlife viewing, fishing opportunities, and even more gorgeous views of lakes and trees. Take a hike back into the woods and experience the tranquility of remote Canadian woods.
Fort St. John
If you need a break from all of the wilderness to listen to some live music or sit in a hip little brewery, or to knock another classic off of your Canadian bucket list — a hockey game — a stop in Fort St. John might be a good one for you to make as you continue on this route.
Catch a local ice hockey game in the Pomeroy Sport Centre, which is equipped with two NHL sized hockey rinks.
Sip on a local beer at the Mighty Peace Brewing Company, and then catch a local band or a comedy act at The Lido Theatre, a cool concert and performance venue that is held in a revamped heritage building. If you are still craving more trees, take a saunter in the Charlie Lake Provincial Park or the Beatton Provincial Park.
For the brief stint in which this course will take you into Alberta, you will likely want to make a stop in the city of Grande Prairie, the only large town along this entire alternate route.
The Grand Prairie Museum provides lots of great history and information about the area, while the stunning and well-kept Muskoseepi Park offers a great place to view the beauty of that area.
The Grant Berg Gallery is an excellent stop for art lovers. The premier commercial art gallery of the region, it represents roughly 40 artists. It offers a sleek and comfortable gallery experience, and about half of the artists featured are local.
Jasper National Park of Canada
One of the jewels of Canada, Jasper National Park, is right along this route.
The largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, extending over 11,000 square kilometers, this park features spectacular views, exceptional trails and hikes, opportunities for water activities, backcountry camping, kayaking and canoeing, excellent stargazing opportunities, and much more.
Final Thoughts: Planning Your Trip
While these routes take you on major Canadian highways and through many cities and towns, these are still roads through Canada, and inclement weather could pose a severe danger if you become stranded and isolated during one of the more isolated stretches of the trip.
Snow typically arrives in this region in October, sometimes earlier. On the other hand, the snowy winter season can often last from the spring through April, and even past then, the chilly weather tends to linger on.
For these reasons, the typical, most enjoyable, and safest range of dates for road tripping in this region is from late spring through early fall, and June through early September.
While some venture out earlier or later, and some even intentionally go to see the snows, a long, remote road trip is definitely not the safest way to do so.
Regardless when you decide to take a drive, stay safe, be adventurous, and enjoy the beautiful climate, landscapes, and spirit of the stunning Canadian coastlands and mountains that await you.