Where: Vancouver to Calgary.
Why: With airports at each end and a panopoly of attractions in between, not least the Canadian Rockies, a journey from Vancouver to Calgary is a popular trip for adventurers.
Vancouver to Jasper via Whistler
From nearby Seymour, Cypress and Grouse mountains to Vancouver Island, bases like family-friendly Tofino, where local lodges such as Long Beach offer everything from surfing and diving to bear-watching excursions, it’s easy to spend a week or so just around Vancouver. Once ready to move on, the Sea-to-Sky Highway beckons.
This scenic drive inland leads to the world famous ski resort of Whistler which, when it’s not covered in snow, offers all manner of hiking, biking and zip-lining trails, not to mention kayaking and rafting opportunities for those who enjoy taking to the water.
Along the route from Whistler to Jasper National Park, hike trails around areas such as Joffre Lakes and Marble Canyon, and explore the world’s only inland temperate rainforest while on a boat safari down Grizzly Bear Valley, keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife, from bears and moose to eagles.
Jasper to Calgary via Lake Louise
Jasper offers everything from Maligne Canyon hikes to whitewater rafting excursions, before kicking back in the local hot springs. Then comes the iconic Icefields Parkway. Aside from being a stunningly scenic drive, or pedal, the Parkway is the gateway to one of Canada’s best icy playgrounds, the Columbia Icefield. Here, operators serve up all manner of activities and excursions, from Ice Explorer rides to hikes on the Athabasca Glacier.
Next up is beautiful Lake Louise, backed by another icy marvel, Victoria Glacier, and active options such as the Tea House hike. Then it’s on to the town of Banff, and Banff National Park.
A logical place to end a tour is in Calgary, which plays host to the 10-day Calgary Stampede every July. In a town so proud of its cowboy culture, horseback tours of the surrounding Alberta countryside are a logical option.
How to do it
G Adventures has a 12-day Discover the Canadian Rockies — Eastbound tour, part of its National Geographic Journeys Collection, from £2,849pp.
G Adventures has a cheaper 14-day National Parks of the Canadian Rockies Westbound option aimed at ‘18-30 somethings’, which also features time in Tofino (from £1,799). Or why not follow in the footsteps of the Gold Rush pioneers of 1897-98 by tackling the 33-mile Chilkoot Trail, from northern BC into Alaska via the Coast Mountains, on a seven-day Chilkoot Trail hike with World Expeditions, from £1,590.
Areas such as family soft adventure are performing well while products like Great Canadian Trails’ Grizzly Bear Nature Adventure cater to the strong demand for multi-activity holidays and wildlife tours.
Hiking remains big, and the dizzying range of local options such as easy day hikes and longer tours mean there’s something to suit all abilities. Unsurprisingly, many focus on the Rockies, such as KE Adventures’ 14-day Canadian Summit Scramble Cycling remains strong. Operator Macs Adventure calls the Canadian Rockies ‘a cyclist’s dream’ and routes such as Bow Valley Parkway and the Icefield Parkway feature on tours such as its eight-day Canadian Rockies Biking: Banff to Jasper.
Mountain bikers are also well catered for, from the Whistler Mountain Bike Trail to tours such as H+I Adventures’ seven-night, advanced level explorations of BC’s ‘Greatest Hits’ trails, including Whistler Valley, Squamish and Pemberton.
Niche options include mountaineering breaks, as featured by the likes of Great Canadian Trails, part of World Expeditions, which also offers women-only courses.
One to watch: G Adventures
Having been founded in Canada back in 1990, the operator G Adventures knows a thing or two about the destination. BC and Alberta feature prominently in its 10 Canada tours, which range from 11 to 21 days in duration and come in three different flavours: Classic; National Geographic Journeys; and its more budget savvy 18-to-Thirtysomethings offering, rebranded from YOLO in late 2017. Since 2013, the small group tour specialist, which features more than 100 countries in its programme, has offered guaranteed departures.
The company continues to ramp up its trade presence in key markets, such as here in the UK, where it grew its sales team late last year.