Trans-Canada Highway at 50: BC revs up
The Trans-Canada Highway is celebrating its 50th birthday in 2012 and the centennial anniversary of the first coast-to-coast road trip made in the country — accomplished by Thomas Wilby and Jack Haney, travelling from Halifax to Victoria. Vacay.ca writers have hit the road to come up with great tales to tell along this vital and historic route. Here are Katie Marti’s tips on how best to see the British Columbia leg of the route.
Story by Katie Marti
KAMLOOPS, BRITISH COLUMBIA — You don’t have to be Jack Kerouac to love a good road trip, especially when travelling in Canada. The 50-year-old Trans-Canada Highway stretches from coast to coast with roadside attractions ranging from the naturally spectacular to the quaint and quirky. Beautiful British Columbia is no exception.
One of the greatest things about driving through BC is the degree to which the landscape varies across the province. From the rugged coastal terrain of Vancouver Island to near desert conditions in the interior surrounding Kamloops, acres of orchards and vineyards in the Okanagan Valley and perennially snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains, to say that it’s a pretty drive is an understatement the size of Canada itself.
In order to make the most out of a tour through British Columbia, might we offer a few tips gleaned from several times around the block, so to speak?
1. Make it a point to grab snacks on the road. The Okanagan Valley is a farmer’s paradise and the highway is dotted with fruit stands from Chilliwack to Salmon Arm. In summer and early fall the peaches, berries and cherries are arguably the best in Canada — if not the world.
2. Keep your camera at the ready. Between cool animals and stunning vistas, a drive across BC is a photo album in the making, particularly through the mountains. It’s not uncommon to see cars pulled off to the side of the highway as drivers or passengers stop to snap pictures of glacier lakes or big horn sheep. Some of the most postcard-worthy photos can be taken on the gravel shoulder of the Trans-Canada Highway.
3. Slow down. While it’s tempting to pass the masses of transport trucks and RVs, beware. Wildlife abounds, particularly through mountain passes, where winding roads tend to be a bit narrow. What’s more, these happen to be the prettiest parts of the drive, so taking it easy means taking the time to soak it right up.
4. Plan your route. BC is huge and, despite the fact that you can cross it in a day’s drive, you can’t see it all in one shot. There are slight detours and alternate routes that lead to world-class wineries near Kelowna or natural hot springs around Invermere and Radium. Provincial and national parks blanket the province, offering short hikes perfect for stretching road-weary legs and pristine campsites for overnight nature lovers. A bit of pre-trip research will help to ensure that pit stops and diversions are well-timed and memorable.
When travelling across British Columbia, the journey really does trump the destination. It’s the sort of road trip that honeymoons and bucket lists are made of. Whether riding solo or shotgun, en masse or en route to another province, a trip along the westernmost stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway is sure to be unforgettable.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TRANS-CANADA! Have you got a great photo to share or story to tell about the Trans-Canada Highway? Share it with Vacay Nation! Email it to us at email@example.com and we’ll publish it during this 50th anniversary of the highway, which opened on September 3, 1962 in Rogers Pass, British Columbia. (Photos should be sent as hi-resolution JPEG images.)