February 17th, 2017

4 Great Canadian Road Trips to Drive in Winter

This year is Canada’s sesquicentennial, marking 150 years since 1867. Time sure flies, eh?

To commemorate this important birthday, we’re all eligible to receive a free Parks Canada Discovery Pass for 2017. They provide free access to all national parks and are great for outdoorsy types and families, too.

This year’s Canada Day in July is sure to be one of our biggest celebrations ever, but many national parks are open year-round. So why not get an early start with a winter road trip? If you’re lucky, you might even get more of the park to yourself this time of year.

To help you get started, here’s some information on one great winter national park destination for each Western Canadian province.

First, some quick winter road trip tips:

1. Get Roadside Assistance Insurance – Extra coverage gives peace of mind and will help you out if there are any problems. (Psst: this is available at London Drugs)
2. Plan and Check Your Route – Make sure you know where you’re going and aren’t driving into a storm. Be sure to tell someone else your plans, as well.
3. Service Your Car – Have it checked out before leaving, and don’t forget: winter tires are a must.
4. Pack An Emergency Kit – Consider including a shovel, candles, and warm blankets.
5. Entertain The Kids – You don’t want extra distractions while winter driving, so make sure they enjoy the ride.

British Columbia – Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Photo by Ruth Hartnup on Flickr

Known For: Pacific Coast mountains and a marine and forest environment.
Approximate Driving Time From: Victoria (4hrs), Vancouver* (6hrs), Kamloops* (9hrs), Kelowna* (11hrs) *Depending on BC Ferries departure times.

Winter Activities: Pacific Rim National Park is split into several sections on Vancouver Island’s southwest coast. The most popular is the Long Beach area, near Tofino. Due to warm coastal winds, the daily average high in February and March is about ten degrees, meaning you can hike in the ancient cedar forest or down along the water, even during winter! Feeling adventurous? The winter months are also the best time for surfing, with the highest and most consistent waves.

Other BC National Parks:
Glacier National Park
Gulf Islands National Park Reserve
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site
Kootenay National Park
Mount Revelstoke National Park
Yoho National Park

Alberta – Banff National Park

Photo by davidgsteadman on Flickr

Known For: Rocky mountain views and being Canada’s first National Park (1885)
Approximate Driving Time From: Calgary (2hrs), Lethbridge (4hrs), Edmonton (4hrs), Vernon, BC (5hrs)

Winter Activities: Nestled within a connected network of four national parks in the Canadain Rockies, Banff during winter is amazing no matter how often you go. It has everything a Canadian could ask for, including skiing (both alpine and cross-country), snowshoeing, a hot spring, gondola rides, and more. Of course, taking in the stunning views of Lake Louise is a must. If you have time, be sure to also check out the equally stunning nearby Jasper National Park.

Other Alberta National Parks:
Elk Island National Park
Jasper National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park
Wood Buffalo National Park

Saskatchewan – Prince Albert National Park

Photo by Ladylaurels Choice on Pinterest

Known For: Being a massive protected region of northern forest and wildlife.
Approximate Driving Time From: Prince Albert (1hr), North Battleford (3hrs), Saskatoon (3hrs), Regina (5hrs)

Winter Activities: It may be cold, with daily highs around -5C in February and March, but that’s never stopped true Saskatchewanians from enjoying the great outdoors. And why should it? Not when there are so many winter activities available, including cross country skiing and even curling. Perhaps the best winter activity in Prince Albert National Park is spotting wildlife, like otters, foxes, bison, or especially birds, with dozens of species viewable during winter.

Other Saskatchewan National Parks:
Grasslands National Park

Manitoba – Riding Mountain National Park

oTENTik promo photo by Parks Canada

Known For: Being a semi-“island” in the Manitoba Escarpment.
Approximate Driving Time From: Brandon (1hr), Yorkton, SK (2hrs), Winnipeg (3hrs), Thompson (7hrs)
Winter Activities: There’s everything from ice fishing and pond skating to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And of course, there is plenty of gorgeous Canadian wildlife to watch. Plus, starting in 2017, you can now rent a snow capable Fat Bike. Another brand new addition is reservable cabin-tent hybrids called oTENTik. With so much to do at Riding Mountain National Park during the winter, it’s nearly a wonder that anyone would come during another season.

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