Top 5 Road Trips From Vancouver

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Julia

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Julia

Vancouver is a city that makes room for nature—Stanley Park alone makes it feel different from other urban centers. And there's more environmental planning in the works: the city wants every resident to live within a five-minute walk of a green space by 2020, and plans to enhance its forest canopy cover by 22 percent by 2050. But the snowcapped mountains in the distance hint at what's further afield. So once you've explored the parks, gardens, rainforest, and sandy beaches of this unique coastal city, head out for an adventure on one of these five road trips. From lakeside campgrounds and bear safaris to wine tastings and a mind-blowing gondola ride, there's something for everyone. 

1. Scenic Highway 7

Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa
Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa

This pretty route, also known as the Lougheed Highway, travels between Vancouver and Hope, about two hours east. Along the way, stop for a swim at Golden Ears Provincial Park, fish for sturgeon in Mission's Fraser River, take a farm tour in Agassiz, or kick back at the Potash and Sulphur hot springs in Harrison. National Historic and First Nations Sites also appear along the route. If there's time to spare, check out the wood sculptures found throughout Hope—known as British Columbia's Chainsaw Carving Capital. 

2. Pemberton

Drive for about two-and-a-half or three hours up the Sea-to-Sky Highway to reach Pemberton. This small village of only about 2,000 residents is known for its summer music festival, but the surrounding Pemberton Valley offers a quiet escape year round. Along with golf courses framed by snowcapped mountains, there are hikes to serene lakes in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, plus a new crop of farm-to-table restaurants to try. In August, the Slow Food Cycle offers a chance to visit the area's farms and shop for handmade goods, while traveling by bike. At the end of the day, stop into Pemberton Distillery to sample the organic gin. 

3. Whistler

About 30 minutes south of Pemberton lies the all-season resort of Whistler. Skiing and snowboarding are huge—even more so since the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics held some alpine and Nordic events here. But in warmer months, Whistler offers beautiful hikes to places like Brandywine Falls and lakeside camping at Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park. Adventurous types can also try bear-viewing safaris or check out arguably the best bike park in North America. Of course, there's always the option to forgo activity: head to a serene Scandinavian-style spa in the mountains or visit the Audain Art Museum, which is tucked into a forest and showcases the history of British Columbia art. 

4. Squamish

Located about one-and-a-half hours north of Vancouver, Squamish is favored by water sports fans. That's thanks to the Squamish Spit, situated where the Squamish River meets the Howe Sound. It's one of the few places in the world that offers the perfect combination of land, water, and wind for wind and kite surfing. Others head to one of Squamish's three marinas to set sail or spend the day boating—all while being surrounded by mountains, and even catching sight of orca whales, seals, and dolphins. A must-do? The incredible Sea to Sky Gondola, which ferries travelers to nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, where walking and hiking trails, rock climbing, and viewing platforms with incomparable views of surrounding mountains and the Pacific Ocean await. 

5. The Fraser Valley

The biggest agricultural region in British Columbia, this valley lies between the Cascade Mountains and the coast. Try a self-guided Circle Farm Tour to visit local farmers, many who grow fresh berries, and some who offer kid-friendly activities like corn mazes. Beekeepers, coffee brewers, and produce markets are also easy to find here. Or head about 45 minutes away to wine country—home to about 30 vineyards and 25 wineries—for tours and tastings, including some organic wines and small family operations. Cool climate varietals, such as Pinor Noir and Chardonnay, are the best bets, along with Bacchus, a crisp German varietal. 

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