At over 600 miles apart, the drive from Calgary, Alberta, to Richmond, British Columbia, is more than a short trip down the road. And yet, you couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to see the Canadian countryside than taking a car ride from one city to the other! From mountain views and roadside vistas to wildlife and time in the great outdoors, a road trip from Calgary to Richmond is sure to be filled with discovery, enchantment, and delight.
Technically, you could make the drive from Calgary to Richmond all in one day—but why would you want to miss out on all that lies in between? So, grab a couple of your friends and put some gas in the tank because it’s time to go, go, go! Let’s take a look at what destinations you’ll find along the way when driving from Alberta to British Columbia…
When meteorologist and museum curator Norman Bethune Sanson first made the trek up Sulphur Mountain in 1896, there’s no way that he could have possibly imagined that the mountain’s summit would one day become a tourist hotspot that would eventually boast the town of Banff’s number-one attraction: the Banff Gondola. Making history in 1959 as the first bi-cable gondola in North America, the Banff Gondola climbs over two thousand feet as it coasts to the summit of Sulphur Mountain, where visitors are greeted with food, drinks, activities, and, of course, unparalleled views of the world below.
The trip in the fully-enclosed four-passenger gondola cabin is around eight minutes total and treats riders to stunning vantage points every second of the way. At the summit, you’ll find restaurants, interactive exhibits, a multi-sensory theater, and a 360-degree rooftop observation deck. Visitors recommend getting tickets in advance, and many remark that the views just keep getting better and better as you go up!
Between Banff and Lake Louise lies a historic stopping point along the Bow River. Popularized by photographer Nicholas Morant, Morant’s Curve gives travelers a front-row seat from which to admire one of the most scenic spots on the Canadian Pacific Railway, where trains cross in front of both the river and the mountains.
Morant’s Curve is about an hour’s drive from Banff, and it’s best viewed from the Bow Valley Parkway. Unfortunately, if you want to catch a train in your photo, you’ll probably have to do a bit of waiting, as trains come intermittently, and there’s no regular schedule for when they’ll be passing by. That being said, the railway tracks are always visible—and the river and mountains aren’t going anywhere either!
The largest lake in Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake certainly is a beauty to behold. In addition to its stunning green tint, Emerald Lake is surrounded by several mountains, including those that make up President Range, as well as Mount Burgess and Wapta Mountain. You’ll also find a sprawling forest and a variety of wildlife like eagles, marmots, and even the occasional moose.
Emerald Lake’s color is most vibrant in the early summer, due to glacial runoff, and before you plan your visit, keep in mind that because of its location, it’s usually frozen for most of the year—not that it isn’t still breathtakingly beautiful in the winter! If you do wind up at Emerald Lake when it’s warmer, there are a number of hiking trails in the surrounding area that you can take advantage of while you’re there.
In 1881, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to develop a rail line through the Rockies at Kicking Horse Pass, and to do so, the Railway needed to determine a route through the Selkirk Mountains, which, at the time, were widely uncharted. The American surveyor Major A.B. Rogers subsequently explored the region and discovered what is now known as Rogers Pass.
Designated a National Historic Site in 1971, Rogers Pass was one of the last pieces that solidified Canada’s first transcontinental railway. Today, you can hike the now-defunct Railway line—originally built in 1885—amidst an old-growth forest, home to mountain goats and other wildlife (like black bears!).
This paved road in Mount Revelstoke National Parks will take you through landscapes so stunning that you might want to stop the car, get out, and start to wander on foot—and thanks to the hiking trails in the area, you can do just that! Follow the weaving roadway for a little over 16 miles and enjoy the sight of cedar, hemlock, spruce, and fir trees as you go. Then, you’ll truly find yourself in the majesty of Mother Nature as you lay eyes on Mount Revelstoke National Park’s famed subalpine wildflower meadows.
Because of its location, Meadows in the Sky Parkway isn’t open year-round: low elevations are accessible from May to October, while the summit is only open during the snow-free season between July and October. But don’t worry—there are still plenty of hiking and ski trails that you can use to take on the park during other points throughout the year.
For more than 20 years, the owners of this farm in Lake Country have been raising kangaroos and wallabies, as well as other farm animals and exotic pets like emu, peacocks, fancy chickens, goats, parrots, potbellied pigs, and even capybaras. Kangaroo Creek Farm started when the owners rescued a few kangaroos from New Zealand, and the farm grew as more animals were adopted from North American breeders. Kangaroo Creek Farm has red kangaroos, common wallaroos, red-necked wallabies, and dama wallabies
The farm is only open to visitors during the warmer months, and there is a strict set of rules that anyone who comes to Kangaroo Creek Farm is asked to abide by, the first and foremost of which is respecting the animals. While there is a general admission fee, the owners do not charge extra for feeding, petting, and otherwise interacting with the animals. Children are welcome but must be well-behaved (the same goes for adults!) and highly supervised.
Canada might not have the tropical climate in which parrots typically reside, but you’ll find your fair share of colorfully-feathered friends at Parrot Island Sanctuary, a sanctuary that cares for birds that have been rescued and are in need of a home. Owned and run by Ray and Valerie Parkes, Peachland’s Parrot Island is a non-profit that’s open daily during the warmer months but can still be seen if you call ahead during the fall and winter.
The Parkes opened Parrot Island in 1997 with a goal to educate future pet owners about parrots and why they aren’t ideal pets for everyone—they’re high maintenance animals that can be difficult to take care of. Though the facility is quite noisy, Parrot Island is an educational adventure that will give you a firsthand look at the lengths that some animal-lovers are willing to go to in order to help pets in need.
Whether you’re an art enthusiast or just someone looking for a unique souvenir, the Ruby Creek Art Gallery is brimming with original pieces of various forms of art and crafts, many of which you can purchase at a reasonable price. Owned and operated by the Skawahlook First Nation, the gallery is nestled between the towns of Agassiz and Hope and features work from a variety of Northwest First Nations artists.
From limited-edition prints, soapstone, and jewelry to hand-carved boxes, handcrafted drums, and textiles, the Ruby Creek Art Gallery showcases local and regional talent, many styles and variations of which you probably haven’t seen before. While it probably isn’t the biggest art gallery you’ve ever seen, this inviting space has plenty of beautifully-made pieces that make for thoughtful, one-of-a-kind gifts (or additions to your own collections). Plus, the organization’s staff will be more than happy to show you around and give you any information you might be looking for about the artists or the gallery itself.
The history behind Redwood Park dates back to 1893 when twin brothers Peter and David Brown received a large plot of farming land from their father. But rather than planting crops or raising livestock, the brothers created their very own forest comprised of exotic trees from all over. Intent on enjoying their wooded residence to its fullest, the brothers even built a treehouse, which they lived in until their deaths in the mid-20th century.
Take in the eclectic array of trees that the Brown brothers so caringly grew when you make one final stop at Redwood Park before making your way to Richmond. Free to enter and open from dawn until dusk, the park features more than three miles of hiking trails, playgrounds, picnic shelters, a replica of the brothers’ treehouse, meadows, and—of course—trees, trees, and more trees! Perhaps the most noteworthy species of tree that you can find in the park is the Sierra Redwood, the tallest type of tree in the world. You can learn more about all of the different kinds of trees that are in the park when you take a self-guided tour across the grounds.
The Great White North is full of surprises, and you never know what you’ll find when you’re driving through it! If you’re planning a trip from Calgary to Richmond, why not get the most out of your travels and do some exploring? Adventure lies around every corner when you’re zigzagging through even the most secluded areas of Canada, and that means memories that will last a lifetime. But don’t take our word for it—see for yourself when you add some of these stops to your road trip itinerary. Bon voyage!