July to October is the ideal period to visit British Columbia and Alberta
The route I will describe in this article starts in Vancouver and it’s ideal for families planning some holiday days visiting very scenic places and staying in close contact with mother’s Nature.
Getting there is part of the fun. Here you will know why:
Vancouver to Hope (154km)
We left Vancouver driving along Highway 1 East to Hope. You get there in approximately two hours. Stretch your legs, have a coffee and take pictures.
Hope to Penticton (268km)
Make sure you fill your tank before leaving Hope, as gas stations will be few and far between.
From Hope you continue to Penticton along Highway 3 and 3A. On the way you will cross Princeton. Located 134km east of Hope on Hwy 3, you will be able to explore abandoned mining sites from the gold rush days.
Keremeos is another village that you will encounter when you take Highway 3A (you will see signs “Keremeos By-Pass”). Take care with speed reduction signs or you will get a speed ticket.
From Keremeos to Penticton you will drive less than 40 minutes on a beautiful highway. Please take care with wild life along the way, especially if you are driving early in the morning or around dusk hours.
Penticton: Time to rest and overnight
Penticton is located 20 km north of Okanagan Falls. It’s a village with beautiful views of the slopes that surround the lake. Okanagan Lake gives its name to the village and it provides water activities for every taste: fishing, waterskiing, kayaking, swimming, windsurfing… There are plenty of activities to choose or you can just lay down on the sand and try to get a tan.
As you will be based in Penticton at least for one night, don’t miss the opportunity to go on a wine tour. You will be able to follow the law and don’t drink & drive: There are shuttles that will pick you up and drop you off at your local hotel, making wine tasting easy and convenient. Ask at your hotel’s reception about time schedule and rates.
We rented bikes as soon as we got there. There are several bike shops and you will find most of them downtown Penticton, along the lakeshore. Riding a bike is a good way to “get lost” along the village while you admire beautiful houses and manicured bed flower gardens.
Biking along the Okanagan River Channel is also an unforgettable experience that I highly recommend.
Penticton is a city of festivals and you might want to check with the Tourism Office to know what is going on during your visit.
Where to Stay: We stayed at Penticton Days Inn. It’s not a fancy hotel but it is clean, with a convenient location and free parking.
Maybe you will enjoy Penticton so much that you will decide to stay one more day? Good for you! In this case you might consider visiting Naramata. It’s located only 20km north of Penticton along a very scenic route. There you may visit Manitou Park with dozens of ducks walking freely and countless cherry trees just across the street where you park your car. If the cherries are already good you may pick up as many as you want and they are really delicious!
From Penticton to Lake Louise
This route can be divided in four segments:
- Penticton to Kelowna (60km)
- Kelowna to Vernon (52km)
- Vernon to Sicamous (73km)
- Sicamous to Lake Louise (302km)
I recommend you leave Penticton early in the morning not only because it’s a long drive but also to give you plenty of time to explore the many attractions you will find along the way.
Part 1: Penticton to Kelowna
The route from Penticton to Lake Louise goes through Kelowna, the largest city of the region. There are orchards and vineyards everywhere you look.
If time permits, explore the canyons located at Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park.
You also can ride or hike the wooden trestle bridges along the abandoned Kettle Valley Railway.
Take many pictures of the houseboats! There are several, some of them quite interesting!
Do you remember the time you watched the Flintstones on TV? You can take back your memories visiting Kelowna’s Bedrock City.
Here is my suggestion for a walking tour along Kelowna:
Start at Skyreach Arena (1223 Water St). There’s a beautiful fountain with dolphins. From there, along Rhapsody Plaza enjoy the views to fancy boats and condominiums. Continue to Brand’s Creek Estuary Restoration Project where you will be able to see many wild birds and bird nests.
After walking along the loop trail, go to Grand Lakefront Resort and Conference Center. This is an exclusive resort and you might want to take beautiful pictures.
Part 2: Kelowna to Vernon
From Kelowna you will drive approximately 50km on Hwy 97 to arrive in Vernon. Vernon in a Victorian-inspired village and you will be delighted with beautiful and well-preserved houses. You may consider a visit to Ellison Provincial Park and Fintry Provincial Park where you can enjoy fishing, scuba diving, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking and other summer sports.
There is a great selection of restaurants and art galleries making this village an ideal place to stop for lunch.
After lunch you can stroll along Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park where you will be enchanted by many wildflowers and exotic birds.
Part 3: Vernon to Sicamous
Located 31km east of Salmon Arm, on Hwy 1, Sicamous belongs to the Shuswap area. This is the “houseboating capital of Canada”. Explore thirty marine lakes like Shuswap Lake Provincial Marine Park.
Part 4: Sicamous to Lake Louise
This is a long and scenic stretch! You will drive with beautiful mountains along the way with plenty of photo opportunities.
Where to stay: We stayed at Paradise Lodge and Bungalows; convenient located only 1km from Lake Louise at lake Louise Drive.
We stayed in a very comfortable room and enjoyed the rustic architectural style adopted by the hotel.
After such a long trip, I recommend you rest and go to a nearby restaurant to have dinner. There are several options in a short (driving) distance.
Lake Louise: What to do
After breakfast you will go straight to the main attraction: Lake Louise.
You will be enchanted by the color of this lake! It’s really fantastic! Water comes from the glaciers and gives this lake a color that is very particular. Take many pictures because each angle is prettier than the other!
From Lake Louise’s main viewing point near the parking lot you get a wonderful view of the lake and the Victoria Glacier that forms the backdrop behind it. You will be standing next to the lake’s outflow that is the start point of Bow River. Bow River is famous for water sports as it flows through Banff Village, Canmore, Calgary and beyond. Bow river is the one responsible for the big flooding that is occurring right now in Calgary, Alberta.
If you walk along Lake Louise’s lakeshore path you will be able to see the lake from a different and interesting perspective. I highly recommend that you walk uphill approximately 2km to Fairview Lookout. From there you will have unbeatable views to the lake below.
Walk along the lake to your right (looking to the glacier) as far as Lake Agnes teahouse. The tea house is super cute as there is a giant kettle decorating the garden. After a cup of tea, continue walking around the lake till you reach the Beehive. The views are probably one the most scenic I have seen in my life!
From Lake Agnes there are several hikes, the most famous is called “Hike to six glaciers”. You will pass through broken stones coming directly from the glacier and also some snow covered fields (even in July!).
You will need some rest after this delightful day exploring one of the world’s most beautiful lakes!
Second Day in Lake Louise: Consider a visit to Banff.
Peyto Lake and Johnston Canyon cannot be missed! Johnston Canyon is dramatic and you will walk along a narrow path that was constructed hanging from natural stones. It’s absolutely amazing!
When you are driving along the Bow Valley Parkway keep your eyes open to wild life. We saw moose, deer, cougar, rabbits and a black bear! While driving there, stop your vehicle at Moraine’s curve. This makes a particular beautiful photograph if it happens to be a train passing by the time of the visit.
Don’t miss Yoko National Park with Emerald Lake and Spiral Tunnel viewpoint. They are located along the TransCanada highway (Hwy 1). These attractions are only a stroll away west of Lake Louise. On the way, you must stop at Takakkaw Falls, one of the largest falls in the Canadian Rockies. We parked our rented car at the parking lot and walked along a well-signed path to the bottom of the Takakkaw falls. It’s very impressive looking to the fall from the bottom, as it is really high. They are also called Tak Falls.
Very close to this attraction you will find Yoko National Park and the Kicking Horse River. Take many pictures of the Natural Arch. This is a natural bridge that is very scenic over the Kicking Horse River.
If you have time you might want to visit Banff Hot Springs with beautiful views to the valley.
Also in this region you will find Vermillion Lakes Drive: This drive takes you about 10km to an area where you can see many wild life species, including elk and deer. Depending on the time of the year you will also spot bald eagles. Pay attention to trees without bushes and look to the very top. You may spot an eagle’s nest there!
From Lake Louise / Banff I recommend you continue along the Columbia Icefield Parkway to Jasper.
If you only have few days out of work you may return to Vancouver and go to Jasper in another occasion.
We went all way from Lake Louise to Jasper and from there to Whistler. This will be the subject of my next article. Please make sure you have signed to follow this blog in order to be up to date with the next posts!
I hope you have a lot of fun while visiting the fantastic Canadian Rockies! Let me know if there is something you want to learn with more detail or if you can contribute with new information to this article.