5 Best Winter Road Trips In British Columbia

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Are you looking for the best winter road trips in British Columbia? I can help you out.

As someone who lives in British Columbia, I can tell you all the best winter road trips you can take when visiting this winter wonderland province during the winter.

British Columbia is a beautiful province where winter brings incredible road trip opportunities. Situated in Western Canada, British Columbia offers a paradise for winter lovers, with snowy landscapes and exciting outdoor activities.

Best Winter Road Trips In British Columbia

These are some of the best winter road trips on British Columbia’s mainland and islands. Not only are they stunning road trips, but there are destinations along the way with much to offer.

πŸ’‘ Note:Β Sometimes highways will be closed during the winter if the winter road conditions are considered too dangerous to drive.

1. Sea To Sky Highway (Highway 99)

As you drive along Highway 99, better known as the Sea to Sky Highway, you will be treated to stunning coastal views before the landscape transforms into snowy mountain peaks.

The Sea to Sky section of the highway starts after Horseshoe Bay (Sea) and ends in Pemberton (Sky).

There are many stops along the way to explore during the winter, such as snowshoeing in Garibaldi Provincial Park, staying in the Olympic Legacy Cabins in Porteau Cove, and the best one of them all is embarking on a winter road trip to Whistler, British Columbia. It is an adventure you will never forget.

Whistler is also a world-renowned ski destination that blends thrilling outdoor winter activities with picturesque mountains. The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is rated as one of the most scenic drives in Canada, no matter the time of year you travel.

The Whistler Blackcomb ski resort offers an unparalleled skiing and snowboarding experience, with an expansive range of slopes catering to all skill levels.

The breathtaking alpine scenery adds excitement as you carve through the powdery trails. Some of the best Whistler ski-in ski-out hotels are at the mountain’s base, making it easier to enjoy winter activities.

Beyond the slopes, Whistler Village beckons with its cozy ambiance and vibrant atmosphere. Stroll into Whistler Village with local shops and restaurants. The village exudes a festive spirit, especially during winter, when twinkling lights and decorations.

From October 1st until March 31st, snow tires are required to drive the Sea To Sky Highway.

2. Revelstoke To Banff (Trans-Canada Highway)

The winter drive from Revelstoke, British Columbia, to Banff, Alberta, is a journey that takes you through some of the most scenic landscapes in the Canadian Rockies.

This winter road trip is a true adventure, offering stunning vistas, snow-covered mountains, and a sense of exploration as you travel between these iconic mountain destinations.

Leaving Revelstoke, you will follow the Trans-Canada Highway, renowned for its beauty and accessibility. The highway winds through towering mountain passes alongside frozen rivers and charming alpine towns.

As you ascend to the heights of the Rockies, you will be treated to panoramic views of snow-covered peaks and dense forests.

One of the highlights of this drive is the opportunity to visit Glacier National Park, Canada, located between Revelstoke and Golden. This winter wonderland park offers snowshoeing, ski touring, and ice-climbing opportunities.

Continuing eastward, you will pass through the stunning Yoho National Park, home to the famous Spiral Tunnels and Emerald Lake. The towering peaks, Wapta Falls – a frozen waterfall, and alpine meadows create an even more magical picturesque backdrop under a blanket of snow.

3. Okanagan Valley

A winter drive to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is a venture into diverse beauty and unique experiences. As you navigate through the snow-kissed landscapes, you will encounter charming towns, serene lakes, and a rich tapestry of wineries that define this picturesque region.

However, once you arrive in the Okanagan Valley, you will encounter a winter wonderland contrasting the region’s popular summer appeal.

The valley’s picturesque lakes, including Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake, are often framed by snowy peaks, creating a serene and breathtaking setting.

The Okanagan Valley’s reputation as a burgeoning wine region remains intact throughout winter. Many wineries stay open, offering cozy tastings by the fireplace, allowing you to savour exceptional wines while gazing at the snow-dusted vineyards.

For those seeking outdoor adventures, the valley’s ski resorts, such as Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna, offer an array of winter sports and activities like dog sledding, skiing, sledding, and more.

Charming towns like Osoyoos, Penticton, and Vernon all have local shops, art galleries, and restaurants all embrace the winter season.

The Highways To The Okanagan

While they are the two main routes to the Okanagan, during the winter, they will become drastically different driving conditions compared to summer.

Coquihalla (Highway 5) – Do Not Drive In Winter

The drive to the Okanagan Valley can take you through various routes, each offering breathtaking views. The Coquihalla (pronounced Kow-Kuh-Haa-Luh) Highway (Highway 5) is one popular option, but it comes with extreme caution.

This mountainous route is known for its challenging conditions during the winter months. While it provides swift access to the Okanagan Valley, the Coquihalla can be treacherous due to heavy snowfall, icy patches, and rapidly changing weather is crucial, especially at its highest point, the Coquihalla Pass between Hope and Merritt.

While it is a quicker route during the summer months, I recommend not driving the Coquihalla during the winter, as there have been many fatal car accidents due to weather conditions and other driving factors.

If you are unprepared or have never gone through the highway during the winter, I would avoid the Coquihalla Highway at all costs.

Crowsnest (Highway 3) – Better To Drive In Winter

Highway 3, better known as the Crowsnest Highway, is a historical, scenic route that winds through the southern part of British Columbia, Canada.

Stretching from Hope on the western end to the Alberta border on the eastern end, this highway offers travellers a unique blend of natural beauty, historical significance, and access to charming towns and communities.

The Crowsnest Highway is famed for its picturesque landscapes, taking you through diverse terrain, including mountains, valleys, rivers, and forests. The route is particularly striking as it crosses several mountain ranges, offering panoramic views that change with the seasons.

Whether you drive in summer during wildflowers bloom or winter snow blankets the scenery, the highway never fails to impress.

Driving the Crowsnest Highway, you will come across various charming communities, each with its own character and attractions. The highway passes through towns like Princeton, Keremeos, and Grand Forks, where you can explore local markets, art galleries, and small-town hospitality.

It is important to note that weather conditions along the Crowsnest Highway vary greatly, especially during winter. Snowfall and icy conditions are common, particularly in higher elevations. Proper vehicle preparation and caution are essential when travelling this route in winter.

4. Sunshine Coast Highway

The Sunshine Coast in winter offers a chance to escape the fast-paced city life and surround yourself with the coast’s natural beauty. Whether seeking coastal walks, cozy moments, or a connection with nature, this region becomes a haven for those seeking a quieter, more intimate winter road trip.

Seaside towns like Gibsons and Sechelt maintain their cozy appeal year-round as the Sunshine Coast receives minimal snowfall. The artisanal shops, galleries, and local cafes offer warm and inviting spaces to unwind.

The slower pace of winter allows visitors to engage with the locals and soak in the authentic community atmosphere.

You can take the road trip from Langdale to Earls Cove; it is a beautiful coastal drive which would take approximately an hour and 15 minutes but will change depending on the weather conditions during winter.

The Sunshine Coast is accessible by the BC Ferries at the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal in West Vancouver. The ride to the coast is 40 minutes non-stop, and it is a beautiful ride through Howe Sound.

5. Pacific Rim Highway (Port Alberni To Tofino, Highway 4)

The Pacific Rim Highway, also known as Highway 4, is a scenic route on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, that connects the city of Port Alberni to the charming coastal town of Tofino.

The lush rainforests and coastal landscapes take on a unique and moody charm during the winter.

The drive from Port Alberni to Tofino is a beautiful scenic drive

Port Alberni, located on Vancouver Island, is a small city known for its history and outdoor attractions, such as some of the best Vancouver Island waterfalls

Tofino, at the end of the Pacific Rim Highway, is a destination that holds its allure even in winter. Known for its stunning beaches, surfing culture, and proximity to the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Tofino offers a peaceful escape from city life.

While there may be some limitations for outdoor activities due to the weather, you can still enjoy storm-watching from some of the best storm-watching hotels in Tofino or explore the town’s galleries, cafes, and local boutiques.

While this highway is renowned for its breathtaking beauty and access to the rugged Pacific coastline, it is essential to consider the weather and road conditions, particularly during winter. Travelling the Pacific Rim Highway in winter can be a rewarding experience if you are prepared and cautious.

During the winter, the Pacific Rim Highway can be subject to challenging weather conditions. Rainfall is typical on Vancouver Island, and in higher elevations, this can quickly turn to snow, creating potentially hazardous driving conditions. 

Winter Activities In Destinations

Here are some suggestions for winter activities that you can do in certain destinations.

  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Dog Sledding (Whistler, Revelstoke, Banff)
  • Heli-skiing (Whistler, Revelstoke)
  • Snowmobiling (Whistler, Revelstoke, Banff)
  • Snowshoeing (Whistler, Revelstoke, Banff)
  • Bobsleigh (Whistler)
  • Winter Ziplining (Whistler)
  • Hot Springs (Revelstoke)

BC Winter Road Trip Safety Tips

You should follow many winter road safety tips if you plan on doing any winter road trips. Here are a few essential tips to remember.

❄ Snow Tires

Snow tires are required to drive on any highway in British Columbia during the winter. Your tires must have a snowflake symbol and cannot be all-weather tires.

🌑Check Weather & Driving Conditions

Always check the weather and driving conditions before driving anywhere in the winter. Drive BC is a website that updates weather, road conditions, and other events that may occur on the highways.

πŸŽ’ Emergency Kit

Packing an emergency kit is essential, especially during the winter. You will never know what will happen along your journey, and unexpected events may occur, like your car breaking down.

Some items to pack into an emergency kit are:

βœ” A crank-type flashlight: Batteries often do not last in cold weather
βœ” Reflective safety cones
βœ” Small first-aid kit
βœ” Snow brush & scrapper
βœ” Portable shovel
βœ” Jumper cables
βœ” De-icing fluids & wiper fluids
βœ” Extra blankets & warm clothing
βœ” Snacks & bottles of water
βœ” Hands and feet warmers
βœ” Abrasive material: Kitty litter or sand; avoid salt

Where To Stay On Your Winter Road Trip In BC

These are some places to stay on your winter road trip in British Columbia.

Crystal Lodge (Whistler)

βœ… Excellent Location
βœ… Dog-Friendly

If you are looking for an excellent hotel to stay in Whistler, Crystal Lodge is a well-rounded hotel that caters to relaxation and exceptional staff.

Best Western Plus Revelstoke

βœ… Complimentary Breakfast
βœ… Free Parking

The Best Western Plus Revelstoke is two kilometres from the town centre. Many people loved and enjoyed having the variety of the complimentary breakfast.

Moose Hotel & Suites (Banff)

βœ… Excellent Location
βœ… High Comfort Rating

One of the favourite hotels in Banff is the Moose Hotel and Suites. They are also a minute away from the heart of Banff and highly rated for their comfort level.

Ocean Village Resort (Tofino)

βœ… Beachfront
βœ… Fantastic Staff

With the option of choosing between the views of the Lower Studio Suites or the Upper Studio Suites, nothing can beat the excellent location of the Ocean Village Resort.

Best Winter Road Trips In British Columbia – FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions for the best winter road trips in British Columbia.

How Many Days Do You Need For British Columbia?

You will likely need 10 to 14 days in British Columbia if you plan a winter road trip. Including the driving time and other winter activities, you plan on doing at your destinations.

Is January A Good Time To Visit British Columbia?

Yes! January is an excellent time to visit British Columbia as it is one of the year’s colder months, perfect for hitting the mountains.

What Is British Columbia Like In December?

Depending where you are in British Columbia will impact what December is like. Suppose you are by the coast, like Vancouver. In that case, it will feel cooler with temperatures dropping in the negatives (nothing usually below -5 degrees Celsius; 23 degrees Fahrenheit), with more rainfall and occasional snowfall from time to time.

However, in the interior of British Columbia, temperatures fluctuate and can hit as low as -43.6 degrees Celsius (-46.48 Fahrenheit), with plenty of snowfall and freezing temperatures during the day. 

Where In BC Does It Not Snow?

Victoria, also the capital of British Columbia, is the one place in BC and Canada where it does not snow or snows a small amount, then melts immediately.

Is Revelstoke Bigger Than Whistler?

Whistler is the bigger ski area compared to Revelstoke. Whistler is better suited for families, beginners and intermediate skiers and more overall things to do in the surrounding areas like Whistler Village.

On the other hand, Revelstoke is more for advanced skiers and snowboarders. While Whistler can become crowded, Revelstoke has fewer crowds and is cheaper comparatively.

Conclusion: Best Winter Road Trips In British Columbia

British Columbia offers a winter wonderland for unforgettable road trips. From the Sea to Sky Highway’s beauty of the ocean to the mountains to the stunning scenic route of the Pacific Rim Highway, the province’s diverse landscapes of snowy peaks and charming towns make for the best winter road trips in British Columbia.

Have a good day πŸ™‚