British Columbia staycations offer endless possibilities for summer fun and adventure. Beyond Vancouver and the BC Interior are the towering mountains, high alpine trails and turquoise-hued rivers and lakes of the Rocky Mountains. This seemingly far-off region of BC is actually not that far off. Within a day’s drive of the Lower Mainland, summer road-trippers can easily be in this stunning region, taking in new and exciting experiences.
Top of the list of summer things to do in the Rocky Mountains is whitewater rafting. What is the most exciting river in British Columbia, with the biggest and wildest waves and rapids? The answer is the infamous Kicking Horse River, near Golden, BC. During high water season (late May to early July), this river truly ‘kicks’ with Class 2 through Class 4+ wild whitewater. Class 2, 3 and 4 waves remain consistent as the higher peaks of the Rockies offer alpine snowmelt throughout the summer. It is definitely worth the drive to the Rockies for this world-class whitewater rafting experience.
Rafters, certainly, can drive straight through to the RiverBase from the Lower Mainland for their scheduled trip. But why not take the time to truly appreciate the majesty of the Rockies? Below is a multi-day Rocky Mountain itinerary that includes rafting and so much more. Customize your staycation by adding in as many days as desired.
The goal today is Kamloops … and beyond! By striking out early in the day from the Lower Mainland, visitors can be in Kamloops for lunch. A cornucopia of food trucks offers an international selection of flavours for growling tummies. Stop by one of the many craft breweries, cideries or distilleries for supplies to enjoy later in the evening, once the day’s drive is done. Carry on northward from Kamloops along Highway 5 towards the picturesque mountain towns of Blue River and Valemount for the night. Valemount and the Robson Valley are approximately 3 hours from Kamloops.
From Valemount, and along Highway 16 East, strike out into one of BC’s crown jewels: Mount Robson Provincial Park. As the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies, glacier-clad Mount Robson towers over forests, alpine lakes and an abundance of trails. If hiking to Berg Lake, be sure to make trail reservations before leaving home. Farther down the highway, next door in Alberta, is Jasper National Park. Remember to advance watches by one hour and to purchase a Park pass. The town of Jasper boasts a wide selection of accommodations, campgrounds and restaurants. Later in the evening, look up and marvel at the night sky. There is a very good reason why Jasper is designated as a Dark Sky Preserve.
Southbound from Jasper is one of the world’s most spectacularly scenic drives: the Icefields Parkway. Although only 230km in length, an entire day is needed to journey from one end to the other. With travelling through the heart of the Rocky Mountains, be sure to have plenty of storage room on the camera for photographs. Remember also to fill up the gas tank before leaving Jasper. With pre-arranged reservations at Kicking Horse Campground, in Yoho National Park, there is no worry about where to sleep tonight. Take your time and enjoy the drive.
Today is the day for whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River! Just down the road from the campground, is the Wild Water Adventures RiverBase. Join the crew of Wild Water Adventures and experience the biggest and wildest whitewater in the Rockies. Choose from half-day or full-length trips to satisfy ‘mild to wild’ whitewater preferences. The Whitewater Exciter is non-stop BIG whitewater action while the Gentle is the ideal introduction to whitewater rafting (perfect for families and rafters who want to get ‘splashed’ rather than soaked!). The full-length Tradition combines the two shorter trips together to maximize the entire river experience. The double-shot Maximum Horsepower is two runs down the big whitewater section, in two different types of rafts! Trips are offered daily, mid-May through mid-September. Minimum age and weights apply for all trips. Don’t forget to make your rafting reservation before leaving home. Trips do sell out well in advance.
After Golden white water rafting, which can include lunch, a short 20-minute drive along TransCanada Highway #1 brings visitors to the charming town of Golden. Nestled between the Rockies and Selkirks, and between the Kicking Horse and Columbia rivers, Golden provides small-town charm with all the local amenities.
From Golden, the drive back towards Kamloops and the Lower Mainland is straightforward. Simply take TransCanada highway #1 due west. At Kamloops, either continue on the TransCanada (travelling through the Fraser Canyon) or divert to Highway #5 (Coquihalla). Remember to adjust watches back to Pacific Standard Time at Roger’s Pass.
Spending time in the Rockies requires very little travel time from other regions of British Columbia. Stunning mountain and river landscapes are but a day’s drive away. Upon arrival, each visitor then has a tough decision to make: How long should I stay? Please travel responsibly during your regional staycation.
We look forward to seeing everyone on the river soon!
Author: Deborah Wade