Canada Trip – Driving On Paved Roads
So, you decided to to a Canada Trip and hit the road? Great idea! A Canada road trip is nowhere as challenging as you might think. At least not if you do it the ‘gentle way’.
In this guide, you will find information on driving roads that are in good condition.
Check Good To Know for more backcountry travel information.
Driving is a way to appreciate the dimensions of this huge country and to see some spectacular scenery on the way. Canada apparently has nearly 900,000 km of road. Wow! No surprise really when looking at its size and the distances between places. Lots of roads are needed to connect sparsely populated remote communities.
You will burn lots of gasoline on your Canada trip once you hit the road, depending on what kind of vehicle you’ll be driving. Try to fill your car with friends to split costs, which is more fun anyway on those long stretches of road.
However, any big Canada trip you’re planning to do needs preparation.
Here you will find out about different stretches of road which may interest you for your Canada trip. These drives anybody can do! It’s only a small taste of what the country of ours has to offer.
Road conditions across the majority of Canada are generally good, especially the main routes. All highways and major roads are paved. Once you get to remote areas or further north the roads may be less well maintained. Some highways in the Northwest Territories and Yukon are mostly gravel. Always check with local authorities about road conditions before heading out.
We don’t have many toll roads in Canada, apart most of the bridges if you go to the U.S. One toll road I know of is on Highway 407 near Toronto, Ontario.
In winter, the main roads in populated areas get cleared quickly after a snowfall. Still, winter driving in Canada can be nerve wrecking at times and you have to expect driving in snow and icy conditions if you drive in winter.
Below are some of the major travel routes.
Trans-Canada – Highway 1
The main Canada highway is the Trans-Canada which connects East and West.
With approximately 8,000 km in length, the Trans-Canada is the longest highway in the world. It follows a fairly direct course across the country, stretching from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia.
For most of its length, you can take alternative highways to make your Canada trip more challenging. They are also considered the Trans-Canada and are often more scenic. All these additional roads would add another couple of thousand km to the length of the Trans-Canada highway.
Three ferries also part of the official trans-Canada highway:
- Between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo in British Columbia
- Port-aux-Basques in Newfoundland to North Sydney in Nova Scotia
- Cariboo Nova Scotia to Woods Island Prince Edward Island.
Another highlight of the Trans-Canada is the Confederation Bridge which links P.E.I to New Brunswick, and the Canso Causeway, connecting Cape Breton to the mainland.
How long will it take to drive the Trans-Canada highway?
It depends. If you’re stopping at roadside attractions and enjoying breaks along the way, plan for 300 km to 400 km a day. Aim to arrive before 6 p.m., so you don’t miss out on any scenery. At that pace, you can cross Canada (one way) in two weeks.”
Canada Trip – Trans-Canada Highway – between Revelstoke, British Columbia and Lake Louise, Alberta
This 220 km portion through the Canadian Rocky Mountains includes the Selkirk Mountain Range and the Glacier National Park in British Columbia. Your final stop is Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta.
Canada Trip – Icefield Parkway, Alberta – Highway 93
The Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic highways in the world. It takes you through wild and remote portions of Banff and Jasper national parks, Alberta, past lakes, waterfalls, and glaciers.
Canada Trip – Sea to Sky Highway, British Columbia
The spectacular Sea to Sky Highway is approximately a 150 km portion of Highway 99 north. It connects with Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver to the mountain-encircled village of Whistler, British Columbia. You travel through narrow valleys with snow-capped mountains views past lakes and inlets, during the approximately 2-hour scenic drive.
Canada Trip – Pacific Rim Highway, British Columbia – Highway 4
Parksville to Tofino, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
This 150 km, partly steep twisting road takes you straight across Vancouver Island to Tofino, a small charming town on the Pacific Ocean.
Things You Should Know For A Canada Trip
There are many more highways and highway portions which would be worth listing here.
Most towns in Canada have Tourist Information Centres which have brochures available with circle routes and scenic drives for specific areas.
On all highways, you will find roadhouses along the way where you can fill up your vehicle and have a meal. The distances between roadhouses can be quite a stretch, depending on where you are. Always make sure you have enough fuel and water to make it to the next one.
Some towns showing on the map are pretty small and you will often only find a gas station with a couple of buildings and maybe a small campground. You will always find a place to park your camper when you’re in the outback.
As you see, it doesn’t need much special knowledge or equipment to enjoy a great trip through the Canadian backcountry. Most important is a good set of wheels, which brings me to the next point.
Is Your Car Up To It?
If you are on the road with a rental car, you shouldn’t have to worry about any mechanical trouble. Rental cars are in good condition and reliable and the rental usually includes road assistant service for your Canada trip.
If you drive your own car, make sure it is up to the job with a service and oil change before departure.
Most highways see plenty of traffic through the summer month and people will help if you break down. But it is a big hassle and interferes with your Canada trip plan.
You have to keep in mind that you could be a long way from anywhere. Even if you do find a mechanic, it will cost you a fortune. There is no guarantee that there will be someone in the next town who can fix your car. And how long would you want to stick around for that spare part to arrive?
Make sure your vehicle is reliable and carry a least one good spare tire. Learn how to change it, and check it before you leave for the trip.
I suggest to join a drivers’ clubs such as CAA, to reduce the stress of possible breakdowns.
I was on the way to Vancouver with a friend a couple of years ago, when the transmission on our truck went. No, we didn’t turn around to go home. As members of BCAA, we got towed the rest of our trip, about 3oo km to Vancouver, where we got the car fixed.
Driving Hazards On A Backcountry Road Trip
As you know by now, the driving distances in Canada are enormous, in some parts the roads go on forever with not much to distract the eye and keep you awake.
Have frequent breaks and swap drivers if you are not on your own. Don’t just push on.
Driving at dusk and dawn is especially risky. That’s when the wildlife is out and you have to watch out for deer, moose, bear etc. There might be cattle on the road in some parts of the country, or wild horses.
Having accidents because of wildlife, especially Moose, is very common in Canada and can be extremely dangerous. The best way is to stop driving at dinner time and get on the road again after breakfast.
Some roads are only open during the summer months. Between November and April highways might be closed because of avalanches. Always find out at local gas stations or road houses about road conditions before you leave.
Always drive according to the conditions to be safe during your Canada road trip.
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