Canadian Roadtrips – the Yellowhead Highway

Recently we went on a road trip, and we took one of my favorite routes, the Yellowhead Highway from Kamloops to Edmonton. This road winds through some amazing country. Along it you’ll find gorgeous mountains and waterfalls, and you’ll have a very good chance of seeing wildlife such as moose, bears, elk and bighorn sheep. The road follows the North Thompson River valley north from Kamloops then turns east through Mount Robson Provincial Park and Jasper National Park.

About 20 minutes out of Kamloops we come to the turnoff to Sun Peaks Resort, turn right and follow the road as it winds up the mountain for another 30 minutes. The resort is open year round, excellent skiing in the winter, golfing and many other activities in the summer. One of the ski lifts is open in the summer to take you up the mountain for hiking through the beautiful wildflower meadows. You might even spot a black bear from the lift. In the Sun Peaks village you can also arrange to rent a canoe and go paddling on McGillvray Lake. Click here for more information.

Wildflower meadows, Sun Peaks Resort
Wildflower meadows, Sun Peaks Resort

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But lets get back on the road. It takes about an hour from the Sun Peaks turnoff to get to Clearwater, the gateway to Wells Gray Provincial Park. This park is absolutely amazing, 1.3 million acres or 5250 square kilometers of alpine wilderness. There are at least 41 named waterfalls, including the famous Helmcken Falls. Much of the park is wilderness, but there are also many well maintained hiking trails. Visit the information center in Clearwater for maps and tips. Here is a link to the official website. Read about a great day of hiking in the park here.

 

Next stop: Blue River. On a previous trip a group of us spend an amazing hour doing the River Safari just north of Blue River, can’t miss their signs. A jeep safari is also available as well as a combo tour. It’s a great way to see wildlife with a knowledgeable guide.

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This time we only had time to stop at the floating restaurant which is part of the River Safari set-up. The food is amazing and centers around things a bear might eat like berries and salmon but much better seasoning than bears usually enjoy. It’s definitely worth stopping in. Click here for more information.

Valemount is surrounded by majestic mountains
Valemount is surrounded by majestic mountains

Valemount is a small community of about 1020 inhabitants, located 320 kilometers north of Kamloops. It’s situated between 3 majestic mountain ranges, the Rockies, the Monashees and the Cariboo Mountains. This tiny village is very tourist oriented with many different accommodations and activities especially for nature lovers. It’s also the last place to fuel up our car for the long drive to Hinton, Alberta. A short time after leaving Valemount we come to a major highway junction were we turn east on transcanada highway 16. This route first passes trough Mount Robson Provincial Park and than Jasper National Park.

Moose
A young moose
Mount Robson Visitor Center
Mount Robson Visitor Center

The Mount Robson Visitor Center is a great place for another break. There is a lot of interesting information about the park and it’s wildlife including a display where you can compare your height to that of a moose. I’m about as tall as a 6 months old moose. There is also a café here and a gift shop where they sell very expensive gas to those who forgot to fuel up before. Take the time to go for at least a short hike, it’s so beautiful here. Mount Robson is the highest point in the Canadian Rockies, elevation 3954 m. Often it’s top is covered by cloud. I hope when you come you will get a clear view. For more information click on this link.

 

After leaving Mount Robson Provincial Park you come to the Alberta border where you enter the mountain time zone, and the park gate for Jasper National Park. As we are just passing through on the highway we don’t have to pay, but we still get to enjoy the awesome landscape and wildlife along the road. Speed limits in the park are relatively low, and when you see a lot of vehicles stopped by the roadside there is probably wildlife nearby. So stop too and enjoy. Here is a link to the official website.  Jasper is the largest of the national parks in the Canadian Rockies and is part of UNESCO’ s Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.

Mount Edith Cavell
Mount Edith Cavell

 

Shortly after passing the township of Jasper you have to stop and look back to see Mount Edith Cavell. On this trip we were fortunate and got a clear view of this 3363 m peak.

We really love Jasper National Park. In many ways I like it even better than Banff. There are fewer people, and the scenery is breathtaking. It’s been many years since we’ve really spent any time there. I hope we will have an opportunity soon.

This is such a whirlwind tour of this amazing place. But we have to get to Edmonton so we drive on and before you know it we are out of the mountains and in Hinton, and from there it’s another 3 hours to Edmonton. So no more stops, let’s go!

Downtown Edmonton and Walterdale Bridge
Downtown Edmonton and Walterdale Bridge
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