Top 5 Tips For Summer & Winter in West Canada
West Canada, particularly the states British Columbia and Alberta are two of the most popular places to visit. Both summer and winter times have a lot of different and great things to offer.
In summer, you can explore nature and the mountains through hiking or biking or spending time in the different National Parks or at the lakes. While this time of the year is most popular for traveling to Western Canada, also the winter is worth visiting.
The snow covered mountains and trails make it a beautiful winter wonderland. It is a prime destination for snow sports like skiing, cross country skiing or snowshoeing in the world- class ski resorts.
Here are my top 5 tips for summer and winter enjoyment in Western Canada.
1. Visit the Biggest City of British Columbia: Vancouver
Summer in Vancouver is very spectacular and from my perspective one of the most beautiful and attracted cities to visit. The mix of culture and nature makes it a popular place for all kinds of activities. Have a nice walk at the scenic waterfront over into Stanley Park which is a huge Park located along the sea. You can have a nice picnic down there, enjoy a nice walk, have an ice cream or rent a bike for a very nice ride.
From the waterfront you reach Gastown within walking distance. It is a highly recommended area for buying typical Canadian goods and souvenirs in all those tiny little shops. A very famous place both for locals and visitors is Granville Island which is located south of downtown, right under the Granville Bridge. It is well known for its public market with fresh fruits and vegetables but also a cultural hub with theatres, artist and workshops.
For nature and mountain lovers Grouse Mountain and Mount Cypress are beautiful places to go hiking or biking. The area offers a lot of different trails for all levels. One of my favorite attractions is the Capilano Suspension Bridge close to Capilano River. They are located in North Vancouver and reachable by bus from downtown. You can also take the Seabus from waterfront station to Londsdale Quay and take the bus from there. It is definitely more fun.
Even though many people prefer summer in Vancouver, it is definitely worth visiting it in winter as well. For winter sport lovers the city and greater area of Vancouver is a paradise. At Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain you have a vast number of skiing, snowboarding as well as cross country skiing options. My personal recommendation is a guided snowshoeing tour through the valley which is a lot of fun, plus a good workout. If you like it more relaxed and easy going then just have a look at the local Christmas Market downtown and enjoy some good food and drinks.
2. Sail or Fly Over to Vancouver Island and Visit Beautiful Victoria
Victoria is the capital of the Canadian State British Colombia and located in the south of Vancouver Island. BC Ferries offers a 1.5 hour sailing from the Vancouver Tsawwassen terminal to Victoria’s Swartz Bay terminal. It is also possible to take a water plane from Vancouver Harbor which is a little bit more expensive. From my personal experience I would definitely recommend taking the ferry. The scenic and spectacular views along the Canadian Pacific coastlines and little islands are just amazing.
The city is well known for its history and gardens, that’s why people also call it the Garden City. It is a great place to visit in summer and winter. In summer all the beautiful flowers are blooming and the winter is very mild, so it feels like spring. You can wander around downtown, have a look at the different shops, lionize the beautiful historic buildings or relax in the botanic garden. In the wonderful harbor area, you can also find different artists playing music or painting.
If you prefer more adventurous activities then rent a bike or do some hiking trips around the city. To get the most out of it I suggest doing a guided hiking tour in and around Victoria. My favorite guided tour was the hiking tour to the top of Gowlland Tod with HikeVictoria. It is just a few minutes from the city centre. You can expect very scenic and stunning views on your trip. Above all this the guide Mark Vukobrat is just an amazing guide with a lot of local experience and very funny stories. He is also a photographer and takes a lot of different nice and surprising photos.
3. Take the Scenic Highway 99 or Sea to Sky Highway
Highway 99 also known as Sea to Sky Highway is one of the most beautiful highways I have ever driven. It starts in Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and ends in the mountains of Whistler. The stunning overlooks and views across the sea are very fascinating. Parts of the road are just next to the cliffs.
There are a lot of options to stop along the way and take some great photos. In Horseshoe Bay the ferries will take people to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island or the Sunshine Coast. Moreover there are a lot of shops, pubs and restaurants in this area. On the way you will pass the small town Squamish, which is famous for adventures like climbing.
Afterwards you will soon enter Garibaldi’s Provincial Park. It comprises around 700 square miles with lakes, mountains, forests and glaciers. It is a perfect piece of land for hiking lovers. Final destination will be Whistler Village.
4. Visit Whistler Village for all kinds of summer and winter sports activities
Whistler Village attracts winter and summer enthusiasts alike. It is a great place for all kinds of activities like hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding or cross country skiing. For backpackers the Whistler Lodge Hostel is a very need and beautiful place. It is a bit outside the village and reachable by bus or bike. Nevertheless you feel like living in the wilderness and meet some great and friendly people working and staying there.
For mountain bikers Whistler is a paradise. It has a huge Bikepark for downhill lovers and a lot of biking trails around the village for all levels. If you are there the first time I suggest a guided bike tour which makes you feel more secure while hitting the trails. After the bike tour you can directly jump into one of the lakes around and enjoy a swim or a cold beer. By the way you can also rent a kayak or a boat to paddle around the lake.
If you are more into hiking then climb up the different trails to Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain, enjoy stunning views and take some photos. You can also take one of the Gondolas to reach the top and hike to the Glaciers. But make sure that you have enough warm clothes as it can get very cold up there. A very nice attraction is also the Peak to Peak Gondola from Blackcomb Mountain to Whistler Mountain.
In winter Whistler Blackcomb and Whistler Mountain offer a huge skiing and snowboard area with heaps of different slopes to choose from. For Cross Country Skiing I highly recommend the Olympic Area of Whistler.
The village of whistler is also nice for wandering around. It has a lot of sport and other clothing shops, different pubs and restaurants. Good food after a day out in nature is the best.
5. Spend Sometime in the Most Beautiful National Parks
Banff National Park is Canada’s first National Park located in the state of Alberta. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and spectacular for both summer and winter activities. Go to Banff if you love to hit the different hiking and biking trails, do some horse riding or just enjoy a nice swim in Lake Louise. In winter you can ski some of the finest powder, snowshoe around the park or take you cross country skies for a ride.
Jasper National Park is the largest Park in the Rocky Mountains, located in the state of Alberta and like Banff National Park also part of the UNESCO World Heritage. If you are into wildlife, activities and adventures this is a great spot. Exploring mountains, enjoying stunning views or do some canyoning or mountain biking. In winter this place is just a beautiful winter wonderland. From Snowshoeing, Cross-Country Skiing, Skiing or Snowboarding, I am sure there is something for everyone.
By Nadja Braun
Have you ever visited Western Canada? Got any recommendations to share? Let me know in the comments section below.