question about driving from ontario to bc: how long will it take to cross the rockies?

We're planning out our road trip to Vancouver Island a bit more carefully, with less spontaneity than we might normally want, because we need a pet-friendly motel for every stop. At the end of a long day of driving, I don't want to schlep from place to place looking for a motel that will let us stay with Diego! We'll also get better rates online, which will help compensate for any pet fees.

Allan is giving me a list of towns we're aiming for, and I'm booking motels. The question is: how long to leave to cross the Rockies?

We know there are different crossings, some easier (and safer) than others. We know to check weather conditions. We know to have a full tank of gas before starting out. All that kind of stuff: we know. No need for advice on that front. (Although why I bother writing that, I don't know. There is something about moving that brings out the advisers.)

What we don't know is, assuming good road conditions, how long to leave for this leg of the trip. Which pass would you take and how long would you expect it to take?

Update: This trip is not for scenery, not for hiking, and not for sightseeing. That's a bit frustrating for me, but I'd rather have more time in our new home before beginning my new job. This trip is strictly for getting there.


WILLY said...

Douglas pass and take as long as yo can. Its worth it.

laura k said...

Hi WILLY. Perhaps the update will clarify. If you can answer the question, please do. Thanks.

Anthony said...

Don't overthink it. The TransCanada is the most traveled, best maintained way to get from Calgary to Kamloops. It's also the shortest trip in good weather. In bad weather, any of the 3 highways could be closed, so it's best to find out in Calgary what the state of the roads are. If the TCH is closed, my next choice would be the Crowsnest (to the south) rather than the Yellowhead (to the north) since the Crowsnest is the next-shortest route.

From Kamloops you have to decide to continue on the TCH or take the Coquilhala to Hope. The Coq is faster but more susceptible to bad weather delays. DriveBC (www.drivebc.ca) will help you make that decision.

We generally allocate 2 days to get from Vancouver to Calgary (and vice-versa) with a stop in Revelstoke. You can do it in one if you don't mind driving for 12 hours in a day, but that requires good road conditions and no traffic delays for the whole route.

laura k said...

Anthony, thank you so much! This is super helpful.

The Mound of Sound said...

We've made mid-island to Banff in a mini-van in one day. That, of course, includes a ferry ride to the mainland. Two people shared the driving and the roads were clear. We drove at the speed limit, perhaps a little more in some places, but nothing reckless. Then there's the experience factor. How much mountain driving have you logged? As Anthony says it's getting to the winter-driving season. Usually the passes are clear but it's a good idea to keep up to date with conditions as you approach the Alberta foothills.

allan said...


If we are taking the Crowsnest instead of the TCH, don't we have to decide in Medicine Hat (well before Calgary) and then take Highway 3 to Lethbridge, Pincher Creek, etc.?

Jay Farquharson said...

"From Kamloops you have to decide to continue on the TCH or take the Coquilhala to Hope. The Coq is faster but more susceptible to bad weather delays. DriveBC (www.drivebc.ca) will help you make that decision."

If you decide to take the Coquahalla, and the weather is being weather, take the Old 5A to Merritt. The Coquahalla from Kamloops goes over Surrey Summit. It's the highest point on the Coguahalla Highway and is ususally in the worst condition. It's also almost all a steep climb up with crawling semi's, then a fall down losing all the height you climbed down to Meritt.

The Old 5A follows the old First Nations trails along the valley bottoms, it's single lane, get's better weather and only adds 20 minutes to the trip. In bad weather it evens out.

Allen, yup, for the 3A you need to jump off in Medicine Hat, unless you want to see Calgary. There's a bunch of routes from Calgary back down to the 3A.

www.drivebc.ca is regularly updated with current road and weather conditions.

Kyahgirl said...

Hi Laura and Allan and Diego. If you do decide to go the Northern route, through Jasper, I can share my experience. We have made the trip to Victoria numerous times from Fort Saskatchewan. To do it one day it’s a 16 hour trip when you include stops and the ferry. If going alone, I stop for the night in Clearwater or Valemont. I’ve stayed in both places with dogs. I’ve never had a bad experience driving the Coquihala and, in fact, prefer that way as opposed to many trips through the Kootenays and Okanagan on number 3.

Going through TCH is my least fave just due to congestion.
Highway 3 through Crowsnest is most beautiful IMO but I’m biased because I grew up in southern B.C.

You really can’t predict the weather but all routes are pretty good if the weather holds.
Like others have mentioned drivebc is a great resource.
Since you’re used to traffic in the GTA, the traffic on the coast probably won’t bother you but every time we’ve gone to the lower mainland in the last few years it’s been more and more busy and convoluted.

Jay Farquharson said...

Oh, one other tip, the #1 from Savona to Lytton has "no stopping" warnings during rainfall, as the forest fires have stripped the hillsides of cover, they burned so hot they burned the roots out, so there is nothing holding the slopes in place.

laura k said...

Thank you MoS, Kyahgirl, and Jay! Kyahgirl, how nice to see you here. :)

We have driven in various mountains and on all kinds of roads. But not in a truck. And not in bad weather. We're not nervous about it, though.

We will share the driving, but we're also capping it at 7-8 hours/day. My brother would probably go for 12 or more, but few people have his stamina and energy. (He's older than me, btw.)

Great tip about drivebc.ca, not something I would have known.