I love day trips and weekend adventures, especially in the great outdoors. My favourite four provincial and national parks that I’m talking about below are my favourite combination of both, all within a 5-hour drive of Kamloops in British Columbia and Alberta.
Wells Gray Provincial Park
Just 1.5 hours north of Kamloops on the Yellowhead Highway, is Wells Gray Provincial Park. There’s so much to do in this park from canoeing, kayaking, camping, fishing, hiking, to horseback riding. I like to visit as a day trip to explore the waterfalls throughout the year. When visiting in the winter, there aren’t many parking spots cleared of snow, so I visit Dawson Falls and Helmcken Falls. If you know of others that are accessible in the winter, let me know in the comments below! In the summer, there are 41 waterfalls to discover, though if you are on a day trip then I suggest visiting the ones that are easily accessible and have lots of parking. Helmcken, Dawson, and Spahats Falls.
Spahats Falls’ viewing platform is about a 5-minute walk from the parking lot whereas Dawson Falls is about 1KM from the summer parking lot and 500 metres from the winter parking lot (there are about 5 spots available for winter parking in the summer bus-only parking spot). The viewing platform at Helmcken Falls is about 500 metres from the parking lot and an easy walk in both summer and winter.
There are quite a few places to stay in Clearwater and inside the Park if you want to spend more time exploring the area.
Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is about a 5-hour drive from Kamloops, so it’s perfect for a weekend getaway any time of the year. I’ve visited in all seasons and there is something to do for everyone. My favourite things to do are the Maligne Lake Cruise to Spirit Island, Maligne Canyon Hike with lunch at the Wilderness Kitchen afterwards, and a visit to Athabasca Falls.
Yoho National Park
Driving from Jasper to Banff along the Icefield Parkway hosts stunning views and a multitude of places to stop and admire the gorgeous scenery. One short detour on the way is to visit Yoho National Park, back into British Columbia, to see Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge.
When you drive from Kamloops to Banff or Jasper through Revelstoke and Golden, you will go through Field, BC as well. Driving this route you’ll have to stop in Golden and check out the Golden SkyBridge, Canada’s highest suspension bridge, well “bridges” there are two. It’s a great place to stop for lunch and a bit of an adventure!
At Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge, parking can be a challenge in both places, depending on the time of year that you visit, but it’s well worth it!
Banff National Park
To drive to Banff from Kamloops takes about 5 hours, depending on how many stops I make (like at the Golden Skybridge and Emerald Lake). With so many places to visit and things to do, I’m giving just a sample and have a link for you to discover more.
In the Lake Louise area, I like to visit both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, as each one offers different spectacular postcard views.
There are many great places to stay in Banff such as the Rimrock (a quiet location near Banff Gondola), and outlying areas, but I find I’m drawn to downtown locations where I can walk to restaurants and shop. Two of my favourites are Mount Royal and Elk & Avenue.
A few of my favourite activities in Banff are the Gondola with dinner at Sky Bistro as the sun sets, a Lake Minnewanka cruise, and an Open Top tour of historic Banff in a replica vintage coach.
These are just a few things to do on road trips from Kamloops. There are many waterfalls, hikes, and more to explore. I can’t wait for my next road trip and to see where it takes me!
Ask me about things to do in BC and Alberta and if I can help you book any of these adventures, I’m happy to help!