The windows are down, the wind in your hair. You’ve got classic Neil Young cranking on the stereo and Rolo wrappers on the seat. Days pass and the scenery rolls by: gentle farmland, endless highway, glacial peaks, dramatic coast, brooding forest. Canadian road trips are epic. Just look at the size of the country—second-largest in the world after Russia. Take it from Mile Zero in the Northwest Territories to a lobster shack in New Brunswick, or anything in between. Road tripping is the quintessential travel tale. The only question is where to?
Here, our top picks for great Canadian road trips:
Deh Cho connection, AB, NWT, BC
Follow the Deh Cho Route as it follows the mighty rivers first canoed by the north’s earliest inhabitants—in a loop through Alberta, the Northwest Territories and British Columbia. Begin at “Mile Zero” on the Mackenzie Highway or “Mile Zero” on the Alaska Highway, and track the rich lore of trappers, miners and Gold Rush stampeders.
go: June to September
driving distance: 1,800 km (1,118 mi)
Gourmet Route, QC
Pack a cooler for the French Canadian foodie pilgrimage from Québec City to La Malbaie via Saint-Raymond-de-Portneuf, Deschambault, Saint-Alban and Île d'Orléans—ancient cheeses, duck and goose foie gras, herbal beverages, iced apple cider: the list goes on. Head back to the city to wander the colourful Old-Port section and the Market to rendezvous with farmers and producers.
go: Early fall
driving distance: 385 km (239 mi)
Gentle Island, PEI Choose Prince Edward Island for a coastal tip-to-tip tour of lighthouses, fishing ports, dune-skirted beaches with red-soil cliffs and one of the world’s longest natural reefs. Wend through vibrant pastoral landscapes, from Charlottetown to East Point, west to North Cape, then return via West Point and past Confederation Bridge. There are three drives: North Cape Coastal Drive starts in Summerside and loops around the western end of the island; Points East Coastal Drive goes from Mount Stewart to the eastern end of the island; Blue Heron Coastal Drive loops the north and south shore through the centre of the island.
go: June to August
driving distance: varies; 280 km (174 mi)
Mais oui! NB
Immerse yourself in Acadian culture from Shediac to Caraquet on the coast of Canada's only officially bilingual province. Eat lobster in Shediac; take a dip at Parlee Beach; walk the Bouctouche Dunes and hike the Kouchibouguac. Schedule a stop at Miscou Island before heading to the Village Historique Acadien Village in Caraquet.
go: June to September
driving distance: 245 km (152 mi)
Dino Land, AB
Drive from Calgary to Drumheller, dinosaur capital of the world, with a pit stop at Horseshoe Canyon (Canada’s mini Grand Canyon). Take the Dinosaur Trail loop from Drumheller to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology. Cross the Red Deer River on the Bleriot cable ferry; take the Prehistoric Parks walk; amble through Horsethief Canyon. Keep an eye out for T-Rex.
go: Late spring or fall
driving distance: 140 km (87 mi)
The Red Coat Trail, SK
Highway #13 is a window on the patrol route taken in 1874 by the red-serge-coated North West Mounted Police (AKA the “Mounties”), when they travelled west to survey and settle. As you follow the highway from Carlyle to Eastend, you’ll encounter big skies, living history and Saskatoon berry pies.
driving distance: 664 km (413 mi)
Sea-To-Sky Highway, BC
Year-round, it’s hard to find a road trip more awe-inspiring than the Sea-to-Sky Highway, which winds through the lush forests that rim Howe Sound and the perennially snowcapped Coast Mountains between Vancouver and Whistler—and now upgraded for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. En route, you’ll find Shannon Falls with six times the vertical drop of Niagara Falls, the 2,300-m (7,595-ft) volcanic-remnant peaks at Black Tusk, and everywhere, majestic beauty.
go: All year
driving distance: 125 km (78 mi)
The Icefields Parkway, AB
This huge glacial icefield from Lake Louise to Jasper passes by the Canadian Rockies and offers ever-changing views of roiling waterfalls, emerald lakes, alpine meadows and snow-capped peaks. In this wilderness habitat, you’ll catch glimpses of elk, big horn sheep, moose, mountain goats, grizzly and black bears.
go: May to October
driving distance: 230 km (143 mi)
The Dempster Highway, YK, NWT
Running from Dawson City, YT to Inuvik, NWT, the historic Dempster crosses the Arctic Circle and traverses the Continental Divide. In late summer, the tundra is stunning as it turns scarlet and gold, and there’s 24 hours of sunlight to see more than 1,000 plant varieties and the migration of porcupine caribou.
driving distance: 733 km (455 mi)
The road trip to end all road trips. The Trans-Canada between St. John’s, NL and Victoria, BC is the world’s longest national highway. To drive this stretch is a voyage of discovery into the heart of Canadian consciousness and geography.
go: Summer and fall
driving distance: 7,821 km (4,860 mi)