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A Loop Through Western Canada, For As Much Or As Little Vacation As You Want

Ed Ronco
Hit the road and take yourself across British Columbia, to the Canadian Rockies, says KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley.

So you want to get away for a summer vacation, but you'd rather not spend a fortune, and you'd rather not travel overseas. 

Head north, says KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley.

Start On An Island

Victoria is the capital of British Columbia, and is located on Vancouver Island. It has an old European feel to it, and is accessible from Seattle aboard the Victoria Clipper, or from Port Angeles aboard a ferry.

After a stay in Victoria, another ferry ride takes you to Vancouver. And here is where the driving adventure begins. We're going to map out a big loop, but the beauty of the plan is that you can travel as far as you want.

Here are three possibilities:

1. A Long Weekend

Spend your time almost exclusively in Vancouver and Victoria. Vancouver is busy and vibrant. Victoria is quiet and elegant. Both offer retreats from life in Seattle, and make it easy to move about at your leisure. 

2. A Week's Vacation

Spend a few days in Vancouver and then head northeast. You're aiming for Kamloops, about four hours away. Here you can hike, bike, tour a farm, attend the theater or just put your feet up.

Credit Ed Ronco / KPLU
Lake Louise is between Banff and Jasper, on the Alberta side of the Alberta/BC line.

After Kamloops it's on to the B.C./Alberta border, where you'll find Jasper and Banff. These two mountain towns boast astonishing views from within the Canadian Rockies, and are surrounded by Canadian national parks to explore.

Between Jasper and Banff is Lake Louise -- the lake and the town that shares its name. To find the lake, you'll drive back to an enormous parking lot, but don't let that fool you. A short walk from your car and you're staring out at blue water and soaring rock walls.

3. Two Weeks Or More

Continue on, brave motorist! 

Banff is a stone's throw -- OK, fine, about 90 minutes -- from Calgary. Alberta's largest city has a population of about 1.2 million people, and is also home to the Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo, concert series, agriculture exhibition and more. It takes place in early July and brings massive crowds to town. And if the Stampede sounds a little too much like an actual stampede, the city is full of other activities and eventsyear-round.

Coming Home Again

You could head back one of two ways: Through the wine country of the Okanagan Valley, back in British Columbia, or by dropping down into Montana and seeing Glacier National Park.

How far you go and how much money you spend is up to you. If you have your own transportation, you can head home whenever you feel like it. But with an encouraging exchange rate for the Canadian dollar, and some of North America's most stunning scenery, no one will blame you if you stay.


Going Places is KPLU's weekly exploration of travel, from destinations on the other side of the globe to quick getaways in our own backyard. It's hosted each week by Matthew Brumley, co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which leads small group travel experiences around the world, often for public radio clients including KPLU.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.