A road trip in Canada during the winter? No, I’m not nuts. It can actually be one of the best times of the year to go, if you have a sense of adventure and some winter driving experience!
Aside from all the standard reasons why travelling around Canada in the winter is awesome (snow! skiing!), there are a few more that may well convince you to take to the road next winter. Read on to find out why winter road trips in Canada are worth the effort.
1. Experience a winter wonderland
Canada in winter is the stuff of Christmas cards and festive films. No, really. Snow makes everything extra pretty, even the most industrial towns and cities.
Take a drive along snowy tree-lined roads to reach vistas with endless white peaks and icy lakes. Bring some snowshoes with you and get even more off the beaten track.
Ever dreamed of a staying in a log cabin with a crackling fire, snow softly falling outside? Canada is the place that this dream is real.
2. Have some of the most popular Canadian sights all to yourself
Want to have the Rockies all to yourself, more or less? Or watch the ocean from a beautiful deserted beach? Explore the most popular city sights in Toronto or Vancouver without long lines or crowds?
Then winter is definitely the perfect time for you to take a road trip in Canada.
Sure, the air may be cool (OK, pretty icy at times) and the ground crisp, but it will be all yours. As a bonus, the Rockies will look even more spectacular with recent snow.
3. Drive British Columbia’s legendary Powder Highway
With 8 world-class ski resorts and endless backcountry opportunities in the Kootenay Rockies, the Powder Highway is well worth driving if you love winter sports. Even if you don’t right now, you may discover a new favourite hobby or two!
Many of the resorts along BC’s Powder Highway offer nordic skiing as well as downhill, something that appeals to my slower sensibilities. Snowshoeing is another popular, slower (yet still immersive and surprisingly tiring) winter activity. Plus there are hot springs too!
4. Experience the famous Northern Lights
Canada is a hot spot for the aurora borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights. The northern territories are particularly well known for their fabulous winter light displays.
Having a vehicle means being able to get away from urban light pollution to see the best displays possible. Use Aurora Watch to check the forecast.
We keep seeing the Northern Lights at completely unexpected times, such as while driving in Northern Alberta just recently. Despite being somewhat in a rush, we pulled off the deserted highway to watch what felt like our own private light show.
5. Some animals don’t hibernate in Canada
Yep, I was as surprised as you. Driving around Canada in the winter doesn’t mean that you will necessarily miss out on encountering some beautiful animals by the roadside.
Moose, caribou (reindeer), mountain goats and deer are all Canadian animals that do not hibernate. Winter is therefore still a great time to do some wildlife spotting in Canada.
We were able to add a few more non-hibernating animals to our list recently, spotting a lynx and lots of big horn sheep near the Rockies. An unforgettable experience!
6. Lower rates on travel expenses
Christmas and ski destinations aside, flights to Canada in winter can be exceptionally reasonable. Accommodation providers usually offer off-season discounts and specials, though keep in mind that some Canadian businesses do choose to close over the winter.
Gas also seems to be at a lower rate over the winter, something that can really help if you’re planning to travel long distances. Consider a getaway to Haida Gwaii or elsewhere along the northern coast of British Columbia – BC Ferries offers special off-peak rates on inside passage routes.
7. It’s not snowy everywhere
Thinking of island getaways – both Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island receive rain during the winter, not snow. On the latter, you can always head up into the mountains if you miss the fluffy white stuff.
These islands experience intense storms in the winter that can be exhilarating to watch. Light a fire and watch the storms roll in from your (discounted) oceanside accommodation.
Winter also brings the best surf conditions to the coast. Tofino, on Vancouver Island’s West Coast is a great place to have a go if you’ve never tried surfing before. There is quite a choice of surf schools in this small town.
Some important notes about road tripping Canada during the winter.
Winter road trips are fun for all of the above reasons and more but it’s not a piece of cake.
- Drive to the conditions
- Don’t rush
- Be prepared (blankets, food, shovel, emergency kit)
- Have a good read of Transport Canada’s winter driving advice before you plan your trip
- Check out the below linked article for more important winter road trip advice