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. 

7 Reasons Why You Should Go on a Winter Road Trip in Canada

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.

7 Reasons Why You Should Go on a Winter Road Trip in Canada-big horn sheep highway 11 alberta rockies

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!

7 Reasons Why You Should Go on a Winter Road Trip in Canada-hot springs

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.

7 Reasons Why You Should Go on a Winter Road Trip in Canada

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!

7 Reasons Why You Should Go on a Winter Road Trip in Canada-Lynx highway 11 alberta

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 Reasons Why You Should Go on a Winter Road Trip in Canada-2 kayaks 1 canoe

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. 

7 Reasons Why You Should Go on a Winter Road Trip in Canada

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
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Author

One half of a Canadian/British couple currently based in British Columbia, Canada. Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure.

11 Comments

  1. Experience the Northern Lights is really a good reason to go to Canada. We are looking for our next “big trip” this year and one option is Canada, but in september/october before our little one turns 2 (so we don’t need to pay a ticket for him).

    • Gemma Reply

      September/October is another really nice time to visit Canada – the turning of the leaves in some areas is nothing short of spectacular! I actually experienced the Northern Lights for the first time at the very end of August, so it is definitely possible out of winter, depending on where you visit.

  2. Very cool! My husband had contemplated a winter trip to BC and Alberta since we live pretty close in Washington state. We were worried about the roads though and decided against it at the time. I’m glad to see that it is possible though and we will definitely keep this in mind for the future!

    • Gemma Reply

      Hi Valerie, thanks for your comment. Glad to hear you are considering come up to Canada! If you’re not in a rush, winter travel can be really fun. Keep an eye on the weather (current and forecasted), drive to the conditions and don’t hurry! And make sure you have good tires of course!

    • Gemma Reply

      Thanks! I wasn’t ever a fan but it feels nice to be doing winter ‘properly’ for once! It’s certainly better than grey & damp winter days in the UK!

  3. These are all great reasons to visit Canada during the winter. I love all those wildlife photos! We’ve only ever made it to Vancouver and Whistler during winter and it’s one of our favorite destinations. This is inspiring and hoe we can explore the other parts soon. My daughter is going crazy over that lynx picture right now 🙂 What a sighting!

    • Gemma Reply

      I’m so glad you like the wildlife photos so much! Seeing the lynx really was so wonderful and completely unexpected. Whistler is a great place to go to get a taster of a snowy Canadian winter, I would love to go back and do some more exploring!

  4. Hi Gemma,

    I’m planning for a road trip in december (during xmas/new year) from ottawa. I just want to explore scenic places, try different foods and want to be on road (motel or bnb) for a week or so and stay away from city. I heard a lot about some places in quebec. Any suggestions in that front?

    Thanks
    KK

  5. Howard Steinberg Reply

    Been thinking of driving my 2 door Jeep Wrangler lifted jeep ,back home to Vancouver ,B.C it’s the end of January and the hardest time to drive across Canada , I thought about sitting out the weather here in Montreal but think the adventure is what my hart calls for. Was wondering since it’s going to be a Real cool trip I’d love to blog the trip pictures and the Dayly challenges and wonders I’d like to share as you have done for me . By the way thank you for sharing best info on traveling across Canada in the winter . Cheers . Howard

    • Gemma Reply

      Sounds like an adventure indeed! I do hope you don’t head out in the midst of this crazy storm right now though! Let me know how you get on

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