Here is the route of the TransCanada highway from east to west:
Leaving the Alberta border, you have a full day of driving through mountain ranges. You pass through Yoho National Park to Golden, and cross the Rogers Pass through the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains. As you descend into the Interior of BC you arrive at Revelstoke, a city on the banks of the massive Columbia River system.
From there, the highways winds westward into the pretty Shushwap Lakes region, and the towns of Sicamous and Salmon Arm famous for its fleet of houseboats. To the south of Shushwap Lake is the sunny and hot Okanagan Lake region. The only major city on the Trans-Canada Highway is Kamloops, where the North Thompson River joins the South Thompson.
The highest point on the Trans-Canada is at the Kicking Horse Pass on the border between Alberta & BC, with an elevation of 1643 metres. The Roger's Pass is 300 m lower.
The Trans-Canada route (along the #1) heads west along the Thompson River through a high plateau and then south through the Fraser River canyon past scenic towns like Lytton and Yale. The Coquihalla Highway route south from Kamloops (no longer a toll highway), cuts time by heading diagonally southwest to the town of Hope.
From Hope, you drive westwards through the lush farmlands of the Fraser River Delta and through the suburbs (Langley, Surrey, New Westminster, and Burnaby) of Vancouver. Once you cross the Burrard Inlet, the highway climbs through North Vancouver and West Vancouver for magnificent views of Vancouver's downtown across the water, and ends at Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal.
From here, you can catch the ferry across the Georgia Straight to Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island. The ferry ride is typically 90 minutes. From there it's a two-hour drive south through towns like Cowichan, Duncan and Mill Bay to Victoria and "Mile 0" of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Recently, BC Ferries added a ferry terminal south of Nanaimo (at Duke Point), and upgraded their ferry terminal south of Vancouver, at Tswwwassen and the BC government built a new Highway 17, South Fraser Perimeter Road to connect from Langley (Exit #53)to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal.
These improvements divert traffic to Vancouver Island away from the busy #1 through the Metro Vancouver communities of Surrey, New Westminster, Burnaby, North Vancouver, and West Vancouver, where traffic congestion & accidents can increase travel times, to a nice road that follows the South Fraser River and then takes a short drive through the pastoral farmlands of Delta to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, taking only a half hour. Traffic to the Mainland can avoid downtown Nanaimo (Departure Bay) and instead use Duke Point, arriving at the same Tsawwassen Terminal where the Swartz Bay (Sidney/North Saanich) ferries arrive. The Nanaimo-Tsawwassen ferry takes 2 hours, but this route provides travelers a more restful route for their drive.
History of the Trans-Canada in BC
Many people have enquired with our website about the sign in Tofino, that claims to be the “Western Terminus of the Trans-Canada Highway”, and we have been interviewed by travel journalists from around the world on this topic.
The sign was erected back in 1912 by that town’s council to encourage construction of a cross-Canada roadway, suggesting it should end at the westernmost point possible. When the highway route was selected in the post-World War II era, it the federal funding for it was focused on connecting major population centres and provincial capital cities (see Highway History). That is why the official highway passes through/by Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay, uses a ferry connection to Nanaimo, and connects south to Victoria. At the time, back in 1953, the BC government extended the 4-lane Island Highway (#19) north from Nanaimo up to Campbell River, providing high-speed highway connections between the island’s major population (and commercial/tourist) centres.
The two-lane route to Tofino, Highway 4, was an unpaved gravel forestry road from 1959 until 1972, when it was paved, and is currently getting improved in a number of sections. This road was not paved until a decade after the Trans-Canada Highway was deemed completed. The highway connects the communities of Parksville and Qualicum Beach, Port Alberni ( a deepwater port long important to the lumber industry) and Tofino & Uclulet on the west coast of the Island. The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve was created in 1970, and was the impetus for the paving of Highway 4. The road has two high points, Port Alberni Summit (400 metres, about 9 km east of Port Alberni), and Sutton Pass (elevation 240metre, about 40 km W of Port Alberni) west of Port Alberni.
The road between Qualicum Beach and Tofino has narrow shoulders, steep and long ups and downs, and is NOT RECOMMENDED for cyclists, wishing to do a cross-Canada route. Stick to the official Trans-Canada Highway, and start/end your Pacific leg at Victoria.
Here are some featured B.C. cities & towns along or near the Trans Canada Highway:
BC: Vancouver is nestled around the eastern end of Burrard Inlet, a natural deepwater harbour, and the mouth of the huge Fraser River
BC: The District of Hope, with its 6800 residents, is at the eastern end of the fertile Fraser Valley and is the gateway to the Lower Mainland.
BC: Nanaimo is Vancouver island’s second biggest city, with a population of 76,000.
BC: Kamloops is at the junction of the North and south branches of the Thompson River at Kamloops Lake, and now sits where the Trans-Canada Highway (#1) meets the Coquihala (#5).
BC: This 12,000 population city sits on Highway 1, midway between Kamloops and Revelstoke
Here are some featured itineraries of British Columbia segments of the Trans Canada Highway:
BC: Here is the itinerary for the 220 km along the #1 between Revelstoke, BC and Lake Louise, AB, via Golden and Yoho National Park
BC: Here is the itinerary for the 219 km along the #1 between Kamloops and Revelstoke, via Salmon Arm and Sicamous
BC: This is the itinerary for the 291 km along the #1 between Hope and Kamloops via the #1, via the Fraser Canyon, Lytton, and along the Thompson River
BC: Here is the itinerary for the 142 km along the #1 highway between Victoria and Nanaimo (heading eastbound on the Trans-Canada):