Driving through BC
February 14, 2012 9:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning a drive from Calgary, AB to Victoria, BC this Friday, and I would like your advice.

I'm driving from Calgary to Victoria for the long weekend with my partner. We'll be leaving around 1pm on Friday, and we plan on driving till 10 or 11pm and staying overnight wherever we get to. Saturday morning we'll try to get one of the morning ferries over to Schwartz Bay.

Do you have any advice for me? Any parts of the Trans-Canada that are particularly nasty right now? (I've looked at the highway cams on this website, but they don't give a lot of information.) Any long stretches with no fuel stops that we should plan ahead for? Any attractions along the way that we need to see?
posted by mossicle to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: I find the Weather Network's road conditions maps to be more useful than the cameras since you're not trying to guess if the road you're looking at is covered in black ice or not.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:33 AM on February 14, 2012


Best answer: The stretch from Kamloops to Hope, assuming you drive the Coquihalla, is not very good for gas stations. While you might think you can just fill up in Merritt, it's actually about a 30 minute operation with the detour off the highway, fillup, faffing around.

I can't speak to road conditions. If you have a smart phone you'll want to keep on top of it. Coquihalla Summit is one of the most weather-dependent stretches, which surprises some people because the feeling is that you're almost there.

The ferries should be ok w/o a reservation at this time of year. Hope to Tswassen is about exactly 2 hours, considering the drive through suburban Vancouver, so don't just look at the distance and think because it's only 110 km or whatever that it'd be faster than that.

Big picture: give yourself plenty of time. The passes can be nasty and the other drivers careless. Just go slow and take it as it comes.
posted by Rumple at 9:34 AM on February 14, 2012


Best answer: It is impossible to predict the Rocky's weather more than a day in advance. Make sure you take a sleeping bag or extra clothing, and snow boots and gloves & et al, in case you end up stranded. Parts of that highway are notoriously treacherous. The same applies to the Coquihalla (perhaps more so, because traffic drives ludicrously fast on the Coq.) There is construction all over the place, especially as you approach Golden.

You'll easily make it from Calgary to Sicamous on a tank, but filling up in Revelstoke may be better. Don't speed in the National Parks or near Golden or Revelstoke. Especially in those places.

The entire drive is beautiful. You'll end up with neck strain, looking around.

The only great non-natural attraction on that drive is the Revelstoke Dam. Well worth an hour; make sure you get up to the top. One of the world's bigger dams, and one hell of an engineering feat.

Drive safely. A lot of people die on the BC section of the Trans Canada. The road can be very twisty, very narrow, black ice, lots of traffic, plenty of deer, tourists, etc. (Personally, I've resolved to never drive it in the winter again. I came much too close to death the last time.)
posted by davidpriest.ca at 9:36 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Do you have any advice for me?

Buy winter tires if you don't already have them.
posted by Dasein at 9:43 AM on February 14, 2012


Best answer: Driving at night on that stretch of highway is scary. Is there any way to shift more of your drive to daylight hours?
posted by crazycanuck at 9:59 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best answer: We'll be leaving around 1pm on Friday, and we plan on driving till 10 or 11pm and staying overnight wherever we get to. Saturday morning we'll try to get one of the morning ferries over to Schwartz Bay.

I would say the earliest you're going to get the ferry is at 1PM in the afternoon on Saturday, and that's assuming you stop in Hope for the night. I guess the 11AM ferry is doable from Hope, but it's not easy to get to Tsawwassen from Hwy 1.

You could try taking 56th through Langley to get onto Hwy 99 (and then Hwy 17), but traveling through Langley is so slow.

However, it's optimistic to think you'll make it to Hope on Friday night, and the Coquihalla can be just nasty. It might be safer to stop in Kamloops and plan on getting the 3PM to Victoria.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:02 AM on February 14, 2012


Best answer: Yeah, winter tires or at least chains. You're still supposed to have them with you for the Coquihalla. And, as someone mentioned, there's no gas between Merritt and Hope so fill up before then (although I don't think stopping in Merritt is so bad -- there are the 2 or 3 stations right off the highway, with Starbucks right next door! Just don't miss the correct exit for westbound highway or you'll end up back towards Kamloops).

For sights, if you have the time, there's Hell's Gate, the waterfalls at Wells Gray Park outside Clearwater, and actually quite a few nice little scenic spots that will be marked with signs along the highway. It's fun to stop at them even if it's just a little historical plaque and a stretch break.
posted by Pomo at 10:41 AM on February 14, 2012


Can you easily get to Hell's Gate and Clearwater if you take the Coquihalla?
posted by KokuRyu at 10:50 AM on February 14, 2012


Best answer: Hell's Gate is a major detour from the Coquihalla - you'd probably have to take the possibly dodgy mountain road that leads out from Merritt to Spences Bridge, or else backtrack an hour from Hope. In any case, Hell's Gate is over-rated - it's much more fun to walk down at Alexandra to the old ca. 1916 Alexandra suspension bridge where you can get as close as you ever want to be to a Fraser River rapid....

But I would suggest that's not on the OP's itinerary given their stated intentions.

Whoever said the key thing is to monitor the weather very closely has it - that conditions can change hourly. It's the Trans-Canada and all, but definitely not to be taken lightly in the heart of winter.
posted by Rumple at 12:11 PM on February 14, 2012


Best answer: The worst parts are usually Golden to Revelstoke, and Kamloops to Hope. Make sure you have your car emergency kit, extra food, blankets, etc just in case. Keep your tank full. Keep your windshield washing fluid full. Make sure you have tons of good music/podcasts/a travelling companion who will stay awake and talk to you. It's a gorgeous drive, but can be grueling. Thankfully the #1 is twinned most of the way, so it is a lot safer now than it ever has been.
posted by arcticwoman at 4:29 PM on February 14, 2012


Another non-specific piece of advice: I'm not sure why you're going to Victoria specifically, but you'll find the whole thing a lot less stressful and a lot more safe if you go with the view that the journey is the destination and be prepared to turn back, make extra overnight stops along the way, etc. You don't want to put yourself in a position where you're pushing through on unsafe roads just to get to your destination on a deadline. You need to go into this trip with the mindset that turning around and going back is an option.

If you absolutely must be in Victoria for some reason? Fly.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:34 PM on February 14, 2012


Response by poster: Late update: I decided against making the trip after seeing all your comments. I had heard it was a tough drive, but I definitely underestimated it. I usually fly, but when I checked ticket prices the week before, it was something ridiculous like $800 round trip. I'll consider driving out again when the weather gets nicer in the spring. Thanks everyone.
posted by mossicle at 5:44 PM on February 27, 2012


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