We have driven around Canada; a lot. One thing that never ceases to amaze me during every road trip across Canada is how vast this land is and how diverse the terrain when you actually get out on the road and see it from ground level. Everyone knows about the big road trips like the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia and Sea-to-Sky in British Columbia but I wanted to share some of the scenic drives that may be far off the beaten path and off the radar of road trip warriors.
So without further ado, I would like to present a list of my ten favourite roads in Canada. If you’re planning a cross-country Canada road trip, keep these routes in mind. It was so hard to narrow it down and there were a lot of places that deserve to be on this list but I had to be ruthless, otherwise I’d have a post that would need its own site. They are listed below from west to east and not in any kind of ranking.
Table of Contents
- 1 Crowsnest Highway (Hwy 3) – British Columbia
- 2 Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) – British Columbia and Alberta
- 3 Highway 10 – Alberta
- 4 Ecotour Road through Grasslands National Park – Saskatchewan
- 5 Highway 1 and Highway 5 – Northwest Territories
- 6 Highway 17 between Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay – Ontario
- 7 Highway 21 – Ontario
- 8 Highway 132 – Quebec
- 9 Peggys Cove Road (Route 333) – Nova Scotia
- 10 Highway 16 – Prince Edward Island
Crowsnest Highway (Hwy 3) – British Columbia
Found in the south end of British Columbia and Alberta, this highway winds through some beautiful mountain views for approximately 1161 km (721 miles) beginning in Hope, British Columbia to Medicine Hat, Alberta. Small rest areas are plentiful and welcome and you will mostly find small towns as you drive through the mountains. There has been an influx of tourist traffic as evidenced by the cafes and gift shops that are found here. My brother drove this highway in 2005 and told me that there was next to nothing so it appears that tourist traffic has increased since then. We stayed in Cranbrook for a couple of nights and it is a wonderful little town with some outstanding food and wineries, not to mention the Kokanee brewery. Read more about our trip on the Crowsnest Highway here.
Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) – British Columbia and Alberta
If you want the full Rocky Mountain experience, Highway 93 has got it all as it runs roughly north to south through Jasper National Park, Banff National Park, and Kootenay National Park. From towering mountains to lakes coloured by glacier water and ample hiking trails, this road is guaranteed to deliver spectacular scenery. Not to mention the bustling towns of Jasper, Banff, and Radium Hot Springs that will keep you well-fed. Be warned, traffic is likely to be brought to a halt by wildlife and wildlife spotters. We have driven through there a few times and you can read more with these links: Enter the Prairies and Piper’s Last Road Trip
Highway 10 – Alberta
Highway 10 will tale you through The Badlands which is famous for its rich deposits of fossils. This area has terrain that is a stark contrast to the mountains to the west and the surrounding prairies. The town of Drumheller is home to the Royal Tyrell Museum, the world’s largest dinosaur, and the Star Mine Suspension Bridge. Drumheller has totally embraced it’s dino reputation and has fun dinosaur statues scattered about the town. Outside of town, follow the Hoodoo Trail for some astounding rock formations. Click here to read more.
Ecotour Road through Grasslands National Park – Saskatchewan
I have made no secret of the fact that I was blown away by Grasslands National Park when I visited in 2017 as part of our National Park tour. I had expected flat empty prairie but instead I saw herds of bison roaming the hills and grouse and prairie dogs everywhere. In fact, I saw more wildlife in the less than 24 hours we were at the park than I did on the rest of a three-week drive through Canada. On top of that, it was just so wild that it stole my heart and I’m hoping to get back there soon. The part that got me was that unlike most parks I have been to, there were no established trailheads; when you wanted to go for a hike, you just parked and walked. Luckily, we were able to ignore the call of the far-off horizon, otherwise we would have just kept walking. After we had left Drumheller, we ended up in Grasslands, so you can read about the second part of that drive here.
Highway 1 and Highway 5 – Northwest Territories
There is a certain nostalgia that comes with this road as it was the farthest north that I have ever been. Be careful driving through Wood Buffalo National Park as bison use the road as well and are known for not following the rules. In fact, I had some members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police tell me that it was not safe to drive at night because you won’t see the bison until it’s too late. A stop at Alexandra Falls is a must; you can literally stand on the edge of the third tallest waterfall in the Northwest Territories with nothing between you and the water. Read more about our northern adventure by following this link.
Highway 17 between Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay – Ontario
This is still one of my most favourite roads in Canada. There’s something about the exposed rock, thick banks of fog, and the never ending waters of Lake Superior that always gets to me. There are plenty of places to pull off the highway to wander along the shore and if you’re lucky, you can find a trail to hike. We have driven through here so many times, that I have just attached a few links: Lake Superior, The Long Road Home, and Metal Moose and Painted Rocks. Looking back at these posts, I love that we can drive the same road and yet it all looks so different. It’s just part of the fun of a road trip.
Highway 21 – Ontario
The water in some parts of Lake Huron are the most stunning shade of blue that I have ever seen; the same shade that you would expect to see in the Caribbean. Small towns give you a place to wander but it’s still undeveloped for the most part so there are lots of opportunities to stop for some great photos. Click here to read about our drive and see some more great pictures.
Highway 132 – Quebec
Highway 20 and Route 132 roughly mirror each other along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River so if you need to get somewhere fast, you can hop on Highway 20. If you want to enjoy the scenery that comes with being right next to the St. Lawrence River and all the wonderful little places to stop for a bite or shop at an artisanal shop, then Highway 132 is definitely the route to take. Highway 132 also runs through Forillon National Park which is one of my favourite National Parks so it’s a win win situation. Read more about the our first along the St. Lawrence River here and King’s First Road Trip here.
Peggys Cove Road (Route 333) – Nova Scotia
The lighthouse at Peggys Cove is one of the iconic landmarks of the east coast and as much as I hate tourist spots this was worth the drive, if only for a couple of great photos. To be honest, I much preferred Peggys Cove Road as the town itself was never designed to have so many people. A short distance away is the Swissair Memorial site, dedicated to Swissair Flight 111 which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on September 2, 1998. A short walk from the parking area will take you to a monument bearing the names of all 229 people who lost their lives in the crash. You can read about our trip here, which includes getting cursed at by an angry bird.
Highway 16 – Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is small enough that you can drive around the island pretty quickly if you don’t stop and enjoy the scenery but why would you do that? The soil is such an interesting shade of red and with lots of protected coves with easily accessible beaches, it’s a perfect place to sit and relax. Highway 16 wraps around the northeastern tip of the island with some great places to stop for a bite next to the ocean. Read more about our trip to Canada’s smallest province here.
I know there are scenic roads in Canada that I didn’t put here and I’d love to hear which ones you think should have made the list. Expect this collection to change as we continue to explore our wonderful country.
I have attached a map with the rough locations of the roads indicated below. If you do add any of them to a road trip itinerary, I’d enjoy hearing about it.