Embark on an extraordinary road trip from Edmonton to Whistler, where each kilometre unfolds into captivating landscapes, fascinating attractions, and charming towns. Though Whistler, with its alpine allure, is the ultimate destination, what lies in between is just as enticing. Nestled between Edmonton’s vibrant cityscape and Whistler’s towering peaks, lies British Columbia’s ‘Land of Hidden Waters’—a treasure trove of experiences adorned with lakes, forests, mountains and all of the other exceptional British Columbia landscapes you know and love.
Breathe in the fresh air as you soak in the stunning vistas, delve into unique local culture, and explore engaging outdoor activities that this less-trodden part of BC has to offer. So let’s hit the road, exploring rather than rushing through, and relish a part of Canada veiled in enchantment between Edmonton and Whistler.
Distance and Drive Time from Edmonton to Whistler
Stretching roughly 1,105 kilometres (686 miles) across two provinces, this road trip takes you from the vibrant urban centre of Edmonton right to the heart of mountain-laden Whistler. This drive can be completed in approximately 13 hours non-stop, but of course, a leisurely and enriching exploration means taking at least a few days to really absorb the journey.
Starting Point: Edmonton
Our starting point is the vibrant city of Edmonton, known for its bustling arts and food scenes. Feed your curiosity at the Royal Alberta Museum, where Alberta’s rich historical and contemporary Indigenous stories are highlighted. Take a stroll through the city’s North Saskatchewan River Valley – a whopping 22 times the size of New York City’s Central Park. Rest up for the journey ahead by exploring these places to stay.
En Route: Jasper
Next on your itinerary is the picturesque Jasper National Park, about 365 kilometres (227 mi) and a 4-hour drive west of Edmonton. Known for its awe-inspiring landscape, the park hosts a wide array of sightseeing spots and outdoor activities such as Maligne Canyon and the Jasper Skytram. Bask in the beauty of the endless vistas, and don’t forget to take a relaxing soak in Miette Hot Springs, the hottest mineral springs in the Canadian Rockies! Find your perfect Jasper accommodation here.
Take a breather in Valemount, a quaint mountain village that commands awe-inspiring mountain views. Bring your hiking gear and explore the backcountry wilderness of Mount Robson Provincial Park (Mount Robson is Canada’s highest peak!). A must-visit attraction is Berg Lake, tucked at the foot of the towering mountain. The turquoise waters of the lake, distinctly punctuated by floating icebergs, make it a visual spectacle. Plan a helicopter ride or click this link for updates on the Berg Lake Trail (due to flooding in 2021, some trails are closed. Please check and plan ahead).
Next Stop: Clearwater and Wells Gray Provincial Park
Your journey continues to Clearwater, another 196 kilometres (122 mi) or 2-ish hours southwest. It’s here where the Land of Hidden Waters region begins. A charming small town on the unceded territory of the Simpcw (pronounced simp-qwuh) and Tsq’escen (pronounced chess-ken) people, Clearwater is the gateway to Wells Gray Provincial Park. Born from volcanoes and carved by glaciers, it’s here you’ll find a section of the world’s only old-growth inland temperate rainforest, as well as pristine lakes, powerful rivers, soaring mountain peaks, spectacular waterfalls, and no pesky crowds! Being a small town, there’s not a huge local dining scene but the Painted Turtle Restaurant, located in Dutch Lake Resort, The Old Caboose Restaurant & Pub, and the Hop n’ Hog Tap and Smokehouse are three of the best spots for road trip grub. The park teems with opportunities for bear-viewing, whitewater rafting, canoeing, and truly embracing the tranquil hush of nature. With so much to do, we’ve highlighted a few options below:
Immerse yourself in the enchanting splendour of nature with a self-guided waterfall tour. Complete with over forty waterfalls, the park truly lives up to its nickname – Canada’s Waterfall Park. Witness the sheer force of water plunging from dramatic heights; the highest among them being Helmcken Falls, a sight that leaves visitors spellbound. Brace yourself for the exquisite beauty of Dawson, Moul, and Spahats Falls—each offering unique landscapes and photo opportunities. For more information, visit our waterfall guides here and here.
Balance the thrill of waterfall exploration with the serenity of the backcountry, facilitated by operators such as Wells Gray Adventures offering unique hut-to-hut hiking and skiing trips. For an elevated experience, hike or helicopter tour to the scenic Trophy Mountains.
Getting out on the Water
Discover the exhilarating side of the park as you navigate its pristine waters by raft or boat. Choose from three reputable whitewater companies—Interior Whitewater Expeditions, Liquid Lifestyles, and Riverside Adventures—to curate the perfect adrenaline-fueled experience tailored to your interests. Ride the exciting rapids under the guidance of expert instructors, creating unforgettable memories along the way. For a more serene aquatic excursion, embark on a tour with Clearwater Lake Tours to the picturesque Rainbow Falls. Glide through the crystal-clear waters of Clearwater and Azure Lakes, both known for their remote, tranquil beauty. Surrounded by nature’s captivating charm, this tour is an ideal way to enjoy a peaceful day on the water and learn about the area’s incredible history.
Places to Stay
It’s impossible to see everything in one day so make sure to book a Clearwater or Wells Gray accommodation ahead of time. Some favourites include Wells Gray Guest Ranch, The Lake House, Cedar Haven Resort, Across the Creek Cabins, Moul Creek Lodge B&B, and Clearwater Springs Ranch.
From here, the road trip unfolds into a choose-your-own-adventure. Depending on your interests, you can extend your trip and select between two equally inviting and equally distanced options:
Route Option 1: Kamloops (Outdoor Adventure meets Wineries, Breweries, and Local Culture)
If your idea of a getaway involves exploring local trails and savouring the fine nectar of a local food and drink scene, this could be your perfect route. Visit the world-famous Sun Peaks Resort for skiing, mountain biking, golfing, or hiking. Raise a toast to your road trip and sip and savour at Kamloops’ three world-class vineyards, four breweries, and sole cidery. Enrich your experience with arts and culture at the Kamloops Art Gallery, the Western Canada Theatre, the Secwepemc (pronounced sec-wep-emc) Museum and Heritage Park, or during a self-guided downtown mural walking tour. For all Kamloops accommodation options, click here. After Kamloops, head towards Cache Creek, turning right on Hwy 97.
Route Option 2: Fishing Highway 24 (Lakes, Cabins, & Guest Ranches)
If a serene lakeside escape with generous doses of outdoor adventure appeals to you more, then route option 2 calls your name. Rather than continuing south on Hwy 5 towards Kamloops, for this detour you’ll turn onto Fishing Highway 24 at Little Fort. Along your way, you’ll discover an incredible amount of lakes that paint the landscape in hues of blue and green. Navigate through exceptional lakefront accommodations offering relaxing escapes, fishing camps, or visit one of the region’s renowned guest ranches where you can indulge in horseback riding, fishing, or hiking while enjoying an authentic ranch-style stay. Once you reach the end of Hwy 24 at 93 Mile, turn left heading south on Hwy 97. Popular detours and stops along this section of the route are Green Lake Park and Chasm Park. Don’t miss out on a delicious visit to The Sugar Shack for authentic Montreal smoked meat and poutine!
Before travelling on to Lillooet, visit Historic Hat Creek Ranch near Cache Creek. Let the era of prospectors and pioneers come alive as you step back in time at an original roadhouse built during the 1800’s gold rush. Enjoy stagecoach rides, a souvenir shop, a restaurant, camping, and cabins. You can even stay overnight in a covered wagon.
Almost There: Lillooet
As you depart the Land of Hidden Waters region, drive on to Lillooet, located at the confluence of the Fraser River and Bridge River. Immerse yourself in the rich St’át’imc (pronounced stat-lee-um) culture of Lillooet with Xwisten Experience Tours. Be captivated by the turquoise beauty of Seton Lake Reservoir from a roadside pullout or hike the short yet scenic Seton Lake Lookout. Top off your visit with a tasting at Fort Berens Estate Winery, Cliff and Gorge Vineyard, or Lillooet Brewing Company and don’t miss the delicious offerings at the Abundance Artisan Bakery.
Fort Berens Estate Winery/@VancityWild
Last Stop: Pemberton
Your journey then leads you to Pemberton, nestled amidst mountain peaks, rolling meadows, and crystal-clear lakes. Take part in an agri-tourism experience, visit one of the amazing breweries and distilleries, or get on a scenic bike trail in Pemberton Valley. If you’re there during summer, don’t miss out on a visit to the Pemberton Museum where Lil’wat Nation and European settler stories come alive.
End Point: Whistler
Finally, you’ll reach your destination—the famous year-round resort town of Whistler. Known primarily for its skiing, it’s a winter wonderland. But there’s plenty more—visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to learn local culture, explore the picturesque trails of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains or unwind in the many dreamy spas of the area.
Alternatives to Driving
Fly: For the most efficient journey (that misses out on this epic road trip!), fly directly from Edmonton (YEG) to Vancouver (YVR). Once in Vancouver, choose from convenient options such as a bus ride with YVR Skylynx, Epic Rides or Snowbus, a car rental, or a car share service to make your way to and from the beautiful Whistler.
If you’re more inclined towards a one-way road trip, a great option would be to rent a vehicle in Edmonton and drive all the way to Whistler stopping at all of the fantastic destinations within BC’s Land of Hidden Waters that we mentioned in this blog. Arrange to drop off the rental in Whistler or Vancouver, then simply book a flight from Vancouver (YVR) back to Edmonton (YEG), making your travel experience seamless and enjoyable.
Electric Vehicle (EV): The most sustainable way to complete this road trip is by driving an owned or rented electric vehicle. This also means not paying for gas along the way! Use our EV Guide for assistance and visit ChargeHub and PlugShare for charging station locations.
Bus: The most affordable way to travel from Edmonton to Whistler is by bus. First, book a Rider Express trip from Edmonton to Vancouver with a transfer in Calgary. Then, once in Vancouver, you can book a trip with YVR Skylynx, Epic Rides or Snowbus to and from Whistler.
Train: For a bucket list experience, book a VIA Rail or Rocky Mountaineer train trip. While a direct Edmonton to Whistler route doesn’t exist, explore each company’s different route options and explore incredible Alberta and British Columbia destinations along the way!
Every twist and turn on this journey from Edmonton to Whistler reveals unparalleled beauty, from the urban charm of Edmonton, and the rugged grace of BC’s Land of Hidden Waters, to the enthralling allure of Whistler. The diversity of this journey guarantees a perfectly curated trip to suit every travel palette—be it outdoor enthusiasts, culture vultures, food and drink connoisseurs, or peace seekers in pursuit of a tranquil escape.
Packed with an array of attractions, this route is a reminder that the journey often holds as much beauty and wonder as the destination itself. So, don’t just drive direct; take your time, stop awhile, and immerse yourself in the delightful experiences that this epic road trip through BC’s Land of Hidden Waters has in store.
As always, please practice safe, respectful, and responsible travel while in the Land of Hidden Waters. Visit our responsible travel page for more info. Tag us in your travel photos with @landofhiddenwaters for a chance to be featured!