Are you ready to hit the open road this summer and explore one of British Columbia’s most underrated road trip routes? The drive from Kamloops to Clearwater may span just 125 km (77 mi), but it’s packed with excitement, natural wonders, and hidden gems that will leave you in awe. With an abundance of unique things to do such as hiking, rafting, and visiting wineries, breweries, and cideries, this route really has it all.
Alongside our activity recommendations, check out the best places to stay during your adventure, from quaint bed and breakfasts nestled in the woods to camping resorts and cabins overlooking majestic peaks. Because the only thing better than a great day of exploration is ending it in a place that feels like home.
So, are you ready to get the ultimate Canadian road trip on your travel bucket list? Let’s unravel the journey and turn your wanderlust into a plan!
Starting Point: Kamloops
The journey begins in Kamloops, a growing wine region and hub of outdoor activity with a thriving arts scene. Here are some of the highlights you shouldn’t miss:
Hike Hoodoos and Hills
Whether you seek a leisurely stroll amidst serene surroundings or crave the exhilaration of conquering rugged terrain, the perfect trail is calling your name. Kamloops is a desert-like valley, where the untamed beauty of wide-open grasslands, aromatic sagebrush, majestic ponderosa pine forests, and dramatic landscapes await. Explore the 3 Spots to View Hoodoos In Kamloops as well as tons of other incredible hiking.
Lac du Bois Protected Grasslands Area: With its crowd-less trails, Lac Du Bois Grasslands is a hidden gem that offers a captivating hiking experience like no other. Lace up those hiking boots and explore trails such as the Mara Trail, which is recommended as a sunrise or sunset hike due to the lack of shade. Other noteworthy trails include the Grasslands Community Trail, Deep Lake Extended Loop, and Cinnamon Ridge Trail, which treats you to epic views of Kamloops’ iconic hoodoos.
Sip Some Fine Wines
When embarking on your road trip from Kamloops, be sure to carve out some time to explore the burgeoning local wine scene. The area’s unique climate and rich, volcanic soil create the perfect conditions for some of BC’s most exciting wineries. Each winery offers a warm welcome to visitors, with tasting rooms and outdoor spaces that offer a delicious glimpse into Kamloops’ unique wine culture.
Monte Creek Ranch Winery Begin your wine journey at Monte Creek Ranch Winery, enjoying alfresco dining on their terrace patio paired perfectly with their award-winning wines.
Sagewood Winery: This winery offers an intimate tasting experience and boasts an array of unique varietals that reflect the region’s distinctive terroir.
Privato Winery and Woodward Cider Co: Treat yourself to a tasting or flight at Privato Winery and Woodward Cider Co. This elegant, boutique winery and its majestic surroundings offer a homey and laid-back sense of intimacy. Enjoy a picnic and take time to savour the idyllic setting as you sip a glass of wine or cider in their peaceful wine garden. Don’t forget to call ahead and book a wine-tasting reservation to ensure a seamless experience.
Visit the Galleries and Museums
Kamloops Art Gallery: A vibrant hub of artistic expression in Kamloops, this gallery showcases contemporary and historical exhibitions of local, national, and international significance. From thought-provoking thematic exhibits to innovative workshops and engaging lectures, the Kamloops Art Gallery offers a dynamic art experience that stimulates dialogue and encourages creative discovery.
Kamloops Museum and Archives: If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Kamloops’ rich history, a visit to The Museum and Archives is a must. Established in 1937, the permanent exhibit is constantly evolving to showcase the city’s diverse culture and communities. With over 20,000 artifacts (making it one of the largest archives in the Interior), it’s a treasure trove of fascinating historical content.
Self-Guided Art Alley Tour: Discover a free open-air art exhibit by strolling through Kamloops’ downtown backstreets. Admire 27 stunning murals on historic buildings that showcase the rich culture and history of Kamloops.
Be a Beach Bum
Riverside Park & Beach: With marked swimming areas, lifeguards on duty, a playground, water park, and even tennis and lawn bowling facilities, Riverside Park is a haven for beach and park lovers. As an added bonus, make sure to catch one of the unforgettable Music in the Park events, where you can immerse yourself in the sounds of free live music every night in July and August.
Fuel Up For the Road
Fuel up for your journey and treat your taste buds at Scoopz Ice Cream Parlour or The Art We Are Cafe. Indulge in a delicious brunch at Hello Toast, and savour a pint at Red Collar Brewing & Distilling Co. or The Noble Pig Brewhouse. If you’re on the North Shore of Kamloops, take the opportunity to enjoy a patio session at Red Beard Cafe, sample craft beer at Bright Eye Brewing, or savour delicious bites at Yew Street Food Hall.
En Route: Barriere
As you drive north from Kamloops, add a dash of excitement to your road trip with the McLure Ferry. This unique reaction ferry (propelled solely by the current of the river) has a two-vehicle, 12-person limit but only takes five minutes to cross the North Thompson River and continue your journey along Highway 5. Children, in particular, will delight in this endearing experience, and parents will appreciate the nostalgic feeling of simpler travel. Please note that the ferry operates spring through fall from 7:00am to 12:00pm and 1:00pm to 6:20pm.
Whether you take the ferry or choose to skip it, your next pit stop could be the town of Barriere. Western roots run deep here and you’ll also find plenty of lakes where you can partake in recreational activities like fishing, camping, and boating. Here are a couple of other activities you might want to enjoy while passing through;
Barriere Farmers’ Market: Don’t miss the chance to indulge in the flavours of the region and connect with the community at the Barriere Farmers’ Market. Enjoy live music while you peruse the fresh fruit and veggies, baked goods, local meats, honey, plants, and handmade crafts. The market takes place on Thursdays from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm and runs until September 28, 2023.
North Thompson Rodeo and Fall Fair: If you’re planning this road trip for September, the North Thompson Rodeo and Fall Fair is a must-visit for anyone looking to immerse themselves in authentic rural culture. This annual event showcases the region’s rich cowboy heritage and agricultural traditions. Visitors can experience thrilling rodeo competitions, live music, and a variety of local food and craft vendors. 2023’s celebration takes place from September 2 – 4th.
East Barriere Lake: Break up your road trip with a slight detour off the highway to visit East Barriere Lake. As you arrive, you’ll be greeted by inviting picnic benches and an uncrowded beachfront. If you didn’t have the chance to bring your own kayak or stand-up paddleboard, fear not! You can rent gear from Kamloops Water Sport Rentals or True Outdoors to bring along with you.
Positioned at the junction of Highways 5 and 24, Little Fort is a small community that provides a serene pause on your road trip from Kamloops to Clearwater. Known as the “Hub of the North Thompson”, this quaint settlement is a gateway to some excellent fishing opportunities on the nearby lakes and rivers, earning Highway 24 the title “Fishing Highway”.
High 5 Diner: Hungry for a taste of nostalgic roadside dining? High 5 Diner is a charming eatery that welcomes you with a vibrant vintage ambiance and a menu bursting with yummy comfort food. From classic burgers and generous breakfast plates to enticing pizzas, schnitzels, and delectable homemade pies, every craving and appetite will be satisfied. But it’s not just the food that will win you over – the friendly staff and retro decor will make you feel right at home.
Destination: Clearwater & Wells Gray Provincial Park
The fun doesn’t end once you’ve reached your destination! Within the peaceful town of Clearwater, the gateway to Wells Gray Provincial Park, you’ll find there’s no shortage of activities to delve into. Stop in at the Wells Gray Park Visitor Information Centre where the friendly information specialists will provide you with detailed knowledge, maps, current conditions, accommodations, guided experiences, and event information to make the most of your Wells Gray experience. Here are some of our top picks while you’re in the area;
Dip your toes into its warm and inviting waters, paddle along its water-lily-lined shores, or cast a line for a chance to reel in a big catch. With its proximity to town and the contagious summer vibes, you may find yourself reluctant to leave. If that’s the case, stay a while by booking an overnight stay at Dutch Lake Resort & RV Park, The Lake House, Hotel Civilia, or Jasper Way Inn.
Water Sports on the Clearwater River
After you’ve had a chance to enjoy some leisurely road trip experiences, it’s time to inject a burst of adrenaline into the itinerary. With stunning scenery, thrilling rapids, and crystal-clear waters, white-water rafting is the perfect adventure for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike. Families, couples, and solo adventurers alike will have a blast taking in the beauty of Wells Gray from the water. Rest assured, you’ll be in safe hands with Interior Whitewater Expeditions, Liquid Lifestyles, or Riverside Adventures – Wells Gray’s three trusted rafting operators.
No trip to Clearwater is complete without a self-guided waterfall tour. Sure to be the pinnacle of your road trip, the waterfalls out here are loved for their easy accessibility and awe-inspiring power. Don’t miss the star attraction, Helmcken Falls. Plummeting 141 meters, it rightfully claims its place as the fourth-largest waterfall in Canada. You’ll be able to view this majestic wonder from a convenient platform or more experienced hikers can walk around the entirety of the waterfall rim. For more waterfall recommendations, consult our guide to The 10+ Best Waterfalls in Wells Gray and on the way!
Hit the Town
After an eventful day of exploration, head into town to discover the local dining scene. The Painted Turtle Restaurant, located in the Dutch Lake Resort, offers a variety of dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients, served alongside stunning views of Dutch Lake. If you’re looking for a casual dining experience, The Old Caboose Restaurant & Pub offers a range of pub-style dishes in a unique, train-themed setting. And for those with voracious appetites, refuel your spirits and replenish your energy at Hop n’ Hog Tap and Smokehouse. Finally, as you wind down for the day, don’t miss out on a tranquil evening stroll along the Clearwater River, capping off your journey with the peaceful sounds of nature.
The road trip from Kamloops to Clearwater is more than just a journey between two points on a map. It’s an adventure through the heart of British Columbia, a land of breathtaking landscapes and diverse wildlife. From the sun-drenched vineyards and art galleries of Kamloops to the rushing waterfalls and serene lakes of Clearwater, each stop offers its unique flavours, sights, and experiences that encapsulate the spirit of this beautiful province.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast seeking the thrill of whitewater rafting and hiking, a culture vulture interested in museums and local art, or a foodie keen on sampling farm-fresh produce and locally-produced wines, this road trip caters to all. So, pack your bags, fuel up, and hit the road for the ultimate Canadian road trip from Kamloops to Clearwater. It’s an unforgettable journey through one of the most scenic corridors of British Columbia, inviting you to explore, discover, and make lasting memories at your own pace.
Commonly Asked Questions about going on a road trip from Kamloops to Clearwater
The drive from Kamloops to Clearwater is about 1.5 to 2 hours non-stop. However, with all the scenic views, attractions, and points of interest along the way, you may want to allow for a full day or even multiple days to fully enjoy the journey.
The best time of the year to travel from Kamloops to Clearwater largely depends on your preferred activities. Summer is perfect for hiking amongst wildflowers, canoeing, and wildlife viewing, Autumn offers stunning fall foliage and salmon viewing. Winter is great for snow sports and the waterfalls in Wells Gray Park are beautifully frozen, and spring sees the awakening of wildlife and epic spring melt waterfalls.
Absolutely, for those travelling this route with an electric vehicle (EV), you can charge in Kamloops, Little Fort, and/or the Best Western Plus in Clearwater (if you are a guest). Learn more about EV Road Tripping BC’s Land of Hidden Waters.
The area is rich with wildlife. Depending on the season, you might see black bears, moose, eagles, salmon, and many species of birds. Always remember to view wildlife from a safe distance.
Visit our responsible travel page where you’ll find downloadable guides and resources to set you up for a safe and successful trip. We also always recommend checking DriveBC before and during your road trip for up-to-date road information.
Yes, several campgrounds and RV parks are along the route. Some offer amenities like electric hookups, potable water, and restroom facilities. Discover all of the camping resorts within BC’s Land of Hidden Waters.