Weekend Trips and Getaways From Vancouver

Kananaskis in the Canadian Rockies is a labyrinth of hiking trails
Kananaskis in the Canadian Rockies is a labyrinth of hiking trails | © bgsmith / Getty Images
Vancouver has arguably the best food scene in Canada. You can head to Chinatown to pick up sugary treats from Asian bakeries, the aroma of caramelized coffee drifts through downtown, and if it’s the twang of salty seafood that you’re after, Granville Island’s restaurants will do the trick. But once you’ve filled up on the diverse dining options, you’ll be left with a hunger for something new. A thriving natural world sits just outside the city, promising miles of untouched landscape, pocket-sized villages and fragrant vineyards to explore. Unsure where to start? We’ve narrowed it down to these five weekend trips that are easy to take from Vancouver.

Kelowna

Kelowna sits on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake, fringed by thick fir tree forests and manicured vineyards. Its name is derived from the native language of the region, and translates to grizzly bear, a species that has long inhabited the area (but that with any luck you won’t encounter). Known not only as the gateway to the natural splendor of the valley – stay in an apartment with sweeping lake views to make the most of it – Kelowna is also set in the heart of wine country, where there are numerous wineries to explore.

ToursKelowna Experience
From $130 per person
5 to 6 hours

This tour combines all the vital ingredients for a successful day out in wine country: you’ll get a behind-the-scenes tour of five facilities and their sprawling vineyards and follow the process of wine production from grape to glass, before tasting varietals such as Pinot noir and Chardonnay. Alongside sampling award-winning wine, you’ll be treated to a rustic picnic lunch while taking in views of flourishing orchards and the Okanagan Lake.

Jasper

The largest of all the Canadian Rockies national parks, Jasper National Park is an otherworldly landscape of cerulean lakes, mist-cloaked mountains and bone-warming hot springs. Tucked away in the rugged wilderness is the alpine town of the same name, a thriving hub for adventurers who stop for a craft beer and a lesson in the region’s fur-trading history at Yellowhead Museum. The town’s small size means accommodation options are limited, but the park is dotted with plenty of cosy cabins that you can rent. It’s also a magnet for star-gazers – the area is the second-largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, which means artificial light pollution is restricted, and the skies are extra resplendent.

ToursJasper National Park Tour: Maligne Valley, Medicine Lake and Spirit Island
From $58 per person
6 hours
4.5 (10)

Embark on this guided excursion to discover Jasper National Park’s natural treasures. Setting off by coach, your first stop will be 50-meter (164-foot) deep Maligne Canyon, where you’ll follow your guide over moss-sprouting rocks to peer down at fierce waterfalls. Learn about the area’s wildlife, history and geology as you explore sights like the disappearing Medicine Lake, which is absorbed by underground karsts (soluble rocks) every summer. Take a boat trip across the glacial-fed waters of Maligne Lake to Spirit Island, or, if you prefer, stroll around its banks while looking out for wolves, caribou and bears.

Kananaskis

Kananaskis is a labyrinth of parks set in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Its name comes from the Kananaskis River, dubbed in 1858 by explorer John Palliser after a fabled Cree warrior who survived an axe blow to the head. A variety of highways weave through the sprawling region, plunging you into the heart of its dense pine forests and giving you access to spectacular camping grounds in summer and pristine ski areas each winter. Stay in the heart of it all, in a traditional log cabin with a crackling wood fire.

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ToursTwo-Hour Horseback Trail Ride in Kananaskis
From $90 per person
2 hours

Adventure into the rural backcountry of Kananaskis on horseback for sweeping views of thick woodland and emerald-twisted peaks. Follow snaking mountain ridges over the valley, from the comfort of your saddle, and keep your eyes peeled for the moose, elk and deer that roam the lands. Once you’ve captured some of the natural beauty on camera, you’ll descend through storybook forests and wetlands. The terrain is varied but your well-trained and steady horse does all the hard work, so you can concentrate on spotting wildlife and listening to your guide’s insightful commentary.

Telegraph Cove

A former fishing and cannery village, Telegraph Cove is in pole position for exploring the great outdoors. Its rainbow of buildings are surrounded by cyclopean mountains and tangled woodland, while its marina is a hive of activity thanks to a steady stream of whale-watching tours and fishing boats. Stay in a beach house to make the most of the spectacular coastal setting (and to keep lookout for whales over your morning coffee). The welcoming bay is also home to a handful of excellent seafood restaurants and coffee shops that are perfectly suited to long, lazy lunches.

ToursHalf-Day Whale Watching Adventure from Telegraph Cove
From $114 per person
3 hours

A bucket-list experience, this whale-watching tour will introduce you to the mesmerising Neptunian world that lies off the shores of Telegraph Cove. Taking you past the swells of the Gulf Islands and fjords of Howe Sound, your guide will give an absorbing live commentary while keeping their trained eye out for the local sea life. Along the way, it’s likely that you’ll see the distinctive flumes and splashes of humpback whales, orcas or dolphins, but don’t forget to watch the skies and shores too, grizzly bears, golden eagles and bathing sea lions are also sometimes spotted.

Banff

Canada’s first national park (and the world’s third), Banff’s roots reach back to 1883 when a group of railway workers stumbled upon a cluster of hot springs. It has since developed into a tourist hotspot, with people coming from around the globe to carve tracks in powdery snow or hike through its picture-perfect landscape. Base yourself in a cabin with mountain views for the weekend, where you can head straight out on a hike after breakfast and soothe aching limbs afterwards in the jetted bath. It’s no surprise that the park has become so popular – if you aren’t exploring its seafoam-green lakes and weather-beaten mountains, you’ll be enjoying the art galleries, annual film festivals and historic springs in its alpine town.

ToursBanff National Park Guided Hike with Lunch
From $88 per person
7 hours
4.6 (10)

Venture into Banff’s enchanting national park and discover the magic of its untouched wilderness. This tour is tailored to your ability, offering a variety of distances to choose from – each with equally striking mountain views so you won’t miss out. As you follow your guide along your chosen path, and learn about the diverse wildlife you see, you’ll pass through tangled forests and soaring peaks in all their raw and rugged beauty. A gourmet packed lunch is also included, ready to be devoured on the cusp of a canyon or on the shores of a glacial lake.