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A Road Trip through British Columbia’s Fraser Canyon

The Trans-Canada Highway is perfect for road-trippers, spanning the country from British Columbia to Newfoundland. Two hours’ drive east of Vancouver, the Trans-Canada (Hwy 1) turns north, where the Fraser River has carved a deep canyon, creating a rocky gorge between the Cascades and Coast Mountains.

looking through an old bridge at forested mountains
Alexandra Bridge over the Fraser River. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Surprisingly, this scenic Fraser Canyon section of Highway 1 is no longer the main east-west route. In the 1980s, the faster Coquihalla Highway (Hwy 5) opened, replacing this section of the Trans-Canada as the most popular route between Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies. But for road trippers who have time for a more leisurely drive, there’s a lot to do along the Fraser Canyon.

Here’s our road trip plan.

Chainsaw Sculptures in Hope

From Vancouver, follow Highway 1 east toward Hope, where Highways 1, 3, and 5 intersect. Stroll around this riverside town to see why it’s known as “The Chainsaw Carving Capital.” Master carvers have crafted more than 60 wooden carvings, from a life-size bear to a fanciful wizard, all sculpted with chainsaws.

wizard carved in wood sitting on grass
One of the statuesque chainsaw carvings in Hope. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Have dinner at 293 Wallace, a modern bistro that highlights ingredients from local farms in dishes like crispy pork belly with a rainbow of fresh and pickled vegetables. Save room for the creamy chocolate pot de crème dusted with chocolate “soil.”

Stay the night at three-room Evergreen B&B, which new owner Christian Paauwe and his family have spiffed up with stylish furnishings, colorful pillows, and convenient road-trip amenities, like in-room fridges and coffeemakers.

Back in Time in Yale

In the morning, head into the Fraser Canyon, following Highway 1 north to tiny Yale. This hamlet had two boom times in the late 1800s—when prospectors came north during BC’s brief gold rush, then during the construction of Canada’s transcontinental railroad.

At the Yale Historic Site, peek into tents that served as the general store, doctor’s office, and saloon as the town grew into the largest community west of Chicago and north of San Francisco. Visit St. John the Divine Church, where parishioners worshipped from 1863 until 1976. Have lunch or a cup of tea in the Ward Tea Room, where staff in period dress serve chicken pies, Cornish pasties, and apple turnovers.

Across the Bridge

Continue north and stretch your legs in Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park, following a short trail to the Fraser River. The first bridge on the site was built in 1861. From the current span, which dates to 1926, you have beautiful views up and down the river.

airtram over the Fraser River
Enjoy panoramic views from the Hell’s Gate Air Tram. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Swing Through Hell’s Gate

For another perspective on the Fraser Canyon, ride the Hell’s Gate Airtram, which plunges (gently) into the gorge. From the suspension bridge at the base, you can take in more river and canyon vistas. There’s also an exhibit about the salmon that spawn in the river and the man-made fishways that help their journey.

Rest Stop for Rafting

The Fraser Canyon is one of Western Canada’s hot spots for whitewater rafting. The secluded REO Rafting Resort outside Boston Bar runs half- and full-day rafting excursions, catering to different levels, on the Nahatlatch, Thompson, and Fraser Rivers. Settle into one of their river-view “glamping” tents for a stopover combining rafting, yoga, and relaxing by the river.

tent on a deck overlooking a river
Stay a night in the Riverside Tent at the REO Rafting Resort. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Explore Native Culture

Curious about the region’s indigenous history? Near Lytton, Paula Cranmer-Underhill welcomes visitors to Spapium “Little Prairie” Farm, where she’s replanting the riverview land that belonged to her great-grandparents.

After sharing her First Nations heritage and family stories, she might teach you to weave a cedar bracelet, explain the medicinal properties of local plants, or offer a snack of homemade bannock (a native bread). Book online, so Paula knows you’re coming.

Back on the Road

From Lytton, you can continue north on Highway 1 toward Kamloops and east to the Canadian Rockies. Another option is to return to the coast via Whistler, following Highway 12 toward Lilloet, where you’ll meet Highway 99. Or simply retrace your path south along Highway 1 back to Vancouver. Either way, you’ve discovered a lesser-known road trip route through a scenic and historic section of British Columbia.

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For road trippers who have time for a leisurely drive in Western Canada, there’s a lot to do along British Columbia's scenic Fraser Canyon.