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If you’re looking for a road trip that takes in waterfalls, national parks, sand dunes, and hot springs, then consider driving the scenic route between Kamloops in BC and the large city of Edmonton in Alberta. Both cities are attractive destinations in their own right, so it’s no surprise that the 8.5-hour drive between the two has become increasingly popular over the years.
Of course, 8.5 hours is a pretty long time to drive in one stretch; that’s why I recommend breaking up the journey with some (or all of the stops) I’ve listed in this blog post. In fact, I recommend adding a night in either Valemount or Jasper to your itinerary.
I’ve done all the research for you and come up with 13 of the best stops between Kamloops and Edmonton (or Edmonton to Kamloops); there’s something for every type of traveler on this list, from scenic hikes with views of Mount Robson to unique sand dunes outside the vibrant mountain town of Jasper. I’ve also included some handy tips about the drive itself – this blog post has everything you need for a successful road trip from Kamloops to Edmonton!
About the Drive from Kamloops to Edmonton
The drive from Kamloops to Edmonton is 805 kilometers (500 miles), and it will take 8.5 hours without stops to complete. For the majority of the journey, you will be driving along Highway 5 before turning off onto Highway 16 (The Yellowhead Highway) before Jasper.
Despite most of the drive being on a highway, it’s actually pretty scenic that’s because the route runs alongside the North Thompson River for the first few hours before passing through Mount Robson Provincial Park and Jasper National Park. It truly showcases the best of the West Coast!
What’s cool too, is that the drive incorporates two provinces, British Columbia and Alberta; in fact, you will start your trip in BC and end in Alberta. It’s important to note the time difference between these states – Alberta is an hour ahead of BC, so take this into account if you’ve booked activities, restaurants, etc.
There’s so much to see on the long drive from Kamloops to Edmonton that I recommend allowing three full days to truly make the best of this scenic road trip. If you’re a fan of waterfalls, you can stop at both Rearguard Falls and Overlander Falls – they are both stunning! If you’re an adrenalin junkie, be sure to hop on the speedy River Safari tour outside the town of Clearwater. On the other hand, if you want to relax, then be sure to spend some time at Miette Hot Springs.
Driving conditions along this route are perfect in spring and summer. However, be mindful of wildlife that can easily run out onto the road – be especially careful when driving through Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park. If you plan to drive between Kamloops and Edmonton in the winter, ensure you have winter tires fitted – remember that winter tires are mandatory on most Canadian highways in the winter.
There is an alternative but a longer route that you can take from Kamloops to Edmonton; it takes in popular stops like Banff and Calgary and is 910 kilometers (565 miles) and will take over 9.5 hours to complete without stops. This particular route follows the Trans-Canada Highway for most of the way. It is a good alternative route if you prefer to visit Banff. If you do this route, be sure to drive the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper – it’s one of the most scenic drives in the world!
Best Stops on the Drive from Kamloops to Edmonton
Before you leave on your road trip from Kamloops to Edmonton, it’s well worth spending a couple of hours or, even better, a few nights exploring this large city and all it has to offer.
There are lots of amazing things to do in Kamloops in every season, but if you plan to drive this route during the winter months, be sure to try out snowshoeing or downhill skiing. While in the summer, there are plenty of hikes, including the popular Kenna Cartwright Nature Park, which boasts more than 40 km (25 miles) of trails – some of which offer epic views of Kamloops and the Thompson Valley. There are even several beaches and picnic areas here. My top tip is to come here for sunset to take some truly breathtaking photos.
One of the best things to do on a hot day in Kamloops is to cool down in one of the 100 lakes within an hour of the city. These lakes are a great place to canoe, kayak, or try out stand-up paddleboarding. My favorite lake in the region is Kamloops Lake, where you can explore historic stone train bridges and tunnels as well as rock bluffs – you may even be lucky enough to spot an eagle’s nest!
A fantastic family-friendly activity in Kamloops is to see wild animals like bears, cougars, bobcats, and arctic wolves at BC Wildlife Park. The park is actually a rescue and rehabilitation center, because most of the animals here are rescued. Would you believe there are nearly 200 animals and over 65 different species housed here, including Clover the Spirit Bear, a rare white bear – the only Kermode Bear in captivity in the world! There’s also a splash park, playground, and mini-train for the kids. Admission to the park is $14.95 CAD for adults.
As I mentioned, it’s a great idea to spend a few nights in Kamloops if you have time. There are plenty of hotels to choose from here. Personally, I love the heritage 67-room Plaza Hotel or if you’re on a budget, the Kings Motor Inn.
2. Clearwater/Wells Gray Provincial Park
Clearwater is the place to be for lovers of the outdoors, as it’s home to plenty of waterfalls, rivers, and forests!
One of the best things to do in Clearwater is to book a whitewater rafting tour in the Clearwater River. In fact, this is the perfect way to get your adrenalin pumping because the river is full of rapids and churning waves. All safety equipment is provided as well as an experienced guide to guide you through this fast-paced activity. If you do this tour in spring or early summer, you will get to explore Candle Creek Falls, where you have the chance to walk behind the falls and even jump off a 25-foot cliff if you’re feeling really adventurous.
If you can, check out the Clearwater Farmers Market, held every Saturday morning from May until October. This popular market runs next to the Dutch Lake Community Center, and you can buy everything you need here – from groceries to coffee and even handmade souvenirs!
There are many great restaurants in Clearwater, including the Wild Flour Cafe and Bakery on Clearwater Valley Road, which makes delicious homemade bread and cakes fresh every day. For dinner, head out to Hop “N” Hog for a true Canadian smokehouse experience. I love their birch-smoked beef; it’s super-tasty because it’s smoked for hours! They also have a large selection of beers on tap, including local craft beer.
From Clearwater, I highly recommend exploring Wells Gray Provincial Park, which is dubbed the ‘waterfall park’ due to the sheer amount of waterfalls located here. I will admit it’s a bit of a detour off Highway 5, but honestly, it’s so worth it. Because not only are there spectacular waterfalls here, such as Spahats Creek Falls, Dawson Falls, and Helmcken Falls there are also stunning glacier-fed lakes, mountains, and forests! It’s no wonder why this is one of the best places to visit in BC.
There are 41 named waterfalls in Wells Gray Provincial Park and numerous others that are hidden within the surrounding forest. One of my favorite parts of exploring the waterfalls within the park is that moment when you hear the roar of the falls just before it comes into view, and you know you’re going to see something magnificent!
If you’re coming from Clearwater, the main park access is a 68-kilometer (42 miles) paved road called the Wells Grey Corridor or the Clearwater Valley Road.
3. River Safari
River Safari is a fun experience to try on your way from Kamloops to Edmonton; it’s a must-do activity, in my opinion. It can be easy to miss the turn-off, so look out for the giant bear and billboard at the main entrance.
The unique tours on offer here give you the chance to explore the only inland temperate rainforest in the world by jeep or boat. On this tour, you will pass through over 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) of Grizzly Bear Valley and take in the stunning scenery and wildlife (including bears!) along the way. Boats operate every 60 minutes in a season; the season starts in May, FYI. You can purchase tickets online in advance or you’re welcome to just show up with no reservation.
If you do this tour during the summer, be sure to end your time here with dinner at their floating restaurant – The Forest Table. It’s such a unique venue and is situated on a large, floating dock overlooking the river with live edge giant tables and solid wood carved seating. All the dishes here are fresh and feature local ingredients.
Valemount is a small town surrounded by lakes; it has a population of little over 1,000 people. Despite its size, you’ll be surprised by all the awesome activities on offer in Valemount. So, I think it’s well worth a stop on your drive from Kamloops to Edmonton. One of the best things to do here is to tackle the 45 biking trails at Valemount Bike Park, and there’s a trail suitable for all skill levels here. If you don’t have your own, you can rent a bike from Bikes & Bites on Main Street.
As I mentioned, Valemount is surrounded by lakes, which are great fishing spots – the best are Yellowhead Lake and Kinbasket Lake, as both are renowned for the abundant rainbow trout in their waters. It’s important to note that you must buy a BC fishing license before fishing in the lakes; these licenses cost $20 CAD for a one-day pass.
If you love skiing like me, you may be excited to learn that a new ski resort is earmarked for the region! It will have one of the steepest vertical drops in North America. Other than skiing, there’s backcountry snowmobiling (which is so much fun!) and ice skating available on Cranberry Marsh. To get to the point on the marsh where the skating happens, access the marsh from the McKirdy Road parking lot.
A great thing to do in the town of Valemount is to spend an hour or two in the Valemount Museum, admission is just $3 CAD per adult, so it’s a fantastic option for a cheap activity in Valemount. The museum is located inside a historic railway station. It displays some interesting exhibits on local war heroes and Japanese Internment camps, and there’s even a replica of a trapper’s cabin in the basement!
As a craft beer-lover, I always pop into Three Ranges Brewing when I’m in town. They have over 10 craft beers on tap here; I love the Trail Slap IPA! Plus, there’s a lovely outdoor seating area for those sunny days. Another must-visit in town is the Valemount Swiss Bakery on Main Street; their displays of freshly-baked pastries and sourdough bread are mouth-watering. They also make excellent coffee!
As for accommodation in Valemount, check out the family-run Twin Peaks Resort where you can choose from a log cabin or a larger family home. Some other great options include Mica Mountain Lodge & Log Cabins and Canadas Best Value Inn, which is located on the main highway into town.
5. Rearguard Falls
As you leave Valemount and make your way towards Edmonton, you’ll pass a parking lot on the side of the road where you can access the stunning Rearguard Falls. It’s located a 20-minute drive from Valemount and is without a doubt one of the most interesting places to visit on your road trip from Kamloops to Edmonton.
Rearguard Falls Provincial Park was set up to protect the furthest salmon spawning area up the Fraser River around 1,260 kilometers (783 miles) from the east coast of Canada.
If you’re here in August, you might be lucky enough to see salmon making their last jump up Rearguard Falls and finally into their spawning area. It’s such an interesting sight to see – they must be so relieved to get there!
Even if it’s not August, this place is still worth a visit. It’s a short walk from the parking and there are information boards that tell you all about the massive migration.
6. Mount Robson Visitor Center
On your drive from Kamloops to Edmonton, not far from Rearguard Falls, you will see the impressive Mount Robson in the distance as you drive! For one of the best mountain views in the Canadian Rockies, pause at the Mount Robson Visitor Centre to soak it in.
This is the ideal short stop on your drive; you could just stop at the Visitor Centre for a coffee and admire the epic views from the deck. There’s also free WiFi!
If you have the time, I highly recommend spending longer in the park to go hiking! There are lots of day hikes here of various lengths. The Berg Lake Trail is one of the best (in fact, it’s the most beautiful hike I’ve done in Canada), so it’s easy to see why this is one of the most popular trails in the Rockies. The highlights of this trail include Valley of a Thousand Falls, Emperor Falls, Berg Lake, and the Berg Glacier. This is a long trail (41.5 kilometers), so people often make this a multi-day hike and camp at one of the campgrounds along the way.
A gentler and shorter hiking option is the Kinney Lake Trail which is 4.5 kilometers and should take about 2.5 hours to go there and back. The trail follows the Robson River to Kinney Lake winding through old cedar and hemlock forest on the way. This is a great trail to see wildlife!
If you want to spend the night in the park, your only option is to go camping! Around 180 vehicle-accessible campsites in the park are open for reservations from May until September. Reservations can be made in advance, although there will be a few first-come, first-serve sites. Campsites on the Berg Lake Trail can also be booked in advance because of its popularity.
2022 Update: Berg Lake Trail is closed for the 2022 season due to flooding that damaged the trail in 2021. We hope it will open again in 2023!
7. Overlander Falls
Those looking for a short trail to stretch their legs on this road trip to Edmonton should not pass the opportunity to hike to Overlander Falls. Although not the most spectacular waterfall, the short walk through the pristine forest makes the trail all the more special.
The trail begins just past the Mt Robson Visitor Centre and leads you down to the Fraser River where you’ll be able to see Overlander Falls. All up, it only takes around 20 minutes each way.
If you want to hike a longer trail to the falls then there is another Overlander Falls trailhead on Hargreaves Road. From here, the trail is around 2.5 kilometers each way and follows the Fraser River.
8. Jasper Town
Jasper is truly one of the most beautiful places in Alberta – and maybe even the whole world! It’s an amazing mountain town with stunning scenery and so many different activities to try. You won’t be bored here! That’s why I recommend spending at least one night here to truly see this gorgeous town!
Even though Jasper is a small town, there are still plenty of choices for places to stay. I like staying right in Jasper town to be close to everything. Hiking or skiing and other outdoor activities are only a short drive away, and then there are lots of options for food and drinks.
As I mentioned, there are loads to do in this small town, and one of the most popular things to do here is the SkyTram, a large mountain gondola that can carry up to 24 people. On this, you can get a bird’s eye view of Jasper from the peak of Whistlers Mountain. At the top, you can explore an indoor area, gift shop, and eat at a restaurant with amazing views. The Jasper SkyTram is open from April to October, and it’s best to book ahead as there are only two trams. It’s also one of the most popular summer activities in Jasper.
The breathtaking Maligne Lake is a short drive from Jasper; I’ve been here several times and keep coming back – it’s a stunning turquoise-blue lake surrounded by mountain peaks, pine trees, and glaciers. It’s like a photograph coming to life and one of Alberta’s most popular places to visit! I recommend taking the famous Maligne Lake Cruise that showcases the beauty of the lake, including the spectacular Spirit Island, which is one of the most photographed places in Jasper National Park. There’s so much to do at Maligne Lake; set aside a day or at least a few hours to explore here.
And If you’re going to see one waterfall while you’re in Jasper, make it the Athabasca Falls! The popular trail, about 30 minutes from downtown on the Icefields Parkway, is only one km long. The scenery along the hike is impressive, but the falls themselves are next level. The power of the water cascading down in the summer is breathtaking. In the winter, Athabasca Falls freezes and transforms into something magical – you must see it in person!
If you plan to drive between Kamloops and Edmonton in the winter, be sure to spend a few hours at Marmot Basin, just 20 minutes from Jasper. This is easily one of the most epic things to do in Jasper during the winter! You can hit the slopes here to try out 91 different runs for beginners through to advanced. What’s nice is the variety of runs for all levels from each lift! Marmot Basin is open from mid-November until early May and gets over 400 centimeters (more than 13 feet!) of snow yearly.
9. Jasper Sanddunes
Jasper National park is home to the only sand dune in the Canadian Rockies! You can see these sand dunes as you depart Jasper town and make your way to Edmonton.
These unique sand dunes were formed during the last ice age and have been re-shaped by wind and water over thousands of years to what you see today. These huge sand dunes are located on the northwest side of Jasper Lake, sandwiched between two lakes – Jasper Lake and Talbot Lake. The sand dunes are also home to abundant wildlife like moose, elk, and raptors.
You can walk to the sand dunes from Highway 8, and it’s an easy 30-minute walk. Most visitors come here to wade out into the lake because it is so wide the water depth is just a few feet, so you can walk into the lake for a while. But be warned, the water is freezing cold, so most people only last a few minutes.
10. Miette Hot Springs
This is the place on your road trip to relax and take a much-needed break from driving. Miette Hot Springs is the hottest natural springs in Canada! The water flows from the mountains at a very hot 54°C (129°F), and it has to be cooled down before it reaches the hot springs pool to a more comfortable 40°C (104°F).
The Miette Hot Springs has four different pools – two hot and two cold – to relax and enjoy the natural mineral water. Soak in the mountain views from your pool, and you might even be lucky to spot some wildlife!
Swimming here costs less than $8 CAD per person, and there are locker and shower facilities with changing rooms. It can get busy here, so avoid the crowds by coming here in the morning. Staying at the nearby Pocahontas Cabins will make getting there early easier.
It is important to note that Miette Hot Springs is a bit of a detour from the highway to Edmonton. You’ll need to drive for a few minutes on Miette Road to reach the springs, but the short detour is worth it! The hot springs are typically only open from May to September.
11. Folding Mountain Brewery
Folding Mountain Brewery is conveniently located on the edge of Jasper National Park, and it is one of my favorite stops for a drink in Alberta! You can take in the views while enjoying a cold beer on their large patio, or if you’re visiting in the winter, they have an indoor tasting room with lovely views.
My favorite beers are the Folding Mountain Lager and the Moraine West Coast IPA, both are brewed with fresh water from the nearby Rocky Mountains (in fact, all their beers are!) As for food, they offer appetizers and some delicious sandwiches.
If you have time, you can spend the night at the on-site Overlander Mountain Lodge, which is ideal if you plan to have a few beers! This way, you can enjoy the brewery, wake up fresh after a comfortable night’s sleep, and continue on your journey to Edmonton.
12. Pembina Provincial Park
One of my favorite provincial parks in Alberta is Pembina. I spent my teenage years in Spruce Grove, so Pembina River was always our go-to spot for swimming and camping.
At Pembina Provincial Park you can book a campsite (you should book in advance as it is really popular) and stay here. They have both powered and non-powered campsites suitable for tents, trailers/RVs. Camping reservations can be made on the Alberta Parks website.
Or, you can just stop in and enjoy the Day Use area. In the day-use area, you can relax at the river’s edge and go for a swim. The river is very calm in this area, so it is a good swimming spot. There are also toilets and picnic tables available.
Whew, and there you have it, you’ve reached your final destination!
Edmonton is the second largest in Alberta (behind Calgary) and has a population of 1.1 million. It’s a popular destination year-round, but I love visiting Edmonton in the winter because although it can be cold (average temperatures in winter are 23 Fahrenheit or -5 Celsius), it’s still sunny. Edmonton is known as Canada’s “Sunshine City,” with more hours of sun than any other major Canadian city!
There are loads to do in this large city, from shopping at West Edmonton Mall to going on a speed boat road around the scenic River Valley! In fact, would you believe that over 6 million tourists visit Edmonton annually!
The West Edmonton Mall is a huge draw for visitors to Edmonton; it’s the second-largest mall in North America and has over 800 stores! There’s also a water park, indoor skating rink, roller coasters, two hotels, and numerous restaurants. So, it’s easy to spend a couple of hours or even a full day here! While shopping until you drop is fun, there are loads of other things you can do in West Edmonton Mall!
One of my favorite things to do in Edmonton is to explore the scenic River Valley, which is huge at 22 times the size of Central Park in New York! It’s a great place to visit no matter the season, as there are over 150 kilometers of trails here. A cool tour option here is this 90-minute segway adventure which allows you to tour this massive park on a segway vehicle! Make sure to check out one of my favorite spots to see the city skyline with a walk over the Walterdale Bridge! You can even explore the river in the summer with a relaxing cruise or a fun speedboat ride around the islands with Black Gold River Tours.
Back in downtown Edmonton, it’s also worth checking out Edmonton’s Neon Sign Museum! This is a great night-time activity as all the signs light up 104 street on the east side of the TELUS building and the south side of Mercer Warehouse. More than 20 neon signs have been restored and showcase some of the well-known businesses of Edmonton’s past. I like grabbing a drink across the street at Mercer Tavern to have a great view of the signs.
There are also plenty of amazing restaurants in Edmonton. This big city is a major foodie destination, and you’ll be treated to plenty of top-rated restaurants. Jasper Ave and Whyte Ave are both areas featuring many trendy restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Check out all the awesome tours available in Edmonton here!
Where to Stay in Edmonton
There are tons of different hotels to choose from spread across Edmonton. My best advice is to choose one in a location that’s closest to all of the activities you want to do.
Many hotels are located on the west side of the city near West Edmonton Mall. This is a great area to stay if you want to explore all that the mall has to offer. Stay in one of Fantasyland Hotel’s gorgeous theme rooms for something really special. You can choose between family-friendly rooms like the Princess one above, or for couples, opt for the more Romantic Roman Room or Hollywood Room.
If you’re on a budget, opt for the West Edmonton Mall Inn that’s located just across the street. The rooms here are comfortable and the location couldn’t be better for enjoying the mall with ease. Plus, they have pet-friendly rooms for anybody traveling with fur babies.
Staying downtown is perfect for anybody who wants a central stay with easy access to most of the activities and attractions in this blog. To be right near Rogers Place and Jasper Ave, stay at the luxurious JW Marriott. This is one of the nicest hotels in Edmonton and it’s simply stunning. They also have an indoor pool and hot tub.
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada is relatively cheap, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Rental Cars.com all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Before you go…
Edmonton is a bustling city that’s great to visit in all seasons, and the drive here from Kamloops is so scenic. I mean, there are not one but two national parks along the way, as well as waterfalls, hot springs, and quaint mountain towns. I hope I’ve given you plenty of inspiration for your road trip from Kamloops to Edmonton!
Be sure to check out some of our other blog articles about the area too: