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Taking a road trip through one of the most beautiful mountainous regions in Canada is a must! Driving from Whistler to Kamloops you’ll spend some of your time on Highway 99. It winds through the mountains and delivers stunning views around every turn. You’ll pass countless Provincial Parks including world-famous hikes that you’ll definitely want to check out.
The drive from Whistler to Kamloops is a drive you don’t want to rush because there is so much to take in along the way.
If you don’t stop, this road trip should be around four hours in total. But, you should stop! You’ll want to admire the views and attractions and maybe even spend a night or two to break up the trip and really enjoy the local area.
In this road trip guide, I’ll take you through the 10 best places to stop on the drive from Whistler to Kamloops (it also works in reverse for those driving from Kamloops to Whistler.) From waterfalls to lakes to charming small towns, this will be a memorable and enjoyable drive. Don’t forget to bring your camera to grab photos of the gorgeous scenery along the way.
About the Drive from Whistler to Kamloops
The big thing with this drive is to take your time on the road. There can be very steep points, especially going down into the Pemberton Valley. If you aren’t used to winding mountain roads, this can be a bit more of a challenge. It’s totally worth it though for the fantastic views along the way.
The scenic drive is 299 kilometers (186 miles) and should take about four hours without stops. However, to really get the most out of this Whistler to Kamloops road trip, spend at least one night along the way in Pemberton or Lillooet.
There aren’t as many places to stop for services like gas or food until you get to Lillooet (about the halfway point of the drive), so make sure to fill up before you leave Whistler. The speed limit ranges from 80-100 kilometers an hour (50-62 miles per hour) on the drive, but be prepared to slow down depending on road conditions.
You will be on mountain highways where conditions can change along the way depending on the elevation or weather. You may start in the sunshine, but depending on the time of year, still encounter heavy snow on the way.
While the road trip from Whistler to Kamloops can be done year-round, if you aren’t used to winter driving, it’s an easier road to drive on in the summer and fall. If you’re embarking on this road trip in the winter, your car will need winter tires for extra grip.
In fact, winter tires are mandatory on Highway 99 and most BC highways from October 1 until March 31. You could be fined if you don’t have winter tires in good condition, but more importantly, it’s much safer to have them!
On the way from Kamloops to Whistler, there are so many great places to stop. Whether you’re looking for a quick break to stretch your legs or a longer break to hike and explore some of the natural wonders in the area, check out this list for ideas and some of my favorite places to stop on this drive.
10 Best Stops on the Drive from Whistler to Kamloops
1. Nairn Falls
Only 20 minutes outside of Whistler is the first stop – Nairn Falls. While there is a whole park to explore and camp in if you want, this is great for a quick stop with a short hike (about 1.5 km/0.9 miles) to the falls. The hike is relatively easy, so it’s good for beginners or families and doesn’t require much pre-planning – just make sure you have good hiking shoes!
The trail to Nairn Falls starts just off the Sea to Sky Highway in the Nairn Falls Provincial Park. Pull into the parking lot on the right off the highway and look for the trail at the edge of the parking lot near the restrooms. The trail itself is relatively even the whole way but does have a few ups and downs. The Green River will be on your left the entire time and soon you’ll hear the falls!
Nairn Falls has two lookouts to enjoy the impressive views. The first viewing platform overlooks the upper falls and is located on the hill straight ahead. The other platform further down will give you a view of the lower falls.
Pemberton is a small village of fewer than 3,000 people is located right at the base of a mountain. Mount Currie is spectacular and has been featured in plenty of movies and TV shows. It’s a great destination in all seasons with activities from hiking and biking to rafting or fishing and, of course, in the winter, skiing and snowmobiling.
Grab breakfast or lunch at Blackbird Bakery, where everything is baked fresh by a French pastry chef. They open early and close when everything is sold out. Try an almond croissant or a sandwich and sit outside to see the mountain views. For something stronger, there are also two craft breweries and a distillery here – check out the award-winning organic potato vodka!
Pemberton is an excellent place to go horseback riding with more horses per capita here than any other area in the entire province! Take a guided horseback tour while you’re here with tours ranging from an hour to a full-day adventure.
Spend a night at the beautiful all-suite hotel Pemberton Valley Lodge. This is great for relaxing on the road trip – especially in the outdoor pool and hot tub with mountain views! I recommend spending a night here if you want to hike Joffre Lakes (the next activity on the list) because it gets really busy in the summer and you’ll want to get there early, so leaving first thing in the morning from Pemberton gives you a head start.
3. Joffre Lakes
This is a must-visit on the drive from Whistler to Kamloops! The highlight of the hike through Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is Lower, Middle, and Upper Joffre Lakes with stunning turquoise blue water. The color is due to “rockflour” or glacial silt that lies suspended in the water and reflects the blue and green wavelengths from sunlight – it’s breathtaking!
The hike is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) long (return) and goes uphill as you work your way to Upper Joffre Lake. Along the way, you’ll see the three amazing lakes, creek crossings, great views of the mountain range, a waterfall, and the Matier Glacier at the top overlooking Upper Joffre Lake. To get back, simply retrace your steps and enjoy the easier hike down and a second look at these stunning lakes.
In the summer, this is a super popular destination and parking can be a problem. The parking lot often fills up and you’re not allowed to park on the road. Sometimes they run shuttle buses from a nearby overflow parking lot, but this isn’t always true.
To avoid having any problems getting a parking space, get here at sunrise to get a spot in the parking lot. You’ll also be one of the first ones on the trail and enjoy it in peace (this is exactly what we did when we visited last summer.) When you’re done your early morning hike and then hit the road early to your next spot. This is why I recommend staying a night in nearby Pemberton.
4. Duffey Lake Viewpoint
Duffey Lake Viewpoint is just a quick stop on the drive from Whistler to Kelowna. Here, you can admire the stunning view of Duffey Lake. It’s really easy to get to from the highway. Simply pull off the road into a little make-shift parking lot right beside the lake.
This is a stunning backdrop to grab a few photos of the mountains and soak in the beautiful scenery. If you’re driving the whole time, it’s harder to really enjoy these views, so these stops help with that.
If you’re brave, you can dip your toes in the lake, but it’s pretty cold!
5. Seton Lake
Stop here to take a short one-kilometer (0.6-mile) hike to a popular spot overlooking the lake with part of the highway making a U-shape in the foreground – known as the Duffey Lake Road U-Turn. It’s a great road trip picture!
To get to the hike, you’ll park in a gravel area and cross the highway to a path on the other side. Follow the trail to get to the Seton Lake Lookout and enjoy the view!
If you want to stay longer, Seton Lake is perfect for a swim! There’s a beach (but no sand!) with a marked-off swimming area. Or, rent a canoe and head out onto the lake. The water is so clear and blue here, it looks like a postcard.
Lillooet is a small town along the Fraser River with some really dramatic mountain scenery on the way to Kamloops. During the Fraser River Gold Rush around 1858, Lillooet was one of the largest towns in North America as thousands of people flooded in looking to get rich. Now, you can see artifacts from the Gold Rush era inside the Lillooet Museum.
It has a hot, desert-like climate with some of the warmest temperatures ever recorded in Canada. With a long growing season, you’ll also find orchards and wineries around here – try some of the award-winning wine from Fort Berens Estate Winery. While you’re here, walk across the Old Suspension Bridge. It was built more than a century ago and is just open to pedestrians now.
You can also spend a night here around the halfway point of the drive from Whistler to Kamloops. Check out the Reynolds Hotel for a nice place to stay with some historic charm (it was built in the 1940s) that has recently been updated. It has a great restaurant to eat at and a little convenience store to stock up on road trip essentials for the rest of the journey.
7. Marble Canyon Provincial Park
Marble Canyon Provincial Park is a good spot to stretch your legs or even camp for the night. There’s a small campground with about 30 sites right between two lakes. Every campsite has access to the lake with a sitting area below where you park. There’s a beach here as well as some good hiking trails and fishing.
It’s located in the Pavilion Mountain Range, which is a limestone canyon – you’ll notice the white, chalky-looking peaks (which differ from the granite of the other mountains close by.)
The unique rock formations here also make it a popular spot for rock climbing!
8. Cache Creek
With so many provincial parks around here, Cache Creek is a good place to base yourself if you want to stay longer and explore. Juniper Beach Provincial Park and Elephant Hill Provincial Park are both less than 15 minutes away from this tiny town.
Cache Creek is also an ideal place to visit one of the western ranches in the area. The Historic Hat Creek Ranch lets you live the life of a gold miner from the 1860s Gold Rush in British Columbia. You can ride a stagecoach, try panning for gold, make a nail at the blacksmith shop, and even stay in a cabin, prospector’s shack, or even a unique covered wagon.
There are also quite a few motels here at the junction of the Trans Canada Highway and the Cariboo Highway (Highway 97). Try the Bear’s Claw Lodge for log cabin-inspired motel rooms to spend a night in the area.
9. Thompson River Viewpoint
As you get closer to Kamloops, take a quick stop here to look at the Thompson River. It’s one of the most important rivers in BC, thanks to all the fish who call it home. This river acts as a “highway” for millions of fish including sockeye, salmon, and rainbow trout.
If you want to get a closer look at the river, drive into the Juniper Beach Provincial Park. From here you can walk right to the river’s edge and snap some great photos, especially in fall.
This is the last spot to stretch your legs on this road trip before Kamloops comes into view!
You’ve arrived! Your Whistler to Kamloops road trip may be complete, but the fun is just beginning. Kamloops is a great place in any season with winter activities like downhill skiing or snowshoeing or take advantage of long summers with nice weather from April to November and go hiking or paddling on the nearby lakes and rivers.
There are more than 100 lakes within an hour of the city! These are great for a canoe, kayak, or even to try stand-up paddleboarding. Go to the gorgeous Kamloops Lake and see it from out on the water. You’ll see old stone train bridges and tunnels, rock bluffs, and may even spot an eagle’s nest.
The hiking opportunities in Kamloops are endless. You can explore wide-open grasslands, ponderosa pine forests, sandstone canyons, and steep valleys. Try the Kenna Cartwright Nature Park with 40 km (25 miles) of trails. It has breathtaking views of Kamloops and the Thompson Valley and several beaches and picnic areas. Head out at sunset or sunrise for a particularly beautiful view.
See wild animals up close at the BC Wildlife Park. It’s a rescue and rehabilitation center and most of the animals here are rescued. There are more than 60 different species including Clover the Spirit Bear, a rare white bear that is 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.
You’re sure to stay busy with all the fun things to do in Kamloops!
Related Read: Want to continue further? Check out our guide to driving from Whistler to Banff for another awesome road trip! Or, head out from Kamloops to Jasper to explore one of the best places to visit in Alberta.
Where to Stay in Kamloops
There are plenty of hotels to choose from to base yourself in Kamloops for a while and enjoy the city and surrounding area.
For a more luxury option, try the South Thompson Inn and Conference Centre. It’s located on 55 acres of green space surrounded by mountains and the South Thompson River. The rooms have great views, there’s a 24 hour hot-tub overlooking the river and nearby hiking trails.
For a mid-range option, located right downtown, try The Plaza Hotel. It’s a renovated heritage building with 67 rooms and a location that is perfect for exploring the city.
Budget travelers can grab a room at the Kings Motor Inn. It’s a very reasonably priced place to stay with large rooms. Tip: If you want to stay for a bit, get a room with a kitchenette to cook a few meals right in the room and save time and money.
Kamloops has a ton of options if you’re looking to spend some time in the city and relax after your road trip. Don’t stress too much about accommodations as you’re here to explore the area and won’t be spending too much time in your room anyway.
Essentials for the Road Trip from Whistler to Kamloops
- The drive is almost 300 kilometers (186 miles) in total and should take about four hours without stopping. However, with all the great places to stop along the way, this should take you at least a day and maybe a couple of days if you want to see places like the Joffre Lakes – which are worth working into the trip.
- In winter (from October 1 to March 31), remember that winter tires are mandatory for driving on most BC highways.
- Make sure you fuel up (with snacks and gas) in Whistler before you leave. It’s also a good idea to make sure your cell phone is charged and you have a backup charger. Weather conditions can be unpredictable in all seasons!
- Bring your camera and don’t rush! This is a beautiful drive that is worth taking the time to enjoy and capture some great memories along the way.
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!
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $29 and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part though? It comes in pink!
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in hand so many times especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $27 and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Before you go…
There are so many awesome things to do in Whistler, as well as Kamloops! Road trips are such a great way to break up travel and enjoy the journey. And as you can see there is plenty to see and do on the journey from Whistler to Kamloops.
There are plenty of great stops, fun activities, and yummy restaurants to be experienced on this road trip and I hope you enjoy every minute of it! Let us know which stop you’re most looking forward to in the comments!
If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to browse the rest of our blogs about amazing destinations in BC including a few favorites: