Beautiful British Columbia. The provincial slogan emblazoned on every B.C license plate lives up to its name. It’s no secret that Canada is one of the most beautiful countries to visit and live in. B.C is a no exception, a premier destination for those seeking spectacular mountain scenery, epic coastal views, and outdoor pursuits. So we planned, researched, and then set off on an epic British Columbia winter road trip.
British Columbia Winter Road Trip: Calgary to Nelson
Jonas and I picked up our car as the sun was still rising in the sky in Calgary. After an hour delay due to a mishap at the rental vehicle office, we drove to the Calgary HI hostel and hurriedly packed everything into our SUV. We had planned to cover 650 kilometers on the first day so we had to make the most of the short winter day. We drove South through wide expanses of prairie along Highway 2 or the Queen Elizabeth Highway in Albert. Then we headed West on Hwy 3 or Crowsnest Highway towards the British Columbia border.
We were fortunate to start off our trip with blue skies and little cloud cover. Last time we passed through Crowsnest Pass our views were partially obstructed by cloud cover and low lying fog. Roads were in good condition as well, aside from patches of black ice.
We stop to photograph the impressive Frank Slide, a deadly rockslide that buried the sleeping town of Frank in 1903. Though the area around Crowsnest Pass has an abundance of beauty and natural resources, the towns and hamlets that make up the Municipality of Crowsnest have experienced numerous tragedies, both natural and man-made over the past century.
In winter the lakes commonly freeze over and provide a surface for walking, skating, ice-fishing, and hockey games. Thickness and stability of the ice will vary depending on the particular lake, pond, or stream of interest and the temperature and weather patterns in the area so make sure to check with a tourist information office before stepping foot onto the slippery ice.
We had previously visited the towns of Sparwood, Fernie, and Cranbrook on a weekend getaway in the Fall. This time we would only be passing through or past each town on our way to Nelson. However, for people planning a B.C road trip, we would recommend breaking up the journey and staying a few nights in Fernie.
It’s common to see horses and cows outside in the pasture in winter. They grow a thicker winter coat which allows them to romp around in the snow in cool temperatures.
We love wintry scenes with cabins in the forest. This quaint and cozy cabin was perched above a frozen lake with a thick untouched layer of snow.
The quiet little village of Salmo is situated in the West Kootenay region surrounded by the Selkirk Mountains. Aside from the hiking and skiing opportunities in the area, the popular electronic music festival Shambhala is also held just outside of town every year in August. We stop to admire the historical Salmo Hotel and Pub and the old Western storefront facades along fourth street.
With Nelson only 30 minutes away from Salmo, we drive into the sunset, basking in the last rays of sunlight and cherishing the pink glow cast upon the white blanket of snow covering the mountains.
After a long first day with eight hours of driving and rest and stretch stops, we arrived in Nelson. We would be staying in a private room for three nights at the Hostelling International hostel in Nelson, otherwise known as the Dancing Bear. Day 1 of our British Columbia road trip was over. The following days we would explore the historic town of Nelson and the Kootenay region.