Updated: Oct 23
The stunning province of British Columbia is my home and even though I have travelled the world, no place will ever hold my heart the way BC does. I believe the best way to experience this province without breaking the bank is a road trip. I want to encourage visitors to get out of the metro areas and experience at least a taste of the incredible nature that this province is renowned for. Today's itinerary will take visitors on a 5-day road trip from Vancouver, following what I am calling the "Fraser Valley Loop".
For those new to the blog, I'm Lyn (aka Jazz), a retired solo female traveller with an insatiable love for road trips. My meanderings have given me a deeper appreciation for the natural wonders, cultural richness, and geographical diversity that make this province so special. My most recent meanderings have been in my converted Sprinter van named Wanda.
This post is one of a series of suggested road trip itineraries I've put together, each designed to help you uncover the secrets of British Columbia, including the best times to visit and where to stay, eat, and play. Each itinerary is designed to include suggestions fitting every travel style and budget. I have also linked you to more detailed posts about some of the stops along the way.
Although I have created each for a certain number of days, your schedule and interests will determine how long you spend in each spot, or if you combine several road trips for a longer adventure. Make sure that you don't miss any posts in this series by becoming a member/subscribing (it's free!)
Fraser Valley Loop Road Trip Begins! From Vancouver to the Fraser Valley
The vast majority of visitors will arrive in Vancouver, so our journey will begin there. We will follow a loop route using Hwy 7/7A on our eastward journey on the north side of the Fraser River. On our return, the route follows Hwy 1 on the south side.
The Fraser Valley is the wide valley that surrounds the Fraser River as it flows out of the Cascade Mountains on its journey to the Pacific Ocean. Geographically, it includes the entire Greater Vancouver area to the eastern mountain but locals use the term to reference anywhere east of the metropolitan area. The diverse ecosystem includes forests, lakes, rivers, and fertile farmlands. Indigenous communities thrived here for thousands of years, recognizing the rich resources offered by the river, forests, and fertile land. When the fortune seekers arrived for the Fraser River Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, many conflicts erupted and the indigenous traditional way of life was forever altered.
Today you'll see growing towns, industrial areas, golf courses, parks, dairy farms, and market gardens. Dubbed "BC's Bread Basket" the Fraser Valley is responsible for more than half of BC's annual agricultural revenue
The vibrant communities that dot this landscape hold dear their traditions, which are showcased through festivals, art, and cuisine. You will soon discover a mosaic of experiences and tastes reflecting the diversity of the region.
Day 1: Vancouver to Maple Ridge
The first day is a short drive (approximately 45 minutes), heading east on Hwy 7A and includes two Provincial Parks where you'll get your first immersion into the temperate rainforest and coastal mountains. The city/suburb part of the drive on Highway 7 is typical urban traffic snarl but once you cross the Pitt River, the chaos slips away. Take the Lougheed Hwy into the town of Maple Ridge where you will find dozens of coffee shops with tasty treats. My favourite is Alina Cafe & Eatery I love the Breakfast Smoothie Bowl.
image credit: Alina Cafe
Drop off your luggage at your lodgings. I suggest choosing a place in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows for the night. There isn't a lot of choice for those looking for a hotel but the Best Westerns in each community are reliable 3-4 star properties. There is a wide choice of private guest houses and bed & breakfast rooms available through the usual booking sites. If camping is more your style, there are two provincial parks with year-round campgrounds within a 30-minute drive.
There are many dining choices but I recommend Kingfisher Waterfront Bar & Grill. They have a great patio overlooking the water for summer evenings. Their menu has plenty of choices that feature fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including vegetarian options.
image credit: Kingfisher Waterfront Bar & Grill
Rolley Lake and Golden Ears Provincial Parks are located east of Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows, so depending on where you choose to spend the night, you may want to reverse the order. The turn-off to Golden Ears is closer to the towns than Rolley Lake.
Rolley Lake Provincial Park
Rolley Lake Provincial Park is less than half an hour from Maple Ridge along Dewdney Trunk Road. There are two lovely trail walks: one that loops around the lake and another short trail that leads to a small waterfall. Both trails combined will take less than an hour. The lake is warm and protected, with a sandy beach area making it a perfect stop for a swim.
If you plan on camping, check out my previous post about Winter Camping at Rolley Lake. The campground is open year-round. It is very busy in the summer so reservations are recommended.
Golden Ears Provincial Park
From Rolley Lake, you will return towards Maple Ridge along the Dewdney Trunk Road and follow the signs.
Golden Ears Park is an amazing park tucked under towering twin peaks with lush rainforest and glassy clear lakes. This park offers activities from hiking, horse riding, and mountain biking, to kayaking and picnicking. Backcountry enthusiasts who want to linger will find extensive trails and pristine wilderness. Alouette Lake is popular for water activities. It is not unusual to see photographers with tripods and fancy gear working to capture the reflection of the mountains on the water.
There are 3 campgrounds in Golden Ears Park open year-round. There are no first-come-first-serve sites from May to October. These are very busy campgrounds, so make sure to reserve well in advance.
Fraser Valley Loop Road Trip Day 2: Maple Ridge to Harrison Hot Springs
As we continue our Fraser Valley road trip, day two promises a mix of outdoor adventures and relaxation in the serene surroundings of Harrison Hot Springs. You'll return to Hwy 7 and will be driving east for about 60 km.
Kilby Regional Park
Take the Harrison Bay Road exit and follow the road over the bridge. The first stop of the day will be Kilby Regional Park. This riverfront gem offers birdwatching enthusiasts a paradise to explore.
Kilby Historic Site
Next, head over to the Kilby Historic Site. This living museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the Fraser Valley's past. You'll discover heritage buildings, including the general store, post office, and Manchester House Hotel, all dating back to the 1920s. It's a captivating journey back in time that showcases the region's history and culture.
Fraser River Safari
For an unforgettable experience, hop on a guided boat tour with Fraser River Safari in Harrison Mills. The tour follows the Fraser River where knowledgable guides will point out wildlife and share their knowledge and passion about the area. You will see many eagles.
Harrison Hot Springs
Harrison Hot Springs is renowned for its natural hot springs, and there are various ways to indulge in their soothing warmth. The view of the long lake from the village is simply spectacular. Along the lakefront is a large lagoon for swimming. The lagoon is warmer than the lake but check for signs regarding the presence of a lake parasite that causes swimmer's itch. You can arrange boat tours and fishing trips, walk beautiful trails, and soak in hot springs.
Start by walking along the lake shore to the source of the hot springs. It's a short and picturesque stroll that offers glimpses of the surrounding mountains and lush forests. The walk includes signage and art from local First Nations which share their traditional stories and knowledge. The source is underwhelming but the lakeside walk is worth a stroll.
For a touch of luxury, consider staying at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa. This iconic resort not only provides access to the rejuvenating hot springs but also offers stunning lake views, fine dining, and spa treatments to enhance your relaxation. Check out my previous post on the resort: Harrison Hot Springs - Solo at a Spa Resort.
Campers can travel another 15 minutes up the lake to Sasquatch Provincial Park, a large second-growth forested park with a series of pocket lakes. Winter camping is not available but during the summer, there are several campgrounds within the park. There are a limited number of first-come, first-serve sites during the summer, so reservations are recommended.
In the little village, you'll find many holiday apartments, charming shops, and the Black Forest German Restaurant which has long been a mainstay in the village, serving hearty German meals.
Enjoy the Hot Springs
After a day filled with exploration, immerse yourself in the healing waters of the Harrison Hot Springs. If staying at the Resort, you will have a choice of pools and spa treatments. While anyone can book spa appointments, only registered guests can use the resort's pools. Visitors staying elsewhere can visit the public pool. The public pool is showing its age and isn't nearly as pretty but the water is the same and the $6.75 admission is a bargain. These therapeutic and relaxing mineral-rich waters are the perfect way to unwind and feel pampered.
Fraser Valley Loop Road Trip Day 3: Sasquatch Provincial Park
Our Fraser Valley adventure continues with a day filled with natural beauty and outdoor activities in Sasquatch Provincial Park.
Sasquatch Provincial Park
Drive about 10 minutes to Sasquatch Provincial Park by following Rockwell Drive along the eastern shore of Harrison Lake. Sasquatch Provincial Park includes several lakes. Hicks, Alice, and Trout Lakes are the most popular. Hicks and Alice Lakes attract swimmers, fishers, boaters, and hikers. Trout Lake (I'm told) is a great fishing spot.
There are several hiking trails of varying difficulty and length to choose from that wind through the forest and have beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
My personal favourite is the Four Lakes Trail, which connects four beautiful lakes, each with its unique charm. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the way; you might spot deer or even the elusive Sasquatch!
After a day of outdoor adventures, return to the Harrison Hot Springs Resort and indulge in a delightful dinner at the Copper Room for a touch of old-worldly nostalgia. This elegant dining establishment offers a diverse menu featuring locally sourced ingredients prepared to perfection. Live music for dancing is provided by "The Jones Boys" who have been performing here for decades.
image credit: Harrison Hot Springs Resort
Fraser Valley Loop Road Trip Day 4: Hope
Enjoy a last soak in the hot springs and then it's time to hit the road. Today, our road trip adventure takes us to Hope, a small town steeped in history and surrounded by incredible mountain landscapes. Located at the confluence of the Fraser and Coquihalla Rivers at the base of the Cascade Mountains, Hope has been an important hub since the Gold Rush days.
Begin your exploration of Hope at Hope Memorial Park, a large multi-use park in the middle of town. The Japanese Friendship Garden is peaceful and calm, it has become a favourite place to stretch my legs whenever I pass through. It is at its best in the Spring.
Don't be surprised to see a wooden sculpture of Sylvester Stallone in his role as Rambo. The first of that movie series, First Blood, was filmed in Hope back in 1982 and is a source of great local pride. Download this self-guided Art Walk where you can wander through a collection of wooden sculptures showing vignettes from Hope's past (Rambo is part of the Walk).
The Kettle Valley Trail and (maybe) Othello Tunnels
If the Othello Tunnels are open during your visit, don't miss the chance to walk the historic Kettle Valley Trail through these fascinating tunnels. Carved into the rugged cliffs, the tunnels were once part of the Kettle Valley Railway. Unfortunately, a large storm in 2021 caused a lot of damage and the trail and tunnels have still not been reopened as of the published date. This is a splendid flat trail and the construction of the tunnels is remarkable. I am hoping it will be reopened in 2024.
If the tunnels are still closed when you visit, drive to the day area to enjoy the serene river views. The rushing turquoise waters and surrounding wilderness make for an ideal spot for a picnic and wildlife spotting.
Kawkawa Lake is another gem in the vicinity of Hope. Whether you're interested in swimming, kayaking, or simply lounging by the lake, Kawkawa Lake is a great place to stop for a while or a full day.
Overnight in Hope
Hope offers a range of accommodation options to suit various preferences and budgets:
For Pampering: Consider staying at the Evergreen Bed & Breakfast, a charming and upscale option with beautiful gardens and comfortable rooms.
Mid-Range: The Park Motel is a solid choice, offering clean and comfortable rooms with easy access to Hope's attractions.
Budget: If you're looking for budget-friendly accommodations, the Heritage Inn Hotel & Convention Centre is a reliable option that provides all the essentials at an affordable price.
Camping: For camping enthusiasts, the Coquihalla Campground is a great choice, with spacious sites in a beautiful forested setting.
Fraser Valley Road Trip Day 5: Bridal Falls, Fort Langley and Vancouver
As our Fraser Valley road trip draws to a close, day five promises a memorable return journey along Hwy 1 that includes a visit to Bridal Veil Falls and an exploration of Fort Langley's rich history.
Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park
You will leave Harrison Hot Springs via the Hot Springs Road. In the town of Aggasiz, you'll join Hwy 9 to Hwy 1. Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park is about 5 minutes north on the opposite side of the highway. The directional signs are well-marked.
The Falls are a breathtaking cascade that changes through the year. There is a short hike to the falls where you'll have panoramic views and be able to get close to the falls. It is most spectacular in the spring as the snow melt increases the flow.
Fort Langley National Historic Site
The final stop on this Fraser Valley Loop road trip is the incredibly well-presented Fort Langley Historic Site. Fort Langley is a former Hudson Bay Company fur-trade fort located on the banks of the Fraser River in the adorable town of Fort Langley.
You'll be able to explore the historic building, interact with costumed interpreters, watch a blacksmith at work and learn about the fur trade and early settlement of British Columbia
This site is a fascinating window into the region's history, and I've shared more about it in my previous post on "Vancouver Day Trips" (link here), where I highlight some of my favourite things to do in the metro Vancouver area, including Fort Langley.
After visiting the historic site, wander around the town. You'll find amazing coffee shops, quirky artisan markets, antique stores and interesting architecture. Decide whether to enjoy dinner at The Fort Pub & Grill or find a place near your Vancouver accommodations. The drive back into Vancouver is straight down the highway.
Extending Your Fraser Valley Road Trip
For those of you with the luxury of more time, consider extending your Fraser Valley road trip to uncover even more of the beauty and history that British Columbia has to offer. Here are two exciting options to consider:
Hope to Princeton
After your stay in Hope, hit the road on Highway 3, also known as the Hope-Princeton Highway. This picturesque route will take you through the heart of the Cascade Mountains and offer breathtaking mountain vistas and charming towns along the way. As you make your way to Princeton, you'll experience the rugged beauty of Manning Provincial Park, with opportunities for hiking, camping, and wildlife spotting. Check out my post Wanda's Adventures: The Hope-Princeton Highway for some firsthand inspiration!
The Gold Rush Trail: A Historic Journey
For history buffs and those seeking to trace the footsteps of gold rush pioneers, follow Highway 12 from Hope to Lillooet. This scenic drive will take you through the Fraser Canyon and along the mighty Fraser River. Once in Lillooet, you'll be at the beginning of the Gold Rush Trail, a historic route that played a pivotal role in the Gold Rush era.
From here, you have two exciting options: Head back to Vancouver via Highway 99, passing through Pemberton and Whistler, as I detailed in my blog post: Wanda's Adventures: The Gold Rush Trail - Part One.
Or, if you're up for an epic journey, continue northward along the Gold Rush Trail to reach the historic town of Barkerville, known for its well-preserved 19th-century buildings and gold rush heritage. Check out this post for some inspiration Wanda's Adventures: Gold Rush Trail - Part Two.
With these extended road trip options, you can dive even deeper into the rich history, stunning landscapes, and diverse experiences that British Columbia has to offer. Whether you choose to explore the mountainous terrain along the Hope-Princeton Highway or trace the footsteps of gold rush pioneers on the historic Gold Rush Trail, your journey through the province is sure to be filled with unforgettable memories. Safe travels, and may your adventures be as boundless as the open road!
As you settle into your lodgings back in Vancouver, I hope that you've enjoyed your sample of the rich history, diverse landscapes, and incredible experiences that British Columbia offers in the Fraser Valley.
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