Escape The Busy City With This Road Trip To A Beautiful Canadian National Park

A beautiful montage of emerald lakes, glacier valleys, and colorful pines, the odyssey from Seattle to Banff, Alberta, is a road trip everyone should complete at least once in their life. Trade interstates for backroads and city views for the serene vistas of the Pacific Northwest and Canadian Rockies. Averaging a 16.5-hour journey, it's a trip worth spreading out over at least a few days to capture the wilderness at its fullest. Transversing the entire state of Washington and skirting the upper edge of Idaho, this route favors America's mountainous terrain, while diving deep into British Columbia's Rocky Mountains.

Sunshine and warmth make spring and summer the most favorable seasons to explore the peaceful backwoods, with seas of wildflowers springing up from the earth. However, the winter months make for a picturesque drive while getting lost in a snowy trance. With a map in hand to charter your route and a full tank of gas, set out on a wilderness expedition that will maneuver you through some of North America's most scenic beauty.

Seattle and small towns

Begin your trek in the evergreen forests and snow-capped mountains of Seattle. While it may be the springboard for this road trip, it's worth taking at least a few hours to meander the eclectic streets of America's coffee capital. Grab some lobster rolls along the waterfront or take a tour of the iconic Seattle Space Needle. After a much-needed caffeinated beverage, head north on I-5 toward Snohomish County, the "Antique Capital of the Pacific Northwest". With flourishing economic activity, it's home to a historic downtown filled with antique shops.

From here, the WA-530 runs east toward Mt. Baker -Snoqualmie National Forest and Glacier Peak. The forest is over one million acres, running from the Canadian border to Mount Rainier National Park. Dormant volcanoes, pine-covered mountain tops, and glacier waterfalls create a stunning topography for travelers. The picturesque vistas speak for themselves, with monikers like Artist Point and Picture Lake that reflect the serenity of the land.

Wander the North Cascades

Nestled in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountain Range, make a stop in the small city of Newhalem. Nature trails and glacier lakes make up more of this town than its small collection of urban elements. After hiking to Ladder Creek Falls in Newhalem, head back out on the road, east toward the city of Wilbur on State Route 20, passing through North Cascades National Park before the highway intersects with WA-174. Wilbur is the epitome of a quaint American small town dominated by a strong farming community. Personalities are cheerful in this small settlement, even taking on the name "the friendliest little town!" 

Just over an hour from Wilbur, spend the night in Spokane, where the city lights shine a little bit brighter as a thriving mini-metropolis. If you visit on Father's Day, remember that the national holiday originated in this Washington County. Continuing the road trip, you'll venture into the rugged territory of Idaho, following US-95, which takes you into Kaniksu National Forest. Heading north out toward the Canadian border, cross over Kingsgate, the port of entry into British Columbia. 

Get lost in Canadian beauty

Reaching from the border's edge, the highway cuts through a sea of trees. In autumn, the golden hues of fall melt on a dazzling canvas of red, orange, and brown. Embarking on this road trip during wintertime promises its own scope of beauty, with powdery snowflakes dusting every inch of the landscape. While accessible during every season, chillier months especially call for a pitstop at Lussier Creek Hot Springs, located in the heart of Kootenay National Park. The undeveloped mineral pools are heated deep within the earth's core, perfect for soaking creekside while listening to the babbling brook.

Home to icy glaciers and sloping valleys, Kootenay National Park is a trove of untouched nature carved by forested trails. With over 125 miles of scenic trails, there's no better way to experience the Canadian Rockies than on foot. Marble Canyon is an especially attractive landmark, with its red rock canyons splitting the earth's surface and towering above Tokumm Creek. 

Intersecting BC-93 is Canada's transcontinental highway, AB-1 East. Follow this route until you reach the edge of Banff, Alberta, with its crystal clear waters reflecting a perimeter of pines. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Banff National Park is an iconic mountain destination, home to world-class ski resorts and emerald lakes — a captivating destination renowned by globetrotters. Chateau-style hotels and vibrant boutiques and restaurants line every street corner in the town of Banff, while the untamed wilderness beckons nomads from around the globe to explore its treasures.