The Road To The Rocky Mountains

Experience the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains through the eyes of an Aussie's first time

By Gerome Kang | March 20, 2024
The Canadian Rockies, it met all of my expectations and more, there were moments of serendipity with the most amazing people and unplanned hitches that were quickly washed away by the tranquility of the mountains.

First Impressions of Canada from an Australian

If you’re reading this because nature beckons and you’re contemplating exploring the “True North,” then Vancouver serves as the perfect gateway to a world of adventure. This stunning metropolis opens up the road to the majestic Rocky Mountains, unveils the hidden gems of Vancouver Island through the Strait of Georgia, and places you within arm’s reach of the world-renowned Whistler Blackcomb via the Sea to Sky Highway. By the end of this blog, you’ll have three options for huge adventures that you’re sure to remember for the rest of your life!

As soon as you drop into Vancouver, you’ll feel the camaraderie between Canadians and Australians is so legendary it’s something akin to the bond between Vegemite and Vita-Weat. Before you even get a chance to be gobsmacked by mountains, the first thing that will bewilder you is the hospitality of Canadian people. The tales we all hear really are true; you’ll be greeted with “Sorry,” and you’ll probably reply with a “sorry.”

And if you’re worried about missing any part of home, just visit any major ski resort (like “Whistralia”), and you’ll hear familiar accents and conversations in abundance — proof that, even in Canada, you’re never too far from the warm embrace of a “maaaaate”.

Vancouver: A Gateway to Adventure

But Canada offers so much more, we’ll be diving into more hidden gems in the latter part of this blog. For those already familiar with the household names like Banff, Whistler, Lake Louise, Lake Moraine — let me guide you through some of the best ways to experience these jaw-dropping landscapes because they really are nothing to miss out on. 

Vancouver, it really is an amazing city. A thirty-minute minute drive from downtown Vancouver will land you on Cypress Mountain, home to the highest peak in Vancouver’s Shore Mountains, as well as one of the best viewing points you’ll see so close to Vancouver, St Marks Summit! 

On the clearest days you’ll be able to see Vancouver Island and the surrounding Gulf Islands, the Tantalus Range and the Sea to Sky highway one thousand meters below St Marks Summit. If this is all just 30 minutes out from Downtown Vancouver, just imagine what a road trip to Alberta unveils.

Nepal, Spain, Australia vs Canada: Hiking, climbing, camping..

Okay, I’m quickly going to flex my hiking portfolio and explain why nothing compares to Canada. It’s not a lot, but I have still hiked in a few countries of note: Himalayas in Nepal (ABC and EBC), the Pyrenees in Northern Spain (Catalunya), plenty of backcountry in the Blue Mountains and the Royal Coastal Walk in Australia (an absolute favorite). 

The reason why these don’t compare to Vancouver and Canada in general, is because you receive the same caliber of mountain ranges if not BETTER. All within reasonable and accessible distance from metro cities. And there’s THOUSANDS upon thousands of trails available for any type of adventure.

Comparatively to the noted countries, well Nepal is amazing, but besides having to fly into the most dangerous airport in the world Lukla for the start of your EBC trek, you really have to be prepped for it. The Pyrenees in Spain are also amazing, but definitely out of the way with not many options for getting around by transit and can be hard gaining resources about where to go! And the good old Blue Mountains and Royal Coastal Walk are always a good choice for hiking, but let’s just face it – there are NO mountains in Australia! So, while all three options are absolutely amazing, Canada wins overall for a variety of reasons.

The Road To The Majestic Rocky Mountains

I recently went on a 4-day Canadian Rockies tour from Vancouver with West Trek and the experience was nothing short of transformative. 

Transformative, big word to use for a bus tour, but hear me out. Each stop along the way is like the introduction of a whole new chapter, filled with pages of mountains and new landscape to take in. The mountains, rivers and land in the Rockies all share stories dating back 55 million years. So when I use the word “transformative” trust me, for me at least, the experience means a lot more than just a “winter wonderland”. 

One realization stood out about this trip— the hours spent on the bus were anything but dull. Throughout the journey, my gaze was fixed on the panoramic view unfolding in every direction. Mountains, countless and unnamed, surrounded us. Attempting to name each one seemed an impossible task, and rightfully so. They stood together in colossal formations, creating towering walls that made me feel insignificantly small. The sheer magnitude of the landscape transformed every moment into an experience of awe.

Each time we made a pit stop, it was as if time stopped, the entire outside world fades away and you’re lost in amazement. When was the last time you actually stood in front of a landscape so pure that you wandered around without thinking “how long have I been walking for, how far have I walked?” to realize how much distance you covered from your starting point.

Bus tours or self-driven adventures

I am a huge fan of road trips, I love driving myself anywhere and everywhere. I’ve done plenty of road tripping up the Sea to Sky pass Whistler, Pemberton, all the way to Lilooet and back to Vancouver. It’s nice but we all know how tiring being in the driver seat can be on a four hour drive (one-way).  

The drive from Vancouver to Banff is almost ten hours, so there’s that. Driving long-distance at high speeds, with potential icy/snowy roads if you’re there in winter. It just makes sense to leave the driving up to a professional at this point. The reason the hours on the road didn’t impact me was because I got to daydream and stare out at the mountains the entire time – it was like a movie for me. 

Let’s factor in other unknowns that travelers won’t be very familiar with – national park passes. From Vancouver to Banff and its surrounding areas like Jasper, there are five different national parks you’ll be passing through. You’ll need park passes for each person traveling with you (they’re not cheap) and they have to match the names and information used when purchasing the passes. You will need physical passes to be displayed at all times, which can either be mailed to you (internationally) or purchased at visitor centers located throughout the Rockies.

The Best Way To Experience The Rockies

There are many ways for you to experience the Rockies. Personally, I would love to enjoy the mountains through my own adventure, including hiring my own car or camper van to dive into the wilderness and extend my stay until whenever I like. But when weighing this up against the pros of having everything taken care of and organized for me – I would prefer the latter experience. The amount of planning involved, I found everything to be much easier with DCT. Yes, I would book a tour again, except this time I would go for a 5-day Rockies tour from Vancouver – that extra day would really give me the perfect amount of time with that extra day in Banff. 

Another experience that made this trip even better was the addition of many new friends that I’m grateful to have made. What brings you and a complete stranger closer together are the shared moments of experiencing the Rockies for the first time together. Everything from bus buddy chats about life to sharing your first s’more around the campfire makes the experience something special. 

Traveling with a well-known tour company just makes exploring Canada easier. I had zero… absolutely zero issues. If I was traveling solo I probably wouldn’t be able to visit all of the amazing places that we did on the tour. Extra stops at beautiful places that I wouldn’t have thought to visit myself were really eye-opening and highlighted through all the extra information from tour guides. 

If you have an appreciation for nature’s wonder then a road trip from Vancouver to Banff is something to behold – everything from the mountains, rivers and lakes along the way are nothing but an invitation to adventure. The strangers who become friends and family along the way are an added bonus!