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The Trans-Canada Highway: Road Trip Planning

Updated on April 8, 2015

Many Americans love to take road trips. Most of these lovers of long drives tend to focus their activities in their native land of the lower 48 of the United States. The massive country of Canada is just above the northern border, and road trips in the northern neighbor of the United States can be a new and enjoyable experience for many. Some of the sights are even more impressive than their American counterparts.

The Trans-Canada Highway: Stats

The Trans-Canada is one of the longest highways in the world at nearly 5,000 miles. It basically goes from one end of the country to the other. The main line of the Trans-Canada is noted as Highway 1. The Yellow Head Highway (Highway 16) is also considered a part of the Trans-Canada system. Of the two sections, the Yellow Head is much more scenic.

Highway 1 is not an exciting drive along most of the prairie provinces. Much of this territory is important as a breadbasket, but it is not terribly scenic. There are some important regional centers along the highway. They are quite far apart in most instances.

The Trans-Canada Highway officially opened in 1962 and has served as a link throughout Canada since its completion in 1971.

Highway 1 in the Prairie Provinces

Highway 1 runs the length of the southern prairie provinces. The major centers in the area are Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Regina, Saskatchewan. Both of these urban areas have bypass highways that go around them, but they are the major centers for the prairie provinces with the addition of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan.

Winnipeg is a cosmopolitan city with quite a few opportunities for tourists to have unique experiences. The main emphasis of the city's tourist industry is built up around an area called the Forks, in which the Red and Assiniboine Rivers form a point. There are many things to do on a day trip to Winnipeg, including a children's museum, a zoo and extensive shopping and dining options, in addition to many cultural opportunities.

One of the more interesting places in Saskatchewan is the small town of Moose Jaw. Along with Swift Current and Regina, Moose Jaw is about the only town of consequence along the nearly 400 miles of Highway 1 that runs through Saskatchewan. This small city was one of the leading spots for Americans to get a drink during the Prohibition era. Today, the Museum of Western Development is a great place for adults and children to visit. The museum in Moose Jaw has a great variety of transportation-related artifacts, including trains, cars, boats and planes. The plane collection is made up of small planes that flew into remote areas in the early-to-mid 1900s.

It is very important to make sure to get gas on a regular basis throughout much of central and western Canada. Areas that are big enough to have services are few and far between, especially in Saskatchewan.

Lake Louise in Banff National Park
Lake Louise in Banff National Park | Source
A markerBanff National Park -
Banff National Park, Banff, AB T1L 1K2, Canada
get directions

The Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park

Western Alberta and British Columbia have a big change when it comes to topography. The flat to slightly rolling plains of Manitoba and Saskatchewan transition into a very mountainous landscape as one travels west and nears Calgary.

Medicine Hat, Alberta, is a relatively sizable town that is about three hours outside of Calgary. The city is a major energy center for western Canada and there are a number of attractions and museums that travelers may find of interest.

Calgary is the largest city in Alberta and Highway 1 runs directly through the center of town. Visitors may find the Olympic Village and the Calgary Stampede of interest as they visit the city.

One of the best aspects of Highway 1 is the section that runs through Banff National Park. Small towns like Banff and Canmore have a great deal of charm and numerous hotels for those who are visiting the region.

The Rocky Mountains that run through Banff National Park are amazing, and many people think they are more impressive than their American counterparts. Wildlife and glacial peaks are both common on the drive through Banff. Everyone who visits Banff should take the time to visit Lake Louise, which is one of the most impressive alpine lakes in all of North America. The mountains that frame the lake provide a great setting, with the mountain directly behind the lake topped by an impressive glacier.

The trip across the Trans-Canada can be an amazing family vacation option for Americans who are wanting to do something a bit out of the ordinary. Disney World it isn't, but for those who make it to Banff, the scenery is definitely worth it.

Banff, Alberta
Banff, Alberta | Source


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    • cprice75 profile image

      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      I've not been to the east or Vancouver. Hoping to hit Montreal one of these years. I have been to Niagara Falls and drove the Trans-Canadian from Winnipeg to just over the BC border...since I was that close, I just had to cross it off my list.

    • cprice75 profile image

      cprice75 5 years ago from USA

      Banff is amazing. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and the pics.

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 5 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      I've been to the Maritime Provinces and to Vancouver Island, but haven't seen anything else of Canada. Banff looks beautiful. Great hub.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Would love to drive the Canadian Rockies and Banff. Looks beautiful. Great job. VU and sharing.