3 Best Fall Road Trips from Vancouver

It’s a common belief amongst locals that the first weekend in September (also known as Labour Day) is the end to camping season in BC. Although this may be true for northern BC, the south west of the province enjoys a significantly longer season which can extend all the way to Halloween. There are many benefits to shoulder season camping (as we outlined in our blog post titled “7 Reasons Why Hastings Overland Loves Fall Camping”) so get your travel buddy and take advantage of these epic routes!

1. Vancouver Island (west coast focused)

  • Km’s: 824 km

  • Minimum duration: 4 days

  • Suggested duration: 7 days

  • Link to map: Link

What better place to squeeze out one final camping trip than the southernmost place in the province? ‘The Island’ is full of great roads, incredible beaches, and fall activities for all types. October still offers all of the activities available in the summer while providing better surfing and fishing than other times in the year. 

Highlights: Hiking to the beaches on the south west coast, driving back roads from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni, salmon fishing down the Alberni Inlet, surfing in Tofino, Whether you’re looking to catch the first waves of the season near Port Renfrew, mountain bike near Cumberland, and the ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver.

Camping Options: There are a great mix of backcountry sites and well-established private, provincial (ie: Rathtrevor Park), and national park campsites. A trip plan purchased through Hastings Overland guarantees some great backcountry campsites! 

Pro Tips: 

  • No trip passing through Port Renfrew is complete without a quick rip to see our friend Big Lonely Doug. Read about it here

  • Skip doing the same road twice from Nanaimo to Tofino by taking the forest service roads from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni. 

  • Time to kill before your ferry back to Vancouver? Make sure to drop by Drip Coffee which is just 5 minutes from the ferry terminal in Nanaimo.  

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2. Coastal Marine Route

  • Km’s: 450 km

  • Minimum duration: 5

  • Suggested duration: 8

  • Link to map: Link

Similar to Vancouver Island, this route is located in one of the most mild regions in BC. This route is equally focused on its waterways as it is the roadways. With 4 ferries (and an additional 2 if you’d like to visit Hornby Island) you will have plenty of time to hang out on the top deck of the ferry and enjoy viewing the ocean wildlife, fishing boats, and rugged BC coastline. With the peak road-tripping season now over, the ferries will be more enjoyable without the crowds. 

Highlights: The Sunshine Coast has something for everyone. The Sunshine Coast Trail is a 180 km hut-to-hut hiking trail network which spans from Sarah Point in Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay. With many accessible trailheads, doing day trips or 1-night overnight hikes are both very possible. The Hastings Overland team hiked to Tin Hat Hut (absolutely spectacular!) this summer on an overnight hiking adventure highly recommend! 

In addition, there is some incredible downhill mountain biking to be had on “The Coast”. Check out the Coast Gravity Park when you’re driving through Sechelt.

Once you head over to Vancouver Island, we’d highly recommend visiting the North Gulf Islands named Denman and Hornby. Hornby in particular is a very unique spot with white sandy beaches which seem endless at low tide and unique thatched-roof homes. 

Camping Options: Hike-in hut camping, recreation sites such a Dinner Rock, provincial parks such as Inland Lake Provincial Park, and an abundant amount of backcountry camping on the Upper Sunshine Coast near Powell River which we’d be happy to help you with.

Pro Tips: 

  • Have a day to kill near Powell River? Head up to Lund and take the water taxi over to Savary Island. You can rent bikes or mopeds up by the pub which is walking distance from the dock where the water taxi drops you. The entire island is bordered by white sandy beaches and is full of very unique homes. Rent a moped for a couple hours and you can see the entire thing! 

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3. Fraser River Canyon Route

  • Km’s: 574 km’s

  • Minimum duration: 3 days

  • Suggested duration: 5 days

  • Link to map: Link  

When it comes to trips which can be done without much effort from Vancouver, this is our favourite. Although definitely the trip plan with the highest likelihood to encounter colder temperatures on this list, the route is hard to beat for simple beauty and diversity. On the Sea to Sky leading you all the way to the northernmost point of the itinerary, the town of Lillooet, you will be surrounded by towering mountains, rushing rivers, and world class hiking, biking, and fishing. Heading south along the Fraser River you will enter a more arid and desert-like environment.

Highlights: Backcountry exploring near Squamish, visiting Whistler (site of the 2010 Olympics), bathing in hot springs near Pemberton, and fishing for sturgeon along the Fraser River (which can weigh over 800 pounds and measure over 11 feet in length!).

Camping Options: This route has some incredible backcountry camping options if you know where to look. If you don’t know, that’s what we’re here for! 

Pro Tip: 

  • Dont pass through Squamish without stopping for pizza at Backcountry Brewing.

  • The best groceries along the route will be found in Squamish and Whistler at Nesters. Past Whistler the options for good grocers become more limited until you reach Hope. 

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Maxwell Webster