Pacific Marine Road, BC. Click image to enlarge
Article by Brendan McAleer, title photo by Northernridge
Stelvio Pass, the derestricted Autobahn, the Nikkō Irohazaka, blah, blah, blah. What about roads Canadians can actually drive on in something other than a rented diesel hatchback? It’s not like we don’t have a lot of tarmac criss-crossing this big ol’ country, so where’s the good stuff?
Turns out, you just need to know where to look, as there’s a plentiful list of backyard backroads and vista-spanning highways that are either an eyeful or a handful, depending on your tastes. In an effort to at least catalogue some of the less-usual suspects, we mined our own Autos.ca forums, delved into the internet’s back-eddies and tried to cut the list down to something manageable. Here’s what we came up with.
My home province is a wealth of good driving roads, and at least two of the most famous ones don’t make my list. The Sea-to-Sky highway is heavily patrolled and too inviting to speed on, and the drive from Nanaimo to Tofino is all too often clogged with slow-moving RVs.
For the best run where you don’t have to worry about the draconian 40-km/h-over impound law, try the Fraser Canyon, particularly the stretch between Yale and Boston Bar. The full Lillooet-loop from Vancouver is a must-drive for locals, but the 40-km segment that runs through seven different tunnels just north of small-town Yale is simply excellent. With a speed limit that’s 90 km/h for most of the way of a winding two-lane, you’re not tempted to cross into infraction territory, while still having some good fun.
For a coast-road alternative to the route to Tofino, head out to Port Renfrew instead. A kite-boarding paradise, Port Renfrew isn’t quite as picturesque as Tofino, but the nature is just as spectacular, and the road is simply phenomenal. Imagine a paved logging road, and there you go – it’s called the Pacific Marine Road, and it’s about an hour drive from Lake Cowichan onwards.
Icefields Parkway, AB. Photos courtesy blotter. Click image to enlarge
Crank up the Corb Lund and hit cruise control as you run along the continental divide on the Icefields Parkway. It’s a straight road, not exactly set up for lateral-g fans, but it runs from near Banff up to Jasper and has some world-class scenery. Once you get to Jasper, forum members Johngenx and Fobroader called out two short sections for elbow wagging left-right stuff: the 13-km section along 93a to the Edith Cavell Parking lot, and the 17-km section from Highway 16 to the Miette hotsprings.
We’ll also give top marks to the road from Calgary to Drumheller in the Badlands for its unique landscape, and the chance of finding some dino bones.
Everybody’s favourite wheat-crammed rectangle, Saskatchewan might seem like it only has roads for straight-line fans. On the other hand, way out in the wide spaces between the towns, that means there’s often nobody around – there’s something charming about the lonely road. Try the Red Coat Trail, Highway 13, running laterally across the province to trace the old North West Mounted Police’s original trail. If you’re going to test your speed when there’s no one around, just watch out for modern-day Mounties.
Finding somewhere else to carve up the tarmac in Saskatchewan can be difficult, but I have a Subaru, so my antennae went up when stumbling across this little factoid: if not otherwise posted, the speed limits on Saskatchewan’s gravel roads is 80 km/h. Picking one rural road is next to impossible here, but if you spot somewhere off the beaten path, it’s perfectly okay to channel your inner Pat “Rocket” Richard.
River Road, MB. Click image to enlarge
Thanks to Manitoba forum member Northernridge in pointing out how good Manitoba’s roads are for enjoying your car’s on-centre straight tracking abilities. Fellow Manitoban Blunderwriter posted an interesting-looking map that had the words “BIG Jump” tantalizingly printed on it. Me gusta.
Gravel tracks aside, we’re giving our second pick to Hwy 10, just off the Yellowhead highway, through to Riding Mountain National Park. It’s about an hour off the Trans-Canada, and from there the brave can head East on Provincial Trunk “Highway” 19, a narrow winding unpaved band that takes you over a spine of hills in the park itself.