The Best Time to Visit West Coast Canada
The West Coast & Vancouver by season
Around Vancouver, Canada’s West Coast enjoys a temperate climate, bringing mild winters and sunny summers. There’s a delightful lack of rain here as precipitation from the Pacific Ocean heads inland and falls as snow over the Rocky Mountains. Further north towards Alaska winters last longer and in the Yukon there is snow cover for much of the year. To help you choose the best time for your Canada holiday, here are our seasonal suggestions:
March - May
Spring is the perfect time to visit Vancouver. The weather is mild, the flowers are in bloom and there are some bargains to be had before the summer peak. The weather is changeable in the Rockies at this time so don’t forget your warm clothes, and if you’re planning to ride the Rocky Mountaineer, be warned that it doesn’t run until late April, after most of the snow has melted.
Pacific Rim Whale Festival: in March, celebrate all things whale in Vancouver with whale themed dancing and music, and whale watching trips galore.
Lilac Festival: in Calgary, admire the blooming lilac flowers in late May at this one-day street party featuring costumes, dancing, food, music and craft stalls.
June – August
Summer is Canada’s tourist peak season, and it’s no wonder. The sun shines and temperatures hit the mid-twenties, melting the remaining lake ice and making Banff and Jasper National Parks perfect hiking territories. Long hours of daylight and the famous midnight sun in the Yukon, as well as excellent conditions for outdoor activities, make this a good time for exploring the north.
Bear watching: the warm summer months are the best time to spot bears. Try British Columbia’s parks for grizzlies and Klemtu’s Great Bear Rainforest for the elusive spirit bear.
Whale watching: sign up for a boat trip around Vancouver Island to spot migrating orcas, as well as gray, humpback and minke whales.
September - November
Vancouver is lovely in the fall. The temperatures have cooled (bring a jacket) and Stanley Park is carpeted with bright red leaves. Rates decrease after the summer peak and the city takes on a more relaxed feel as the days shorten. In the Rockies, the weather can change suddenly, with snow reasonably common from October, when the Rocky Mountaineer ceases running for the winter.
The Salmon Run: From September to November, salmon spawn in the Yukon’s streams. Come to watch the grizzlies who try to catch them, their fur often freezing in the process.
Banff Craft Beer Festival: In November, sip on locally brewed beers and gourmet food from across Alberta while surrounded by Banff’s spectacular scenery.
December - February
For a true wilderness experience, visit the Yukon in winter. Think dog sledding and cross country skiing, as well as the spectacular northern light displays. Despite the glittering snow scene, the Rocky Mountaineer doesn’t run at this time of year. Instead you can hit the ski slopes in Whistler or Banff, where temperatures hovering around freezing, so wrap up warm.
Polar Bear Swim: On New Year’s Day, get down to the beach at English Bay in Vancouver for a swim in the freezing waters, said to bring good luck.
Frostbite Music Festival: in February, celebrate the Northern Lights in the Yukon at this dance and music festival, performed as the Aurora glitters in the night sky.