1. Kayak Cousteau’s Wild Waters
Jacques Cousteau had good reason to call the calm waters of Pacific Rim National Park the most wildlife-laden he’d ever seen. Bald eagles are as common as robins overhead, herds of one-ton sea lions sun themselves on rocky outcroppings, orcas and Pacific gray whales migrate by, and otters cavort offshore. The best way to spot all this wildlife is on a multiday paddling trip among the park’s Broken Group Islands. From Vancouver, take the car ferry to Nanaimo, then hop on the Pacific Rim Highway to Ucluelet, the jumping-off point for the archipelago. If you choose to DIY, give yourself four days to explore and come armed with charts and a tent. Seven islands have campsites ($10; pc.gc.ca ). Or sign on for a cushier four-day foray with Vancouver Island Kayak ($1,000; vancouverislandkayak.com).
2. Medal in Multisport Appreciation
No place in North America packs as many outdoor adventures into such a magnificent arena as the Euro-style village of Whistler. The town is being groomed to host February’s alpine and Nordic ski events, but late summer is prime time to preview its new world-class goods. Take the just finished Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which links Whistler and Blackcomb via a stomach-dropping 1,427-foot-high unsupported tram, to fresh hiking trails and mountaintop BBQ at the Roundhouse Lodge. Or hop on the chairlift to Whistler Mountain Bike Park to freeride 4,900 vertical feet of drops and jumps (bike and lift, $150; whistlerbike.com ). Then top off your sports circuit on Whistler’s new via ferrata: A short glacier walk leads to bolted-in steel rungs up thousand-foot Whistler Buttress; it’s the nontechnical equivalent of an eight-pitch ascent ($129; whistlerguides.com).
3. Road-Trip the Route
In BC’s far north, where the Rockies end and the Yukon begins, an SUV jockey feels like a Hudson’s Bay Company trapper making the rounds. The rugged topography is pure Old West frontier, with tiny pioneer settlements sprinkled across a vast tundra, yet you’re never more than an hour from lodging. The paved, 1,635-mile Great Northern Circle Route starts in Prince George, an hour by air (or eight by car) from Vancouver. Head north into the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area, a mountainous mega-wilderness seven times the size of Yellowstone. Lynx, caribou, bison, and grizzlies are often seen right by the road. Then you’ll trace the Yukon border before following the blacktop south past volcanic Mount Edziza back to Prince George.
4. Trek to Canada’s Highest Falls
Strathcona Provincial Park is like a mini Switzerland in the middle of Vancouver Island. Its 965,000 protected acres are dominated by jagged mountain peaks and dotted with glaciers, lakes, and alpine valleys. Due to the island’s isolation, Strathcona is also home to only-see-’em-here species like Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, and Vancouver Island marmots and wolves. To feel the spray of thundering 1,500-foot Della Falls, the country’s highest, take a boat to the west end of Great Central Lake and pitch camp near the start of the Della Falls Trail. From there, it’s a tough 13-mile hike to Love Lake for a vertigo-inducing, top-down peek at the cascade (env.gov.bc.ca).