Trans-Canada Highway

Canada's National Trans-Canada Highway

Trans-Canada Highway
A Bighorn Sheep decides when to cross the Trans-Canada Highway in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. Richard Goerg/Getty Images
Canada is the world’s second largest country by area. The Trans-Canada Highway is the world’s longest national highway. The 8030 kilometer (4990 mile) highway runs west and east through all ten provinces. The endpoints are Victoria, British Columbia and St. John’s, Newfoundland. The highway does not cross the three northern territories of Canada. The highway crosses cities, national parks, rivers, mountains, forests, and prairies.
There are many possible routes, depending on what cities the driver would like to visit. The highway’s logo is a green and white maple leaf.

History and Importance of the Trans-Canada Highway

Before modern transportation systems existed, crossing Canada by horse or boat could take months. Railroads, planes, and automobiles greatly reduced travel time. The construction of the Trans-Canada Highway was approved in 1949 by an act of Canada’s Parliament. Construction occurred in the 1950s, and the highway opened in 1962, when John Diefenbaker was Canada’s Prime Minister.

The Trans-Canada highway is extremely beneficial to Canada’s economy. The highway allows Canada’s abundant natural resources to be shipped across the world. The highway brings many tourists to Canada yearly. The government continually upgrades the highway to ensure its safety and convenience.

British Columbia and the Prairie Provinces

The Trans-Canada Highway has no official starting point, but Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is the westernmost city on the highway.
Victoria is located very near the Pacific Ocean at the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Travelers can drive north to Nanaimo, and then cross the Strait of Georgia by ferry to reach Vancouver and the mainland of Canada. The highway crosses British Columbia. In the eastern part of the province, the Trans-Canada Highway travels through the city of Kamloops, the Columbia River, Rogers Pass, and three national parks - Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, and Yoho.

The Trans-Canada Highway enters Alberta at Banff National Park, located in the Rocky Mountains.

Banff, the oldest national park in Canada, is home to Lake Louise. Banff’s Kicking Horse Pass, located in the Continental Divide, is the highest point on the Trans-Canada Highway, at 1643 meters (5,390 feet, above one mile in elevation). Calgary, the largest city in Alberta, is the next major destination on the Trans-Canada Highway. The highway travels through Medicine Hat, Alberta, before entering Saskatchewan.

In Saskatchewan, the Trans-Canada Highway travels through the cities of Swift Current, Moose Jaw, and Regina, the capital of the province.

In Manitoba, travelers drive through the cities of Brandon and Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba.

Yellowhead Highway

Since the Trans-Canada Highway is located in the southern portion of the four westernmost provinces, a route through the center of these provinces became necessary. The Yellowhead Highway was constructed in the 1960s and opened in 1970. It begins near Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, and heads northwest through Saskatoon (Saskatchewan), Edmonton (Alberta), Jasper National Park (Alberta), Prince George (British Columbia), and ends in coastal Prince Rupert, British Columbia.


In Ontario, the Trans-Canada Highway passes through the cities of Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, and North Bay. However, the highway does not pass through the region around Toronto, which is Canada’s most heavily populated region. Toronto is located farther south than the main highway route. The highway straddles the border with Quebec and reaches Ottawa, the capital of Canada.


In Quebec, a province which is mostly French-speaking, the Trans-Canada Highway eases access to Montreal, the second largest city in Canada. Quebec City, Quebec’s capital, is located slightly north of the Trans-Canada Highway, across the St. Lawrence River. The Trans-Canada Highway turns east at the city of Riviere-du-Loup and enters New Brunswick.

The Maritime Provinces

The Trans-Canada Highway continues into the Canadian Maritime Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. In New Brunswick, the highway reaches Fredericton, the capital of the province, and Moncton. The Bay of Fundy, home to the world’s highest tides, is located in this region. At Cape Jourimain, travelers can take the Confederation Bridge over the Northumberland Strait and reach Prince Edward Island, the smallest Canadian province by area and population. Charlottetown is the capital of Prince Edward Island.

South of Moncton, the highway enters Nova Scotia. The highway does not reach Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital. At North Sydney, Nova Scotia, travelers can take a ferry to the island of Newfoundland.


The island of Newfoundland and the mainland region of Labrador constitute the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Trans-Canada Highway does not travel through Labrador. Newfoundland’s main cities on the highway include Corner Brook, Gander, and St. John’s. St. John’s, located on the Atlantic Ocean, is the easternmost city on the Trans-Canada Highway.

The Trans-Canada Highway - Canada’s Connector

The Trans-Canada Highway has greatly improved Canada’s economy over the last fifty years. Canadians and foreigners can experience Canada’s beautiful, interesting geography from the Pacific to the Atlantic Oceans. Travelers can visit countless Canadian cities, which exemplify Canada’s hospitality, culture, history, and modernity.
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Richard, Katherine Schulz. "Trans-Canada Highway." ThoughtCo, Mar. 3, 2017, Richard, Katherine Schulz. (2017, March 3). Trans-Canada Highway. Retrieved from Richard, Katherine Schulz. "Trans-Canada Highway." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 20, 2018).