The Trans-Canada Highway is a series of provincial highways which join all ten provinces of Canada.
- This article is an itinerary.
Canada is the second largest country in the world and a cross-country trip overland was no small obstacle. While the Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CPR) last spike opened travel across Canada by train in 1885, an “all-red route” (entirely through British territory) by road remained elusive for much of the 20th century. Albert E. Todd (the mayor of Victoria, BC from 1917-1919) had a gold medal struck in 1912, to be offered as a prize for the first car to drive from Nova Scotia across all of Canada to the Pacific. That award remained unclaimed for more than three decades, not through lack of effort, but through lack of infrastructure.
British freelance writer Thomas Wilby (“A Motor Car Tour Through Canada”, 1914) and Reo head mechanic James Haney reached Victoria from Halifax only by carrying their 1912 Reo by train from North Bay to Sudbury, by ship across Lake Superior to the Lakehead, then back on the train to Selkirk. An attempt to motor on the CPR’s rail tracks in British Columbia damaged two of the four tires; their attempt to find an “All-Red Route” failed as they had to cross briefly into the US to avoid mountains between Paterson and Cascade, British Columbia. Later voyagers merely found more of the same; Percy Gomery (“A Motor Scamper ‘Cross Canada”, 1922) left Montreal with his wife to drive home to Vancouver in 1920; they got as far as Sault Sainte Marie (Ontario) before having to cross into foreign territory. A wartime effort forced a gravel road through a northern route Hearst–Geraldton–Nipigon in 1943, allowing Brig. R. Alex Macfarlane (rtd.) and former Royal Canadian Air Force squadron leader Ken MacGillivray to drive a new GM 1946 Chevrolet Stylemaster from Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, to the Pacific as the first to cross the country entirely on Canadian roads. The Trans-Canada Highway Act (1949) funded construction of the current mainline, which officially opened in 1962. Paving of two lanes coast-to-coast was completed by 1970. The most lengthy uninterrupted highway in the world at the time, the Trans-Canada Highway system is recognizable by its distinctive white-on-green maple leaf markers.
Following 8030 km (just under 5000 miles) of Trans-Canada Highway across all ten provinces is one of the three-longest single-country highway journeys in the world (along with the Highway 1 ring road around Australia and – if one ignores the brief detour into neighbouring Kazakhstan – the Trans-Siberian Highway across Russia).
Despite the distances, many Canadians have some interest in seeing the entire country and driving across Canada is a common way of doing it. The Trans Canada Highway is not one road but a system of provincial highways that together span the entire country:
- Trans Canada Highway 1 (four western provinces, mainline)
- Trans Canada Highway 16 – Yellowhead Highway (four western provinces, northern alternate)
- Ontario Highway 17/417 (Ontario mainline)
- Ontario Highway 11, Highway 71 (mostly-northern alternate)
- Ontario Highway 69/400, Highway 12 ,Highway 7 (southern alternate)
- Québec autoroutes 40, 20 and 85/route 185 (mainline)
- Québec route 117/Ontario 66 (northern alternate)
- Trans Canada Highway 2/16 (New Brunswick)
- Trans Canada Highway 106/104/105 (Nova Scotia)
- Highway 1 (Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island)
It’s quicker to list what isn’t on the Trans-Canada: Labrador, the far north and high Arctic, Southwestern Ontario, the Niagara Peninsula and a chunk of southern Nova Scotia. The highway bypasses Toronto and Halifax.