A Road trip through the Canadian Rockes

Jun 6th, 2012, 04:22 PM
  #1  
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A Road trip through the Canadian Rockes

For the first time in almost ten years, we’re planning a road trip….in North America! Europe and Asia are great, of course, but we know there are really interesting sights and experiences in our own backyard.

Planning is still in the preliminary stages. Our general itinerary is to drive a loop, starting in Seattle. After (potentially) pausing in Vancouver, BC, we’d be off to Kamloops (emphasizing scenery over speed), then to Jasper, AB. Thence south to Banff and Lake Louise, then – by way of Calgary and Lethbridge – back into the US to brush against Glacier Park, and other sights in western Montana. Finally, via the Washington state Palouse and perhaps Lake Roosevelt, back to Seattle. Details of length of stops are still TBD, but the overall plan is to complete the loop in 10-15 days.

So my main question for those of you who have visited the Canadian Rockies: would timing this trip for mid- to late-September be a good idea?

We’re eager to avoid the worst of the tourist crush, and perhaps take advantage of off-season lodging rates. But if typical weather conditions at that time of year would mean we couldn’t enjoy much of what we hope to see, we’ll adjust the timing to a bit earlier.

We’re not campers or hikers, so we’re not concerned about being drowned or frozen in a tent. We’re mostly hoping that skies will be reasonably clear, so that we can enjoy the scope of the landscape we’re passing through, without a huge hassle from crowds.

Does anyone have any caveats or pointers to offer?

Many thanks in advance.
fritzrl is offline  
Jun 6th, 2012, 05:33 PM
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What fun! This is one of our favorite drives. Mid-late September is ideal. Before I speak to our favorites:

How much time are you allowing?

What are your particular interests? (like wine? how much hiking do you like? ever heard of aplets or cotlets? how about car ferries? historic interests? how many hours a day is your driving preference/tolerance?)
sludick is offline  
Jun 6th, 2012, 05:36 PM
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Ah, fritzrl...I see you are from Seattle. Of course you know what cotlets are.

I'll wait for your other responses.
sludick is offline  
Jun 6th, 2012, 06:09 PM
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"After (potentially) pausing in Vancouver, BC, we’d be off to Kamloops (emphasizing scenery over speed)"

I hope you mean taking the Sea to Sky Highway 99 to the Interior-it's a wonderful drive along Howe Sound to Squamish then through the mountains to Whistler and from there over & through the Coast Mountain range-some stunning vistas.

http://www.drivebc.ca/
Sam_Salmon is offline  
Jun 6th, 2012, 09:00 PM
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Sam, the Sea Sky sounds like exactly what we're looking for -- thanks for that tip.

Sludick, nice to have our timeframe confirmed! We're not overly time-driven on this trip, as we've left the working world behind. I noted a 10-15 day limit to this trip mostly because that's about how long we can live out of suitcases without going nuts.

Nor do we feel any need to cover vast amounts of territory quickly. We both grew up taking family road trips in which the arrival was more important than the journey. So, I'd say 5 hrs per day of driving is our normal upper limit. If we end up having to drive longer in one day between two overnight stop points, we'll probably drive minimally, if at all, the next day. I noted a 10-15 day limit to this mostly because that's about how long we can live out of suitcases without going nuts.

We are quite fond of leisurely meals in unusual or scenic surroundings, and they can even be picnics. We love soaking in the ambiance of wherever we happen to stop, and take whatever opportunities we find to get to know local residents, or even fellow travelers. If the history of a place is particularly interesting, we often seek out museums or local tours to learn more about it.

Perhaps one of you can confirm what I've heard that staying in Banff proper is not to be recommended, given the number of nearby towns with less crowded, and perhaps less expensive, quality lodgings.

Thanks greatly for your interest in helping this planning.
fritzrl is offline  
Jun 7th, 2012, 04:25 AM
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<>

There is only one nearby town, Canmore, and while it has plenty of accommodation, some less expensive than Banff, I would far prefer to stay in Banff. Lake Louise is just a small townsite with limited accommodation, some of it very expensive (Chateau Lake Louise, Post Hotel).
laverendrye is offline  
Jun 7th, 2012, 07:54 AM
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Might I suggest Deer Lodge in Lake Louise? http://www.crmr.com/deer/

It is very cute, and their restaurant is well-regarded. We enjoyed our stay there - in a lodge room in the historic wing, although it was small. There are a variety of rooms/prices. I should warn you that their wines by the glass are on the pricey side.
sludick is offline  
Jun 9th, 2012, 02:02 PM
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"Perhaps one of you can confirm what I've heard that staying in Banff proper is not to be recommended, given the number of nearby towns with less crowded, and perhaps less expensive, quality lodgings."

I agree with lavendrye - there are no other close by towns, except Canmore, and I would choose Banff, too. Lake Louise does have several nice places to stay, but it is not a "town", per se. It's a collection of a few nice places to stay that are close to
Aramis is offline  
Jun 9th, 2012, 04:31 PM
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Given fritzrl's expressed interest in avoiding the crowds and finding unique/scenic settings, I am not thinking that downtown Banff is quite the right setting.

Aside from my recommendation above, there are other possibilities - perhaps Brewster's Mountain Lodge? We usually stay in a timeshare in the Banff area, so I am not a great resource.

Up in Jasper, I like Patricia Lake Bungalows. It's on a little road right outside town, on a lake and away from traffic, with a number of lodging options from rustic to more luxurious. I've seen Becker's, and it looks awesome, although subject to more traffic.
sludick is offline  
Jun 10th, 2012, 07:52 AM
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Wow, these are some great suggestions for lodgings. I'll take some time this afternoon to start checking them out.

Good to know more about Canmore. Even though it's bit sleepy, if it's a reasonably short distance from Banff we might find it a good spot to retreat to after the Banff throngs get to be a bit much.

Thanks very much everyone
fritzrl is offline  
Jun 10th, 2012, 08:43 AM
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I'm not sure I would describe Canmore as "sleepy". It's a booming town with lots of hotels, motels, condos etc and is bisected by both the Trans-Canada Highway and the main line of the CPT (which also runs through Banff. It's the last place before the park boundary and all the development restrictions within the park. Again, I would only choose it over Banff for price or availability.

I think that what you are looking for is a lodge in Banff NP outside of town, but most of these do not come cheap. Moraine Lake Lodge outside Lake Louise is one example. You could also look for one of the less expensive places at Lake Louise (i.e. not the Chateau LL or the Post), such as Deer Lodge recommended by sludick.
laverendrye is offline  
Jun 10th, 2012, 01:00 PM
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Oops, "CPT" of course refers to the Canadian Pacific Railway!
laverendrye is offline  
Jun 10th, 2012, 03:48 PM
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And speaking of "CPT" - thanks laverendrye - if you like little historic tidbits, be sure to stop in where the last spike of the CPT railway was driven: http://www.britishcolumbia.com/attractions/?id=217
sludick is offline  
Jun 10th, 2012, 05:27 PM
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Canmore is not sleepy.
Aramis is offline  
Jun 10th, 2012, 07:11 PM
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I was rereading the posts, and amazed myself that I somehow inferred 'sleepiness' for Canmore. Perhaps it was that, as I read the posts referring to Canmore, I was myself on the verge of going to bed.

Apologies for any offense to Canmoreans. None intended. In fact, I think Canmore may be where we put in for the night when we're in the area.

Progress in the planning, BTW -- I put together a chart that shows mileage and driving times between the main locations on our route, and was surprised to note that Jasper and Banff are further from each other than I'd thought. I'm wondering is the Ice Fields Parkway a 'slow drive'? That is, does it actually take even longer to navigate than the mileage (kilomerterage) would indicate?
fritzrl is offline  
Jun 10th, 2012, 08:08 PM
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It's about 3.5 hours between Jasper and Banff, but I would allow most of a day for it, since there are so many places to stop - lakes, waterfall, the Columbia Icefields, scenic viewpoints etc. Pack a picnic lunch and then you can stop to eat on your own schedule and avoid the tourist hordes at the very few (and expensive) spots en route. The speed limit on the Icefields Parkways is 90 km/hr for most of it, but there is the Tangle Hill section with a 50 km/hr limit for several kilometres, and there will also be construction happening on that section.

Mid to late September is a great time ... there is often a stretch of settled weather then - sunny and warm during the day although chilly at night (hence no bugs). The deciduous trees and shrubs are turning colour too (fall colour generalls peaks in the first few days of October).
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Jun 11th, 2012, 03:13 PM
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Banff is not a bad place to stay. Canmore used to be just a place outside the National Park gates - a little dumpy and nothing to consider (sorry Canmorites) until development restrictions in Banff caused it to morph into the "other" place to stay or own a chalet/condominium that was close to the "good" place.

Banff has more history, character, and more scenery. It's bustling, not overrun. You won't be hanging out in Canmore when there is the Sulphur Mountain Gondola, Banff Springs Hotel, Bow Falls, the Hot Springs, etc. in Banff itself., so why fight it?
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Jun 11th, 2012, 04:07 PM
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Banff will not be that busy during September. It is a nice ski town. I would stay there or Lake Louise. Even though Lake Louise has no town, it is centrally located for seeing Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, Lake O'Hara--there were actually some great rates at the Banff Springs Hotel (and most other hotels) in September when we visited.

We have enjoyed staying at Paradise Lodge and Bungalows in Lake Louise, Baker Creek Chalets that is between Banff and Lake Louise, the Rimrock in Banff and also really enjoyed Emerald Lake Lodge (got a last minute special rate there)

In Jasper, we have stayed at Beckers and Patricia lake and would return to them also. In Jasper, you can also rent rooms in private homes, which is a very affordable option.

You should actually try taking some of the easy hikes in the area. It may just turn you into a hiker.

Be sure to pack layers. We had snow the first week in September--it melted, but the mornings and evenings were cool. We hiked in short sleeves during the day.
LindainOhio is offline  
Jun 12th, 2012, 07:54 AM
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KRP - thanks for the input on the Ice Fields Parkway. I'm so glad to know it's an interesting drive, so we'll simply not be in any hurry to get from one end to the other.

Aramis and Lindain -- I think you've persuaded me to give Banff more consideration for at least a 2-day stay! I'm pleased that our travel 'window' will allow a little more elbow room to really enjoy the place. So I guess I'll go ahead and more closely investigate places to stay in Banff proper.

And thanks, too, for the information on good spots in Lake Louise and Jasper. I think I'm ready to move on to the next phase of planning. (I simply can't travel without working out a spreadsheet of details beforehand. I guess I'm kind of a travel nerd in that way.)

Layers...yes! Living in western Washington state has turned us into weather wimps, so we'll have to dig out some wooly layers to take along.
fritzrl is offline  
Jun 14th, 2012, 07:25 AM
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I was actually in the Canadian Rockies when I read this! For a place to stay in Jasper...Jasper House is just a couple miles outside of town...nice cabiny rooms along the Athabasca River! Devine!!!
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