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Birdie1962 Jul 24th, 2014 04:28 AM

Any good ideas for Western Canada?
Was wondering if anyone had some suggestions for a family trip next summer. We just got back from an Alaska cruise and just loved the mountains, water and cool weather. Can anyone recommend a destination in Western Canada that could offer the same? One of my kids loves the idea of taking a train west. I've seen some tour info and am kind of surprised at how pricey they can be.

kgsneds Jul 24th, 2014 11:00 AM


Yes, unfortunately the long distance trains in Canada tend to be pretty expensive and have fairly limited schedules. Given the size of Canada and the winter weather, rail just can't compete with air travel for most routes.

The main ViaRail route across the country stops in Jasper and in BC, so you go pretty quickly through the mountains (which run north/south). They aren't cheap, but there are sometimes good last minute deals. However, to be honest, the trans Canada route involves a lot more flat, fairly uninteresting land than mountains and great vistas.

The other option are the much more expensive tourist trains which run mostly from Vancouver to the Rockies (but not really in the Rockies) and usually only in the summer/early fall. The main one is the Rocky Mountaineer. I think there's also a short route to Whistler from Vancouver.

For locations, if you want mountains and cool weather, the Rockies are a wonderful place to visit. If you have at least a week, you can split your time between Jasper and Lake Louise/Banff. From there you have endless opportunities for hiking, climbing, sightseeing and other activities (shopping, white water rafting, canoeing, boat tours, mountain biking, good food).

If you have at least two weeks, you could do a one-way or round trip from or to Vancouver. There are several mountain ranges and lots of fabulous lakes between the Rockies and Vancouver. If you have less than two weeks, best to either stay around Vancouver or in the Rockies.

It depends on your interests/foci - though there are some spas/hot springs, the Rockies are more about getting out and doing things rather than lying on beach or by a pool. For more of the latter, there are great resorts/lakes in BC, and wineries for the parents :o)

Vancouver is also really nice - there are mountains right there, though not on the scale or grandeur of the Rockies. One could easily spend a week or two exploring in that area. You get everything from the ocean to the mountains to interesting forest regions.

Budget permitting, you could take a train one way to Jasper from Vancouver and then rent a car to see the mountains and either depart from Calgary or drive all the way back to Vancouver.

If you have a bit more detail in terms of the timing of the trip (when during the summer), how long you have and your interests, it would help in providing more specific recommendations.

tomfuller Jul 24th, 2014 03:30 PM

Why not take the ViaRail Canadian east from Vancouver (or west from Edmonton)? It only runs 3 days per week.
For a US vacation fly to Portland, Seattle or Spokane and take the Empire Builder east to Whitefish Montana. Glacier NP is every bit as impressive as the Canadian Rockies IMO.
The Empire Builder runs every day but has been very late nearly every day this summer (westbound). Amtrak has adjusted the start time from Portland and Seattle so that the eastbound train gets into Whitefish before dawn.

Birdie1962 Jul 24th, 2014 03:51 PM

Thanks for your replies. I would be looking to travel next summer. I'd say my family would love to be outdoors and appreciate the grandeur of the scenery. We live in the south and while it has its advantages, it just gets too hot in the summer. It's also pretty flat. Seeing the magnificent snow capped mountains, the crystal lakes, feeling the cool air, just what we're looking for.

ltt Jul 24th, 2014 04:12 PM

i like the train trip (via rail) between vancouver and jasper. if coming in summer, there are long daylight hours which is good. there is only one overnight so i've only ever stayed in economy and just slept in my seat overnight. they have some seats that will turn so you can sit facing each other. then spend your time in jasper and banff and you could fly out of calgary.

LindainOhio Jul 25th, 2014 07:03 AM

We also loved our Alaska trip. We didn't do a cruise (it's on our wish list) but we really enjoyed our road trip there.

The Canadian Rockies are one of our favorite destinations. It would be a great trip for your family and would fulfill all the requirements you list above. The scenery is spectacular, great hiking, glaciers. Split your time with stays in Banff or Lake Louise and Jasper. I posted a trip report here a few years ago.

.....Or go back to Alaska with a land tour? Since you did southeast Alaska on your cruise, you could head to the Kenai Peninsula and Denali. Lots of outdoor activites for families on the Kenai Peninsula. I could have spent a month there.

BC_Robyn Jul 25th, 2014 10:11 AM

If you enjoyed Alaska, the coolness, the mountains, the ocean, Vancouver Island, Vancouver, and Whistler would suit you well, especially places like Pacific Rim National Park. There's a train that goes from Vancouver to Whistler, that follows along an ocean fjord part way - that could take care of the train travel component.

sludick Jul 26th, 2014 04:18 AM

Birdie1962, British Columbia is endlessly full of just the sort of scenery you love. We too are from Florida (although I was born in Seattle and grew up in San Francisco)and still manage to make a vacation there at least once a year on average.

Let's include the Canadian Rockies as well, although they are technically just over the border in Alberta.

So, a couple of ideas:

Fly in/out of Seattle. Take Amtrak to/from Vancouver, it's about a 4-hour leisurely journey each way. It runs along the coast, and in areas (particularly just over the B.C. side of the border) you can see lots of eagles fishing - often more of them than seagulls. Vancouver makes a wonderful base for trips. I encourage you explore the HelloBC website for glimpses of the various places you can explore and trip ideas:

We have also done several trips between Vancouver and Banff, taking some time to make that trip to enjoy the scenery, stop in the Okanagan and other interesting areas. That's easily a 2-week trip. Other road trip suggestions are on the HelloBC site.

For ocean adventures, while you're looking through HelloBC's website, check out their Coastal Circle Route. The Sunshine Coast is just spectacular. BC Ferries has a vacation planning site and has some great suggestions. Sometimes they will offer promotions and packages that include the various ferries and if you want, accommodations. The kids may love the ferry hops up the coast.

You could also fly into Spokane and from there go up to the Canadian Rockies and/or the Okanagan. (Mentioned because for us it's much more economical than flying into Calgary, which is only about an hour from Banff.) We've done a nice loop from Spokane - Osoyoos (Okanagan region) - Rockies (several routings).

Let me also mention that Washington state can play a large part of your mountain/ocean vacations. That is a topic for the U.S. forum, though.

The possibilities are endless. Once you start, the myriad of other enticing journeys will call you back over and over.

adiroy Jul 27th, 2014 04:20 AM

After some extensive reading we set out for a two week trip to Western Canada. We flew out of Hamilton, ON, which was so hassle free compared to Toronto. There was parking close by and few people around. We flew West Jet and were very happy with the staff and their relaxed attitude. We arranged for a van rental in Calgary and were shuttled to the Dollar Rent a Car office without difficulty. We had investigated dropping the van in Vancouver but the rental rate was astronomical. So we returned to Calgary at the end of the trip.

We had a loose itinerary planned and did not prebook any hotels. In hindsight, not a good idea when the Calgary Stampede is on. Our last night we couldn't get a room in Calgary, so stayed in Airdrie, north of Calgary at the Holiday Inn. A very romantic room with a hot tub, king size bed and fireplace worked just fine for my weary family of four, thanks to an extra cot.

Our travels took us to Drumheller, Edmonton, Jasper, Columbia Ice Fields, Lake Louise, Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler and Banff. I could share a lot of information but will narrow it down to Vancouver Island.

We left from Vancouver early in the morning to catch the ferry to the island. We were the first vehicle not to make the 9:00 am ferry. Breakfast in the Quay Market was overcrowded and overpriced. The trip across on the 10 am ferry was uneventful and provided a great opportunity to clean out the van. When I surfaced from the car park, I had no idea how close all of the islands were to each other.

We drove to Victoria and found the Admiral Inn which I had read about. It was a smallish hotel with a very wonderful family feel. To register you sat at a desk reminiscent of a bank manager meeting. There was a games room and Internet access and the rooms were very clean. We had a one bedroom unit with 2 single beds, and a queen and pull out couch in the living area plus a kitchenette for $179. Parking included. We were within walking distance of the downtown and harbor. We walked up to Craigdarroch Castle (not in walking distance according to my 2 children) and toured the 39 room building. The finest materials were used, stainglass windows, hand painted ceilings and wood paneled walls. There was a tower that had a great view of Victoria.

At the harbor we were entertained by the street performers. We took a carriage ride through James Bay and saw Emily Carr's home as well as some beautifully restored houses and gardens. We dined at a hotel around the corner and were not impressed. Dessert al fresco downtown was a fun way to end the evening. Early morning we left the kids sleeping and after coffee on the balcony walked along the waterfront. We saw a community of colorful floating homes and lots of new construction. We walked through some residential areas. I like to see these type of areas as well as the tourist areas. We returned to the hotel and enjoyed the complimentary continental breakfast. Bagels, raisin bread, toast, yogurt, english muffins, juice and coffee or tea.

We headed for Port Renfrew on the west coast. The roads after Sooke were very curvy and we had to let my daughter out of the car to recuperate. We went to Botanical Beach on the advice of a friend. It was raining pretty steady as we hiked the 1 km to the shore. Our timing was perfectly planned. We hit the beach at noon and the tide was at its lowest at 1118. When the tide is out it leaves behind pools of creatures waiting for the tide to return. We saw giant great anemones, sea urchins, California mussel beds and a large burgundy variegated starfish. We ate at the Lighthouse Restaurant. Nothing fancy but filled us up. The proprietor told us we were in Port Rainfrew, they get a lot of rain apparently.

We decided to take a logging road across the island instead of back tracking to Victoria. It is being developed for a highway but lets just say they have a ways to go. It was paved, graveled, muddy, pot holed, sometimes all at the same time. We saw road work under way and there had been some blasting to widen the road before we got there. Further along we saw helilogging. The helicopter picked up the log at the top of the hill and brought it down to the side of the road. The road was 50 Km and it took us 1 1/2 hours but it was an adventure and well worth the time. We arrived in Cowichan Lake with a very dirty rental. We made it to Nainamo to take the ferry back to the mainland.

kanunu Jul 27th, 2014 06:52 PM

How about starting at Glacier NP in Montana, then heading north to Waterton Lakes Park in Canada (it shares the international border with Glacier Park.) Both parks are spectacular, if a bit small, compared to the Canadian Mountain Parks.
Then catching the highlights in Banff, Yoho and Jasper Parks can use up the rest of your time - even if you have the whole summer! Amazing places....
I haven't touched on logistics, but driving and taking in highlights from Glacier to Jasper is reasonable, in a 2 weeks or longer vacation.

TommyTrughman Jul 31st, 2014 11:27 AM

As others have said, trains in Canada are very expensive for a variety of reasons. However, if you're looking for Alaska-style mountains, BC and the Yukon are your best bet. Alberta has a few mountains on its western side near BC as well.

laverendrye Jul 31st, 2014 08:08 PM

<<Alberta has a few mountains on its western side near BC as well.>>

Bit of an understatement to say the least.

LindainOhio Aug 2nd, 2014 07:43 AM

Laverendrye: I wish I could "like" that

PRLCH Aug 18th, 2014 07:10 PM

We LOVED the Canadian Rockies - stayed Banff, Icefields Parkway and Jasper. We had a car and would dearly love to return. Spectacular scenery, great hiking, bear spotting ...

Pintxos Sep 23rd, 2014 11:47 AM

I haven't been to Banff but we took a road trip from Seattle to Vancouver to Okanogan by car and it was spectacular, particularly Route 1 through Hope, BC. Beautiful scenery! There is a rails-to-trail spot near Hope that is just breathtaking. It has been almost 8 or 9 years, but I think this is the place:

cgmack Nov 24th, 2014 11:49 AM

Not the answer you are looking for, I'm sure - but you should do yourself a favour and plan a trip east - to the 1000 Islands region of Ontario. Ask anyone who has been here. You will not regret it.

tomfuller Nov 24th, 2014 01:27 PM

The ViaRail Canadian is much cheaper than the tour train that goes to Lake Louise.
I have taken the Canadian from Vancouver to Jasper several times. Rent a car in Jasper to see the east side of the Rockies including the glaciers.
If you didn't want to go back to Vancouver on the train, you could go to Edmonton for the flight home.
The Canadian only runs 3 days per week which gives you 2 or 3 days in Jasper.

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