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British Columbia - which month in summer?

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Nov 20th, 2018, 09:30 PM
  #1
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British Columbia - which month in summer?

My husband and I had a trip to BC and Alberta in June/July about 20 years ago. We're contemplating a return visit, are keen on seeing animals in the wild and would love to avoid rain if possible and cooler/cold weather. Which month would you suggest?

We live in a warm climate in Australia and really felt the cold on the last trip when we drove from Vancouver (where it rained for four days straight) to Jasper, then Banff, south into the US and then to Vancouver Island. In Canmore we bought warmer clothing Any thoughts?

Kay
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Nov 21st, 2018, 12:33 AM
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Statistically, your best bet is going to be the very beginning of August. It has the highest average daily temperature and lowest chance of rainfall of the summer months in both Vancouver (Aug 5 = 11% chance in Vancouver) and the southern Rockies (Banff). July 1 is better than Sept 1 if you are leaning to either side of that. We Canadians think planning anything after Labour Day that is "good weather" dependent is just playing with fire - its better to be leaning into the warmer weather (July 1), than leaning into the colder weather (Sept 1).

That being said, it's Canada, not Oz, and we can get chilly anytime.
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Nov 21st, 2018, 03:29 AM
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Thanks Aramis. I checked and Labour Day is in the first week of September so we'll take your advice and go before then. Are there any negatives with August? I guess if that's peak season accommodation will be busy and prices high?

Kay
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Nov 21st, 2018, 05:46 AM
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As you have already experienced, weather on the west coast (which is, after all, a temperate rain forest) is one thing, weather on the Alberta side of the mountain ranges (a rain shadow) is another. This is one reason, among many, that Canadians talk obsessively about the weather. Your clothes and itinerary must be prepared for change. At least the parameters are the most comfortable in August, which is why plenty of other travellers will join you. In my experience, the sun will shine gloriously as you are driving to the Vancouver airport for your flight home, inviting you to return.
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Nov 21st, 2018, 01:03 PM
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Peak season in the Rockies (and BC) runs from early June to early October. You won't find much, if any, difference in accommodation costs between May and early October. There's more demand than availability, so it's hotel/B&B/PHA owner's market, per se. In the Rockies, it will be very, very busy between mid June and end of September. It's going to be a very different experience compared to 20 years ago - be prepared to take shuttles to places like Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, and deal with parking and traffic issues elsewhere.

As to weather - honestly, in the Rockies at least, anywhere from late June to late September is going to have the same chance of warm (we don't get hot) or colder weather. It's not Australia, so you can't expect the same warm temperatures. Summers here simply don't get as warm - at least not for any real length of time. Nor certainly do temps stay as warm at night. You need to bring the right clothes - lots of layers. You may be in shorts during the day, but long sleeves and fleece jacket at night.

In the mountains, it can snow any time of year, so you won't necessarily escape that by coming in one month over another. It's a desert like climate here, so even in July and August, overnight temps in the mountains can drop to 5c or colder. I've seen a hard frost on the first day of summer (June 21 or so), and frosts in August and early September. Even in the cities, it almost always cools off considerably overnight - which is why many folks don't have air conditioners (very rare in the mountains).

As to August, the big negative for early August could be forest fires. No one knows what summer 2019 will bring, but the last two summers, the worst of the fires - and thus smoke - has been late July through mid August. Early August this year, you would not have been able to see the mountains because of the smoke. Could be completely different next summer, but if things continue as before, you're better off coming before August or in late August or early September.
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Nov 21st, 2018, 10:14 PM
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Thanks everyone for your helpful comments. I have been reading my travel notes from our trip many moons ago and the weather was indeed changeable. Some days we had bright sunshine on waking, then rain or cloud an hour later. We hadn't considered forest fires, thanks for mentioning that.

It sounds like it's much, much busier these days which is a shame as I would have liked to wing it, accommodation wise, but if demand outstrips supply, then we'd probably pre-book the whole trip. It's much nicer if you have a vague itinerary that can change as you go along but not if accommodation could be an issue.

Thanks again. If anyone else has thoughts, I'd love to hear.
Kay
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Nov 22nd, 2018, 08:09 AM
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If you are looking for suggestions on places to stay, here are mine Baker Creek Chalets near Lake Louise is our favorite. We found it on our honeymoon 30 years ago and have been back several times and absolutely love it. Emerald Lake Lodge and the grand Banff Springs Hotel (a Fairmont) are other great places we have enjoyed stays at.
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Nov 22nd, 2018, 05:24 PM
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Your title says B.C. but it sounds like you are considering a revisit to Alberta as well? I ask because if you were just going to BC I think you could “wing” many destinations. That is what we do, mind you we are not picky about where we stay.

I am mostly interested in your comment about seeing wildlife. You may want to determine what kind of wildlife you hope to see, and where you might see them. And then think about whether weather and accommodations would allow you to go there. It looks to me like you are doing it the other way around (which is fine, as long as you know which priority is most important to you).

Last edited by xcountry; Nov 22nd, 2018 at 05:30 PM.
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Nov 22nd, 2018, 09:17 PM
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It's always interesting to get input from others, very useful. We haven't really started proper planning, still thinking will we, or won't we? We definitely don't want to do the same trip again. We are thinking maybe just BC and spending a fair bit of time on Vancouver Island. Last time we only had a couple of nights in Victoria so didn't see much.

As far as seeing animals in the wild, it is more exciting to see a bear or an elk than a squirrel, but any wild creatures are great to see and different to what we have in our country. Are there websites where we can see which animals are generally in which areas?

On the last trip we saw a lot of animals, including three bears, so I guess I thought there would be animals anywhere we went, except for the cities. We saw most animals in Alberta and Yellowstone in the US, we didn't spend much time in BC.

To xcountry - why do you think we could wing it if only seeing BC? Is it less busy or just more accommodation? We are not that picky either, usually stay in budget type motels or cabins if we can find them. (My husband says, does it have a bed and a shower?)

Thanks for everybody's help.
Kay
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Nov 23rd, 2018, 07:24 AM
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Kay this is an interesting thread as it is making me think about our own vacations and planning. I think you can wing it more easily in BC because there is more accommodation available per tourist/potential tourist than in the Banff/Lake Louise/Jasper areas. I wish I could prove that statistically but that might take some significant research. Last August (2017) we had no problem finding last minute accommodation travelling up the east side of Vancouver Island. But I would not want to try that that around Tofino on the west side. I would make a reservation for Tofino.

With regard to wildlife I would be fairly confident if we travelled to Alberta that we could quite easily see elk, bears and a few others. I think it’s a little trickier in BC. In BC if I wanted to see a bear for free I would probably go to Whistler and meet one around town. We almost met a cougar in Campbell River on Vancouver Island last year but were instructed not to leave our motel room. Our boys saw grizzlies and orcas because they took a grizzly and whale tour from Campbell River. But that was a paid tour.

I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors in BC and to be honest most of the time I am looking not to meet an animal. If I were you I would google British Columbia/name of animal and see what you can find. If you really want to increase your chances I would look at a wildlife tour out of Campbell River or Tofino.
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Nov 23rd, 2018, 11:24 PM
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Thanks xcountry, for your advice. We hadn't thought of doing a wildlife tour, would be something a little different. In Canada we went out driving the backroads around dusk and spotted quite a lot of animals that way, and of course just during the day we were lucky to see a lot too. The way everyone suddenly jams on the brakes and hop out with cameras at the ready was so funny.

We don't mind booking accommodation here and there, if it's going to be particularly busy or if there's a public holiday etc. If we get to Tofino, we'll book ahead.

Thanks again,
Kay
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Nov 25th, 2018, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by KayF View Post
I guess if that's peak season accommodation will be busy and prices high?

Kay

You are correct...


If I were traveling from far away, knowing what I know now about Pacific Northwest weather, I would allow a window between July 5 and September 20 before letting other factors make the exact determination for which dates to select. Indeed the first week or two of August is statistically more likely to be dry, but the climate should be quite suitable during most of the entire window I listed... it's just that, you can't know well in advance whether "most" entails something nearer to "51%" or to "99%", OR just when the rain is going to land.

Even when taking your chances, you'll still likely get 80-90% "suitable" weather during whatever window you pick...

Hopefully you have some other factors which can assist you in selecting a random travel period during the wide-ish window that is my vibe.
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