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Calgary to Jasper return and amtrak to Sanfransisco

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Dec 29th, 2017, 03:44 PM
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Calgary to Jasper return and amtrak to Sanfransisco

I only have 6 days to go from Callgary to Jasper/Banff/Lake Louise. I am flying into Calgary from Ireland but will not be driving. What is the best way to see these in so little time - bus or train. I also want to stay in hostels - 2 nights in each? I also need to get a train to Sanfransisco - am I best returning from Jasper to Calgary , flying to Seattle and then get the Amtrak to Sanfransisco. where I am visiting an elderly relative. I don't want to fly as Id love to see the countryside. I am going 22nd of March.. I really appreciate any advice anyone can give me as I am going solo for first time since I had my kids (who are now grown up), I am female 58yrs and so excited as I love mountains, lakes with little interest in Cities xxxThanks in advance Carmel
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Dec 29th, 2017, 07:02 PM
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Brewster tour bus between Calgary and Jasper. There is a HI Hostel about 5 km out of Jasper near the north end of the Icefields highway. Great for a solo traveler.
The ViaRail Canadian only runs 3 days a week from Jasper to Vancouver. Check your dates.
Vancouver has 2 HI Hostels. One has a better kitchen than the other.
Take either the Amtrak bus or train from Vancouver to Seattle.
The Amtrak Coast Starlight will take you overnight to Emeryville where you get on an Amtrak bus into San Francisco.
There are 3 HI Hostels in San Fransisco.
It was on the way out to the Jasper hostel in a taxi one night that I saw the best Northern Lights of my life.
If you are spending a night in Seattle, the HI hostel (former American Hotel) is within walking distance of King St. Amtrak station.
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Dec 29th, 2017, 08:20 PM
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If you can afford a bit more there is also a YWCA hotel in Vancouver:

https://www.ywcavan.org/hotel

There are B&Bs (that don't serve breakfast!) in Jasper.
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Dec 30th, 2017, 04:30 PM
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Thank you so much for that information. I will check them out. But Im serioulsy thinking of returning from Jasper to Calgary and flying to Seattle and the price isnt much different as its a long trip by bus or train to Vancover and Seattle. What do you think? Thanks again, Much appreciated . carmel
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Dec 30th, 2017, 04:34 PM
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I wouldn't want to miss the scenery between Jasper and Vancouver.
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Dec 30th, 2017, 08:01 PM
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After May 4, 2018 the westbound Canadian will be arriving in Jasper on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays about 1PM staying an hour or more
Within an hour or two you will have a great view of Mt. Edith Cavell. In the morning you have a long run along the Fraser River going into Vancouver.
I prefer seeing the scenery instead of flying over it.
The bus from Vancouver to Seattle takes about 4.
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Dec 31st, 2017, 04:48 PM
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You are very kind with your replies. But i happen to speak to a lady from Canada tonight and she says, I really have to book a tour. But what I would really like to do, is book a bus from Calgary to Banff, spend 2 nights there, then on to Lake Louise and Jasper and spend another 2 nights there. Then come back to Calgary and fly to Seattle and board my train to San Francisco as I am stuck for time so I don't want to go to Vancouver and it looks like most of the tours include this, but its too long for me. Do you think I must book a tour, or can i do it as I have said above , myself on line, independently. Again thank you for your replies. Carmel
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Dec 31st, 2017, 04:51 PM
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I understand you saying about the trip to Seattle but from Jasper to Vancover is a long one is it not? and time is not on my side xx
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Dec 31st, 2017, 04:54 PM
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Oh sorry the other thing - if i was to book the brewster busses to each place, could I then just book a tour say when i would be in Banff , out to Lake louise whilst im there, or do i need to have this booked before I go. Thanks again. Carmel
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Jan 2nd, 2018, 12:28 PM
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The OP states that they are coming in March. That's winter in the mountains. Lakes will all be frozen, so you won't be seeing the colours in the brochures. Hiking trails will be covered in snow and most will have avalanche risk. It's the season for skating, skiing and snowshoeing.

That's going to severely limit tour options as there are few tours to Banff in the winter and - to my knowledge - no regularly scheduled tours to Jasper in the winter.

The issue is that the Icefields Parkway -the parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper is not maintained like other roads in the winter. It's very remote with no hotels, gas stations, stores or paid attractions open in the winter. And winter lasts well into April or early May at those elevations.

Seasonal roads are also shut as well as many paid attractions. So while ther are things to do, it will be winter activities and winter schedules. Think skiing, skating, snowshoeing, not hiking, biking or long walks.

The only option between Lake Louise and Jasper in the winter is the once daily SunDogs shuttle. It's a shuttle only - no stops - and only runs if the parkway is open. Closures aren't too common on the parkway, but March is usually the snowiest month and the riskiest for avalanches/avalanche control closures on the parkway. You'd want to leave a couple of days buffer to get back south before any onward travel.

If you have six days, I'd probably suggest focusing on the Canmore/Banff/Lake Louise area. There are very, very limited tours available, none that go on the Icefields Parkway. I believe Brewsters' offers a half day tour to Lake Louise.

If you base yourself in Banff, you can take ski shuttles or airport shuttles to Lake Louise. Depending on the weather, you may still be able to skate on the lake and there certainly would be snowshoeing and xc skiing.

A variety of companies also offer half or full day tours that include things like snowshoeing, ice walks in Johnston Canyon and winter wildlife walks. You should do some research at www.banfflakelouise.com

If you really want to see Jasper, you would want to do a night or two in Banff, then to Jasper for two nights, then back to Banff/Lake Louise before you leave. In Jasper there are fewer tours in the winter, and they tend to run when there are enough people unless you are willing to pay for a solo tour. There's no public transport in Jasper, which can make it very tricky without a car as the main sites to see are all outside of the townsite. You'd need to arrange tours to see Maligne Canyon, Maligne Lake etc.

As to hostels -- they are good options in the Rockies, but you need to book promptly. Late March is holiday time for many of the schools here and is often the busiest time for ski holidays. There is a very nice Hi hostel in Lake Louise, but March weekends can sell out quickly with skiers. Banff also has a good Hi hostel. There is also a nice Hi hostel in Canmore, but it's difficult to access without a car.

The Hi Hostel (Whistlers) outside of Jasper is not one I'd suggest. For one, it's outside of the townsite and tricky to access in the winter. Taxis get pricey and may not always be available. Also, the hostel is aging (due to be replaced soon), with thin walls, washrooms/showers that seem to have frequent issues and large dorm rooms where the lights go on and off at set times (even if everyone wants them off earlier or later - no choice!). In Jasper, the better option is likely the new Jasper Downtown Hostel which is in town, quite new and has a variety of room options.

I think flying from Vancouver to Calgary is your best option. There is some nice scenery on the train ride, but it's a long train ride, not exactly cheap and often much of the ride is in the dark. And only part of the train ride is in the mountains, with only a fraction of it in the Rockies. From Calgary there are plenty of airport shuttles to Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise.

Regardless, you need to be prepared for winter. Later March tends to be warmer, but you could see anything from -25c to above freezing. It will be very snowy at higher elevations, while the townsites could be just starting to see the first spring thaw.
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