Calgary to Vancouver in mid-April to May

Old Jan 13th, 2000, 05:18 AM
  #1  
alex
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Calgary to Vancouver in mid-April to May

We are flying into Calgary and out of Vancouver (sixteen days later) in mid-April. Had planned on visiting the Rockies and then making our way to Vancouver and V Island. Any recommendations for timing and itinerary. Planned on a day or two in Calgary before heading to Banff/Lake Louise/Jasper/other nat parks? for five days, then a couple days getting to Vancouver, three or so in town and a side trip perhaps to Vancouver Island.

Does anyone have tips on moderate price (less than $100 per room per night) accomodation. Or particular places to splash out. Also what to do in Vancouver and any detours on the way?

Also any tips on the weather at that time of year, if hiking/skiing is possible and driving routes as a lot of places in the Rockies seem to be closed or snow bound.

Thanks!
Alex
 
Old Jan 18th, 2000, 09:37 AM
  #2  
Bob Brown
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Hi Alex. I have been to the area you describe, BUT only in summer. So I am no snow expert. The route from Lake Louise to Vancouver follows the Trans Canada Highway. The only really bad portion in terms of snow threat is over Rogers Pass in Glacier National Park, west of Golden and over Kicking Horse Pass just west of Lake Louise. The country is high and I know snow can be a problem. In heavy snow seasons at Rogers Pass the Canadian Armed Forces bring out the artillery to blast down avalanches in a controlled manner. (The road is blocked while the artillery bombards the snow packs. Men on skis scout the high slopes and look for danger signals. When critical factors are reached, out comes the cannon.)
The Canadians try to keep that route open because it is the main link, east to west.
You have chosen a beautiful area.
As for motel prices here is what I have done: In Yoho National Park, some 14 miles from Lake Louise, I stay in the town of Field. There is a list of apartments available if you will search on Burgess Shale!!! I am not kidding you. The Burgess Shale outcrops in Yoho and the Burgess Shale Foundation with Parks Canada is building a learning center in Field. The web page for the learning center lists accommodations.
In Jasper, there is a list of "parks approved" accommodations in private homes. We have used these with good results. Naturally there is great variance among the places, but we stayed in decent enough places for about 60 - 70% of the $130 or so charged at motels (Canadian prices about 70% of a Us dollar.)
From Lake Louise to Vancouver, it is a long day's drive. You could spend the night in several places along the way.
Not a problem as the highway follows the civilization path so to speak.
There is one deviation from the Trans Canada route. Near Kamloops, on the Vancouver side, take the Coquihalla Freeway. It is a toll road, but much better than the Trans Canada at that point.

You will find the going slow from Lake Louise to Kamloops because the road is mountainous and goes through many little towns that have no by-pass route. Hence you plough straight through.

If you want a scenic detour, go by way of the Okanagan Valley -- through Kelowna.

I wish I could be more definite on the snow route, but mid April up there is still winter. Hopefully a Canadian will get in on this one and give you better advice.
All I can say is that having driven where you are going I think you will see some beautiful sights. Good luck.
 
Old Jan 18th, 2000, 08:22 PM
  #3  
Brian Kilgore
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Banff weather, averaged over entire months.
April, low minus 3, high plus 9
26 cm. of snow
May, low plus 1.5, high plus 14
17 cm. of snow.
$100 per night is pretty cheap by Canadian standards for two people in tourist locations. If you can find a Best Western hotel in the UK, get an international directory and look for Canadian hotels.
Yes, skiing is possible, as is limited hiking. Both downhill and cross-country skiing.
Not knowing anything aboutyou, it's hard tomake too many recommendatations, but,for starters, consider two days in minimum in Calgary. The first day will let you relax frtger the flight, get used to Canadian money, become comfortabledriving on our side of the road, etc. Make sure you see the Glenbow Museum, too. Depending onyourhotel prices, it may be cheaper to stay in Calgary the second night, or move to Banff. It's only about an hour away. I'd probably skip Jasper if I was driving all the way from Calgary to Vancouver. I'd probably drive as far north inthe Rockies as the Columbia Icefields, though.
When you go to Vancouver Island, do it in a sort of a circle. Take the ferry to the Island from Horseshoe Bay, north of Vancouver, and then take the other ferry back to the south of Vancouver. The west coast of Vancouver Island, in the Pacific Rim park area, is one of the great spots of Canada, and worth going to see.
It's a lot warmer, although maybe wetter, in Vancouver and Vancouver Island than it is in the Rockies, so this may be your best spot for hiking.
Vancouver weather: April 5 to 12, May 8 - 16, andyou can stilldriveup a mountainside and go skiing.

BAK
 
Old Jan 19th, 2000, 12:07 PM
  #4  
rand
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A couple of pointers. Mid April is often the best skiing in the rockies. A little town called Canmore, on the Calgary side is cheaper than staying in Banff as a skiing base and has become very ski oriented. It has motels and rental shops. Make sure your rental car is properly equipped for winter conditions (snow tires/chains) and always travel with food and water in case of long delays. The weather is so variable. If a Chinook is blowing it could be 50%F in Calgary and 0%F in Banff.
 
Old Jan 19th, 2000, 01:38 PM
  #5  
Bob Brown
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Canmore has lots of nice B and B's.
The locals are friendly. I went into a hardware store to have a key made.
I asked the man, jokingly, if he accepted American money. With a deadpan
expression he said he would accept all I had at par value!
We both got a good laugh over that one.
I had Canadian money because the ATM was right outside his show window and he probably saw me using it!
We were in that area in August and enjoyed it very much.
 
Old Jan 20th, 2000, 04:11 AM
  #6  
alex
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Thanks for all the good advice. I wondered if anyone had specific tips on accomodation in Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise and Vancouver. We've used Best Western's in the past with good results, but are there any other comparable Canadian chains. Any reports on the Chateau Lake Louise and Banff Springs hotels - searched the Canadian Pacific website and coame up with CAN$496 for a night at the former - a bit steep, but is it worth it?

Also how much time do you think I need in Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Is it worth taking the ferry to Prince Rupert for the scenery?

Thanks
Alex
 
Old Jan 20th, 2000, 05:58 AM
  #7  
Bob Brown
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In Calgary, I suggest the Greenwood Inn in the northeast section, toward the airport. It runs about $110 USD per night or 150 CND. Almost a luxurious place with a good dining room and spacious, attractive lobby.
www.greenwoodinn.ab.ca
Also there is a Hampton Inn in that vicinity as well as others like Holiday Inn. (I stayed there last year and it is ok, but the dining room was non responsive to our needs, e.g. could not find a waiter or a menu.)
I cannot answer your question about the hotels like the Banff Springs because they are way out of my price range.
I don't know of any Canadian chain motels except possibly one called Stay and Save, but they are not plentiful.
In Calgary you get the usual Ramada, Sheraton, Best Western, Travelodge, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, etc. (Sounds like the US!)
Around Banff, I looked at the Alberta Accommodation Guide and saw virtually no chain hotels and motels. (No Holiday Inn in Banff, per se.)
There are not a lot of motels/hotels in Lake Louise Village in my view. If you are looking at the upper end of the price range, I think the Post Hotel is a good bet, at perhaps $330 C, per room per night. We stayed at the Mountaineer Lodge. It runs 150 to 240 C. But to me it is just another motel. Clean enough, but not special. If it was located in Calgary, I doubt they could charge those prices. Location!!
As for Vancouver, I think it depends on how much you like to browse hops and wander around in the many ethnic enclaves of the city. There are many Oriental, Indian, and other Asian cultures that have settled there. Certainly 2 days would get you to the main attractions, but I know people who take longer.
Vancouver Island is quite long, 300 miles and the road north of Nanaimo is slow going. I think 2 days would do Victoria and environs -- one day for the harbor area and one day for Butchart Gardens. Then you can drive north, poking around in the little villages and even going to some of the provincial parks. If you go all the way to Port Hardy, it could take 2 days of meandering. As for the ferry trip, I don't know because I never took it.
I do know that Prince Rupert seems embalmed in fog most of the year.
I find I spend as much of my time in the mountains, now that I have sampled the coastal cities and the Island.
So I have a bias. Others may feel otherwise.
 
Old Jan 20th, 2000, 08:17 AM
  #8  
rand
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I agree, I spend my vacations in the mountains as well, but then I live a mile from the ocean, so to me it is a daily experience. Have you found www.discoverbanff.com? Good info there on accomodations. When in Banff I walk around the Banff springs hotel, the grounds are nice, but $500 per night? Regular motels are closer to $100 in April, about 15 minutes walk away. I must be a cheapskate because that price sounds rude to me. My BCAA map quotes Victoria to Port Hardy as 7.5 hours and Prince Rupert to Vancouver as 18.5 hours, but those times do not include gas stops let alone sight seeing. Last time I drove to Cape Scott (the park on the north tip of the island) I took 3 days to meander up and 2 to come back. Bob you might enjoy that hike even though it is coastal.
 
Old Jan 20th, 2000, 04:21 PM
  #9  
Bob Brown
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There is so much to see in Canada!!
We have gone to Western Canada so many times I have lost count, but we have never taken a bad trip. We have enjoyed every one of them. Some day, perhaps I will get back to Vancouver Island. The people, alone, make the trip worthwhile.
The ferry rides are actually fun because you have good viewing from an enclosed deck.
I told my wife I was saving up the coastal hikes for my old age! So now I have a reason to return!!
 
Old Jan 22nd, 2000, 06:33 AM
  #10  
Bob Brown
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I agree with Rand that $350 USD per night is high. But many of hotels around the world get that kind of money for a room. But if you stop and think what kind of house a $350 a day payment would purchase, it makes you stop and think. We are talking about nearly $128,000 a year. Bill Gates could easily afford it because, by very conservative estimate, he makes $300 per second after taxes, all day every day. But I cannot!
 
Old Jan 22nd, 2000, 10:47 AM
  #11  
April
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How many days in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island? I would spend 2-3 in Vancouver. You could cover Victoria in 1-2 days and then head up to Pacific Rim Park (Tofino/Ucluelet area) for a couple of days.
 
Old Jan 23rd, 2000, 05:45 AM
  #12  
alex
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Thanks for all the great replies - I'm constantly amazed at the quality of the posts even though I've used this site for ages.

I think I've got a fairly good idea about the Rockies now and for a few days in Vancouver. But then I'll probably have only 3-5 days left on the coast.

So, is it worth going to Vancouver Island and Victoria at all for the scenery - the Rough Guides don't think much of Victoria! - but the Pacific Rim Park sounds good. However, with so little time, how can I fit everything in at a relaxed pace!?

Any itinery recommendations? The distances look deceptively big. Also, is it the right time for whale watching?

Thanks
Alex
 
Old Jan 23rd, 2000, 10:05 AM
  #13  
April
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I think the Rough Guides' assessment of Victoria is fairly accurate - it is a tourist town. You could give it a miss - ferry over directly to Nanaimo and drive to Pacific Rim Park. Or ferry to Swartz Bay, and drive through Victoria on your way upisland (4-5 hour drive from Victoria).

You should be in good time for whale watching. Apparently the grey whales migrate from late February through mid April and some take up residence in the area before heading south for the winter. You may also see killer and humpback whales.
 
Old Jan 23rd, 2000, 12:41 PM
  #14  
April
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On second thought, I think it would be a shame for you to come all the way from the U.K. and miss the Royal BC Museum. It will give you an overall sense of the area and its history, and there's nothing else like it in B.C. that I know of. Here you get to wander through replicas of an old west town, ship, mine, old growth forest, big house, etc. The exhibits are so well done, you really getting the feeling of being there. You will also see some fine examples of totem poles.

Go to: http://rbcm1.rbcm.gov.bc.ca/index_vi.html and click on the listings below galleries to get an idea.

If you think this would interest you, then this is exactly what I, personally, would do. Take an early morning Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay ferry. This takes about 1 hours. The drive into Victoria takes another hour. You don't need to take any turn-offs, just drive straight down the Pat Bay highway which turns into Blanshard Street. Take Blanshard to the end where it curves to the right. Make the first right turn onto Douglas Street in front of the bus depot. Just past the bus depot on your left is a driveway into an underground pay parking lot beneath the Empress Hotel & conference centre. Park there (or any place you can park for awhile). Take a wander through the Empress Hotel out to the front. Now you'll be facing the inner harbour. Walk out to the sidewalk, turn left, cross the street and enter the museum.

Now, when you leave the parking lot, turn left. You'll be on Douglas Street which takes you right onto the Trans Canada (up-island) highway. You could be in Tofino that same day.

This is assuming you'll not be whale watching from Victoria's inner harbour or visiting Butchart's Gardens. If you'd like a more scenic, coastal drive out of Victoria on your way up-island, let me know.

 

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