Canadian Rockies + Destinations

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Apr 21st, 2018, 11:37 AM
  #1
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Canadian Rockies + Destinations

We are planning a scenic drive/sightseeing/easy hiking trip to the canadian rockies this July. We will start in Vancouver, and drive the scenic highway to Jasper, then Banff. What are the key stops along this route? Should I add Prince George to the itinerary?

From Banff we plan on heading to Couer d'Alene in Idaho, then back to Vancouver. Looking for the best route for sightseeing on that path? We have already done Mt Ranier thru the San Juan Island areas.

We are retired, so time is not an issue.

Thanks in advance for any ideas you may have.
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Apr 21st, 2018, 06:01 PM
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I blogged a trip report on the half of your trip from Banff to Couer d'Alene - its about a winter trip but I have lots of info in there about summer too (I've driven it many times): Lee's Random Ramblings: Seattle to Alberta in Winter
Why are you going to Couer d'Alene? If it were me, from Cranbrook I'd head west to Vancouver via Hwy. 3 and definitely plan one of the stops to be in Nelson (use hwy 3A alongside Kootenay Lake from Creston, cross it by ferry, then to Nelson, returning to Hwy. 3 at Castlegar). Some spectacular mountain and lakeside scenery and through some historic mining regions, and Nelson is a true gem of a town.

And in summer from Banff I'd take the back door: either Hwy. 742 through the Spray Valley and alongside Spray Lake (but only if you con't mind driving a long way on a well-maintained gravel road), or Hwy. 40 through the Kananaskis country and park to Longview, thence down Hwy. 22 "The Cowboy Route" down the east side of the Rockies to Hwy. 3 and the Crowsnest Pass

On the other leg of the journey I'd leave out Prince George ... a lot of unnecessary driving and lots of extra time. (However, if you do have lots of time, driving up through the caribou region on Hwy. 97 could be interesting - it would add variety - but your trip will already have more than enough variety.)

I'd definitely not take the TransCanada Hwy 1 or Coquihalla Hwy 5 from Vancouver to Kamloops. Instead, I highly recommend taking Hwy 99 alongside Howe Sound to Whistler, thence over the mountains to Lillooet thence Kamloops - a spectacular trip.

Last edited by elbegewa; Apr 21st, 2018 at 06:07 PM.
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Apr 23rd, 2018, 11:49 AM
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Have you booked accommodation yet?

That needs to be your first priority for the Rockies as accommodation is booking very quickly and it's quite late to be planning a trip. Most hotels in Jasper are booked solid for the summer, and availability is fast getting limited in Canmore and Banff. The longer you wait, the fewer and more expensive the options. Budget at least CAN $250-300 for a fairly basic double hotel/motel room. All legal accommodations in Banff and Lake Louise are listed at www.banfflakelouise.com Jasper hotels are heavily booked, but you can also try www.stayinjasper.com for private home accommodations (like B&Bs).

At least in parts, I certainly wouldn't call Hwy 742 well maintained. The section closest to Canmore is often worn to washboard, dusty and prone to rockfall. It's scenic, but with a rental car, I would confirm that you can take the rental on unpaved roads and be willing to deal with paint or windshield damage. I'd opt for Hwy 22 and Hwy 40.

I'd also strong suggest driving the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Lake Louise in both directions. It is that beautiful and you'd regret not having a second shot if the first drive is rainy and/or cloudy. However, at this point, your challenge is going to be in finding a place to stay in Jasper.
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Apr 24th, 2018, 09:18 AM
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Great ideas - thanks. One question; on the way from Vancouver, Jasper is in our plans also (no longer Prince George); does that change your recommendation for travel from Whislers?? I heard I should not miss Revelstoke, and the drive from there to Banff...
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Apr 24th, 2018, 11:52 AM
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From Vancouver, drive via Revy to Banff/Canmore/LL, then to Jasper, then back down to Banff/LL/Canmore and to your US destinations
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Apr 24th, 2018, 11:59 AM
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On your route from Vancouver to Jasper, a visit to Wells Gray Provincial Park would be well worth your time. Stay in Clearwater for two nights so that you will have a full day for Wells Gray.You will be able to view some spectacular waterfalls.We stayed at Moul Creek Lodge (a B&B), and there are some other options in Clearwater although not a lot. https://www.wellsgray.ca/site/activities/waterfalls.html
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Apr 24th, 2018, 10:59 PM
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rmgood: to answer your question re the Whistler route: (It'll be easier if you're looking at a map as you read this) From Vancouver I'd recommend the Whistler route in any case (but not if you're towing a trailer, there are a few steep grades on it and on the Coquihala Hwy 5)

All the routes from Vancouver (the Coquihalla hwy 5, the Fraser Canyon/Transcanada Hwy 1, and Whistler Hwy 99) end up in Kamloops, where Hwy 5 goes north to Clearwater and via Hwy 16 to Jasper, or from Kamlooops where the Transcanada Hwy 1 goes east to Revelstoke and Banff.

Personally, except for Wells Gray Park if you're into a bit of canoeing, I find the route 5 to Jasper a bit boring ... expansive valley with lots of trees. Between the two, I'd take the Transcanada Hwy 1 to Revelstoke and Banff and then, like kgsneds suggests, take the icefields hwy up to Jasper and then return back down it ... Hwy 1 has more variety: Shuswap Lake, Glacier National Park), and you'll you'll experience far more of the icefields highway that way by driving it in both directions ... there's much that you'd miss using it only one way and it gives you a second chance to see it if the weather is bad.

There is yet another way, avoiding Kamloops by going to Kelowna and Okanagon Lake thence north to the Transcanada. But if it were me, I'd either forgo that, or, on the way back via Hwy 3 detour up from Osoyoos up Hwy 97 to Penticton and Lake Okanagon. Bye the way: the Okanagon is BC's wine country, so if you are highly interested in that, then yes, you'd want to go via the Okanagon one direction.
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Apr 24th, 2018, 11:12 PM
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Ah, I just thought of another way to see the Okanagon wine country: If you return to Vancouver via Hwy 3, from Creston take Hwy 3A to Nelson, (described above) thence Hwy 6 to Kelowna & the Okanagon, thence Hwys. 97C and 5 to Vancouver. That adds at least a day, more likely 2, possibly more, but gives you a chance to see the wine country and the Okanagon.

Hwy. 6 passes through New Denver and Slocan, both old mining areas with lots of history (google them)

Last edited by elbegewa; Apr 24th, 2018 at 11:18 PM. Reason: added thoughts
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Apr 25th, 2018, 04:43 AM
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Here’s another possibility, one that we have taken both ways. The first day is a long day, but if you plan to stop at Revelstoke or at the ferry landing (there are picnic tables there), you can make it a nice sightseeing drive:


From Banff, head toward Revelstoke on the Trans Canada. At Revelstoke, take BC-23 until the road ends at the lake (Nakusp/Galena Bay). There you wait for the (free) ferry for a 20-minute trip across the lake.Continue on to Nelson, stay at the Hume, a restored historic hotel.(I’ve heard rumors that Bob Hope once commented that it was nice to stay somewhere that was older than he was.) http://www.humehotel.com/

Nelson is also where the Steve Martin movie, Roxanne, was filmed. The Nelson Visitor Center has a walking tour brochure to guide you to the various fiming locations. https://www.nelsonkootenaylake.com/explore/attractions/films

Leaving Nelson, stop at Castlegar and take the tour through the Doukhobor Discovery Center (Doukhobors were a Russian Christian peasant community who fled to B.C. to avoid persecution). http://doukhobor-museum.org/

This will leave you continuing on and arriving at the Okanagan at the southern end, Osoyoos. If you are interested in wine, this is worth a day or two.The red wine region is more concentrated atthe southern end, with its arid desert-like environment, and more whites as you go farther north.We love the area, with the narrow, connected lakes bordered on either side by steep hillsides covered in vineyards and orchards.This is Canada’s desert, believe it or not.

Visit the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Center to learn about the area and history of the Osoyoos Indians who settled in this area. The Center and the Nk’Mip winery are both owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band. http://www.nkmipdesert.com/

If you decide to travel on the Trans Canada between Kamloops and Revelstoke, a worthy stop is Craigellachie, where the last spike was driven for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Good place to stretch your legs and spend 30 minutes or so. http://britishcolumbia.com/things-to-do-and-see/attractions/last-spike-at-craigellachie/

Last edited by sludick; Apr 25th, 2018 at 04:47 AM. Reason: insert paragraph breaks..
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Apr 26th, 2018, 07:44 AM
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You folks have been great. I now have plotted out my circle route: Vancouver to Banff via 99 / 97 and Long Lake to Kamloops, and on to Banff/Jasper via Hwy 1 and Glacier Natl Park. It appears best to make Revelstoke our stop on Day 2; Any recommendations for a stop on day 1?

Same question for the drive back via Hwy 3 thru Nelson?

For both the drive in to BAnff, and out (not in Banff), can the drive be made in Mid July without reservations, stopping at our convenience?

Thanks again!
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Apr 26th, 2018, 10:46 AM
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So – rather than stopping in Revelstoke, consider Salmon Arm or Sicamous. This gets you past Kamloops (just another not-very-attractive city) and at a stopping point where you’ll be good and ready.In the morning, head out (with a short stop at Craigellachie perhaps), and you’ll be fresh and ready to enjoy the beauty of Glacier Natl Park and Revelstoke. On the way back, assuming you have sojourned in Nelson, you could then stay in the Okanagan and enjoy that. From there to Vancouver, maybe 4+ hours.


I’d really recommend you get reservations. It’s busy in July.

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Apr 26th, 2018, 10:48 AM
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Essentially no.

Most of the areas on that drive are very, very popular for summer visitors. So it is very risky or impossible to not have advance bookings - you may not find a place at all, have to drive a long distance to find a place and/or end up in a very expensive and/or undesirable place. In the more popular locations (Revy, national parks, Okanagan), availability may well already be quite limited.

Remember that there are some long stretches of the drive that are within national and/or provincial parks - accommodation is non-existent or very limited there. For instance, there is no accommodation (other than hiking huts) within Glacier NP, and very little actually in Revelstoke National Park (it's outwith the park in Revy).
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Apr 26th, 2018, 02:58 PM
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I wish you a truly enjoyable road trip. B.C. is to us a truly wondrous area. We will not live long enough to explore all the possibilities, and it is so hard to choose. Please try to come back with a trip report.

Cheers,
Sandy
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Apr 27th, 2018, 08:19 AM
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Thanks. I feel very good about the trip plan that you all helped me put together. Thanks again to all!
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Apr 27th, 2018, 11:49 PM
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even though Whistler is only 1.5 to 2 hours from Vancouver plan to stay in Whistler I night (or 2). There is lots to see and do there, take the gondola to the top, then take the gondola between the tops of the two mountains. From Whistler you should be able to drive to Sorrento or Salmon Arm or Sicamus, all on the long Shushwap Lake
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