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nmaria Jun 5th, 2007 02:29 PM

Canadian Rockies Itinerary help please
We need some help with our itinerary to visit Banff, Jasper etc. We are 4 in our group, I'm in a wheelchair and my in-laws are in their 70's. We will not be doing any hiking but need some help filling in the blanks. This is how it goes so far..

Banff (Spruce Grove Inn) will be our base for the first 3 nights:

June 10th arrive in Calgary, rent a car, drive to Banff. Afternoon in Banff, go to town, Fairmont Springs hotel, bow falls maybe gondola? anything else we can do this afternoon? too much? too little?

June 11th- Drive to Moraine lake and Lake Louis (not sure how to distribute the time here and if we should include Yoho in the same day)

June 12th - Banff - Not sure what to visit this day, if visit Yoho, Esmeral lake etc or go to Lake Minnewanka (is it worth it? I hardly see it mentioned), Johnston Canyon, Cave and Basin etc. Not sure how much time each will take.

June 13th- Drive to/through Icefields parkway to Jasper. Stop at Columbia Icefield, take snocoach tour. Visit Athabasca Glacier, Peyto Lake, what else? In what order? Sleep in Jasper (Whistler Inn)

June 14th- Visit Jasper, take Tramway, visit Maligne lake? Drive back to Banff, overnight at Canmore. Not sure what to do this day.

June 15th- Canmore. Maybe take helicopter ride at Canmore Alpine helicopter. Is it worth the $200? Drive to Calgary, plane leaves at 5:00 pm.

My main problem is to schedule what to visit first at each place, in what order and how much time to spend at each place.

We are coming from Florida and doing this trip on our own since most guided tours are done in inaccessible buses.

Any help will be greatly welcomed. We'll be leaving for Vancouver in 2 days (7th, 7:00 AM).

Judy_in_Calgary Jun 5th, 2007 02:48 PM

Could you please slow down to a gallop?

I was responding to two other posters who had asked questions about this area, still have not finished answering one of them, saw your first thread, was going to get around to answering it, and now you've started another thread.

I have to go out in a few minutes. I'll answer your questions later tonight (in my time zone). But perhaps other posters will respond to you in the meantime.

nmaria Jun 5th, 2007 03:19 PM

Thank you Judy, I thought perhaps the "wheelchair" part of the tittle had scared some people from answering so that's why I changed it. We are leaving pretty soon and that's my hurry. I just discovered this forum today.

Judy_in_Calgary Jun 5th, 2007 10:04 PM

Hi nmaria,

Sorry about being grumpy earlier.

Before I respond to your actual questions, I've just remembered something that you may or may not know. The municipal authorities around here honour disabled parking permits from other jurisdictions. I personally have phoned the relevant authorities in the City of Calgary and in Banff National Park, and they have told me that. I've also seen the same point being made about Vancouver on the travel discussion forums. So if you have a permit that allows you to park in disabled parking spots in your home jurisdiction, by all means bring it with you.

Okay, now to the Rockies part of your trip.

Unfortunately the Rockies generally are not wheelchair-friendly. Most of the paths are quite rough, and many of the popular scenic lookout points require clambering that a person in a wheelchair would not be able to do. That said, even just driving through the mountains is a beautiful experience. And, besides that, there are some paths that are accessible to wheelchair users. I've never looked at the Rockies through the eyes of a wheelchair user, so it's hard for me to imagine what's feasible for you and what is not. However, I'll try.

Don't overestimate how much you'll be able to accomplish in Banff on June 10th. It depends on the time that you land in Calgary. It takes about an hour to clear Canadian immigration and customs at Calgary Airport. Then it takes another 2 hours to drive from Calgary Airport to Banff.

When you reach the gate of Banff National Park, you'll need to pay a national park entry fee. By my calculation, you'll be in the national parks for 4 days. They count your first day from the time that you enter a national park until 4.00 p.m. of the following day. A group of between 2 and 7 people travelling in a single vehicle pay a group fee of C$17.80 per day. Multiply that by 4, and you get a total of C$71.20. It would not be worth your while to buy an annual pass. The break even point for an annual pass is if you spend 7 or morer days in the national parks. They accept Canadian cash, and they also accept Visa and MasterCard. Once you have paid the national park entry fee, it is valid in all 4 of the Rocky Mountain national parks that border on each other. They are Banff, Kootenay, Yoho and Jasper National Parks. Actually, the pass is valid in all 28 of Canada's national parks, but obviouly you won't be able to visit the rest of them during your trip. :-)

More in next post ...........

Judy_in_Calgary Jun 5th, 2007 10:20 PM

As soon as possible after your arrival in Banff, go to the Visitor Information Centre on the main street, Banff Avenue. The staff there are familiar with the park's trails and are well qualified to advise you on the best places for you to go.

A good book for you to buy is "Walks and Easy Hikes in the Canadian Rockies" by Graeme Pole. It includes a list of wheelchair-accessible paths. The book is available in Banff and at Calgary Airport. I've never looked out for it at Vancouver Airport, but it may be available there too.

By the way, the Visitor Information Centre in Jasper townsite is very good too.

Aside from the day of your arrival, you have 2 full days in Banff. You should spend one of those days in the west part of Banff National Park and in nearby Yoho National Park. You should spend the other day in the east part of Banff National Park.

Attractions that I believe you'll be able to see during your "western" day are Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake.

Johnston Canyon, Lake Minnewanka, Cave and Basin, Sulphur Mountain Gondola, and Bow Falls are towards the east end of Banff National Park and in some cases just on the outskirts of Banff townsite. I think you can see most of those attractions, but I'm in some doubt about Johnston Canyon. I think it's worth your while to try it, however. Just see how far along the path you can go. I believe it would be worth it even if you could go only part of the way. Lake Minnewanka is not quite as beautiful, to my taste, as Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, Emerald Lake and Lake Louise. But it is pretty, and it is worth the visit, in my opinion.

More in next post ..........

Judy_in_Calgary Jun 5th, 2007 10:26 PM

I mentioned how long it usually takes to clear immigration and customs at Calgary Airport. But I've just realized you'll probably be flying to Calgary from Vancouver. In that case it'll probably take no more than half an hour to get your luggage off the carousel. Anyway, onwards and upwards. The Icefields Parkway is next ......

Judy_in_Calgary Jun 5th, 2007 10:51 PM

>>>>>>June 13th- Drive to/through Icefields parkway to Jasper. Stop at Columbia Icefield, take snocoach tour. Visit Athabasca Glacier, Peyto Lake, what else? In what order?<<<<<<

The order in which you would arrive at the main attractions, if your starting point was Lake Louise, would be Peyto Lake, the Colubmia Icefields, Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls.

The Athabasca Glacier is part of the Columbia Icefields. It is the glacier onto which the Snocoach takes people.

The one scenic lookout point that I'm a bit concerned about is Peyto Lake. The path from the parking lot to the lookout point from which you see the lake is not what I would call wheelchair-friendly. Hint. I think you should not park where all the other cars park. Go to the parking lot that the tour buses use. It's a shorter distance from there to the lookout point. That may make the difference between your being able to see Peyto Lake and not being able to see it.

When you reach Athabasca Falls, the road forks. Both forks take you to Jasper townsite. The right fork is Hwy #93, which is the more travelled road. The left fork is Hwy #93A, which is a less travelled road.

I suggest you take Hwy #93A, the left fork. When you reach the turn off to Mount Edith Cavell, see if the side road to Mount Edith Cavell is open. If it is open, take it. It is a winding road, but the scenery that you see from that road is pretty. Stop a couple of times to appreciate the views of the Astoria River Valley below. Drive to the end of the road, to the Angel Glacier parking lot. Then turn around, retrace your route along Cavell Road, rejoin Hwy #93A, and continue to Jasper townsite.

I think that what I've described will take a full day. If you find that you have any more time left over at the end of the day, you could visit Pyramid Lake, which is about 5 miles outside of Jasper townsite.

>>>>>>June 14th- Visit Jasper, take Tramway, visit Maligne lake? Drive back to Banff, overnight at Canmore. Not sure what to do this day.<<<<<<

Not sure what to do this day? You have just listed a full day's worth of activities. If you ride the Jasper tramway and visit Maligne Lake, you will not get away from Jasper before lunch. Then it'll take you the afternoon to drive to Canmore.

More in next post ...........

Judy_in_Calgary Jun 5th, 2007 11:13 PM

>>>>>>June 15th- Canmore. Maybe take helicopter ride at Canmore Alpine helicopter. Is it worth the $200? Drive to Calgary, plane leaves at 5:00 pm.<<<<<<

I've never taken the helicopter ride, and I don't know if it's worth it.

If you do the helicopter ride in the morning, you must leave for Calgary at 1.00 p.m. at the latest. Actually I would be more comfortable leaving even a bit earlier, at 12.30 p.m. If you're departing on a US-bound flight, you need to check in 2 hours before your flight.

An alternative to the helicopter ride would be to drive to Calgary by the longer but more scenic route through Kananaskis Country and the Highwood Pass. If you did that, you would need to allow more time. If you went via Kananaskis Country, I would recommend leaving Canmore around 9.00 a.m. This page of my webite describes the route:


Vancouver has a relatively moderate climate. Compared with many other places, it does not get extremely cold, but neither does it get extremely hot.

The weather in the Rockies is more variable. The average day time high in July and August is 70 deg F. It's a tad lower than that in June, say 65 deg F. Average night time lows are around 40 deg F or 45 deg F. BUT the temperature can be as high as 90 deg F or as low as the freezing mark. Also, regardless of how hot the day is otherwise, there always is a cold wind blowing across the Athabasca Glacier when you ride the Snocoach. So you need to pack layers that can take you through a real variety of weather.

All mountain restaurants are casual at lunch time. Moderately priced mountain restaurants are casual at dinner time too. When I say casual, I mean it's common to see patrons wearing hiking boots. But upscale mountain restaurants are smart casual in the evenings.

Moderately priced Vancouver restaurants also are casual, day and night. However, people wear smart casual clothing to upscale restaurats in Vancouver, even at lunch time. It's a city, so those kinds of restaurants attract businesspeople as well as tourists.


I trust you have them, because you'll need them.


I suggest you pay for major expensess by credit card. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted ones.

I suggest you withdraw Canadian cash from an ATM as soon as possible after your arrival in Canada (possibly even at Vancouver Airport) and use it to pay for incidental expenses.

Well, nmaria, I hope that has covered all of the important bases. Don't worry about how to fill your time. The program that you have outlined for yourself will use up your time just fine.

Hope you have a good trip.

nmaria Jun 6th, 2007 12:52 PM

Wow Judy,

Thank you so much for all the time this most have taken you to write. Your advice has helped me a lot to plan the route and itinerary. We booked a tour for Maligne lake and Spirited Island (supposed to be accessible)for the 14th at 10:00AM and plan on riding the tramway afterwards. Should we do the tramway first? We were told Lake Maligne is 50 minutes from Jasper, I don't know if we would need to drive back too much to go on the tramway? I don't know where the tramway station is.

Anyway, when I come back I'll tell you all about my experience. We have gathered some information on accessibility, but we'll see what really is or is not accessible.
However, you said it right, just being able to be there is such a gift! We'll enjoy it even from the car.

Thanks again.


Judy_in_Calgary Jun 6th, 2007 02:37 PM

Hi nmaria,

Youíre welcome.

I must say that you had come up with a good skeleton plan on your own. You did well for someone who has not visited the area before and who is not familiar with the layout of the place and the distances. I helped you to fill in the details, but you gave me a good outline with which to work.

I know itís getting close to your departure now, and I donít know if this message is in time to catch you.

The tramway is a short distance south of Jasper townsite, basically in the same direction as you would travel to get to Lake Louise.

Maligne Lake is southeast of Jasper, at the end of a completely different road. There is no connection between Maligne Lake and the Icefields Parkway, the road that connects Jasper and Lake Louise. After finishing with Maligne Lake, you have to drive all the way back to Jasper townsite before continuing on to Lake Louise, Banff and Canmore. There is no shortcut.

If your cruise across Maligne Lake starts at 10.00 a.m., you should leave Jasper townsite no later than 9.00 a.m., and 8.45 a.m. would be more prudent. Although the speed limit on the Icefields Parkway is 90 km/h (about 57 MPH), on Maligne Road it is 60 km/h (38 MPH). Weíve always seen wildlife when weíve driven on Maligne Road, and stopping to look at it has always slowed us down as well. Thatís why the seemingly short distance between Jasper townsite and Maligne Lake takes 50 Ė 60 minutes to drive.

The round trip cruise takes 90 minutes, so youíd return to the dock at 11.30 a.m. You then have the choice of having lunch at the restaurant at Maligne Lake or of driving the hour back to Jasper townsite to have lunch. Once youíve driven back from Maligne Lake to Jasper townsite and had lunch, it probably would be about 1.30 p.m.

The drive from Jasper to Lake Louise takes about 3 hours if you keep to the speed limit and if you donít make any stops. From Lake Louise to Canmore is about another hour. So, if you set out from Jasper at 1.30 p.m. and drove to Canmore non-stop, youíd arrive in Canmore around 5.30 p.m.

More .........

Judy_in_Calgary Jun 6th, 2007 02:40 PM


So when would you fit in the Jasper tramway? At this time of year the first departure of the tram is 9.30 a.m., so it would be impossible for you to fit it in early in the morning, before your visit to Maligne Lake.

You could do the tram ride after Maligne Lake, but as you can imagine, that would make for a late arrival in Canmore.

If youíre on something of a budget, you could consider doing only one ride that takes you high up into the mountains. This could be the Jasper tramway, the Sulphur Mountain Gondola just outside of Banff towniste, or the helicopter ride from Canmore that you mentioned.

Itís hard to know which ride you should do if youíre going to pick only one. Something you need to keep in mind is that the weather in the mountains is very variable. It can be sunny and clear, but it just as easily can be cloudy and rainy. Do not go up a mountain in a tram or gondola if the top of the relevant mountain is socked in by cloud. Itíll be a total waste of money. Often when people ask which tram or gondola they should take, I say they should take the first one at which they arrive in sunny weather.

In your specific case, I would recommend Sulphur Mountain gondola in Banff over the Jasper tramway. The reason is that the Sulphur Mountain gondola goes to the top of the mountain. The Jasper tram does not. To get the full benefit of the Jasper tram ride it is necessary to do an extra hike to the top of Whistlers Mountain. Obviously you would not be able to do that hike. So, between the fact that you cannot hike to the top of Whistlers Mountain and the fact that youíre constrained for time in Jasper, I think it makes more sense for you to ride the Sulphur Mountain gondola if weather permits.

Well, nmaria, I hope this has helped. I will be very interested to hear your feedback. Iím ALWAYS interested to hear travellersí impressions. Itís very useful to hear what they liked, what worked for them and what didnít work. However, itís rare for wheelchair users to post here, so your findings will be especially useful to wheelchair users who may visit Fodorís Canada forum in future.

rm_mn Jun 7th, 2007 03:09 AM

Because the clear sky requirement trumps location for viewing, you could consider the Lake Louise gondola on your way toward Jasper or on your way back. I don't recall how rough the trail was at the top but one wouldn't need to go far from the gondola to get beautiful views of the valley, the town of Lake Louise, Lake Louise itself with it's surrounding peaks, and Moraine Lake.

rm_mn Jun 7th, 2007 03:14 AM

I doubt that it would fit in your schedule but we arrived at the Lake Louise gondola early and took advantage of the package they offered, breakfast in the restaurant and the lift to the top. During breakfast we sat on the veranda and watched grizzly bears grazing on the slopes above us. Hope you are so lucky.

fae Jun 8th, 2007 05:03 AM

What time did you do the breakfast and was it good food? If I read their website correctly, it is just two dollars more to have breakfast and take the ride?

rm_mn Jun 8th, 2007 07:17 AM

We arrived before breakfast was quite set up and had to wait a few minutes. It was a breakfast buffet, not gourmet but pretty good and in a nice setting. Their website shows the breakfast buffet opening at 8:00 A. M.

fae Jun 8th, 2007 09:59 AM

To Judy in Calgary,

WOW - what a wealth of information the website you created is. A big huge thanks for all the time you spent creating it. I finally have secured reservations at this late time. We arrive Calgary and are staying at a B&B in Canmore the first night.

Japser 3 nights - Patricia Lake Bungalows

Lake Louise area 2 nights - Paradise Lodge

Johnston Canyon Resort 2 nights

Drive from Johnston Canyon back to Calgary the last day for 2:35 pm flight back home.

I tried to set it up so we would not be backtracking too much. We can go into Banff the days we stay in Johnston Canyon too.

Suggestions of order of doing things if you have time. If not, I will just rely on your website and postings here as it has helped so much.

Thanks again!

bob_brown Jun 9th, 2007 08:36 AM

Having traversed the same territory numerous times I have a few suggestions that you might consider. I don't like to schedule a MUST agenda because I like to linger when I find something of interest.

As your traverse the Icefields Parkway, there are more attractions than you will have time for. Here are some of the highlights:

Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, the Icefields Center, Parker Ridge walk (if open; often it is not because the tundra is so fragile and human feet have stomped out deep ruts), Athabasca Falls. You could also consider Mistaya Canyon and a couple of others as you drive past.

Pat Lake I think is a good place. My son and his family loved it there and he is an experienced traveler.

In the Jasper area, these are my favorite spots:

Angel Glacier - Mount Edith Cavell
Maligne Lake although I still don't think the boat ride is worth the cost.
Mt. Robson (on a clear day).

In the Lake Louise area:
Takkakaw Falls
Moraine Lake
Lake Louise

If you have the energy, do the Plain of Six Glaciers walk. It is over 6 miles round trip, but still fun and the views are beautiful.

At Takkakaw Falls, get as close to the plunge basin as you safely can. The closer you get, the more impressive is the energy of water falling that distance.

Around Johnston Canyon, there is the canyon itself. Also you will be positioned to drive to the summit of Vermillion Pass. IF Marble Canyon has reopened, it is worth a walk up the trail and over the bridges. (Last I heard from Kootenay Park HQ, the opening of the trail is still very IffY. The bridges were burned in a forest fire what seems now like years ago. I think it has been at least 3 years since the fires. Reconstruction is slow because Parks Canada thinks for some reason that Marble Canyon is a low priority item.)

There are also lakes around Banff that are beautiful.

Also, as you drive over Kicking Horse Pass to the turn for Takkakaw, stop and look at the Spiral Tunnels on the rail way. The tunnels themselves are quite a story.

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