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Glacier to Banff/Jasper in Class A RV with family

Glacier to Banff/Jasper in Class A RV with family

Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 06:49 PM
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Glacier to Banff/Jasper in Class A RV with family

Has anyone gone RV'ing from Glacier to Banff/Jasper? We plan to fly into Spokane this August on day 1, rent RV on day 2 and drive to Glacier where we'd spend 2 more days (days 3 and 4), drive to Canada on day 5, hike Banff -- and maybe Jasper if we have time -- for 3 days (days 6, 7 and 8), drive back to Spokane on day 9 (350 miles from Banff, but 500 miles from Jasper), and fly out early on day 10.

We would love suggestions for:
- "DO NOT MISS" attractions in these parks;
- good stops along any of this route for special sightseeing, good fishing (my son LOVES to fish), etc.
- good RV locations in Glacier, Banff or Jasper (I don't even know if we need a campground for a Class A RV).
- other tips.
We are new to RV'ing, and really don't know what we're doing since we've never rented or driven a Class A RV (2008 Thor Windsport).

Thanks for any tips!
malonedan is offline  
Old Jun 3rd, 2018, 11:06 PM
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Oh dear.. yes you need a campground, you cant just pull over and free camp in National Parks. And you should be trying to make reservations now for them.. they always save a few for those who didn't make reservations, but they are first come first placed and you must arrive early in the day ( like in morning sometimes) and wait for a free space..

If you are new to rving then renting a Class A is a bit of learning curve.. its easier to start with a Class C I think, We rved for years, started with a 24 fo Class C then went to a 29 footer.. What length is the unit you are renting.. you do realize you have to park that thing( so when you go to visit a sight.. you have to find a spot to park it, there often is RV parking but they can be full.. street parking is not easy at all.. ) .. lol .. also remember you will not be making time like one can in a car.. allow for a more leisurely pace

Banff ,, hotsprings are worth a visit. ,a daytrip to Lake Louise ( and an easy hike up to the Teahouse with a view of glacier is a must ) .. we also loved visiting Emerald Lake..

Jasper.. well we arent big hikers so we just toodled around enjoying scenery.

Also remember.. gas in Canada is a lot more expensive than Americans are used to.. so the bigger your unit the more you will be paying.
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Old Jun 4th, 2018, 04:59 AM
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Do expect it to take longer to get through the border crossing as sometimes they will "need" to do an inspection of all the areas of your RV.
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Old Jun 7th, 2018, 11:28 AM
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I think you are going to find this trip very difficult to impossible for 2018...

Would have been best to do some research many months ago -- both about the nature of camping here (no free/random camping) and how far in advance you need to plan a trip to the Rockies.

You need a campground for any kind of vehicle/tent camping - this is not the world of free/random camping. Camping is not allowed on private property, reserve/reservation, parking lots, pullovers etc. Only in designated campgrounds - private or parks. There is some free camping in crown land in Canada, but not realistic in your case. Both because it usually requires access via unpaved roads - not permitted by rental contracts - and because such places are very rare anywhere near the parks in the Rockies.

You are VERY late to be planning this trip for 2018. Both the US and Canadian Rockies are extremely popular tourist locations and there no/free wild camping. You must camp in designated campgrounds - and at this point, with camping reservations open in many places since January, availability is sparse.

If I found the right specs, it looks like your intended unit is at least 35ft long. That is VERY long -- in the Canadian Rockies, a unit that long will almost certainly only work for the bookable campgrounds. The length limit for almost all first-come, first-serve campgrounds is about 35ft. Even in the bookable campgrounds, your unit will likely not fit in all campsites.

At this point, pretty much all campsites with full hookups are booked for the whole summer - they went within days (hours) of bookings openings. So you will be looking at partially or unserviced spots if you can find then anyway. That means you will likely not be able to run much in the way of appliances that use a lot of power. Weekends will likely have quite limited availability and you'd be lucky to find anything on the holiday weekend (first weekend in August).

A unit that big will also present some major logistical challenges. Parking is a major issue at many of the main attractions - i.e. Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake, Maligne Canyon, Johnston Canyon. RV spots are extremely limited, especially for something that large. You will have to arrive very, very early or rely on shuttles where they exist (Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon). In the townsites, you'll be limited to one or a few RV lots which have limited spaces, so may be difficult getting in for meals/getting supplies etc. You would not be permitted on the road to Edith Cavell and unless you are skilled enough to back the unit around turns, no go on the road to Takkakaw Falls.

In Glacier NP, the major highlight is the Going to the Sun Road, and I can't imagine driving a 35ft unit on that road. No way you'd be able to pull over, parking would be a nightmare and I suspect campgrounds are long since full. There are shuttles/buses for GTTS, but that limits your flexibility.

Also your itinerary is not realistic. For rentals, if you are flying from abroad, any reputable company will require you stay at least one night before picking up the unit. Then you have to get the unit, stock up and get going. You'd be lucky to get to Glacier NP on Day 1. Wouldn't plan on going much beyond Spokane. And then almost any company will require the unit to be returned - emptied and cleaned by mid-morning on the last day. That means you really need to be in Spokane by the day before you are returning the unit. Jasper to Spokane is 10hrs flat out driving time in a regular car. That doesn't count being much slower in a huge RV, stops for food/toilet, crossing the border (can be slow in the summer, especially if they choose to search the RV), construction (lots of construction here in the summer) and any other delays. I'd allow a minimum of 14 hrs driving time, which means at least two days. And then you'd need that night in Spokane so you can clean and prep the unit to return by mid-morning. No way you will be doing any driving on the day you are returning the unit.

I'd also look at the contract very carefully. If you are renting in the US, almost certainly the contract will shift to pay per km in Canada - and that can get very expensive, very quickly. Plus the cost of gas, insurance, pump outs etc. etc. It will almost certainly be much more expensive than fixed accommodation and present a lot of limitations.

In anycase, you need to find campsites ASAP ASAP. For both Glacier NP and in the Rockies, I think you are out of luck totally unless you are willing to go with unserviced sights. And you will have to be flexible with your itinerary and your dates. August 3-7 (the holiday in Canada) is probably totally booked up now.

Even fixed accommodations are filling up - people are reporting a lot of difficulty finding anything in Jasper and options are limited in Banff and Lake Louise.

I think the best advice is to plan this trip fro 2019. Fly into and out of Calgary - much closer for both Glacier NP and the Rockies. Rent the RV in Canada where you'd be doing most of your driving or, better yet, go with a car and fixed accommodation.
kgsneds is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2018, 11:35 AM
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justineparis and kgsneds, Thank you so much for the "tell it like it is" advice. What a service you have performed for me and my family in avoiding trouble and hassles if we had undertaken this trip without further inquiry. I drove a Class C motor home to Alaska about 32 years ago, but have not driven any kind of RV since -- especially a Class A 35 footer. So we won't be doing this trip this year, but will definitely be considering Banff for 2019 -- perhaps without an RV though.

emalloy, Thank you for your tips on the border crossing wait times.
malonedan is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2018, 12:11 PM
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We did once combine Jasper with a visit to Glacier in a long trip. We arrived in Jasper on the ViaRail Canadian and rented a car for 3 days. We stayed at the HI Hostel near the north end of the Icefields Parkway.
We took the train back to Vancouver and then took the Amtrak bus to Seattle. We took the Empire Builder from Seattle to Whitefish MT (overnight). We rented a car for our visit to Glacier but stayed at the resort in Columbia Falls, MT. Don't think that you are saving any money by using a rented RV.
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Old Jun 7th, 2018, 02:01 PM
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Sorry - quick correction. The length limit for units in most first come, first serve campgrounds in the Rockies (national parks at least) is 25ft (not 35ft). So a 35ft RV would be well over the limit.
kgsneds is offline  
Old Jun 7th, 2018, 02:40 PM
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I think a 2019 trip sounds much more reasonable.

Seeing the Rockies by RV can be a very rewarding and fun experience. However, as tomfuller mentions, it's rarely a cost savings to travel via RV - rental, insurance, camping fees and fuel costs quickly add up. Traveling in a larger vehicle can also create limitations in terms of parking and road access. So it's really a matter of preferred travel style.

I would take some time to do research on costs and camping arrangements, as well as cross-border logistics. A cross border loop is certainly feasible/fun, but often isn't so practical with an RV because of border crossings and having to pay per km outside of the country of rental. Generally it's probably better to go with fixed accommodation - at least for the cross border part of the trip.

With an RV, you need to research rental costs and logistics, and go with a reputable company. Nothing will tank a trip faster than having RV issues, especially if you can't get a hold of the company. If you want to cross the border, ensure that the company has good customer service on both sides of the border. If you rent in the US, you don't want to be left hanging if a US company can't efficiently get help/replacement unit to you in Canada. Generally it's better to go with a larger company as they will have more resources/better coverage if something goes wrong.

You also want to go with the smallest unit that will work for your needs. The larger the unit, the more costly and the more limited you will be in terms of camping and parking. Certainly people bring behemoths into the parks, but a lot of those extras will be pretty useless if you don't have a hook up. And note that generator use is strictly limited in parks campsites and many private campgrounds. In the parks, you can only use them in specific 1-1.5 hrs time slots in the morning and then in the early evening.

With an RV, you also want to allot more time, both because you will be traveling more slowly, and because you are more likely to need to take alternative transport. As mentioned, where parking is limited, RV parking is even more limited. So you need to build in time to take shuttles - Parks Canada is slowly, but surely improving public transport in some areas of Banff NP. However, for Yoho and Jasper NPs, there's no public transport, so you need plan to find parking or take tours.

So get thinking, and start putting together your ideal itinerary, and see what makes sense as far as travel style. Do dummy bookings to get a sense of flight/rental/accommodation costs, and be sure to factor in fuel, insurance, parks passes, camping fees etc. If you want to do Glacier NP and the Canadian Rockies, I would fly into/out of Calgary. Unless you get a really great deal to Spokane, starting/ending there will really just add a lot of driving time to your trip - Spokane is ~8 hrs to Glacier NP, while Calgary is under 4hrs. To do both those areas (and if you are doing Glacier NP, at least check out Waterton NP), I would want at least two weeks, especially if you choose to rent an RV.

Two weeks, especially with a car, would give you time to explore some of southern Alberta. Some cool, very different scenery there including the badlands and Dinosaur Provincial Park and the great dino museum in Drumheller. Plenty of places for good fishing -- there are companies that offer trips in Jasper, Banff area and Montana. Probably easiest to do a guided trip unless you can bring your own gear and sort out the relevant permits/licenses - there are different licenses in Alberta depending on whether you are in national parks or provincial parks/land, and seasons/limits/restrictions vary by location.
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