Itinerary Help

Old Jul 15th, 2004, 05:20 PM
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Itinerary Help

We have hired a rental car to drive from Vancouver to Calgary over 5 days and we want to make the most of our time by seeing as much of the Canadian Rockies as possible. My question therefore is, what is the most scenic way to get to the Canadian Rockies from Vancouver?

A) Drive up to Kamloops and on to Jasper (highway 5) and then down the Icefields Parkway to Calgary, or

B) Drive up through Kelowna onto Canada Highway 1, Lake Louise, and then up the Icefield's parkway before doubling back to Banff and then Calgary?

C) Any other suggestion?
alines is offline  
Old Jul 15th, 2004, 06:00 PM
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The scenic areas between Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies are:

- Fraser Canyon (Trans Canada Highway #1)

- the Okanagan region (Kelowna to Penticton)

- Roger's Pass, Revelstoke, Galcier National Park

The Rockies encompass a huge region including Jasper National Park (and Jasper town), Banff National Park (including Lake Louise and Banff town), Yoho National Park, Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park, Mount Robson Provincial Park, Kootenay National Park, and the Kananaskis area in Alberta, to mention the highlights!!

So your biggest problem will be - what to see in the short five days that you have?

If your primary objective is to see the Rockies, drive the shortest quickest route from Vancouver (Vancouver-Kamloops-Jasper, this will take approx. 9 hours to drive not including stops), and then spend the rest of your time visiting Jasper, driving the Icefield Parkway, exploring the Lake Louise area, some of Yoho Nat'l Park, and then Banff.

Note that Banff to Calgary is a one hour drive, so you can plan your departure from the mountains with this in mind.

Good luck with your plans!!
Borealis is offline  
Old Jul 16th, 2004, 07:03 AM
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Hello Alines,

I like Borealis's suggested itinerary, which is similar to your Option A.

Australian friends of ours, who visited the Rockies for the first time in June 2004, followed an itinerary that was similar to your Option B. They were very happy with the results.

That's the dilemma with the Rockies (although it's a pleasant dilemma). There is more than one way of driving through them, and each way is nice.

Whether or not you want to drive all the way from Vancouver to Jasper (or Vancouver to Lake Louise) in a single day depends on how much driving you can tolerate. It'll be a long day's drive, and on top of that you'll lose an hour when you cross from the Pacific Time Zone to the Mountain Time Zone. The time zone boundary is a squiggley, north-south line between Revelstoke and Golden.

Because context makes all the difference in being able to make suggestions, I followed your signature to see if I could find more clues. I saw your questions in the United States forum, which led me to believe you would be doing a cruise from Alaska to Vancouver in the first week of September. This led me to guess that your Vancouver to Calgary trip might be during the second week of September. If that is the case, sunset in Jasper, which is at a similar latitude to Edmonton, will take place around 8.00 p.m. That is not as late as sunset in the summer months. I got the sunset information from the World Clock website at:

If you think you're up to the long drive from Vancouver to Jasper (or Lake Louise) in a day, it'll "buy" you more time so that you can have an extra day in the mountains, which would be ideal in my opinion. But I would not advise you to push yourselves if you don't feel up to it.

If you want to break the Vancouver to Jasper (or Lake Louise) drive into two segments, I suggest overnighting in Kelowna, which is in the scenic Okanagan Valley. If you prefer to drive straight through, then I suggest driving via Kamloops, which would take you on a more direct route. I don't think it would be feasible to drive through Kelowna AND make it to Jasper in a day.

If you want to tackle Vancouver to Jasper in a day, you might consider an itinerary that looked like this:

1 - Drive Vancouver to Jasper.

2 - Explore Jasper's environs.

3 - Drive the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise, taking most of the day so you can stop at the many scenic lookout points.

4 - Explore Lake Louise's environs.

5 - Drive to Calgary, stopping on the way to look in on Johnston Canyon and Banff townsite.

When we drive from Vancouver to Calgary in a day, we leave Vancouver as early as possible and certainly before breakfast, so as to escape Vancouver's morning rush hour traffic, if possible. Although we generally are not into fast food, this is one of the times when we avail ourselves of it. We typically pull in to a fast food window for an Egg McMuffin or some such breakfast when we're well clear of Vancouver.

If you are indeed travelling in September, you have enough time to order free and informative travel guides and maps on British Columbia and Alberta.

For British Columbia's info, you can go to:

For Alberta's info, you can go to:

If you want to get driving directions, mileages and times, I have found Map Quest's information to be pretty accurate:

Hope you have a wonderful trip, both in Alaska and here.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old Jul 16th, 2004, 12:25 PM
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My recommendation would be for option B:

Day 1: Vancouver to Revelstoke, via the Coquihalla, or through Kelowna.

Day 2: Revelstoke to Jasper

Day 3: Sightseeing Jasper area

Day 4: Jasper to Banff

Day 5: Sightseeing Banff and on to Calgary (or if you are leaving Calgary on Day 6, overnight in Banff and then to Calgary the day of your flight).

If you prefer, you can spend one night in Jasper and an extra day in Banff/Lake Louise.

However you do it, Vancouver to Jasper is a really long and tiring trip in one day. By choosing option A, you do miss out on Glacier National Park and Rogers Pass, which are quite spectacular.

laverendrye is offline  
Old Jul 17th, 2004, 08:46 AM
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Borealis, Judy_in_Calgary, Laverndye,

Thank you all so much for your comprehensive responses. Either way we do this trip we have resigned ourselves to the fact that the first day will be a long day of driving. However, it will free us up for more time in the Rockies.

At the moment we're leaning towards option B purely because I think it would be a shame to miss out on Glacier National Park and Rogers Pass, which as laverndye points out, are quite spectacular.

Therefore at this stage I think our itinerary will look something like the following :

Day 1: Vancouver to Revelstoke, via the Coquihalla.

Day 2: Revelstoke to Jasper & Sightseeing Jasper area

Day 3: Sightseeing in Jasper area and a late afternoon drive back down to Lake Louise

Day 4: Sightseeing in Lake Louise area and onto Banff for the night

Day 5: Fly out from Calgary @2pm

Is this too much to see and do in such a short time? Unfortunately we know we're unlikely to come back to this area for some time so we're trying to squeeze as much in as possible.

PS: Judy, I am impressed with your intuitive skills, we are arriving by cruise from Alaska in early September.
alines is offline  
Old Jul 17th, 2004, 10:26 AM
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Hello Alines,

You have worked out a good itinerary for the 5 days you have.

Laverendrye's idea of overnighting in Revelstoke is a sound one. It's fair compromise, in that it isn't as long a drive as going all the way to Lake Louise, and yet it gets you closer to the Rockies than stopping in Kamloops would accomplish.

If you think you can push yourselves to Golden on the first night, though, that might be even better, in the sense that it would make the next day's drive to Jasper more feasible.

Map Quest says Vancouver to Revelstoke is 6.5 hours which, in my experience, is a reasonable estimate. Revelstoke to Golden is 2 hours. Golden to Lake Louise is 1 hour. Map Quest gives the time from Lake Louise to Jasper as 3.25 hours, but there are people who say they do it in 2.5 hours. I wouldn't know what the non-stop driving time from Lake Louise to Jasper is. I've never done it non-stop, which brings me to my next point. There is so much to stop and see on the road from Lake Louise to Jasper that it's not uncommon for us to take 7 hours to do it when we have first time visitors with us.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. Suppose for the sake of argument that you agree to go as far as Golden the first night out from Vancouver. This is what I would recommend you try to do the next day.

Drive from Golden to Lake Louise, stopping on the way to see Emerald Lake before the town of Field and Takakkaw Falls after the town of Field. Both sites involve taking side roads off the TransCanada (#1) Highway, but are more than worth the detours. It would not surprise me if your nominal 1 hour drive from Golden to Lake Louise didn't turn into a 3 hour drive.

It might be good to stop for refreshment at Lake Louise village.

Turn north onto the Icefields Parkway (Hwy #93) and head towards Jasper.

The minimal things to stop and see on the way are Peyto Lake, the Columbia Icefields, Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls. Many people like to ride a Snocoach on the Athabasca Glacier, which is part of the Columbia Icefields. Although it's not something I do every time I go that way, I've done it a few times and have found it interesting.

I'll be surprised if you do the Lake Louise to Jasper stretch in less than 5.5 hours, more likely 6 hours. All you'll have time to do in Jasper townsite, I think, is stroll around the small "downtown" that evening (the permanent population, not counting visitors, is about 5,000).

The next morning, drive to Mount Edith Cavell and do the Angel Glacier / Cavell Meadows hike. Fit in whatever other Jasper sight seeing you can. This might include a ride on the tramway up Whistler Mountains or a walk in Maligne Canyon. Suggest you depart for Lake Louise by mid afternoon.

On your Lake Louise - Banff day, see Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, which is 14 km (9 miles) from LL. You easily could spend the morning seeing LL and Moraine Lake. Be sure to walk up the rock pile at the end of Moraine Lake. The view from there is great. Suggest you have lunch in the LL / Moraine Lk area prior to setting out for Banff.

Then take the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy #1A) to Banff. Stop two thirds of the way to walk into Johnston Canyon, at least till the Lower Falls (although the Upper Falls are prettier if you are willing to walk further).

Spend the latter part of the afternoon looking around Banff townsite. You might consider taking the gondola up Sulphur Mountain.

In the next post I will discuss your last day, when you drive from Banff to Calgary.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old Jul 17th, 2004, 10:36 AM
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On your last day, you will need to leave Banff townsite about 9.00 a.m. (9.30 a.m. at the latest). This may sound like overkill. My reasoning is as follows.

If your flight is to a destination outside of Canada, you will have to check in at 12 noon for your 2 pm flight.

I recommend you have lunch at Calgary Airport prior to checking in for your flight. The airport has a decent food court, and the Delta Hotel, which is right in the airport complex, has a very pleasant restaurant. Once you check in and clear immigration and customs, though, there are only places from which you can buy rather ordinary snacks (doughnuts and such). That's why I recommend lunching before you check in for your flight.

If you want a leisurely lunch in the nice restaurant, I imagine you'll want to sit down around 11.00 a.m. If you want a quick snack, you'll want to get that around 11.30 a.m.

I assume you'll want to fill your rental car with gas just before returning it at the airport. (There is a gas station just as you approach the airport complex.) Although I'm sure it won't take that long, allow for contingencies, and say that filling up with gas and returning your car will take half an hour. That brings you to 10.30 a.m. or so.

The drive from Banff to Calgary is 1.5 hours. Some people count it as an hour, but I think that's from Banff to Calgary's city limits. The thing that slows you down, and for which you do need a bit of extra time, is the fact that the TransCanada (#1) Highway becomes 16th Avenue North when it passes through Calgary. It becomes a normal city road, with traffic lights an all. That's where I get the 9.00 - 9.30 a.m. departure time from Banff.

Here is a map of Calgary:

It's quite easy to find the airport, as you probably can tell from the map. Drive eastbound on the TransCanada (#1) Hwy / 16th Avenue. Turn north when you get to Deerfoot Trail (Hwy #2). The airport complex is just east of Deerfoot Trail, and is prominently signposted. If, for some reason, you fail to turn north at Deerfoot Trail, turn north onto Barlow Trail at the next interchange. It too will get you to the airport.

Hope that helps.
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Old Jul 17th, 2004, 03:24 PM
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Judy_in_Calgary, let me second that compliment on your responses. We are also planning a trip that will entail a drive from Vancouver to Banff (next year, though), and this thread is quite helpful. Alines, we made a trip to Banff last fall. We stayed a couple of nights at the Deer Lodge in Lake Louise, and got a pretty good rate on their website ( It's such a unique place, you might want to consider staying there. If not, perhaps at least stop in for a meal and a visit. I'll be looking for your trip report this fall, and hope you have the best time on your cruise and drive to Calgary.
sludick is offline  
Old Nov 3rd, 2004, 06:32 PM
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Thanks to everyone who assisted in putting our Canadian Rockies itinerary together. As noted in my original post, we had limited time in the Canadian Rockies and at the end of the day we decided after disembarking our Alaskan Cruise in Vancouver that we were better off dedicating that entire day to travelling to Jasper rather than avoid doubling back along the Icefield's Parkway. The cost of this decision however was that we missed out on the Roger's Pass and surrounds. Anyway, as they say, you can't see everything, so this is our trip report (sorry about the delay in posting!):

Weds Sept 8: Disembarked in Vancouver and picked up a rental car in the terminal and drove 8 hours to Jasper. Very long drive but we knew what to expect so couldn't complain. Next two nights were spent at the Alpine Log House (B&B) in Jasper, which was very comfortable, clean, and well priced;

Thurs Sept 9: Woke up to Snow! which persisted for most of the morning then lifted. The rest of the day involved hiking up and down Maligne Canyon, then driving up to Maligne Lake for a short walk part way around the Lake. Saw some wolves resting on a dry lakebed on the way up. Then we drove onto Miette Hot Springs. Wanted to do the Sulphur Skyline hike, but it was too overcast, so we enjoyed the Hot Springs instead.

Fri Sept 10: Drove the Icefield's Parkway. First stop was Mt Edith Cavell. We almost turned around half way up as we were driving through cloud. However, glad we persisted as we broke through the cloud layer at the top and the view was just breathtaking (highly recommend this! - wish we had more time to do the Cavell Meadows hike). Stopped at Athabasca Falls. Didn't bother with the Columbia Icefield as we had already seen plenty of glaciers in Alaska. Peyto Lake is a must see! Tried to get a B&B that night in Field, but was fully booked and from what we could tell was overpriced. We ended up negotitating a superb rate down the road at the Cathedral Mountain Lodge in Yoho National Park. This accommodation was really the best on our trip and a great place to spend a special night. Note: while the Icefield's Parkway can be driven in 2-3 hours, it took us about 10 after stopping about every 10 minutes along the way to take in the breathtaking scenery!

Sat Sept 11: Drove to Lake Louise, Morraine Lake and Banff. Found Morraine Lake beautiful, but found Lake Louise and Banff too commercial. Stayed the night in Blue Mountain Lodge in Banff which was very well located but a bit pricey for what it was (only $20 cheaper than what we paid at Cathedral Mountain Lodge!)

Sun Sept 12: Drove to Calgary for our 2pm flight back to NYC!

We're originally from NZ, and a lot of people say that NZ is a beautiful place. However, I must honestly say that the Canadian Rockies is the one place that I've come across in the world that has just left me in awe. The fact that the weather wasn't even that great while we were there makes me think that this is an even more incredible place. I can guarantee that it won't be long before we're back!

alines is offline  
Old Nov 3rd, 2004, 07:20 PM
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Wow, only 5 days. In that case I vote for option B. I have done several variations on that route, and if you take the Coquihalla toll road to Kamloops and then go over Rogers Pass on the Trans Canada you will pass through Glacier National Park as already mentioned.

From the crest of Rogers Pass, the road drops to Golden before ascending the west slopes of the Rockies proper to Kicking Horse Pass in Yoho National Park.

A few miles east from the crest of Kicking Horse Pass, you intersect with the Icefields Parkway which takes you north to Jasper.

Another reason I vote for B is because option A has a long stretch from Kamloops that I found to be mostly trees until you get to Mount Robson provincial park. Robson itself is a majestic sight, but you can drive there from Jasper, and then return.

Let me suggest that on Day 1 you stop in Golden. Then you will be poised to go all the way to Jasper the following day unless you want to stop overnight at the Icefields Chalet, which is a slightly pricey chateau at the Icefields Center where the ice coach goes out onto the glacier.

From the Icefields Center you could easily drive on to Jasper and see the two best sights it has to offer: the Angel Glacier that flows off the north side of Mount Edith Cavell and the flats of the summit called The Whistler.

If you return down the Icefields Parkway, you can see the scenery from a different angle. Believe, me it looks different! I do not think you will be saying, "I've seen this before." Instead, I think you will be saying, "Wow, I am seeing it from a different angle."

I have been up and down that road several times, including this past summer, and I never tire of it.

After you head south from jasper, you can reach Banff if you push it a little. But, if budget is no problem, I suggest you stop at Lake Louise so you can see the lake itself and Moraine Lake the following day. Those are two of the most beautiful mountain lakes you will ever see.

So in summary:
1. Golden
2. Jasper (or Icefields Chalet)
3. Jasper
4. Lake Louise
5. Calgary

Here is some added detail you might want to consider.

This past summer, when I travelled from Victoria to Yoho Park, I spent the night enroute at Manning Provincial Park and continued through the Okanagen Valley the following day to Yoho park. (We were headed to Twin Falls Chalet for a two night visit.) Although that route is scenic, it is slow. If your objective is more bang for the buck, I think going over Rogers Pass by way of Kamloops is the most direct route to the best scenery.

We did visit Manning Provincial Park enroute and, while it is was worth the effort, I would rate it down a little compared with what lies in store for you along the Icefields Parkway.

The Fraser Canyon is nice, but there are the tradeoffs here of time versus what you ultimately see. So it boils down to trading Fraser for places like Peyto Lake, Athabascsa Falls, the Athabasca Glacier, Sunwapta Falls, etc.

Tough choices. Once you see the place, I think you will get hooked on it. I have.
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Old Nov 4th, 2004, 10:01 AM
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Hello alines - very glad to hear that you enjoyed your tour of the Rockies. I was so happy to hear your comment about the beauty of the mountains - from the pictures that I have seen of New Zealand, it's a spectacular place too, with a bounty of incredible scenery (and who can forget that Lord of the Rings was filmed there!!) - but my fellow Canadians sometimes seem to take delight in downplaying the wonders of this country. It seems that "transplants" like me have a more positive outlook and a lot more enthusiasm about where we live!!

So thank you! thank you! thank you!!!
. . . .and come back soon!!
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Old Nov 4th, 2004, 10:08 AM
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Thanks for your reply. I probably didn't make it clear in my posting, that this was my trip report from the September just gone. However, like I said, I can guarantee it won't be long before we're back again, so your comments will come in handy for our next trip!
alines is offline  
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