last day in Rockies

Old Aug 24th, 2006, 11:50 PM
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last day in Rockies

Our trip is very close and I have put together a great (I hope) itinerary with lots of help from Judy and this forum. Briefly, we have 3 nights Vancouver, 2 nights Kelowna with friends, 3 nights Jasper at Pine Bungalows(2 full days), 2 nights Lake Louise at Baker Creek Chalets. I have left the last night open so far (13 SEP), and our plane departs Calgary at 1 pm on 14 SEP. My question is concerning the last day and a half and the last night. We are interested in horses and I have seen a few ranches south of Calgary. Can you recommend an plan for the this time. We might do the Sulphur Mountain Gondola before we leave Lake Louise that day. Many thanks to all who contribute to this great forum.
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Old Aug 25th, 2006, 07:50 AM
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Hi KatPen,

I think the ranches that are south of Calgary are too far out of your way for you to visit in the amount of time that you have.

There are a few stables in Banff and one in Lake Louise. The one in Lake Louise is Brewster. A very good one in Banff, which offers a larger variety of trails than Brewster, is Warner Guiding and Outfitting.

Your full day in the Lake Louise area is best spent on visits to Moraine Lake and the lake of Lake Louise (5 km or 3 miles from the village of Lake Louise). There are some great half-day hikes in that area (Plain of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes, which depart from Lake Louise and Larch Valley and Lower Consolation Lake, which depart from Moraine Lake).

Even if you donít do one of those more ambitious hikes, you should walk to the top of the pile of rocks at the north end of Moraine Lake and do the short (1 km) hike to Fairview Lookout at the lake of Lake Louise. The hike to Fairview Lookout starts just to the left of the boathouse from which they rent out canoes at Lake Louise.

If you donít do one of the more ambitious hikes, youíll have time also to visit Yoho National Park to the west of Lake Louise. There you can see the Spiral Railway Tunnels, Takakkaw Falls, the natural bridge over the Kicking Horse River and Emerald Lake.

I suggest you transfer to Banff townsite or Canmore for your final night.

If you do your horseback riding with a Banff-based company, youíll be able to explore the area around Banff after your ride. Sulphur Mountain Gondola is neat. It is on the outskirts of Banff townsite (which, in turn, is a 45-minute drive from Lake Louise).

Another attractive place to visit is Johnston Canyon. It is on the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy #1A), a secondary road that links Lake Louise and Banff. If your starting point is Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon is about two thirds of the way along the Bow Valley Parkway, and if your starting point is Banff, itís about one third of the way along.

You should walk to the Lower Falls at a minimum (although you have the option of walking further, to the Upper Falls). The round trip from the parking lot to the Lower Falls and back is about 1 hour. If you go to the Upper Falls, the round trip is about 2 hours.

Ordinarily I would recommend that you visit Johnston Canyon en route from Lake Louise to Banff. Getting from Lake Louise to Banff via the Bow Valley Parkway is slower than using the TransCanada Highway (Hwy #1). The TransCanada Highway has a speed limit of 90 km/h (56 MPH), while the Bow Valley Parkway has a speed limit of 60 km/h (38 MPH). While it takes about 45 minutes to get from Lake Louise to Banff on the TransCanada Highway, it takes at least 1 hour (not counting the stop at Johnston Canyon) if you use the Bow Valley Parkway.

However, I guess the order in which you will do thing will depend on your horseback riding.

In the next post I will share some info about Calgary Airport ..............
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Old Aug 25th, 2006, 08:01 AM
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I donít know where youíll be flying to. I always used to tell people that they should leave Banff AT LEAST 3 hours, but preferably 4 hours, before their flight if they were catching a domestic flight (within Canada). If they were catching an international flight, they should leave Banff AT LEAST 4 hours, and preferably 5 hours, before take off.

It takes 1.5 hours to drive from Banff to Calgaryís western city limit and about 30 minutes to drive across the city to the airport. Under normal circumstances, check in for an international flight is 2 hours and for a domestic flight itís 60 Ė 90 minutes. On top of that, I like to add another hour for contingencies.

Iíve heard from colleagues who have traveled out of town in the last couple of days that the extra security clearances at Calgary Airport have settled down from what they were immediately after the recent UK bomb scare. More passengers than usual are checking luggage into the hold, and security personnel are asking everyone if their carry on luggage contains liquids, gels, etc. However, my colleagues have said that they have not found themselves being held up by the situation.

So, to reiterate, if I was departing on a domestic flight, I would leave Banff at least 4 hours before the flight, and if I was departing on an international flight, I would leave Banff at least 5 hours before the flight.

If you fly to the USA, you clear US immigration and customs at Calgary Airport. The good news about that is that, when your plane lands in the USA, itís treated like a domestic flight. The bad news is that the food choices at the US departure gates at Calgary Airport are abysmal. Once you are at your departure gate it is as if you have crossed over into the United States, and you are not permitted to return to the main part of the airport.

If you want a decent lunch before you fly, the best thing is to get to the airport a bit earlier than you otherwise would, and have lunch in the airportís quite respectable food court or at one of its quite decent full service restaurants. There also are some fast food restaurants scattered around the airport, but you donít have to confine yourself to fast food if you donít want it. There are some very acceptable restaurants on the North American third level (European second level), that is the level that is above both the arrival and departure levels.

You also can eat offsite, somewhere else in Calgary, before you head to the airport. But do be aware that there is essentially nowhere to eat from the time that you leave Canmore until you reach Calgary's western city limit about 1.25 hours later.

If you like, you can pack a snack, like a granola bar, in your hand luggage. However, the US customs officers do not allow you to bring sandwiches containing meat or any fruit or vegetable that contains seeds through the customs point.

It will be to your advantage, from a price point of view, if you fill your rental car with gas just before you turn it in at Calgary Airport. There is a gas station just as you approach the airport complex.

The reason I went on and on about the amount of time that it takes to catch a flight is that I got the impression that you were under the illusion you might be able to accomplish something from a sight seeing point of view on your last morning. I may have been mistaken about your perception. Anyway, just in case you had any ideas along those lines, I wanted to point out that catching your flight is going to be a fulltime job on the 14th.
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Old Aug 25th, 2006, 08:33 AM
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Judy hi,
Once again, thanks for all that. Our flight is to Toronto, and I was considering leaving Lake Louise after the gondola ride and perhaps trying your suggestion thru Kananaski country and spending the last night in or near Calgary. Then I thought we could get a quick look at the town in the morning before the flight. Or do you think it is better to spend that last day around Banff and forget Calgary vicinity? We don't want to ride horses, just see some ranches if we are near any as we have our own horses and are interested.
Kathy
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Old Aug 25th, 2006, 11:04 AM
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Kathy, the view from the Sulphur Mountain Gondola is great. However, if youíve been up the Jasper Tramway during your time in Jasper, I donít know if itís necessary to go up the Sulphur Mountain Gondola as well.

The same thing can be said for Johnston Canyon near Banff. If youíve seen Maligne Canyon near Jasper, you donít need to see Johnston Canyon as well.

Iím not saying itís a waste of time to visit these ďduplicateĒ attractions. They are not exact duplicates. If time permits, itís worth going up both the Jasper Tramway and the Sulphur Gondola, walking in both Maligne Canyon and Johnston Canyon. Iím just looking at this question in the context of your trip and how much time you have.

If I were you, I think I would set out from Lake Louise, drive to Banff, spend about an hour looking around Banff townsite, and continue to Kananaskis Country. I would have lunch in Black Diamond or one of those little towns that are near the intersection of Route #541 from Kananaskis Country and the Cowboy Trail (Hwy #22).

After lunch I would drive south on the Cowboy Trail as if I was going to Pincher Creek and Waterton Lakes National Park. However, I would turn east when I saw a sign to Nanton. I would drive to Nanton and then north on Queen Elizabeth II Highway (formerly Hwy #2). At Marquis of Lorne Trail (Hwy #22X), just to the south of Calgary, I would turn west and drive to Bragg Creek. I would spend the night at a B&B in Bragg Creek, which is a cute hamlet surrounded by forest. There are nice walks along the Elbow River.

You should pass some fields with horses in them in the countryside along the Cowboy Trail and around the towns of Nanton, High River and Okotoks.

A place that may interest you is Spruce Meadows. It is an equestrian facility just to the south of Calgary, on Hwy #22X, where horse jumping competitions are held. At the time of your visit they will have just finished the Masters Tournament (September 6th Ė 10th). In addition to the tournaments that they hold, with many visiting horses, Spruce Meadows also breed and sell their own Hanovarian horses. At any given time they have 85 to 100 of their own horses on their property. Their grounds are open to the public. You are allowed to just show up, and you will be able to have a look around.

I cannot see any merit in driving into downtown Calgary and negotiating its one way streets for the sake of having about 1.5 hours in which to see it the next morning. If you do spend the night in downtown Calgary, youíll have to leave for the airport around 10.45 a.m. Downtown landmarks like the Devonian Gardens open at 9.00 a.m., so you will have only a short window of opportunity.

I suppose you could drive into Calgary about mid-afternoon on the 13th, and look around the downtown core during the late afternoon / early evening. Given your interests, however, I donít know that that would be the best use of your time.

Hope that helps.
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Old Aug 25th, 2006, 01:58 PM
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do a search for Kananaskis provincial park. it is between banff and calgary. i know they have campgrounds geared for horse riders. maybe they have some day trips on horses. it's a beautiful area.
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 07:49 AM
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Many thanks. I really like the idea of Bragg Creek. Could you give me an idea of driving time between Bragg Creek and Spruce Meadows?
Kathy
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Old Aug 26th, 2006, 09:14 AM
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>>>>>>Could you give me an idea of driving time between Bragg Creek and Spruce Meadows?<<<<<<

The distance is 40 km (25 miles). I would guess it would take half an hour or so.
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