Nature drive in Canada and the U.S.

Apr 23rd, 2017, 01:45 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 3
Nature drive in Canada and the U.S.

We are in the process of planning a trip from Calgary to Vancouver in September and as it will probably be the only time we ever visit we are seeking some advice about the best route to take and the places to include. We are not so interested in the big cities and have hiking, nature and wildlife in mind and will have around 18 days of travel. I am desperate to see bears and I have looked at the grizzly bear ranches but the price is a bit prohibitive. Can anyone advise me of the most likely place to see bears in the wild.
We will be going back to San Francisco to visit our daughter for a few days so I wondered if it is best to fly or to drive down Highway 101. I am not sure about the logistics of taking a car one way across the border.
After that we have another 10 days in the U.S. to visit the Yosemite then Big Sur and San Simeon then back to San Francisco before we fly home. If anyone has other suggestions or indeed any advice at all we would love to hear from you. Thanks very much.
misseckles is offline  
Apr 24th, 2017, 11:37 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 581
For a Calgary to Vancouver drive, you need to book accommodation ASAP. Especially if your trip overlaps with the Labor Day holiday (first Monday in September). Availability is getting limited, especially in Jasper, through the end of September.

You will need to make some choices - with 18 days (including San Francisco), you don't have time to do everything from Calgary to Vancouver.

Generally, we suggest a minimum of 5-6 nights in the Rockies, more if you like to hike. Then at least 2 days to drive to Vancouver - again, you can take many more days to visit the parks & sights across BC. Then 3-4 days to do Vancouver and parks in the area.

We generally suggest 5-6 days minimum to see the Canadian Rockies - i.e. Banff, Jasper and Yoho NPs. 3-4 nights in Banff or Lake Louise, then to Jasper for 2-3 nights, then back south for a night or two and drive west on the TransCanada highway.

The Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper is one of the most scenic drives in the world - that's why we suggest taking a full day to drive to Jasper and and then a full day back down to Lake Louise/Banff/Field/Golden.

Never heard of a grizzly bear ranch. There is a bear rehab centre/refuge near Golden, but there are wild bears in all of the parks in AB and BC. Whether you see one or not is luck. You could do one of the guided wildlife tours - the guides know the likely spots, so can increase your chances of seeing a bear.

You will want to fly to SF. Both because it is virtually impossible to rent a car in Canada and return it in US, and also because you don't have time to drive.

Anyway, you should start nailing down your accommodation in the Rockies. I'd start with Jasper and build your itinerary around that (you can spend fewer or more days in Banff/Lake Louise before you go to Jasper).

Something like this

Banff/Lake Louise/Canmore - 3 or 4 nights
Jasper - 3 nights
Banff/Lake Louise - 1 or 2 nights
Revelstoke - 2 nights
Kelowna/Penticton - 2-3 nights
Vancouver - 3-4 nights

You could also add in Vancouver Island - you'd want at least two nights to do Victoria. Do that before Vancouver and you will want to return the car when you get to Vancouver (expensive parking and bad traffic - use public transport in town).
kgsneds is offline  
Apr 24th, 2017, 12:43 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,451
At a glance, the OP's visions might be best served by a flight to Calgary, a one-way car rental to Vancouver, and then another flight to San Francisco.

And if for some reason Seattle piques the OP's interest, it would make sense to take a train from Vancouver to Seattle, where she could bed down at a central hotel base for a couple/few days, and/or just pass through for a quick trip to the airport for the flight to San Fran.

It is little more than a cinch to arrive at the Seattle train station and go a few blocks to an underground tunnel with a light rail to the airport.

And with regard to that last response, I humbly suggest that Vancouver is worth more than a single night more than you allot to Kelowna/Penticton.
NorthwestMale is offline  
Apr 24th, 2017, 03:11 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2017
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Thank you so much for the excellent replies. I hadn't considered that all the accommodation would book out. Thanks for the advice. I will start looking immediatley.
misseckles is offline  
Apr 25th, 2017, 06:48 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 4,412
kgneds has given you a good itinerary. I think that 2 or 3 days in the Okanagan and 3 or 4 in Vancouver is just about right.

You might want to split your time in the Okanagan between Kelowna and the southern part of the valley near Oliver and Osoyoos. In Kelowna there are some nice hotels right on Lake Okanagan such as the Watermark and Coast. Near Oliver and Osoyoos, I would try one of the winery hotels, such as those at Burrowing Owl, Hester Creek and Spirit Ridge. Oliver boasts that it is the wine capital of Canada, which I think is a bit off the mark in terms of number of wineries, but the wines of the Okanagan are very good indeed.

In Osoyoos, don't miss the outstanding Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre.

From Osoyoos follow Highway 3 all the way to Hope and then on to Vancouver on the Trans-Canada.
laverendrye is offline  
Apr 29th, 2017, 07:34 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2017
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I have booked 9 nights accommodation in The Rockies but I am concerned that may have run us a bit short of time for all the other things we would love to see, We would like to take a wildlife boat tour from Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island to increase our chances of seeing bears. We would also like to see Whistler and have 2 nights in Vancouver and I don't think we can fit this into a total of 18 days. My current reservations are 1 night Calgary, 3 Banff, 4 Jasper and 1 in Lake Louise. Would time be better spent elsewhere as I can still change the booking? There seems to be conflicting opinions on driving distances and I wondered if it would be better to drive back to Calgary and get a plane to Nanaimo and rent another car there. I thought 18 days would be plenty of time but there is so much to see.
misseckles is offline  
May 3rd, 2017, 08:05 AM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 93
I suggest you swap out one of your 4 nights in Jasper for a stop someplace else, unless you have a long list of must-do's in Jasper and area.
Here's another idea, using that 4th Jasper night, drop off your rental car there and take the train west to Vancouver. Pro's and con's of course, including timing your plans per the train schedule as it does not go daily - see the VIA rail schedule that shows westbound trains Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. (and no, I don't work for VIA!)
If I had to choose between the Okanagan (ie Kelowna/Penticton) and Vancouver Island for the hiking, nature and wildlife you mentioned in your original question, I would choose Whistler/Vancouver Island. You would see some more of the Rockies, albeit from a different vantage point than a vehicle that you can pull off when you want, and you miss some of the scenery through the overnight. However, you will have already seen a lot of fantastic mountain scenes, and will gain a bit more time for Vancouver/area and the Island.
More to consider!
out_and_about is offline  

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