Only 2 nights in the Rockies

Old Sep 30th, 2005, 09:17 AM
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Only 2 nights in the Rockies

Hello everybody. I am rather embarrassed to state that we 'only have 2 nights in the Rockies', but that's how it is and I am becoming muddled as to how best to spend it. Myself, husband and grown-up son are travelling to the States late June/early July next year (from England) to primarily visit Seattle and Yellowstone. It will be a big Seattle-Seattle loop, over 3 weeks. I have a friend in Vancouver who I wish to visit on the way back and, at first, I thought to do the return loop via the north Cascades of Washington State - then I noticed the (close) proximity of Glacier NP (MT) and then I noticed how (relatively) close to Banff that was. And I ALWAYS wanted to go to Banff (for the Columbia Ice Field primarily as I'm keen on geology). So, the last bit of our trip is, Cody (2 nights, including 4th July) to Great Falls (1) to Glacier NP (1) to Banff area (2) to Kelowna (1) to Vancouver (2) to Seattle (2), before flying home.

(Sorry this is going on a bit ...)

So the two nights in Banff area. Banff accommodation is just about out of our price range - as is Lake Louise's. So I am considering 2 nights either at the Crossings Resort on the road to the Columbia Ice Field - or the hotel at the ice field itself. But this would mean a very long drive from Glacier to there. Would that be possible? Or would we be wiser to dump the night in Glacier NP and head straight to Calgary for a night and then the 2 nights between Banff and Jasper? I am handicapped by not knowing what the roads are like - but happy in the knowledge that the days will be long, so we will be able to drive a long leg if necessary.

I've also toyed with the idea of staying in Field for the 2 nights, as a base?

Any advise would be gratefully received. Thank you.
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Old Sep 30th, 2005, 10:48 AM
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Hello wildblueyonder,

If I understand correctly, you have 7 nights from the time that you leave Cody until the night that you've allocated to Vancouver. This is how I would consider spending that time if I were you:

1 - Drive Cody to Great Falls. According to Map Quest that will take 7 hours, not counting stops.

2 - Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road through Montana's Glacier National Park. The drive to West Glacier would nominally take 4 hours, and if you carried on to Whitefish, MT for the night, it nominally would take another 30 minutes. I say "nominally" because there are heaps of scenic lookout points, and there is no way you will accomplish the drive in Map Quest's stated time. You might consider pressing on to Whitefish for the night, as that would give you a bit of a head start for your long drive the next day.

3 - Drive through Cranbrook and Radium, BC to Banff, Alberta and then on to Canmore, AB. The journey nominally will take 6 hours. Canmore is 15 minutes east of Banff townsite but, because it's just outside of the national park, tends to be more affordable than Banff.

Although it will make your day longer, I think you'll have time to take a detour en route to Banff so that you can see Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. Be sure you climb to the top of the pile of rocks at the end of Moraine Lake. As far as views that do not require hiking are concerned, it's one of the very best in the Canadian Rockies. Skip the Columbia Icefields if you have to, but be sure to include Moraine Lake.

4 - Drive from Canmore to Lake Louise.

Then turn north onto the Icefields Parkway and drive to Jasper. The minimal landmarks to see on the way are Peyto Lake, Columbia Icefields, Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls.

Banff to Jasper nominally is 4 hours, but, just as is the case with the Going-to-the-Sun Road, there is no way it'll take you 4 hours!

Either late in the afternoon of this day, or on the morning of the following day, before you leave Jasper, go for a walk in Maligne Canyon, which is 11 km outside of Jasper townsite.

5 Ė Drive back down the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise (3 hours) and then turn west to Revelstoke, BC (another 3 hours). Overnight in Revelstoke. While you travel through Yoho National Park, between Lake Louise and Golden, BC, take the side roads to Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake, just before and after Field, BC respectively. Youíll probably have time to do the 2-hour lakeshore walk around Emerald Lake. If youíre interested in geology, the Burgess Shale in this area may be of interest to you. You will be assisted by the fact that youíll gain an hour when you cross from the Mountain to the Pacific Time Zone between Golden and Revelstoke.

6 Ė Drive to Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley (3 hours), and continue to Vancouver (another 4.5 hours).

7 - Vancouver.

In another post I'll explain my reasoning.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old Sep 30th, 2005, 11:42 AM
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>>>>>>Banff accommodation is just about out of our price range - as is Lake Louise's.<<<<<<

Canmore has a range of accommodation in a range of prices. The town is in the mountains, and its accommodation is more expensive than equivalent accommodation on the prairies. Still, itís less expensive than Banff.

I think itís worth staying in Canmore, because youíll be able to pass through Banff townsite on your way to Canmore. Although Banff is crawling with people in summer, and I personally can stand it only for a few hours, it is situated in a scenic position, and is worth seeing. Neither Field nor Saskatchewan Crossing would be convenient places from which to visit Banff in the short time that youíll have at your disposal.

>>>>>>So I am considering 2 nights either at the Crossings Resort<<<<<<

For people who have the luxury of time, and can afford to stretch the drive along the Icefields Parkway over 2 days, a night at Saskatchewan Crossing makes sense. For someone in your situation, a night at Saskatchewan Crossing does not seem to be a good use of time. And as for spending 2 nights there, that would be an even worse use of time, in my opinion. It really would be worth it to press on to Jasper. The remainder of the drive up the Icefields Parkway is beautiful, and Jasper townsite is in a scenic setting that is worth seeing. Also, Maligne Canyon, outside of Jasper townsite, is worth a look.

In Jasper townsite, you can find quite affordable ďhome accommodations.Ē They are like B&Bs, but without breakfast. Although they donít serve breakfast, many of them include kitchenettes or full kitchens. In addition to that, there are places in Jasper townsite where you can have an affordable breakfast. A potential problem is that some of them have 2-night minimum stay requirements. For example, 105 Patricia Street, which has received an excellent review here, has such a requirement. Craystonís also has received an excellent review here. Apparently itís a large studio apartment (bachelor flat) that sleeps 4 people. As far as I know, Craystonís does not have a minimum stay requirement.

>>>>>>But this would mean a very long drive from Glacier to there. Would that be possible?<<<<<<

It would be possible, but it would mean missing too much good stuff on the way, e.g., Moraine Lake.

>>>>>>Or would we be wiser to dump the night in Glacier NP and head straight to Calgary for a night<<<<<<

Good heavens, no!!! Dump Glacier NP in favour of a night in Calgary?!? Calgary does not belong on an itinerary that is as short as yours will be, in my opinion. Calgary is a pleasant enough city for someone who is able to spend more time in Alberta and British Columbia than will be available to you. With your timetable, please do yourself a favour and give Calgary a wide berth. Even if you were to approach Banff from points east of the Rockies, on the Cowboy Trail (Hwy #22) from Pincher Creek to Longview and then up Hwy #40 through Kananaskis Country, which would be a valid alternative to the route that I suggested to you, there still would be no good reason to pass through Calgary.

>>>>>>I am handicapped by not knowing what the roads are like<<<<<<

The roads are good. All the Canadian roads on which youíll travel are paved and, by the standards of the UK, traffic is light.

>>>>>>I've also toyed with the idea of staying in Field for the 2 nights, as a base?<<<<<<

No, I donít think that would be a good idea. You could consider substituting Field for the 1 night in Canmore, but I would not recommend substituting it for the night in Jasper townsite. Fieldís prices used to be considerably cheaper than prices in Lake Louise, but even Fieldís prices have been edging up recently. Then, as I mentioned before, Field would not be that great a base from which to visit Banff townsite for someone with your time constraints.

Youíll notice that my suggested itinerary has you doing the Icefields Parkway twice. Donít worry about that. The mountain scenery looks different when itís viewed from different directions.

When you think about prices in the Canadian Rockies, they are high. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you can have a terrific time in the mountains without spending any money on the optional rides (gondola rides, canoe rentals, lake cruises). If I had budget constraints, I would even think twice about riding the Snocoach onto the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields. So the fact that you donít need to spend money on extra entertainment is something to take into consideration, I think.

You may have thought of doing this already but, in case not, here goes. If you bring a collapsible cooler from home, you can have picnic meals in gorgeous places and save money to boot. Most North American hotels and motels have machines that dispense free ice, so you can replenish the ice in your cooler as you go along.

If you don't have a collapsible cooler, it might be worth your while to invest in the cheapest styrofoam cooler you can find when you land in Seattle, and then donate it to your Vancouver friends before you fly home.

My very favourite "restaurant" in the Canadian Rockies is the picnic area next to Moraine Lake. Another lovely place for a picnic (it works well in the evening too) is the beach at Pyramid Lake outside of Jasper townsite.

If you think it would be helpful, you could go to the TIPS section of my personal web site and follow the links to information on Weather, What To Pack, National Park Entry Fees, Driving Times and Distances, etc.

Hope that helps.
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Old Sep 30th, 2005, 01:09 PM
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Dear Judy
THANK YOU so much for taking the time and trouble to give me so much information!! I will get back to you again, when I've gone through it all (I have lots of maps, TripAdvisor reviews etc to go through!) and I will let you know how I've got on!
(One spanner in the works is that I inadvertently BOOKED IN ADVANCE a room in the Holiday Inn Express at Vernon .... I've begged them to realise it was a mistake - I mean, why would anybody pay for a room, 9 months in advance, for a saving of 4CAD?! I will have to try again. Harder!!
Best wishes WBY
wildblueyonder is offline  
Old Sep 30th, 2005, 01:13 PM
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P.S. Is 105 Patricia Street the Patricia Lake Bungalows? I can't find anything about a 2 night minimum stay on their website, though I expect it is ...
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Old Sep 30th, 2005, 03:02 PM
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Hello wildblueyonder,

You're welcome.

No, 105 Patricia Street is not the same as Patricia Lake Bungalows.

Here is the web site for 105 Patricia Street:

and here is the web site for Patricia Lake Bungalows:

Patricia Lake Bungalows does not appear to have a 2-night minimum stay requirement.

However, Patricia Lake Bungalows does have another requirement that also is common in the Canadian Rockies, and that I forgot to mention. It has a 7-day cancellation policy (2-week cancellation policy for holiday long weekend bookings, but that does not apply to you). Cancellation policies in the Canadian Rockies can be anywhere from 48 hours to 2 weeks, so do read the small print.

Here is a web site that lists home accommodations (including Crayston's) in Jasper:

Another thing to look out for when it comes to home accommodations is that some of them do not accept credit cards, which can make it a bit awkward for someone from overseas. Crayston's, however, is one of the properties that does accept Visa.

Still another warning. When you do an Internet search for accommodation in Jasper, you sometimes get links to accommodation in Jasper East, Hinton and Mount Robson. All of those places are too far from Jasper townsite to be convenient, in my opinion.

There are a some properties that are outside of Jasper townsite that still are close enough to be convenient. They include Pyramid Lake Resort, Patricia Lake Bungalows, Becker's Chalets, etc.

My warning about inconvenient locations is not about places that are a kilometre or two or three outside of Jasper townsite but rather about places that are between half an hour and an hour outside of Jasper townsite.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old Sep 30th, 2005, 05:00 PM
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I would like to offer up a few comments about the region you plan to visit next year. Having visited all it at least once, and most of it more than twice, , let me offer a few statements which I hope will help you consider restructuring the whole trip so you can get the most benefit from your time and expense.

As with any set of critical comments, I think one is entitled to to know the background of the person making the comments. I started visiting the Canadian Rockies in 1987. I wish I had started in 1967!! Since '87 I have been back to Alberta and BC 9 times and have focused on Yoho, Banff, and Jasper National Parks with excursions to and hikes in Kootenay and Glacier NP of Canada.

I have also visited Glacier US several times and hiked in the backcountry to destinations like Lake Ellen Wilson and the Sperry Glacier.

I don't usually offer itineraries unless I know more about what you want and what features you value. Judy has made several expert suggestions which are very similar to any I would offer until I know more.

The Canadian Rockies contain the most spectacular mountain scenery between the US - Mexican border and the Yukon Territory.

The Columbia Icefields and the scenery between Banff and the Icefields Center are very worthwhile objectives. To see the Columbia Icefields, you must be prepared to drive well north of Lake Louise because the Ice Fields Center is actually in Jasper National Park.

The Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper townsite is a very easy highway to travel. Although it is in the mountains, there are only a few steep climbs, and those are relatively short and very scenic.

Yellowstone is my favorite US national park. There is nothing quite like in the world - a smouldering caldera that formed after not one but two gigantic volcanic blasts which dwarf anything like it in the last few of that type of volcanism that has happened in the last 2 million years. Of the 2, the Huckleberry Ridge blast was gigantic.

Despite my affection for Yellowstone, I have never seen a reason to spend two nights in Cody. The night of July 4th probably will be a real blast, both literally and figuratively, particularly if you like the noise produced by fireworks, firearms and thundering hoofbeats which serve to celebrate the American separation from the British Empire on less than friendly terms!

When it comes to mountain scenery, the Canadian Rockies are the most spectacular mountains between the US Mexican border and the Yukon. They are vastly superior scenery wise to the North Cascades.

(I have hiked in the Cascades, driven through them, and stayed in one of the resorts. I'll take the Icefields Parkway any day of the year in preference to the North Cascades.)

In terms of timing, I would make my visit to Glacier and to the Canadian Rockies as late into July as possible. The ice on the higher lakes will still be there in late June, and the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier NP (USA)is almost always open by late June.

Field, BC, is a small village with nothing but scenery to recommend it and the proximity of the town site to the paleontologically significant Burgess Shale.

Although there are some nice places to stay in Field, many of them have minimum stays in peak season. Even though prices have edged up in Field, they are still a relative bargain compared with Lake Louise.

The best one I have found is Spiral Tunnels Guesthouse, but the last I knew, it had a minimum of 2 nights.

Although I like Calgary very much, and enjoyed 3 nights there only a few weeks ago, I think Judy has a valid point about where to prioritize it in your travels, as much as it pains me to saya it. (I have been to Calgary several times and have developed a real liking for the city and its people.)

Although I like Banff NP, I avoid Banff town site. It is an upscale collection of shops, motels, private homes, etc.
But, if it is mountains you want, the time is better spent elsewhere.

I fully agree with Judy that driving the Icefields Parkway in both directions is rewarding. I agree; the scenery is not same when going the opposite way.

In conclusion about the natural wonders of that part of the world, in my travels I found three places to which I return often: the Swiss Alps, Yellowstone and the Canadian Rockies. Put those destinations on the top of your priority queue and you will not be disappointed.

If you are into geology, let me endorse highly Ben Gadd's Handbook of the Canadian Rockies, 2nd edition. It has a fantastic section on geology.

In his discussion, Gadd considers the mountains of Glacier National Park, USA, to be part of the huge overthrust belt which created the mountains.

He gives a very good overview of the mountain building process and then discusses each of the major rock formations in some detail.

For example, the rocks of Glacier National Park USA were once part of an ancient super continent called Rodinia. There is another outcropping of Rodinia rocks in the northern part of the Rockies, but Rodinia rocks are missing from the central Rockies. Where are they? Australia!!

Ben Gadd's book also includes chapters on wildlife, wildflowers, trees, and climate. There is no handbook of any region quite like this one.

Another geologic book that I recommend is Recent and Ongoing Geology of Grand Teton and yellowstone National Parks by John Good and Kenneth Pierce. It is short enough that you can buy it in Yellowstone and read it in an hour or two.

Ben Gadd's book is written on a different order of magnitude. It is more than 800 pages in length, and I am still reading it!!

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Old Sep 30th, 2005, 05:52 PM
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To all the expert advice given by Judy and Bob, I just wanted to add another suggestion for accommodation in the Rockies.
(. . . . and following Bob's super idea of presenting one's background, let me just say that I've lived in Alberta for many decades, and my hubby and I travel to the Rockies - Jasper, Banff etc., several times every year).

This past August we stayed in a charming cabin that is a 30 minute drive from Saskatchewan Crossing. The name of the place is Aurum Lodge, and it belongs to a network of independent inn owners calling themselves "Charming Inns" - which they definitely are!! Aurum Lodge has "lodge" rooms as well as cabins on their property which is next to Abraham Lake in the eastern ranges of the Rocky Mountains. Note that it's outside of the mountain parks.

I reviewed Aurum Lodge on this (Fodors) forum, sorry I don't know how to do the link to it, but if you type in "Aurum Lodge" you are sure to see it.
From Aurum it's an easy drive to Peyto Lake, Bow Lake and Lake Louise to the south, and the Columbia Icefields to the north, so it's worth considering especially if it fits in with your itinerary.

Enjoy the beautiful mountains!!!
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Old Oct 1st, 2005, 03:19 AM
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Hi Judy

Well, I have been through your suggested itinerary, both on my map and on the internet (searching for accommodation) - and the first thing I have to note is that I Need A New Map!!! I need a magnifying glass to see it and (for example) Radium and Moraine Lake aren't even on it! My friend in Vancouver has got me a good BC map from the BC Automobile Association - but that doesn't help me with Alberta! I'll have a look on Amazon and see if I can find a good map.

I LOVE your itinerary. I hadn't even thought to enter Canada from the west of Glacier NP - I had us down for a night in St Mary (expensive place) and then up to Calgary and across to Banff from there. Your route makes much more sense. I think we would try to spend the night in Whitefish and I've found a selection of overnight accommodation choices. (Pine Lodge Motel looking the most likely - although I quite fancy staying in the town itself - and there is an amazing B&B - although rather pricey).

I've looked at Canmore and, yes, the rooms there are more reasonable - but I cannot help feeling that we might be better to splurge on a night in Banff itself, if it's only to be for one night. Several thoughts there - but nothing concrete.

I have looked at the accommodation options in Jasper and am not sure that we still wouldn't prefer a night in the Crossing Resort - as that would get us closer to the road we'll need to take to start our long journey to Vancouver.

Yes, the Burgess Shale!! I will have to just wave to it though, as we pass, as you need to make arrangements for a guided hike up the mountain, and we don't have the time for that (or, in my case, probably the stamina!) I've read that they have some of the fossils in the museums at Lake Louise and (I think) Field - so I shall make sure I have a look at those.

It looks like I'm still stuck with the overnight in Vernon, unfortunately. It is a fair bit further that your suggestion of Revelstoke (which would certainly have been more scenic) - but I've paid for the HIex in Vernon and I don't really want to waste that.

I had originally planned to approach Vancouver via Kamloops, but my friend in Vancouver gave me strict instructions that we must travel via Penticton and the lakes - and even not to take HWY 1 into Vancouver, from Hope - but to follow the road through Maple Ridge.

(This is all very exciting!)

Yes, we are on a strict budget as we shouldn't really even be going! My husband applied for voluntary redundancy and (very) early retirement, and we planned this trip. Unfortunately, after 4 weeks of planning, it was decided that they wouldn't let him leave, which was a huge disappointment, mainly financially. But we decided to still go on the trip.

Yes, we are planning to do much in the way of picnic lunches! Last year, we made our first trip to the USA and 'did' Arizona, Utah, Nevada (ie Vegas..), California (as in LA, Sequoia, Yosemite and San Francisco), which was wonderful. Almost the first thing I bought was a cool bag in Trader Joe's, Scottsdale! And I still have it!

Thank you so very much for all of your suggestions and comments. Your website is very useful too. With all of your knowledge, I think you should write a guide book!

Very best wishes
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Old Oct 1st, 2005, 03:37 AM
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Hi Bob
Thank you for all your very valuable comments and interesting snippets! For a little background on myself - I am actually studying for a degree (VERY mature student!), mainly in geology. I should graduate at the end of this year - but will go on to 'earn the honours', over 2 years. The first part of that road to honours will be the writing of a 'geohazards' project next year. I hope to do this on Yellowstone and a 'field trip' there would be invaluable (I could include my own photos!) I am extremely grateful to you for your geology book suggestions and will look into those, right away! Another suggestion for an extremely good book on Yellowstone geology (I have it already!) is "Windows into the Earth" by Robert B Smith and Lee J Siegel. Excellent.

Why 2 nights in Cody?! Well, my poor husband and son sometimes have a bit too much of rocks!! Cowboys and 4th July - just the ticket for them - and me!! They even have a stampede in Cody! Perhaps it might be wise to hide the fact that we are British, just for that day! LOL! (And then we can get back to the geology almost immediately, via the Beartooth Highway!). Actually, they do love mountain scenery, as much as I do - we've spent several lovely holidays in the Alps.

I'm afraid that we're rather limited as to the timing of our trip, because of my son's job (and 3 weeks is 'pushing it'!)
I have not bought our air tickets yet - but the dates are more-or-less fixed. I was actually planning to go in early June, originally - it was only after reading that the weather in Yellowstone might be bad in early June, which prompted me to move the trip forward a few weeks. (We went to Yosemite in September last year - and the waterfalls had dried up by then. )

Lodging in Yellowstone is a problem - I want to stay inside the park (and must book soon), but I think my son will hate me as there are no TVs!

THANK YOU again for all your most useful suggestions!

Best wishes
wildblueyonder is offline  
Old Oct 1st, 2005, 03:43 AM
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Hi Borealis
I've found your review and also found the Aurum Lodge website (
It looks fabulous - particularly interesting is their concern for the environment. I will certainly give this a lot of consideration (although, at first glance, it looks like there might be a 3 night minimun stay in the high season - perhaps that's only for the cabins?)

Thanks very much!

Best wishes
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