Recent Canadian Rockies Trip

Old Jul 5th, 2006, 06:51 PM
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Recent Canadian Rockies Trip

I recently returned from a trip to the beautiful Canadian Rockies and had a wonderful trip. I am so thankful to all of the posts on this site which helped me plan the trip. Most of my comments will probably only be reinforcing tips already on here but I thought a recent trip summary might be helpful to someone.

Day 1 - Calgary - Arrived in Calgary around noon on a beautiful day. We considered ourselves very fortunate as we were told it had been raining for a week prior to our arrival. Half the population seemed to be in Prince's Island Park and we enjoyed strolling around. Ate at the River Cafe. It's a beautiful setting out on the deck but, personally, I thought it was over priced. Many thanks to Judy for the 1/2 day walking tour. We enjoyed the Devonian Gardens although we had to walk around the mall awhile before we could get in as it was closed for a wedding. Hotel was the Sheraton Suites Eau Claire - a very nice hotel with a fantastic staff.

Day 2 - Banff - I have seen several posts saying that Banff was "too commercial". I'm not sure what defines a place as being "too commercial" unless it's because they have a McDonald's (that seems to be some people's litmus test) but I thought it was a very cute, tidy town and we enjoyed walking around. We stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs. Yes, it is very expensive but it is a one of a kind place and do go there are stroll the grounds even if you don't stay there. There are a number of interesting shops within the hotel and the new stone lobby is beautiful. We were fortunate to have a beautiful room with a view of the valley. I had written down a number of restaurants on this site but a local working in one of the shops shook his head no on everyone. We ended up at "Guido's" an Italian restaurant above the McDonald's. We would have never found this place had we not been looking for it and known it was above the McDonald's. It's a "mom and pop" sort of restuarant and if ambiance is what you are looking for this is NOT the place. But the food was great, prices reasonable, and all the pasta was home made.

Day 3 - Drive from Banff to Jasper - Drove to Lake Louise (via Bow Valley Parkway as recommended on here). Picked up lunch at Laggan's in the Lake Louise village (also as recommended here)- good fresh sandwiches and baked goods. Lake Louise was beautiful...would have loved to have gone canoeing if time permitted but not enough time. For beauty I thought Moraine Lake was more beautiful. Be sure to take the short hike up to see the lake from a higher elevation ... the lower view does not do it justice.
Bay all means do NOT miss Lake Peyto ... in my opinion the most beautiful of all. It's a somewhat strenuous hike up (at high elevation) but worth it. Very turquoise in color. Cars were flying by and not stopping....not knowing what they were missing.
Don't miss the Columbia Icefield and taking the Snow coaches out on the glacier. A very unique experience to be able to walk on the glacier.
Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls are worth a stop.
We did the Banff to Jasper trip in one day but I felt like we saw all of the highlights as we are not really hikers and weren't interested in the trails.

Day 4-5 - Jasper...very cute town. Stayed at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Again, very expensive but a one of a kind place. We were in the lodge which I preferred to the cabins but others may not. Second floor lake view with patio....absolutely stunning. The room are nothing special....it's the view and grounds you are paying for. Thank you Hana on this site for recommending the Tekarra Lodge restaurant. If not for your post I would have never even have known about it and would never have guessed it was fine dining looking at the building. The best dinner the entire trip....I LOVED IT! Also, thanks to those who recommended the Bear's Paw bakery. I am still thinking about the raspberry, white chocolate scones! It's a must stop.
Did the Jasper Tramway and the view is spectacular. We did not do the Banff Gondola so I can't compare but this was a great way to see the entire valley. You can hike up above the treeline and see even more.

Went to Maligne Lake. Frankly, after all of the other spectacular lakes I found this one to be disappointing and did not find the CAD $41 price for the boat ride a good value at all. Nothing to really see but trees and "Spirit Island" was not an island but a peninsula....they said it is only an island a few days a year when the water level is high. It is mainly a rest room stop (interesting factoid....the guide told me they spent over $500,000 on the rest room). It is solar powered. I was very disappointed in the boat ride.
Day 6- on the drive to Edmonton stopped at the Miette Hot Springs. If you haven't experience soaking in natural hot springs I would recommend....otherwise, nothing exceptional but a nice break.
The drive from Jasper to Edmonton is extremely boring....absolutely nothing to see.
Edmonton is a nice city worth a stop in my opinion. Some people have made fun of going to the West Edmonton Mall but I loved it. With 800 stores I found exactly what I wanted. For example....I wanted genuine Canadian maple syrup to take home and they had a store called the "Maple Sugar Shack"....perfect. I wanted some genuine British tea....got it at the "British Import Shop". I wanted some Royal Mounted Police (Mounties) memorabelia...got that too at the RMP shop....so the mall is what you make it.
Went to the Royal Alberta Museum...liked it a lot and worth a stop....2 hours should do it. Also went to Fort Edmonton...very unique recreation. I liked it. Stayed at the Westin Hotel...very nice business oriented hotel. Recommended restaurants - Sorrentino's near the Westin and Four Rooms in the downtown mall (entrance from street).
Day 7 - back in Calgary to fly home. Recommended restaurant - Wildflower Grill in a very trendy and nice neighborhood not too far from downtown.
A great trip to a beautiful and hospitable Province!!
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Old Jul 5th, 2006, 07:37 PM
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So glad to hear you had a good time, Dennis.


>>>>>>back in Calgary to fly home. Recommended restaurant - Wildflower Grill in a very trendy and nice neighborhood not too far from downtown<<<<<<

I'm not familiar with Wildflower Grill. I wonder if you mean Wildwood Grill & Brewing Co. The restaurant of which I'm thinking, Wildwood, is on 4th Street SW, a bit past Uptown 17th Avenue. Sorry, I wouldn't want to be pedantic, but I thought I'd clarify the issue in case a forum reader looked for Wildflower Grill.

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Old Jul 6th, 2006, 06:25 AM
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Thanks very much for your wonderfully detailed report, Dennis-- much appreciated! I'm interested in what you said about preferring one of the lodge rooms to the cabins at JPL. Could you spell that out a bit, please? We've booked a lakeview junior suite (early Sept), but I'd love to be able to save some money if the lodge rooms are just as good or perhaps better. Thanks again foir all those helpful details.
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Old Jul 6th, 2006, 06:31 AM
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Thank you, Judy....you are exactly right...so sorry for giving the wrong name...it's the Wildwood Grill & Brewing Company at 2417 4th st (near 24th ave). Ph 403 228-0122. I liked it a lot.
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Old Jul 6th, 2006, 06:42 AM
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Poss - it's probably a matter of personal preference in cabin vs. lodge room. I don't want to steer you wrong. I walked all over the grounds and didn't see IN the cabins but I felt the view from my room in the lodge was spectacular. As I strolled the grounds I knew that many of those cabin rooms cost much more than my lodge room but I certainly was not jealous of their location. It probably depends on your needs as the cabins might be better for families with children or those who want extra privacy. I liked being in the lodge and being able to just walk down the stairs to the lounge, concierge, restaurants, shops, etc. as opposed to waiting for a golf cart or walking a distance. The JPL is quite spread out. If you do choose the lodge, by all means request the 2nd floor. I had room 676 and was very happy with it. It has a HUGE patio. The downsides are: no privacy between the patios (although there were rarely others out there when I was), the patio furniture was not really to scale with the size of the patio and wasn't all that comfortable (I used a chair from the room), the bathroom is in need of an update (when you consider the rates) and the tub is "tired". But you have a beautiful view of the lake and I could have sat on that patio for hours. Like I said, I think the view and grounds are what you are paying for. One other thing....are you a member of the Fairmont President's Club? If not, then BY ALL MEANS JOIN. You can do so for free online. I definitely felt preferential treatment. We were pre-registered and internet access (that may not even be something you care about but was for me) is free as opposed to $15 per day. I really think President's Club members get the best rooms. Let me know if you have any more specific questions about JPL.
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Old Jul 6th, 2006, 06:56 AM
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In our recent trip to Rockies we also found the Spirit Island cruise to be expensive.

But it was worth it.

Besides icefileds experience this was the most expensive item considering that we did all 4(banff gondola, jasper whisler gondola, icefields exp & spirit cruise)

Spirit island tour in the evenings with calm turqiouse waters reflecting the snow capped mountains and scenery was the highlight of our tour.
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Old Jul 6th, 2006, 07:36 AM
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njs - thanks for giving a different perspective. My disappointment in the cruise may have had something to do with the packed boat...I was not fortunate to get a window seat. Also, it was nothing like the glacier viewing boats in Alaska in that viewing outside (necessary for any decent picture taking) was limited to the rear of the boat and only 8 people could be out there at a time. The boats in Alaska have large viewing decks so I probably raised the bar too high in my expectations. One other thing is that your guide is "the luck of the draw". Unfortunately we had a girl from Quebec with a heavy French accent and although she tried hard, I could barely understand her. She was obviously new and had limited knowledge. I just didn't think it was a good value but it's nice to hear from someone who enjoyed it.
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Old Jul 6th, 2006, 08:53 PM
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We had a similar experience on the Spirit Island boat ride as Dennis and I totally agree that it depends on who is on the boat with you, where you are seated on the boat and the tour guide. The boat was packed and a few people rushed out to the back to take pictures and stayed there the whole time (even though the guide had asked that people take turns at the beginning of the tour). Then, when we got to the Island, everyone rushed off the boat to run to get to the best spot for pictures. It reminded us of the reasons we don't generally like to take tours. Or maybe it was just that we were with a group of very rude people.
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Old Jul 7th, 2006, 07:56 AM
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It was the same with us. A group of people with 3-4 tripods were hogging the back of the boat full time. We decided that we will go closer to the back door and stand there. Finally they realised that this was not their "private boat" & came back inside and we got a chance to get out for 10-15min during the begining of the trip on the way back.

Our tour guide for cruise was not good either. The tour guide in icefields was amazing.

Before my trip, inspite of listening to conflicting reports about this cruise I had decided to go for it because we were anyway spending thousands to get to the rockies.
So we did not want to think about another 100 or so for the cruise as long as it gave us some pleasure.

And we did not want to come back with a feeling that we missed out something.


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Old Jul 7th, 2006, 10:16 AM
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Dennis, I am so pleased you made it to Fort Edmonton - the site is completly run by volunteers and it is one of my personal favorite places in the city!

Glad you had fun!

Cheers,

Murphy
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Old Jul 7th, 2006, 09:28 PM
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We did our second trip out that way last year. This time we flew into Calgary and spent time in Glacier/Waterton national parks drove back to Calgary and then spent a week in Canmore. For anyone who might be going, you can get a complete condo in canmore for the price of a hotel in Banff and it's like 15 minutes away. When we took the drive out to Lake louise we took a sideroad back to banff and saw bears and elk galore. I could without a doubt buy a summer place out that way- next time try canmore, I think you'll like it more than Banff,
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Old Jul 20th, 2006, 11:21 AM
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Dennis: We're travelling to Alberta/BC September 2nd and I was very interested in your review. How "strenuous" is the hike to Peyto Lake? I've heard from numerous sources that it is definitely a "don't miss". I'm conflicted about the Spirit Island boat ride as my main interest is photography. Hopefully, in early September, it won't be too busy and we'll get a less crowded boat. What type of food and pricing should we expect at Tekarra Lodge?
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Old Jul 20th, 2006, 05:13 PM
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Senga, the hike to Peyto is not that long but it's uphill and keep in mind that you are at high elevation. There were people "huffing and puffing" saying "this better be worth it" coming up when we were coming down and I assured them it was. Just take your time and, as I recall, there were a few benches for resting along the way. Wear good shoes....I saw a girl in flip flops which is ridiculous.
As you have seen, there are conflicting opinions on the boat ride so that's up to you but I did not think it was worth the price.
Go to http://www.tekarrarestaurant.com for information on the Tekarra Lodge restaurant. It's continental cuisine with fresh ingredients and this site will give you an idea of food and prices. Enjoy!
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Old Jul 20th, 2006, 06:11 PM
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Totally agree with Dennis that Tekarra Lodge has great food--don't miss it. Have eaten there for several years and have never been disappointed.
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Old Jul 21st, 2006, 07:47 AM
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Thanks so much for the information. I'm sure we'll be able to manage Peyto Lake and we'll definitely have dinner at Tekarra Lodge. This will be our first trip out west and we're really looking forward to it. Your trip report was very helpful. Thanks again.
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