Western Rockies end of April

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May 24th, 2018, 06:33 AM
  #1
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Western Rockies end of April

Dear All

I am at a very preliminary stage of exploring the feasibility of around a 15-20 days tour to the Western Rockies starting somewhere around 15th of April next year. In this regard, I seek your views and advice on how practical it is to undertake this journey in that time of the year which I understand is the shoulder season and most of the travel agents I approached have advised me against.

I was planning on flying into Vancouver for a few nights and then head to Whistler.

Then probably head back to Vancouver to take the Rocky Mountaineer across to Jasper. A few days there before heading to Banff and Lake Louis.

Come to Calgary to fly back home.

This is a very rough outline. Does it seem doable during that period? Would the roads be ok to drive or should we rely on coach transfers? Is the Rocky Mountaineer worth it or should we just drive ourselves. To give you a perspective we are not very adept at driving in harsh conditions. If the above is doable what would be the best way to discover the rockies in the timeframe of 15 days?

I was also thinking that if Canada is possible, can I somehow include Alaska with it. From my nascent research, there is a Princess cruise which runs from April 29 from Vancouver. Would it be a good idea to combine the two in which case it will be around 12 days in Canada and 7 on the Alaskan cruise.

Thanks in advance

Shveta
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May 24th, 2018, 11:48 AM
  #2
 
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Mid April would probably work for the coastal areas, albeit you could get anything from cold rain & sleet to pleasant weather. However, your agent is right to suggest it's not a particularly good time to visit the Rockies.

For one, I'm not sure the Rocky Mountaineer even runs that early - I believe the first run of the spring is in very late April or early May. I saw it go by in early May, and it looked fairly empty so might just have been a training or relocation run.

Second, mid April is still very much winter in mid to higher elevations in the mountains, and often in the lower elevations. The last of the ski resorts just closed this Monday -- so mid April is spring skiing season, not hiking or boating season. In many years, you might see the first signs of spring by late April in the valley bottoms, but snow - and heavy snow - is possibly throughout the month. Lakes will still be solidly frozen - you won't see the vibrant colours in the brochures nor will there be any cruises/boating/boat tours. Seasonal roads are shut until late May to mid June, so no access to places like Moraine Lake, Takkakaw Falls and Edith Cavell Meadows. Most trails will be snowbound, especially at Lake Louise, so walking/hiking would be limited to valley bottom trails. Might well still be able to go snowshoeing or xc skiing. Temperatures can range from well below freezing to +10-15, depending on the elevation - you need layers, winter jacket, hat, mitts, good boots etc.

It's also not a time of year when driving between Jasper and Lake Louise (not Louis) is generally recommended unless you have a fair bit of winter driving experience. Most of the parkway will still be very much in winter mode, and while snow tires are not required as of April 1, they are strong recommended any time there is snow on the parkway. In April, you can get everything from bare road to totally snow covered road, often a mix of both on the same day. The glacier tours generally open mid month, but nothing else on the parkway will be open in terms of food/hotels, and there's no guarantee that pullovers will be accessible. It's also one of the higher risk times for road closures due to avalanches and avalanche control. As such, while the drive may well be doable, you need to have flex time built in to your schedule in case there are road closures.

I would also not suggest driving between Vancouver and the Rockies at that time of year. To Kelowna or so would likely be OK, but beyond you encounter the same issues with it still being winter and the chance of road closures due to snow/avalanches/rock fall/mudslides/avy control and accidents. The stretch between Revelstoke and Lake Louise is particularly prone to issues - this past April, closures from hours to days were fairly routine. And if you're not coming for the skiing, there's not much to do along that stretch of road in April.

It's not that April is terrible time - it can be great and very pretty with the snow. You just have to be aware of the limitations, and be prepared for a wide range of weather conditions. It may not be ideal if you're coming to see the big attractions, some of which are not accessible, others of which are in 'winter mode. If you do come, it might be better to explore coastal BC or consider flying to Calgary and doing a shorter Banff/Lake Louise based trip.
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May 26th, 2018, 12:35 AM
  #3
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Dear kgsneds

Thank you for your inputs.

I was primarily planning on visiting Canada to explore the Rockies region. However, if the major attractions are most likely to be closed or difficult to access, it would not make much sense to include them in the trip.

But my problem is that April end is the only time of the year when I can afford a long vacation. So if I were to ask you should I drop Canada altogether (until a time in future when I can visit in the summers) or should I still plan for it but going to other areas that are doable in April end. I understand that I have to take the call but I am just trying to assess whether it is judicious to visit Canada and still not go to the Rockies (to my mind Canada has always been of interest due to them).

Could you kindly suggest other places which are probably equally scenic as the Rockies and can be comfortably done in April end. To give you an idea we are not very interested in the cities are always keen on exploring the natural beauty of the country.
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May 28th, 2018, 01:21 PM
  #4
 
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For mountains, you won't get much more scenic than the Rockies, and the mountains in inland BC.

April is still pretty early in much of Canada - it's end of winter/early spring in much of the northern and central part of the country, and you can still get very unsettled weather in some southern regions. If you're looking for natural beauty, your best best is likely coastal and southern BC. But if you've wanted to come to Canada to see the Rockies, it's still possible, but perhaps save that trip for a time when you can come between late May and early October.
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May 28th, 2018, 11:17 PM
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Point well taken Kgsneds ... I am postponing my trip to Canada to some other time ... thanks a lot for your kind advice ...
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