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Ideas for 3 Week Road trip in BC & Alberta

Originally part of Can't post to Canada forum
Please Advise.
12 years ago, July 1st 2010 No: 1 Msg: #114575  
N Posts: 7
OK cool, although have been a member for a while now ... needs looking into. Cheers mel!

Subject: Ideas for 3 Week Road trip in BC & Alberta

Fellow Travellers!

You guys have helped me out before, and all your suggestions for my most recent trip to California were very helpful, so I send a huge thank you to you all!

So our next trip is British Columbia & Alberta and we're trying to compile a list of "must see" places on our road trip. We (German 25f and Aussie 31m)

We'll be hitting Vancouver on the 11th of October 2010 and have 3 weeks to play with before flying out of Vancouver.

Having read up on Western Canada, there's so much to see and do. We love nature, and most of our time shall be spent outdoors of course.

We've got a few places in mind to visit, although very vague:

- Vancouver Island (Victoria)
- Vancouver
- Jasper
- Icefields Parkway
- Banff
- Whistler

Our transport shall be a rental car (something with guts to tackle the mighty Rockies), and accommodation shall be a mixture of hotels, hostels and private accommodation offered via the NP websites that we've been reading about. Has anyone done private accom in the National Parks before?

So if you have any tips, suggestions, accommodation or road trip itineraries that will occupy us for 3 weeks then that would be just so helpful to us.

Thanks again, any help/advice would be greatly appreciated!!

Matt & Mel Reply to this

12 years ago, July 2nd 2010 No: 2 Msg: #114664  
B Posts: 73
Matt and Mel,

Congratulations on planning such a great trip. I am from the area, and a driving vacation is the only way to do it.

Since you like nature, I will try and help you out that way. Just a note, though. You said that you will be renting a car, "something with guts to tackle the mighty Rockies". Although it is true that the Rockies are quite rugged, the roads are not. Really, any vehicle that can get you around comfortably is all that you need.

For "private accommodation", I am very fond of Bed & Breakfasts in the area (Zimmers, to the German I believe). The majority of Bed & Breakfast owners are on the website at bbcanada.com and I have always had good luck dealing with that website. The B&B owners pay a small annual fee to be listed on the website, so it is not restricted to chains or certain B&B affiliations or anything like that.

It will be difficult for me to indicate the length of time that you should be in any one place, as it ultimately will depend on what you want to do. As well, I am not as familiar with the coast of BC and the island as I am with the mountainous interior. Regardless, here is a rough sketch of what I would recommend that you do for your travel.

From Vancouver, take the ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island. Drive north along the coast towards Nanaimo - I would recommend looking to stay around Parksville, which is just north of there. From there, drive west across the island to the Tofino/Ucluelet area, on the west-most side of Vancouver island.

Drive back to Nanaimo, and take the ferry from there back towards Vancouver. As you are approaching the very cold winter at that point, I will have you take the southernmost area first to see what remains of the nice weather to enjoy the milder parts of BC. Drive out to Kelowna, where you can enjoy seeing vineyards and the majestic lake. After, head south through Summerland to Osoyoos (don't really need to stay there, just nice to see) and continue east along the US border and then up towards Nelson. Just north of Nelson is the amazing Ainsworth Hot Springs, which is in a small but natural horseshoe-shaped cave. Also, between Nelson and the hot springs, there is a small park that has been established to protect an important salmon-spawning area... just be careful of bears.

Take the world's longest free-of-charge ferry from Balfour to Kootnay Bay (schedule can be found here - look at the winter times for when you'll be there). On the way through Creston, you might want to look at getting a free tour at the Creston Brewery (free beer!). You can head to Cranbrook to stay - they have a couple very nice B&B's, though it primarily is a logging town.

Just north of Cranbrook, you will come to Fort Steele, which is an excellent historical site. Although it will have closed down all of their guided sights and exhibitions, at that time of the year entrance will be by donation only, and you can still wander the old reconstructed town.

Up until now, I have largely been avoiding talking about the natural things to do... largely because I forget. I will try and be a little more helpful with that going forward from here, but still make sure that you check what is available around there.

On your way north towards highway 1 and Banff, you will come across the Fairmont hot springs, and the Radium hot springs. Although both are nice, they are nothing compared to the Ainsworth hot springs, or the ones in Banff. Your choice if you wish to enjoy them there.

You will now be entering the first of the mountain national parks for your visit, in this case Kootenay National Park. You will need to purchase a park pass as you enter. There is no charge for people who are just driving through, but as you will be stopping make sure you stop and pay. Rates are at Parks Canada's website and look at purchasing a multi-day pass for all the parks you will be in.

You will meet highway 1 (the Trans-Canada Highway) at Castle Junction in Banff National Park. From there, head east to Banff. In the area, you can see Johnston Canyon, the Upper Banff Hot Springs, the Lower Banff Springs (which is just a historical site, but a good one), and numerous lakes. If you want to do some hikes, take a look at buying some Gemtrek Hiking Maps, which are absolutely the best for the Rockies - Alberta and British Columbia. I will recommend the Lake Louise area on your return trip.

I know you mentioned the mountains, but it would be a shame if you do not consider Drumheller and the Royal Tyrrell Museum. If you are interested, drive east from Banff to Calgary, and then Drumheller is northeast of there by about 1.5 hours. In Calgary there is the great Glenbow Museum, and make sure you stop off to eat at Peter's Drive-in.

Still out of the Rockies, consider heading north to Edmonton. It has the most parkland of any city on earth, and the world-renowned West Edmonton Mall, where you can ride a roller-coaster or play in a water park, even if it's -30 outside.

From Edmonton, drive west again to the rockies, towards Jasper - there is plenty of hiking and general nature in the area with beautiful lakes. Then head south towards Lake Louise. On the way, you will pass by such amazing sites as the Athabasca Falls, the must-see Columbia Icefield - unfortunately the guided tours onto the Athabasca glacier ends October 17. Further south, you will get to the unforgettable Peyto Lake. WARNING - These sites may be closed if snowed-in by this time of the year.

Finish up around Lake Louise and enjoy a meal in the reasonably-priced Poppy Room at Chateau Lake Louise (or stay at the hotel and eat at their more expensive restaurants, if you've got the money). If the road is still open (and it should be until November 1, weather depending), make sure you see Moraine Lake. Midday is the best time if you can be there, as the sun will reflect off the water, giving it the beautiful turquoise colour.

From there, head back west towards Revelstoke along Highway 1. There is plenty to see along the way, including the rugged Rogers Pass, and plenty of hiking to do around Revelstoke. From there, continue on to Kamloops. Stay on Highway 1, but make a small detour to see Marble Canyon Provincial Park in BC. I do not know if the trail has been re-opened yet (it had been closed due to a forest fire) but if it is make sure you go. If not, the nearby trail to the ink pots is also a memorable hike.

From there, cut off and take highway 99 southwest towards Whistler. After that, you can drive south to Vancouver, completing your loop.

Remember that you will be travelling in low season as the summer tourists are gone, and the skiing season is waiting to begin. As a result, accommodations should be the lowest-priced that you will find year-round.

Come to think of it, you might want to do this trip in reverse... if you are able to make it to the icefield parkway in time, it might be worth it... and you probably want to do all the more northern mountains before it gets too cold, as it will be getting at that time.

Have a great trip!
Reply to this

12 years ago, July 6th 2010 No: 3 Msg: #114995  
B Posts: 73
Just as an addition, here is a rough map of that route - total driving distance 4,059 km. As well, you may want to consider heading west from Jasper to see Canada's tallest peak, Mount Robson.
Reply to this

12 years ago, July 16th 2010 No: 4 Msg: #115847  
N Posts: 7
Hi Travelers!

We've been very lucky to have so many responses to our forum posts. I've not had enough time to collate all the information and tips as yet, however from what I have read we are both in for a lovely trip in October.

Quiet a few people have mentioned that traveling through the Rockies in October is going to be hit and miss weather wise.

Would it be wise to try and head as far north as we can (Jasper) and then work our way down towards Banff etc. Thus driving clockwise from Vancouver.

Thanks again for every one's advice and tips. We shall certainly report back!

Matt Reply to this

12 years ago, July 27th 2010 No: 5 Msg: #116565  
N Posts: 7
Hi guys,

Firstly I must say sorry about all the 'Destination Points' in the first set of Google Maps from my first posting. The intention was to highlight a road map, not to stay at those places.

So we've been collating the many replies we've had across the forum posts, and have pretty much decided on a clockwise route to the Rockies.

Question: Driving Vancouver to Jasper - which way?
A few people have mentioned it's worth heading up Highway #1 from Hope, which merges into Highway 97 then to highway 24, and joining back up with Highway 5 at Little Fort.

See Map: http://tiny.cc/CanadaRockiesOption1

Or should we just press on from Vancouver and head straight to Jasper via Kamloops.

See Map: http://tiny.cc/CanadaRockiesOption2

Where would you recommend we stay for a day or two between Vancouver and Jasper? Is it worth spending a day or two exploring Wells Gray Park?

Question: Driving Banff to Vancouver - which way?
What is the most scenic way to travel back to Vancouver from Banff? We'd like to hit the wineries around Osoyoos. Should we go direct and travel directly south via Cranbrook, and then west along the US/Canada border; or should we drive South-West via Glacier NP and Mt Revelstoke NP and finally passing through Kelowna and the down to Osoyoos?

Question: Thanksgiving Day
I should probably put this in the Vancouver forum. It's come to our attention that we are arriving on Canada Thanksgiving Day (Monday October 11th). Is it worth starting the road trip on this day, or spending the day in Vancouver. I'm assuming most things are closed in Vancouver and the day is spent celebrating with families. If we do stay for the day, can anyone recommend some places to stay/eat on this day?

I do partly regret booking our flight over to Vancouver and beginning the road trip there. I think we should of really flown into Calgary and started from West to East instead of doing the loop.

That being said, if there are some 'must see' places to explore on our way to Jasper from Vancouver, we are all ears.

Thank you again for your time and wonderful ideas - you are all great people! We have made sure our rental car has all weather tires, so that's sorted!


Matt & Mel. Reply to this

12 years ago, July 28th 2010 No: 6 Msg: #116594  
I've travelled from Penticton to Banff in December and as long as you have the right vehicle and you are lucky with the weather, i don't see you having much issue.
I did the journey in a 2wd Ford explorer with No heater in mid December and had a blast. I followed highway 97 to Sicamous (I believe) where it turns into the 1. I followed that to Banff. A very enjoyable drive indeed even with no heater at minus 30 C.
Lake Louise is definitely a must see when near Banff.
I live near Kelowna and think this area of BC is lovely and is gorgeous at any time of the year. There are plenty of wineries to see from Kelowna to Osoyoos. Reply to this

12 years ago, July 30th 2010 No: 7 Msg: #116811  
Glad to hear you are headed up to BC and Alberta. It is amazingly beautiful. There have been several great suggestions here. I would suggest this route as a basic guideline for your trip.

Vancouver, ferry ride to Prince Rupert.
Rupert along highway 16 to Jasper.
Jasper down through Banff to Calgary.
Then along the southern part of BC back to Vancouver.

Along your route there are great things to see and do. This path also allows you to go to Edmonton or through Kelowna. I believe that the drive from Prince Rupert east to Smithers is one of the most amazing in all the world.

I hope you enjoy your trip and keep us all posted on how it goes!

JD Rowland
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11 years ago, March 7th 2012 No: 8 Msg: #152885  
You can experience world-class salmon and trout fishing, landing in secluded coves with white sand beaches or spending an afternoon on a secret lake north of Vancouver enjoying a gourmet picnic lunch. You can also check out <snip> for special charter in the Pacific Northwest including dropping off or picking up in the U.S.A.
[Edited: 2012 Mar 08 08:38 - Administrator E:231376 - No dropping commercial links on this forum]
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8 years ago, August 24th 2014 No: 9 Msg: #184488  
N Posts: 2
Snow may be starting in Whistler already, but with or without snow there is plenty of stuff to do. Reply to this

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