Alberta | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com Trip Ideas, Itineraries, Maps & Area Experts Sat, 18 Nov 2017 00:01:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 https://deathstar-650a.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/cropped-moon_logo_M-32x32.jpg Alberta | Moon Travel Guides https://moon.com 32 32 125073523 See the Best of Alberta in a One-Week Road Trip https://moon.com/2017/10/see-the-best-of-alberta-in-a-one-week-road-trip/ https://moon.com/2017/10/see-the-best-of-alberta-in-a-one-week-road-trip/#comments Wed, 25 Oct 2017 17:05:12 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=10759 Beginning and ending in Calgary, this road trip takes you on a 1,200-kilometer (745-mile) loop through this varied Canadian province.

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Explore Alberta’s highlights, from its spectacular Rocky Mountain national parks to its two vibrant largest cities, in this one-week itinerary. Beginning and ending in Calgary, this road trip takes you on a 1,200-kilometer (745-mile) loop through this varied Canadian province.

white car driving along the Bow Valley Parkway

Driving the Bow Valley Parkway between Lake Louise and Banff. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller

Day 1

Get your Calgary day off to a delicious start in the East Village neighborhood, with delectable pastries at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and top-notch coffee at Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters. Tour Studio Bell, which houses Canada’s new National Music Centre, then head downtown to take in the city views from the landmark Calgary Tower. Around the corner, check out the excellent Glenbow Museum, which traces Calgary’s history and culture, and journey back in time at the Heritage Park Historical Village. For dinner, try one of the cool restaurants on 17th Avenue.

feet on a glass floor at Calgary Tower

The glass floor of Calgary Tower. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Day 2

Drive east from Calgary toward the town of Drumheller, into the Canadian Badlands, a region known for its unusual hoodoo rock formations and extensive deposits of dinosaur fossils. Explore this geologic heritage at the Royal Tyrrell Museum and in the hoodoo-filled landscape of Midland Provincial Park. Then drive north to Edmonton, where you’ll spend the night.

striated mountains in the Canadian Badlands

Visit the unusual terrain of the Canadian Badlands. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Day 3

Check out Edmonton’s local food scene at the year-round Old Strathcona Farmers Market. See what’s on exhibit at the contemporary Art Gallery of Alberta, then wander through Muttart Conservatory, the city’s botanical garden, housed in four glass pyramids. Have lunch at the conservatory’s excellent café, Culina at the Muttart.

After you’ve eaten, learn more about the region’s history at Fort Edmonton Park or browse the West Edmonton Mall, North America’s largest shopping center. In the late afternoon, drive west to Jasper.

Day 4

Ride the Jasper Sky Tram for views across Jasper National Park, then stop at the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum for an introduction to the area’s history. Pick up a picnic at Bear’s Paw Bakery and drive to Maligne Canyon to hike through the deep limestone gorge.

Your next stop is the impossibly scenic glacier-fed Maligne Lake; take a boat tour to tiny Spirit Island or rent a canoe and go for a paddle. Have an early supper back in town, then wrap up your day with a soothing soak in Miette Hot Springs.

the green waters of maligne lake

Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Day 5

Start early for today’s scenic drive: the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise, in Banff National Park. Allow a full day; although the trip is less than 300 kilometers (186 miles), you’ll want to keep stopping along the way. Take a short stroll at Athabasca Falls, walk on the glacier at the Columbia Icefield, and if you have time, hike at least part of the eight-kilometer (five-mile) Wilcox Pass Trail for dramatic glacier views. Pause for photos at Peyto and Bow Lakes, and arrive in Lake Louise at sunset.

hikers overlooking Peyto Lake in Alberta

Stop for photos at the picturesque Peyto Lake. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Day 6

Go for an early morning canoe paddle along Moraine Lake, a strikingly scenic body of water 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) from the town’s more famous lake. Then return to Lake Louise and hike into the hills for lunch at one of the historic mountain teahouses, Lake Agnes or the Plain of the Six Glaciers.

From Lake Louise, drive the Bow Valley Parkway south toward Banff, stopping to follow the trail through Johnston Canyon. When you arrive in Banff, see an evening concert, lecture, or other event at the modern Banff Centre.

canoe in moraine lake in Alberta

Go for an early morning canoe paddle along Moraine Lake. Photo © Carolyn B. Heller.

Day 7

Stop for a pastry or frittata sandwich at Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, before you hike to the top of Banff’s Tunnel Mountain or challenge yourself on the Mount Norquay Via Ferrata, an exciting guided climbing experience. Recover with a leisurely one-hour cruise along Lake Minnewanka.

Learn the story of Canada’s first national park at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, then ride the Banff Gondola up Sulphur Mountain for more scenic vistas. Enjoy a relaxing soak in the Banff Upper Hot Springs, before returning to town for dinner. Stay the night in Banff or drive back to Calgary, just 90 minutes to the east.

Color map of Alberta, Canada

Alberta


Spend more time exploring Canada by car with Moon Vancouver & Canadian Rockies Road Trip.

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Camping in Banff National Park https://moon.com/2017/07/camping-in-banff-national-park/ https://moon.com/2017/07/camping-in-banff-national-park/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 22:57:27 +0000 https://moon.com/?p=57969 Within Banff National Park, 13 campgrounds hold more than 2,000 sites. Here are our picks for camping in and around Banff.

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Within Banff National Park, 13 campgrounds hold more than 2,000 sites. The town of Banff itself has five of these facilities, with more than 1,500 sites in its immediate vicinity. The three largest campgrounds are strung out over 1.5 kilometers (0.9 mile) along Tunnel Mountain Road, with the nearest sites 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) from town.

Sites at most campgrounds can be reserved through the Parks Canada Campground Reservation Service (877/737-3783) starting in mid-January, and it’s strongly recommended that you do reserve if you require electrical hookups or want to stay at one of the more popular campgrounds, such as Two Jack Lakeside. Although some sites are available for those without reservations, they fill fast each day (especially in July and August). The official checkout time is 11am, so if you don’t have a reservation plan on arriving at your campground of choice earlier in the day than this to ensure getting a site.

On summer weekends, a line often forms, waiting for sites to become vacant. When the main campgrounds fill, those unable to secure a site will be directed to an overflow area along Lake Minnewanka Road. These provide few facilities and no hookups but cost less. Open fires are permitted in designated areas throughout all campgrounds, and wood is provided at no cost, but you must purchase a firewood permit ($8.80 per site per night) in order to legally burn it. For general camping information, stop at the Banff Visitor Centre (224 Banff Ave., 403/762-1550) or go to the Parks Canada website, and follow the links to Banff National Park.

glowing tent at night surrounded by trees

Camping in Banff National Park. Photo © rabbit75-ist/iStock.

Around the Town of Banff

Closest to town is Tunnel Mountain Campground, which is three campgrounds rolled into one. The location is a lightly treed ridge east of downtown, with views north to Cascade Mountain and south to Mount Rundle. From town, follow Tunnel Mountain Road east, to beyond the Douglas Fir Resort (which is within walking distance for groceries, liquor, and laundry). If you’re coming in off the Trans-Canada Highway from the east, bypass town completely by turning left onto Tunnel Mountain Road at the Banff Rocky Mountain Resort. Approaching from this direction, the first campground you pass is the park’s largest, with 622 well-spaced, relatively private sites ($28 per site), each with a fire ring and picnic table. Other amenities include drinking water, hot showers, and kitchen shelters. This campground has no hookups. It is open mid-May-early September.

Less than one kilometer (0.6 mile) farther along Tunnel Mountain Road toward town is a signed turnoff (“Hookups”) that leads to a registration booth for two more campgrounds. Unless you have a reservation from Parks Canada Campground Reservation Service, you’ll be asked whether you require an electrical hookup ($32 per site) or a site with power, water, and sewer ($38 per site), then sent off into the corresponding campground. The power-only section (closest to town) stays open year-round, the other mid-May-September. Both have hot showers but little privacy between sites.

Along Lake Minnewanka Road northeast of town are two campgrounds offering fewer services than the others, but with sites that offer more privacy. The pick of the two is Two Jack Lakeside Campground (June-mid-Sept., $32 per site), for which you will need advance reservations. It features 80 sites tucked into trees at the south end of Two Jack Lake, an extension of Lake Minnewanka. Facilities include hot showers, kitchen shelters, drinking water, and flush toilets. It’s just over six kilometers (3.7 miles) from the Trans-Canada Highway underpass. The much larger Two Jack Main Campground (mid-June-mid-Sept., $22 per site; no reservations) is a short distance farther along the road, with 381 sites spread throughout a shallow valley. It offers the same facilities as Two Jack Lakeside, sans showers. The overflow camping area ($10) for these and the three Tunnel Mountain campgrounds is at the beginning of the Lake Minnewanka Road loop.

wood burning and tent at campsite in Banff

Campground at Two Jack Lake. Photo © madeleine_h, licensed CC-BY.

Bow Valley Parkway Campgrounds

Along Bow Valley Parkway between the town of Banff and Lake Louise are three campgrounds. Closest to Banff is Johnston Canyon Campground (early June-mid-Sept., $28 per site), between the road and the rail line, 26 kilometers (16 miles) west of Banff. It is the largest of the three campgrounds, with 140 sites, and has hot showers but no hookups. Almost directly opposite is Johnston Canyon Resort, with groceries and a restaurant, and the beginning of a trail to the park’s best-known waterfalls.

Continuing eight kilometers (five miles) toward Lake Louise, Castle Mountain Campground (late June-Aug., $22 per site) is also within walking distance of a grocery store (no restaurant), but it has just 44 sites and no showers. Services are limited to flush toilets, drinking water, and kitchen shelters.

Lake Louise Campgrounds

Exit the Trans-Canada Highway at the Lake Louise interchange, 56 kilometers (35 miles) northwest of Banff, and take the first left beyond Samson Mall and under the railway bridge to reach Lake Louise Campground, within easy walking distance of the village. The campground is divided into two sections by the Bow River but is linked by the Bow River Loop hiking trail that leads into the village along either side of the river. Individual sites throughout are close together, but some privacy and shade are provided by towering lodgepole pines. Just under 200 serviced (powered) sites are grouped together at the end of the road. In addition to hookups, this section has showers and flush toilets; $38.

Across the river are 216 unserviced sites, each with a fire ring and picnic table. Other amenities include kitchen shelters and a modern bathroom complex complete with hot showers. These sites cost $34 per night. A dump station is near the entrance to the campground ($8 per use). An interpretive program runs throughout the summer, nightly at 9pm (except Tuesday) in the outdoor theater.

Sites should be booked in advance by contacting the Parks Canada Campground Reservation Service. The serviced section of this campground is open year-round, the unserviced section mid-May-September.

rv at campsite in Banff National Park

Campsite at Mosquito Creek. Photo © Jason Cheever/iStock.

Icefields Parkway Campgrounds

Beyond Lake Louise, the first available camping along the Icefields Parkway is at Mosquito Creek Campground (late June-late Sept., $22 per site), 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the Trans-Canada Highway. Don’t be scared by the name; the bugs here are no worse than anywhere else. The 32 sites are nestled in the forest, with a tumbling creek separating the campground from a hostel of the same name. Each site has a picnic table and fire ring, while other amenities include drinking water, pit toilets, and a kitchen shelter with an old-fashioned woodstove. If you’re camping at Mosquito Creek and want a break from the usual camp fare, consider traveling 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) up the highway to the convivial dining room at Num-ti-jah Lodge (403/522-2167) to feast on Canadian-inspired cuisine in a historic dining room.

Waterfowl Lakes Campground (late June-mid-Sept., $27 per site) is 33 kilometers (20 miles) north along the Icefields Parkway from Mosquito Creek. It features 116 sites between Upper and Lower Waterfowl Lakes, with a few sites in view of the lower lake. Facilities include drinking water, flush toilets, and kitchen shelters with wood-burning stoves. Rise early to watch the first rays of sun hit Mount Chephren from the shoreline of the lower lake, then plan on hiking the four-kilometer (2.5-mile) trail to Chephren Lake—you’ll be first on the trail and back in time for a late breakfast.

Continuing toward Jasper, the Icefields Parkway passes The Crossing, a good place to gas up and buy last-minute groceries before reaching Rampart Creek Campground (July-Aug., $22 per site), 31 kilometers (19 miles) beyond Waterfowl Lake and 88 kilometers (55 miles) from Lake Louise. With just 50 sites, this campground fills early each afternoon. Facilities include kitchen shelters, pit toilets, and drinking water.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Banff National Park.

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Best of Lake Louise in One Day https://moon.com/2016/09/best-lake-louise-one-day/ https://moon.com/2016/09/best-lake-louise-one-day/#respond Sat, 03 Sep 2016 11:31:07 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=44948 The best of Lake Louise in one day means an early start to get ahead of the crowds, visiting not one but two lakes, enjoying a good paddle and a hike or two, and a reward of delicious mountain-flavored meal.

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Best of Lake Louise in One Day

To enjoy Lake Louise in one day start not at the famous lake that gives the village its name but at another strikingly beautiful body of water: Moraine Lake. Located 8.7 miles (14 kilometers) from Lake Louise Village, Moraine Lake can get so busy during the day that Parks Canada closes the Moraine Lake Road, so you’ll want to get there early, ahead of the crowds. Take a leisurely stroll along the lakeshore, then rent a canoe to go for a paddle.

Lake Louise in Banff National Park

Lake Louise in Banff National Park. Photo © ronniechua/123rf.

When you leave Moraine Lake, Lake Louise should be your next stop. Take your lakeside photos, then if you’re up to a long hike, follow the 6.6-mile (10.6-kilometer) round-trip Plain of Six Glaciers Trail that takes you to the far side of Lake Louise and between several glacier-topped peaks. Have lunch and a pot of tea at the remote Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse. Alternatively, it’s a shorter hike up to the Lake Agnes Teahouse, another scenic setting for a sandwich or a snack.

After your hike, change clothes and have a cocktail in the Lakeside Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, because you can’t have enough opportunities to admire the lake. Then enjoy a leisurely dinner nearby at the Mount Fairview Dining Room at Deer Lodge for modern mountain fare, from house-made charcuterie to the triple chocolate mousse. You’ve earned it.

Travel map of Lake Louise and Vicinity, Alberta

Lake Louise and Vicinity


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip.

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Western Canada’s Best Scenic Drives https://moon.com/2016/08/western-canadas-best-scenic-drives/ https://moon.com/2016/08/western-canadas-best-scenic-drives/#respond Wed, 31 Aug 2016 12:30:02 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=44719 Road-tripping in western Canada is one big scenic drive, so it’s hard to pick just a few favorite routes. But here are four of the most spectacular sections of road in British Columbia and Alberta.

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River running along the Bow Valley Parkway.

The Bow Valley Parkway has plenty of lookouts to stop and stretch your legs. Photo © Stanislav Moroz/123rf.

Road-tripping in British Columbia and Alberta is one big visual delight, so it’s hard to pick just a few favorite routes. But here are four of the most spectacular sections of road that make up western Canada’s best scenic drives.

  • Sea-to-Sky Highway: Highway 99 from Vancouver to Whistler winds between the mountains and the ocean, with views of offshore islands and snow-topped peaks around every bend. Stop at roadside kiosks to learn more about local First Nations communities.
  • Bow Valley Parkway, Banff National Park: With numerous lookout points and stops for hikes, this 30-mile (48-kilometer) drive is an ever-so-scenic alternative to Highway 1 between Banff and Lake Louise.
  • Icefields Parkway: Take your time on this 143-mile (230-kilometer) route between Lake Louise and Jasper, as you pass turquoise lakes, rushing waterfalls, and countless glacier-topped peaks. It’s one of Canada’s most spectacular drives.
  • Highway 3A along Kootenay Lake: An alternate route between Nelson and the East Kootenays region, Highway 3A winds along the shores of Kootenay Lake and past one of B.C.’s quirkiest attractions: a house built from more than 500,000 empty bottles of embalming fluid.

Map - Canada, BC - Vancouver Canadian Rockies Road Trip 1ed - 00_01_Vancouver_CR_RT

Western Canada's Best Scenic Drives


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip.

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What to Do in Banff with Two Days https://moon.com/2016/08/what-to-do-banff-two-days/ https://moon.com/2016/08/what-to-do-banff-two-days/#respond Tue, 16 Aug 2016 12:29:57 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=44718 Have two days to spend in Banff National Park? Here’s how to make the most of your time from the author of Moon Vancouver & Canadian Rockies Road Trip.

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Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park.

Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park. Photo © Peter Wey/123rf.

Have two days to spend in Banff National Park? Here’s how to make the most of your time.

Get oriented with a walk around the town of Banff, with stops at some of its historic sites and museums: the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, which tells the story behind Canada’s first national park; the Banff Park Museum, in a historic log building; or the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, which traces the area’s cultural and artistic roots.

When you’re done at the museums, take a lunch break. Have soup, salad, or a sandwich at the Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, but don’t leave without a fresh-baked sweet.

If you’re feeling adventurous in your quest for the best mountain views, book a tour on the Mount Norquay Via Ferrata, an exciting guided climbing experience that requires no previous rock-climbing expertise; the vistas from the top of the ridge are spectacular. Or go for a hike: The three-mile (4.8-kilometer) Tunnel Mountain Trail is close to town and climbs up to a lookout point with views across the Bow Valley.

Catch your breath at glacier-fed Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park, where you can take a leisurely one-hour narrated cruise.

Have an early dinner at the Park Distillery, perhaps a vodka cocktail (they brew their own) and the flaming raclette, then see a concert, play, or other event at the Banff Centre. For a post-performance nightcap, stop into the Wine Bar at the Banff Centre’s Three Ravens Restaurant.

The next day, get up early and fortify yourself with breakfast at the Juniper Bistro, where the views from the terrace help get your morning off to a good start. Then pack a picnic lunch and drive along the scenic Bow Valley Parkway. You want to get to Johnston Canyon, a dramatic rock canyon with cantilevered walkways through the gorge, to hike to the Lower Falls before the crowds descend on this extremely popular trail. Continue your hike to the Upper Falls and if you have the time, keep going toward the Ink Pots, a series of colorful pools. Have your picnic along the trail or at another quiet spot along the parkway.

Back in town, drive up Sulphur Mountain for an afternoon ride in the Banff Gondola. Walk the boardwalk trail and make plenty of stops to take in the mountain panoramas.

Just down the road from the gondola base, have a relaxing soak in the mineral pools at Banff Upper Hot Springs. Then, to wrap up your two days in Banff, sit down for a leisurely evening meal at The Sleeping Buffalo, which specializes in game meats, or try one of the dining spots like the Austrian-themed Waldhaus at the grand Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

Banff National Park

Banff National Park

What to do in Banff: The Best of Banff in Two Days


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip.

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Vancouver & the Canadian Rockies Road Trip Planner https://moon.com/2016/08/vancouver-canadian-rockies-road-trip-planner/ https://moon.com/2016/08/vancouver-canadian-rockies-road-trip-planner/#respond Fri, 05 Aug 2016 06:01:11 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=45484 From Vancouver to the Rockies, western Canada is tailor-made for road trips. Learn the best times and places to go from a travel author who knows the drive.

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Road Trip Planner - Vancouver & the Canadian Rockies

Snowy peaks, rushing rivers, and vineyard-lined valleys. Elaborate totem poles rising from the rainforest. Waterfront cities buzzing with outdoor cafés. Whales breaching and seals sunning just offshore. Clichés? Perhaps. But in Canada’s most naturally spectacular region, these clichés are true. Stretching from Vancouver to the Rockies, western Canada is tailor-made for a road trip.

Stretching from Vancouver to the Rockies, western Canada is tailor-made for a road trip.In Vancouver, an active city bordering the mountains and the sea, begin your trip by strolling or cycling through a 1,000-acre (400-hectare) rainforest park and exploring diverse cultures, from the original aboriginal inhabitants to modern-day communities that reflect the city’s position on the Pacific Rim.

A 90-minute ferry ride across the Strait of Georgia, Victoria retains its British roots even as it has morphed into a contemporary city. It’s now known as much for its locally produced wine, beer, and spirits as for its tradition of afternoon tea. Beyond Victoria, opportunities abound for exploring Vancouver Island’s forests, waterways, and dramatic coastal regions.

Back on the mainland, the Sea-to-Sky Highway is one of Canada’s most beautiful short drives, winding along the coast between Vancouver and Whistler. North America’s largest winter sports mecca, Whistler is nearly as busy in spring, summer, and fall, with hikers, cyclists, and other adventurers exploring the peaks and lakes.

Travel east from Vancouver to the sunny Okanagan Valley, with its string of freshwater lakes, orchards, and Canada’s only desert—and more than 200 wineries lining its back roads.

From the Okanagan, head to the Rocky Mountains. The Trans-Canada Highway passes through several of British Columbia’s mountain national parks, including Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho, and Kootenay, each more dramatic than the last.

Just across the provincial border in Alberta are the marquee destinations of any western Canada road trip: Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper. The region’s best scenic drive takes you along the Icefields Parkway, with its incredibly blue lakes and the largest area of glacial ice in the Canadian Rockies.

Once you’ve had your fill of hiking, rafting, and savoring the mountain vistas, continue on to the gateway city of Calgary, which not only hosts Canada’s biggest annual cowboy party but also offers distinctive museums and a pretty riverfront promenade. Or follow the southern route back toward Vancouver, exploring the Kootenays’ funky mountain towns and detouring along B.C.’s Hot Springs Highway.

From the ocean to the mountains, there’s plenty to experience, taste, and enjoy. Let’s hit the road.

With the purple of dusk coloring the sky, Vancouver's city lights reflect in the water.

Vancouver’s city skyline. Photo © Lijuan Guo/123rf.

When to Go

High season in Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies runs from May through October, when most attractions and roads are open and the weather is generally warm and sunny. July and August are the region’s peak travel months, with the sunny, temperate conditions balancing out the big crowds and high prices.

Ask the locals about the best time to visit the Canadian Rockies, though, and everyone will say September. The summer crowds begin to abate, the weather is still mild, and the trees take on their fall colors. Temperatures can remain pleasant into October, though the nights get colder, and snow frequently begins in late October or early November.

While the long days and fewer tourists make May and June a reasonable alternative for a Rockies trip, prepare for more rain than in the summer. You might have occasional damp days on the coast, but the Rockies can be hit with a “June monsoon” when the rain turns heavy. These showers bring spring flowers, so pack a raincoat and get outdoors anyway.

Winter is mild in Vancouver and Victoria; rain is common from November through March, but snow is unusual. As soon as you rise above coastal elevations, winter travelers should prepare for heavy snow. It snows a lot in the mountains of B.C. and in the Canadian Rockies, when severe weather can close highway mountain passes. Always check the forecast before you hit the road.

Wild rose flowers in bloom at Pyramid Lake in Jasper National Park.

Wild rose flowers in bloom at Pyramid Lake in Jasper National Park. Elena Elisseeva/123rf.

Before You Go

If you’re traveling in the summer, particularly in July and August, consider booking your hotel reservations in advance. Many of the national park campgrounds fill up early, so reserving a campsite for summer or holiday travel is also a smart idea. Car reservations are recommended on B.C. Ferries in the summer as well.

Visitors to Yoho National Park should note that two park activities require advance reservations and careful attention to the reservations procedure and deadlines: visiting Lake O’Hara and touring the Burgess Shale fossil beds. Refer to the Yoho National Park section in Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip for specifics.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip.

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Classic 15-Day Vancouver-Rockies Road Trip Loop https://moon.com/2016/07/classic-15-day-vancouver-rockies-road-trip-loop/ https://moon.com/2016/07/classic-15-day-vancouver-rockies-road-trip-loop/#respond Wed, 27 Jul 2016 15:18:33 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=44645 This two-week itinerary leads you on a road-trip from Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies and back, taking in many of western Canada’s top attractions.

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On a two-week drive, you can road trip from Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies and back, taking in many of western Canada’s top attractions. See Vancouver’s sights, then day-trip by ferry to Victoria, British Columbia’s capital. Take another day to get outdoors in the mountains at Whistler.

Get ready for the real mountains, though, as you head east, stopping in Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, and Yoho National Parks as you enter the Canadian Rockies. In Alberta, you’ll visit Lake Louise, follow the scenic Icefields Parkway to Jasper, then return south for a couple of days outdoors in Banff National Park. From there, travel through B.C.’s Kootenays region, with stops in the fun towns of Fernie and Nelson, and go wine-tasting in the Okanagan Valley, on your way back to Vancouver and the coast.

You could also start and end the trip in Calgary, doing the loop in reverse.

Shoreline along the west end of Vancouver.

West end of Vancouver. Photo © Carolyn Heller.

Days 1-2

Vancouver

Start your tour in Vancouver, circling the scenic seawall in Stanley Park, snacking on Granville Island, and getting an introduction to aboriginal culture at the Museum of Anthropology. Explore Chinatown in the peaceful Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and in the neighborhood’s growing number of hip restaurants, or head to the North Shore to hike and enjoy the views from Grouse Mountain. With several beaches right downtown, wrap up your day with a sunset stroll along the sand.

Victoria's Inner Harbour. Photo © Jonghyun Kim/123rf.

Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Photo © 
Jonghyun Kim/123rf.

Day 3

Vancouver to Victoria

(round-trip 95 mi/ 150 km, 6 hrs including ferries)

Make a day trip to Vancouver Island today for a quick visit to Victoria. From Vancouver, drive south on Highway 99 to catch an early-morning B.C. Ferry from Tsawwassen; it’s a 90-minute trip to Swartz Bay. When you leave the ferry terminal, follow Highway 17A to the Butchart Gardens to wander among the floral displays.

From the gardens, take Keating Cross Road east to Highway 17 toward downtown Victoria. Park your car, then tour the Inner Harbour, have afternoon tea at the stately Fairmont Empress, and visit the Royal British Columbia Museum. Have a drink in one of the city’s craft breweries and dinner in a contemporary bistro in or around Chinatown, before returning to Swartz Bay for the ferry back to Vancouver.

Day 4

Vancouver to Whistler

(75 mi/120 km, 2 hrs)

Head north from Vancouver to pick up the Sea-to-Sky Highway (Hwy. 99), a scenic route between the mountains and the ocean that leads to the resort town of Whistler. Consider stopping in Squamish for a ride up the Sea-to-Sky Gondola; either have lunch with a view from the gondola summit or continue on to Whistler. Visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to learn more about the local First Nations community, then get outdoors, whether you choose to ride the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, climb the Via Ferrata, go zip-lining, or simply take a hike.

Day 5

Whistler to Revelstoke

(315 mi/510 km, 6.5 hrs)

Today is a long driving day as you set out for the mountains of eastern British Columbia. Leave Whistler on Highway 99 north to Highway 1 east; if you start early, you can reach Kamloops for lunch. Try to arrive at Mount Revelstoke National Park in time to zigzag up the Meadows in the Sky Parkway and take at least a short hike, before settling into the town of Revelstoke for dinner and a well-deserved rest.

Trails near the Meadows in the Sky Parkway summit in Mount Revelstoke National Park.

Trails near the Meadows in the Sky Parkway
summit in Mount Revelstoke National Park. Photo © Carolyn Heller.

Day 6

Revelstoke to Field

(125 mi/200 km, 2.5 hrs)

After breakfast, make a brief stop at the Revelstoke Railway Museum to learn about the railroad’s importance to this region before continuing east on Highway 1 toward Glacier National Park. Stretch your legs on the Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk Trail or the Giant Cedars Boardwalk Trail (in Mount Revelstoke National Park) or on Glacier’s Hemlock Grove Trail before stopping at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre. After checking out the exhibits, drive on to Golden for lunch; you could ride the gondola at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to eat at the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, Canada’s highest restaurant. Don’t forget to move your clocks ahead; Golden is in the mountain time zone.

Keep going east on Highway 1 into Yoho National Park. Stop at the Natural Bridge and beautiful Emerald Lake, and if you have time, drive up to Takakkaw Falls. Have dinner and spend the night at one of the upscale lodges within the park.

Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park.

Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park. Photo © Carolyn Heller.

Day 7

Field to Jasper

(160 mi/260 km, 4 hrs)

Today will be another long one, but keep your camera handy. You’ll pass through some of the most scenic terrain of the entire trip. It’s just 20 minutes east on Highway 1 from Field in Yoho National Park to Lake Louise, where you can hike or paddle along its famous namesake lake.

From Lake Louise, turn north onto Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway. There are numerous places to ooh and aah along this route; highlights include Peyto Lake, Wilcox Pass, and the Columbia Icefield, where you can walk on the Athabasca Glacier. Continuing toward Jasper, another pretty place to pause is Athabasca Falls. Arrive in Jasper for dinner and a microbrew in the local pub.

Day 8

Jasper

Start your morning with a ride up the Jasper Sky Tram. Return to town to pick up a picnic lunch and take a look through the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum. Bring your picnic to Maligne Canyon to hike through this deep limestone gorge.

In the afternoon, drive to Maligne Lake for a leisurely 90-minute cruise. Have an early supper in town, then head for Miette Hot Springs to wrap up your day with a relaxing visit to these natural mineral pools.

Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake. Photo © Carolyn Heller.

Days 9-10

Jasper to Banff

(180 mi/290 km, 4.5 hrs)

If you didn’t make all the stops you wanted along the Icefields Parkway, you have another chance today, since you’ll retrace your steps southbound on this picturesque parkway. When you get back to Lake Louise, detour to glacier-fed Moraine Lake for a short hike or canoe paddle. Then follow the Bow Valley Parkway south toward Banff, stopping to walk along Johnston Canyon. In Banff, have a leisurely dinner and take a late-evening soak at Banff Upper Hot Springs.

Spend part of the next day at Banff’s in-town attractions, including the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Banff Park Museum, and Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, and part of the day outdoors. Climb the Mount Norquay Via Ferrata, take a cruise on Lake Minnewanka, or ride the Banff Gondola and take a short hike at the top. In the evening, see a play, concert, or other event at the Banff Centre.

Driving through Kootenay Canyon.

Driving through Kootenay Canyon. Photo © Carolyn Heller.

Days 11-12

Banff to Fernie

(220 mi/355 km, 4.5 hrs)

Pick up coffee and pastries at Banff’s best bakeshop, Wild Flour Artisan Bakery. Then, leaving Banff, take Highway 1 west and turn south on Highway 93 into Kootenay National Park. Stop at Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots, and keep your bathing suit handy for a dip in the Radium Hot Springs. Continue south on Highway 93/95, where the town of Invermere has several options for lunch.

If you’re interested in history, stop at Fort Steele Heritage Town, a living history village. Keep following Highway 93/95 south and turn east on Highway 3 to Fernie, where you’ll spend the night. In the morning, check out the Fernie Museum, browse the downtown shops, and have lunch in one of the cafés. After you eat, head over to Fernie Alpine Resort to test your balance in the Aerial Park or go for a mountaintop hike.

Day 13

Fernie to Nelson

(200 mi/325 km, 4 hrs)

Leave Fernie on Highway 3 west, stopping off at St. Eugene Resort in Cranbrook to visit the First Nations-run Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre in this former mission and residential school for aboriginal students; call first to be sure the center is open. Continue west on Highway 3, where you’ll cross back into the Pacific time zone (set your watch back an hour), to the junction with Highway 6, where you go north to Nelson.

Visit Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History and browse the shops along Baker Street. Stop at Oso Negro Café when you’re ready for a coffee break. Another option is to tour the sobering Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver, which is 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of Nelson on Highway 6. Nelson has lots of good restaurants, so take time to enjoy your evening meal.

Tasting room sign.

You can find exceptional wine tasting in the Osoyoos-Oliver area. Photo © Carolyn Heller.

Day 14

Nelson to Osoyoos

(165 mi/265 km, 3.5 hrs)

From Nelson, follow Highway 6 west to Highway 3A south, and stop in Castlegar at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre to learn about the pacifist Russian community that settled in B.C. in the early 1900s. Then take Highway 3 west toward the Okanagan Valley.

You should arrive in the Osoyoos-Oliver area early enough to spend the afternoon sampling local wineries. Plan a special dinner at The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl or Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek to celebrate the end of your holiday.

Day 15

Osoyoos to Vancouver

(250 mi/400 km, 5 hrs)

If you’re not in a rush to return to Vancouver, pick up freshly baked cinnamon buns at The Lake Village Bakery in Osoyoos, then stop at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre or take a morning stroll along Lake Osoyoos. When you’re ready to hit the road, follow Highway 3 west to Hope, where you pick up Highway 1 toward Vancouver.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip.

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Hiking Across Nations: Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park https://moon.com/2016/07/hiking-across-national-waterton-glacier-international-peace-park/ https://moon.com/2016/07/hiking-across-national-waterton-glacier-international-peace-park/#respond Sat, 23 Jul 2016 13:44:43 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=44677 The two-nation hike through Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, crossing the border between the USA and Canada, is unique. Here's how to do it.

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Goat Haunt Ranger Station in Glacier National Park.

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park joins across the 49th parallel, forming the world’s first international peace park across the borders of Montana, US, and Alberta, Canada. Grizzly bears ignore the international border between Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park. So do moose, wolves, and mountain lions. But for humans, the border is a big deal. The 20-foot-wide unnaturally straight swath visibly bisects the mountains surrounding Upper Waterton Lake.

Hikers can walk south from Canada to Goat Haunt, US. They can cross the boundary on foot without going through customs until reaching the Goat Haunt Ranger Station. In front of the station, a picnic table serves as the official desk for US custom’s officers to stamp passports.

Descending to Bertha Bay.

Descending to Bertha Bay. Photo © Becky Lomax.

The Trail from Waterton to Goat Haunt

Departing from the southwest corner of Waterton Townsite, the rolling trail follows the west shoreline for 13.6 kilometers/8.5 miles along Upper Waterton Lake. The route passes the Bertha Lake Trail cutoff before taking a short plunge to Bertha Bay. From there, hikers encounter creeks, small wildflower meadows, and mixed forests. The ease of walking the trail comes from minimal elevation gain.

At the halfway point, the trail crosses the international boundary. Westward, the border swath shoots up the steep hillside of Mt. Richards. Eastward, across Upper Waterton Lake, the border rises vertically up Mt. Boswell. Two obelisks mark the boundary. They commemorate the Convention of 1818 and the Treaty of 1925 that settled boundary agreements. The border also contains a backcountry campsite on the Canadian side and a dock in Boundary Bay on the U.S. side.

From the border crossing, views enlarge of Mt. Cleveland, Glacier’s tallest peak. The trail climbs a rocky precipice before intersecting with the Boundary Creek Trail and crossing Boundary Creek. It touches the shoreline and dodges back into the trees, where grizzly bear footprints appear in the mud. Near Goat Haunt, the trail cuts through with several junctions, including trails to Boulder Pass, Rainbow Falls, and Kootenai Lakes. After a swinging bridge crosses the rushing Waterton River, the route ends at the head of Upper Waterton Lake where hikers go through customs and hop the boat back up lake.

Obelisks mark the border between Canada and the U.S. at Goat Haunt.

Obelisks mark the border between Canada and the U.S. at Goat Haunt. Photo © Becky Lomax.


Crossing Boundary Creek.

Crossing Boundary Creek. Photo © Becky Lomax.

How to Hike It

Hikers can walk the trail spring through fall with a round-trip distance of 27 kilometers/16.8 miles. But early June to late September, Waterton Shoreline Cruise Co. (403/859-2362) adds the option of walking down lake and returning via boat to the Waterton Townsite. Purchase tickets at the Waterton Townsite Marina prior to hiking and allot at least four hours to reach Goat Haunt on foot.

Twice a week in summer, guides from Glacier’s National Park Service and Waterton’s Parks Canada team up to lead a joint walk on the trail. At the border, the group stops for a hands-across-the-border ceremony. The 7-hour Guided Peace Park Hike, which is limited to 35 people, usually takes place on Tuesdays and Fridays. With no advance reservations, the hike requires preregistration for the next scheduled hike at the Waterton Lakes Visitor Information Centre (403/859-5133) or the St. Mary Visitor Center in Glacier (406/732-7750).

The two-nation hike through Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is unique. Walking across the border reinforces the shared ecosystem of the parks that UNESCO recognizes as Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites.


Travel map of Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

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Crossing the Canadian Border to Waterton Lakes National Park https://moon.com/2015/08/crossing-the-canadian-border-to-waterton-lakes-national-park/ https://moon.com/2015/08/crossing-the-canadian-border-to-waterton-lakes-national-park/#respond Mon, 31 Aug 2015 19:15:50 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=29315 For such a small park, Waterton Lakes National Park packs a punch. Here's everything you need to plan a visit across the border to this international park–the first of its kind in the world.

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For such a small park, Waterton Lakes National Park packs a punch. It houses rare plants found nowhere else and a plethora of wildlife that rivals its large northern sisters of Banff and Jasper. It is at a nexus of major bird migration routes and weather systems. On the Continental Divide’s east side, mountains meet the prairie; with no transitional foothills, eastern peaks plummet directly to grasslands, a phenomenon caused by geological overthrusts that exposed the oldest sedimentary rock in the Canadian Rockies. Although active glaciers vacated Waterton’s borders years ago, the results of ice gnawing on its landscape left lake pockets strewn through the park. A long, glacier-gouged trough forms Upper Waterton Lake, the deepest lake in the Canadian Rockies and one that straddles the U.S.-Canadian border. The lake frequently kicks up with winds, proving the park’s ranking as the second-windiest place in Alberta.

Waterton and Glacier meet at the 49th parallel, which is the international border, yet the parks are connected because they form one ecosystem, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve.Dominated by the Prince of Wales Hotel and Waterton Lake, the park serves as a destination itself as well as an entrance to Glacier’s remote north country. On any summer day, the Waterton Townsite bustles with shoppers, bicyclists, backpackers, boaters, and campers. It’s a quintessential Canadian mountain town that embodies what Banff used to be before booming commercialism. The MV International shuttles hikers and sightseers across Waterton Lake and the international boundary to Goat Haunt, USA. Only two roads pierce the park’s remarkable interior, both gateways to lakes, waterfalls, canyons, peaks, and wildlife.

Aerial view over blue waters and mountain peaks of Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada.

Sweeping view over blue waters and rugged mountain peaks of Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada. Photo © Jason Ross/123rf.

Ecological Significance

Despite its tiny size, Waterton is a nexus. The park is on a narrow north-south wildlife corridor and is at the axis of two major migratory bird flyways. Over 250 bird species nest or use the park’s rich habitat for migration stopovers. It is one of the last places in North America where grizzly bears roam into the fringes of their original grassland habitat. Over 45 different habitats shelter 10 species of amphibians and reptiles, 24 species of fish, and 60 species of mammals. Rare trumpeter swans nest here, as do Vaux’s swifts.

Because arctic and Pacific weather systems collide at Waterton, a breadth of vegetation abounds. With more than 1,370 plants, mosses, and lichens, Waterton is home to more than half of Alberta’s plant species, 179 of which are considered rare and 22 of which are found nowhere else in the province. Moonwort, a small fern, grows in eight varieties; one is found only in Waterton. The park’s diminutive acreage has more plant diversity than the much larger Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho parks combined. Because of its extremes and such rarities, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has named Waterton a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.

Exploring Waterton

Waterton’s 52 square miles are tiny compared to Glacier. The Townsite is at 4,200 feet in elevation, but surrounding peaks climb to 9,000 feet. While the Townsite is home to about 100 people in winter, in summer it balloons to nearly 2,000 residents. The park sees about 400,000 annual visitors—about 20 percent of Glacier’s crowds.

Hiker ascends a rocky trail in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada.

A hiker ascends a rocky canyon in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada. Photo © Chris Murphy, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

Waterton and Glacier meet at the 49th parallel, which is the international border, yet the parks are connected because they form one ecosystem, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve. Humans can cross between the two via Waterton Lake, and grizzly bears roam back and forth. The two parks, which include part of the longest undefended border in the world at 5,525 miles, form Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Park Entrance

As Waterton Lakes National Park sits on the Canadian side of the border, you will need a valid U.S. passport, passport card, or NEXUS card to visit the park. The border crossing is small and generally very speedy; remember you’ll need your identification to cross back into the U.S. after your visit.

U.S. park passes are not valid in this Canadian park, although many Americans expect them to be. Even though Waterton-Glacier is an International Peace Park, no combined park pass is sold. To enter Waterton, you must purchase a separate Parks Canada day pass valid until 4pm the following day (C$4-8 pp, single-vehicle group C$20). For multiday visits, the annual Waterton pass might be more economical (C$20-40 pp, single-vehicle group C$99). For those visiting multiple Canadian national parks, a one-year Parks Canada pass is valid for entry to 27 national parks in Canada (C$34-68, single-vehicle group C$137). Children under six are admitted free, and senior discounts are available. Admission to the park is free on Canada Day (July 1) and Parks Day (July 17). The entrance gate is open 24-7 year-round, but only staffed early May-early October.

Travel map of Waterton, Alberta

Waterton


Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Glacier National Park.

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Trans-Canada Highway Road Trip: Calgary to Vancouver https://moon.com/2014/08/trans-canada-highway-road-trip-calgary-to-vancouver/ https://moon.com/2014/08/trans-canada-highway-road-trip-calgary-to-vancouver/#respond Wed, 06 Aug 2014 23:30:01 +0000 http://moon.com/?p=15396 While it's possible to make the drive between Calgary and Vancouver in twelve hours, there's a lot to see along the way. Vacationers and road trip enthusiasts should use this itinerary to plan a more leisurely drive.

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Panoramic view of an alpine lake surrounded by mountain peaks.

View of Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. Photo © foto4u/123rf.

Professional truckers make the trip between Calgary and Vancouver along the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy. 1) in 12 hours or so. But you’re on vacation, so plan on expanding the drive to a weeklong sojourn that will get you to Vancouver…eventually.

Day 1

Depart Calgary (Alberta) and try not to be tempted by the wonders of Banff National Park (leave them for another time) as you enter the mountains and cross the border at Yoho National Park. Explore the Yoho Valley by road, then head to Emerald Lake for an afternoon walk. If you don’t feel like splurging on a park accommodation, continue one hour west along the Trans-Canada Highway to Golden.

Day 2

Ride the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort gondola, then hit the highway for the one-hour drive to Glacier National Park. This park is spectacular even from the highway, so unless you’re a keen hiker or it’s getting late in the day, continue another hour along the Trans-Canada Highway to Revelstoke. After dinner at Woolsey Creek Café, take in an outdoor evening concert in Grizzly Plaza.

Day 3

Drive south 250 kilometers (156 miles) from Revelstoke along Highways 23 and 6 to Nelson. Break up the trip with a short detour to Sandon, British Columbia’s best-known ghost town, and to watch spawning kokanee at Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. Make dinner reservations at All Seasons Café.

Day 4

Driving through the West Kootenays to the Okanagan Valley is a delight, although a roller-coaster Highway 3 means the 260-kilometer (162-mile) trip takes around four hours. Stop for a swim in Christina Lake en route.

Day 5

Spend the day at your leisure in the Okanagan Valley. Near Osoyoos, Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is an interesting stop, unless it’s a super-hot day—then stay close to the water or visit the Naramata wineries. Spend the night in Kelowna at the Hotel Eldorado and dine at the hotel’s lakefront restaurant.

Day 6

A summer chairlift ride at Silver Star Mountain Resort, an hour’s drive north from Kelowna on Highway 97, will leave you with pleasant memories of the Okanagan. Then allow 90 minutes to drive to Kamloops via Highway 97, stopping en route at Historic O’Keefe Ranch for a late lunch and a living history lesson. Spend the night in Kamloops, taking in the Two River Junction dinner theater.

Day 7

Give the direct Coquihalla Highway a miss and allow three hours to travel down the Fraser River Canyon to Hope. Suburban Vancouver is approaching, so if you feel like stalling the inevitable onslaught of city traffic, take a walk through the Othello–Quintette Tunnels.


Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon British Columbia.

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