A trip to Vancouver and Canadian Rockies ranks high in everyone’s bucket list. I always wanted to do a road trip through the Rockies, one, because of my fascination for mountains, two, because of the breathtaking beauty, heightened by the pristine forests and lakes and three, because of the wildlife. There are at least ten more reasons why this trip would rank amongst the top 10 in the world for adventure and nature lovers. The best part is that there is something for everyone regardless of the level of physical fitness. A little advance research can prove valuable in maximizing your time and save a lot of money.
- Book all air tickets, hotels, car rental, activity tickets at least 4 months in advance.
- Read up a little and make a list of things that interest you. There is no way you can cover everything in even 2 months, let alone in 2 weeks.
- Look for Groupons or deals for dinners and activities
- Travel light
- Unless you are extremely rich, try to economize on the hotel stay, as you would be spending very little time there and the savings can pay for the expensive entrance tickets and activities.
Day 1 : Took the evening Sunwing flight from Toronto YYZ . Uncomfortable seats, snacks you buy are miniature – don’t go by the pictures.. Lol
Reached 10.45 pm Vancouver time. Small airport, had to wait 15 min for cab. Had a big problem with the hotel we booked online – make sure you reconfirm with the hotel after the online booking is made. Moved to Holiday Inn express, Bridgeport, Richmond, near the airport, the next day. A value for money hotel with nice luxury rooms and a free sumptuous breakfast.
Day 2 : Vancouver – Next morning took cab to airport to pick up rental car. Got a nice loaded Cherokee, thanks to Steve, the Indian guy on the counter. TIP : Book the car rental well in advance, we were told that the rental rates that day were double the rate that we had received.
Drove to the harbour for cruise. Took 30 min, good drive from Richmond in south to harbour in north. Parking full day $14 right at entrance to Stanley park. Took the 1.30 pm cruise. Had 40 min… Took stroll in Stanley park. Excellent picture spot – Beautiful greenery, water on one side, tall huge trunk trees. Beautiful view of marina and mountains behind.
Cruise was excellent with good commentary. See the skyline, sea plane station, hotels, cruise ship terminal – Disney ship was docked, large container ships, dry docks, beautiful yatchs belonging to American and Canadian billionaires, grouse mountain, north Vancouver, suspension bridge, etc. I would recommend this 1 hour tour … Look for groupons … We got a good deal.
It was 2.45 pm and everyone was hungry. We had seen a japadog shack inside Stanley park and there were a few waterside restaurants. But we decided to walk to the main road where we found literally hundreds of restaurants. We decided to try the Mongolian place… You pick what you want from the meats, veggies and sauces and take it to the chef who will cook it for you on a large tawa. TIP : it’s all you can pack in one bowl so if you are hungry, fill the bowl judiciously, press the frozen mean slices down… Lol
The sea wall or the waterside path around Stanley park, is a 22 km trail, with separate tracks for walking and cycling. We rented bikes @ $ 9.50 an hour and did the round twice. It’s a must do bike ride which will take you to the beach, water park, under the suspension bridge and gives you beautiful views of water, mountains. Hundreds of picture spots MUST DO ACTIVITY
Day 3: Vancouver – Drove to Capilano bridge park in the morning which is a must see place. Even the drive to the park is scenic. In the afternoon we visited Lynn canyon park, which has a suspension bridge, nice hike down to river, nice high points for jumping in to the river – very risky but exciting – so risky that some people jumped in but couldn’t climb back up – the fire brigade had to be called and the park had to be closed for public!
Went to Catsilano beach in the evening … Not very clean, but good sunset view
Had ice cream at some place on Cambie st, where there was a long wait, a 30 min line up but was worth it.
Day 4: Vancouver to Kelowna, through mountains, speed limit on highway is 120 which is pretty good as its not possible to go any faster in the mountains.
Went to Myra Canyon, nice drive up the mountain, 8 km of unpaved road. Rented bikes… Min 4 hours at $40 for each bike; Bike trail 12 km one way… with lots of Trestles (wooden bridges on the cliff side), biking at the edge of the cliff, through 2 tunnels, beautiful look outs – lake, Kelowna city, valley
Stayed at Super 8 in Lake Country just outside Kelowna on way to Banff, which had a nice outdoor hot tub.
Reached 3.15 pm, good lunch at Chilis, checked in Delta at 4.15 pm
Went for the Tunnel mountain trek, which was closest from downtown Banff – 240 meters elevation, 2 hours, 4.8 km trail; Walked on Banff st in the village, dinner at Athinas pizza and sphagetti
Day 6 : Banff
Visited Lake Minnewanka in the morning which has excellent trails, lake – MUST SEE PLACE
Wildlife viewing in the evening … Spotted mountain goats, grizzly bear, black bear near Johnson lake, Minnewanka loop and Elks at the Banff golf course.
Day 7: Banff
Drove to Lake Louise, about 45 min drive – start early as parking gets full fast. We reached at 11.30 and had to park a km away on the road. Pictures best very early before sun rises above the mountain or late afternoon. Take the walk to end of lake which is 2 km. Then you have option of a couple of trails – we took the Plain of 6 glacier trail which is about 3.5 km one way to the Tea house – expensive snack place, water $4, lemonade $ 3.50, light meal $25; to the look out its another 1.3 km one way. I would recommend going to the lookout point from where you can see the glaciers, even drink some glacier water. The elevation till this point from lake Louise is about 450 mtrs. The final 1 km is a narrow trail which is not maintained and is moderately difficult. A further climb up about 300 mtrs is quite challenging but is very satisfying.
Had late lunch at the Family restaurant in the village. Village is very small compared to Banff. Excellent food with good choice of veg and non veg about $ 25 per person without drinks and desserts. The steak was great as was the beef teriyaki and the burger.
Water is very expensive in shops, found a grocery store in Banff that sold water for $1 per small bottle.
Good restaurants : Magpie and Stump, Missteak, Athinas for pizza and ravioli, Cows ice cream which has line ups … Be ready to wait for 15-20 min before you’re served
Enjoyed a swim and hot tub at the Delta, relaxed and slept early
Day 8 : Banff to Jasper
Very scenic drive Icefield highway, take your time, plan for 10-15 stops at look out points to take pictures. Make sure your phones / iPads are charged and have a lot of space to take pics (unless you still use a camera to take pics..lol). Columbia icefields, Athabasca glacier – short climb to the glacier, you can also take the guided tour in the special monster buses and walk on glacier.
Nice cafetaria in the Info centre with a large terrace with lounge chairs.
Stayed at a bnb Athenas – nice house on Patricia walking distance from village area; booked online on the website of Jasper tourism. Walked next to rail tracks and Jasper station, have a steam engine displayed, lots of restaurants, kids had burgers at A&W , picked some souvenirs
Day 9 : Jasper
Started with Info centre, it was raining yet people were out with waterproof clothing; Temp about 7 C
Lady at info centre suggested 3 main areas to visit :
- Maligne canyon trek … Series of waterfalls, walk along the river, 6 bridges on the way… About 6.6 km round trip with moderate difficulty especially in the rain as it was slippery and cold; started train from bridge 2 where you enter from the parking; nice trail along the river with bridges and look out points on the way, many waterfalls; imp note : from bridge 5 take 7h to head back or continue to bridge 6 which is a long walk and does not have a water fall. 7h trail has a very steep climb and passes through dense forest which has high risk of running into a bear. The safe option is to walk back the way you came.
- Miette hot springs and wildlife viewing along the way
- Scenic Drive to Edith cavell mountain and wildlife viewing
Evening went to the hot springs – 2 large pools with water from springs purified and cooled to 40C. They also have 2 cold water pools. You have to do 10 min hot springs followed by 5 min of cold water dip. Beautiful outdoor pools with mountains all around. And it is only $6 per person plus $2 for towel and $1 for a locker; definitely a MUST DO ACTIVITY!
Day 10 : Jasper
Early morning drive 6.30 am – to Mt Edith Cavell for wildlife viewing, Spotted Large male Elk with massive antlers twice just outside the town on Hwy 93, a Baby grizzly bear feasting on Buffalo berries on road to Edith Cavell. After breakfast, went to nearby trails and lakes.
Day 11 : Jasper to Mount Robson – About 1 hour drive to the Mt Robson Visitor Centre. Absolutely stunning view of Mount Robson from the visitor centre lawns – MUST TAKE PICTURE spot. Took full information about the Berg Lake trail, which is a 45 km trail which takes you up 1000 metres net, but in reality I think you climb 2000 metres as it goes up and down and up…. Spent time in the town of Valemount then retired early at the Super 8 where we had a nice 2 storey suite
Day 12 : Berg Lake trail – It’s a 45 km trail which takes you around mount Robson and treats you to some breathtaking sights – waterfalls, valleys, mountains, glaciers, exotic flora, plateaus, lakes and of course the majestic Berg Lake! The trek is generally done in 2 or 3 days by most hikers with night halts at the camping locations on the way. It is very very rare that anyone attempts to do it in 1 day … we knew we were attempting a very challenging task. There is no provision of food, water or for that matter any help on this trail. So you have to carry everything you would require, which meant more weight to carry. Parts of the trail are not maintained and can be considered high risk and difficult, especially if you are planning to do it in 1 day.
We had calculated that even at a very fast pace, it would take us 13 hours, which included a total of 2 hours of rest and viewing time.
Woke up at 4 am. Started the trek from the Visitor centre at 5.30 am. We completed the trek in less than 12 hours, but I can say that the last 3 kms, we literally walked on our will power. Needless to say, we were dead tired and were looking forward to a nice soak in the hot tub. More about the Berg Lake trail in the Berg Lake Trail post.
Day 13 : Mount Robson to Whistler – About 8 hour drive, but a nice scenic drive. Start early so that you have enough time for the enroute stops and also reach Whistler before it gets dark. We had booked a suite at ResortQuest at The Marquise, which was in the mountains, alongwith many other elite hotels, but was 7-8 min drive from the Village. There is a lot of parking in and around the village, so it worked out well and we also saved some money on the accommodation. Spent some time in the Village, had a nice dinner and retired to bed by 11 pm.
Day 14 : Whistler – Started the day with a short guided Tree Trek and then went on The Peak 2 Peak Gondola is a tri-cable gondola lift that links Whistler Mountain with Blackcomb Mountain – MUST DO ACTIVITY. Look for special deals for combined activities. You can also include Zip lining. The Peak to Peak pass allows you unlimited rides in the Peak to Peak gondolas but in reality, you would be able to do it twice. I would advise you to definitely try the Glass bottom gondola too, one of the 2 types of gondolas at the Peak to Peak. There is a longer line up for the Glass bottom gondola though.
There are a lot of trails on the peaks, but remember, you would be at a high altitude – it would be cold and air would have less oxygen. There would be absolutely no help on the treks, so be careful. Despite these challenges, we trekked to a high spot which had a lot of snow, for the heavenly view.
The Village in Whistler is big and you can spend the whole day just walking around.
Day 15 : Whistler to Vancouver – about 2 – 3 hours with a few detours and photo stops. Had authentic and amazing Sushi / sashimi Japanese meal, spent some time at the beach and headed to the airport in the evening to catch our red-eye flight back to Toronto
Wildlife sighting :
- Grizzly bear – Banff Minnewanka loop ear Johnson lake, Jasper Edith cavell Hwy 93
- Black bear – Banff Minnewanka loop, Icefield Hwy after Columbia icefields towards Jasper
- Elk – Banff golf course, Jasper Hwy 93, next to railway tracks Connaught Rd,
- Mountain goat – Banff Minnewanka loop
- Big horn sheep – on way to Miette hot spring main Hwy
- Howling of wolves