Admissibility to Canada 

The vast majority of travellers are admissible to Canada.  However, before you buy a non-refundable air ticket, it might be worth mentioning that there are some circumstances in which people, for example those with criminal convictions, are barred from entering Canada.  To find out more, read Inside Canada : DWI or DUI (Impaired Driving) Conviction.  Now that that is out of the way, the rest of this page will assume that you are able to enter Canada.

 

Weather and When to go

Figure out the time of year at which to travel to the area.  The latter half of June and the month of September are excellent times to go.  The mountain lakes are thawed, so you get to see them at their turquoise best.  Yet the mountains are not as crowded as they are in July and August. 

An advantage of the latter half of June is that the number of daylight hours is at its peak.

The autumn colours are at their best in mid – late September in Banff National Park and in early October in Jasper National Park .  Be aware that lake cruises, some gondola rides, and some side roads are closed after Canadian Thanksgiving (second Monday of October).

Do not despair if you are forced to visit in July and August.  Although the mountain resort towns and popular scenic lookout points are more crowded then, you’d be amazed how quiet things can be if you walk just a few yards into the forest.

For more detailed information on these points, read Inside Banff National Park : Weather & When to go and also Inside Banff National Park : Winter Closures.

 

First-time Visitors

To start gaining an understanding of the logistics of visiting this area, read Inside Banff : First time visitors.

 

Transportation Options 

To understand the transportation options in the Canadian Rockies, read Inside Vancouver : Getting to the Canadian Rockies.  The information on that page is equally relevant whether you're travelling from Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies, or from the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver.  It also is quite relevant if you are approaching from another direction, such as Calgary or Edmonton.  The page explains the pros and cons of


Sample Itineraries

Get a rough idea of the amount of ground you can cover as well as the major attractions you can see in the time you have available.  To do this, read Inside Banff National Park : Itineraries.

 

Distances and Driving Times 

In creating your itinerary, you will find it helpful to know distances and driving times.  There are several websites that provide this information.  One of the good ones is Map Quest

If you are more familiar with kilometres than miles, you can change Map Quest's default setting from miles to kilometres.

Remember that estimated times account for driving only.  They do not account for stops for eating, refuelling your vehicle and looking at scenery.

To save you looking up the information on Map Quest, here are some common driving times from Banff and Jasper

 

Which is the best base for exploration? 

In drawing up your itinerary, you may be puzzled as to whether you should stay in

It will help you to understand the pros and cons of these towns if you read Inside Banff National Park : Banff vs Lake Louise vs Jasper.

 

Calgary Airport Logistics 

If you will be taking off from Calgary Airport , you need to understand how much time to allow for the drive from the mountains to the airport and for check in.  The time of your departure from Calgary Airport will determine whether you can spend the last night of your trip in the mountains or whether you need to spend that last night in Calgary .  Read Inside Calgary : Departing for USA.

 

Public Holidays 

Check if your trip will coincide with any public holidays. 

In the summer and fall of 2007, holidays in Alberta and British Columbia fall on 

  • May 21st - Victoria Day
  • July 2nd - in lieu of Canada Day which falls on Sunday, July 1st
  • August 6th - Heritage Day in Alberta,  British Columbia Day in BC
  • September 3rd - Labour Day
  • October 8th - Canadian Thanksgiving
  • Downtown Calgary shuts down for the Stampede Parade on the morning of Friday, July 6th.
  • Tourist facilities in Alberta and British Columbia (hotels, restaurants, cruises, gondola rides, whitewater rafting trips, etc.) are open on public holidays.
  • Most stores are open, but their opening hours may be reduced, as usually is the case on a Sunday.
  • Banks are closed -- but automated teller machines (ATMs) still are operational. 
  • Hotels are more booked up than usual on public holiday weekends.
  • The Jasper accommodations that normally have two-night minimum stay requirements may have three-night minimum stay requirements on long weekends. 
  • Ferries from the British Columbia mainland to Vancouver Island are busier than usual, and a ferry reservation is highly recommended.

Flights

Make your airline reservations.  There is no point in having your hotel reservations in place if you cannot get to your destination in time. 

If you want to get an idea of air fares, you might try these websites for comparison purposes:

You can use the Seat Guru website to find out the best seats on a given plane. 

For flights within Canada, WestJet often offers the best fares.  However, it's also worth checking if Air Canada happens to be having a seat sale.

 

Ground Transportation

Reserve your ground transportation.

If you will be driving, be aware that the Canadian Rockies are served by good, paved roads.  A regular vehicle will serve you perfectly well.  You do not need a 4-wheel drive vehicle in summer.  

Some people like to drive through the mountains in a convertible so that they can admire the scenery with the top down.  That’s not a necessity, but if you can afford it, go for it. 

When you rent a vehicle, make sure you understand the terms and conditions (insurance coverage, whether or not you get unlimited kilometers, whether or not there is a one-way drop-off fee).  Get everything in writing.

Be aware that there is no bus service from Alberta's Waterton Lakes National Park to Montana's Glacier National Park.

Another challenge that travellers sometimes encounter is when they want to land in Calgary, rent a car, drive into the United States, and then fly home from there.  There are few car rental companies that permit a cross-border drop-off, and those that do charge a huge one-way drop-off fee. It is, however, all right to rent a car in Canada, drive down into the United States, return to Canada, and drop the rental car back in Canada -- as long as you have the car rental company's written authorization.  A notation on the car rental agreement is enough.

There is a round-about way of picking up and dropping off a car in Alberta or British Columbia, catching a shuttle bus to Montana, and then picking up a different rental car there.  From July through September, Mountain Perks operates a shuttle service from Calgary, AB to Banff, AB, Lake Louise, AB, Golden, BC, Panorama, BC, Invermere, BC, Kimberley, BC, Cranbrook, BC, Whitefish, MT and Kalispell, MT. 

 

Accommodation 

Reserve your accommodation.

Lake Louise and Jasper get booked up well in advance.  “Early bird” travellers start making their summer reservations for those towns in January.  If you wait till March / April to make your reservations, you still will have some accommodation choices.  From May onwards it becomes difficult to find affordable summer accommodation in Lake Louise and Jasper. Tip:  Look out for 2-night or 3-night minimum stay requirements and stringent cancellation policies in Lake Louise and Jasper.  For more detailed information on finding accommodation in Jasper, see Inside Jasper : Accommodation.

Canmore and Banff are more “forgiving,” in the sense that they are bigger towns with a larger stock of accommodation.  Usually it is possible to find last minute accommodation in Canmore or Banff .  Even there, however, it is wise to book in advance if it’s important for you to find moderately priced accommodation.

If you will be visiting Calgary during the Stampede, it is imperative to book in advance.  It would be best to make your reservations in January, but March / April still would be all right.  After that it becomes increasingly difficult to find vacancies during Stampede.  

It used to be easy to find accommodation in Calgary outside of the Stampede.  However, the boom in Alberta ’s oil industry has changed that.  Hotels get booked up during industry conferences.  Also, long-term accommodation in Calgary is in such short supply that newly arrived workers live in hotels till they can arrange alternative accommodation.  So it would be prudent to make advanced reservations regardless of when you visit Calgary .

If you will be staying in Calgary on your way to or from the Canadian Rockies, figure out which part of the city will suit you best.  Different neighbourhoods are better suited to arriving, departing, sight seeing and taking in the Calgary Stampede.  If you need to select a Calgary hotel, read Inside Calgary : Hotel Districts.

You usually can find last minute accommodation in the Okanagan Valley ( Kelowna , Penticton , etc.) and Vancouver.  However, there again, to find moderately priced accommodation that has specific features that you want, you would be well advised to book ahead.

The Rocky Mountaineer train stops in Kamloops and fills up the town’s hotels and motels on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday nights through the spring, summer and fall.  If you will be passing through Kamloops on those nights, it would be safer to book in advance.  On Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, last minute accommodation is more readily available in Kamloops

 

Travel Documents 

Ensure that you have the documents you need to enter Canada .  To find out more, read Inside Canada : Crossing the Border.

 

Medical insurance

Ensure that you have medical insurance to cover the cost of medical emergencies while you are in Canada .  If you do not have medical insurance, the cost of emergency medical treatment could be shocking.

 

What To Pack 

The weather in the mountains is extremely variable.  You can set out on a bright, sunny morning, and find yourself in a rain shower and much cooler temperatures later in the day.  For this reason, you need to pack layers, and you have to take a waterproof jacket wherever you go.  To find out more about what to pack, read Inside Banff National Park : Clothing.

 

Driving in the Mountains

If you will be driving in Western Canada, you should be aware that gasoline stops often are between an hour and an hour and a half apart.  Sometimes they even are two hours' drive from each other.  It would be prudent to fill up with gas when your gas gauge indicates the gas tank is half full. 

There are other tips about driving in Western Canada on the TripAdvisor page entitled Inside Canadian Rockies : Driving in the Mountains.

 

Dining 


Other Canadian Rockies information

Animal Hazards from Bears to Mosquitoes

Hiking 

National Park Entry Fees 

Off the Beaten Path 

Rainy Day Activities 

Scenic Attractions 

Sunrise and Sunset Times 

Traveling with Children 

 

More information about Canada

Canadian Money

Electricity 

Metric System

Price of Gasoline 

Taxes

Tipping

 

Additional TripAdvisor Resources

Go Lists referencing Alberta 

Go Lists referencing British Columbia 

Reviews of Alberta hotels 

Reviews of British Columbia Hotels