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En route to Banff from the US border

Watford
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En route to Banff from the US border

We will be heading from northern Montana to Banff at the end of our 17 night trip in September which starts and ends in Calgary and are having a hard time deciding where we should stay.

At the moment we have 2 days to get from Butte in Montana to Banff where we plan to stay for our last two nights.

Our options are -

a) Polson or Whitefish and then Invermere or,,,

b) Whitefish and then straight through to Banff.

This later option will give us an extra night in Banff but will mean us having to push on through BC so the question is, what is there to see and do en route from the border to Banff and is it worth staying the night in or around Invermere?

Bear in mind that our flight from Calgary back to the UK doesn't depart until the evening so we will have a fair portion of our last day to explore and to get from Banff to Calgary.

Thanks in advance.

Calgary, Canada
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1. Re: En route to Banff from the US border

I'm not sure what you're visualizing for your second route. If it's taking the Hwy 2 via Calgary (Google Maps: http://goo.gl/maps/5NnUi ) then I would definitely reject it. Once you're into Alberta, the Rockies recede to the west until they're barely in view. Flat, boring terrain.

A much more scenic route is to head through Glacier National Park north to the Canada border. Then take the Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) which is much closer to the foothills than Hwy 2, and goes through some beautiful cattle country. Just south of Black Diamond, you head west to the Kananaskis Trail through the mountains of Kananaskis Country, a huge provincial recreational area SE of Banff NP. (Google Maps: http://goo.gl/maps/4dYJJ ) This route will take you over the Highwood Pass, the highest driveable pass in the Canadian Rockies. Although it is a well-developed recreational area, with lots of picnic stops, hiking trails, and scenic viewpoints, there is not a lot of tourist infrastructure in K-Country; the main hotel is the Delta Kananaskis, with other accommodations being the Mt Engadine Lodge (on the gravel Smith-Dorrien Hwy), the Kananaskis hostel, and some campgrounds. There are also a couple of guest ranches, if I recall correctly. Or you can sleep in a tipi at Sundance Lodges.

But by the time that you get to the Delta Kananaskis, you're only about an hour from Banff.

I'm not familiar enough with the Invermere route to compare the two, but it certainly does have a better selection of overnight stops. The Cowboy Trail route's best midway stop is probably in Black Diamond, but there isn't a lot in the way of accommodations there:

town.blackdiamond.ab.ca/accomodations.cfm

Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: En route to Banff from the US border

HI Adam - just hunting around through your other posts trying to get a feel for your complete itinerary. it seems that the Canadian Rockies are not really the focus for this trip and you are just doing a pass through this time. In all honesty, if you don't have 5 - 7 days to dedicate to seeing this area, then I wonder if you might want to just save it for another trip?

I'm with CW in not having a good sense of your route and exactly where you plan to cross the border, but I assume you are coming up the 93 to Cranbrook and north from there? I don't know the bit from Cranbrook to Banff very well, but it is lovely country through there. I'm not sure the main attraction is really the towns, but more the scenery and stops along the way as you move from point to point. So, while longer driving days are needed to get from point to point, you will be giving up on the ability to stop along the way.

Having said all that, do you have time to drive to Invermere/Radium, and then on up to Jasper before returning to Banff? IMO, the highlights of this area are actually between Banff and Jasper and it needs at least one night in Jasper to take it all in.

As for features and attractions, I can draw your attention to Fort Steele and the mock-Bavarian town of Kimberley in the vicinity of Cranbrook.

http://www.fortsteele.ca

http://www.city.kimberley.bc.ca

Invermere and Radium are known for their hot springs, but there are lots of those around that area, so I don't know that you want to stop at one over another.

seattle
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3. Re: En route to Banff from the US border

on my trips to Glacier we always drove from Whitefish to Banff. I'm not looking at a map but we did go thru Kimberly, Radium Hotsprings and came into Banff near the "Castle mountain' junction. It was always an interesting and scenic drive. Easy as a one day trip and quite picturesque.

Watford
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4. Re: En route to Banff from the US border

I should have given more detail - apologies. We arrive in Calgary on Sept 2nd and then head south on the 4th with three nights booked in Many Glacier Lodge. Then south again towards Yellowstone on the eastern lee of the Rockies. Coming back we will head up the western side so will cross the border on 93 to Cranbrook and Invermere.

The original plan was to fly to Denver and home from Seattle but for many reasons it made more sense to fly to and from Calgary so it would be a pity if we didn't get to see some of the Canadian Rockies. Jasper though is sadly too far.

Someone on the BC forum has suggested we head straight to Lake Louise and spend a night there for the sunset/sunrise but if we are going that far in one day we may as well head straight for Banff as Davidgmg suggests and then spend the extra day exploring the Lake Louise area. Google maps suggest five and a bit hours from Whitefish to Banff so an early start and we might even have time to stop and explore Fort Steele.

Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: En route to Banff from the US border

It was I who threw out the idea of driving the 93 and stopping in Jasper. The sunset/sunrise thing is really secondary to the atmosphere, morning and evening when there are no mid day crowds and tour busses. It would be worth a thought to spend your extra day waking up in Jasper, rather than drive between Jasper and Banff 3 times?

I think Fort Steele is an interesting and historically important stop to make. Major General Sir Sam Steele:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Steele

Watford
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6. Re: En route to Banff from the US border

Multi,

Your post on the BC thread mentioned heading for Lake Louise for the night not Jasper which is 8 hours from Whitefish. Is that what you meant?

Staying three nights in Banff will allow us to get our feet under the table so to speak and I assume we can stop in and around Lake Louise and have a late evening meal before driving back to Banff after sunset?

Vancouver, Canada
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7. Re: En route to Banff from the US border

My slip up! Of course I meant LL x 3! Stopping in LL for a meal would work nicely.

Edited: 11:10 am, December 13, 2012
Hull
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8. Re: En route to Banff from the US border

Hi Adam~,

I see you are in a dilemma, to a degree, at least?

As those on here often say- The Rockies are popular for a reason and you might have a better perspective if you launch Mike Neenan's Picasa album and open the Rockies gallery from 2010. Mistaya, Peyto and the Icefields Parkway are of course in what is truly the Rockies and, with respect, I think you'll be blown away when you see them 'live'.

http://picasaweb.google.com/mjneenan

Mike has semi-pro kit and is fully OK with my linking this in.

For my part, I often say the last thing you want is to be getting on the plane home and wishing you spent more time there.

Given your return flight time (late in the day) it would be OK to spend your last night in Jasper and drive the IP back and on to the airport. Most flight times make this unwise.

Can you cut a day out of your arrival stay in Calgary? I don't think Country_Wife (~~) will mind- too much.Four nights Banff/Jasper would be well worth it.

9. Re: En route to Banff from the US border

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Watford
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10. Re: En route to Banff from the US border

Hull fans offering help to Watford fans? Well you can afford to after your win at Vicarage Road last weekend! Mind you, the Tigers were the best team we have seen there so far this season.

Now the main purpose of the trip was Yellowstone. Calgary and the Canadian Rockies sort of got added on so anything we see is a bonus. Most of our accommodation is booked so we can't change this round at this (not so) late stage hence the need to maximize our time without being silly.

Those photos look amazing, and I'm only up to #20, but we have to be realistic bearing in mind that my back isn't as young as it used to be and Mrs H doesn't drive.

I think the key, for us at least, is that three nights in Banff will at least give us more options even if we don't see as much as we might have wanted to.

Thanks again for all your help and if anyone knows why post #9 was zapped, I'm all ears.