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Travelling from Vancouver to Banff...Have I enough time?

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Travelling from Vancouver to Banff...Have I enough time?

Hi

I will be in Vancouver on business in September. My conference ends on a Saturday evening, and I dont fly back to Ireland until the following Friday, again from Vancouver.

I would love to travel to Banff.

a) What are my travel options - would prefer train to bus.

b) Do I have enough time to make the journey ?

c) Any suggestions as to companies offering good tours?

Thanks

AJS

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1. Re: Travelling from Vancouver to Banff...Have I enough time?

First of all, read posts from Judy regarding this area (including Jasper/ Rockies etc). Select your choices and print them out.

Rent a car (if you can drive), you have ample time to wander around, her posts are your best company.

Driving time between Vancouver and Banff would be less than 12 hours. And you don't have to stay in Banff to see the Rockies.

By driving you control your own agenda, and feel free. Just book ahead for your bed.

Calgary, Alberta...
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2. Re: Travelling from Vancouver to Banff...Have I enough time?

Hello AJS,

In theory you could drive or catch a train or bus to the Rockies in the time that you have available, but in practice it would be too much ground travel in too short a time to be pleasant, in my opinion.

I strongly recommend that you go by ground in one direction and fly in the other direction. You can get quite reasonably priced flights with WestJet.

For the ground portion of your travel from Vancouver to the Rockies, I don't think it matters a great deal whether you drive or catch a train or bus.

Once you are in the Rockies, however, driving gives you a great deal more flexibility. Trains and scheduled bus services do not take you to scenic gems like Johnston Canyon, Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Takakkaw Falls, Emerald Lake, Peyto Lake, the Columbia Icefields, Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Falls, Mount Edith Cavell, Maligne Canyon or Maligne Lake. In fact the Icefields Parkway, the scenic route that connects Lake Louise and Jasper townsite, is not served by rail at all.

Aside from driving yourself, your other option for viewing all those scenic lookout points is to go on a guided coach tour. I don't know much about guided tours, but I looked at the web sites of a couple of them that seem to have good reputations, e.g., Trafalgar and Brewster. For a comprehensive overview of the Canadian Rockies with one of those companies, it seems as if you're looking at an investment 7 or 8 days. (The 7-day tour I saw started and ended in Calgary, so even that would available to you only if you flew from and back to Vancouver.)

Your best bet once you're in the Rockies, if you're willing to do it, is to drive. Since it does not involve city driving, and since the roads are good, I believe you would find it easy, even if it did mean driving on the right hand side of the road.

Something I would urge you to do is to spend a day in Vancouver before you embark on your trip to the mountains. Vancouver is a delightful city, and it would be a real shame to short change it. Actually a day WOULD be short changing it, as it takes a good three days to do the city justice, in my opinion. Still, you'll have a short time in which to cover a lot of ground, so you'll be forced to make some choices. At least if you devote a day to Vancouver, you'll be able to explore it in a little more depth than you could do just by going out for meals in between your conference commitments.

In the next message I'll post some thoughts about an itinerary you could consider.

Calgary, Alberta...
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3. Re: Travelling from Vancouver to Banff...Have I enough time?

Here's the suggested itinerary I promised.

SUNDAY - Ask your hotel to store your luggage for you. Visit Stanley Park and Granville Island Market. You may even have time to stroll through Yaletown as well. Collect your luggage from your hotel, and make your way to the train station for VIA Rail's 5.30 p.m. departure.

MONDAY - Arrive in Jasper at 11.00 p.m. Pick up a rental car. In the afternoon drive to Mount Edith Cavell and do as much of the Angel Glacier / Cavell Meadows hike as you feel like doing. Consider spending the night at Jasper Inn, or else stay in "home accommodation" such as Crayston's. (Home accommodation is like a B&B, but without breakfast. However, home accommodations often have kitchens or kitchenettes.)

TUESDAY - Spend the morning walking in Maligne Canyon. In the afternoon drive to Maligne Lake and consider doing the cruise across the lake to Spirit Island.

WEDNESDAY - Drive the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise. At a minimum, see Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, the Columbia Icefields and Peyto Lake. If you like, ride the Snocoach onto the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields. Deer Lodge, which is a smallish, quaint hotel at Lake Louise, would be a nice place for a lone traveller to stay.

THURSDAY - Have a look around Lake Louise and then visit Moraine Lake, 14 km away. After that, drive to nearby Yoho National Park and visit Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake.

FRIDAY - Drive towards Banff on the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy #1A). Visit Johnston Canyon. Walk to the Lower Falls at least, which will take you an hour round-trip. Better still, walk to the prettier Upper Falls (2.5 hours round trip). Continue to Banff townsite, and ride the gondola up Sulphur Mountain. Stroll down Banff's main shopping street. Visit Lake Minnewanka.

Consider spending the night at Brewster Mountain Lodge in Banff or Lady Macdonald Country Inn or Georgetown Inn in Canmore.

SATURDAY - Fly from Calgary to Vancouver.

I would aim at catching a flight that got into Vancouver at least 3 hours prior to the departure time of your homebound flight out of Vancouver. So, say your flight out of Vancouver departs at 5 pm. In that case I would aim for a flight that got in at 2 pm. My rationale is that you need to check in for an international flight 2 hours before departure. It would be good to give yourself an extra hour for contingencies.

So, if your flight home departs at 5 pm, I think you need to depart from Calgary at 1.30 pm. The flight from Calgary to Vancouver lasts 1.5 hours but, because of the change in time zones, a 1.30 pm flight out of Calgary will get you into Vancouver at 2 pm.

If you're catching a domestic flight out of Calgary, you need to leave Banff 4 hours prior to departure. It takes 2 hours to drive from Banff to Calgary International Airport, a domestic flight requires an hour's check in, and I would allow another hour for contingencies.

So, if you caught a 1.30 pm flight out of Calgary, you could leave Canmore / Banff at 9.30 am. If you were so inclined, you'd even have time to drive up the hill behind Canmore and look at Spray Lakes before you left.

Before I sign off, I'll make a couple of comments about trains in the next post.

Calgary, Alberta...
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4. Re: Travelling from Vancouver to Banff...Have I enough time?

I have never caught a train between Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies.

I've seen the occasional report by a VIA Rail passenger who has had a nightmare journey (bathrooms that didn't work and that type of thing). While the majority of the reports that I've seen have been complimentary, even glowing, I feel obliged to tell you that I've seen a few unfavourable reports.

There is another train that connects Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies. It's the Rocky Mountaineer. It gives you the option of travelling from Vancouver to Banff or from Vancouver to Jasper.

It takes 2 days to travel from Vancouver to the Rockies, as it stops in Kamloops for the night.

I've heard only glowing reports about Gold Leaf service. Passengers have the use of a domed observation car, and their hot meals are served in a dining car. Gold Leaf service is very expensive. However, I get the impression that, if you're going to take the Rocky Mountaineer at all, Gold Leaf is the way to go.

Red Leaf passengers do not have the use of a domed observation car. In addition to that, their cold meals are served to them in the same seats in which they sit for the duration of the journey. I've read that Red Leaf meals and the Kamloops motels in which Red Leaf passengers are accommodated can be rather indifferent.

Please let me emphasize that everything I've said about these trains is hearsay.

You’re welcome to look at my web site:

…msn.com/CalgaryandCanadianRockiesTravelTips…

I particularly recommend that you read the "Weather Notes" and "What To Pack" pages, which are accessible from the TIPS section.

Hope that helps.

Toronto
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5. Re: Travelling from Vancouver to Banff...Have I enough time?

To see all of the sights, yes 5 full days would be tight, but if you forgo Jasper, that's ample time driving to and from including sightseeing. I know I missed Jasper on my previous Rockies trips but that's already a lot to see without Jasper. I turned back after the snowcoash tour.

The driving is straight forward at the ROckies and enroute, so a self-drive car is the way to go. You may also consider flying to Calgary and rent a car there instead of driving from Vancouver.

For train, check out www.viarail.ca , which stops at Jasper. To take the train to Banff, you have to take the expensive tourist train by a private tour company.

Calgary, Alberta...
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6. Re: Travelling from Vancouver to Banff...Have I enough time?

>>>To see all of the sights, yes 5 full days would be tight, but if you forgo Jasper, that's ample time driving to and from including sightseeing. I know I missed Jasper on my previous Rockies trips but that's already a lot to see without Jasper. I turned back after the snowcoash tour.<<<

Actually Vancouver - Jasper - Banff - Vancouver is about the same distance as Vancouver to Banff return with the inclusion of a day trip from Banff to the Columbia Icefields.

According to www.freetrip.com, a round trip from Vancouver through Jasper and Banff would be 1,858 km.

A return journey from Vancouver to Banff that included a day trip to the Columbia Icefields from a base in Banff would be a shade more than 1,870 km.

Even if you did the trip in one direction only, the distances of the two routes would not be very different.

If you went Vancouver - Jasper - Lake Louise - Banff - Calgary, the journey would be 1,177 km.

If you went Vancouver - Lake Louise - Banff - Calgary, the journey would be 937 km. However, if you added a day trip from Banff to the Columbia Icefields and back, it would bring the distance up to about 1,190 km.

AJS, in glancing back over my suggested itinerary, I've noticed that Tuesday's entry is unclear. Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake are in the vicinity of Jasper, so would be sites that a person would visit from a base in Jasper townsite.

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7. Re: Travelling from Vancouver to Banff...Have I enough time?

thanks you very much for your replies which are very detailed and helpful...

Many thanks