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  1. Default Banff, AB, Canada - Driving from SEATLLE - 7 Days

    Me and my wife will be driving from SEA to the Banff Area in Alberta during the July 4th Week.
    Can anyone suggest what should be my perfect 7 Day Itenary? I guess iam trying to figure out what all i should skip or spend time with the 7 days i have. Since we are not bringing in our little one this time, the general mobility shoould be quick.
    Also is it a good idea to base our lodging at one place when we are in the Banff Area?

    Thank You!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Here's a Surprise - Try a Loop

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    That neck of the woods is incredibly scenic, so you are in for a great trip. Banff is just far enough from Seattle that trying to get there in one day would mean that you'd be racing right past some wonderful places, so plan on taking two days each way, and also plan on taking a different route to Banff and back to Seattle. In fact, plan on a very relaxed mix of driving, sightseeing, hiking, etc. every day. As is my wont, I will describe my recommended routes there and back in a clockwise direction, but you are free to go either way you choose.

    One thing you need to check before setting out. If you are renting a car in Seattle, you need to let the rental agency know that you are planning to take it into Canada so that they can prepare the proper paperwork. You also need to make sure of any geographic restrictions. Typically, rentals from Seattle include unlimited mileage as long as you stay in Washington or contiguous states. That includes British Columbia, but Banff is in Alberta and may void the unlimited mileage provision. And note that essentially all rental cars are equipped with GPS tracking devices, so they will know where you've been.

    From Seattle, just head north up I-5 as far as Bellingham. There take WA-542 east to WA-9 north to the border at Sumas. Continue north just a short way on BC-11 to the Trans-Canada Highway (BC-1) east to Hope. If you're looking for a slower pace and to see some of the small towns, stay on the T-C, but if you're in a hurry you can take a toll road, the Coquihalla Highway (BC-5) north up to Kamloops. From there, you're back on the T-C to Banff. Along the way, take the time to visit Hells Gate (not accessible from the Coquihalla Highway), as well as Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, and Yoho National Parks.

    For your return, head south from Castle Junction (just north of Banff) on AB/BC-93 through Kootenay National Park, and then switching over to BC-95 to enter Idaho. Northern Idaho is just chock full of scenic roads. The one you'll be using will be the The Wild Horse Trail. Continue down to Coeur d'Alene, and then over to Spokane. Again, if you're in a hurry, you can use I-90 back to Seattle, but if you still haven't gotten your fill of scenic driving, take US-2 instead with a couple of additional small stops at the Grand Coulee Dam and Alpine Falls.

    While in the Banff area, I would recommend that you pick a 'home base' and not be packing and unpacking too much. When my wife and I visited a few years ago, we took a small apartment in Canmore away from the (high-priced) hustle and bustle of Banff itself and had a great time. Certainly there will be no shortage of scenic drives and hikes, but a few other things that should be worth a visit: Lunch at the Fairmont at lake Louise can be quite reasonable and the views and ambience are worth every penny. The Banff Park and I think that's enough for now.Museum and the Buffalo Nations Museum make a great pair along with the short walk between them over the Bow River (which ultimately empties into Hudson Bay.) Also take a day and head up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park - that will be a day in itself. And I think that's enough for now.


  3. Default

    Thanks!, that helps.. Yeah, I was planning on a day of driving/hiking/stopping just to get from Banff to Jasper National Park. I guess my other Q is - How good is Jasper National Park compared to my other choices, given my limited window in this area.(Other than the drive; Icelands Pkwy.. etc)
    Last edited by AZBuck; 04-24-2012 at 05:06 PM. Reason: Quote of entire previous post removed.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default It's All Great

    But it does, I agree, get to a point of sensory overload after a bit. Two days driving each way, plus three days in the Banff area, plus a drive up the Icefields Parkway is more than enough. there's simply no need to push yourself farther to see more great scenery. Enjoy wherever you are and enjoy it at a pace that suits you. Rushing to the next place that someone, even me, told you that you must see is pointless if it just wears you out.


  5. #5


    Here's an excerpt from a journal I made of a recent trip to Banff/Jasper that you might find helpful:

    Tuesday, June 1, Banff, AB – Had the free breakfast at the Medicine Hat Best Western, got checked out and then headed for Banff via Canada 1. Another day of endless huge farms and pastureland. Stopped for lunch at a Husky Station in Dead Man’s Flats. Drove on to Banff, found the High Country Inn and got checked in. Very nice room! Drove to the Banff Gondola which takes you to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Although it was a bit on the cloudy side, there were still some good views. We drove by the old Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a huge upscale hotel which was built in the early 1900’s. Because it was kind of rainy we opted not to park and check it out further. Drove out the Bow Falls Road past the golf course and Bow Falls. Again, because it was raining, we just looked from the car. We then took the Minnewanka Loop road which circles Lakes Minnewanka and Two Jack. Saw some mountain goats and a beautiful elk stag. Drove back in to town stopped briefly at the High Country Inn and then went to get something to eat. After driving around looking for a place to park, we decided to forgo the very high prices we found and settled for McDonald’s.

    Wednesday, June 2, Banff, AB – Had breakfast at the High Country Inn and then returned to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel/Bow Falls area. Walked around the hotel and went into the lobby and got some pictures. Quite a place. We then took the Tunnel Mountain Road to an area called the Hoodoos, which are unusual erosion formed pinnacles. We then returned to the Minnewanka/Two Jacks lake area and drove the Minnewanka Loop Road. Along the way, we had a nice visit with some folks from New Jersey. Returned to downtown Banff and had lunch at the Boston Pizza restaurant. After walking around the downtown area for a little while we took the Vermillion Lakes Road and then the Norquay Mountain Road. The latter provided a nice view of the downtown Banff area. Returned to downtown and walked around some more before returning to the Inn and relaxing for a while. Finished the day with dinner at the Boston Pizza restaurant. Had a little rain but nothing that stopped us from doing anything we wanted to do.

    Thursday, June 3, Lake Louise, AB – Had breakfast at the High Country Inn and then headed north on the Bow Valley Parkway towards Lake Louise. First stop was at Johnson Canyon where we took a 1.1km walk to the Lower Falls. We decided against the 2.7km hike to the upper falls. Stopped at the snack bar on the way out and had coffee. Continued on north and stopped briefly at Castle Cliffs but the mountain was mostly obscured by clouds on this overcast, rainy day. Drove on to the Lake Louise area and stopped at the Lake Louise Mountain Resort, a ski area, and had lunch. We decided there was no sense taking another gondola ride due to the overcast weather. Drove on into Lake Louise Village, found the Mountaineer Lodge and got checked in. After unloading the car, we took the drive to Lake Louise. It was a bit disappointing – I had thought there would be a drive around the lake but there are only trails. We walked a little ways along the lakeshore and then went in and checked out the Fairmont Chateau Hotel, another of the high dollar hotels built by the railroads in the early 1900s to lure passengers. Although nice, it was not as impressive as the Fairmont in Banff. Next, we took the drive to Lake Moraine, a glacial lake at a high altitude which still had ice in it. Although the views were very impressive, they were somewhat spoiled by the poor weather conditions. Returned to Lake Louise Village, kicked back for awhile and then had dinner at the Mountain Restaurant.

    Friday, June 4, Jasper, AB – Had a quick breakfast of pastries and coffee at Laggan’s bakery in Lake Louise after checking out of the Mountaineer Lodge. Headed north on the Ice Fields Parkway towards Jasper. Stops along the way included Herbert Lake, Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake and Bow Glacier, Waterfowl Lake and Mistaya Canyon. At Mistaya, we took a 1.1km walk to the first overlook where you can see how the water has eaten away what must be a soft rock to form a very deep but fairly narrow canyon. Main stop of the day was at the Columbia Icefield and the Athabasca Glacier. Here we took the Glacier Experience tour which takes you out on the glacier in a specially made vehicle with huge tires and extremely low gears. After the tour, we drove on in to Jasper, found the Sawridge Inn, got checked in and then kicked back for awhile. After having dinner at one of the restaurants in the Inn, we took a short drive to Patricia and Pyramid Lakes before calling it a day.

    Saturday, June 5, Jasper, AB – Had breakfast at the Sawridge Inn and then headed out to take the road to Maligne Lake. First stop was at Maligne Canyon where we took a short walk to the first canyon viewpoint. The canyon was very similar to Mistaya Canyon – very deep but not to wide. Next stop was at Medicine Lake, a strange lake which disappears during the dry season. The water escapes to an underground river through holes in the bottom of the lake. When input exceeds the capacity of the drainage holes, the lake fills back up. Drove on to Maligne Lake. Very scenic. We decided against the $55 boat ride which like most things up here seems overpriced. Drove back to town slow and easy. During the day, we saw three black bears and several caribou. Arriving back in town, we drove up to the Jasper Tramway but decided against the $29 ride because the weather was not very clear and we knew visibility would be limited. Went back to the Sawridge, kicked back for awhile and then went to 7:00pm Mass at Our Lady Of Lourdes and then finished the day with dinner at the Sawridge Inn. Fairly decent weather day although we did hit spots of rain twice.

    Sunday, June 6, Canmore, AB – Had breakfast at the Sawridge Inn Restaurant, got checked out, gassed up and headed south on the Ice Fields Parkway about 10:00am. First stop of the day, other than along the road, was at Athabasca Falls. Took a short walk along very nice and easy trails and were treated to some excellent views. Very nice stop! Our next stop was at Sunwapta Falls which was another great stop. Drove on the Ice Fields Centre and had a bite to eat. Continued on south towards Banff with no stops except for several wildlife spottings. We saw three black bears, what we think was a grizzly bear, mountain sheep and several either elk or caribou – not sure which but lean towards elk. Arrived in Canmore about 5:30pm, found the Pocaterra Best Western and got checked in. Very nice facility – perhaps the nicest of the trip. Kicked back for awhile and then drove around town some and found Canmore to be a very nice little town with a definite mountain town flavor. Finished the day with dinner at Craig’s Family Restaurant. Great Day!! For some reason, driving south seemed more scenic than driving north. Of course, the weather was bright and sunny as opposed to overcast on the way to Jasper which probably makes it seem a bit more scenic.

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