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  1. Default Northern Caliifornia to Banff National Park and Vancouver

    We are traveling this summer to Banff and Vancouver. There are five of us, including kids ages 9 and 10. We plan to tent camp most of the way, but will probably stay in hotels a few nights as well.

    We have 16 days and want to return to California down the Oregon coast.

    Any advice about routes to take? We're considering heading into Vancouver and then to Banff, but we're wondering if it makes more sense to go directly to Banff and then to Vancouver.

    Any advice you could give us would be very welcome! This is our first long road trip.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I take it that this trip is instead of the trip you talked about previously?

    If you plan to return by coming down the Oregon Coast, then it really wouldn't make much sense to go up to Vancouver first - doing so would only add miles and require you to do some backtracking later.

    It would make more sense to take a more direct route, Up I-5 to Weed, then US-97 through Oregon (past Crater Lake), I-84/I-82/US-395/I-90 through Spokane into Idaho, and then Highway 95 across the border and up through Kootenay National Park into Banff.

    That also makes the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) the logical path back to Vancouver, which will take you right through Canada's Glacier National Park (not to be confused with the US park with the same name), and Mt. Revelstroke National Park.

    Keep in mind, you're going to need at least 2.5 days just to make the drive to Banff on the direct route. Throw in your desire to take the slower going coastal route through Oregon on the way home, and your plan to spend many nights tent camping, your 16 days will go by very quickly.

  3. Default

    Thank you! That is a huge help. Yes, this is a modification of the trip we originally planned. We want to see the Banff area as well as Vancouver but worry about fitting everything in. We might skip the Oregon coast if we run out of time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Being that you're relatively close to Oregon, I think I would save that trip for another day.

    I'm planning my own trip to Banff/Jasper coming up in a few weeks, and I've already found so much stuff I want to do there, I'm not sure I'm going to have time to visit Montana's Glacier NP.

    BTW, I'm going to guess that it will be worth your while to purchase the Canadian National Park's Discovery Pass, that gets you into all of Canada's National Parks and Historic Sites. The family pass is about CN$138, and as part of Canada's 150th Birthday Party, this year the pass is valid for 2 full years.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default A few more places to add to your list.

    Michael has given you some wonderful sights to see and explore, but don't overlook another spectcular national park - Yoho NP..

    The TCH passes right through it, and the main attractions, all of which can be easily reached, are all off this highway. In the middle of the park is the delightful little town of Field. There is a place called Pig Truffle (I think it is called.). The sign outside says, come on in and make a pig of yourself. There is also a railway crossing right there in town. Should you happen to want to cross it, and one of the two mile long trains has just crossed the street, you have a little while to sit and count carriages.

    The TCH through and out of the park is a drive to enjoy, especially 10 Mile Hill. Hope none of yours are scared of heights or get motion sickness.

    Take the TCH to Kamloops, and then follow 97 to 99 - the Sea to Sky highway on your way to Vancouver.

    It passes through Lillooet, Whistler and Squamish, as well as Garibaldi Prov. Park. These are lovely small places to spend a little time out of the car. Near Lillooet there is a place where there are three glacier lakes, one above the other. Not sure anymore if they are north or south of Lillooet, but the visitor centre should be able to inform you. The bottom lake is only a short distance from the parking area. In Garibaldi PP, there is a short walk and climb to the waterfal, from the parking rea, which if I recall correctly is right on the side of the road.l. It is now more than a decade since I was there.

    There is also a nice free camping area owned by the city of Lillooet. There are also nice camping areas in Yoho national park, but if you want to get one of the northern ones, you do need to book. They appear to be very popular.

    You'll love that part of Canada, it's beautiful.


  6. Default

    Thank you! We have a tentative plan that I think might work. We still have a lot of details to work out, but does this sound reasonable?

    We have 15 days.
    3 days traveling from Sacramento to Banff (that allows us to go slow, but I'm hoping it will only take 3)
    3 days in Banff
    2 days traveling to Vancouver
    3 days in Vancouver
    4 days to head home

    I'd like to spend more time in Banff, but I think this will allow us to get a general feel for the area and hopefully return in a few years with more time.

    I don't think we can reduce the return trip time because my Mom, who's traveling with us, wants to stop in Portland to visit my niece.

    What is the border crossing like from Idaho into Canada, assuming we take Michael's suggested route? My kids have never been out of the country before, and I'd like the crossing to be something they remember. :)

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Passports or...

    Crossing the border into Canada is not as same as it once was. I used to be able to walk across the border at Calais ME - St. Stephen NB with my dog and nothing more than a wave at the customs officers on both ends of the bridge. Today you will need to stop and at least show your passports. You have them, no? because it's already too late to get the for 'this summer' in all probability. And your kids, who "have never been out of the country before" will also need identification. Depending on their ages they may need passports, or at the very least if they're under 15, their birth certificates.

    While I've not crossed using Route 95 (US-95/AB-95) into Canada, I have crossed at numerous other places and your experience will largely depend on the amount of traffic. I suspect that this particular crossing will see a fair amount of truck traffic, but otherwise you should be able to cross quickly if you have the proper paperwork. Unfortunately the same can not be said of the crossing back from Vancouver. That could easily entail sitting in a line of traffic for an hour or more during summer vacation season.


  8. Default

    The adults all have up to date passports. The kids are 9 and 10, and we have passport cards for them as well as their birth certificates.

    Thanks for the tip about the crossing at Vancouver. We'll be sure to plan for that.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    We just crossed at the Idaho-Canada border, Eastport-Kingsport, US95-B.-95, heading south.

    We were asked for our passports. These days you cannot cross without them. Bring your packing list and make sure that includes your prescription medications. The CBP was going to be hard on us until I told him we had lists of what we brought into Canada. He immediately softened. It is a two lane crossing, if both lanes are open.

    We had entered into Canada at the Chief Mountain Montana crossing. Asked for our passports there, asked how far we were going, a couple of other questions and we were on the way.

    All this is in my 2016 trip report, in more detail.

    Btw if you don't have passports now, you might be lucky to get expedited ones (for a cost), but maybe not. Also, even when taking a boat tour out of Waterton, down to Goat Launch (which is in Montana), you will be asked for your passports.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default More accurate information is got locally.

    Having crossed the border at many different locations, Only the crossing on I-5 has ever had any significant hold ups. The time I crossed on highway 1 in Idaho (to Creston) I was the only car. This had been recommended to me by the owner of a truck stop.

    So often you get more up to date and accurate information on all those things, if you ask when you are in the area. All our experiences are history, and no indication that you will find the same. When you engage with locals, and bring up the fact that you plan to cross, they will tell you where the best place is.


    Edit: There is an alternative to crossing on I-5 from Vancouver. It is located some miles to the east, and once again, it is the locals who suggested it to me. No significant waiting at all. But if you want your children to remember the crossing, then the I-5 experience is likely one they will never forget.

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