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Vancouver to Lake Louise...


CathyT 13 7.3k 18 United Kingdom
5 May 2014 8:15PM
I'm hoping to go to Vancouver in September and travel up to Lake Louise. I've been looking at the Rocky Mountaineer train route but I'm starting to think it would be better by car.

At least then I can pull over and take a few photos of anything that catches my eye. Although the train route may take an "off the beaten track" route I'll be really annoyed when the train goes sailing past something of interest.

Has anyone else done a similar trip in the Rockies , is it better by car or should I let the train take the strain??

I think the route is Vancouver > Kamloops > Banff > Lake Louise.

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Martin54 13 546 United Kingdom
5 May 2014 8:36PM
Hi Cathy,
We did the Rocky Mountaineer on our honeymoon some years ago, it is spectactular. We went Vancouver > Kamloops > Jasper then drove down to Lake Louise then on to Banff and finally to Calgary. We ceratinly took more pictures on the car section, but wouldn't have missed the Rocky Mountaineer for anything, the scenery is spectacular and you get the benefit of the commentary.
Let me know if you need any more info,

Martin

PS, A couple of (pre-digital) pics below






CathyT 13 7.3k 18 United Kingdom
5 May 2014 8:54PM
Thanks Martin...the scenery certainly does look spectacular......Did you stay in the Fairmont Hotels for your stop overs?
mikehit 9 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
5 May 2014 8:55PM
In 2001 we took the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver>Kamloops> Banff then hired a car to drive from Banff to Jasper up the Icefield Parkway.
On the train section we really didn't feel like we missed anything because the train goes really slowly on the interesting bits and the guided talk gives some background to the local views. I think it is a nice idea to drive yourself but (speaking for myself) I would end up driving past it anyway. The drive up the Parkway is spectacular and a 3h drive took us over 6 hours because we stopped so often!!
We stopped at Lake Louise on the way and left 10 minutes later because it was so damned packed with rude tourists keen to get shots for their photo album and, IMO, there are more spectacular and more scenic views elsewhere.
CathyT 13 7.3k 18 United Kingdom
5 May 2014 9:05PM
I'm wondering if we should do the same....my daughter works at Lake Louise so she could join us on our travels...Would be nice to include Jasper etc... and like you say there are more spectacular views on route.

I'm just very undecided concerning train V car......I don't want to miss anything lol.

A friend of mine went, she said theres a photo opportunity around every bend....I'd like the freedom to be able to get out of the car and sit by a lake if it takes my fancy but then the train would be a real treat.

Also, if I spot some bears playing Ill be gutted if the train goes whizzing past......
Martin54 13 546 United Kingdom
5 May 2014 9:18PM

Quote:Thanks Martin...the scenery certainly does look spectacular......Did you stay in the Fairmont Hotels for your stop overs?


Gosh, now your taxing my brain, we did a lot of our own booking - Pyramid Lake Resort at Jasper, Mountaineer Lodge in Lake Louise and a B&B in Banff. Not bad remembering that after 12 years!

Agree with Mike that LL is a tourist trap, but a handy stop over after the drive down from Jasper and a chance to head west for a day before moving on to Banff.
StrayCat 15 19.1k 3 Canada
5 May 2014 9:32PM
Hi Cathy, I live in Calgary, and would like to do the train ride some day; I've flown it hundreds of times, and have explored the Eastern slopes and valleys by car. We came out here from the east coast almost 20 years ago and haven't seen 1 % of it yet. I think I would want to be able to stop and look around, set up a tripod and do some landscapes. Also, you will need a good wildlife lens, as the Rockies are teeming with elk, deer, sheep, goats, moose, grizzlies and black bears. Also lots of bird species, waterfowl included. Bring lots of memory cards, you can fill as many as you want. The hamlet of Banff is worth spending an afternoon in, and having a nice dinner in one of the many fine restaurants available. Banff and Lake Louise will be wall to wall people, tourism is still Alberta's biggest industry. If you decide to spend a bit more time, do a google search of Kananaskis Country, and Dinosaur Provincial Park near Drumheller, including, of course, the Royal Tyrell Museum. That would be my itinerary. Good Luck!
lobsterboy Plus
15 14.9k 13 United Kingdom
5 May 2014 9:42PM

Quote:In 2001 we took the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver>Kamloops> Banff then hired a car to drive from Banff to Jasper up the Icefield Parkway.
On the train section we really didn't feel like we missed anything because the train goes really slowly on the interesting bits and the guided talk gives some background to the local views. I think it is a nice idea to drive yourself but (speaking for myself) I would end up driving past it anyway. The drive up the Parkway is spectacular and a 3h drive took us over 6 hours because we stopped so often!!



Funny we did exactly the same trip in 2001. Really loved the mountaineer trip, I seemed to remember they did 2 grades of travel (silver and gold I think) if your budget covers the top one its well worth he upgrade.
You can always hire a car at the other end - there is plenty of scenery to go round.

This has just opened & may be worth a visit
mikehit 9 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
5 May 2014 9:57PM

Quote:
Also, if I spot some bears playing Ill be gutted if the train goes whizzing past......



Grin I know what you mean.
There are quite a few 'drive vs train' discussions on the internet so that would suggest it is quite a tough choice - at times the road and the train take quite different routes which makes it harder to decide. If you are the only one driving I would wonder how free you are to see things like bears - hopefully you are concentrating on the road! You are more likely to see a grand vista than spot specific things, then stop and maybe see something else.
The train is not cheap but is an experience in itself - if you drive you could afford to spend a couple of nights in the Banff Springs hotel Grin
Dave_Canon 13 1.5k United Kingdom
5 May 2014 10:00PM
We flew to Calgary and took a car to the Jasper national park area calling in for an overnight stay at Lake Louise. The weather this first day in the national park area was not ideal but as we went nearer to Jasper the weather cleared to sunny. After exploring Jasper and the glaciers, we drove back towards Banff calling in at Lake Louise again as the weather was then perfect. After an overnight stay in Banff we travelled on the Rocky Mountaineer to Vancouver. We stayed in Fairmont Hotels which were some of the best I have stayed in anywhere. We enjoyed the train ride and saw some great scenery but nothing to compare the what we saw in the 5 days we drove around Jasper and the Glacier national parks. If you do get to visit the national parks in Alberta, do include Lake Pito, Maligne Lake and Medicine Lake as well as Lake Louise, Jasper and Banff. The Fairmont Hotel in Banff is the best Hotel I have ever stayed in but sadly we were only there for 24 hours. The entire trip including the car hire and all hotels were arranged by the Rocky Mountaineer company; it was expensive but we saw it as a once in a lifetime trip. We told the Rocky Mountaineer company about our wedding anniversary and we were given treats everywhere (cakes, Champagne, gifts etc. at every hotel and on the train).

My recommendation is that you drive around the Alberta parks but it is not that critical how you travel there from Vancouver. Incidentally, Vancouver was great as well.

Dave
Techno Plus
10 3.9k 8 England
6 May 2014 6:47AM
Hi CathyT
I have driven from Vancouver to Calgary (well in fact on up to Edmonton) and recommend it, never prebooked anything just started to look for accommodation around 4pm each day, I also rented my car at a very special rate from one of the rental companies based at Vancouver airport, negotiated a deal with them to return an Alberta car back to Alberta, there compound was full of such cars from tourist who had made the journey in the opposite direction, certainly worth a try, it costs them a small fortune to return them.......
Have a great time, we did...Smile
CathyT 13 7.3k 18 United Kingdom
6 May 2014 12:42PM
Yes I quite like that idea of catching the train up to Banff and then hire car up to Jasper and the Glacier Skywalk....Holly(my daughter) works for the Fairmont so we get a good discount and even better if she is with us......

Thanks for all your ideas.....just need a chat with my flexible friend.
IsaacTOO 5 1
6 May 2014 7:58PM
We did the same trip last summer. I recommend that you rent a car, it will give you more freedom, and it will be cheaper. There are interesting places along the way. If you want the train experience, consider taking VIA rail to Jasper, and take a car heading south east to Calgary. Lake Louise is pretty, but it's a 10 minute visit. Banff is a total tourist trap. Dirty hotels, mediocre restaurants, all at exorbitant prices. Really the worst place we visited in 12 days there. We took the Banff cable car (AKA Gondola) , and did the lake Minnewanka tour. The lake tour was more interesting, we had a great guide. Bring a tele zoom for the wildlife. The highlight of the Rockies was driving on the Icefields Parkway. The views are photographer's dream. Mountains and glaciers and lakes that are just stunning. Make sure to stop along the way by as many lakes as you can. There is a vista point for lake Peyto - not to be missed! We also did the Columbia icefield tour. You can walk on the icefield on your own, but the guided tour takes you a bit further. We had a crappy guide, YMMV.
CathyT 13 7.3k 18 United Kingdom
7 May 2014 8:17AM
So am I right in thinking that the best parts are North of Banff.......? I've just priced up a hire car from Vancouver to Calgary and it was over $4000 .. Half the price if it's Van to van....

Would it be a better option to fly in and out of Calgary and then road trip north and around that area?

What am I missing out on by not travelling from Vancouver?
Dave_Canon 13 1.5k United Kingdom
7 May 2014 9:45AM
One thing is you would miss out on is Vancouver which is well worth 4 days or so. I had originally planned to drive from Vancouver to the Jasper/Banff area then return to Vancouver. It must be feasible as I have met sever people who have done this. I am fairly certain that there is a fast motorway across the Rockies to Vancouver. When we travelled on the train, our main luggage was always in our hotel rooms when we arrived so I asked about this and was told that they sent the luggage by road as it is much quicker than the rail journey. For my trip the percentage of photographs I took were:-

Jasper/Glacier National Parks (6 days) - 78%
Train from Banff to Vancouver (2 days) - 5%
Vancouver (4 days) - 17%

However, I suspect that being on the train is more limiting than by car.

Dave

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