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travelling from seattle to banff in December

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travelling from seattle to banff in December

We have never been to Canada or US but we hare headed there in December this year. We are booked into Banff for 1 week over Christmas. Can Banff. anyone give me some ideas about getting from Seattle. There are 6 of us (husband , self and 4 teenage chidlren) and flying to Calgary is very expensive. I am getting conflicting information about the drive from Seattle to Banff in the snow. Can anyone give me some idea of wheter this is doable or should we look at alternative transport. What other ways are there to travel across this terrain?

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1. Re: travelling from seattle to banff in December

The drive could be a little poor depending on the weather you receive when you are here.

One option could be to fly from Vancouver to Calgary, you could get from Seattle to Vancouver pretty easy with train or bus. Although this would still be more expensive than driving.

If you do drive, just make sure to split up the drive into at least 2 days so that you are not too tired for the conditions and so that it is not too dark to see where you are going.

West Grey, Ontario
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for Toronto
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2. Re: travelling from seattle to banff in December

Hi mazza062;

Seattle is approx. 640 miles / 1030 km.

I would NOT suggest starting to learn how to drive in winter conditions in the Rocky Mountains ! Driving in the winter takes genuine experience, and through the Rockies, even more so.

You may want to read over the Traveler Article "Winter Driving in Canada", here on TA.


- Flying to Calgary would be the best option.

- Taking a bus, while scenic, would take forever. From Vancouver, the ride is between 13 & 16 hours depending on the departure time. (www.greyhound.ca)

- You could take a train from;

Seattle to Vancouver, (www.amtrak.com)

and then a second train from Vancouver to Jasper (www.viarail.ca)

Jasper is approx. 180 miles / 288 km from Banff.

The train from Vancouver does NOT run everyday, and it is an 18.5 hour ride.

Best Regards

Calgary, Canada
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3. Re: travelling from seattle to banff in December

Welcome to TripAdvisor, Mazza062! RescueTeam has given you good advice; not much that I can add to that.

Yes, you might get great weather and have an easy drive from Seattle to Banff. But on the other hand, if you get bad weather it means missing time that you could have spent in Banff, because the smart call in that situation is to wait for the weather to clear up and the roads to be plowed before you set out. Also, roughly three times a winter, the mountain passes between the coast and Banff are closed due to heavy snowfall for 24 hours or more. There are no easy alternate routes - there are only three highways through the Rockies, and each one is hundreds of kilometers away from the others. And finally, if you make a poor driving decision or you have bad luck with weather, you can find yourself in a white-knuckle driving situation that can last for an hour or more.

Destination Expert
for Seattle
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4. Re: travelling from seattle to banff in December

A lot of people from Seattle would drive to Banff from Eastern Washington but that would involve several mountain passses and in winter may be worse than from Vancouver. Last December Seattle and Washington had unusual snow conditions. I fly to Calgary one way on a regular basis and generally pay about $177 one way. I don't think thats too bad to avoid the problems. Look at:




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5. Re: travelling from seattle to banff in December

I understand what you are saying about the expense for 6 people.

If you cannot afford airfare, I suggest going through Washington on Interstate 90 - through Spokane and up through Coeur d'Alene/Sandpoint, and up through Cranbrook. I have taken this route in winter going south to Coeur d'Alene. You may get lucky and not see much snow until you hit BC. I do find that highway can be treacherous. Plan your trip over several days, just in case the weather is bad.

Brisbane, Australia.
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6. Re: travelling from seattle to banff in December

Thanks so much for all of the advice. It has been so helpful. Some other questions I have are:

Is it any different to drive from Vancouver to Banff than Seattle. Is it safer/more dangerous?

Has anyone used grayhound buses for this route and what are your thoughts on that possibility?

Also we have 2 celebrtations whilst in Banff...Christmas (obviously) and my daughters 18th....Can anyone suggest some good restaurants to use for these occassions?

Thanks so much. I am so glad that I stumbled across this site and the forums, it has made the planning a whole lot easier.

7. Re: travelling from seattle to banff in December

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8. Re: travelling from seattle to banff in December

There is no difference in the drive between Seattle and Banff and Vancouver and Banff.

I have no experience on Greyhound buses.

What sort of price range are you looking at for a restaurant? For pricy restaurants, Truffle Pigs in Field is a "destination restaurant"


Similarly, The Post in Lake Louise is outstanding.

In Banff, I think Giorgio's is good -


Coyote Grill is very good -


as is The Bison -


Some people love Fuze, others are less enthralled. I've included it, though I've never been -


Vancouver, Canada
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9. Re: travelling from seattle to banff in December

I think the main difference between the drives is that if you travel through Canada, you are on the main east-west highway. Canadian population and business is centred within 100 miles of the US border, whereas the border areas on the US side (at least in the west) tend to be more rural/remote. If you travel up to Vancouver and across, you are more likely to be on a major highway the entire way with lots of fellow travelers around if you happen to encounter some bad weather and get into trouble.

Ottawa, Canada
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10. Re: travelling from seattle to banff in December

Hi Mazza062,

I will echo the wise advise already given here by COUNTRY-WIFE and RESCUE TEAM and others…

<< I would NOT suggest starting to learn how to drive in winter conditions in the Rocky Mountains ! Driving in the winter takes genuine experience, and through the Rockies, even more so. >>

We generally in the CANADA TRAVEL FORUMS advise Travellers NOT TO DRIVE IN THE WINTER (November thru April) unless they have SIGNIFICANT Winter Driving Experience.

Weather issues typically can include – Snow Storms, Blizzards (large amounts of snow in a short period of time, for example a foot in 24 Hours), Blowing Snow, Drifting Snow, Sleet, Freezing Rain, Black Ice and Freaky Fog.

Add to that the fact that Rental Cars in both Canada & the USA do not generally come with snowtires (deemed too expensive to have 2 sets of tires for every vehicle).

Snow tires have been proven to improve traction and greatly reduce traffic accidents. ONLY the Province of Quebec now makes snow tires mandatory by law. Vehicles typically come equipped with "All Season Radials"... these types of tires were developed for the US Market... and perform best in a moderate climate (Canada is an extreme climate). All Season Radials perform poorly on ice and snow, and even on clear roads below 40F. Most Canadians who drive extensively during Winter have snowtires on their vehicles.

I suggest for the safety of all involved, that you further investigate airfare and public transit options.

Stay safe,