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Rocky Mountaineer & stopover at Lake Louise

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Rocky Mountaineer & stopover at Lake Louise

I'm interested in doing the (very popular) combination of the Rocky Mountaineer trip & Alaska cruise. However, it seems that a lot of the tours I see only include a brief visit to Lake Louise as part of a coach excursion or similar. To begin with, I'm trying to avoid any trip where we're herded about like cattle and have to pay extra for helicopter trips, city tours and so on - I'd rather we just got taken somewhere and were left to our own devices to explore. The other thing (and the focus of my question if I ever stop digressing) is that Lake Louise seems to be so jaw-droppingly spectacular that I'd like to spend a night or two there. Can anyone advise on the best way to do this, ie do the two-day Rocky Mountaineer trip but make a detour to Lake Louise for a day or two. I'm not sure if it's best to seek out a tailor-made tour company that could put this itinerary together for me or just try to go it alone somehow. Any thoughts?

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1. Re: Rocky Mountaineer & stopover at Lake Louise

Scenic Tours has a deal this next yr where you can go to Lk Louise. All their options are included but I'm afraid you won't like the 'herded' mentality. Take the Rm to Banff Vs Jasper and rent a car. Then you'll only be 45 minutes away from Lk Louise. Its easy to do. The RM is a nice train ride but not necessarily the 'best' way to see the Rockies.

Greater Sydney...
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2. Re: Rocky Mountaineer & stopover at Lake Louise

G'day spooky, and welcome to the Canada forums.

Good advice as always from davidgmg, and as he is a regular tour guide for the such organised tours, not to be ignored.

I totally agree that, with your expressed wishes, an organised tour is NOT for you. I am no fan of the Rocky Mountaineer as I consider it to be a rip-off. Two days on the RM costs about the same a a seven day Alaska cruise. I accept that many enjoy that trip, but they do not get the freedom that you seek.

Give some serious consideration to doing a self-organised road trip, even if just while in the Rockies. The cruise bit could also very easily be self-organised. You will not find any packages including all heli flights and other excursions, either in the Rockies or on a cruise, but if you are prepared to do a bit of research you will find that there are some wonderful people on the Alberta, BC and Alaska forums prepared to advise and assist. It really is not too hard.

If concerned about driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, although I see that you are an experienced traveller to the US, please don't be concerned for Alberta and BC. That is where I got my first experience after 40+ years driving here in Aust on the same side as you do.

If you might seriously consider such a trip I would recommend a minimum of five days in the Rockies, spread between Banff (45 mins from LL as said) and Jasper. LL for a romantic night might be OK, but accommodation is limited, and mostly expensive, with nothing to do of an evening. Seven days would be even better. You could consider flying into Calgary and hiring a car for the Rockies, then take a few days as well to drive to Vancouver to drop the car off there. The downside is that there may be a one-way drop-off fee for that. I have read that the England based Canadian Affair may offer car hire without a one-way drop off fee. Here is one such mention of that:


I know it is off topic a bit for this forum, but for an Alaska cruise you should read this thread which is a Top Question on the Alaska forum:


Please come back with your thoughts and we will advise further, but for the cruise please post on the Alaska forum and for Vancouver and a trip through BC on the BC forum.

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3. Re: Rocky Mountaineer & stopover at Lake Louise

Hi there,

First the Rocky Mountaineer. As mentioned the RM is not necessarily the best way to see the Rockies, however since you plan on combining it with an Alaska cruise, I'd say fly into Calgary, rent a car for a few days do the Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary circuit. That way you see a lot of the Rockies and quite a bit of the Prairies - if people tell you that the prairies are boring, don't believe it - and you pick up the RM at Calgary for the trip to Vancouver. Since, by then, you already have hundreds of pictures of the Rockies there's no need to go Gold Leaf on the RM (the only way to go if you want good unobstructed pictures!).

On that Alaska cruise Holland America runs one that includes a land portion in southern Alaska and then picks up the return trip of the White Pass & Yukon route. We were on the standard cruise this past May, I'd recommend late July and August; unless you want to see how much snow remains in White Pass. ;) :)

If you're interested in getting a taste of what it is like along the different Rocky Mountaineer routes check out my RM album https://vimeo.com/album/101192 on Vimeo. I've been chasing the RM since 2009, there are 17 videos of different duration.



Calgary, Canada
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4. Re: Rocky Mountaineer & stopover at Lake Louise

I would never argue that the prairies are boring. However, for someone with a limited budget (either of time or of money), I would definitely prioritize the Rockies above Calgary, Edmonton, or Red Deer, or popular prairie destinations like Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Royal Tyrrell Museum, or Dinosaur Provincial Park.

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5. Re: Rocky Mountaineer & stopover at Lake Louise

Lake Louise is by no means the only jaw dropping sight in the Rockies!

If you load Mike Neenan's Picasa album (which I have his OK for), you can make your own mind up by clicking on his Rockies 2010 gallery:


It's all annotated so you know where everything is.

An alternative to the RM is taking the Skeena from Prince Rupert to Jasper (2 days/750 miles at much less cost but lower standard than the RM).

To get to P Rupert, take an onward flight from Vancouver (whether you stay there or not) and if you don't leave YVR airport, you will be in Jasper on day 3 (after a rest night in PR) with the Rockies to Banff in prospect.

Check my TA Wow on the header 'top questions' on the BC forum to get a feel for it. The one way costs as little as under £100 pp but paying the extra for 'tourist' allows access to the Panorama car (similar to RM Gold Leaf but not as lux) and includes food which is difficult to arrange in the 'coach' class, especially if you are late into Prince George where you must arrange your accommodation.


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6. Re: Rocky Mountaineer & stopover at Lake Louise

Just a couple of personal observations/comments:-

Lake Louise is truly beautiful but as Acheson Topeka said, it is one of very many beautiful sights in The Rockies. We stayed overnight at The Deer Lodge about a 5min. walk from the lake and a memory I will treasure for ever is the morning after our arrival when my husband pulled back the curtain and I awoke to view a snowcapped mountain just across the road from our room. After 10 days in The Rockies, I almost got lockjaw - my mouth was open in wonderment for most of the time!

The drive from Lake Louise/Banff to Jasper is spectacular. We did this trip on two separate holidays and I got the same thrill the second time as I did the first time I experienced it. We travelled with Brewster & Sun Dog

We have travelled on the RM (both Red and Gold Leaf) and my best photographs were taken from the open viewing platform on Red Leaf. We travelled in June and so it was not overcrowded. While I enjoyed the views from the Gold Leaf dome, I felt more at one with the scenery riding in the open air on Red Leaf. There was no problem with reflections through the glass either!

The food in Red Leaf was enjoyable and served at our seat (similar to airline travel). Meals on Gold Leaf are served in a separate dining car and are akin to eating in a restaurant (crisp tablecloths, good china and cutlery, etc.) A very nice experience but I was itching to get back out and see the scenery. Just a personal viewpoint.

The Skeena train journey from Jasper to Prince Rupert travels through some amazing scenery (especially on the 2nd day after an overnight in Prince George).

I can't comment on an Inside Passage cruise but we travelled this waterway using the Alaska Marine Highway system, stopping off at Ketchikan, Juneau, Haines and Skagway for a few nights each.

I don't think it is possible to pick up a cruise ship in Prince Rupert though.

We travelled without a car and managed to see a considerable amount of Canada and Alaska fairly easily. However, the next time we visit we shall probably hire a car/RV in order to explore even further afield.

Just a thought: if you are 60+, it should be possible to get a concession on the Skeena train. We booked tourist class (food and hotel accommodation included) and the discount more than made up for the difference between tourist and coach class.

Edited: 08 November 2012, 00:13
7. Re: Rocky Mountaineer & stopover at Lake Louise

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