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Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

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Sydney, Australia
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Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

Hi early next June we will be on a road trip with friends and trying to work it all out. After staying in Jasper National Park (nothing booked yet) for a couple of days we are planning to see the Athabasca Falls before leaving for Vancouver. Just trying to figure out the quickest way to get to Vancouver from the Athabasca Falls by any mode. We have to get there to pick up an Alaskan cruise.

Can anyone help please?

Thanks!

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1. Re: Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

G'day Jane,

The answer would be to fly from Calgary. It would be about 10 hours by car, non-stop. I trust you plan to arrive in Vancouver the day before the cruise?

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2. Re: Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

Thanks yes we will be arriving in Vancouver approximately a couple of days before the cruise. My husband is wondering about Edmonton airport. Would that also work as we would have already been to Calgary in the preceding days?

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3. Re: Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

Athabasca Falls is about 30 mins from Jasper and Jasper to Edmonton is about 4 hours, and from what I have read previously quite a boring drive for the most part. The drive to Calgary would be about the same length of time, but a much more interesting drive, however you must have driven the Icefields Parkway at least in one direction, so going in the other direction might hold some attraction. The IP is always worth driving more than once though, and the views are different in each direction.

Jasper resident, and DE, krp, has previously advised that in the summer months they always fly from Calgary due to the drive being more attractive, while in winter they fly from Edmonton as there is less risk of road closure due to snow falls. That would not worry you in June.

I think that flights from Calgary are a bit more frequent than from Edmonton. Flight time is about the same at approx 1.5 hours, and so are the prices I am seeing on SkyScanner. Both airports are only serviced by Air Canada or WestJet.

If it were me, I would choose Calgary for the same reasons as krp - the drive there.

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4. Re: Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

Some late thoughts. I think more information may help us to more fully understand your plans and provide the best advice. I appreciate that you are probably tucked away by now, so most others will not see any response tonight, but can you advise the following:

1. Are you driving a rental car and, if so, where did you rent it from? If Calgary there could be a quite substantial saving to return the car to the same location and avoid a one-way drop off fee.

2. Where would you have driven from on the day to get to Athabasca Falls?

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5. Re: Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

Athabasca Falls is located 30 km south of Jasper on highway 93N, the Icefields Parkway. They are easily visited as a short excursion while visiting Jasper - the falls are about a half-hour drive from town. When you drive from Calgary to Jasper, you will drive right by it. If you are planning to drive to Edmonton, Athabasca Falls would be a detour - after viewing the falls, you would have to drive back to Jasper townsite, and then head east on highway 16 to Edmonton.

There are only three roads into Jasper and I have already mentioned two of them. The remaining one, highway 16 west is the quickest way to drive to Vancouver from Jasper ... first you head west on #16, and then after approximately an hour of driving, you turn south on BC's highway 5, toward Kamloops. After Kamloops (five hours from Jasper), you have a choice of several routes to Vancouver; the quickest of these is about another three hours.

To summarize, the quickest driving route from Jasper to Vancouver is about eight hours of straight driving. Edmonton airport is a four hour drive away, via a fairly dull drive, at least, speaking of the scenery, but the "easiest" in terms of time and driving, since almost all of this drive is four-lane divided highway (except for the first 45 minutes within Jasper National Park). Calgary is a five hour drive from Jasper, via the Icefields Parkway and then highway 1 east via Lake Louise and Banff. You can also get to Vancouver by heading west on highway 1 at Lake Louise; again, at Kamloops, you have a choice of routes - the more scenic #1 or the faster #5; this is about a 12 -14 hour drive, depending on which route you take beyond Kamloops.

Have a look at the various options on www.maps.google.com Here is a map with the quickest route to Vancouver plotted, as well as Jasper to Athabasca Falls. http://goo.gl/maps/OlvAV

In short, the fastest way to get to Vancouver from Jasper is to drive to Edmonton airport and then take a flight. But this is the least scenic route, and does not take you past Athabasca Falls.

There is also a train to Vancouver three times a week in summer - www.viarail.ca

Edited: 04 November 2013, 14:31
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6. Re: Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

Dear Frommy and Krp29

Thank you for your help so far. Here is a brief summary of our road trip. There will be 8 adults:

29 May (1 night Calgary) - Fly into Calgary late that night from Cancun. Pick up rental vehicle

30, 31 May, 1 June (3 nights Banff or Lake Louise?) - spend the day looking around Calgary, bobsleigh at Canada Olympic Park, visit Gasoline Alley. Late afternoon on 30 May, drive to Banff (about 2 hours) or Lake Louise. Still TBC. Base ourselves for 3 nights. Gondola, Brewsters Adventures, White water rafting, zipline

2 June (1 night Jasper), Drive to Jasper, see Moraine Lake, Maligne Canyon

3,4,5 June (3 nights Vancouver), See Athabasca Falls (this very likely is to change now after reading your replies) Head to Edmonton airport and fly to Vancouver. I did check out the train but it will take too long.

Whilst in Vancouver: 4 June, pick up rental vehicle and drive for Whistler as a day trip

5 June, Girls to have high tea at VanDusen Gardens, boys to catch the ferry to Seattle to see the Boeing Factory

6 June, cruise departs

How does this sound? Should we ditch one night in Banff/Lake Louise and spend the extra time to drive to Vancouver and take 2 days to get there? I'm not looking forward to a 4 hour dull drive to Edmonton airport!

Thanks again for any help.

Jane

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7. Re: Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

G'day Jane,

And here I was wondering what I would do for the next half hour or so? :) Some observations on your itinerary, and I do hope that it is only a draft outline, are in order. I hope you don't mind. BTW we travelled the same region a few years ago at nearly the same time as you are planning.

30/5 Have you investigated being able to get a vehicle to carry 8 people, AND luggage? Also keep in mind my previous observations about a one-way drop-off fee. At that time of the year the temperatures would be like we out here in the SW Sydney region experience overnight in mid winter, or even a bit colder, although we experienced good weather during most days, but not one where either a light jacket or two was not needed. At one point about 6/6 while in the Rockies the temp was down to 1c around midday and there were snow flurries.

30/5 - 1/6 Lake Louise is only 45 mins from Banff, is very expensive, and there is very little there apart from the lake, the Chateau and a few hotels. Oh, and a very small shopping area, but apart from the Chateau nearly everything else is about 4 km away from the lake. LL is not even a village, and there is nothing to do there at night. Go with Banff. LL would also still be expected to be only partially thawed at that time as well.

2/6 The drive from Banff or LL to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway is rated by National Geographic Travel as one of the top 20 must do drives in the world. Even though you could cover the distance in about 3.5 hrs, there is so much to see along the way the trip could easily take up to 10 well spent hours. So you arrive at Jasper (Moraine Lake is only a few kms from LL by the way, a long way from Jasper. The road to Moraine Lake may not even be open yet when you are there) and have very little time there on a one-nighter. We liked Jasper better than Banff. I would reckon two nights in Jasper would be well spent, even if it means taking a day out of either Banff or Vancouver.

3/6 You can easily see Athabasca Falls on your drive up the IP going to Jasper, along with all the other scenic spots of which there are far more than just Atabasca Falls. Flights from Edmonton to YVR are showing up on SkyScanner at about $220, and about the same from Calgary. Times 8 people ......... Gees.

3/6 - 6/6 We found Whistler to be very underwhelming after the Rockies. It is promoted very heavily here, but IMO it is a Thredbo type ski village, but on steroids.The same vehicle hire availability question is also valid. There is NO ferry from Vancouver to Seattle. The alternatives would be by road or Amtrak (if possible), but it would be an exceptionally long day trip either way.

The cruise 6/6. You only need to board early afternoon BTW. Assuming you are doing a round trip, that must be on HAL Zaandam. If you can alter your timing a bit I would suggest that HAL Zuiderdam sailing on 7/6 is on a better itinerary as it includes Glacier Bay National Park.

In summary, you are trying to do far too much in a short period of time. You are rushing the Rockies, paying through the nose to get a vehicle on a one-way, if you can find one, and then airfares. With more time you could enjoy the Rockies and do a two day road trip one-way to Vancouver, but only if you could find a vehicle to hire. A UK company called Canadian Affair can arrange one-ways without a drop-off between Calgary and Vancouver, which a few Ozzies have been successful in doing (normal car that is) but not between Calgary and Edmonton.

I really think that you need to do a bit more research, and a serious rethink. Sorry if I sound harsh, but I am only trying to be helpful.

Edited: 05 November 2013, 11:54
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8. Re: Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

Late May - early June is still the off season, so you may be able to get some nice deals on accommodation. I actually prefer to stay in Lake Louise because of the proximity to hiking and quieter surroundings. Yes, it doesn't have the shopping or dining choices of Banff, but it's a lot more peaceful and convenient to Yoho, Icefields, Banff, Route 1A and the Moraine Lake area. I've stayed in Lake Louise on 4 or 5 occasions, and only once spent more than $140 for a double room. The hostel also has private rooms at about the same cost, so you can do LL at a decent price if you want.

You might be able to get a very good deal on rooms in the Deer Lodge or even snag a sale on rooms at the Chateau. If you have a large group (not clear from this series of posts), it might be worth calling or e-mail a place like Deer Lodge and see if they are willing to make a deal. Especially if you are coming during the week, when they often don't fill up in the off season, you might luck out with an upgrade or better deal. Also check out places like Trip Advisor and Expedia, as hotels will often sell rooms at a better deal there than on their own website.

Moraine Lake is near Lake Louise - you are thinking of Maligne Lake which is near Jasper. Maligne Lake usually thaws in early June, so you will likely not know if the boat tours are a go until a few days before. Leave plenty of time for the road - it has a low speed limit and is twisty, plus you are going up in elevation so snow is likely to linger.

Moraine Lake is pretty, but the road may or may not be plowed out by the time you arrive. Usually that happens in late May, but it depends on the snow pack and the weather. I've been in LL in very late May/early June the last two years, and I think it was just plowed out both times. In terms of hiking, two years ago, I could only go as far as Mirror Lake because of the snow, last year I could get all the way out to the tea houses, but there was still quite a bit of snow on the Plain of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes.

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9. Re: Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

Lake Louise can be a great destination for easy access to hiking. But in late May / early June, there is still a lot of snow at the higher elevations. For hiking at that time of year, Banff would be a better base because it's at a lower elevation to start, and there are some nice hikes in the immediate area of the townsite that would be do-able then. It would definitely be much quieter in Lake Louise at this time than in the Banff townsite.

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10. Re: Quickest way from the Athabasca Falls to Vancouver

As mentioned, your single night's stay in Jasper probably won't allow you time to see the Maligne valley (the canyon and the lake) - spend the day enjoying the many stops along the Icefields Parkway, including Bow Summit/Peyto Lake (which will still have snow), the Columbia Icefields, Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Falls etc.. If you are energetic, you might consider a visit to Maligne Canyon in the evening ... daylight hours are long at that time of year and the canyon is only about a fifteen minute drive from town. The drive to the lake is almost an hour from town, so for a visit to the canyon and the lake (and not including the boat tour, which may not yet be open for the season), I would suggest a minimum of about 3 to 3.5 hours.

There are no ziplines within the national parks. I don't know if there are any just outside of Banff NP, or whether there are tour operators that offer excursions to one. Here in Jasper, there is one just outside the east gate of the park - you will pass it on your way to Edmonton. It's about a 40 minute drive from the town of Jasper.

Re: Lake Louise - note that most of the hotels are located within the "village" (not a real village/town, just a collection of visitor services) in the valley adjacent to the highway; the lake is 4 km away and about 200 metres uphill. The Chateau LL, Deer Lodge and Paradise Lodge Bungalows are located up at/near the lake (the CLL is on the lakeshore, the other two are within 1 km).