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driving trip through rockies down to seattle

Adelaide, Australia
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driving trip through rockies down to seattle

Hi, We will be in canada in early July and are contemplating driving from vancouver into the rockies then maybe into montana and back to vancouver via seattle. We'll have about 8 days. Is this feasible/worth doing? can anyone suggest a route? what will camping/accomodation be like this this time of year? If we had a campervan do people use parks or just find a quiet spot to overnight? We are a family of 5 with kids 17, 15 and 13.

Thanks!

West Grey, Ontario
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1. Re: driving trip through rockies down to seattle

Welcome to TripAdvisor, Greg;

There are some car rental companies that will not permit their cars out of the province or out of the country, or charge a premium if they do. Most of the larger rental companies will allow cross border travel.

Ensure that the car rental company notes on the rental agreement that they authorize you to take the car into the US. You may be asked by Customs when entering the US, or when re-entering Canada, for this documentation.

Some companies offer unlimited mileage, but only within Canada. The rental company will use the onboard GPS to track your usage. The extra per mile charges can add up quickly, so be sure to ask in advance.

FYI...As a citizens of Australia, upon entering the US you will be required to obtain an I-94W visa waiver as an addition to your passport. To obtain the waiver, you will be photographed, fingerprinted, and pay a fee of $6 US.

The I-94W visa waiver will be attached to your passport, and must be surrendered when you leave the United States. This may be a card that is stapled into your passport, or it may be “electronically” attached.

The process of obtaining the I-94W waiver takes on average ½ an hour.

Best Regards

Greater Sydney...
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2. Re: driving trip through rockies down to seattle

G'day Greg, and welcome to the Trip Advisor forums.

The short answer to whether it is feasible is categorically NO in my opinion. It seems like a Cannonball Run proposal to me. Can it be done - probably.

To get some perspective, by the shortest route to the Rockies at Banff the distance is about 850kms and estimated drive only time of about 10.5hrs. Not knowing where you are considering in Montana, I plotted a route on Google maps to Great Falls and that would be about 650kms and 7.5hrs drive only time. From Great Falls to Seattle is about 1050kms, 11hrs, and Seattle to Vancouver is 226kms, 2.75hrs plus border crossing time.

We spent seven days in the Rockies alone and could have spent more time there. As a general rule 6/7 days in the Rockies gives an overview of that wonderful region, split between Banff and Jasper, without much time for hiking (if interested).

Sorry Greg, but I think that it is a pure drive-by proposal and suggest that you might like to research the regions further.

That is my opinion, and others may not agree.

Edited: 11 January 2012, 14:01
Port Moody, Canada
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3. Re: driving trip through rockies down to seattle

Frommy ( wave) who should be an unofficial DE for here ;) has hit the nail on the head. This will be a drive by trip only. Do Not Do It. If you only have 8 days either fly into and out of Calgary and rent a car there and do a circle or fly into vancouver spend one day max rent a car and drive to the Rockies and then fly out of calgary.

What's your complete time in Canada? are you going to be in other areas? on cruise? more info would help us help you.

Edited: 11 January 2012, 15:34
Kootenays, British...
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4. Re: driving trip through rockies down to seattle

Don't be put off by the nay-sayers!

The shortest route is to forget Banff and go across Hwy #3 to Pincher Creek and down to Waterton Park where you will want to spend at least one night. You could drive that from Vancouver in one long day (10-12 hours) or, more practically, two days with ample time for sightseeing en route. You can cross the border just south of Waterton (I've never done that route) or go over to Milk River and cross to the USA there. You will be on Peigan (Blackfoot) land there and your kids may well find learning a little of the history of this proud warrior nation very interesting. Depending on how adventurous you are (and what your rental contract provides) You can turn on the Going to the Sun Hwy. at St. Mary's and go through Glacier Park (you'll want to o/n there); or head south to the #2 and cross the south boundary of the park. Lots of campsites in that area as well.

Depending on where you want to spend time, on the return route you can drop down to Flathead Lake and stop and see the mission at St Ignatius. Generally trend westward through Kalispell & Libby to Bonner's Ferry. You can then head south through Spokane or north back into Canada at Creston (back on Hwy #3). Bonner's Ferry to Seattle is a (long) day drive (the last 2/3 on an easy driving major freeway); but, again, there's lots to see on the route so you may want to budget more time.

You will be in the mountains most of the trip but in 'the Rockies' proper from Cranbrook to Kalispell (about 1/3 of the trip).

I think you are looking at ~35+/- hours total driving. It is a lot of driving but you can break it up and you will certainly see a lot of very diverse country. I think it sounds like a great adventure and I would highly recommend it. You will see some of the more interesting areas off the usual tourist track of 'Vancouver to Banff'.

Camping will be lots of fun that time of year (bear in mind that the weather in the mountains is highly variable and unpredictable). You may want to reserve in the national parks of the US and Canada (ie. Waterton and Glacier). I know there are restrictions about the use of the Going to the Sun Hwy (dates, length of vehicle etc.) so check them out on the national park website.

Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: driving trip through rockies down to seattle

Welcome to the Forums, Greg!

First of all, I would also seriously discourage you from doing this trip. Well, you could do it but you would have no time to stop and enjoy anywhere, really. It's so tempting to try to see something of both countries while you are here, right? This is what you would be missing if you missed spending time in the Rockies:

www.icefieldsparkway.ca

It's highly unlikely that you have just 8 days in Canada. There's got to be something before this leg and after as well. Knowing more context would make a difference to the advice you will get.

Depending on that, you might get advice to fly from Vancouver to Calgary and then spend all 8 days in the Rockies. Rent a car, not a camper or RV, and divide your time 4 nights in Banff and 3 nights in Jasper. Drive down the IP again, southbound, and depart for Aust from Calgary, perhaps via Vancouver if necessary. Again, hard to advise without a better picture of what is already in place. What, if anything have you already booked?

The most common advice for visiting the Rockies from Vancouver, given min 2 weeks:

4 nights Vancouver

1 night on the way to the Rockies

8 nights in the Rockies

either 1 night back to Vancouver using a different route, or driving 1.5 hours from Banff to Calgary airport for departure.

Vancouver, Canada
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6. Re: driving trip through rockies down to seattle

Well, as Redtrail put it, you could do it. But I think the question is: why would you want to? You'll miss more than you see, which is, IMHO, just a waste of time and money. Personally, I hate driving by everything thinking "Oh, don't have time to stop and see that." "Nope, don't have time to stop and see that"

With 8 days, you can do a fair job of Vancouver-Jasper-Banff-Vancouver. But only a fair job. If you plan on 3 nights in Jasper and 3 nights in Banff, that will give you two full days to see the sights and features around that area before you move on.

A one way trip between Vancouver and Calgary gives you a bit more time to see the sights that exist in between. With only 8 days, that would be my recommendation.

the overflow
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7. Re: driving trip through rockies down to seattle

Hey Greg...will be around at a similar time..

take a good look at the redtrail post

beware the mainline banff-jasper crowd round here

for an iconclastic view see..

tripadvisor.com.au/ShowTopic-g153339-i49-k50…

Port Moody, Canada
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8. Re: driving trip through rockies down to seattle

Clancydrover..we seem to be mainly Banff Jasper if people have never been to the Rockies.. but there are also a lot of recommendations for Kootenays/Chilcotin/Wells grey/Waterton lakes etc if the OP expresses interest. I also note you have been to Banff Jasper..and are now looking for other adventures..I have driven all the routes we mention in the article about driving Vancouver to Banff and I stand by the suggestion that the op will spend the majority of his time in a car. Road trips are great and I love doing them.. but if the op is coming to spend time in the Rockies as opposed to just doing a road trip then he'll get very different advice. Driving through the mountains is slow..even when you speed. Yes I can drive vancouver calgary in under 11 hours.. do I want to recommend to a visitor that this is a great way to see the Rockies? no. Have also driven to Glacier, driven much of the route that Redtrail suggest and it does make for a great road trip... which is a drive by and look at the mountains sort of trip with the odd stop. Really need to hear more from the op as to what they want out of the trip.

Vancouver, Canada
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9. Re: driving trip through rockies down to seattle

Greg, I think that the distances for the trip you are contemplating are greater and the roads slower-going than you might think from just looking at a map. We, too, have driven different parts of your route at different times. I cannot imagine enjoying the experience (particularly with 3 teenagers in the car) in 8 days. Why not cut out the US portion of your trip (with apologies to any US readers following this discussion), land in Vancouver, drive through to Calgary and fly home from Calgary (or do the trip in reverse), as has been suggested? There is lots to do along the way. The teenagers will not be bored! Presumably, they will not be flying this far just to sit in the back of a car for all that time listening to their I-Pods? (Or, perhaps I am just being naive?)

Vancouver, Canada
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10. Re: driving trip through rockies down to seattle

Another option entirely is to forget Canada, fly into Seattle. With 8 days you could cover Seattle, the Olympic Peninsula, Whidbey Island, and perhaps get down to Cannon Beach in Oregon to experience the Pacific Ocean. Or include the San Juan Islands and perhaps Skagit Valley which surrounds the Skagit River. Here is the Skagit River system which could take you to a couple of American National Parks.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skagit_River

Seattle has a number of attractions good for 3 nights, one of which I would highly recommend is the Ballard Locks. The whole neighbourhood is marine oriented, with a history of Scandinavian folks. Official name is Hiram Chittenden Locks:

tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60878-d31…

You will need to post on the Washington State Forum for information about this option.

Note: Itchy posted while I was typing.

Edited: 12 January 2012, 01:32