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Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

Wabash
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Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

I have been looking at various tours (Caravan and Tauck), but think we'd like the freedom of just going on our own. My husband and I are in our 60's and don't mind driving, but I have concerns about mountain driving. I've read about narrow roads with drop-offs on the drive up to Jasper, and wonder how bad it really is. Any advice would be helpful.

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

Hi SteelerFanTransplant ~

When you say "on the drive up to Jasper," not sure if you mean the road between Banff and Jasper (the Icefields Parkway) or some other highway. But if you mean the Icefields Parkway, you will have no problem whatsoever.

It would be helpful to post a general idea of your itinerary to get the best advice and to say when you are coming, how long you are planning to visit. You would have no problems self driving - you are right, you'd have more flexibility and more opportunity to stop where you like.

seattle
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2. Re: Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

you couldn't have picked two most divergent companies to compare. Caravan does a very quick budget tour of the Rockies and Glacier. Tauck is extremely high end and while the hotels are nice the included activities and sightseeing are remarkably lame.

If you drive the highways are fine and no 'scary' parts. Very few twisty mountain roads except for the road to Moraine Lk. A tour takes all the guesswork out of it. I'm a tour guide so I know most tour itineraries pretty well. If you'd like to post a link to any itineraries that interest you I can comment.

Jasper, Canada
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3. Re: Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

The roads in the Canadian Rocky Mountain national parks are quite tame - none of the main roads fit your description of "narrow roads with drop-offs". Have a look at them with "street view" on google maps - that will hopefully put your mind at ease.

Highway 16 which comes to Jasper from the east and west is a major national route - it has also been designated the "TransCanada highway", like highway 1 further south (through Banff and Lake Louise), and has lots of large truck traffic (they often choose that route from the prairies to the coast because the grades over Yellowhead Pass are much less than Kicking Horse and Rogers Passes on the TCH #1). Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway, is a wide, well-engineered highway with paved shoulders that mainly follows valley bottoms, although it does go over a few high points along the way - from north to south, Tangle Hill near the Columbia Icefields (which will be a construction zone this summer), Sunwapta Pass, Bow Summit. Any place where the road is not on the valley bottom but up above has guardrails. Most of the road has a 90 km/hr speed limit, except for the Tangle hill section which is 50 km/hr, and a few other spots where slower limits have been set because of congestion or a lot of turning traffic.

There are some secondary roads in the parks that have winding stretches, but nothing truly hairy. The Cavell Road here in Jasper NP has several tight switchbacks at the very bottom - vehicles over 7 metres cannot navigate them (tours can't go there in their buses, so they miss one of the highlights of Jasper NP). There are also some tight switchbacks on the Yoho valley road in Yoho NP.

Wabash
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4. Re: Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

I am also looking at Grand European's Canada's Rockies

getours.com

We don't need to stay in five star hotels; clean, medium priced hotels in good locations are key.

As far as the option of a self-drive tour, we'd be flying in/out Calgary Airport. I'm thinking of staying the first night in Calgary, drive to Jasper for 2-3 nights, one night at Lake Louise, and 2-3 nights in Banff. Would probably stay last night near Calgary Airport. In your opinion, is this enough time to hit all the "must sees"? We enjoy sightseeing, short hikes, shops. We're a retired couple, so time isn't an issue.

Thanks for the advice.

Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

My dad went to Peru with this outfit and had a great time. He was in his 70s at the time and most of the rest of the travelers were retired.

gadventures.com/trips/…

Hmmm - on closer examination, they do this one as a camping trip. Probably quite comfortable camping, but that may not be what you are looking for.

Edited: 11 February 2012, 16:48
seattle
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6. Re: Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

grand European is owned by trafalgar so basiclly the same tour. Most tours do stay Banff 2 nites, LL one nite and Jasper two. You can see and do a lot in that time but obviously adding time in each city will give you way more flexibility.

for a lot of sightseeing and some free time look at

goaheadtours.com

Gap adventures I thought was more for the younger crowd.

Wabash
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7. Re: Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

Thank you krp329 for road conditions. I became concerned about driving conditions when reading Canadian Rockies, Driving in the Mountains on TripAdvisor. It states that from Lake Louise to Revelstoke (or Jasper) via Hwy 93 Icefields Parkway, the highway becomes more narrow, more steep, more winding, and with more steep drop-offs. . . We aren't timid drivers, having driven around Chicago, Smokey Mountains, the winding road from Sedona to Grand Canyon, but "drop-offs" do concern me.

San Antonio, Texas
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8. Re: Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

I would not take a tour. It is too easy to get around in the park and you have the freedom of your own schedule.

Edited: 11 February 2012, 18:21
Vancouver, Canada
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9. Re: Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

We don't actually know when you are thinking of doing this? Obviously sometime in tour bus season and I'm guessing summer from one of your replies on another thread, but it would be good to have clarification on this.

Given your itinerary in #4, my vote goes for self drive.

Here's a sample of a small section of the Icefields Parkway. ~4 minutes. The IP was built mostly along the valley floor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLDNSFfgBe4

Wabash
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10. Re: Canadian Rockies tour versus on our own

Thinking of late August to just after Labor Day. Wanting to minimize crowds, but hoping for decent weather.