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Portland OR to Banff to Jasper to Vancouver

Portland, OR
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Portland OR to Banff to Jasper to Vancouver

Hi! I would love input for our June trip. Our family of 5 (kids ages 16, 15 and 12) are traveling from Portland to Penticton the first day (June 16). Should we drive directly to Banff the second day? If we stopped for a night in between Penticton and Banff, where do you suggest? We were thinking about making Moraine Lake our home base for site seeing around Banff/Lake Louise. Three nights? We then were going to to up to Jasper for 2 nights and then head over to Vancouver. We need to be in Vancouver by the morning of the 24th. Any relatively flat bike rides to suggest on this itinerary? We don't mind going up to 40 miles, but flat would be nice. Any other advice? Thanks!

Calgary, Canada
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1. Re: Portland OR to Banff to Jasper to Vancouver

Welcome to TripAdvisor, Chris!

It will take 8 hours of driving (not including stops for food, fuel, washrooms, and scenic viewpoints) to get to Banff from Penticton. If you decide to break the trip, Revelstoke would be a good spot to do it, and it's at the midway point. The Revelstoke Railway Museum is a nice place to visit, and you could spend some time checking out Mt Revelstoke National Park, just east of the town, before you hit the road again the next day.

In my opinion, Moraine Lake would make a poor home base for your trip. Moraine Lake is a very popular destination, and the parking lot there can be quite full; you'll be there in mid-June, which means it will be quieter, but it could be a problem to pop in and out. Also, the only thing at Moraine Lake is Moraine Lake Lodge and their restaurant. There is no shopping or other dining. Moraine Lake Lodge is a wonderful place to stay - but only if you're interested in the Moraine Lake experience of hiking around the area, canoeing on the lake, and relaxing at the lodge. And there may be some ice lingering on the lake (although it should be mostly thawed) and the trails around the area could be covered with snow or just plain wet and mushy. (Most hiking trails at this elevation aren't in good condition until early July.)

I think the Banff townsite would be a better base for your family - it's only 45 minutes to the east of Moraine Lake Lodge, has a ton of dining and shopping options for the end of the day's exploration, and you will be going into the Banff area anyway, to see sights like Vermilion Lakes, Bow Falls, Tunnel Mountain, the Cave & Basin, Banff gondola, Lake Minnwanka, Whyte Museum, Johnston Canyon, etc.

One night at Lake Louise or Moraine Lake Lodge will give you a good opportunity to see those lakes after the crowds leave in the afternoon and before the crowds arrive in the morning.

Edited: 10 April 2012, 10:33
Jasper, Canada
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for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
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2. Re: Portland OR to Banff to Jasper to Vancouver

Besides the issues raised by Country_Wife, have you looked at the rates and policies for Moraine Lake Lodge? http://www.morainelake.com/rates/ They do include breakfast (and afternoon tea, canoeing, and hiking with their naturalist), but their reservation page states that their rooms hold either 2 or 3 people maximum (which means you will need two rooms), and the cheapest room during your dates is $349 per night (and taxes will be extra). So you're looking at over $700 per night. They also state: "We welcome children who have developed an interest in the outdoors and are over the age of eight." To me, this is a clear signal from the hotel management that it is not a particularly "child friendly" place (and actually, discriminating on the basis of age or family status is illegal under human rights legislation).

Portland, OR
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3. Re: Portland OR to Banff to Jasper to Vancouver

Ooh, thanks so much for both your input. We will look to stay in Banff then. Our youngest is 12, but we do not enjoy shooshing our kids. Any thoughts on bike rides? Three nights in Banff and two in Jasper good? Thanks so much!

Jasper, Canada
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4. Re: Portland OR to Banff to Jasper to Vancouver

There are lots of bike rides around (mostly on trails), but the tricky bit in the mountains is the "flat" part. ;-) Banff has a new, paved path that runs in the Bow valley alongside the highway... I forget what it is called but perhaps one of the Banff posters will pop in with more information.

Here in Jasper, one reasonably flat ride is from town, past Old Fort Point, take the back road (closed to vehicles) into the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, and then to Lakes Annette and Edith. Actually, you can make a loop of it, by continuing east on the Lodge road to the highway, and then taking the connector trail back to town (you'll see the pedestrian crossing for the trail right near the intersection). I'm not sure of the mileage (kilometrage?) but it would be much less than 40 miles (which is ~60 km) ... it's maybe about 12 to 15 km. But you could make a lot of stops along the way - you can hike the 4 km loop at Old Fort Point, watch the rafts come in (the pull-out is right at the base of OFP), have coffee or refreshments on the terrace at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, walk the trail around Lake Annette (your kids could even go swimming at the beach... in my experience, cold water doesn't deter kids that much) ...

Be sure to *always* lock your bikes, even if you are only leaving them for a minute ... bike theft is fairly prevalent; lots of temporary residents don't have vehicles and some are not above "borrowing" an unlocked bike.

Two nights in Jasper is a bit short, considering that you will probably spend all or most of the day you arrive on the Icefields Parkway, driving from Lake Louise, and that will leave you only one day for sightseeing and/or activities in the rest of Jasper National Park. It's about a 3-hour drive from LL to Jasper, but there are so many lakes, waterfalls, viewpoints etc. to stop at. Be sure you have plenty of gas in your car, and pack a picnic lunch and beverages... services along the parkway are few, and the food services are underwhelming, expensive and often crowded with tour buses. There are lots of beautiful picnic areas along the way.

Edited: 10 April 2012, 19:23
Portland, OR
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5. Re: Portland OR to Banff to Jasper to Vancouver

Thanks so much for your valuable input! I just booked two nights at Baker Creek Chalets for our first two nights in Banff/LL area. Should I book three nights in Jasper area then? Or a third night in Banff area before heading up? Appreciate the bike info. We were going to bring our bikes, but I think renting is a good idea as I don't want to worry about our bikes on the back of our car every time we stop...

Jasper, Canada
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6. Re: Portland OR to Banff to Jasper to Vancouver

Two nights or three? I guess it depends on what you want to do while you are here. Popular sightseeing attractions here in Jasper National Park other than the Icefields Parkway include the Maligne valley (Athabasca Overlook, Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake, Maligne Lake), Miette Hot Springs and the Jasper Tramway. (The road to Mt. Edith Cavell may not yet be open when you are here.) You could squeeze all that into one day, I suppose, or, if you had an extra day, you could do the tramway and the Maligne valley one day (and have time for trails at both, and a more leisurely experience). The bike loop I suggested could be an almost all-day thing, if you take full advantage of the stops and hikes I mentioned - and a soak in the hotsprings afterwards would be nice (the hot springs are an hour's drive from town).

Bike rentals for a family of five won't be cheap (although there is one Jasper shop that has them for $8 per hour - so $40 per hour for all of you; most of them are $30 - $70 each per day). Unless you have a valuable bike on your car carrier (which would attract a different kind of thief), can you not lock them to the carrier, or all together? I think they would be unlikely to be stolen. Bike theft here is mainly just a crime of opportunity by someone usually looking for a quicker way to get somewhere ... you lean your bike up against a building downtown to pop into a store for a minute, and when you come out, it's not there. Usually, they wind up abandoned at either end of town, near the apartments or condos that are rented as staff accommodation. One of my kids had her bike stolen three times... we found it twice ... the third time, when she left the (cheap) replacement bike unlocked again and it too was stolen and we could not find it, that was the end of parent-bought bikes and instead of a five minute ride to school, she had a twenty minute walk.

I was hesitant to mention bike theft because I was worried it would be taken out of context... again, I do want to stress that while there is a fair bit of bike theft, it's almost always unlocked bikes. I doubt this type of theft would occur if the thief had to figure out how to remove it from a car carrier (and probably untangle it from all the other bikes you have!) However, if you have expensive bikes, then no, I would not suggest leaving them unattended, even locked, in a carrier, or even in a vehicle. My husband has an expensive road bike, and it lives in the house when he's not riding it, and when we travel with it, it rides in the vehicle with us, and stays in the hotel room.

The other consideration about bikes ... when you are staying at Baker Creek, you or your kids might want to take little cycling excursions along the Bow Valley Parkway. It's not that flat (it's the old highway, so much more rolling than the new one), but it's fairly quiet in terms of traffic (and slow - speed limit is 60 km/hr, if I recall correctly.) And there may be other times during your holiday when you might like to have bikes.

One other thing I'll mention - although it's not a tourist attraction per se, but always fun for families and quite inexpensive - we have a lovely indoor Aquatic Centre here in Jasper, with a 25 metre pool, a water slide, steam room and hot tub (there's also a "kiddie pool", but your kids are probably all beyond that now).... always a good option on a rainy evening, or if you don't want to drive to the hot springs.

Banff, Canada
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for Banff, Lake Louise
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7. Re: Portland OR to Banff to Jasper to Vancouver

I would recommend traveling from Penticton to Banff - that way you'll get more time to enjoy the National Park(s).

Two nights at Baker Creek is lovely! But this will only "yield" 1 day in the Banff and Lake Louise area, which isn't enough. I would recommend enjoying your day at Baker Creek - it's magical and it's a great place to explore Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. But, please - give yourself more time! Why not travel to Banff and stay for 2 nights? Or, if you don't want to change accommodation - stay at Baker Creek for 4 nights. Again, 4 nights is only giving you 3 days.

Banff is a nice contrast to Baker Creek and there's a lot to see and do - please, take the time to enjoy this area. It takes time! There are 4 National Park(s) to explore in the Banff area.

Also, you'll need one full day to drive and enjoy the Icefields Parkway. If your kids are 12, 15 and 16 then I would highly recommend and early start and recommend doing 2 things:

1. Hike Parker's Ridge.

2. Take the kids on a tour of the glaciers: www.explorerockies.com/columbia-icefield/

You can do both in a day, but you'll need that early start. There's a lot to see and do on this road and you'll be stopping many, many times for viewpoints and photo opportunities. You'll be arriving in Jasper late in the day or early evening.

In Jasper - you'll want 2 full days as well. These are enormous National Park(s), budget the time you need to enjoy them.

Vancouver, Canada
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8. Re: Portland OR to Banff to Jasper to Vancouver

Portland to Penticton, if that is your plan for driving on the first day will take 8-9 hours, stops extra. If you cut off east to Wenatchee and up to Osoyoos, you will have little problem with congestion at the border south of Osoyoos, so no additional time to factor in, and the crossing will be open 24 hours

Edited: 11 April 2012, 03:38
9. Re: Portland OR to Banff to Jasper to Vancouver

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