Help me elevate my trip through the Rockies
June 2, 2019 5:34 PM   Subscribe

I will be taking a once in a lifetime journey from Vancouver to Calgary for two weeks mid-end of June. I would love some help filling in some must sees, dos or eats.

Package with Rocky Mountaineer
Vancouver -> Kamloops -> Jasper (2 nights) -> Lake Louise (2 nights) -> Banff (2 nights) -> Calgary

The package already covers a lot of the must-sees!

- I don't drive (no license). I'm not adverse to walking or hopping on public transit to avoid taxis.
- I don't believe I'll have enough free time (or energy) to do any major hiking excursions.
- I'm an omnivore leaning more towards the carnivore end of the spectrum. I love bison and boar but I don't plan on overdosing and it's not like I can't get those at home (Montreal).
- I'm already spending a small fortune on this trip, so I'm not necessarily looking for the most expensive unless it is really really worth it.

Gaps in the itinerary:

Vancouver, Kamloops
I won't have much time in either city, what are some nice places to consider for supper?

I'll be staying at the Fairmont and probably will be dining at the Moose's Nook Chophouse, and the package includes a half-day sight-seeing tour.
Any other restaurants to consider?
I'm planning on doing a horseback guided tour, but would that be better in Lake Louise?

Between Jasper and Lake Louise, there is a tour through the Columbia Icefield (Ice Explorer to the Athabasca Glacier and the Skywalk).

Lake Louise
Again staying at the Fairmont, and will be dining at the Fairview. I think I'm good for restaurants here, I will also do an afternoon tea.
Where are some good places to wander off to given I'll have a free day?

Between Lake Louise and Banff, there is a tour through Yoho National Park, visiting Emerald Lake and the Spiral Tunnels.

Staying at the Delta Royal Canadian Lodge. Would it be worth the price to upgrade to the Fairmont at Banff Springs? This is where my wallet really started to feel the strain. You can still wander the grounds of the hotel as a visitor, right?
I have a free day here as well, no idea what to do. I've heard the town itself can be quite touristy. I was thinking of heading off to the The Cave and Basin National Historic Site.
I found this great answer from an earlier question, but it's more than 10 years old and the package is already covering a lot of the must sees.
I'm open to any suggestions.

Between Banff and Calgary, the tour is handling the Banff Gondola, Bow Falls, Surprise Corner and the Hoodoos, on to Kananaskis and a helicopter tour (!).

While in cowtown I want a steak. What's the best steakhouse in town?

Then back home where I'll slip into a coma for a day or two before heading back to work.
posted by mephisjo to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Lake Louise:
The big hikes at lake louise (Lake Agnes/Plain of six glaciers) are very nice hikes, if not a little busy on the weekend. Both can be combined into one trip
Moraine Lake is right next to lake louise, and is quite gorgeous. It's around 14km away, but there should be a shuttle
Here is a listing of all hikes in the area

The Banff Springs is big, historic, and the rooms were built a long time ago. Very nice hotel, but the rooms are on the small side. You can access hotel/grounds as a visitor.
Banff as a town is very touristy.
Cave and Basin is a nice little walk, and where Banff all started.
Getting slightly outside of Banff, you can take the bus to Lake Minnewanka, but it is likely to be busy, especially if you're there on a weekend.
There are a few nice small museums around Banff, and you could realistically just spend the day wandering around enjoying just being in the mountains.

Best steakhouse will be a bit of a debate. Oldschool Calgary would be Hy's
Vintage is a bit more modern/corporate
and Modern is on the local/foodie side.
posted by GnomePrime at 5:50 PM on June 2, 2019

Seconding Lake Agnes/Plains of Six Glaciers, both are great hikes either great views and destinations. Go early and beat any crowds.

I live in Banff, It’s very pedestrian friendly, Delta is a few short walkable blocks from the downtown core, yes Banff Ave is touristy but it’s only three blocks, then you’re at the Bow River and lots of great walks in any direction. In fact I’d suggest walking to Bow Falls and then up the hill to the Springs and enjoy a drink and snack at the Rundle Lounge, you’ll get all the pleasure of the Springs without paying for the upgrade. The views down the Bow Valley are stellar. If you have a day it’s also worth paying the $89 to stay at the Willow Stream Spa, it’s open from 6am to 10pm and you can come and go as you please.
posted by furtive at 6:32 PM on June 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also in Banff: Tunnel Mountain is a great 90 minute round trip hike bring a snack for the top, renting a canoe on the Bow at the canoe docks for an hour is way more fun and less, touristy than doing it at Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, or if you’re keen, rent a bike and bike to Canmore and back on the legacy trail, it’s a great ride, stop along the way at Cascade Ponds.
posted by furtive at 6:39 PM on June 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Delta makes more sense in Banff because it's a little more in town; the Banff Springs is basically down a road by itself. There was also a previous AskMe with links to car-free information in and around Banff.

In Calgary for steak, I don't disagree with GnomePrime. I know you said steak, but the River Cafe is another (also not cheap) place I'd recommend to a visitor; it's in a lovely park on the river next to the downtown, with the look and feel of a trout fishing lodge and was one of the first restaurants in Calgary to really do a focus on contemporary Canadian cuisine and on local food, and they haven't rested on their laurels.

Final tip in the parks: just walk a little. When we were at Emerald Lake last fall, 2/3 of the people seemed to be basically at the end of the parking lot, and the bridge to the lodge, no further. 2/3 of the remaining people walked on the trail no further than the clearing from the landslide. By walking literally 500m from the parking lot (along a flat, well-maintained trail), we got rid of 90% of the crowd and felt like we were in nature, not somebody else's Instagram feed. This is also true at Moraine Lake, Lake Louise and elsewhere.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:30 PM on June 2, 2019

The wild game meatloaf at Fiddle River in Jasper is very good. We have a tradition of spending one weekend in Jasper every year and often eat one of our meals at Fiddle River--I've had the meatloaf several times over the years and always enjoyed it.

Wildebeest in Vancouver is outstanding. If you can, do the omakase (chef's choice, they charge you a set price and bring you whatever dishes the chef decides to make for you--I did this and it was excellent). I also recommend you try the cocktails there, if you drink.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:34 PM on June 2, 2019

Oh my, I want to stowaway with you.
I did a spontaneous trip to Banff almost 15 years ago after a wedding and although it was a quickie, I can still see & smell it. One thing I'd add. There's a sign for the Great Divide that was a quick walk from the road. Google is only finding the Big Deal one en route to Radium Springs, but there's one that would be accessible given your caveats. Hoping someone else here has been recently and can confirm, or maybe you can inquire with your tour opertor
posted by TravellingCari at 10:23 AM on June 3, 2019

You guys are great! You've given me so many great ideas. I'm feeling much better about my free days. With these options I can also have fallback plans depending on weather.

Anyone with some insight on taking a horseback ride? Either in Jasper or Lake Louise? I mean horsey! But other than the equine mount, are they better/worse/same as just walking?
posted by mephisjo at 6:14 PM on June 3, 2019

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