Please help us make our trip to Yellowknife super awesome?
July 30, 2008 11:20 AM   Subscribe

How can we make sure we're adequately prepared for our 12-day, 5,000 mile road trip from Salt Lake City, UT to Yellowknife, NT at the end of August?

My husband and I will be driving a '99 Honda Accord that has about 160,000 miles on it. It's had regular maintenance and is in good shape. We have AAA, a properly inflated spare, a standard car emergency kit, and we'll be having it in for an oil change and check up before we leave. We've got passports ready to go, a good atlas, books on tape, plenty of music, games, camera, binoculars, etc. What would we be idiots to forget to bring along with us or to do before we leave?

We'll be staying in the following towns/cities along the way and hotels are already booked:
Shelby, MT
Edmonton, AB
High Level, AB
Yellowknife, NT (2 nights)
(back to) High Level, AB
Hinton, AB
Revelstoke, BC
Calgary, AB
Whitefish, MT
Idaho Falls, ID

What should we make certain to see or do that we haven't thought of yet, or what would we regret missing (especially short hikes, perfect spots to see wildlife or take great landscape photos, excellent restaurants, etc)? We'll be making visits to Jasper, Banff, Yoho, Mt. Revelstoke, Glacier, Kootenay, Radium Hot Springs, and Waterton Lakes.

Wise advice/warnings/recommendations of any sort would be wonderful.
posted by lbo to Travel & Transportation around Odessa, Spain (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What an amazing sounding trip! I made a Google map with your destinations on it. The only part of that I've seen is CA-1 between Calgary and Revelstoke. It's totally amazing.
posted by Nelson at 11:46 AM on July 30, 2008

When I drove cross country, I brought a cooler that I filled halfway with water and froze the whole thing. It lasted about six days. I got a little one burner propane stove, and a bunch of large pop-top canned stews from Trader Joe's that could be heated directly on the burner.

When ever there was a beautiful sunset or sunrise, I'd just pull over and have some stew sitting on a folding canvas stool.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:47 AM on July 30, 2008

I've driven all of the Canadian part of your route. There are many very nice places to stop, things to see, and short hikes to go on along your route, but with so much driving scheduled in so little time, you aren't going to have much time to do anything. If at all possible, I would recommend scaling back your plans or taking a longer time. In particular, High Level to Yellowknife will leave you with very little time to see anything along the way and the Hinton-Jasper-Revelstoke-Radium-Calgary route in two days won't let you appreciate the mountain parks at all.

You'll see a lot of wildlife along the way, especially in the mountain parks and near Fort Providence, NT (buffalo). The mountain parks are well signed and most of the stops are worth making. Park info at the entrances will have information on short hikes if you want. The hike near the top of Mt. Revelstoke is particularly worthwhile as is the hike up from Maligne Lake near Lake Louise. Balu Pass trail, at the top of Roger's Pass is also nice, but a little longer. Pick up the guidebook Blue Lake and Rocky Shore in Yellowknife: it covers a whole lot of short walks and hikes in the area. I hesitate to recommend anything more, because you just won't have time for it.
posted by ssg at 12:08 PM on July 30, 2008

This is a wonderful and VERY AMBITIOUS trip in a short amount of time. I agree with ssg that you may want to consider scaling back on your intermediate destinations. Having said that, I'll contradict myself by strongly suggest throwing in a visit to Lake Louise, which is really close to Jasper, and renting a boat to row across the lake.

Also, bring lots of bug repellent! Check out the Canada bug report for a preview of coming attractions. Those northern mosquitos are big and hungry!
posted by jasper411 at 12:20 PM on July 30, 2008

It wouldn't hurt, and would be inexpensive, to put an extra accessory belt, a few quarts of oil, a gallon each of antifreeze and water (or a couple gallons of premixed) and a hose repair kit. And some basic tools, of course.

Belts and hoses are inexpensive, but when they break your vehicle is incapacitated and a busted hose can end up destroying the whole engine. You can't possibly carry what you need for everything that might possibly go wrong, but a couple simple things like this might save you having to call for a tow.

Some cloths or paper towels and a mild cleaner are good to have under your seat. Otherwise, a spilled drink or food item can result in hours of miserable, sticky driving until you get to the next gas station.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 12:23 PM on July 30, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far! We understand that we're packing a lot into a very short amount of time. For us this trip is all about enjoying the drive and making it to Yellowknife by car. We're okay with the fact that we're not going to come close to seeing and doing everything we would like to if we had a month to take this trip. We're planning subsequent trips to take more time to experience the various parks and major cities.
posted by lbo at 12:46 PM on July 30, 2008

I don't have a lot to add to the advice above.

In Calgary and surrounding area, it is a time of massive construction - you may run into delays on major routes.

Here is a list of numbers for emergency roadside assistance in Alberta.

In Waterton, I found the Red Rock Canyon area to have some great short hikes, with occasional wildlife.

Without knowing where you are staying in Calgary, it is difficult to recommend restaurants. I know of some fantastic places for Italian, East Indian, and others - if you want, drop me a MeMail and let me know whereabouts you will be and what you like. If our schedules are in sync, perhaps we can even meet up for dinner.
posted by never used baby shoes at 1:03 PM on July 30, 2008

You mention AAA, but you didn't mention getting a AAA trip ticket, or the AAA guidebooks to all the regions you'll be driving through. I've found great places for a quick hour stop on a road trip flipping through the AAA guidebook for the state I'm in.
posted by garlic at 3:39 PM on July 30, 2008

Side detour to Drumheller? The dinosaur museum is superb and the HooDoos are very interesting. Also, see if you have time to get the guided town tour in Jasper. That was alot of fun.
posted by GuyZero at 6:20 PM on July 30, 2008

Best answer: Wow. That does sound ambitious!

I'm in Yellowknife and have driven the road from Edmonton a few times. It's definitely a lot better than it used to be.

The most important thing I can think of is to make sure that you don't miss the ferry over the Mackenzie Highway (link). It runs from 8am to midnight (11:45pm is the last trip) but you really don't want to cut it that close.

You also want to watch your gas gauge. I've almost run out of gas because I wasn't careful enough and didn't account for gas stations closing.

Here is a road conditions site for the NWT. If there are any closures or safety issues, it'll let you know.

For places to eat in Yellowknife, I'd suggest The Wildcat Cafe, The Prince of Wales Heritage Cafe (in the Museum), and Bullock's Fish & Chips for local fare. The Wildcat is small and you might have to share a table with some Old Town residents or other tourists; if you're friendly, it's not a problem and can be kind of fun. The cafe in the Museum has the advantage of being in the museum so you can check that out at the same time. Bullock's is incredibly cramped, fairly pricey, and has developed a bit of a reputation for being short on manners (I always found it endearing. "You want a cheeseburger!? Go to McDonalds!").

Other good places to eat with less local emphasis are The Black Knight pub and Le Frolic Bistro.

As for other things to see and do, it depends what you're into. The Legislative Assembly is fairly neat and right next to the museum. Pilot's Monument and Ragged Ass Road are both close to the Wildcat and Bullock's. You might want to down a shot at The Gold Range, but then again, you might not.

I can check around to see if there's anything going on when you'll be here. I could find the addresses of the places I listed with Google. Feel free to MeMail me if you have any questions or can't find something.
posted by ODiV at 3:01 PM on July 31, 2008

Response by poster: UPDATE: The trip was amazing. We fell in love with Yellowknife and and the Northwest Territories in general. We're planning on going back as soon as we have a chance to spend much more time, and hopefully in winter to get a feel for the contrast between the pleasant August weather and ohmygodmyfaceisfreezingoff cold. We were a little too early to see the Northern Lights, so we're hoping to make it back at a time when we might be able to catch them.

The drive up there was absolutely beautiful and otherworldly. We were so obsessed with Alexandra Falls in particular that we stopped on the way up and the way down and spent as much time there as we could. Also, the bumpiness of the road near Yellowknife was insane. I guess the trucks really do a number on the road, but at least there were little traffic cones for warnings.

In Yellowknife on our first night we had dinner at a less-than-impressive Chinese restaurant downstairs in the Scotia Bank building. Not recommended food-wise, but the people were really friendly. The next day we thought we'd try to get lunch at the Wildcat Cafe since it seemed like the ultimate touristy thing to do, but the prices were so expensive we couldn't bring ourselves to do it. We did get ice cream there, though, so at least we could say we sort of went there. But in general it was great to just walk around Old Town and downtown and get a feel for life there. We also did the short hike to Cameron Falls and spent some time out there enjoying the peace and quiet. The second night we actually went to the grocery store to get dinner and we were stunned at how awesome the selection was. It was better and less expensive than our grocery stores in Salt Lake City. And we were totally surprised to see a Wal-mart, Staples, and Pizza Hut up there.

All in all, totally awesome. And even though we were warned that we were overly-ambitious on this trip, we felt like it was a nice little introduction to that side of the world. We'll definitely go back.
posted by lbo at 3:41 PM on December 10, 2008

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