: Driving : Toronto to Vancouver


Loafer
May 25th, 2010, 09:44 AM
So my wife and I (mainly me) have had the crazy idea of driving with our 2 kids (2 1/2 & 4 1/2) from Toronto to Vancouver.

I don't want this to be a "you're crazy, just fly" conversation, I'm fed up of telling people why I want to do this (in short, we're both working contract so can take time off, I'm from the Uk so haven't seen much of Canada, I'm lusting for some adventure, I want our kids to see more of this great country).

So, apart from Sudburys Big Nickel, the Prairies, and the Rockies what would ehMaccers across this great land of ours recommend us to see, and it really could be a small as visiting a tiny town in such and such to try their hamburgers or something. We want to get stuck right in to what makes the world outside of Toronto really tick.

For the record we're looking at 3 weeks and flying back from Vancouver. We will be staying with friends in Calgary and Vancouver other than that it will be camping, hotels, motels and B&B's.

Away we go...

SINC
May 25th, 2010, 10:01 AM
Before I offer any advice, I just have to ask, what are you doing with your vehicle if you intend to fly home from Vancouver? Ship it back to TO, or are you renting a vehicle and if so is there not a drop off penalty involved? Not to mention the camping gear you will carry with you to use on the way out? How does all that get back to Toronto? Don't mean to pry, but I am very curious.

Sonal
May 25th, 2010, 10:04 AM
No specific recommendations, Loafer, but I envy you... I've been dying to do a trip like this.

Rps
May 25th, 2010, 10:05 AM
I am assuming you are delivering a vehicle or renting one since you are flying back. That said, use your CAA [ get one if you don't have it ] and if you belong to service club bring their national roster [ in case you have problems out of province ] That said, I think you must see the Royal T in Alberta ... the dinosaurs are great to see. The museum of Man in Winnipeg is great and don't over look the Railroad Museum there as well. Have fun and take lots of pictures. we would love to see them on a thread or blog.

Loafer
May 25th, 2010, 10:06 AM
Before I offer any advice, I just have to ask, what are you doing with your vehicle if you intend to fly home from Vancouver? Ship it back to TO, or are you renting a vehicle and if so is there not a drop off penalty involved? Not to mention the camping gear you will carry with you to use on the way out? How does all that get back to Toronto? Don't mean to pry, but I am very curious.

All good questions Sinc
I'm looking at various options at the moment. Renting a car, buying cheap Canadian Tire equipment that we might just sell off when we get to Vancouver, using our own car and shipping it back (just waiting on a quote). All logistical stuff that we'll figure out.

eMacMan
May 25th, 2010, 10:07 AM
While you could easily spend the entire 3 weeks just in the Canadian Rockies, obviously the Banff-Lake Louise-Columbia Ice Fields- Jasper Highway is one you should not miss. Try to avoid any weekends and if possible pre-book camping.

Another worthwhile trip is Calgary west on #1, South on the Kananaskis Highway then loop back East to Longview. You could return to Calgary from Longview or head South to the Crowsnest Pass, depending on your mood or whatever. This drive is equally spectacular going clockwise so if you prefer do it in the other direction. Excellent camping and some free sites should be available on week nights.

kps
May 25th, 2010, 10:08 AM
Actually, I was going to say too bad you're flying back. It would have been great for you to do the return trip through the US. See some of Washington, Montana, perhaps Wyoming, South or North Dakota, etc.

The one trip I would recommend is that perhaps you split off at Medicine Hat before you get to Calgary and go the bottom end through Lethbridge into Cranbrook and up to see Fairmont and Radium Springs before you do the trip into Lake Louise, Glacier and Jasper. Then a quick loop through Edmonton and back down into Calgary to see your friends.

MLeh
May 25th, 2010, 10:17 AM
Sounds like a great adventure.

I drive from Vancouver to Calgary approximately once a month. What to do depends upon which route you want to take.

I always feel the one thing visitors need to drive is the 'Icefields Parkway' between Jasper and Banff. Depends upon your route of course. At the very least go from Banff up to the Columbia Icefields, stopping at Bow Lake & Payto Lake for the short hikes to the few points.

Also the drive from Banff to Revelstoke - the Roger's Pass - should NOT be missed.

In Revelstoke, if you like trains, there is the Train Museum, as well as free tours of the Revelstoke Dam put on by BC Hydro during the summer.

Your kids are just at the age when they will really enjoy 'The Enchanted Forest', which is a road-side attraction halfway between Revelstoke and Sicamous. It's hokey, but a lovely walk through the forest, and a nice break from driving.

At Sicamous, get ice cream at De Dutchman Dairy.

If you want go through the Okanagan, you turn south at Sicamous. But if you decide to drive one the #1 to Kamloops, just on the edge of Chase there is a wonderful hidden treasure of a rest stop at the 'Chase Creek Rest Stop'. Doesn't look like much from the road, but there is a lovely trail beside the creek that leads to a beautiful waterfall. One of those 'free' things along the way. There is also Craigellachie, which is the 'Last Spike' for the transcontinental railway.

Post your intended route and I can give you more little places to stop. (There's enough to do just in BC, to fill up your days.)

chasMac
May 25th, 2010, 10:32 AM
As we all appear to be dedicated Canadianophiles, it might be easier to suggest what to avoid. In my mind, that would be the town of Banff. Steer clear of it like the plague, unless you have a love of overpriced trinket shops, pretty much all the place has to offer. Banff park? Take it or leave it. Many Albertans recognize that the out-of-provincers head there, while residents flock to K-country or other, lesser known parks.

Loafer
May 25th, 2010, 10:52 AM
This is all great stuff....

Is there actually anything to see between Ontario & Alberta though ?
I know I have been warned that it can get a bit dull driving but I really just want to experience that vastness (dullness?) and speak to people about the experience instead of being told about it.
There must be something noteworthy though ?

johnnyspade
May 25th, 2010, 10:52 AM
Actually, I was going to say too bad you're flying back. It would have been great for you to do the return trip through the US. See some of Washington, Montana, perhaps Wyoming, South or North Dakota, etc.

I will second this. If your passports are in order, consider heading South and travel through the Great Lakes then through South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and then up into Alberta. Having done both routes many times, I think there's more to see and do heading through the US. The Black Hills and Yellowstone alone make it worth it.

MLeh
May 25th, 2010, 10:54 AM
As we all appear to be dedicated Canadianophiles, it might be easier to suggest what to avoid. In my mind, that would be the town of Banff. Steer clear of it like the plague, unless you have a love of overpriced trinket shops, pretty much all the place has to offer. Banff park? Take it or leave it. Many Albertans recognize that the out-of-provincers head there, while residents flock to K-country or other, lesser known parks.

I'm going to defend 'Banff' and 'Banff Park' a bit here. It doesn't become a world class destination because it's full of 'trinket shops' - there is plenty of free stuff to do.

In the town of Banff there is 'Bow Falls', which has a nice hike up to the upper falls. If the kids aren't up to the hike, then the lower falls are pretty just from the parking lot.

Also the original 'hot springs' although I like the hotsprings in Radium a bit better, and for 'off the beaten track there are the hot springs in Nakusp.

For visitors, the gondola up Sulphur Mountain will get them up to the alpine. Sure, it's not something you want to do all the time, but on a trip like this it's probably the best way to see the most in a short period of time. (During the summer there are also gondolas at Whistler mountain and Kicking Horse Resort in Golden. One of the better vacation values I've found is going to the ski resorts - Whistler, Sunpeaks, Fernie - in the summer.)

In Banff Park there is also Lake Louise and Lake Minnewanka. Both well worth visiting.

MLeh
May 25th, 2010, 11:08 AM
This is all great stuff....

Is there actually anything to see between Ontario & Alberta though ?
I know I have been warned that it can get a bit dull driving but I really just want to experience that vastness (dullness?) and speak to people about the experience instead of being told about it.
There must be something noteworthy though ?

To experience the Prairies you have to get out of the car and just stand in the prairie, in the silence, and look at the sky and listen to the wind. After you stand in the silence for a while you'll start to hear noises. Crickets, the birds, other insects. Sometimes you can hear the wheat growing.

Halfway between Regina and Moose Jaw is an overpass over the railroad tracks. Increases the view a bit. ;)

Okay - seriously - in Regina is the RCMP museum. In Moose Jaw is the airforce base that is the training headquarters for the Snowbirds. If you're lucky you'll see them practising. There's also a natural mineral spring in Moose Jaw, as well as the tunnels tour. Regina and Saskatoon both have lovely parks along their respective river fronts.

Fort Qu'appelle is a nice little settlement in a valley. Actually, there are lots of little hidden gems in southern Saskatchewan. Depends where your interests lie. Some of my relatives have a nice little museum of steam tractors, old cars and such. Most of the little towns have museums.

In the south is Cypress Hills.

chasMac
May 25th, 2010, 11:40 AM
I'm going to defend 'Banff' and 'Banff Park' a bit here. It doesn't become a world class destination because it's full of 'trinket shops' - there is plenty of free stuff to do.

Fair cop. Still say the town of Banff is best driven past. And if one's objective is to 'get away from it all', while remaining fairly close to a populated centre, ie: Calgary, Kananaskis receives a tiny fraction of the visitors that Banff National park does. Visit K-country on a week-day, even during the height of summer, there's nary a soul to be seen: the best way to experience the Rockies.

Loafer
May 25th, 2010, 12:02 PM
Visit K-country on a week-day, even during the height of summer, there's nary a soul to be seen: the best way to experience the Rockies.

I like the sound of no crowds... duly noted

MLeh
May 25th, 2010, 01:52 PM
I like the sound of no crowds... duly noted

In that case definitely do the Kananaskis drive. Goes from Longview around through Kananaskis and comes out at Hwy One near Morley. Excellent drive - only accessible in the summer. (The road comes out at the new Nakoda Casino on the Morley Indian Reserve. They used to have a great Buffet there for $10/head, but I think it's only on Thursdays now, and probably only in the winter ... .)

SINC
May 25th, 2010, 03:06 PM
This is all great stuff....

Is there actually anything to see between Ontario & Alberta though ?
I know I have been warned that it can get a bit dull driving but I really just want to experience that vastness (dullness?) and speak to people about the experience instead of being told about it.
There must be something noteworthy though?

If you want to see the prairies in their natural state, Grasslands National Park is not to be missed. The west block is in southwest Saskatchewan. If you veer off the Trans-Canada highway at Moose Jaw and go south to Assiniboia, then west on highway 13 to Cadillac and south on highway 4 to the park. Rolling untouched natural prairie with buffalo and prairie dog towns galore. It's like a trip back in time. There is a nice little campground in Val Marie a few blocks from the park office.

A short drive west from there via Shaunavon and Eastend (where the most perfect skeleton of a T-Rex found near there is in a museum) would take you into the east block of the Cypress Hills, untouched by the glaciers of the ice age and the highest point on the prairies with wonderful views. Visit Fort Walsh, the original home of the RCMP in the west as you rejoin the Trans-Canada highway near Maple Creek, Sask. If memory serves, it is called "The Red Coat Trail".

FeXL
May 25th, 2010, 04:37 PM
You must see the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, AB.

Must! ;)

If you do come close to the south end of the province, Waterton National Park is quite nice, as is it's counterpart in Montana, Glacier National Park. Going To The Sun Road in Glacier is also a must... Neither have the commercialization of Banff & Jasper.

eMacMan
May 25th, 2010, 05:51 PM
You must see the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, AB.

Must! ;)

If you do come close to the south end of the province, Waterton National Park is quite nice, as is it's counterpart in Montana, Glacier National Park. Going To The Sun Road in Glacier is also a must... Neither have the commercialization of Banff & Jasper.

Definite weekdays only on Going to the Sun (Logan's Pass) Never have driven it without some sort of construction delay. These are a bonus as it gives you a much better opportunity to take in the scenery. Expect more of the same this year, maybe even consider the new free shuttle.
Going-To-The_Sun-Road in Glacier National Park (http://www.glaciernationalpark.name/going_to_the_sun_road.html)

Going to the Sun road opening can be anywhere from the beginning of June into July. Check here for current status.
Glacier National Park Current Road Status (http://www.nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm)

As FeXL said an absolute must see.

dona83
May 25th, 2010, 06:14 PM
If you want to stop at a hot springs, I highly recommend Ainsworth Hot Springs about 40km north of Nelson.

Snowy
May 25th, 2010, 06:38 PM
If you're doing the Kananaskis area, there's the Longview steakhouse in Longview Alberta.
Not cheap, but the food is amazing.
Another eatery just south of there( a few steps) is also excellent and a bit more family friendly.
There's the Blue Sky motel just down the street, it's cheap, nothing fancy, but very clean and very friendly owners.

I think the Kananskis seasonal pass/road is the highest in Canada. The road is excellent, just sometimes closed in the winter.
Watch out for the mountain sheep on the roads. They only move when they are ready to move.

MLeh
May 25th, 2010, 07:15 PM
The jerky at the Longview Jerky shop is also very good.

Hard to find a bad steak in Alberta. Even the $6 steak sandwich specials in the pubs at lunchtime are usually great.

Word of caution: in Alberta a 'steak sandwich' is a slab of meat - generally 6-8 oz, top sirloin usually, cooked to order, (please don't order it more cooked than medium or the chef will weep) served on a piece of grilled garlic bread, with a heap of fries on the side. You can usually get gravy on the side too. The first time I was in 'central Canada' (aka 'the east') I ordered a steak sandwich and got something with sliced meat on a bun. I said "What's this? Where's my steak?"

eMacMan
May 25th, 2010, 07:27 PM
I think the Kananskis seasonal pass/road is the highest in Canada. The road is excellent, just sometimes closed in the winter.
Watch out for the mountain sheep on the roads. They only move when they are ready to move.

The road is always closed in winter. I believe May 15th is the opening date, could be mid-June.

DR Hannon
May 25th, 2010, 07:55 PM
You have to go to Buffalo Jump Smash Head. If only for the name alone. ;)
I advise going through Ontario. There are alot of chances to see wild life.

Kleles
May 25th, 2010, 11:22 PM
Go the Canadian route! It is beautiful and bountiful. Experience the Laurentian plateau north of L. Superior, the pan-flat prairies from the Manitoba border to Winnipeg and beyond, the rolling hills of Saskatchewan, and the foothills of Alberta leading up to the Rockies. Take as many side trips as time allows and stop to "smell the roses" and talk to the people. This is going to be a great trip, one that I have done and will do again. There's nothing like driving to give the feel of this country.

Another time, head east and enjoy its riches.

eMacMan
May 25th, 2010, 11:51 PM
You have to go to Buffalo Jump Smash Head. If only for the name alone. ;)
I advise going through Ontario. There are alot of chances to see wild life.

Uh I believe that is: Head Smashed In buffalo Jump.