Trip Coach: April 22, 2008


Brian Patton, co-author of the "Canadian Rockies Trail Guide," answered your questions on visiting the Canadian Rockies.

Brian Patton: Hi, This is Brian Patton, co-author of the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, published by There's still snow on the ground up here in the Canadian Rockies, but it's melting quickly, so lets get started.


Franklin, N.C.: We would like to travel from Toronto to Vancouver by rail. Can we get a 30-rail pass with the option to get on and off for several days at a time?

Brian Patton: Yes, it is sold by VIA Rail. Be aware that prices vary greatly between classes and at different times of year. You also save by booking in advance.


Seattle, Wash.: Brian, I've used your books since the 1980s and have always been amazed at the accuracy. In this regard, how much time to you spend hiking each year? Also, there seem to be less hikers on the most remote trails these days or am I imagining things?


Brian Patton: Your observations may be correct. More people are visiting our parks than ever before, by the interests of these visitors are changing and the backcountry remains relatively uncrowded.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: I plan on traveling there with a few 50ish year old girlfriends who are into viewing the beauty and a little trail walking. If we have 9 days (Sat to Sun), where would you suggest we begin, end and see inbetween? Also, what's the best time for viewing in some degree of comfort?


Brian Patton: If you are flying into Calgary, divide your time between Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. With advance planning, a day trip to Lake O'Hara is well worthwhile. Lake Louise is the focus of the most easily reached scenic hiking. You should make accommodation reservations well in advance for summer.


Washington, D.C.: I want to see the Rockies in the summer with my husband, who's never been, and our baby of 17 months. I need suggestions for a home base with nice surroundings during baby naptime and some EASY hiking trails. I was thinking of a rental cabin in the Estes Park area, am I missing out by not considering another, less popular town? P.S. I also like to fly-fish.

Brian Patton: Estes Park is in Colorado, not Canada, but if you do make it to the Canadian Rockies, the towns of both Banff and Jasper are well suited for families with young children.


Surprise, Ariz.: Outside of distance and watching for animals what else do we need to consider when driving in AB and BC? We understand that it is beautiful and we look forward to visiting this summer.


Brian Patton: The two elements you mention are the most important. The best way to avoid the latter is by not driving at dawn, dusk, or night. Also remember posted distances and speeds are in kilometers (not miles). And keep the gas tank full when driving in northern regions.


Chapel Hill, N.C.: We are an active retired couple wanting to see the Canadian Rockies on a limited budget. How can we spend two weeks there, (last week of August and first week of September would be best, if the weather is usually good at that time)? We like gourmet cooking and luxury, but at an affordable price. Otherwise we can rough it. Thanks.

Brian Patton: You could rent a campervan in Calgary (from Cruise Canada or similar), cook your own meals, and camp for around $30 per night, although you may find prices lower in September than August. Mountain View B&B in Banff is an apartment rather than a bed and breakfast and has its own cooking facilities at weekly reasonable prices.


Corona de Tucson, AZ (near Tucson): My husband and I would like to travel to the Canadian Rockies—Banff, Lake Louise, etc. as well as Glacier National Park in the USA. We are planning on doing this in 2009. We are open as to what time of year. Most of what I have read talks about taking the train from Vancouver to the area and then back or flying back from Calgary or Edmonton. We don't mind renting a car, but understand you cannot rent a car in Canada and take it across the border to the USA. What would be the best way to accomplish this? We would enjoy spending a few days in Vancover again (its been 12 years since out last tirp) and then are open to whatever you would suggest. We are in our 50's, not afraid of a little adventure, but not in shape for mountain climbing. We can take 2-3 weeks for this trip.

Brian Patton: The train trip you talk of (Rocky Mountaineer) is popular but expensive. Three weeks is enough time to fly into Vancouver and drive to the Canadian Rockies for two weeks and return to Vancouver by car. You'll also see much more of western Canada while also being able to set your own schedule.


Portland, Ore.: I'm after a guidebook for our driving trip through Banff and Jasper. Do you have any suggestions?

Brian Patton: I author a book called Parkways of the Canadian Rockies, which is an interpretive guide to park highways. The best local maps are those made by Gem Trek.


North Falmouth, Mass.: We will be in the Rockies (Banff, Jasper) during the first week of September. Are there restaurants where we can get good meals at reasonable prices? Everything seems to be so expensive. We plan to ask the locals where they go and hope that works. Thanks.

Brian Patton: Relative to cost of your entire trip, restaurant meals will only be a small part, so you should try at least a couple of the better restaurants serving local cuisine: Bison Bistro or Maple Leaf in Banff, Storm Mountain Lodge on the way to Radium, Becker's or Andy's Bistro in Jasper. Truffle Pig Café in Field is a hidden gem. In Banff, Masala (East Indian) and a few Thai places are cheaper but not remarkable.


Mullica Hill, N.J.: Hello there. My husband and I are avid wilderness canoeists who enjoy long river trips, spending one night or two tenting along our route. Can you suggest some canoeing routes of a week or so where we would enter at one location and have a reputable company pick us up?

Thank You,

Brian Patton: There are no such companies in the Canadian Rockies. The most revered river in western Canada for longer trips is the South Nahanni in the NWT. Do an internet search and you'll find a couple of companies that arrange the logistics for independent floats.


New York, N.Y.: Brian, is it a common thing to experience lightheadedness when visiting the Canadian Rockies? I had sight discomfort while visiting the Grand Canyon. Please advise.

Thank you,

Brian Patton: Most of the popular hiking trails start at 4500-5000 ft above sea level, below the height that most people experience altitude sickness. That said, there is less oxygen in the air at higher altitudes, and some people are more susceptible than others. The most common symptom is a headache. At higher altitude, dehydration occurs more quickly than at sea level, so plan on drinking plenty of water.


Boston, Mass.: When is the best or least inexpensive time to take a train trip across Canada roundtrip from Montreal and back for 2?

Brian Patton: The least expensive time is winter, but the warmer months are better. Try and book just before or after high season (June to Sept) to save money.


Sebring, Fla.: We wish to travel east to west from Halifax to Winnipeg. Can we secure a sleeper berth with private bath during the winter months? And if possible, can you give us the cost for this trip?

Brian Patton: Please check for all prices and schedules.


Brian Patton: Thanks for all your questions and enjoy your travels to the Canadian Rockies and Canada.

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