These are the things I wish I knew before taking off on my Canadian Rockies adventure!
1. Book Accommodation in Advance for Summer Trips and for ALL Backcountry Campsites!
ALL lodging will book up during the busy Summer months, whether you plan to stay at hostels, hotels, campgrounds, etc.
But most importantly, backcountry campsites in order to complete hikes on the Skyline Trail, Mt. Robson, Garibaldi, along Maligne Lake to Spirit Island, and Lake O'Hara (to name a few) require advanced booking. All bookings can be done online, but they don't all become available on the same day (links to the online reservation sites and dates that reservations open are listed below). The most popular trails will be booked up the day they become available and the only way to get in after is to call or check back for any cancelations so I’d recommend booking campsites to be the first thing you do.
Knowing which add-ons you are able to get bookings for, you can then book other accommodation accordingly.
Mount Robson Provincial Park reservations open October 1, 2018.
Jasper National Park’s backcountry camping open January 23, 2019.
Banff National Park’s backcountry camping opens March 1, 2019.
Kootenay National Park’s backcountry camping open March 1, 2019.
Yoho National Park’s backcountry camping open March 1, 2019.
Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park reservations open April 10, 2019.
2. HI Hostels are High Quality in The Rockies
If you are traveling alone or in a group of 2, staying in hostels are your best bet for the cost and the experience. The HI brand of hostels in the Rockies are top of the line and they provide a 10% discount if you are a member.
3. A Car is Necessary
The Rockies are pretty spread out. Getting from Banff to Lake Louise takes 40 minutes, it's another 40 minutes from Lake Louise to Emerald Lake, plus the beautiful Icefields Parkway is a day in itself (3 hour drive) and having the freedom to stop at all the pullouts and go for hikes along the way is so necessary.
Renting a campervan or RV is a totally acceptable way to get your car and lodging in one package. Although, I have not travelled the Rockies this way, this is definitely something I will try on my next visit. I was particularly intrigued by the Wicked Campers rentals with their colorful vans turned campervans.
4. Backcountry Passes and Park Fees
Parks Pass cost $136 per vehicle, including up to 7 people (or $ 67.70 per person). You get them from the toll gate at either the border of Mount Robson Provincial Park and Jasper National Park or the Banff National Park East Gate, depending on which route to the Rockies you take.
In order to backcountry camp, you will pay a non-refundable reservation fee when you make a booking ($11.70) and per night for a backcountry permit ($9.80/person/night).
4. You’ll need a rain jacket, umbrella, windbreaker, and puffy ALL YEAR ROUND
Whether you come in the Summer or Fall, you should prepare for weather changes. It can be sunny one day and a downpour the next (or even in the range of a couple hours) in the Rockies and Vancouver. It's always good to have these items for a mountain trip, but in this case, even for relaxed travel!
5. Extend your trip by going down the West Coast of the USA to Washington, Oregon, and California
Anytime I would travel, I would mention to other travellers that they HAD to go to the Canadian Rockies. I then noticed that when I was in the Canadian Rockies, I kept telling people that they were missing a piece if they didn't see Vancouver and some incredible parts of BC! So, the West Coast of Canada trip was created. However, if you find that you have the time and ability to do this guide and MORE. I'd definitely say that continuing along the West Coast of the USA is an incredible extension. As close as Washington is to BC, the landscape is so different! And Oregon is the most diverse and beautiful place (and the only state I would live in in the USA). Most people are familiar with California, but to spend the entire time (or most of it) going along California State Route 1, the scenic coastline, would be unbelievable.