4 RV Vacations You Need to Take

Hitting the open road is an American dream. But doing it in an RV means that you can bring all your amenities with you. That’s living in luxury—virtually anywhere.

Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. Whether by car, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes or canoe, in Banff National
Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. Whether by car, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes or canoe, in Banff National. Respect the fact that mountain weather can change quickly and it can be severe. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVing can be an ideal vacation for kids, and an inexpensive way to have that family vacation you always wanted.

Banff, Alberta

Nestled amongst the towering peaks and stunning glacier-fed lakes of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason.

Whether by car, RV, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes, or canoe, in Banff National Park you can enjoy year-round discovery of the mountainous landscape.

What makes Banff so special is its combination of vast unspoiled wilderness, mountain lakes like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, and the gateway to it all: the Town of Banff.

Lake Louise has become symbolic of the quintessentially Canadian mountain scene. This alpine lake, known for its sparkling blue waters, is situated at the base of impressive glacier-clad peaks.

Located nearby, Moraine Lake, with its indigo blue waters surrounded by the Valley of the Ten Peaks, is another of Canada’s most iconic lakes.

Red Bluff, California 

Big-rig friendly, Durango RV Resort, was our home base during a recent visit to Red Bluff, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Big-rig friendly, Durango RV Resort, was our home base during a recent visit to Red Bluff, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a summertime escape that won’t disappoint, try Red Bluff. A scenic Northern California town nestled near some of the most spectacular landscapes in North America, Red Bluff derives its name from its location on a high vertical bank on the Sacramento River.

Begin your explorations of Red Bluff where the town began on the west bank of the Sacramento River in William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park. A.M. Dibble built the park adobe house in 1852 that now does duty as a museum. Many of the town’s Victorian buildings that followed still stand downtown as does the classical-flavored Tehama County Courthouse and the Deco-inspired State Theatre.

Red Bluff is the jumping off point for the spectacular lunar landscape of Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Galveston, Texas

Bishop's Palace, Galveston, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.
Bishop’s Palace, Galveston, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Galveston is one of the oldest and most historic cities in Texas. From its time as a major 1800s-era shipping port, through the devastating Hurricane of 1900 and up until modern day, Galveston has played a major role in shaping Texas history.

Galveston sits on a barrier island two miles offshore surrounded by 32 miles of sandy beaches, numerous attractions, and one of the largest and best-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the US. From soft sandy beaches to famous 19th century architecture, the island is surrounded with incredible history and unique beauty.

Running parallel to Galveston Beach and the Gulf of Mexico is the island’s famous Seawall that stretches for more than 10 miles and rises 17 feet above mean sea level.

The Seawall is as much a playground as it is a protective barrier for the City against the ever changing tides of the Gulf of Mexico.

A premier Texas destination, Galveston never disappoints with its unlimited attractions.

Sedona, Arizona

Beautiful. Mysterious. Seductive. These words describe Sedona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.
Beautiful. Mysterious. Seductive. These words describe Sedona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Beautiful. Mysterious. Seductive. These words describe Sedona. The massive red-orange buttes and spires surrounding Sedona carry imaginative names reflecting their curious shapes—names like Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock, Coffee Pot, and Snoopy.

Drive through the 16-mile gorge of the Oak Creek Canyon. Slide Rock State Park, about 7 miles up the canyon from Sedona on Highway 89A, is famous for its natural water slide with cool water and warm rocks creating great swimming holes.

And then there is Tlaquepaque (Tla-keh-pah-keh), a beautiful artist colony and shopping area. Set among stately sycamores and lush gardens it was built in the Spanish colonial style in the 1970s as a lace for artists to live and work.

One of the most popular activities in Sedona is to take a Jeep tour out into the more remote parts of the Red Rock Country. Our favorite of these trips is up and over the primitive Schnebly Hill Road (FS 153) which zigzags east from State Route 179 in Sedona, 13 miles to I-17.

Bring your hiking boots and camera.

Worth Pondering…

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.

—Jack Kerouac

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Banff: Jewel of the Canadian Rockies

One of the best things about Banff National Park is just how accessible the scenery is. Impressive waterfalls, alpine lakes, craggy peaks, and surging rivers sit just a stone’s throw from the scenic roads and highway.

Mt. Rundle, a prominent wedge-shaped peak, overlooks the townsite of Banff
Mt. Rundle, a prominent wedge-shaped peak, overlooks the townsite of Banff © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled amongst the towering peaks and stunning glacier-fed lakes of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason.

Whether by car, RV, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes, or canoe, in Banff National Park you can enjoy year-round discovery of the mountainous landscape. As the first national park established in Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, what makes Banff so special is its combination of vast unspoiled wilderness, mountain lakes like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, and the gateway to it all: the Town of Banff.

Lake Louise has become symbolic of the quintessentially Canadian mountain scene. This alpine lake, known for its sparkling blue waters, is situated at the base of impressive glacier-clad peaks.

Located nearby, Moraine Lake, with its indigo blue waters surrounded by the Valley of the Ten Peaks, is another of Canada’s most iconic lakes.

Banff and the Canadian Rockies are a short day trip from Calgary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Banff and the Canadian Rockies are a short day trip from Calgary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Established in 1885, Banff was the first national park in Canada. In 1883, two years before the completion of Canada’s first transcontinental railroad, three railroad workers stumbled upon a series of hot springs on the lower shoulder of what is now called Sulphur Mountain. By 1885, the springs and surrounding area were set aside as Canada’s first national park.

The Canadian Pacific Railway immediately recognized the tourism potential of the Canadian Rockies. In 1888, they opened the elegant 250-room Banff Springs Hotel. Chateau Lake Louise soon followed.

Banff National Park sees 4 million visitors each year. The peak season is July and August.

The history of the area is also captured by a number of museums, including the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Banff Park Museum, Luxton Museum, and the Cave and Basin National Historic Site.

The hiking in Banff National Park is about as good as it gets—anywhere. What Banff has to offer is variety. Choose any difficulty level, length, and duration and you’ve got a multitude of options. You can hike along the shores of dazzling blue lakes, up to quaint mountain teahouses, through carpets of wildflowers, and up high to spectacular viewpoints.

Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. Whether by car, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes or canoe, in Banff National
Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. Whether by car, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes or canoe, in Banff National. Respect the fact that mountain weather can change quickly and it can be severe. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For one of the most authentic experiences available to travelers in Banff National Park, hike to your choice of two alpine tea houses at Lake Louise. These historic cabins, nestled quaintly along some of the most breathtaking trails in the country, provide welcome rest and refreshments to visitors. While the hike to just one of these provides a rewarding experience for hikers of many abilities, adventurous hikers can take on the “Tea House Challenge” and trek to both Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers in one day (9 miles round trip).

To travel the Icefields Parkway is to experience one of Canada’s national treasures and most rewarding destinations. Rated one of the world’s great scenic highways by National Geographic, the Icefields Parkway is a world-class journey through a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, more than 100 ancient glaciers, waterfalls cascading from dramatic rock spires, and broad sweeping valleys.

Rocky Mountain Goat in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Rocky Mountain Goat in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This road heads north from Lake Louise towards the Columbia Icefield, where you can hop on the Ice Explorer and venture onto the Athabasca Glacier—or step out on the newly opened Glacial Skywalk. Other popular stops include Crowfoot Glacier, Bow Lake, and Peyto Lake.

Banff National Park is a haven for wildlife. While the likelihood of an encounter with an animal is unpredictable, when it does happen—and the animal is viewed from a safe distance—it can be a magical experience.

Watching a herd of elk in a field, big horn sheep grazing along the roadside, a mountain goat scaling a cliff, or a grizzly bear fishing in a creek is something unique to the natural world and the “big backyard” of Banff National Park.

Worth Pondering…

The mountains are calling and I must go.

—John Muir

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How To Avoid A Wildlife Collision

Every year, deer, elk, and moose collisions are the cause of hundreds of thousands of vehicle accidents along North American roads.

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colliding with these animals, particularly moose, is potentially fatal for driver and passengers and is likely to cause significant damage to your vehicle—and to the animals.

To avoid a collision, whether driving a car, truck, or recreational vehicle, be alert and know what to do if you come head-to-head with one.

It is important for motorists to have information about the factors that influence animal behavior. This will lead to an increased level of understanding about when, where, and why wildlife is most likely to be present near the road.

Animals are active 24 hours of the day, and all year round, but records kept by insurance and government agencies show that there are some peak times when wildlife vehicle collisions may be more likely and drivers should be especially alert.

Drivers need to be alert and cautious because moose are on the move, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. Moose are more likely to be crossing roadways at this time of year, especially after dark or early in the morning as they move from wintering areas to spring feeding locations.

Rocky Mountain Goats in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Rocky Mountain Goats in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More moose are hit by motorists in the spring than at any other time of the year. There is another peak of activity in September and October, the breeding season for moose.

Moose are especially difficult to see at night because their fur is very dark, and they are so tall that their eyes are normally above most headlight beams, and therefore their eyes may not reflect the head lights.

“Motorists hit 64 moose on Vermont highways during 2014,” said Col. Jason Batchelder of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

“We are asking drivers to be especially careful and for people to enjoy watching moose from a distance. Moose can be unpredictable and dangerous if you get too close and they feel cornered or get irritated.”

Most literature suggests that dusk and dawn are traditionally times of high wildlife vehicle collisions. Light levels are low, and animals are active at these times.

Based in British Columbia, the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program (WCPP) reports that 35-45 percent of all collisions with wildlife in British Columbia and Alberta occur between 7:00 p.m. and midnight with Fridays accounting for 15.8 percent of all collisions.

Deer are involved in approximately 80 percent of wildlife vehicle collisions. May and November have the highest rates of deer crashes.

Moose are involved in approximately 7 percent of all wildlife vehicle collisions. Due to the extremely large size of these animals, (a mature bull moose may weigh up to 1,200 pounds – 500 kg), there is a significant chance that a moose-vehicle collision will result in a human fatality.

Rocky Mountain Sheep. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Rocky Mountain Sheep. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elk are involved in approximately 3 percent of wildlife vehicle collisions.

Avoiding a Collision

Wild animals are a threat to motorists, but there are measures you can take to avoid hitting them.

Watch for the Signs

Collisions occur most often in prime deer, elk, and moose habitat such as forested areas and waterways. Heed the warning signs and increase your roadside awareness. If you see a deer, elk, or moose crossing sign, be extra alert and slow down. These wild animals cross roads for a wide variety of reasons and at different times of the year. They cross the road randomly, as well as at their regular crossings.

Reduce Speed

Speed is a major factor in collisions. Wildlife experts have recommended 55mph/90 kph as a suitable speed for wildlife zones in good weather conditions, as it provides you with some reaction time to stop.

Drive Defensively

Actively watch for wildlife, movement, or shining eyes on and beside the road. Drivers should be cautious between dusk and dawn. Light levels are low, and animals are active.

Always be aware of the danger.

Observe your Surroundings

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Actively scan the sides of the roads as you drive for any signs of wildlife. Look on the road sides, the shoulders, down into ditches (they love the grass there), median strips, intersecting roads, on the road itself and try to spot any signs of movement, flashes of eyes or body shapes. Be sure to scan both sides.

Worth Pondering…

The best way of being kind to bears is not to be very close to them.
―Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam

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RVing To Canada Planning & Border Requirements

With the loonie (Canadian dollar) under pressure, RVing in Canada is gaining in popularity as an affordable vacation.

Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. Whether by car, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes or canoe, in Banff National
Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. Whether by car, bicycle, hiking boots, skis, snowshoes or canoe, in Banff National. Respect the fact that mountain weather can change quickly and it can be severe. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At present, one US dollar is worth $1.25 Canadian. With the loonier being lower than it has been in years, many RVers and travelers from the U.S. will no doubt view Canada as a place where they can stretch their money further and get more out of their vacation dollar than in other destinations.

Another boon to RV travel this summer is the exceptionally low fuel prices.

A major travel destination renowned for its vast natural landscapes and stunning scenery, Canada is a great place to create RVing memories for you and your family.

America’s northern neighbor offers visitors a truly unique vacation experience with a exceptional diversity of natural attractions. Whatever adventure you may seek, Canada has a destination.

From the rugged Pacific coastline and ancient rain forests of British Columbia, across the majestic Rockies and the rolling wheat field plains of the prairie provinces, past the great waterways of the east and on to historic sites and small fishing villages along the Atlantic coast…Canada has it all!

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep lamb.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep lamb. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of the finest National Parks anywhere in the world are found in Canada. The peaceful serenity of the parks, the unique wildlife, and the jaw-dropping scenery create magical RVing memories.

The Canadian Rockies are stunningly beautiful and immense, with spellbinding views of snowcapped peaks, glacial lakes, fast-flowing rivers, and endless forests. Within the Canadian Rockies is some of the most beautiful, serene and, at the same time, breathtaking scenery on the earth’s surface.

You will never tire of RVing in Canada because over the next horizon there is something amazing to see and experience.

Metric System

Canada uses the metric system. American visitors may find the following conversions helpful.

Rocky Mountain Goat in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Rocky Mountain Goat in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fuel in Canada is measured in liters. One U.S. gallon equals 3.785 liters.

Temperature in Canada is measured in degrees Celsius (°C). To convert a Celsius temperature to Fahrenheit: Degrees Celsius = Degrees Fahrenheit x 1.8 + 32 (e.g. 20°C = 20 x 1.8 + 32 = 68°F)

Distance in Canada is measured in meters (m) and kilometers (km). One yard equals 0.9 m; one mile equals 1.6 km.

Speed in Canada is measured in kilometers per hour (km/h).

RVing to Canada Border Requirements

To ease your border crossing the following regulations and suggestions are offered.

Canadian law requires that all persons entering Canada carry both proof of citizenship and proof of identity. A valid U.S. passport, passport card, or NEXUS card satisfies these requirements for U.S. citizens. Children under 16 need only present proof of U.S. citizenship.

Have proof of where you call home, especially if your driver’s license and vehicle tags list different states.

You must have proof of ownership and insurance for all vehicles. If towing a second vehicle be prepared to show the agent the registration for both vehicles.

If your RV is a diesel pusher DO NOT set air brakes when stopping at the booth.

Remove your sunglasses so the border agent can see your eyes. It allows them to read your expressions and shows you aren’t hiding anything,

Answer only questions asked and NEVER volunteer additional information.

The newly opened Glacial Skywalk over the Athabasca Glacier (Jasper National Park, Alberta) lets you experience waterfalls, wildlife, fossils, and more on an exciting cliff-edge walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The newly opened Glacial Skywalk over the Athabasca Glacier (Jasper National Park, Alberta) lets you experience waterfalls, wildlife, fossils, and more on an exciting cliff-edge walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do NOT relay to an agent that you are a fulltime RVer. Officials feel that if you have no home you may have no reason to return to your home country.

Due to new diseases that surface from time to time, the rules of what food—especially meat—that you can have on board may differ from day to day. As a result it’s best to travel north OR south across the border with minimal food.

Every traveler entering Canada must declare all food, plants, animals, and related products.

Worth Pondering…

Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.”
―John F. Kennedy

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Low Loonie Expected To Bring More RVers to Canada

It doesn’t take an economist to understand what’s happening with the Canadian dollar.

The newly opened Glacial Skywalk over the Athabasca Glacier (Jasper National Park, Alberta) lets you experience waterfalls, wildlife, fossils, and more on an exciting cliff-edge walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The newly opened Glacial Skywalk over the Athabasca Glacier (Jasper National Park, Alberta) lets you experience waterfalls, wildlife, fossils, and more on an exciting cliff-edge walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The loonie is under pressure and that is not great news for Canadian snowbirds. But it is good news if you’re a Canadian in the export business.

RVers and other traveling visitors to Canada is another group that will benefit from the currency exchange. At present, one US dollar is worth $1.25 Canadian. With the loonier being lower than it has been in years, many RVers and travelers from out of country will no doubt view Canada as a place where they can stretch their money further and get more out of their vacation dollar than in other destinations.

While a deflated loonie will entice more people to visit Canada, Canadians thinking of traveling to the U.S may rethink that trip this summer and keep their dollars at home. That’s bad news if your kids are keen to head to Disney World or Southern California this year. But it’s welcome news for Canadian tourism, which can expect more domestic travelers and a long-needed increase in American visitors, who will take advantage of the lower loonie.

Another boon to RV travel this summer is the exceptionally low fuel prices.

The beautiful Okanagan Valley of southern British Columbia is a summer tourism mecca. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The beautiful Okanagan Valley of southern British Columbia is a summer tourism mecca. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canada’s greatest tourism partner is the United States. According to the Canadian Tourism Commission, Canada welcomes approximately 10 million overnight visitors from the US each year. In recent times, no other country has contributed more than 1 million travelers.

Tourism is an $84-billion industry in Canada that directly employs more than 600,000 workers and supports another 1 million jobs, according to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. That’s 9.2 per cent of all jobs in the country. Anything that can boost the industry is viewed as a pleasant change after a flurry of events since the start of the century caused headwinds.

Gabor Forgacs, associate professor at the Ted Rogers School of Tourism and Hospitality at Ryerson College, explained that Canada lost half of US visitors because of a much higher dollar and new passport requirements that were introduced in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks. Canada also had to withstand the negative news around the SATS crisis in 2003-04 and, like the US, and just about every other country, was adversely impacted by the global economic recession from 2008-12.

A major travel destination renowned for its vast natural landscapes and stunning scenery, Canada is a great place to create RVing memories for you and your family.

Rocky Mountain Goat in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Rocky Mountain Goat in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America’s northern neighbor offers visitors a truly unique vacation experience with a exceptional diversity of natural attractions. Whatever adventure you may seek, Canada has a destination.

From the rugged Pacific coastline and ancient rain forests of British Columbia, across the majestic Rockies and the rolling wheat field plains of the prairie provinces, past the great waterways of the east and on to historic sites and small fishing villages along the Atlantic coast…Canada has it all!

Some of the finest National Parks anywhere in the world are found in Canada. The peaceful serenity of the parks, the unique wildlife, and the jaw-dropping scenery create magical RVing memories.

The Canadian Rockies are stunningly beautiful and immense, with spellbinding views of snowcapped peaks, glacial lakes, fast-flowing rivers, and endless forests. Within the Canadian Rockies is some of the most beautiful, serene and, at the same time, breathtaking scenery on the earth’s surface.

You will never tire of RVing in Canada because over the next horizon there is something amazing to see and experience.

Tourism centers in British Columbia and Alberta are also expecting the low Canadian dollar will bring more American travelers through the region on their way to Alaska.

The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) joins the two parks of Jasper and Banff in one of the most breathtaking, beautiful drives that anyone can travel in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) joins the two parks of Jasper and Banff in one of the most breathtaking, beautiful drives that anyone can travel in the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Samantha Gibeault, tourism development coordinator for Dawson Creek, British Columbia, says the spin-offs this year for the local economy in the Mile Zero City could be bigger than in previous summers.

According to Gibeault who recently attended a travel convention in Florida, the low dollar has many on the East Coast of the United States talking about making the trip to Alaska.

“Because they are on the East Coast, it’s different because it’s a long haul trip, but there were a number of people who said the (Alaska Highway) trip has gone from number five on their list to number one, because they now have more money the second they cross the border.”

Although last summer’s numbers were strong, Gibeault is hoping for as much as a 15 per cent increase in 2015.

Worth Pondering…

I always thought of this as God’s country.
—Jack Granatstein

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Top 5 Western Canadian Destinations

From sea to sea, Canada is a land filled with fascinating places and amazing adventures.

But, where to travel? Following are five of the best, must-see spots in Western Canada.

Banff National Park

Mt. Rundle, a prominent wedge-shaped peak, overlooks the townsite of Banff
Mt. Rundle, a prominent wedge-shaped peak, overlooks the townsite of Banff © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Founded in 1885 after the discovery of the Cave and Basin Hot Springs, Banff is Canada’s first and most famous national park. The park is a Rocky Mountain wonder, a place of blue glacial lakes and alpine meadows, massive mountains and glaciers, canyons and waterfalls, mineral hot springs and abundant wildlife (from elk to bighorn sheep to black and grizzly bears), and breathtaking grandeur.

Lake Louise is a glacial lake named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta and is famous for its stunning emerald water that reflects the surrounding glaciers that formed it.

Other major attractions include Banff Gondola, Upper Hot Springs, Bow River Loop, Johnston Canyon, Banff Park Museum, Lake Louise Gondola, Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks, and Icefields Parkway.

Vancouver

Vancouver Skyline with Cruise Ships
Vancouver Skyline with Cruise Ships (Credit: Tourism Vancouver/ Albert Normandin)

Surrounded by mountains and beaches, Vancouver is both an urban and a natural playground.

The reason for the city’s existence, the splendid deepwater harbor formed by the fjord-like Burrard Inlet, is backed by the often snowcapped Coast Mountains.

Stanley Park, a nearly 1,000-acre park is home to some of the city’s favorite, most-visited attractions. Walk, cycle, or jog around the nearly 14-mile-long Seawall that hugs Vancouver’s waterfront. Family-friendly activities include an outdoor water park and a separate heated, outdoor pool, and the Vancouver Aquarium.

Other local attractions include Capilano Suspension Bridge, Granville Island, Queen Elizabeth Park, Grouse Mountain, Kitsilano and Spanish Banks beaches, Vancouver Lookout, and VanDusen Botanical Gardens.

Calgary

The Stampede is always a reason to visit Calgary. It is a mega-event that doesn’t disappoint. Cities become most interesting when they embrace what is distinct about themselves. Calgary did that over a century ago when the Calgary Stampede was born (102nd annual; July 4-13, 2014).

Alberta’s largest city launched an intriguing event called Beakerhead (2nd annual; September 10-14, 2014), a festival that celebrates innovation through engineering and science. Engineers show their creative sides, artists get technical, science hits the street, and everyone gets ingenious.

Calgary is also emerging as a destination because of its wealth. Big money from the energy and finance sectors is sponsoring creative projects and helping to sustain the city’s culinary scene.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve 

 

No trip to Vancouver Island is complete without a visit to Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park
No trip to Vancouver Island is complete without a visit to Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park (Credit: vancouverisland.travel)

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a thin strip of land along the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. Its magnificent islands, beaches, and dramatic seascapes divide into three geographically distinct park units: Long Beach (the most accessible), Broken Group Islands (about 100 islands in Barkley Sound), and the challenging 45-mile West Coast Trail.

The Long Beach Unit is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island between the villages of Ucluelet and Tofino. Long Beach is an almost mystical place, a broad and—yes—long beach of great waves and breathtaking beauty. One of the best-known and most challenging hikes in North America, the West Coast Trail follows a rugged shoreline where approximately 66 ships have met their demise along this stretch of the “Graveyard of the Pacific”.

Jasper National Park

A winding road leads to Patricia and Pyramid lakes where fishing, picnicking, boating, and hiking are popular.
A winding road leads to Patricia and Pyramid lakes where fishing, picnicking, boating, and hiking are popular. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picture yourself in a mountain getaway surrounded by towering peaks, untouched wilderness, and turquoise lakes tucked into alpine valleys. Wildlife is abundant, even right in the town of Jasper. Where else will you find a herd of elk grazing on the lawn?

The Icefields Parkway joins the two parks of Jasper and Banff in one of the most breathtaking, beautiful drives that anyone can travel in the world. A series of massive glaciers line the entire length of the Icefield Parkway, with the Columbia Icefield lying along the parkway at the southern end of Jasper National Park.

Other major attractions include the Jasper Skytram, Maligne Lake and Spirit Island ( one of the most photographed locations in the world), Mt. Edith Cavell and Angel Glacier, and Miette Hot Springs.

Worth Pondering…

Hysterically funny, amazingly talented people. That’s what I think of when I think of Canada. That, and cold beer. And mountains.
—Richard Patrick

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Canadian Rockies: Jasper National Park

Picture yourself in a mountain getaway surrounded by towering peaks, untouched wilderness, and turquoise lakes tucked into alpine valleys.

Jasper National Park combines some of the most spectacular scenery in the Canadian Rockies with ease of access
Jasper National Park combines some of the most spectacular scenery in the Canadian Rockies with ease of access and less crowded conditions than Banff © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town of Jasper, nestled amid the serene mountain setting of Jasper National Park, offers first-class accommodations, dining, recreational activities, festivals, and other fun and convenient services.

Jasper National Park combines some of the most spectacular scenery in the Canadian Rockies with ease of access and less crowded conditions than Banff, its sister park to the south.

Wildlife is abundant, even right in town. Where else will you find a herd of elk grazing on the lawn?

The Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) joins the two parks of Jasper and Banff in one of the most breathtaking, beautiful drives that anyone can travel in the world. A series of massive glaciers line the entire length of the Icefield Parkway, with the Columbia Icefield lying along the parkway at the southern end of Jasper National Park.

Massive ice explorers, specially designed for glacial travel, take passengers on a remarkable excursion onto the surface of the Athabasca Glacier where passengers can safely step out onto the glacier and stand on this powerful ancient ice. The newly opened Glacial Skywalk over the Athabasca Glacier lets you experience waterfalls, wildlife, fossils, and more on an exciting cliff-edge walkway that leads to a platform where glass is all that separates you from a 918-foot drop.

Wildlife is abundant, even right in town. Where else will you find a herd of wapati (elk) grazing on the lawn?
Wildlife is abundant, even right in town. Where else will you find a herd of wapati (elk) grazing on the lawn? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Jasper SkyTram whisks you up Whistler’s Mountain to an elevation of 7,472 feet for stunning vistas over mountain ranges stretching up to 50 miles away. Interpretive exhibits explain the high alpine environment. Explore unlimited hiking and backcountry terrain in the high alpine country including a trail to the summit of the mountain.

Witness the towering waterfalls at Maligne Canyon. The whirling and tumultuous water has worn the canyon, only six feet wide in some places to a depth of over 165 feet.

Enjoy the natural beauty along the self-guided interpretive trail along the canyon. There are signs that describe the geological history of the region. Four bridges spanning the gorge and each offer a particular view. A short loop achieves the upstream edge of the canyon, and a longer trail follows the gorge to finish fifth and sixth bridges downstream.

The Athabasca Falls are among the most powerful and breathtaking falls in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The Upper Athabasca River thunders through a narrow gorge where the walls have been smoothed and potholed by the sheer force of the rushing water carrying sand and rock.

A picturesque waterfall, Athabasca Falls is not known so much for the height of the falls (75 feet), as it is known for its force due to the large quantity of water falling into the gorge.

A winding road leads to Patricia and Pyramid lakes where fishing, picnicking, boating, and hiking are  popular.
A winding road leads to Patricia and Pyramid lakes where fishing, picnicking, boating, and hiking are popular. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The falls can be safely viewed and photographed from various viewing platforms and walking trails around the falls.

Maligne Lake is famed for the color of its water, the surrounding peaks, the three glaciers visible from the lake and Spirit Island, one of the most photographed locations in the world.

Few summits in the park can match Mt. Edith Cavell’s craggy beauty. A small, powder blue Angel Glacier are easily reached by a short self-guiding trail that winds its way along the shores of the lake.

Don’t miss a visit to Miette Hot Springs, the hottest mineral springs in the Canadian Rockies. These natural springs are cooled from 129ºF to a soothing 102ºF. Located in the scenic Fiddle Valley, the facility includes two hot pools (one pool is wheelchair accessible), a cool pool, and poolside cafe. There’s also fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities and great mountain views.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep lamb.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep lamb. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Jasper Park Lodge, one of Canada’s luxury railway hotels, is a 700 acre year-round luxury mountain resort which wraps around the shores of Lac Beauvert and Canada’s #1 Resort Golf Course. The resort’s village of cedar chalets and luxury cabins, all connected by picturesque paths, offer guests unique access to explore the natural environment surrounding the resort.

Enjoy a variety of outdoor recreational activities including golf, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, and mountain biking in the summer and ice skating, snowshoeing, and skiing in the winter.

A winding road leads to Patricia and Pyramid lakes where fishing, picnicking, boating, and hiking are  popular. Rental facilities include horse-back riding, boating, canoeing, windsurfing, and sailing.

Worth Pondering…

Think I’ll go out to Alberta

Weather’s good there in the fall

Got some friends there I can go to.

—sung by Ian Tyson

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Canadian Rockies: Banff National Park

In the fall of 1883, three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers stumbled across a cave containing hot springs on the eastern slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.

Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason.
Nestled amongst the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is known as a traveler’s mecca for good reason. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From that humble beginning was born Banff National Park, Canada’s first national park and the world’s third. Spanning 2,564 square miles of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows, and rivers, Banff National Park is one of the world’s premier destination spots.

Banff National Park combines some of the most spectacular scenery in the Canadian Rockies with ease of access and a long tradition of catering to visitors.

The park is a Rocky Mountain wonder, a place of blue glacial lakes and alpine meadows, massive mountains and glaciers, canyons and waterfalls, mineral hot springs and abundant wildlife (from elk to bighorn sheep to black and grizzly bears), and breathtaking grandeur.

A popular activity in the town of Banff is to stroll the streets, shopping, seeing and being seen, all against the backdrop of fabulous mountain scenery. But Banff’s main role is as a starting point for the scenic drives and trails that bring visitors into immediate contact with the mountains.

Mt. Rundle, a prominent wedge-shaped peak, overlooks the townsite of Banff
Mt. Rundle, a prominent wedge-shaped peak, overlooks the townsite of Banff © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Louise is a glacial lake named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta and is famous for its stunning emerald water that reflects the surrounding glaciers that formed it. The eastern shore of the lake is home to Chateau Lake Louise, one of Canada’s luxury railway hotels. Few scenes are more photogenic than the one from the lawns in front of the Chateau. A dark green forest, the emerald lake, and its backdrops of white-capped mountains combine to make an irresistible composition for the million or so visitors who come here every year.

Of all lakes in the Canadian Rockies, few can match the beauty of Moraine Lake. Located near Lake Louise this glacial-fed lake is a must-visit destination when you RV in the Canadian Rockies. Moraine Lake is set below the Valley of Ten Peaks and it rivals Lake Louise in beautiful and in fame.

The scenery is spectacular, especially when viewed from the top of the Rockpile to the left of the parking lot. There is a trail that takes you to the top of the Rockpile, follow it to the top and be “awed” by the view! You can also walk along the trail following the lake or rent a canoe to see everything up close.

Moraine Lake received its name from of the pile of rock which dammed the valley, creating this beautiful lake. First it was thought to be a terminal moraine (rock pushed along by a glacier), but now believed to be a landslide down the Tower of Babel peak to the south—or both.

The Vermilion Lakes are a series of three lakes located in the Bow River Valley immediately west of Banff © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Vermilion Lakes are a series of three lakes located in the Bow River Valley immediately west of Banff © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first time I saw this gorgeous lake, I was stunned by its amazing color. The scenic mountains surrounding this lake make it a perfect scene.

See more mountains in a moment than most see in a lifetime! Ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain to experience a bird’s eye view of six mountain ranges. The Banff Gondola is located just five minutes from the Town of Banff, on the shoulder of Sulphur Mountain. The 360-degree view from the upper gondola terminal, view-decks, and Summit Ridge Interpretive Boardwalk offer the very best vantage point in the area.

Alternatively, the gondola at the Lake Louise Ski Resort provides exquisite views of the surrounding peaks and Lake Louise itself. Cruise for fourteen glorious minutes, in an open chair or a fully enclosed gondola, to one of the Banff National Park’s greatest views. From 6,850 feet the spectacular scenery is yours to explore at will—there are ambitious hikes to the summit of Mt. Whitehorn for the hardy and equally lovely short, leisurely strolls for those with more modest exercise goals.

Be sure to bring your camera to save your own special memories of soaring peaks, stunning glaciers, lush carpets of alpine wildflowers fed by clear bubbling springs, and-often-delightful glimpses of wildlife surrounded by the unspoiled beauty of summer.

Located in the Town of Banff, the Banff Upper Hot Springs has all the amenities of a modern facility in a splendid historic spa and bathhouse. You can relax in the comfort of soothing natural hot springs where travelers have come for more than a century.

The combination of connected waterways, the wildlife and the wetland environment makes the Vermillion Lakes a popular destination in the spring, summer and early fall months for many activities like kayaking, canoeing, wildlife watching and birdwatching.
The combination of connected waterways, the wildlife and the wetland environment makes the Vermillion Lakes a popular destination in the spring, summer and early fall months for many activities like kayaking, canoeing, wildlife watching and birdwatching. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Banff Upper Hot Springs is one of Banff’s most famous attractions, discovered in 1884, the hot springs were included in Banff National Park, the first National Park in Canada.

Banff Upper Hot Springs is featured on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

Water Temperature is kept between 98- and 104-degrees Fahrenheit.

Other major attractions include Upper Hot Springs, Bow River Loop, Johnston Canyon, Banff Park Museum, and Icefields Parkway.

Worth Pondering…

Alberta Bound
This piece of heaven that I’ve found
Rocky Mountains and black fertile ground
Everything I need beneath that big blue sky
Doesn’t matter where I go
This place will always be my home
Yeah I’ve been Alberta Bound for all my life
And I’ll be Alberta Bound until I die.
—Lyrics and recording by Alberta born Country Music singer, Paul Brandt, 2004

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RV to Western Canadian: 4 Great Destinations

Canada is a land of diversity and outstanding natural beauty, and every region of this great country offers different opportunities for adventure and excitement.

The rush of the Chuckwagon Races,  Calgary Stampede (Credit: Tourism Calgary)
The rush of the Chuckwagon Races,
Calgary Stampede
(Credit: Tourism Calgary)

From sea to sea, Canada is a land filled with fascinating places and amazing adventures.

But, where to travel? Following are four of the best, must-see spots in Western Canada.

Calgary (Alberta)

The Stampede is always a reason to visit Calgary. It is a mega-event that doesn’t disappoint. Cities become most interesting when they embrace what is distinct about themselves. Calgary did that over a century ago when the Calgary Stampede was born. When the hay starts flyin’ you know it’s time to gallop over to the Calgary Stampede (102nd annual; July 4-13, 2014).

Alberta’s largest city launched an intriguing event called Beakerhead, a festival that celebrates innovation through engineering and science. Astronaut Chris Hadfield was the celebrity participant in this curious cultural experiment. Calgary has more engineers per capita than most cities in the world, meaning Beakerhead has the foundation to build something big and cool. It’s a festival to watch as it gears up for its second go-round from September 10-14, 2014.

Calgary is also emerging as a destination because of its wealth of, well, wealth. Big money from the energy and finance sectors is sponsoring creative projects and helping to sustain the city’s culinary scene, which is one of the best in the country.

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (British Columbia)

No trip to Vancouver Island is complete without a visit to Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park
No trip to Vancouver Island is complete without a visit to Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park (Credit: vancouverisland.travel)

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is a thin strip of land along the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. Its magnificent islands, beaches, and dramatic seascapes divide into three geographically distinct park units: Long Beach (the most accessible), Broken Group Islands (about 100 islands in Barkley Sound), and the challenging 45-mile West Coast Trail.

The Long Beach Unit is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island between the villages of Ucluelet and Tofino. They host the annual Whale Festival from mid-March to mid-April to mark the gray whale spring migration north through park waters. Long Beach is an almost mystical place, a broad and—yes—long beach of great waves and breathtaking beauty. Long Beach Unit includes Green Point Campground, with 105 campsites situated on a forested terrace with trail access to Long Beach.

The West Coast Trail includes the section of coast southeast of Barkley Sound between the villages of Bamfield and Port Renfrew. One of the best-known and most challenging hikes in North America, it follows a rugged shoreline where approximately 66 ships have met their demise along this stretch of the “Graveyard of the Pacific”.

Park’s marine and forest environment features sand beaches, an island archipelago, old-growth coastal temperate rainforest, and significant archeological sites. The area is home to a variety of marine mammals, including seals, sea lions, and whales.

Okanagan Valley (British Columbia)

The sunny corridor of the Okanagan Valley, with its river and chain of lakes, leads

Okanagan Valley
I breathe in deeply. I’m back in the Sunny Okanagan… © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

northward from the U.S. border through a smiling countryside of irrigated orchards and vineyards. The mild climate, delightful landscape, and easy access from north and south draw RVers as well as retired people.

There are attractions and recreational activities aplenty, from water sports to zoo parks. One of the best ways to explore the Okanagan is to follow the signed Okanagan Wine Route, which takes in over 40 of the region’s wineries, now enjoying a renaissance after the introduction of new vines and advanced winemaking techniques.

Kluane National Park & Reserve (Yukon)

Home to Canada’s tallest peak (Mount Logan, altitude 19,551 feet), this giant park in western Yukon—8,490 square miles of untamed territory—can be seen from the sky, aboard a helicopter or an airplane equipped with skis (which allow high-altitude snow landings).

Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada. Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures. A National Treasure. Aerial view of the St. Elias Mountains
Kluane National Park and Reserve of Canada. Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures. A National Treasure. Aerial view of the St. Elias Mountains (Credit: Parks Canada/Laura Gorecki)

Or, even better, hike it using the park’s vast network of trails—you could walk for days without seeing another person.

It is a land of precipitous, high mountains, immense icefields, and lush valleys that yield a diverse array of plant and wildlife species and provides for a host of outdoor activities.

Haines Junction is Kluane National Park and Reserve’s administrative centre and the location of the main park visitor reception centre. The Alaska Highway and the Haines Highway parallel the park boundary in the Haines Junction area. Visitors are able to drive into the park at Kathleen Lake and Tachäl Dhäl (Sheep Mountain).

Worth Pondering…

“It’s a friendly town

A friendly town

Cal-gar-eeeee!”

—Friendly Town (sung to the tune of Bonanza) in Shadowy Men On a Shadowy Planet, 1988

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Top 3 Canadian Scenic Drives

With its vast natural landscape, Canada offers a wide-range of scenic drives. Beginning in the west of Canada and working east, following are three of Canada’s best scenic drives.

Sea-to-Sky Highway (British Columbia)

A legendary route from Vancouver to Whistler and beyond, the Sea-to-Sky Highway is a drive with incredible sights at just about every turn. (Source: stay.com)
A legendary route from Vancouver to Whistler and beyond, the Sea-to-Sky Highway is a drive with incredible sights at just about every turn. (Source: stay.com)

Considered one of the world’s most beautiful drives, the Sea-to-Sky Highway (Highway 99) offers awe-inspiring scenery. A legendary route from Vancouver to Whistler and beyond, it’s a drive with incredible sights at just about every turn. It’s also filled with fun stops, including outdoor destinations, cultural points of interest, and historic sites.

Discover scenic ocean vistas, soaring mountains, dramatic waterfalls, bustling communities, parks, and outdoor activities. Beginning at sea level and tracing a route along the shore of Howe Sound, the route weaves deep into the Coast Mountains and then climbs through old-growth rainforests before reaching Whistler 2,200 feet (670 metres) above sea level.

It takes you from downtown Vancouver through Stanley Park, over the Lions Gate Bridge, and along the upper levels of West Vancouver into the Sea-to-Sky Corridor, which starts at Horseshoe Bay.

The amazing Sea-to-Sky Highway has several stops along the way that are often missed. From the more obvious, Brandywine Falls and Porteau Cove to the less well known, Whistler Train Wreck and Lighthouse Park.

The highway has many viewing points and interpretive storyboards (the Cultural Journey) on the history of the land and its deep ties with the Coast Salish Aboriginal People. Located about half way between Horseshoe Bay and Whistler, the newly opened Sea to Sky Gondola is a spectacular place stop to see the spectacular views of the world renowned geography of alpine mountains, great rivers, valleys, and the Howe Sound fjord from above.

Icefields Parkway (Alberta)

Glacier Skywalk Offers Stunning Views of Columbia Icefield (Credit: Brewster Travel Canada)
Glacier Skywalk Offers Stunning Views of Columbia Icefield (Credit: Brewster Travel Canada)

Named for the massive glaciers it sneaks in-between, the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) is a spectacular drive that winds its way you through Banff and Jasper national parks.

To travel the Icefields Parkway is to experience one of Canada’s national treasures and most rewarding destinations. Stretching 144 miles (231 kilometres) through the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site, this world-class journey offers access to a vast wilderness of pristine mountain lakes, ancient glaciers, and broad sweeping valleys.

“This wondertrail will be world renowned,” a surveyor predicted in 1920 when Highway 93 was only a dream. When it opened 20 years later, thanks to a Depression-era public works program, The Banff Crag and Canyon crowed, “20 Switzerlands in one.”

Stretching from Lake Louise to Jasper, the Icefields Parkway affords constantly changing views of more than 600 glaciers, six icefields, and an abundance of mountains.

Selected highlights (from south to north) include: Bow Summit and Peyto Lake viewpoint; Saskatchewan River Crossing; The Weeping Wall; Sunwapta Pass; Columbia Icefield, Athabasca Glacier, Icefield Centre, and the newly opened Glacier Skywalk; Sunwapta Falls; and Athabasca Falls.

Cabot Trail (Nova Scotia)

One of the most famous drives in Canada, the Cabot Trail makes a loop around Cape Breton Island, cutting across the top of the island and closely following the western and eastern coastlines.
One of the most famous drives in Canada, the Cabot Trail makes a loop around Cape Breton Island, cutting across the top of the island and closely following the western and eastern coastlines. (Source: cabottrail.travel)

Named for explorer John Cabot, the 185-mile (300-kilometre) -long Cabot Trail is a scenic roadway that takes you around the greater part of Cape Breton. Many visitors to Cape Breton Island set aside an entire day—or two, three, or four days—to see the sights along the Cabot Trail. Because there are so many scenic overlooks, cultural heritage sites, whale watching, and hiking trails on the Cabot Trail, spending some time planning your excursion and campgrounds will make your road trip much more enjoyable.

One of the most famous drives in Canada, the Cabot Trail makes a loop around Cape Breton Island, cutting across the top of the island and closely following the western and eastern coastlines. If you travel in a clockwise direction, you’ll be on the “inside” lane as you drive along both coasts. Because the road goes up and down steep grades and curves, the clockwise direction is better for RVers who dislike driving next to steep drops. Many of the turnoffs into Cape Breton Highlands National Park are right turns if you are traveling clockwise.

Some of the more popular Cabot Trail stops include: Margaree Harbour and villages in the Margaree River valley;  Chéticamp, the largest village on Cape Breton Island’s Acadian coast; Pleasant Bay, for whale watching; hiking trails and scenic viewpoints in Cape Breton Highlands National Park; Ingonish and the surrounding beaches; St. Ann’s, for the Gaelic College and local art studios; Baddeck, for the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, golf and summer ceilidhs (Celtic music and dance events).

Worth Pondering…

I have traveled around the globe.

I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes and the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland; but for simple beauty, Cape Breton Island outrivals them all.

—Alexander Graham Bell

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