(in an airstream with kids)
Our initial route needed to be changed due to unexpected weather changes.
Here is our proposed route:
Here is our actual route:
The benefit to visiting Canada in September is that the crowds are little less, the downside is the unpredictable weather.
Of course, tourist season is ALL year-round in these areas, but visiting in summer is probably the the BEST for weather and the WORST for crowds.
We recommend buying the Canada Park Pass no matter which season you plan to visit! It will save you money if you plan on visiting multiple national parks.
We crossed the border at the Blaine, south of Vancouver. The line was about a 30 minute wait and border patrol was easy-peasy with a few questions about firearms, citrus fruits (?), and alcohol. Always research prior to border crossing - we needed to provide passports for all members of our family. They did not ask for pet information but we did have pet passports available in case they did.
From there we went north, checked out Vancouver, and kept rolling to Whistler. We stayed at Nairn Falls which we highly recommend. The sites are dry and private, some overlook the river. There is a beautiful hike to the waterfall that leaves from the campground. ($22/night).
An unfortunate event occurred after we left Pemberton. The roads were windy and rainy and we hydroplaned into a ditch - all is well but we ended up camping in an unexpected spot nearby Lillooet and absolutely loved it! Gott Creek campsites are pretty tight and we would not recommend taking a large rig, but the secluded sites near a beautiful creek were hard to beat! ($12/night).
Next stop was Jasper National Park - it was a LONG drive day but completely worth it! We stayed at Wapiti Campground which is close to town and trails. This is dry camping also but drinking water and dumping is available! ($27/night). We enjoyed the Miette Hot Springs, the Maligne Canyon Loop Trail, and don’t miss this Pizza Place! The hot springs in Canada are reasonably priced and have suits, towels, and swim diapers available to rent/buy. They are family friendly and have lockers and showers - win, win! We did not do the tram or any tours, partly because the weather was not suitable and partly because of the price. Jasper is absolutely beautiful, there is so much to see and do!
We traveled down the glorious Icefields Parkway and enjoyed the stunning landscape! The Athabasca Glacier was en route to BANFF (our next stop) so we decided to check out the Discovery Center and were hopeful for a tour! The Glacier Adventure was pretty pricey (especially for a family) so we did the short 1-hour hike to view the glacier. The Discovery Center also has an informational gallery with a video documentary about the glacier. They allow FREE overnight parking in the lot. It is right next to the highway but convenient if you plan on exploring the Glacier.
Enjoyed the drive down Icefields Parkway! It is stunning!
Tunnel Mountain Village II in BANFF is close to town and has spacious, level sites ($32.30/night). The campground has an odd layout but the location is unbeatable. BANFF has plenty of great restaurants and stores to meander, apparently we only ate pizza in Canada so I will recommend yet another amazing pizza place - Bear Street Tavern. Whether you are a beginner or a professional mountain biker the trails leaving from the campground are fun for everyone! Highly recommend!
After a week in BANFF we decided to move forward toward Revelstoke. The weather was beginning to get worse and some of the campgrounds we already closing for the winter season, we bypassed YOHO because of the weather and closed campgrounds and stopped in Golden. Cedar Lake Recreation Center was the perfect mix of nature and close to the city ($12/night). With a little lake and more mountain biking trails, it is a great spot to stop on the way to Revelstoke. The weather forecast was grim and unfortunately Revelstoke was no longer passable so we veered south toward Nelson.
A stop at Radium Hot Springs was just what we needed to warm up. It is the largest hot spring and great for kids. It also had showers and towels, suits, and swim diapers to rent. Highly recommend! The only camping we found last minute was which was Dry Gulch Provincial Park which wasn’t an ideal spot but clean and quiet for the night (free during off season). We woke up to a blizzard and packed up to head south.
The crossing back into the U.S.A. was seamless with no lines at Rooseville, AB. We continued driving until Whitefish, MT. A lovely little mountain town with a nice state park to call home for the night.