Canadian Rockies Are Magnificent

TRAVEL TALK

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The other day, I began thinking of the more beautiful places I have visited around the world. The Canadian Rockies kept popping into my head as one of the more outstanding. The scenery is magnificent.

Summer is probably the best time to visit. During the spring and fall, weather can be a little chancier.

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No matter what season a traveler ventures into the Canadian Rockies, they're spectacular.

There are several ways to visit the area. Many travelers drive, while some will opt to book a motor coach tour and others may wish to be a little more deluxe by using motor coach and the train.

You can begin from Vancouver, traveling east, or Calgary, going west.

I'll cover some of the highlights, using the east-to-west itinerary.

Calgary is a bustling city that has had amazing growth in the last 35 years. I have found the Canadian people very friendly, with a desire to help travelers with various needs. Dining in English-speaking Canada is similar to experience in the U.S., with some regional variations. You'll find clean accommodations along the way and, for the most part, safe surroundings. Driving is about the same as it is in the U.S., with similar road signs and laws.

If your time is limited, you might consider flying to Calgary, renting a car and dropping it off in Vancouver.

From Calgary, you'll head west and soon begin the ascent into the Rockies. After a little more than an hour, you are in Banff National Park. Your first overnight should be here. You'll find accommodations to suit your budget. You should book your hotels and motels in advance, since the Rockies are very popular during the summer months.

My choice in Banff is one of the finest hotels in Canada, the Fairmont Banff Springs. It was built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad many years ago and has had several major renovations. Today, it is the best it has ever been. The hotel is elegant, friendly and set in one of the most beautiful surroundings in this entire world. A stay here is a special treat. You'll have the camera clicking in all directions and probably print them all when you get home.

The Chateau Lake Louise Hotel is 40 minutes away on scenic Lake Louise. A night or two here will be positively unforgettable. Wonderful grounds surround, with a lake that is one of the most photographed in the world. Just nine miles away is Moraine Lake, for more photos.

You'll be 4,500 to 5,000 feet in altitude while in Banff. July average temperatures are between 65 and 67 degrees. The Rockies loom above you at 11,000 to 12,000 feet. Valleys, rivers, lakes and wildlife are what this area is all about.

Northwest of Banff is Jasper National Park, which is the largest of Canada's Rocky Mountain parks. Spectacular scenery abounds, with broad valleys, rugged mountains, glaciers, forests Alpine meadows and wild rivers. Keep an eye out for elk, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, mountain lions and wolves. Take the Ice Fields Parkway for unparalleled beauty as you travel by a chain of massive ice fields along the Continental Divide.

The Columbia Ice Field borders the parkway in the southern end of the park. You can also go rafting and perhaps go horseback riding. There is so much to see here that it will bend your mind.

From Jasper, you can wind your way west through spectacular scenery ending in Vancouver. Here is one of the most beautifully situated cities in the world. Water, mountains and parks surround this bustling metropolis that is now very ethnically diverse.

Include Chinatown for an authentic lunch or dinner and be sure to spend some time driving around Stanley Park. Vancouver is good for a two- or three-day stay, with so much to see and do.

I always like to take the ferry over to Victoria, located on the southern end of Vancouver Island. It feels very "English" with hanging baskets dangling from the lampposts. You can wander through the town and have lunch in a pub. The world-famous Butchart Gardens, displaying thousands of plants and flowers, is a must. Be sure to visit the Inner Harbor with many boats anchored and overlooked by the famous Empress Hotel. High Tea is a specialty here.

Someday I plan to circle Vancouver Island by car, stopping at some fine seaside hotels, as I work my way through this spectacular area. You might want to include this in your Northwest plans.

Should you wish to take a prearranged tour, contact Train Holidays at 1-800-543-2846 or Caravan Tours at 1-800-CARAVAN.

You'll always remember the Canadian Rockies and Vancouver/Victoria as one of the most outstanding trips of your life.

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