Want to beat the summer heat? Why not head to the north country. Fly in and out of Calgary, and enjoy a 7-day escorted tour from $1195 per person. This leisurely tour starts in Calgary at the foothills of the Canadian Rockies and winds through Waterton Lakes Park in Alberta and Glacier National Park in Montana. Together they make up the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
Waterton Lakes National Park is unique because of its blend of unusual geology, mild climate, rare wild flowers, and the abundance of wildlife. It has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve, preserving ecosystems of mountains, lakes and freshwater wetlands. Some of the habitats represented in Waterton Park are prairie grasslands, aspen grove forests, sub alpine forests, alpine tundra and high meadows. You will spend two nights on the shores of Waterton Lake, with cafes, shops, wildlife viewing and nature trails right outside your door.
In Glacier National Park you will explore in vintage touring coaches from the 1930s. Traveling down the “Going-to-the-Sun” Road, you will have several spectacular viewpoints, including St. Mary’s Lake and the cliff that makes up the central Continental Divide, the Garden Wall. Be on the lookout for wildlife at Logan Pass, the highest drivable point in the Park at 6,600 feet, and have some free time to explore Many Glacier, on the east side of the park. Rocks in Glacier National Park are some of the best Proterozoic fossils in the world. The mountains have been carved over the centuries by advancing and retreating glacier activity.
The park’s ecosystems remain almost unchanged since they were first “discovered” in the time of Lewis and Clark. Glacier National Park is one of the last remaining natural grizzly bear habitats. The bears often descend to the lower elevations in late summer to feast on berries and fish. The Canadian lynx and bull trout along with grizzlies are the park’s three endangered species. Birders will find many species of waterfowl and birds of prey.
The weather and ecosystems differ greatly from the east and west side of the Divide, and snow can fall at any time, even in August.
The next day you will drive north through the unspoiled paradise that is Kananaskis Valley, with a stop at Canmore, a coal mining town that was saved from a dismal economic future by the 1988 Calgary Olympics, which opened the area to tourism.
Continuing on to Banff, you will ride the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain for breathtaking views of six mountain ranges. You will stay two nights at the Mount Royal hotel in Banff. You have the chance to view more wildlife on a drive along the shores of Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka. After a stop at Bow River Falls, you will enjoy a float trip on the Bow River, weather permitting. There is leisure time to explore Banff’s restaurants, shops, galleries, and taverns.
The following morning you visit Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, and then stop to see the turquoise waters of Lake Louise. Next you drive along the Icefields Parkway past waterfalls, snow capped mountains, and glacier fed lakes. Watch for bears, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, and caribou. You will stay two nights in Jasper National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the banks of the Athabasca River. In the morning you will drive to Malinge Canyon and the 14-mile long glacier fed Malinge Lake. The same wildlife abounds here with the addition of bald eagles. You have the afternoon at leisure to explore the Jasper Park.
The next morning, if weather permits, you will ride across the Columbia Icefield’s Athabasca Glacier in an all-terrain Ice Explorer. Walk around on the glacier that ultimately flows into the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans. The Columbia Icefield is the largest region of ice and snow south of the Arctic Circle. It gets as much as 33 feet of snow every year. Nevertheless all the glaciers are retreating due to less snowfall and warmer temperatures.
After a photo stop at Peyto Lake, known for its brilliant turquoise color, a result of glacier melt, you return to Calgary for a farewell dinner.
This itinerary has plenty of free time, with hotel stays of two consecutive nights in three locations. Breakfast is included every day and dinner on three evenings. Your transportation is on a luxury motor coach with a maximum of 44 people. Accommodations in Calgary at the start and end of the tour are at the Hilton Garden Inn. Airfare roundtrip Calgary is approximately $350 per person.
For this and other affordable tours in the United States, stop in at Cruise Port Travel, 900 W Driftwood Dr. in Payson. Visit our Web site www.travelpayson.com.