Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Icefields Parkway- Banff & Jasper NP

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  The Icefields Parkway, which connects Lake Louise to Jasper, travels though 142 miles of beautiful scenery with many places to stop and admire the view or take a hike. The signage is not very good so pick up a map or download this one before you start the trip.

   Of course the rugged terrain limits wheelchair accessibility but we stopped at as many places as possible to check them out. Herbert Lake was our first stop where we found a steep path and no wheelchair access. Next was the Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint. A large parking lot with room for RVs provides a good view of the three toes of the glacier without even leaving your vehicle.

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  Continue along the road to the accessible overlook of Bow Lake and Bow Glacier.

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  Drive a bit more to the turnoff to Bow Summit and park in the accessible lot.  A very steep, paved path leads to a great overlook.

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  Howe Pass has an accessible, flat, gravel path that makes a loop along a cliff with wonderful views of the valley below. The parking lot is large enough for RVs.

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The parking lot view of Bridal Veil Falls is blocked by a large berm of dirt.

  The main attraction of the Parkway is the Columbia Icefield which covers 125 square miles and is the largest ice field in the Rocky Mountains.  We were expecting a nice national park visitor center with exhibits about the glaciers and were disappointed to find that the fancy Icefield Centre is owned by Brewster Tours and it’s sole purpose is to sell tickets for special buses that travel out on the glacier.  Park in the large accessible lot for great views of the glacier. Two smaller lots on the other side of the highway provide access to a short, non-accessible trail that leads to the foot of the glacier. The smaller lots fill so there may not always be room for RVs.

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  Tangle Falls is right along the road. A small parking lot is located on the opposite side and is not large enough for long RVs.

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   A short, very steep trail leads to the viewpoint of Sunwapta Falls. The parking lot has room for RVs.

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The Athabasca Falls trail has many steps and is not accessible. We walked/rolled along Hwy 93A and viewed the falls from the bridge. A small pull off  where RVs will fit is located at the south end of the bridge. The main parking lot has RV spaces.

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  Our first night on the parkway we stayed at Wilcox Creek Campground near the icefields. Some of the sites have nice views of the mountains. Most of the sites are small and the bends in the roads are tight. Larger RVs should stay at the Icefield Centre RV camping area which is just a large asphalt lot where day visitor also park.

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The next night we stayed outside of Jasper at Wapiti Campground which has a lot of sites and room for any size RV. Most of the electric sites were filled so reservations might be necessary if you want electricity.  Parkway

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       alberta1

Monday, June 29, 2015

Banff NP Townsite

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  Banff is a typical resort town with restaurants and shops lining the streets. About half of the businesses have accessible entrances. The sidewalks and curb cuts are in good condition.

  RV parking is limited to a few spots but since the town is compact and level once you’re parked it’s easy to walk/roll everywhere. If all the parking in town is filled try the train station on Railway Ave. We parked at the west end of Wolf Street, near the Bow River Trail. The trail is paved and level with beautiful views of the river and mountains.  Trail

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  While in town we visited the Luxton Museum, the Whyte Museum and the Banff Park Museum.

  The Luxton Museum houses exhibits about the First Nations people who lived in the area and displays of very nicely crafted artifacts gathered by Norman Luxton, a prominent  local businessman. The museum is accessible but the short ramps between the rooms are a bit steep.  Museum

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  The Whyte Museum, founded by Catherine Whyte, has interesting local history and art galleries. The museum is accessible. A few paintings by the Whytes are located on the lower level. Wheelchair access to this level is by a small lift operated by museum personnel. Museum

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The Banff Park Museum is housed in a beautiful natural wood building built in 1903. It was founded as a natural history museum and most of the mounted animals and birds were collected between 1890 and 1930. The first floor is accessible. The second floor is accessed by a long flight of stairs. Museum

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  We also visited a few spots near town – The Hoodoos, Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Vermillion Lakes, Fenland Trail, Bankhead and Johnson Lake.

  The Hoodoos are spires of sedimentary rock that are left standing after other material had eroded.  A lookout point is accessed by a very steep, paved trail. It’s definitely worth the trip but wheelchair users will need to have help.  Trail

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  Cave and Basin NHS is the site of Canada’s first national park , established in 1885 to protect the natural hot springs. The beautiful visitor center incorporates the original swimming pool building constructed in 1916. The site has displays about the natural and human history, a short walk through a cave to a hot pool, another pool outside, a huge movie screen, views of the mountains and boardwalks.

  The museum is accessible. The top deck is accessed through the snack bar building but be careful because the iron gate on the deck will lock behind you and the only way out is a stairway. The boardwalks are not accessible. The upper one has steps. The lower one has a sloppy horse trail bisecting it.

   A long steep walkway leads from the RV parking lot to the visitor center. There are two accessible parking spaces near the visitor center but you must stop at the welcome center first to get permission to drive up the hill. The spaces are long enough for a small RV.  Cave and Basin

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   Vermillion Lakes can be easily viewed from the road. Lakes

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  Fenlands trail is narrow, rough and muddy which makes it not accessible.  Trail

  Bankhead is the site of a mining town that supplied coal to the locomotives of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In the 1920s the town was disassembled and some of the buildings were moved to Banff. An overlook and trail provide interpretation for the site. The overlook is accessible. The trail has steps and is not accessible. Bankhead

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  The trail around Johnson Lake is narrow and rocky with steep slopes and not accessible. A very steep paved path leads to a good view point with  picnic tables. Trail

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  We camped at Tunnel Mountain Village 1 but I forgot to take a picture.  Campground

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Banff NP - Lake Louise and Moraine Lake

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  Lake Louise, with it’s deep turquoise water surrounded by glacier clad peaks, is picture postcard perfect. It was misty during our visit but still gorgeous. From the RV parking lot a long, steep, paved path leads down to the lake. A very nice, almost level trail, which starts paved and then becomes hard packed dirt, goes halfway around the lake. There’s one small stream cut and one little hill. Both are easy to navigate with a little help. 

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  Moraine Lake is just as scenic but the trail is not accessible due to steep, rocky terrain.  The viewpoint at the base of the lake is accessible. The parking lot has RV spaces.  Park

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Yoho National Park

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   Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, although very beautiful, are not a match for the scenery found in Yoho, Banff and Jasper – massive glaciers, clear turquoise lakes, thundering waterfalls and jagged peaks. A fair number of the attractions in Yoho are easy to access from the main highway and many are wheelchair accessible. We traveled from west to east and made these stops along the way.

  Wapata Falls is not accessible so we skipped it.

  The river at Natural Bridge roars through a split in the rock.The overlook is accessible. The parking lot has room for RVs
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  Emerald Lake features a beautiful trail that circles the lake.The trail is paved for a short distance then it becomes hard parked dirt. Wheelchair users must turn around at the midway point when the trail narrows and become swampy. The parking lot has long RV spaces.
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   Takakkaw Falls has paved, slightly uphill trail to falls. It’s a bit rough at bridge but doable. The road to the falls has a couple of very tight turns. It may be necessary to back up to make the bends if you’re driving a vehicle longer than 20 feet. RVs may not be permitted on this road in the summer busy season.There’s room for RVs in parking lot.
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  We stayed at Kicking Horse Campground. The sites under the trees are all fairly short and longer spaces are located in an open field. The sites designated as accessible have extended table tops. They’re closer to the restroom but do not have an accessible path. The building is a covered cooking shelter.
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  Spiral Tunnel Viewpoint – It’s hard to get a grasp of how the train tracks make two complete loops, especially since the loops are in the tunnels, but the panels at the viewpoint do a good job of explaining it. The viewpoint and signs are accessible. The parking lot has RV spaces.  Park
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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Boondocking along Hwy 1

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  We weren’t concerned about the closed campgrounds at Glacier National Park because with all of the wilderness we figured we’d be able to find some good free camping. We found a couple of beauties! The spot pictured above is between Revelstoke and Glacier.

Turn north onto the gravel forest road at the east end of the bridge over the Illecillewaet River. Drive about 1/4 mile on the road until it opens into a large clearing. The road is narrow and a little overgrown but any RV should be able to get to the clearing. The road deteriorates about 1/2 mile in and is closed to street vehicles. The rushing of the river drowns out most of the traffic noise.

   If you have a small, high clearance vehicle some more very nice spots can be accessed by going just past the clearing and making a left at the fork. Go down the hill and you’ll come to an area that looks like it was a campground at one time. Large flat spots are nestled under a canopy of trees. We didn’t take our RV down the hill but we did walk in as far as the camp area.The road continues but we don’t know how far.

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  We saw many piles of bear scat so practice safe food preparation and storage.  51.146174, -117.845500      BC Recreation Sites

  The second spot was found by our friend Gary. While we were in BC we were able to get together with him and his girlfriend Sharon and had a great time visiting. As an experienced  RVer and a BC native, he suggested this spot for us to check out. Thanks Gary!

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  Traveling east along Hwy 1, look for the right turn just after the truck rest area. The road is signed as unmaintained but it’s in fairly good condition. It’s used by the Glacier Rafting Company. After traveling about 3/4 mile downhill the road levels out at a very large, grassy clearing. Another grassy clearing is located on the opposite side of the road. A large, rocky clearing is farther down the road and then a small rocky clearing and river access. The river floods the rocky beach so don’t camp there. The train tracks are on the other side of the river so expect some noise.

  The road is narrow and a bit steep. Large RVs should be able to navigate it because the raft company buses use it

  Several rafting companies use this area for lunch breaks. There are no signs prohibiting camping and no signs marking any of it as closed to the public. Don’t use the porta potties, picnic tables and grills that the rafting companies have provided for their customers. 51.263806, -116.745423

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