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Thread: National Parks of the Northern Rockies Vacation – August 2013

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    National Parks of the Northern Rockies Vacation – August 2013

    Hello All, We finally got around to doing our trip report from August. Guess late is better than never right?

    Day 1 (8/10) We had intended to leave Friday night after work and spend the night in Ten Sleep, WY – one of our favorite hangouts. Thanks to stormy weather (lightening and hail between Gillette and Ten Sleep), we left home on Saturday, August 10, and rode from Gillette to Dubois, WY, by way of Casper, Shoshoni & Pavilion (US Hwy 26). The route we took for this part of the trip is not very scenic… to say the least, but it’s the quickest way to get “from point A to point B.” We’ve reviewed the KOA in Dubois in the past, and still recommend it if you like clean bathrooms and showers (and if you prefer to stay in town where you can walk to restaurants, bars or the quaint western shopping / tourist experience). Dubois really is the essence of Wyoming in a small town. There are Forest Service campgrounds in the area if you prefer to be away from town--and they are less expensive. (Day 1 =332 miles)
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    Re: National Parks of the Northern Rockies Vacation – August 2013

    Day 2 (8/11) Grand Teton NP and Yellowstone NP (the first 2 of our 8 National Parks goal for this vacation). These 2 parks are in our “back yard,” so we get there nearly every year. They are each well worth the trip – at least once in a lifetime – every time. We took the least crowded route through Yellowstone (straight up US Hwy 89 from the south gate to West Thumb, then left/west past Old Faithful and on north to Mammoth Hot Springs) to avoid the stop-and-start traffic-- but we also missed out on seeing much wildlife (only 2 old buffalo bulls this trip). The Town Café on the southeast end of Gardiner, MT – just outside the north entrance to Yellowstone NP -- has really good cheeseburgers (and it’s usually not crowded). We stayed at the KOA campground at Paradise Valley / Livingston, Montana, which is about 35 miles north of Yellowstone NP. (We did a campground review for this KOA last year. It’s ok. The location is nice. Campsites have trees and shrubs that give a feeling of being somewhat secluded. Bathrooms & showers are not clean enough – and are a bit of a walk from tent areas.) (Day 2 = 229 miles)
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    Re: National Parks of the Northern Rockies Vacation – August 2013

    Day 3 (8/12) Today was mainly just a travel day – no spectacular tourist attractions along the way. Eastern Montana is nice to ride in this time of year if you can get an un-windy day like we did. This is one of our regular (almost every year – at least once) riding areas. To save some time, we stayed on I-90 to Missoula, then US Hwy 93 north. As usual, we had to stop in Polson, MT, at the Fiesta en Jalisco restaurant for an early dinner. From that point north, the highway runs along the west shore of Flathead Lake—“…the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi…” We stayed at the KOA in the mountains and pine forest between Kalispell and Whitefish just off Hwy 93. (We’ve stayed here before and have written a campground review.) The campsites are nice. We got a back-in with water and power and a wooden deck to sit on! It’s a hike to the bathrooms, office, store, pools, and on-site pizza pub / breakfast café. The roads in the campground are not for anyone who is afraid of dirt or rugged terrain. It’s nice to have beer and ice available at the campground since we don’t like carrying it with us all the time. (Day 3 = 384 miles)
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    Re: National Parks of the Northern Rockies Vacation – August 2013

    Day 4 (8/13) Kootenay NP (BC) -- the 3rd of the 8 national parks we set out to see. We LOVE the Canadian Rockies!!! The border crossing at Roosville, MT, on US Hwy 93 (just north of Eureka) was pretty busy, but great riding all day otherwise. The scenery for miles around on both sides of the border is gorgeous. The route (Hwy 93) took us north/northwest along the British Columbia side of the Canadian Rockies to Radium Hot Springs. From there, we turned east (still on Hwy 93 – the highway north of Radium is 95) into Kootenay NP. The entrance to this park is a rocky, slot canyon kind of place that opens into the mountains. Much of the ride is next to one river or another. Near the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia (and between Kootenay NP and Banff NP) you can see several glaciers up on the peaks. We got onto the TransCanada 1 at the Bow River and headed south through Banff to Canmore, AB. We didn’t stop at the typical places as it was a long day, we’ve been here before, and we would be seeing more of the Rockies the next day. We camped at a municipal campground (“Wapiti”) in Canmore. (We did a campground review for this campground previously, too.) Canmore is rather touristy (close to Banff), and has plenty of trendy eateries and pubs to choose from; but we chose to eat at Boston Pizza because it is good, affordable, relatively quiet, and familiar. We would be hard pressed to find a more spectacular sunset or sunrise than we had from the campground in Canmore. The peaks rise several thousand feet all the way around the valley to castle-like rocky spires way above the tree line. Canmore is the gateway to Banff and the Canadian Rockies when you are traveling west from Calgary. (Day 4 = 311 miles)
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    Re: National Parks of the Northern Rockies Vacation – August 2013

    Can't wait for the rest. Great report so far.
    Gary

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    Re: National Parks of the Northern Rockies Vacation – August 2013

    Day 5 (8/14) Banff NP (AB), Yoho NP (BC), & Jasper NP (AB), (national parks # 4, 5, & 6) – There really are not words adequate to describe Banff, the Columbia Ice Fields, or Jasper National Parks; only pictures and actually being there can do them justice – and even pictures are just barely adequate. (You can Google “Lake Louise, Alberta” for a perfect example.) This was our first trip into Yoho National Park. It’s a smaller park directly west of Lake Louise –inside the British Columbia line--on the TransCanada Highway 1. We rode down to Field, BC, and checked out the park visitor center there. Field is a tiny little mountain town in a meandering river valley with gigantic rocky peaks all the way around it… and a steep winding highway to get out of it. (If you’ve been in the Colorado Rockies, it is reminiscent of places like Frisco or Copper Mountain.) We plan on going back to Yoho NP and Field sometime as there are some interesting tunnels, canyons and hikes we want to check out with more time to stay. We had booked a reservation way in advance at the Wapiti Campground, operated by Parks Canada, inside Jasper NP just a couple of miles south of the town of Jasper, AB. It’s a nice quiet place with a lot of firewood if you buy a fire permit (and the rack on the hitch of the Harley worked great for logging operations). If you decide to try to stay at any campground inside any park boundaries in Canada in the summertime, be sure to get reservations online several weeks in advance --or you will find them all full when you get there.) (Day 5 = 245 miles)
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    Re: National Parks of the Northern Rockies Vacation – August 2013

    Very very nice thanks for pictures.
    Gary

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    Re: National Parks of the Northern Rockies Vacation – August 2013

    Day 6 (8/15) Spirit Island Cruise on Maligne Lake in Jasper NP – Spectacular! The ride from Jasper Townsite up to Maligne Lake is both fun and incredibly beautiful – even when it’s a little rainy. We saw a young black bear beside the road, and several deer; but no moose or mountain caribou that all the signs were warning about. When you get to the boat docks, it’s like any other (gorgeous, turquoise, surrounded by mountains and forest) lake in the Canadian Rockies. But when you get off the boat at the Spirit Island boardwalk and recognize that very familiar scene – and realize you are actually standing there – it is absolutely stunning! (Google “Spirit Island Boat Tour.”) The tour guides / boat captains make the adventure fun and informative, too. From Maligne Lake after the 90 minute cruise, we rode east out of Jasper NP to the KOA at Hinton, AB. The north end of Jasper NP is interesting – lots of lakes and meadows and views of the mountains. We saw a small herd of bighorn sheep and a huge bull elk along the way. After we set up the tent at the KOA, we rode into Hinton for gas and dinner (at Boston Pizza, again) … oh yeah, and ice and beer. It’s a little windy in this area just east of the mountains, but the countryside – and the clouds—are beautiful. The KOA at Hinton is spread out, and it’s a bit of a walk from the tent areas to the extremely clean bathrooms and showers. This campground has a store, laundry facilities, game room, cooking pavilions; and is in a very scenic valley. We were told that elk, deer, bears and mountain lions like to prowl around the campground at night, but we never saw or heard any. (Day 6 = 116 miles)
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    Re: National Parks of the Northern Rockies Vacation – August 2013

    Day 7 (8/16) lazy day… supposedly. We stayed an extra day at the Hinton KOA so we could rest a little and get laundry done. After riding in to Hinton for breakfast at Smitty’s, we had to ride up “the Scenic Route to Alaska” - Highway 40 - for a few miles. We stopped at Gregg Lake to take pictures and walk around a bit. The afternoon was spent doing laundry and repacking everything. Later in the afternoon, we rode back into Jasper NP and up the Maligne Lake road again to Medicine Lake (a lake that disappears each year, then refills in the spring with melt water). We still didn’t see any moose or mountain caribou, so we rode back toward Jasper and stopped at the First Bridge area of Maligne Canyon. We hiked around the First Bridge Loop and took a lot of pictures of this incredible slot canyon and the raging water that carves it out. This is a must see. On the way back out of the park toward Hinton, we saw the little herd of bighorn sheep again, and 2 more (smaller) bull elk. We stopped to get pictures of the elk, and other people there harassed the elk into walking back past us within about 10 feet of our bike – we got a video! (Day 7 = 173 miles)
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    Re: National Parks of the Northern Rockies Vacation – August 2013

    Day 8 (8/17) Time to head south and back toward the U.S. again. We made our way east on Hwy 16 to Entwistle, then south on Hwy 22 through farm country, oil fields, and forested foothills to Sundre, AB. We stayed at Wagons West Campground a little west of Sundre on 584 (the main drag through town). -- (We did a campground review for the Wagons West Campground a year or so ago, but never got it posted: “Wagon’s West RV Park & Campground, Sundre, AB {on Hwy. 22, northwest of Calgary} – This is a nice, quiet “mom and pop” type of campground in a scenic little town in the farm country and foothills of central Alberta. Their tent area is secluded and private – even has a separate entrance drive from the rest of the place. Laundry, bathrooms, showers are all clean. No C-store, gas, etc. – you have to go into town for all that. Here is a link to the campground website: http://wagonswestrvpark.com/ “) -- We ended up getting the exact same tent spot this year that we had in 2010. The site is away from the rest of the campers, but close to the –very clean– restrooms, showers and main office. There is some noise from the industrial area (logging operations and oil field services, etc.) nearby, but it didn’t bother us any. Went to “Swamp Donkey’s Pub” again! Swamp Donkey’s is one of our favorites and has good food, good service and a friendly down-to-earth atmosphere. (Day 8 = 278 miles)
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