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Old 04-09-2011, 05:00 PM
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Anyone ever driven to Calgary from Colorado? I have it estimated to be anywhere from 17-20 hours. Is it scenic/interesting? Any tips (other than to fly)? We'd prefer to fly but we're going to take our dogs.
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Old 04-09-2011, 05:51 PM
Location: Na'alehu Hawaii/Buena Vista Colorado
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We were considering the same thing this summer. Our rough estimate is 24 hours, based on Google Maps. We've never actually taken the trip.
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Old 04-09-2011, 09:11 PM
Location: Silverthorne, Colorado
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As are some of my friends and I for a road trip!

Of course, we'll be taking more scenic ways that aren't as quick since our whole plan is to see more of the two countries, but it still follows this general pattern:

Take I-25 north to I-90 west to I-15 north to the border. (You can shortcut between I-90 and I-15 using either US 287 or Montana 69.)

Upon crossing into Alberta, it becomes Highway 4. Stay on 4 to Highway 3, through Lethbridge, then to Highway 2 north right up into Calgary.

A quick look on Google Maps will easily find you a way to go.
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Old 04-11-2011, 11:45 AM
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If you make the trip make sure you have time to hit Banff and Jasper. Lake Louise will take your breath away. RP
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Old 04-11-2011, 02:02 PM
Location: Coos Bay, Oregon
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Originally Posted by proveick View Post
If you make the trip make sure you have time to hit Banff and Jasper. Lake Louise will take your breath away. RP
I agree with that. I'd also suggest they add Glacier National Park to that, since they will be so close.

This would be a dream trip for me. Some years ago I took a long road trip, that included one leg fro Seattle to Montana. Our plans were to do that through BC and Alberta. Unfortunately we got behind schedule and had to eliminate the jump across the border. But Glacier Park was spectacular, and made up for a lot of that.
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Old 04-11-2011, 04:27 PM
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Wink Denver to Calgary & so much more

Stick with the interstates if intent on speed, but there are more interesting routes to Calgary, Alberta.

I have not been into Canada in that area, but nearly so, and would advise something far more interesting and scenic. In some respects, the route less taken.

Some interstate driving will be entailed, unless determined to take roundabout detours, but it can be fairly minimal, with also a route, if not as direct, which still angles northward with determination. One might begin with simply driving north on I-25 out of Denver. Not exactly inspiring, with fairly heavy traffic, but in compensation both direct and with a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains to the west.

The first departure to places less traveled comes at Fort Collins, CO, when one might forsake I-25 for once and all by taking US 287 northwest to Laramie, WY at its junction with I-80. From passing through Fort Collins to outlying meadows and farms, one will begin to ascend the small divide of mountains crossed to down again and enter the flat prairies of Wyoming. Particularly within Colorado it is a fairly scenic drive. There is not much traffic. Of the few settlements, one place of note is Virginia Dale, although one might pass it by without noticing. But it enjoys a nice enough location, and featured as one of the stops of his overland stagecoach journey in Mark Twain's 'Roughing It.' The stationmaster was the notorious Jack Slade, who founded the town in 1862, named after his wife Virginia. To Mr. Twain's relief and regret Mr. Slade was not in residence at the time, and no one was gunned down.

Laramie is the home of the University of Wyoming, but unless wishing a visit of campus, or perhaps a night at one of the many lodging options, then one can continue west on I-80. This could be considered the bleakest part of the trip, but of some interest if enjoying long vistas. In compensation I-80 in Wyoming is easy to travel on if not winter, with distinctly less traffic than I-25 in urban Colorado.

At Rawlins, WY one can say goodbye to I-80 in turning northwest onto US 287 towards Lander, WY. In truth the same bleak aspects of southeast Wyoming continue more or less to Lander, but one can take excitement of the novelty of roads less seen. NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) is based in the small, clean, very much Western, town of Lander, which is still large enough to serve as the regional town in the area. The scenery begins to improve, with more evidence of grass and meadow, and the beautiful Wind River Mountains visible to one's left. They will parallel one's path, a constant companion as the country begins to change. Most definitely from Dubois, WY on, when one will soon enter the mountains and a pass at last to drop in to the valley of Jackson Hole. Dubois is also a lovely spot, as a small tourist town.

Jackson Hole is decidedly larger, and could be a good place to rest for the night in what would have been one good, solid day of driving (figure 12 hours, very roughly). It should be noted that choosing to lodge in Jackson Hole will entail a detour of about 30 miles (60, when doubling back), as that distance south from the 'T' intersection with US 191. There are fine lodging options within Teton or Yellowstone National Parks, but with proviso that these both potentially more expensive, and more usually with necessary prior booking throughout most of the summer. That could be advisable in Jackson Hole as well, but as the largest town in the region it offers many lodging options. Few if any will be inexpensive in summer, but in recompense Jackson Hole is an interesting town to visit, with also enjoying a beautiful location. Some consolation also in making the detour there is the lovely scenery along the entire route. The rightly famed Teton Mountains of Teton NP are a lovely companion to the west for most of the route along US 191 in this area.

In driving north from Jackson Hole, or even if not, it would be well worth the time and expense to enter Teton NP at its southern entrance and take the Park road that meanders north closer to the mountains. It is not much of a detour, leads in the same direction one is headed anyway, and affords the most lovely drive, with picturesque spots to park and sit next a mountain lake if desired. If not having done so, it would be advisable at this time to purchase an annual national park pass in lieu of paying the Park entrance fee. National Park entrance fees vary, but generally $20 per vehicle (good in that Park for 7 days), but if visiting several national parks, or even just one several times in a year, the annual park pass at $80 is far more of a bargain.

The lovely and large Jackson Lake denotes the northern edge of Teton NP, and thence transition via the John D. Rockefeller Parkway to the southern entrance of Yellowstone NP. This Parkway is a true gift to the American people, as it allows uninterrupted wilderness from Teton NP all the way through Yellowstone NP, connecting the two together.

While one might spend any amount of time enjoying the wonders of Yellowstone NP, if wishing to make any kind of time one will not circle the Park, but expeditiously turn left near the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake to continue northwest on US 287. Doing so still allows one to see many of the wonders of this magnificent Park, not least the iconic Old Faithful geyser. Visiting Old Faithful and the Old Faithful Inn, directly adjacent, is but a quite slight detour, and well worth it. Begun in 1903, with its fantastic architecture done by then 29-year-old Robert Reamer, the Old Faithful Inn is the largest log building in the world. Its massive central stone fireplace, soaring up in the open lobby, is 85 feet tall. This beautiful lodge is an iconic example of rustic resort architecture. In summer, expect many tourists to be present, but it should not be missed if the least interested. Also note that while one might venture but the short distance to view Old Faithful periodically erupting, that this natural show can be enjoyed as well, drink in hand, from an armchair on the large terrace directly above the main entrance of the lodge.

From Old Faithful continue north on US 191, through marvelous country, next clear rushing rivers in places, until turning left at the 'T' intersection with US 89. Also note that roads throughout this region often bear many designations; in example that north from Old Faithful could be considered US 191, US 20, or also US 89. In any event, one is still technically still on US 287 as well, with the intent here to follow it through the town of West Yellowstone, MT, turning right there to continue north on US 191/287.

There are actually a variety of feasible routes one might choose here in continuing north. Three principally, with each its own charms, and all scenic to one extent or another. One might remain within Yellowstone NP to circle about and north to exit the Park near Gardner, MT. This route would offer the advantage of being able to easily visit Mammoth Hot Springs, within the Park, just south of Gardner. Gardner itself is a nice little tourist town. One could then follow a river a good way towards the roads intersection with I-90 at Livingston, MT. The disadvantage of this choice is that it tends to throw one northeast, in the wrong direction.

If having passed through West Yellowstone, which is something of an uninspired tourist town glomming on to the western approach to Yellowstone NP, then a decision shortly north of it in direction. Arguably the more scenic route would be in continuing north on US 191. Another less traveled option would be in turning left to continue north on US 287 towards I-90 at Three Forks, MT. Particularly in its southern reaches the US 287 route is scenic enough, and surely of interest for those never having visited Montana. Further north, as it nears I-90, the valley widens, the land flattens, and one might be reminded why Montana is called the 'Big Sky' country. For at least part of its length in this section US 287 also follows a river. It also has the advantage of providing the most direct, and probably faster route, also with the distinct advantage of being able to entirely bypass I-90, but passing beneath it.

At the intersection with I-90, one will need to make a choice. One will now soon contend with the long spur of mountains which sweep down in a southeasterly direction from Canada and Glacier NP in Montana. One can choose to continue up along the west or east side. If the west, past Flathead Lake and on past Kalispell, MT, then one should turn west on I-90 to the junction of US 93 just west of Missoula, MT. This is surely a scenic route, although I am not familiar with it, save north at Kalispell.

If choosing the more direct route, a fine alternative is to remain on the east side of these mountains, and head to Helena, MT by remaining on US 287 from Three Forks at I-90. Helena is of course the capitol of Montana, and but a mid-sized city by Colorado standards. The initial approach to it from the south may seem uninspired, particularly if possibly parched, brown and dry. But if venturing off US 287, which as conjoined with I-15 by now, and driving within this town to the west, one may begin to notice that its location does enjoy some advantages, and not entirely without scenic merit. It will also, by the way, be the last town of any size one will possibly see until reaching Canada.

From Helena continue north on I-15/US 287 a short and somewhat scenic distance until US 287 branches off to the left, and more due north. Follow it. The experience is something, vaguely, like driving along the front range of Colorado, but before much of anyone had discovered it or arrived. Vast, often brown, vistas to the east, and imposing snow-capped mountains flanking one continually to the left. The land along this route is largely rolling or flat, at times naturally green, or meadows irrigated, with small farms and ranches here and there.

One will have noticed upon entering Wyoming that space and distance have measurably increased. All is more open. Good time can be made on even secondary roads, as in comparison to Colorado there is appreciably less traffic. In Montana especially, one can outright move as the the speed limit on many secondary highways is 70mph. Some of the most open and free driving one may experience will be along this stretch of US 287.

At Choteau, MT US 287 intersects US 89, and in turning left there one will continue north on US 89. Choteau is an attractive small town which few tourists probably frequent, but lodging could be had there if desired. If near that time of day, it should prove a better option in lodging then Browning, MT to the north, which is more the type of place best utilized for refueling, then gone.

At Browning one has an existential option and choice. The most direct route on to Calgary, Alberta would be US 89 north, turning into Canada 2 at the border. From there a straight and flat shot north into Calgary. If determined at this point to make some time, one might still temper it by making a slight detour of sorts to visit Waterton Lakes National Park, which essentially is the northern edge of Glacier NP, only the portion within Canada. To do this continue on US 89 as before, only turning left on MT 17 before the Canadian border to jog northwest. This road turns into Canada 6 at the border, skirting the northeast boundary and within this Park. Then turn left on Canada 5 to drive the short detour south to Waterton, Canada. You'll find yourself at the northern edge of a most beautiful lake, with the option of lodging there if so desired. Another advantage of such a route is that it places one farther west, closer to the mountains once one continues north. One might follow Canada 6 north, then jogging slightly to continue north on Canada 22. The end result, as with Canada 2, will be Calgary, although probably with less traffic and more scenery. But if the ultimate destination Banff, then one might choose more of a mountain option by turning left off Canada 22 at Longview, Alberta, to continue north on Canada 40.

In backtracking however, if one's purpose in part is all things mountainous and scenic, then another option can be most tempting. That would entail turning west at Browning, MT, on US 89 as before, but to travel through Glacier NP on the Going-to-the-Sun road. There is no way to deny that such an excursion presents a significant detour on the way to Calgary, as heading west only to eventually loop north and east once more on the far side of these tall mountains once well within Canada on Canada 3, and thence possibly Canada 22 again. But if never having been to Glacier NP one may wish to reflect twice and thrice on how one could not but bow to the inevitable.

One other disadvantage of such a route is no easy access or excuse then in visiting Waterton, Canada, but crossing Glacier NP on the Going-to-the-Sun road should more than make up for it. It is supremely magnificent. From the nothingness of Browning the narrow two-lane road passes through verdant meadows before beginning a determined and winding course ever upwards. Scenery is everywhere, and it only gets better and better. St. Mary is the entrance to the Park proper, and does not offer much more than lots of scenery and a few good lodging options. From there all is magnificence.

Trail Ridge Road across the top of Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the great drives in the United States. Also the highest, with its peak elevation of 12,183 feet. But if different in character, the Going-to-the-Sun road across the center Glacier NP gives up nothing in comparison. They are both superlative. Across Glacier NP one will wind past long, clear Saint Mary Lake, ascending gradually between high peaks coated in snow. As the road ascends it cuts into the flank of the mountain, in places with the water of snowmelt cascading in small waterfalls next the road, and increasingly sheer drops on the other side the valley far below. At the top Logan Pass is but 6,646 feet in elevation, but feels in many respects as high as Trail Ridge Road. There is a Park visitor's center at the top of this pass. But also keep in mind that, as with Trail Ridge Road, that the season of such passes when open is variable, and at times not open from winter until spring well advanced.

From Logan Pass, the west side of the 'Going-to-the-Sun' road is distinctly different than the east, and arguably even more scenic, if that possible. From the top it is cut deeply into the mountainside, with even more instances of sheer rock faces to one's right, often with water cascading down in places. In many places it also affords a splendid view far to the west, and the deep valley out, the side of which one will be traversing. Farther along one will descend in hairpin corners to drop further into forest, and thence soon near river and then long, beautiful Lake McDonald. As namesake, this is one place in the lower 48 where glaciers still hold dominion for now, and this a journey one will never forget in fond memory.

Within this Park, and on the far side of it there are lodging options. The attractive town of Whitefish, not far beyond, offers a good assortment of conventional lodging options. Although in season one would be best advised to have reservations for anything in this area. In a pinch, if necessary, a short detour south to Kalispell will provide more options. From Whitefish, continue north on US 93 to reach Canada.

As so often the case, there is more than one way to reach a destination. Sometime considerations of time is paramount, thus decisions bowing to it. But travel is often something other, and remembrance usually best loved not for the most direct route suffered and soon forgotten, but instead the blue highways less traveled, and the surprise and delight found along them. The journey between Denver and Calgary serves as perfect example of what might be afforded or not, or lost. It can, perchance, lead to so much more.
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Old 04-12-2011, 08:32 AM
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Choosing78 you can pm me. I'm from Southern Alberta and have been all over the pacific northwest, Alberta and BC.
Got to hit mooses saloon in Kalispell, best pizza in Montana.RP
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Old 04-12-2011, 03:06 PM
Location: CO
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Originally Posted by proveick View Post
. . .
Got to hit mooses saloon in Kalispell, best pizza in Montana.RP
Good to know Moose's is still there. I stopped there many times in my travels through Montana in the 60's, 70's and 80's.
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Old 04-13-2011, 09:40 PM
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thanks all. proveick I'll prob pm you when we get a little closer to our vaca time. actually our destination is Banff/Lake Louise not Calgary. Does anyone know if the drive is mountainous or is it like driving I25 most of the way?
Idunn: wow a lot of helpful info!
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Old 04-14-2011, 08:45 AM
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Wink Fairly flat

It should be like I-25 most of the way, if sticking to interstates and major highways.

If that the proposed route, I cannot speak to much of it personally, so hopefully someone who has will add to this. But I-25, I-15, etc. will be in the plains, flat or rolling hills. Depending on the route through Montana, some moderate mountains. If north on I-15, near Butte, MT, off I-90, possibly a slight pass, but I have no personal experience of it. Further north, from Helena, I-15 passes through some mountains in a river canyon, but again moderate.

Another option in Montana, and seemingly more direct, would be to take US 87 between Billings and Great Falls, MT. It might prove faster, and flatter, than swinging farther west.

From the border into Calgary, Alberta appears fairly flat. Again, no personal experience with that area. Although it seems fairly certain that most of the journey between Calgary and Banff will be moderate; there is only a 300 meter elevation difference between Calgary and Canmore, which would seem more or less where one enters the mountains on towards Banff, roughly 25km distant.
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