Alberta/British Columbia

Western Canada by Train & Ferry: Grizzlies, Orcas & Totems

Breathtaking vistas, unique wildlife, ancient cultures and traditional ways of life — discover this and more as you explore Western Canada from Alberta to the Inside Passage.
Rating (4.62)
Program No. 21439RJ
13 days
Starts at
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13 days
12 nights
33 meals
12 B 10 L 11 D
Arrival, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Vancouver, British Columbia
Pacific Gateway Hotel

Activity note: Check-in begins 3:00 pm.

Afternoon: Program registration begins at 4:00 pm. After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Remember to bring your name-tag (sent previously).

Dinner: Enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel.

Evening: Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Ferry to Vancouver Island, Qualicum Walk, North Island
Port McNeill, British Columbia
Haida Way Hotel

Activity note: Getting on and off the ferry; crossing from Vancouver to Nanaimo is about 30 nautical miles; approx. 1.5 hours. Driving from Nanaimo to Telegraph Cove is approx. 220 miles; about 4 hours. Walking up to 2 miles on groomed trails, paths, and mulch trails.

Breakfast: Breakfast will be served at the hotel.

Morning: Board the ferry to Vancouver Island, the largest island on the west coast of North America, separated from the Canadian mainland by the Georgia Strait, Johnstone Strait, and Queen Charlotte Strait. Enjoy insightful commentary about natural and human history while travelling by motorcoach to Qualicum Beach. Learn about First Nations medicinal plants and culture while wandering through an old growth Douglas fir forest.

Lunch: Boxed lunch will be provided.

Afternoon: Travel by coach to Telegraph Cove. Telegraph Cove was once populated by a single telegraph shack from which fisherman, pioneers, and loggers communicated. The town grew with the arrival of a school, general store, and sawmill and many of the early settlements were built on stilts over the water, making it an iconic destination for thousands of visitors today.

Dinner: Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in Telegraph Cove.

Evening: Check-in to the hotel. The evening may be enjoyed at your leisure.

Telegraph Cove: Whale Museum, Orca Whale Watching
Port McNeill, British Columbia
Haida Way Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off the boat, possibly on steep ramps (tide levels depending); walking on boardwalks; distances vary depending location of sightings; vessels carry up to 74 passengers. Heated indoor cabin, two open air decks, on-board washrooms, and snack bar. Bring a light jacket or rain gear. Hats, gloves and jackets provided for all passengers on request.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Ruminate at the Whale Interpretive Centre with a docent from the museum. This facility was established in order to provide public awareness of the biology, habitat needs, and existing threats to local marine mammals. This area is home to a variety of marine wildlife, including humpback whales, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, bald eagles, and much more. Explore collections of marine mammal skeletons housed at the museum.

Lunch: Enjoy boxed lunches on board the whale watching vessel.

Afternoon: Discover one of the best locations to observe orca (killer) whales while whale watching. Hopefully, we’ll see orcas, humpback whales, Dall’s porpoises, Pacific white-sided dolphins, harbor seals, and Stellar sea lions. Vessels are equipped with underwater microphones (hydrophones) enabling us to listen to the squeaks and whistles characteristic of echolocation used by orcas and dolphins to locate food.

Dinner: Enjoy a meal at a scenic waterside restaurant, known for its yellow cedar post-and-beam style, and beautiful copper tables, surrounded by stained-glass windows.

Evening: Enjoy the evening at your leisure.

Grizzly Bear Viewing, Port Hardy
Port Hardy, British Columbia
Kwa’lilas Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off 12 passenger aluminum boats; approximately 2 hours each way; vessels are covered and have onboard toilets. Dress warmly in dark layers with a waterproof shell; bring a hat and a water bottle. No perfume/aftershave. We will always stay at least 55 yards (50 meters) from bears.

Breakfast: Breakfast at a nearby restaurant.

Morning: Travel to Knight Inlet aboard water taxis for an exciting bear and wildlife spotting adventure. At a prime bear viewing location, we’ll transfer to large flat-bottomed observation skiffs, which include an elevated platform, and a crow’s nest to maximize viewing. The shallow draft of these former herring fishing vessels allows us to get close to the action. Explore the hidden habitat of black and grizzly bears and learn about the ecosystem from an expert who will explain the vital role bears play in sustaining the bioregion As a courtesy to the bears and to ensure the longevity of viewing for years to come, we will always stay at least 50 meters from bears as per recommended guidelines; please do not wear perfumes or aftershave on the bear viewing trip.

Lunch: Enjoy a packed lunch onboard the boats. Eating in the bear viewing area is not bear friendly; we don’t want bears confusing humans with food.

Afternoon: Our grizzly bear adventure will continue amid great towering mountains rising out of the sea, with forested islands and beautiful channels providing ever new views. The bear habitat cuts through the Coast Range Mountains, including the highest mountain in British Columbia, Mount Waddington, which supports an abundance of wildlife and salmon take advantage of the phenomenal river systems. While our local experts will make their best effort to get us to the best places for bear viewing, they cannot guarantee sightings – they would like to be able to book an appointment with the bears but sometimes they do not show up! We will transfer to Port Hardy in the late afternoon.

Dinner: Dinner will be served at the hotel in Port Hardy.

Evening: At your leisure.

BC Ferry to Prince Rupert, Canada's Inside Passage
Prince Rupert, British Columbia
The Crest Hotel

Activity note: Early hotel check-out (5:15 a.m.) for transfer to the ferry dock; less than an hour driving. Board ferry for a ride of 274 nautical miles; about 16 hours. Participants will have onboard cabins for the duration of the journey. Late night arrival in Prince Rupert.

Breakfast: Enjoy a delicious buffet breakfast aboard the ferry. Coffee, tea, and juice is included. Other drinks are available for purchase.

Morning: Enjoy a cruise on the famously awe-inspiring Inside Passage route. This 16-hour journey will take us past spectacular coastal rainforests and majestic coastal mountains. Learn about coastal ecological issues while passing noted villages, first contact sites and maybe even some sea mammals.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy aboard the ferry.

Afternoon: We’ll continue to cruise through Canada's Inside Passage. Cut from the coastal mountains by glaciers millions of years ago, the fjords of Canada’s Inside Passage provide vistas of coastal rainforests, beaches, waterfalls and mountains.

Dinner: Dinner will be served aboard the ferry. Coffee, tea, and water is included. Other beverages are available for purchase.

Evening: We’ll transfer to the hotel upon late arrival in Prince Rupert, BC.

Northern BC Museum, Pacific Northwest Cannery Historic Site
Prince Rupert, British Columbia
The Crest Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day; paved streets and boardwalks. Less than 1 hour spent aboard the motorcoach.

Breakfast: Breakfast will be served at the hotel.

Morning: Discover the natural and cultural heritage of the Northwest Coast at the Museum of Northern British Columbia. The museum is housed in a magnificent Northwest Coast longhouse overlooking Prince Rupert Harbour. Learn about the cultural and geological origins of this region, including the history of the Tsimshian, Haida, Tlingit, and Kwakwakawakw peoples.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at the North Pacific Cannery Historic Site.

Afternoon: The Pacific Northwest Cannery Historic Site offers insight into life at remote salmon canneries and elucidates on how the industry shaped the economy and culture of the province. This field trip includes walking along historic boardwalks, the exploration of industrial buildings, residences, and the wilderness surroundings the salmon canning industry. You’ll hear about the people, living conditions, workspaces, and the functions of a remote cannery. Witness live demonstrations of cannery machinery and meditate on what it must have been like for workers. This excursion will explore canning practices from its earliest days to modern methods.

Dinner: Enjoy local flavors at a nearby restaurant.

Evening: At your leisure. Prepare for check-out in the morning.

Skeena Train - Prince Rupert to Prince George
Prince George, British Columbia
Ramada Prince George

Activity note: Train travel is approximately 235 miles; about 6.5 hours. Train schedules are subject to change and delays are possible due to rail traffic or other conditions. Bring only a carry-on bag, larger luggage will be delivered to the hotel in Prince George. Walking up to 1 mile, about 30 minutes.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Embark on a two-day train journey aboard Via Rail’s Skeena Train from Prince Rupert, BC to Jasper, AB with an overnight stop in Prince George, BC. Enjoy sweeping views through the large windows, while relaxing in the Panorama car. Bask in the 360-degree views of the haunting splendor and rugged beauty of the Canadian wilderness with exclusive touring class access to the Park Car dome.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch aboard the train.

Afternoon: Our rail journey will continue past the edge of the Spasizi Plateau, along the Skeena River, towards Prince George, BC. Prince George is situated at the confluence of the Fraser and Nechako Rivers. The origin of Prince George can be traced to the fur trading post of Fort George, established in 1807 by Simon Fraser.

Dinner: Dinner will be served aboard the train.

Evening: We are scheduled to arrive in Prince George in the mid evening. Upon arrival, we’ll transfer to the hotel and enjoy time at your leisure for the remainder of the evening. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Skeena Train - Prince George to Jasper
Jasper, Alberta
Lobstick Lodge

Activity note: Check-out of the hotel early and transfer to the station to board the train for travel to Jasper, AB. Train travel is approximately 450 miles; about 7 hours. Train schedules are subject to change and delays are possible due to rail traffic or other conditions.

Breakfast: Enjoy breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Continue to relax and enjoy the scenery aboard the train to Jasper, AB.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch aboard the train. Coffee, tea, and water are included. Other beverages are available for purchase.

Afternoon: The railroad adventure continues as we journey to Jasper. We’ll be travelling past Jasper National Park, the Canadian Rockies, and some rural communities.

Dinner: Dinner can be enjoyed aboard the train.

Evening: Arrival in Jasper in the mid-evening. Transfer to the hotel and check in. The remainder of the evening will be at your leisure.

Maligne Canyon, Pyramid Lake
Jasper, Alberta
Lobstick Lodge

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day; paved and/or maintained trails. Driving approx. 60 miles about 2.5 hours total aboard coach with stops for interpretation.

Breakfast: Enjoy a buffet breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: This morning, a naturalist will accompany us aboard a motor coach for an exploration of Jasper National Park, Maligne Canyon, and Pyramid Lake. During this excursion, we’ll search for fossils, and uncover how deep canyons formed during the glacial ages. The forests of these wilderness areas are home to mountain goats, elk, moose, and bears, as well as a variety of birds, including bald eagles.

Lunch: A boxed lunch will be provided.

Afternoon: Our field trip continues in Jasper National Park.

Dinner: Taste local cuisine at a nearby restaurant.

Evening: At your leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

Icefields Parkway, Athabasca Glacier, Transfer to Banff
Banff, Alberta
High Country Inn

Activity note: Stairs lead to the entrance of the Columbia Icefields Interpretive Centre. If easier access is required, there is a higher parking lot, where there is ramp access. The remainder of the trip will be by motor coach. Driving for about 150 miles (241.4 km) throughout the day for approximately 5 hours total. The Ice Explorer will be driving 3 miles (5 km) roundtrip on the Athabasca Glacier for about 1.5 hours.

Breakfast: A buffet breakfast will be provided at the hotel.

Morning: Travel along the famed scenic Icefields Parkway, one of the most impressive stretches of scenic driving in Canada. The highway follows a lake-lined valley between the Eastern Main Ranges which make-up the Continental Divide. The Group Leader will divulge interesting facts about the geological history and glaciology of the Athabasca Glacier as you travel by motor coach. Explore the Columbia Icefields Interpretive Centre before travelling on an Ice Explorer to the Athabasca Glacier on a 3-mile (5 km) roundtrip journey. While traversing the glacier, hear about how glaciers are formed, and notice interesting geological features along the way before stepping out onto ice formed from snow that has fallen approximately 200 years ago.

Lunch: We’ll enjoy boxed lunches at a scenic spot along the Parkway.

Afternoon: We’ll travel past beautiful mountain lakes and more than 100 glaciers as we make our way to Banff National Park.

Dinner: Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in Banff.

Evening: At your leisure.

Lake Louise, Grizzlies, Gondola, High Tea
Banff, Alberta
High Country Inn

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles on pavement and groomed trails, some stairs and uneven terrain at historic site.

Breakfast: Enjoy a buffet breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Meet a wildlife expert and conservationist at Lake Louise who will explain how to share the land with grizzly bears and how Parks Canada is conducting land use and management for conservation areas. Learn about the role of The Bow Valley as a migration corridor and the valley’s position as a critical location for grizzly bears, lynx, elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. After transferring by motor coach, board the Lake Louise Gondola and enjoy views of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake within the Valley of the Ten Peaks.

Lunch: We’ll be served afternoon tea with assorted pastries and traditional finger sandwiches at Chateau Lake Louise.

Afternoon: Enjoy a visit to Moraine Lake while returning to Banff. Moraine Lake’s turquoise waters increase in intensity during the summer while the glaciers melt. Nestled in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the lake is surrounded by waterfalls, mountains, and rock piles. Arrive in Banff at approximately 4:30 pm with some free time for the rest of the afternoon.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy local fare.

Evening: At your leisure.

Banff National Park, Emerald Lake, Yoho Park
Banff, Alberta
High Country Inn

Activity note: Walking up to 1.5 miles; approximately 2 hours over the course of the day; well-maintained trails and pathways; easy, flat lakeside trail at Emerald Lake with no elevation gain. Stops along the way for interpretation. Driving approximately 140 miles; about 3 hours.

Breakfast: Breakfast will be served at a local restaurant.

Morning: Explore Spiral Tunnels, an engineering feat which allowed for safe and efficient train travel through the difficult Kicking Horse Pass. Journey to Emerald Lake and learn about the plant species found in the region from an expert. Visit the Burgess Shale, rich in fossils, it has preserved marine ecosystems dating back 500 million years.

Lunch: We’ll have boxed lunches at a scenic location.

Afternoon: Continue exploring the area. Learn about the interesting local plant species along Fossil Ridge with a local expert. Observe the diverse landscape at the Great Divide in Yoho National Park, offering a view of huge avalanche paths, the interior rainforest, and lakeside riparian zones. Visit Takakkaw Falls, towering a total of 1,250 feet making it one of the tallest waterfalls in Canada.

Dinner: Enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.

Evening: At your leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer to Calgary in the morning.

Program Concludes
Banff, Alberta

Activity note: Transfer to Calgary airport.

Breakfast: Breakfast will be served at the hotel prior to the transfer to Calgary. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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