loading spinner

Great American Get-Together in Banff

Program No. 22397RJ
Join fellow Road Scholars in the heart of the Canadian Rockies to learn about the geology, ecology and culture of Banff National Park, Lake Louise, Emerald Lake and more.

Enroll with Confidence

We want your Road Scholar learning adventure to be something to look forward to—not worry about. Learn more

Protecting the Environment

We offset a portion of the emissions created by your travel. Learn more

Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
Need airfare?
Our airfare tool can help. Check it out
Plan ahead.
What kind of weather can you expect? Take a look!
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
Aug 6 - Aug 13, 2023
Starting at
Special Offer

Enroll by June 30, 2023 for free air from many cities!

DATES & starting prices
Aug 6 - Aug 13, 2023
Starting at
Special Offer

Enroll by June 30, 2023 for free air from many cities!

At a Glance

Experience the very best of Road Scholar as you join lifelong learners from around the country for a week in Banff National Park — Canada’s oldest National Park. In the heart of the Rocky Mountains, enjoy field trips and insightful presentations that give you an up-close look into the geological history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nature walks shed light on the ecology of Lake Louise, Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake and more. Be introduced to the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity by the Director of this world renowned institution, and get a taste of the arts scene during a private screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Walking up to two miles at a moderate pace, on mostly groomed trails or pavement.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Enjoy an exclusive screening and discussions with experts at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival.
  • Journey along the Columbia Icefields Parkway and learn more about geological history and glaciology, then stop at the famous Athabasca Glacier.
  • Visit the world-famous Lake Louise as you learn about the challenges the future holds for these gems of Canada’s wilderness.

General Notes

Max of 120 participants, divided into groups for activities. You may also be interested in our outdoor hiking version of this program: The Great Hiking Get-Together: Choose your Pace in Banff (#23813).
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Hugh Southee
A Geotechnical Engineer with experience in coal mining, Hugh has been leading people around the Burgess Shale area for five summers. With his love of education, he is dedicated to helping others learn about the wonders Mother Nature has created in the West. Living in the Rockies for eight years, nothing makes him happier than getting outside. Hugh has traveled the world for over a decade seeking rock and ice climbing adventures, and he also enjoys skiing and canoeing.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Hugh Southee
Hugh Southee View biography
A Geotechnical Engineer with experience in coal mining, Hugh has been leading people around the Burgess Shale area for five summers. With his love of education, he is dedicated to helping others learn about the wonders Mother Nature has created in the West. Living in the Rockies for eight years, nothing makes him happier than getting outside. Hugh has traveled the world for over a decade seeking rock and ice climbing adventures, and he also enjoys skiing and canoeing.
Profile Image of Greg Allemang
Greg Allemang View biography
Growing up in the military has brought Greg across Canada and given him a real taste of everything the country has to offer. Finally settled now in the Calgary area, Greg has followed his passions for his country to study travel management and become a certified hiking instructor. Greg also enjoys climbing and enjoying the beautiful wilderness that surrounds his home. His love of nature has fueled his passion for connecting people to their environment and showing off his country to visitors.
Profile Image of Susan Carr
Susan Carr View biography
Susan Carr is a true nature lover. She studied geology in England — her home country — and expanded her knowledge of the Earth around her as she worked in the mining industry in both the U.K. and Western Canada. Susan moved to Canada over 30 years ago and loves exploring the mountains around her home in Calgary. Upon retirement, Susan began leading groups through the natural wonders of Heritage Park and discovered a love for sharing her knowledge of local history and nature with others.
Profile Image of Jennifer Royal
Jennifer Royal View biography
Jen Royal graduated with a bachelor’s in Canadian history from the Wilfred Laurier University and has over ten years of experience teaching, leading and interpreting history. She has worked at the Whyte Museum since 2014 in both the Education Department and the Archives and Library.
Profile Image of Tracey Gage
Tracey Gage View biography
Tracy Gage feels most at home in nature. She has a bachelor’s in wildlife biology as well as a degree in geology and teaching. Tracy has been a professional excursion leader, educator and naturalist for over 20 years in the kind of jobs you only see on TV: grizzly bear and whale expert, hiking leader and mountain bike coach. Throughout the year she works as the executive director of a local not-for-profit group that trains educational excursion leaders to work in Alberta’s National Parks.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Beautiful Alberta
by Mike Grandmaison
This oversized, photographic portrait of Canada's most prosperous province reveals the natural beauty of the Canadian West. From towering mountains to crystal clear lakes, Grandmaison's photos capture the beauty of Alberta.
Switchbacks, True Stories from the Canadian Rockies
by Sid Marty
A native Albertan and park warden in the Canadian Rockies, Marty relates colorful anecdotes from friends, colleagues and his own youth in this collection of tales, which includes A Horse Named Candy.
Raven's End
by Ben Gadd
A young raven, with no memory of his past, arrives to the beautiful and dangerous landscape of Yamnuska, Banff. A book that looks at the complex world of ravens.
Northern Rocky Mountain Wildflowers, Including Glacier, Waterton Lakes, Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, and Yoho
by Wayne Phillips
Compiled by a former forest service ecologist and botany teacher at Yellowstone Institute, this handy guide features 300 species, expertly photographed, explained and organized by color and family for quick identification.
After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America
by E.C. Pielou
Eighteen thousand years ago, an immense sheet of ice covered all of present day Canada and northernmost U.S. This story tells of how a harsh terrain was transformed into the environment we know today.
Scats and Tracks of the Rocky Mountains
by James Halfpenny, Todd Telander (Illustrator)
An essential pocket guide to tracks, scats and signs of not just the mammals of the region, but also of the reptiles, amphibians and birds. Each of 70 species gets a double-page spread, with line drawings of the animal, scat and track, range map and description.
The Great Rocky Mountain Nature Factbook
by Susan Ewing
Ewing's family-friendly guide, with black-and-white drawings throughout, answers the curiosity of engaged visitors about the plants, animals and natural features of the Rockies.
Moon Banff National Park
by Andrew Hempstead
A practical guide to Banff National Park, packed not only with travel necessities (hotels, restaurants, sights), but also with a good overview of history. With full-color maps and photos throughout.
The Amazing Death of Calf Shirt and Other Blackfoot Stories, Three Hundred Years of Blackfoot History
by Hugh A. Dempsey
A wonderful collection of stories, illuminating the history of the Blackfoot people of the prairies of southern Alberta and northern Montana.
Moon Handbook Canadian Rockies
by Andrew Hempstead
This comprehensive and authoritative guide by Banff-based Hempstead covers where to go and what to do from Jasper to Waterton.
Field Guide to Banff National Park
by James Kavanagh
This fold-up, laminated card features 133 color drawings and short descriptions of commonly encountered wildlife and a map.
Handbook of the Canadian Rockies
by Ben Gadd
Geology, plants, animals, history and recreation from Waterton/Glacier to the Yukon.
Rocky Mountain Nature Guide
by Andy Bezener
This guide includes information on mammals, fish, birds, trees, shrubs, wildflowers, insects and reptiles from the entire span of the Rockies - Alaska to New Mexico. Featuring over 300 exact full-color illustrations.
Print All
Map details are not available for this location.
View Map
Expand All
8 days
7 nights
18 meals
7 B 6 L 5 D
Check-In, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Calgary, Alberta
Best Western Plus Port O'Call Calgary Airport Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Arrivals and transfers to the hotel in Calgary. Check-in is available starting at 3:00 p.m. Program Registration. After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, other important information, and to learn when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: Buffet dinner at the hotel in Calgary.

Evening: Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. While the Great American Get-Together programs bring together a large number of participants from all over the country, the group will be subdivided into smaller groups for daily activities. The order of the itinerary will vary by group, but each group will have an opportunity to experience all of the scheduled activities during the program. Periods in the schedule labeled “Free Time and “At Leisure” offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable while going out to explore on your own, engaging in available activities independently, making new friends among fellow Road Scholars, or simply relaxing. The Group Leader will always 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. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Banff Coach Exploration,Johnston Canyon,Geology Presentation
Banff, Alberta
The Banff Centre

Activity note: Each group (max 30 participants) will depart with a Group Leader by motorcoach from Calgary to Banff, and for an exploration of Banff and area. Walking up to 2 miles, about 2 hours; motorcoach travel approximately 140 miles, about 3.5 hours. The entire group will come together for afternoon and evening presentations.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will enjoy a buffet breakfast.

Morning: Two groups will set out via motorcoach from Calgary, for an exploration of the Banff area, including the town and the Banff Springs Hotel, a National Historic Site of Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While en route, we will learn about the importance of Canadian Pacific Railway and how it contributed to the building of Canada. As we travel the Minnewanka Scenic Route including Bankhead, an abandoned mining town and relic of Banff's industrial past, we will see hoodoos and anthracite, notable landmarks and historic places, an underwater village, and learn about native history. We’ll stop at a beautiful viewpoint overlooking the classic Two Jack Lake of the Rockies. The other two groups will explore the Parks at Johnston Canyon, a deep rugged canyon with waterfalls and rushing waters. We’ll see how Johnston Creek has carved down into the limestone on the valley bottom, creating a spectacular and deep canyon. Along the way, we’ll make stops for interpretation, viewing, and photo opportunities. To enable animals to connect their habitats safely and protect motorists, Parks Canada has implemented wildlife crossings – underpasses and overpasses. If we’re lucky, we may spot deer, elk, mountain goats, longhorn sheep, bears and wolves. Groups will switch activities for the morning of Day 7.

Lunch: At the Banff Centre, the lunch buffet will include soup, salads, choice of entrée, cold cuts, rolls, cheese, home baked breads and desserts.

Afternoon: We will discover the fascinating history and geology of the Canadian Rockies in a presentation at the center. Today’s glacial landscape was carved over the last 2.9 million years, during which there have been many ice advances and retreats. We’ll learn from a local geologist about mountain building, the different layers of rock and what they mean, and how the geology of the Canadian Rockies differs from the American Rockies. A second presentation will introduce us to the Banff Centre, during which we will learn from a Banff Centre insider about the state-of-the-art design and architecture of the premises as well as the art, its resident artists and leaders. Afterwards, we’ll embark on an in-depth exploration of the center – the artists in residence, recreation facilities, exhibits, and more.

Dinner: At the Banff Centre, we will enjoy a buffet meal.

Evening: At your leisure.

Cave & Basin National Historic Site, Free Time
Banff, Alberta
The Banff Centre

Activity note: For Days 3, 4, 5, 6, each group (max 30 participants) will depart with a Group Leader by motorcoach to attend the daily field trips. The order of the days will change per group. Driving less than 1 hour on this day. Walking up to 1 mile, about 1 hour on pavement and boardwalks; some stairs at Cave and Basin site.

Breakfast: At the Banff Centre, we will enjoy a buffet meal.

Morning: We’ll transfer by motorcoach from the centre to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site to explore the birthplace of Canada's first National Park with a Parks Canada expert. The warm waters issuing from Sulphur Mountain have been long-known to aboriginal peoples and eventually these same hot springs became the centerpiece of Canada's first national park (and the world's fourth). While here, we will also stroll down to the warm marshes below the springs, easily accessible along a boardwalk, to see introduced tropical fish and warm-water plants. Bring binoculars! We’ll then return to the center.

Lunch: At the Banff Center.

Afternoon: Free Time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At yoiur leisure.

Yoho Nat’l Park, Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls
Banff, Alberta
The Banff Centre

Activity note: For Days 3, 4, 5, 6, each group (max 30 participants) will depart with a Group Leader by motorcoach to attend the daily field trips. The order of the days will change per group. Walking up to 2 miles; approximately 2.5 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 150 miles; about 3 hours.

Breakfast: Center buffet.

Morning: We’ll transfer by motorcoach to experience some of the foremost geological highlights of the Rockies on an expert-led walking field trip with our Group Leader to Yoho National Park. We'll learn about the geology of the area in trailside discussions, and see some textbook examples of topics that were covered in the presentations.

Lunch: At a scenic spot, we'll enjoy our boxed lunches with sandwich, fruit, dessert, and drink.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll continue to Emerald Lake with a stop at the Spiral Tunnels on the way where we’ll hopefully see a train loop on top of itself like a snake as the front of the train goes 180 degrees in the opposite direction of the back of the train. At Emerald Lake, another jewel of the Canadian Rockies, we’ll go on an expert-led trail walk with our Group Leader to learn about the interesting plant species found here and at the Burgess Shale quarries along Fossil Ridge. Thanks to its position on the west side of the Great Divide in Yoho National Park, a 360-degree view from Emerald Lake showcases four very different environments: a huge avalanche path, the pine forest, a dry and dramatic alluvial fan and the towering trees of the rainforest. We’ll then return to the center.

Dinner: At the Banff Centre.

Evening: At your leisure.

Lake Louise, Grizzly Bears, Gondola, Moraine Lake
Banff, Alberta
The Banff Centre

Activity note: For Days 3, 4, 5, 6, each group (max 30 participants) will depart with a Group Leader by motorcoach to attend the daily field trips. The order of the days will change per group. Walking up to 2 miles; about 2 hours; pavement and/or groomed trails. Driving approximately 75 miles; about 1.5 hours total time aboard motorcoach.

Breakfast: At the Banff Centre.

Morning: Arriving by motorcoach at Lake Louise, we’ll meet with an expert biologist and conservationist who will give a presentation on how to share the land with grizzly bears. The Bow Valley is considered an internationally significant wildlife migration corridor, contained within the Lake Louise area, it is notable for its critical grizzly bear, elk, lynx, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat habitat. As protected areas, the mountain national parks make a weighty contribution to grizzly bear conservation in the Rocky Mountain ecosystem. These parks can contribute refuge in the greater landscape but this requires special considerations for the way in which humans share the landscape with bears. During the presentation, we will also hear how Parks Canada is conducting land use and management policies. Next, we will board the Lake Louise Gondola – one of the best places for a chance to see grizzly bears in their natural environment. If we’re lucky, we may experience this rare and awesome spectacle of nature from the comfort of an enclosed gondola. From atop a mountain, we’ll enjoy views of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake surrounded by peaks and a deep teal color – nothing less than stunning as it sits in the gorgeous Valley of the Ten Peaks.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Afterwards, we’ll take an expert-led trail walk with our Group Leader around Lake Louise and explore the grounds of the Chateau Lake Louise. Strolling along the lake shore, we’ll take in the beautiful views of the water and mountain peaks and visit Moraine Lake, one of the most photographed lakes in the area. We’ll then return to the Centre.

Dinner: On your own in Banff to enjoy the local fare or you may wish to join the Group Leader at a local restaurant.

Evening: At your leisure.

Columbia Icefields, Athabasca Glacier, Ice Explorer
Banff, Alberta
The Banff Centre

Activity note: For Days 3, 4, 5, 6, each group (max 30 participants); the order of the days will change per group. Stairs leading to entrance of the Columbia Icefields Interpretive Centre. The remainder of the field trip will be by motorcoach; driving about 235 miles throughout the day; approximately 5 hours total. The Ice Explorer ride on Athabasca Glacier is approx. 3.75-miles roundtrip; about 1.5 hours total.

Breakfast: At the Banff Centre.

Morning: We’ll start the day traveling along the famed and scenic Icefields Parkway, one of the most impressive stretches of scenic driving in Canada. The highway follows a lake-lined valley between two chains of the Eastern Main Ranges, which make up the Continental Divide. The mountains here are the highest, craggiest, and maybe the most scenic in all of the Canadian Rockies. En route, we’ll learn more from our Group Leader about the geological history and glaciology of the Athabasca Glacier, and about the ever-changing landscape. At several points along the way we’ll stop to enjoy some scenic overlooks.

Lunch: At a scenic spot along the Parkway, we will stop for boxed lunches featuring a sandwich, fruit, and drink.

Afternoon: At the Columbia Icefields Discovery Center, we’ll board and travel in a specially designed Ice Explorer to the middle of the Athabasca Glacier on a 3.75-mile round trip journey. Our driver will explain how glaciers are formed and point out interesting geological features as we travel in safety and comfort. At the mid-point, we will be given the choice to step out onto ice formed from snow fallen as long as 200 years ago. We’ll return to Banff in the late afternoon.

Dinner: At the Banff Centre.

Evening: At your leisure.

Early Explorers, Johnston Canyon, Banff Film Screening
Banff, Alberta
The Banff Centre

Activity note: Scenic canyon trail walk is approximately 1.5 miles to the waterfall and back (with time to rest in between). Coach travel approximately 100 miles, about 2 hours. The entire group will come together for the Film Screening from the Banff International Film Festival.

Breakfast: At the Banff Centre.

Morning: An expert from the Whyte Museum will join us at the center for a presentation focused on the early explorers of the region. We’ll learn about the historical and current figures that have shaped the mountain culture landscape, including the women whose lives are part of a legacy of backcountry travel, ranching, climbing, scientific research, writing, drama, and art. Afterwards, we’ll transfer via motorcoach with our Group Leader for an exploration of the Bow Valley and Johnston Canyon. The entire area is rich with wildlife; watch the cliffs for bighorn sheep and the swamps for elk and wolves. Exploring Johnston Canyon with our Group Leader on foot, we’ll hike through a deep rugged canyon with waterfalls and rushing waters and see how Johnston Creek has carved its way into the limestone on the valley bottom and created a remarkable canyon in a relatively short period of time. Along the way, we’ll make stops for interpretation, viewing and photo opportunities. Groups will switch Field Trips the same as Day 2. We’ll then return to the Centre by motorcoach.

Lunch: At the Banff Centre.

Afternoon: We will attend a screening at the Banff Centre of short films from the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival; the works are bursting with stories of profound journeys, unexpected adventures and ground-breaking expeditions told by renowned authors, photographers, adventurers and filmmakers from around the globe. There will be pre- and post-viewing discussions about the festival and the film with an expert from the Banff Centre.

Dinner: Farewell dinner at the Banff Centre, we will enjoy a buffet meal with a wonderful view of the mountains

Evening: At your leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer to Calgary Airport in the morning

Transfer to Calgary Airport, Program Concludes
Banff, Alberta

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: At the Banff Centre.

Morning: Departing the center, group transfers to Calgary International Airport will start at 7:30 a.m. Our earliest expected arrival time is 9:30 a.m. This concludes our program. 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 another rewarding program in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.