22397
Alberta
Great American Get-Together in Banff
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.
Rating (4.82)
Program No. 22397RJ
Length
8 days
Starts at
2,699
Flights start at
FREE
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8 days
7 nights
18 meals
7 B 6 L 5 D
Getting There
See travel details and required documents
DAY
1
Check-In, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Calgary, Alberta
D
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: At the hotel, we will enjoy a meal, with coffee, tea, water included.

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.

DAY
2
Banff Centre, Geology, Banff Motorcoach Exploration
Banff, Alberta
B,L,D
The Banff Centre

Activity note: The entire group will come together for morning presentations. In the afternoon, each group (max 30 participants) will depart with a Group Leader by motorcoach for an exploration of Banff and area. Walking up to 1 mile, about 2 hours; motorcoach travel approximately 50 miles, about 2 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will enjoy a buffet breakfast, with coffee, tea, water included.

Morning: Two groups will set out via motorcoach on 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 in a short period of time. Along the way, we’ll make stops for interpretation, viewing, and photo opportunities. Impressively thoughtful, Parks Canada has implemented wildlife crossings – underpasses and overpasses – to enable animals to connect their habitats safely and protect motorists. 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. Coffee, tea, water included.

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 center, we will enjoy a buffet meal, with coffee, tea, water included.

Evening: We will gather at the center for a presentation that will explore the concepts of glaciation and the features of a glacially-carved landscape. We will learn about the Athabasca Glacier, which we will visit later in the week. It is part of the massive Columbia Icefields – the largest in North America – whose run-off feeds three different oceans.

DAY
3
Cave & Basin National Historic Site, Free Time
Banff, Alberta
B,L
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; drive durations will be less than 1 hour. The order of the days will change per group. Walking up to 1 mile, about 1 hour on pavement and boardwalks; some stairs at Cave and Basin site.

Breakfast: Center buffet.

Morning: We’ll transfer by motorcoach from the center to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site to explore the beginning 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 third). 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: Center buffet.

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 leisure.

DAY
4
Moraine Lake, Yoho Nat’l Park, Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls
Banff, Alberta
B,L,D
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 a walking field trip to Yoho National Park, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake – the latter is so iconic that it appears on Canada’s $20 note. We’ll learn about the geology of the area in trailside discussions with our local expert, 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 resulting in the front of the train going 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 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: Center buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Lake Louise, Grizzly Bears, Gondola, Chateau Lake Louise
Banff, Alberta
B,L
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: Center buffet.

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 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 how humans share the landscape with bears. During the presentation, we will also hear how Parks Canada is conducting land use and management policies.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy a meal, with coffee, tea, water included.

Afternoon: 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. 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. We’ll then return to the center.

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 leisure.

DAY
6
Columbia Icefields, Athabasca Glacier, Ice Explorer
Banff, Alberta
B,L,D
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 but there is a higher parking lot where we can drop off with a ramp for easier access. The remainder of the field trip will be by motorcoach; driving about 150 miles throughout the day; approximately 5 hours total. The Ice Explorer ride on Athabasca Glacier is approx. 3 miles roundtrip; about 1.5 hours total.

Breakfast: Center buffet.

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 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 mile (5 km) roundtrip 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: Center buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Early Explorers, Johnston Canyon, Banff Film Screening
Banff, Alberta
B,L,D
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: Center buffet.

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. We’ll then return to the center by motorcoach.

Lunch: Center buffet.

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: At the Banff Centre, we’ll enjoy a buffet meal in a private room with a wonderful view of the mountains for our farewell dinner. Coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Transfer to Calgary Airport, Program Concludes
Banff, Alberta
B

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

Breakfast: Center buffet.

Morning: Departing the center, we’ll transfer to Calgary International Airport. Our expected arrival time is mid-to-late morning. 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!






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