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Alberta

Exploring Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks

Explore the Canadian Rockies with local experts, learning about grizzly bears, visiting Chateau Lake Louise and taking an in depth look at UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Rating (5)
Program No. 3856RJ
Length
9 days
Starts at
3,349
Flights start at
500
Alberta

Exploring Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks

Explore the Canadian Rockies with local experts, learning about grizzly bears, visiting Chateau Lake Louise and taking an in depth look at UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Length
9 days
Starts at
3,349
Flights start at
500
Program No. 3856 RJ
Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
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DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jun 13 - Jun 21, 2021
Starting at
3,349
Jun 20 - Jun 28, 2021
Starting at
3,349
Jul 4 - Jul 12, 2021
Starting at
3,349
Jul 11 - Jul 19, 2021
Starting at
3,349
Jul 18 - Jul 26, 2021
Starting at
3,349
Aug 8 - Aug 16, 2021
Starting at
3,349
Sep 5 - Sep 13, 2021
Starting at
3,349
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Jun 13 - Jun 21, 2021
Starting at
4,349
Jun 20 - Jun 28, 2021
Starting at
4,349
Jul 4 - Jul 12, 2021
Starting at
4,349
Jul 11 - Jul 19, 2021
Starting at
4,349
Jul 18 - Jul 26, 2021
Starting at
4,349
Aug 8 - Aug 16, 2021
Starting at
4,349
Sep 5 - Sep 13, 2021
Starting at
4,349

At a Glance

Straddling the Continental Divide for 14,300 square miles, the seven contiguous Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are richly adorned with mountain peaks, glaciers, waterfalls, limestone caves and fossils. Explore in depth three of these UNESCO World Heritage Sites to see how they each bear distinct ecological, geological and historical characters while sharing a common rugged beauty renowned worldwide.
Activity Level
Keep the Pace
Keep the Pace: Walking up to two miles daily on varied terrain. Elevations up to 4,540 feet. On Your Feet: Walking up to 1.5 miles daily on mostly flat terrain.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Explore Banff, Yoho and Jasper National Parks with experts and learn about their rich geological history.
  • Experience a bird’s eye view of the Continental Divide atop the Lake Louise Gondola.
  • Travel aboard a specially designed ice explorer to the middle of the breathtaking Athabasca Glacier.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Kirsten Schmitten
Kirsten Schmitten has spent over 30 years exploring, researching, writing and working in the Canadian Rockies. From her career as a park naturalist to her adventures with her warden husband, Kirsten’s love and knowledge of the natural and cultural history of Jasper makes her a captivating and sought after speaker. She is the owner of All Things Wild, a company specializing in connecting people to the natural and cultural history of Jasper National Park.

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

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 Kirsten Schmitten
Kirsten Schmitten View biography
Kirsten Schmitten has spent over 30 years exploring, researching, writing and working in the Canadian Rockies. From her career as a park naturalist to her adventures with her warden husband, Kirsten’s love and knowledge of the natural and cultural history of Jasper makes her a captivating and sought after speaker. She is the owner of All Things Wild, a company specializing in connecting people to the natural and cultural history of Jasper National Park.
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 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.
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.
This Wild Spirit: Women in the Rocky Mountains of Canada
by Colleen Skidmore
In 1912, Mary Vaux, a botanist, glaciologist, painter, and photographer, wrote about her mountain adventures: “A day on the trail, or a scramble over the glacier, or even with a quiet day in camp to get things in order for the morrow's conquests? Some how when once this wild spirit enters the blood…I can hardly wait to be off again." Vaux's compulsion was shared by many women whose intellects, imaginations, and spirits rose to the challenge of the mountains between the late-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. This Wild Spirit explores a sampling of women's creative responses—in fiction and travel writing, photographs and paintings, embroidery and beadwork, letters and diaries, poetry and posters—to their experiences in the Rocky Mountains of Canada.
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.
Selected Stories
by Alice Munro
This collection of 28 short stories represents some of Munro's finest work. A powerful range of emotional, evocative tales set throughout the cities and rural towns of her native country.
Lonely Planet Banff, Jasper & Glacier National Parks
by Lonely Planet Publications
This informative, compact guidebook in the excellent Lonely Planet series includes details on the history, geology and wildlife of the region.
Handbook of the Canadian Rockies
by Ben Gadd
Geology, plants, animals, history and recreation from Waterton/Glacier to the Yukon.
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.
The Outlander
by Gil Adamson
"It was night, and the dogs came through the trees, unleashed and howling." Mary Boulton, 19, is newly widowed, a result of having murdered her husband. The men with the dogs are her twin brothers-in-law, gunslingers bent on avenging their dead sibling. It is 1903, and the only place for Mary to run is west, into the wilderness. She is pursued not only by the vengeful twins but also by visions. Mary was raised in a genteel household but married a brute; now, having divested herself of her husband, she is not altogether sane. From an early benefactress she steals a horse, and together they navigate a gothic, ghostly mountain pass, unlikely to improve Mary's mental state. Desperate, freezing, and alone, Mary is now an outlander, as are most of the characters she encounters. The bird lady, the Ridgerunner, Bonny, the dwarf, and the cat-skinner are all earthbound beings inhabiting unsettled lives.
The Trade
by Fred Stenson
1822. The Hudson’s Bay Company, swollen by a merger with its bitter rival, the North West Company, is about to exercise its uncontested monopoly over the lands drained by Hudson Bay. The first step is to find a new source of beaver pelts and profits, and the only hope lies in the unmapped territory held by the Blackfoot-speaking Indian tribes: the Piegan, Siksika and Blood. With little information, the new governor of the territory mounts an expedition into the heart of this unknown land, a journey that will test the mettle of a new generation of Hudson’s Bay Company men. For John Rowand, who goes by the nickname “One Pound One,” the expedition is also a test of patience, a time to wonder bitterly why he has not been chosen to lead the way. For Rowand’s young friend Ted Harriott, a lowly clerk madly in love with his Metis cousin, it is a chance to demonstrate by some act of bravery that her father should allow them to marry. Harriot’s journey on foot to the Missouri in winter begins in danger and ends in the iron grip of cold and starvation. At the far end of the trail, he meets Jimmy Jock Bird, who has gone to make his life among the Piegan and who will become a middleman of increasing power among those who would rule the West. This brilliant novel, written between the lines of official history, tells an incredible story of those who were ruled by the often brutalizing fur trade. It is a story of love and economics, and of the nexus between the two. It is a story of how European culture, including religion, tried to root itself in this anarchic place and often failed. In the end, it is the story of how the mighty fur trade was rolled under by the greater forces of change and history.
A Traveller's History of Canada
by Robert Bothwell
A readable and admirably concise march through Canadian history from prehistory to today, including a timeline.
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.
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.
Mountain Home, Tales of Seeking a Family Life in Harmony with Nature
by Adolf Hungry Wolf
PAPER, 168 PAGES, $14.95 Getting back to the land isn’t easy, as Mr. Hungry Wolf will testify, after 25 years of raising his family in the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. He shares tales of natural foods, wild animals, home schooling his four children, and living without running water, phone, TV or electricity. (Item no. CND31)
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America
by Jon Dunn
This guide is the veteran's choice for birding anywhere in the United States. Practical to use in the field, it has maps, illustrations and descriptions of the birds on facing pages.
Rocky Mountain Natural History, Grand Teton to Jasper, A Trailside Reference
by Daniel Mathews
A comprehensive field guide and handbook covering the plants, animals, insects, geology and history of the region. With 480 color photographs and 11 line drawings.
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 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.
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9 days
8 nights
19 meals
8 B 6 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-In, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Banff, Alberta
D
High Country Inn

Activity note: Transfer to the hotel from Calgary Airport at 3:00 p.m. included in program cost. Hotel check-in available from 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Arrive to Calgary and transfer with the group to the hotel in Banff. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in and the front desk will be happy to help you.

Dinner: We’ll walk to a nearby restaurant for our welcome dinner.

Evening: We’ll begin our evening with an orientation session where we’ll get to know each other as well as review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes. We’ll go over important information as well as have time for questions. 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 or settle in for the night. You may also wish to explore what the city has to offer.

DAY
2
Banff Geology, Cave & Basin, Bow River
Banff, Alberta
B,L,D
High Country Inn

Activity note: Walking about 2 miles throughout the day; some stairs at historic site (can be avoided). Getting on/off motorcoach.

Breakfast: Buffet breakfast.

Morning: We will board our motorcoach and ride to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site. In a private room we will attend a presentation by a local geologist about the geology of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We’ll also learn about the amazing thermal hot springs that resulted in the creation of Canada’s National Parks system. As we explore the site’s thermal waters and the surrounding wetlands, our local geologist will teach us about the wildlife that resides here. We’ll stroll down to the warm marshes below the springs, easily accessible along a boardwalk, and observe introduced tropical fish and warm-water plants. Bring binoculars if you have them!

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Setting out by motorcoach and on foot, we’ll discover the history of the town of Banff with our Group Leader. Located within Canada's First National Park, Banff lies in a mountain-rimmed valley carved by the Bow River. Its development has always been determined by the federal government, tourism and the railway. In 1930, the Rocky Mountain Parks Reserve was renamed Banff National Park, Canada's first nature reserve, to encompass 2,564 square miles of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers. While on our exploration, we’ll see the famous Banff Springs Hotel and, beneath this famous Banff landmark, the gushing Bow Falls. The spectacular falls are fed by the Bow Glacier upstream and, in turn, they feed the Bow River. An easy stroll along the Bow Falls Trail will get us up close to the rapids and roaring water falls with our Group Leader.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. You may wish to independently explore the sights and sounds of Banff. For live entertainment, check out one of the local pubs or the Banff Centre. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
3
Yoho National Park, Emerald Lake
Lake Louise, AB
B,L,D
Lake Louise Inn

Activity note: Walking about 1.5 miles; approximately 2 hours over the course of the day; easy, flat lakeside trail with no elevation gain. Stops along the way for interpretation. Driving approximately 60 miles; about 1.5 hours.

Breakfast: Buffet breakfast.

Morning: We’ll transfer from the hotel to experience some of the foremost geological highlights of the Rockies on a field trip to Yoho National Park. Learn about area geology in trailside discussions with our expert naturalist.

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

Afternoon: We’ll then continue by motorcoach to Emerald Lake, another jewel of the Canadian Rockies, embark 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. Visit the nearby Field Visitor Centre where there are some exhibits to explore, including one that displays and explains some fossils from Burgess Shale. Parks Canada staff will be available to provide information and answer questions. We’ll then return to Lake Louise.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. You may wish to go with the Group Leader to continue exploring local sites, head off on your own, or just relax at the hotel.

DAY
4
Grizzly Bears & Glaciers, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake
Lake Louise, AB
B,L
Lake Louise Inn

Activity note: Walking about 2 miles during field trips. Getting on/off a gondola. Getting on/off the motorcoach.

Breakfast: Buffet breakfast.

Morning: Meet with a wildlife expert biologist and conservationist at the hotel 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 within the Park and the Lake Louise area 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 how humans share the landscape with bears. During the presentation, we will also hear how Parks Canada is conducting land use and management policies. We will transfer by motorcoach to 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 Chateau Lake Louise, we’ll enjoy afternoon tea with assorted pastries and traditional finger sandwiches. Free time to explore the hotel and grounds.

Afternoon: After lunch we travel to Moraine Lake, one of the most photographed places in the Rocky Mountains. Learn about area ecology and geology along the way.

Dinner: On own in Lake Louise.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Icefields Parkway, Athabasca Glacier, Ice Explorer, Jasper
Jasper, AB
B,L,D
Maligne Lodge

Activity note: There are stairs leading up to the entrance of the Columbia Icefields Interpretive Centre. The remainder of the field trip will be by motorcoach. Driving about 150 miles throughout the day; approximately 4 hours total. The Ice Explorer ride on Athabasca Glacier is approx. 3 miles roundtrip; about 1.5 hours total.

Breakfast: Buffet breakfast.

Morning: We’ll travel via motorcoach along the Icefields Parkway, one of the most spectacular stretches of scenic driving in Canada. The highway follows a lake-lined valley along the Continental Divide. We’ll spend the majority of the day in the Main Ranges; the mountains here are the highest, craggiest and arguably the most scenic in all the Rockies. En route, we’ll stop at scenic overlooks and our Group Leader will provide an overview of the surrounding area.

Lunch: At a scenic spot along the Parkway, we will stop for a box lunch.

Afternoon: Spend some time at the Columbia Icefields Interpretive Centre before boarding for travel in a specially designed Ice Explorer to the middle of the Athabasca Glacier on a 3 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 will then return from our drive on the glacier and switch vehicles back to our motorcoach to continue our journey to Jasper National Park. This scenic drive is lined with beautiful mountains, lakes and more than 100 glaciers providing a dramatic backdrop. Keep an eye out for mountain goats and bighorn sheep in the cliffs along the way. In the spruce forest above the Sunwapta River, watch for grizzly bears during spring, summer and fall. Upon arrival, we’ll check into the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: An evening presentation at the hotel given by a local expert will examine Jasper from a historical perspective giving us the opportunity to learn about some of the early settlers and the First Nations.

DAY
6
Maligne Canyon, Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park
Jasper, AB
B,L
Maligne Lodge

Activity note: Field trips include up to 2 walks, no more than 1 mile (1.6 km) each in length on paved or maintained trails.

Breakfast: Buffet breakfast.

Morning: Our local expert naturalist will meet us at the hotel and accompany us in our explorations of Jasper National Park, Maligne Canyon and Pyramid Lake by motorcoach. We’ll make a stop for a walk along the Maligne Canyon Trail, which is rich in natural history, impressive geologic features and wildlife. On our walk, we’ll search for fossils and find out how this deep canyon formed during 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. These scenic trails will allow us to explore the spectacular vantage points, flower meadows, and sapphire blue mountain lakes.

Lunch: At a scenic spot along our journey, we’ll stop for boxed lunches.

Afternoon: We’ll continue our expert-led exploration in Jasper National Park by motorcoach, making some stops for expert interpretation. Canada's largest and most northerly Rocky Mountain park, Jasper encompasses over 4,200 square miles and boasts healthy wildlife populations, including grizzly bears and wolves, which live among its grand peaks and emerald-green lakes. The combination of these startling blue-green mountain lakes, soaring peaks and broad, forested valleys makes this one of the world's premiere national parks.

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
7
Palisades Stewardship Education Centre, Return to Banff
Banff, Alberta
B,L
High Country Inn

Activity note: Walking about 1 mile; approximately 2 hours; paved and/or maintained trails. Driving approx. 190 miles; about 4 hours.

Breakfast: Buffet breakfast.

Morning: Transfer by coach to explore a homestead of an early pioneer family, Palisades Stewardship Education Centre is an historic ranch operated by Parks Canada as one of Canada’s premier outdoor education facilities. Located in the spectacular Athabasca Valley, the Stewardship Palisades Education Centre’s innovative programming is designed to stimulate a new kind of relationship with nature and to embrace the values of protected areas. During a field trip to the Centre, learn from a Parks Canada expert about the role of the National Parks in fostering conservation ethics.

Lunch: At the Education Centre, we’ll have a cafeteria-style meal.

Afternoon: We’ll then board the motorcoach for transfer back to Banff where we will check into the hotel. The remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: On your own to explore local fare or join the Group Leader at a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. You may wish to head off on your own to explore Banff, remain with the Group Leader or relax at the hotel.

DAY
8
Whyte Museum, Free Time, Farewell Dinner
Banff, Alberta
B,D
High Country Inn

Activity note: Walking about 1 mile during the field trip; approx. 1.5 hours; mostly on paved trails and streets. Minimal driving with some short transfers within the town of Banff.

Breakfast: Buffet breakfast.

Morning: Transfer by coach to explore the Whyte Museum, one of Banff's most culturally significant museums, and learn about the remarkable history of some of the locals and their cultural past through self-guided exploration. The museum features an art gallery and a vast collection of photographs telling the history of early explorers, artists and the Canadian Pacific Railway. Then take a walk back in time and get to know the colorful individuals who built the town of Banff. This guided exploration meanders through history to take you near the riverside site where Tom Wilson established one of the first outfitting operations in the area, St. Georges-in-the-Pines Anglican Church with its unique stained glass windows, and the Luxton Home and Garden. These and many other intriguing stops reveal the fascinating history of this town.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: Free time.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a farewell dinner.

Evening: We’ll have a wrap-up session at the restaurant after dinner. Share your favorite experiences of the program with new Road Scholar friends. We’ll then return to the hotel. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departures in the morning.

DAY
9
Airport Transfers, Program Concludes
Banff, Alberta
B

Activity note: Check-out is 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at 7:00 a.m.

Morning: We’ll then check out of the hotel and transfer to Calgary International Airport (YYC); approximate arrival at the airport is 10:30 a.m. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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