Icefield Parkway - Earliest Start?
Hi all. My wife and I are starting to plan our cross-country (+ bonus trips) tour for 2008. Part of our route will include the ACA Great Parks North route from Jasper to Missoula, MT. I have two questions:
1. What is the earliest in the year we should consider riding that portion?
2. Anyone have route recommendations from Vancouver, BC to Jasper?
Thanks for your input!
Conquer Cancer rider
I don't know if it's on your route, but the Going to the Sun Highway opened only on July 1 a couple of years back. They punched through 40 foot snowdrifts to get the road open. It was just above freezing and almost snowing when I rode it a day or two later. It's amazing how cold a ride can be when you have 40-foot snowbanks on each side, and how utterly frigid the downhill is.
Long Distance Cyclist
I think the national parks open for camping on the May long weekend, or maybe the weekend before. But that's no guarantee there isn't going to be 3 feet of snow all over everything.
As for route recommendations between Vancouver and Jasper, my advice would be to stay on THE paved road.
OK, to be fair, you've got a few option between Vancouver and Kamloops, depending on how much extra riding you want to do, but once you reach Kamloops you've got two choices ... either head north through Blue River and Tete Jaune Cache to Jasper, or east to Revelstoke, Golden, Lake Louise, and then north to Jasper.
The rest is all mountains, forests, streams, and the odd forestry trail.
That not only goes for Banff and Jasper, but for most of the Intermountain West, as well. Even though Colorado is well south of Alberta, there is a steady increase in elevation as you head south in the Rockies - - Jasper is 3300 ft while Leadville is 9900 ft. The climate is remarkable similar. Remember that spring comes late - that snow is LIKELY in May and possible in June, especially in the higher elevations. Also, all that snow that accumulates all winter takes a heck of a long time to melt.
A rule of thumb is:
May - too early
June - okay, but soggy
July - fabulous wildflowers
August - all the highcountry dry
Fall is a much better saddle season for Easterners unfamiliar with the Rockies. Spring is just plain risky.
Best - J
Long Distance Cyclist
The Golden Triangle ride, put on by the cycletouring club in Calgary, goes on the May long weekend ... I did that one last year, and yes, there was still snow in the ditches especially at higher elevations, and yes, we did encounter falling snow as we cycled. It was actually quite miserable there for a couple hours. The whole three days was also very cold, with cold nights.
I had a great time, and it was definitely doable, but I went prepared for anything. Some riders didn't, and were miserable.
I have heard that other years there's anything from fairly well warm weather, bordering on hot, to snow the whole time, nearly causing them to cancel the event. You could get anything in May!!
I wouldn't agree though that fall is a better choice in the Canadian Rockies. Fall (as in September) is just as predictable as May ... in other words it is not very predictable. You could get lovely weather, or you could get the 45 cm of snow that was dumped there somewhere around the 10th of September this year.
I've camped in the Rockies in September on more than one occasion, and have lucked out each time. It was cold ... often dropped below freezing, and sometimes it rained, but no snow ... althought it threatened one night.
The other thing you've got to be aware of in September is that the elk are in rutting season then. Bellowing elk would be an experience you will never forget ... especially directly over your tent at 2 am.
With global warming, things may be different in 2008.
I will repeat what I have said in other threads. For the past 30 years I have biked, hiked and travelled extensively in Alberta (where I was born and raised) and BC where I have lived for the past 18 years. I would have no hesitation to start a tour from Jasper in early May. Yes, there is a chance of snow in the higher passes (e.g. Bow Summit) and the nights WILL be cold. The key to comfort is your gear -- make sure that your sleeping bag is good for -20C. I have winter camped in this (5 area at much colder temperatures -- i.e. -35C and have been very comfortable in a tent and sleeping bag designed for those conditions. BE PREPARED for any weather condition!!
Originally Posted by schultzbike
As far as a route from Vancouver, I would take the Lougheed (#7) through Coquitlam/Maple Ridge/Mission (where I now live) to Hope and the Trans Canada (#1) from Hope to Kamloops (this route is much more interesting than the Coquihalla Highway (#5) and takes you through the beautiful Fraser Canyon). The biggest hazard on this route is several narrow tunnels, NOT the weather. From Kamloops, I would then take the Yellowhead Highway (#5) to Jasper and then go south from there on the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise, Banff, ....
Several years ago, I did a similar route. However, because of time constraints, I took VIA Rail from Vancouver to Jasper and then cycled south to Montana and then westward through Idaho and Washington before crossing back over the border to Canada near Abbotsford. This trip was done in the first three weeks of June (2100km in 20 days). Temperatures ranged from 5C to 30C!!
Long Distance Cyclist
Yes, but if they are already coming down the Icefield Parkway on their way south, it might be nice to go up the Blue River/Tete Jaune Cache highway on the way to Jasper. That highway is also very pretty with a slightly different landscape than the Icefield Parkway. Plus it might be a slightly warmer route ... it was when I last did it.
There's my story of my trip from Kamloops to Tete Jaune Cache to Jasper to Lake Louise to Golden, Revelstoke, Salmon Arm, Vernon, and back to Kamloops. 1200 kms in 3.5 days in late July 2002. OK, not exactly a tour, but there are photos of the area, and you might get some idea of the terrain.
And then there's the Heckman Pass route out to Bella Coola and the BC Ferry connection to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. Remote, rugged.