I have an opportunity to work in Edmonton in the Spring of 2010, potentially a 3 month stay. I have read some that there is good touring in the Alberta area and am thinking of a short tour in early July, maybe a week or two long. Since I have never done any touring in the past would it be feasible to do a short tour and lodge at Hostels when possible?
Also interested to know if driving up from Illinois in mid to late March is a good idea?
The only touring route where you can do hostels is the Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff. You'll need reservations. Aside from that, I'm not really familiar with any touring routes around here, I just do the occasional weekend ride from Edmonton. My system basically involves looking for a B&B that I want to stay at and then figuring out the route to get there. There's no hostels outside of the cities and the mountain parks, so you're left either camping or B&Bs.
Driving up in March should be fine. There will likely still be snow around, at least part of the way, but the roads should be perfectly safe.
Well, late March can see some impressive snow storms. Not guaranteed, but very possible.
In the wind
From Edmonton it's a couple hours drive to Jasper which is a good jumping off point for a tour in the rockies. Here is a list of hostels.
You can also take the train I guess.
Long Distance Cyclist
If you drive up in March, expect some wild weather. When I commuted (by car) between Red Deer and Edmonton to go to University in 2008, March was one of the worst months for driving.
As for tours ... the Icefield Parkway is great, but I wouldn't rule out doing something like a meander down toward Rocky Mountain House and then a ride westward on Hwy 11 to Saskatchewan River Crossing. You'll encounter your first hostel in Nordegg.
This collection is mainly of rides I've done on Hwy 11 with occasional trips all the way into the park along the Icefield Parkway:
But a word about hostels in July. Book now. If you show up on the doorstep of a hostel in the Icefield Parkway in July on your ride, you won't get a room. They book up early and quickly. And if you're considering staying at the Edmonton hostel ... consider other plans. I've stayed there. I wouldn't recommend that hostel at all. The only hostel I've stayed in worse that that one would have to be the hostel in Boulder, Co.