Road Trip Planning To Banff
Some Great Tips -
Drive Safe Thru The Rockies!
Road Trip Planning to Banff
When you Travel by Car to Banff, one of the concerns many visitors have is that they are unfamiliar with driving in the mountains.
Even people who live in Calgary and visit the mountains routinely may feel a little bit anxious when faced with a trip through the Rockies and maybe onto B.C.
So Some Good Road Trip Planning is essential
If you are not used to driving through areas with a low population density, be warned: Fuel is not always conveniently available.
When you travel by car to Banff some parts of the Trans-Canada in the mountains west of Lake Louise have 100 km (60 mi) or more between fuel stops. You should either plan your fuel stops, or make it a practice to refuel whenever your gas gauge reaches the half-full mark.
Alberta drivers consistently exceed the speed limit by 20 km/h or more, even when driving through the mountains.
The drive to Banff from Calgary is fairly easy; the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1) is four lane divided all the way to the Banff townsite (and beyond); within the national park, tall fences keep deer and other wildlife off the road.
This part of the road does not have any really steep climbs or sections where it clings next to a steep drop-off. The only major risk is other drivers, especially sleepy drivers on their way to ski in Banff early in the morning (6 a.m. to 8 a.m.) or on the way home to Calgary after a long day of skiing.
A little road trip planning is a good idea when traveling by car to Banff in winter. Check out my Winter Driving Tips to Banff Page with how to handle our snow conditions.
The drive from Calgary to Banff and Lake Louise is very well-travelled and well-maintained in winter, and so is quite safe, as long as you are not driving during or immediately after a heavy snowfall.
Do not take Hwy 1A between Calgary and Canmore as an alternate to Hwy 1 (the Trans-Canada) unless you have a destination (e.g. Ghost Lake) which requires you to take that route.
This road is only two lanes, is not divided, has poor visibility, and there are ongoing problems here with impaired drivers after dark. Pedestrians often walk along the narrow shoulder. This route's fatality rate is truly appalling.
When you travel by car from Banff to Lake Louise and beyond there is a slow upgrade. It is now four lane divided. This road construction has just been completed in 2011 so. This really helps when trying to pass campers and trailiers during the summer months. The Banff-Lake Louise section has few steep hills and sharp drop-offs. Be careful.
Your travel by car to Banff could include the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A). It also connects Banff to Lake Louise. It's a great scenic route with a much slower speed limit than the Trans-Canada Highway. It's a relaxing alternative to the sometimes slow traffic on the main route.
When you reach the Lake Louise area, watch for the signs telling you to slow down for bears! There is an ongoing problem in this region with vehicle-bear collisions.
When planning a road trip....If you want to meet a Mountie as part of your Canadian vacation, drive through here at 110 km/hr. Sorry no red uniforms on these roads, the RCMP wear regular blue uniforms when on duty. It probably won't be much of a photo-op, mind you, you can never resist a man in a uniform! Just remember there will be pretty expensive fine!
In Alberta, the law calls for a mandatory court appearance for drivers caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 50 km/h. Remember that!!!!
When road trip planning, anticipate major hills by accelerating before you start a long climb; shift to a lower gear to decelerate when going down long hills, especially if they are marked with a sign indicating the grade (some sections have a grade of up to 10%).
The sooner you shift down, the better. You'll feel a lot safer if you're using your engine to brake; in certain stretches of the Rockies, you may note the distinctive odour of overheating brake pads.
If you're not familiar with downshifting to decelerate, practice the technique before you leave home until you're comfortable with it.
The section of the Kicking Horse Pass between Field, B.C. and the Alberta-B.C. border is the first truly challenging section of the Trans-Canada Highway for the new mountain driver. It is fairly narrow and somewhat winding, with steep hills and some drop-offs.
If you must drive at night in the mountains (this is not recommended), the safest way to do this is with a passenger, who should be tasked with watching either side of the road for wildlife, as far ahead of the car as practical.
The first sign you will get of a deer, elk, or moose at night will probably be their eyes, shining in your headlights like a cat's eyes. SLOW DOWN immediately.
Even if the animal is not on the road.... where you can see one animal, there are likely others out of sight. They could be on the roadway ahead of you, who may be looking the other way. Deer, elk, and moose generally move in groups.
In the national parks, the roadway crossings most heavily used by deer and elk are marked by signs--but animals can't read!!!! they can and will cross anywhere that's convenient.
A lot of this is common sense...a little road trip planning will ensure you arrive to these beautiful mountains safe and sound!
Check out some great Traveling With Kids Tips
Check out some great Winter Driving Tips for a safe journey!
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