This summer we got to spend amazing 19 days in Alberta as a family of three, as well as managed to fit a 70.3 race in the schedule. Here is an approximate itinerary for those who are interested in similar experience.
Day 1 – Settling In
We flew in pretty early into Calgary with West Jet, and had whole day to settle in. As we were traveling with someone who needed lots of special things that hotels and friends could not provide, we really took our time getting organized.
First we picked up our rental car and installed the car seat. We brought our own, since airline let is check it in for free, and car company wanted to charge us an arm and a leg for theirs.
Then we headed to Once Upon a Child for things like playpen, booster seat and few toys. All those were necessary, but weren’t worth flying with. For example we picked up used Graco Pack and Play (better than the one we have at home) for $50, while it would have costed us same $50 or more for extra piece of checked luggage.
After that, short stop at Walmart for baby food (he still eats some purees when he is too tired to wait for grown-up dinner) and groceries, as well as a bike shop for other baby’s nutrition and CO2 canister.
After all that we were back to our home base for the few days, and were pretty much done for the night.
Day 2 – Calgary
We were staying with friends and they took us, on an unconventional visit of the city. We parked on the street in the neighborhood by the Elbow River and walked along the Elbow River Pathway to the Stampede Grounds. After a brief walk through the grounds we headed to the 4th Avenue for lunch and walked back to the car through the city streets.
Day 3 – Day in Canmore
Since our friends were working, and our other travel companions have not returned to Calgary yet, we decided to spend a day in Canmore. About an hour away from the city, this was our first real adventure.
We left the city just around 6 am and arrived to Canmore in time for breakfast at Rocky Mountain Bagel Company.
After a quick breakfast, we started looking for something to do. Since we have a junior hiker (also known as a 20lb weight vest) with us, we found an easy trail to follow and headed to Grassi Lakes.
At first, thanks to Google, we headed up the three sisters highway to Whitemans Pond, where we got to park and get the first feel of the mountains.
Then we found the right turn for Grassi Lakes trailhead, and walked up to the lakes themselves.
Tired, we headed back to the city, to get our things from friends’ house and meet our family at Airbnb.
Day 4 – Rainy Day to Regroup and Reorganize
It rained all day, so we concentrated on sleeping in, getting groceries, and just being lazy.
We stopped and Chinook Mall for few hours, but neither of us being shoppers, we weren’t overly impressed. What also didn’t help, was the fact that most of the mall was under construction.
We also stopped at the Fort of Calgary site, but didn’t go in to see the exposition inside. Just walked the grounds and headed back home.
Day 5 – Canmore Nordic Center
This was the day that guys looked forward to since we started planning our vacation – Mountain Biking at Canmore Nordic Center!
While Alex and his brother rode, my sister-in-law, Nathan and I spend few hours walking in Canmore. After lunch we all went for a walk through ski trails and attempted a game of Disk Golf. I found another sport I am horrible at.
Day 6 – Dinosaur Provincial Park
There are two things that Alex is obsessed about: kangaroos and dinosaurs. Since we saw kangaroos on the last trip (also, they aren’t that common in Alberta) we made sure that we fit some dinosaurs time on this trip.
We drove for 2.5 hours to the Provincial Park, spent a day wandering through badlands and headed back home in time for dinner.
Day 7 – Calgary Zoo
In the morning we headed out to the zoo. While it is another zoo that is much smaller than Toronto, it still took us a better part of the day to walk along all the pathways and see every animal. We finally got to see the giant pandas, that were born in Toronto few years ago and currently are visiting Calgary.
Later that evening we switched to triathlon mode, and went to pick up Alex’s race kit on the other side of the city.
Day 8 – Race Preparation
This was the day that got eaten up by the race mostly. In the morning we had to pack up our Airbnb, because our family was heading home, and we were coming back to our friends’ place until our big adventure. Alex did his last pre-race workout and tested his equipment. Then we headed to the race site to drop off the bike and check out the race course.
Day 9 – Calgary 70.3
Alex will tell you more about it in a separate post, but we spent most of the day at Auburn Bay racing and watching Calgary 70.3 event. As any other half distance race, it did not leave much time for anything.
Day 10 – Banff, Johnston Canyon
This was a first day of our vacations as a family of three. We woke up early, and headed to Banff. Originally we were planning to take it slow, since we had a sore triathlete and a baby in the car, but we were up early, and got to the town before lunch.
Looking for something to do until check in, we headed to Johnston Canyon ahead of schedule (were planning to visit it on our way along the Bow Valley Parkway in 2 days) and had our first 14 km hike before even unpacking our suitcases.
We saw two bears that day, and headed straight to the store to purchase our own can of bear spray. Just in case.
Day 11 – C-Level Cirque and Lake Minnewanka
After a hell of a night of sharing a room with an infant who could not decide whether he wants to be independent and sleep in his crib or cuddle with us until the sun goes up, steep C-Level Cirque was tough. However we were happy we did it.
Once we were back in the car, we continued to drive along the lake Minnewanka scenic loop. At one point we saw a herd of mountain goats nonchalantly walking along the road and posing for the pictures.
Day 12 – Drive to Golden (British Columbia)
Here is where I admit being affected by the mommy brain. Originally, we had a dream of staying at Fairmont Chateau in Lake Louise, but we procrastinated and the only rooms available totalled to about $2000 per night. Unfortunately, this blog isn’t that popular, and our careers aren’t that lucrative. We stated looking outside of the village, and for whichever reason, I didn’t even consider staying 2 extra days in Banff. Instead, I found a hotel in Golden, BC which was an hour drive from both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
We took a scenic drive through the Bow Valley, and then headed along just as scenic Trans-Canada Highway 1.
Day 13 – Lake Louise and Plain of Six Glaciers
We got to Lake Louise by 9, and were already late for the parking lot. After returning on our tracks to the overflow lot, we took the shuttle back to the lake. Since we did not want to compete with the crowds, we chose to hike up to the less known teahouse at the Plain of Six Glaciers instead of Lake Agnes.
It was a challenging 4 hour hike, but it was worth it.
Day 14 – Moraine Lake and Constellation Lakes
Originally we were planning to get to Moraine Lake before 6:30 to get the parking and head on the Larch Valley hike. However, the night before the highway was paralysed by a deadly accident, and the only detour route was closed due to wildfire. All this resulted in “4-6 hours delay”, if you consulted the information board. We spent a bit more time in Banff and jumped on the highway by 7pm (an hour after the BC announced the road was open) and it still took us 4 hours of bumper to bumper traffic.
Instead, we rolled into overflow lot at 9:30, paid $15 each for a shuttle and got to the lake just after 10. Walked along the shore, ate lunch and headed on to the shorter hike to Constellation Lakes.
Day 15 – Golden to Jasper via Icelands Parkway
Two things you don’t do with the baby are travelling light and get on the road quickly.
Our driving days always remind me a scene from any movie about travelling circus. All sorts of luggage, wild (stuffed) animals, assorted equipment … all spread in front what seems to always be too small of a car. And in the middle of it, there is this one dust covered baby who clings to your knees and constantly begging for something. No sweetie, you had milk twice in these past ten minutes.
And when it is time to pack the playpen, the baby will nap! No matter how long you’ve been trying to put him down for earlier. He sees the cover coming out, and it just makes him tired. And it will be the longest nap of his life. That’s how it works.
Alex snuck a ride in while Nathan was taking his usual before departure nap, and we headed up to Jasper. On our way back to the Alberta border we stopped at the Spiral Tunnels and then slowly climbed up through the Icelands Parkway to Jasper and then headed to Hinton where a nice hotel room was waiting for us.
Day 16 – Jasper
As soon as we had breakfast we headed back to Jasper for few activities around town. We spent a bit of time at the beach on the Pyramid Lake and then visited the Pyramid Island via the bridge that took a while to find.
Upon our return to town, we had a lunch at Jasper Pizza Place and a dessert from The Bear Paw Bakery. Later on I headed to the laundromat, while Alex and Nathan explored the town a bit.
I am not sure if this was because we’ve been travelling for a while already, but we felt that Jasper itself did not impress us. On the other hand, driving back to the hotel through the National Park we got to see mountain goats just sitting on the rocks along the highway. That was cool.
Day 17 – Maligne Canyon
Alex woke up early in the morning, and got on his bike, so he could meet us in Jasper few hours later. Nathan and I drove in, and met him at The Other Paw bakery, which was really just a bigger sister of the one we visited the day before.
By the time we met, changed and packed back in the car it was noon, and we drove over to the Maligne Canyon. We had lunch in the car while Nathan napped, and headed to the trail. After walking to all 6 bridges we returned to the car hot and tired. Conveniently there was a slushie place at the trail head.
On the way back we stopped at a very shallow part of Athabasca river (we thought it was a lake). Looking at other people, we probably could have went to the middle of it, and still be no deeper than a knee level.
Day 18 – Drive to Calgary and Athabasca Glacier
It was time to start heading back. We loaded the car, and retraced our steps through Jasper to the Icefields and so on. The other option was to go through Edmonton, but we had our mind set on stopping at the Athabasca Glacier.
We could not do the whole Columbia Icefields Glacier tour where you walk on the ice, but we still did the Toe of the Glacier trail, picked up a coffee at the visitors centre and headed back towards the city.
With few stops here and there, we managed to get back to Calgary around 6.
Day 19 – It’s Time to Go Home
We woke up in the morning and got on the unpleasant task of balancing the suitcases and disassembling the bike. We sold back all the things we bought at Once Upon a Child, took a long walk along the Bow River.
Our friends took us to Wurst for a dinner and we even saw a real beaver in on the bank of the Elbow River. Now we could go home.
Settling into a soft seat of the 11:45 West Jet flight we felt exhausted and amazed by all the things we got to do in less than 20 days.