You can pick up your Escape campervan in Calgary or Vancouver to explore British Columbia, Alberta, and the awe-inspiring Canadian Rockies, including Banff and Jasper National Parks. Here is the tale of John and Sara’s campervan trip through this area in March.
NOTICE: Escape Camper Vans Road Restrictions
The following are strictly prohibited areas that you can not take your Escape campervan: Anywhere in Mexico, Baja California, Alaska, and the Northern Territories of Canada.
Day 10: Crossing the Border
Sara and John were a little nervous about crossing the Canadian border in their fully-loaded van. They gassed up the Big Blue campervan and stopped by a tiny US Post Office to mail their postcards. The mountains, hills, and fields were buried in snow as far as they could see. They cooked breakfast in the cold wind at a rest area, then made sure to get rid of any remaining produce, eggs, meat, and cheese.
In preparation for the border crossing from Montana at the Sweet Grass Port of Entry, they retrieved their detailed paperwork with beginning and end dates for John and Dawn’s seasonal jobs, a packing list of items Dawn sent, a list of items packed inside the kayaks that were shrink wrapped on top of the van, and receipts and paperwork for the case of wine and other claimed items being transported inside the van. Every border crossing agent they dealt with was super friendly, and much to their relief, they were in and out in about 20 minutes! John mentioned his claimed items and had to go inside for them to review his paperwork, but they just sent him on his way and didn’t even look inside the van.
They were told to head to the boat inspection area, but it was closed. They parked and walked inside to confirm that no one needed to inspect the kayaks (any form of bacteria or algae was long gone and frozen by now), but the agents waved them right through, and just like that they were in Alberta Canada!
Camping in Banff
They phoned ahead as they drove to Banff National Park, and were happy to learn that the Tunnel Mountain Campground maintains one loop that is open year-round, and it is only 2 miles from downtown Banff. They saw a herd of elk on the road to the campground. It was self-registration / self-pay and they scoped out a site close to the restrooms. The ground was covered with several feet of snow, it covered the fire pit and picnic table. But they tested out the electric hookup, with success, it was turned on!
They headed into town for elk burgers at Eddie’s Burger Bar. Banff was a happening ski town, and a bit pricey. The further north they traveled, the more their kayak-loaded blue van stuck out. The bathrooms at the campground were heated with AWESOME hot showers, and they had the place to themselves. They were excited to spend their first night in the van with electricity and were able to use the string lights and space heater. They felt very fancy… and warm.
Day 11 – Banff National Park
They woke to find elk tracks in the snow all around the van. On their way out of town, they spotted the big herd of elk hanging out along the next loop of the campground. The elk were unfazed as they drove by, and allowed them to stop and snap a few pics. Their goal was to travel the 150+ miles along the scenic Icefields Parkway. Even though all lodges, campgrounds, and gas stations were closed for the season, there were conveniently located pit toilets they could use when needed.
Lake Louise Ice Castle
They got an early start and stopped in town for gas and coffee. Next up was Vermilion Lake to catch the sunrise, but they were a little late. They drove on towards Lake Louise to check out the ice castle that was built for the annual Ice Magic Festival back in January. Apparently, Lake Louise Village is the highest elevation permanent settlement in Canada. It’s also one of the most photographed sites in the country and sits at an elevation of 5,000 ft. Snow can fall at any time of the year and the lake doesn’t even thaw until June. The ice castle was unlike anything they have ever seen. It was worth the freezing cold, short walk to check out the lake. A runner passed by with frost on her face. After exploring briefly and getting a few pics, they hurried back to the warmth of the van.
They turned onto the Icefields Parkway, and on this March morning, had it practically all to themselves. There was no traffic, and the views of the Canadian Rockies surrounding them on all sides only improved the farther along they drove. They gazed at gorgeous snow-covered peaks the whole way, with massive glaciers, ice fields, frozen lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. They even saw more bighorn sheep.
Some highlights of their drive through Banff were the overlook of Crowfoot Glacier and a scenic view of the frozen Bow Lake and Peyto Lake. Usually known for their bright turquoise blue color due to the glacial silt suspended in the water, they lay before them now, buried in dense ice and snow. Sara dreamed of returning to explore by kayak during summertime.
Their planned adventure for this day was Abraham Lake, Alberta’s largest reservoir. It was beautiful to drive along past the Rocky Mountain House toward Nordegg. When they could see small groups of people walking out on the ice, they knew they were in the right place, parked, and followed their tracks through deep snow down to the lake. They found a log to sit on and strap on their brand new crampons, bought specifically for this “hike.”
Blue patches of ice were shining through the snow-covered lake in the bright sunlight. The crampons made walking on a frozen lake for the first time easy. It was an awesome experience. They started noticing the bubbles in the ice. They were everywhere, big and small. Some were so large the ice was open at the surface and large chunks of ice were scattered around. The bubbles are created by methane rising to the surface from decomposition at the bottom of the lake. The methane bubbles get captured in the ice as the lake freezes.
Returning to the Icefields Parkway, they checked out the large frozen Tangle Creek Falls and the Athabasca glacier. They had a fun day playing in the snow and testing out all of the heavy cold-weather gear they had purchased just for this trip. At the end of the parkway, they found themselves in Jasper National Park, where they camped for the night.
Day 12: British Columbia
They got creative and were fortunate to find places to camp with electricity each night they were in Canada. This made it easy to run the extension cord through the window and use the space heater. As they continued on towards Dawson Creek, they continued to see an abundance of wildlife, including caribou, elk, bison, and Sara finally got to see a moose for the first time. Another first, was a warm soak at Liard River Hot Springs, surrounded by evergreens and deep snow.
They continued on down the Alaska Highway, grateful for the opportunity to travel through this beautiful land by campervan, and with each other. It was definitely the most epic, unforgettable Dad-Daughter road trip of a lifetime.