2022 BC RAIL & FERRY
Road Scholar 21439
Breathtaking vistas, unique wildlife, ancient cultures and traditional ways of life — discover this and more as you explore Western Canada from Alberta to the Inside Passage.
At a Glance: Discover the breathtaking range of the Canadian Rockies in Alberta and the magnificent natural beauty of British Columbia. The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are richly adorned with mountain peaks, glaciers, waterfalls, limestone caves and fossils. In British Columbia, the Inside Passage teems with marine life, while on shore the ancient coastal rainforest provides habitat for grizzlies and many other mammals. Join naturalists for an exploration of the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Coast Mountains and the waterways of the West on this wildlife and wilderness adventure.
Keep the Pace: Walk up to two miles daily over varied terrain. Embarking/disembarking ferries, trains and vessels. Some late-night arrivals and long days due to ferry and train schedules (subject to change).
Best of all, you'll ...
* Explore Banff, Yoho and Jasper National Parks with experts and learn about their rich ecology and geology.
* Experience British Columbia’s diversity of landscapes aboard Via Rail's Skeena train and on a BC Ferry cruise.
* In the Khutzeymateen, observe North America’s highest grizzly bear concentration in their natural environment.
Day 1 – Arrive Calgary
Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 p.m.
(D) Arrive to Calgary and check in to the hotel. Program Registration. 4:00 p.m. Come meet our group leader in the lobby and get your welcome packet. At a local restaurant, we’ll have a welcome dinner. We’ll begin our evening with an orientation session where we’ll review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes. We’ll go over important information as well as have time for questions. You may also wish to take a stroll and explore this picturesque town. Hotel: Best Western Plus Port O’Call Calgary Airport Hotel
Day 2 – Banff NP, Cave & Basin Site, Johnston Canyon
Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles on pavement and groomed trails, some stairs and uneven terrain at historic site. Approximately 1.5 hours to Banff. Approximately 1.5 hours on the coach with stops at points of interest including an expert-led walk at Johnston Canyon.
(BLD) We transfer to Banff and head to the Cave and Basin National Historic Site where we’ll be joined by a local expert for an on-site presentation on the history and geology of the Canadian Rockies. Then embark on an expert-led exploration at Cave and Basin where we’ll learn about the origin and development of Canada's outstanding national parks and historic sites. The warm waters issuing from Sulphur Mountain were known to aboriginal peoples. These hot springs later became the centerpiece of Canada's first — and the world's third — national park. We’ll also stroll down to the warm marshes below the springs, easily accessible along a boardwalk, to see introduced tropical fish and warm-water plants. Bring binoculars!
We’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Explore the Parks at Johnston Canyon. Johnston Creek has carved down into the limestone on the valley bottom, creating a spectacular and deep canyon in a short period of time. While here, we’ll examine the effects of natural erosion and learn about the area’s flora/fauna on a trail walk with our Group Leader. We’ll enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Hotel: Rundlestone Lodge (2 nights)
Day 3 – Banff NP, Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, Yoho Park
Activity note: Walking up to 1.5 miles; approximately 2 hours over the course of the day; well-maintained trails and pathways; easy, flat lakeside trail at Emerald Lake with no elevation gain. Stops along the way for interpretation. Driving approximately 140 miles; about 3 hours.
(BL) Experience some of the foremost geological highlights of the Rockies on a walking field trip to Yoho National Park, Lake Louise, and Moraine Lake – the latter is so iconic that it's one of the most photographed sites in the Rocky Mountains. While here, we’ll learn about the geology of the area in trailside discussions with our local expert, and see some textbook examples of topics that were covered in the presentations.
Stopping to eat at one of the many scenic areas, we’ll have boxed lunches. Next, continue to Emerald Lake with a stop at the Spiral Tunnels on the way where we’ll hopefully see a train loop on top of itself like a snake resulting in the front of the train going 180 degrees in the opposite direction of the back of the train. At Emerald Lake, another jewel of the Canadian Rockies, we’ll go on an expert-led trail walk to learn about the interesting plant species found here and at the Burgess Shale quarries along Fossil Ridge. Thanks to its position on the west side of the Great Divide in Yoho National Park, a 360-degree view from Emerald Lake showcases four very different environments: a huge avalanche path, the pine forest, a dry and dramatic alluvial fan and the towering trees of the rainforest. Dinner is on our own.
Day 4 – Icefields Parkway, Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park
Activity note: Stairs leading to entrance of the Columbia Icefields Interpretive Centre but there is a higher parking lot where we can drop off with a ramp for easier access. The remainder of the field trip will be by motorcoach; driving about 150 miles throughout the day; approximately 5 hours total. The Ice Explorer ride on Athabasca Glacier is approx. 3 miles roundtrip; about 1.5 hours total.
(BLD) We’ll start the day traveling along the famed and scenic Icefields Parkway, one of the most impressive stretches of scenic driving in Canada. The highway follows a lake-lined valley between 2 chains of the Eastern Main Ranges, which make up the Continental Divide. The mountains here are the highest, craggiest and maybe the most scenic in all of the Rockies. En route, learn more from our Group Leader about the geological history and glaciology of the Athabasca Glacier, and about the ever-changing landscape. At several points along the way we’ll stop to enjoy some scenic overlooks.
At a scenic spot along the Parkway, we will stop for boxed lunches. Spend some time at the Columbia Icefields Interpretive Centre before boarding for travel in a specially designed Ice Explorer to the middle of the Athabasca Glacier on a 3 mile (5 km) roundtrip journey. Our driver will explain how glaciers are formed and point out interesting geological features as we travel in safety and comfort. At the mid-point, we will be given the choice to step out onto ice formed from snow fallen as long as 200 years ago. Upon our return from the Ice Explorer journey, we’ll continue our journey to Jasper National Park. This scenic drive is lined with beautiful mountain lakes and more than 100 glaciers providing a dramatic backdrop. Keep an eye out for mountain goats and bighorn sheep on the cliffs along the way. Enjoy dinner at the hotel in Jasper. Hotel: Tonquin Inn (2 nights)
Day 5 – Maligne Canyon, Pyramid Lake, Palisades Stewardship Center
Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day; paved and/or maintained trails. Driving approx. 60 miles about 2.5 hours total aboard coach with stops for interpretation.
(BLD) Our local expert naturalist will meet us and accompany us on a motorcoach exploration of Jasper National Park, Maligne Canyon and Pyramid Lake. Discover the Maligne Canyon Trail, which is rich in natural history, impressive geologic features and wildlife. On our expert-led walk, we’ll search for fossils and find out how this deep canyon formed during glacial ages. The forests of these wilderness areas are home to mountain goats, elk, moose, and bears as well as a variety of birds, including bald eagles. These scenic trails will allow us to explore the spectacular vantage points, meadows, and sapphire blue mountain lakes.
Enjoy lunch at the Palisades Centre. Once a homestead of an early pioneer family, Palisades Stewardship Education Centre is an historic ranch operated by Parks Canada as one of Canada’s premier outdoor education facilities. Located in the spectacular Athabasca Valley, the Centre’s innovative programming is designed to stimulate a new kind of relationship with nature and to embrace the values of protected areas. During a field trip to the Centre, we’ll learn from a Parks Canada expert about the role of the National Parks in fostering conservation ethics. We’ll enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 6 – Skeena Train – Jasper to Prince George
Activity note: Train travel is approximately 235 miles; about 6.5 hours. Train schedules are subject to change and many delays are almost definite due to rail traffic (freight trains have priority) or other conditions. Bring only an overnight carry-on bag – everything you need for the day/night today. Larger luggage will eventually be delivered to the hotel in Prince Rupert. Walking up to 1 mile, about 30 minutes.
(BLD) Enjoy some time for independent exploration of Jasper before we board the train. We’ll regroup in the hotel lobby and then take the short walk to the Jasper train station to embark on a 2-day journey aboard the VIA Rail’s Skeena Train from Jasper, AB to Prince Rupert, BC, with an overnight stop in Prince George, BC.
Travelling in touring class, enjoy sweeping views of the trackside brush, trees, and other foliage, through the extra-large windows from our reclining seats in the Panorama car. We will also benefit from exclusive access to the Park dome car where one can take in the 360-degree panoramic views of the upper observation deck, or settle into the stylish lounge. As we travel, with some commentary experience the spectacular views of Jasper National Park and the rugged Canadian Rockies, the hauntingly beautiful Pacific Coast and the rustic settlements, farms and sawmills that dot the lake-studded landscape.
Enjoy lunch aboard the train (#1 of 5). Our rail journey will continue through the Rocky Mountains towards Prince George, BC. Known as British Columbia's northern capital, Prince George is situated at the confluence of the Fraser and Nechako Rivers. The origins of Prince George can be traced to the fur trading post of Fort George, established in 1807 by Simon Fraser. Wildlife such as bear, moose, elk, deer, wolves, coyotes, eagles and hawks may be seen during the trip, depending on season and chance.
Enjoy dinner aboard the train (#2 of 5). We are scheduled to arrive in Prince George in the mid evening. Upon arrival, we’ll transfer to the hotel and enjoy time at leisure for the remainder of the evening. Hotel: Ramada Prince George
Day 7 – Skeena Train – Prince George to Prince Rupert
Activity note: We’ll check out of the hotel early and transfer to the station to board the train for travel to Prince Rupert, BC. Train travel is approximately 450 miles; about 13.5 hours. Train schedules are subject to change and many delays are almost definite due to rail traffic (freight trains have priority) or other conditions.
(BLD) Enjoy breakfast aboard the train (#3 of 5). On the final leg of our journey aboard VIA Rail’s Skeena Train from Prince George to Prince Rupert, BC, experience the magnificent scenery en route as we wind through the Yellowhead Pass, across British Columbia’s interior plateau and along the mighty Skeena River. The ancient traditions of the native peoples, the not-too-distant pioneer days of sternwheelers, steam trains and panning for gold, and modern history have all left their mark alongside the tracks. Many villages and towns along the line were surveyed and named by the railway. Important industries across the region include forestry, agriculture, mining, tourism and commercial fishing. Enjoy some limited commentary provided by train staff while aboard.
Lunch is aboard the train (#4 of 5). Continue our rail journey on our way to Prince Rupert. High in the coastal mountains of northwestern British Columbia, at the edge of the Spasizi Plateau, the Skeena River begins its 570 kilometer run to the Pacific. The Skeena is the second largest river in the province, and one of the longest un-dammed rivers in the world. Informal discussions aboard the train will highlight the biodiversity of the landscape and the issues of conservation and preservation. Spacious assigned seats in the glass enclosed Panorama Car will provide an unbeatable opportunity to observe the landscapes under study.
Dinner is aboard the train (#5 of 5). Upon arrival in Prince Rupert in the mid-to-late evening, we’ll transfer to the hotel and check in. Hotel: The Crest Hotel (3 nights)
Day 8 – Prince Rupert Walk, Pacific Northwest Cannery Historic Site
Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles during field trips throughout the day; paved streets and boardwalks. Less than 1 hour spent aboard the motorcoach.
(BLD) Setting out on foot directly from the hotel with our local expert, we’ll enjoy a walk and presentation that will provide an overview of Prince Rupert and the surrounding area. This region of the North Coast is one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the world with its fjords, inlets, rain forests, lagoons, sandy beaches and haunting abandoned villages. Prince Rupert is located on Kaien Island at the mouth of a fjord. The destination of our walk will be the North Pacific Cannery Historic Site.
Enjoy lunch at the North Pacific Cannery Historic Site. One of the most significant sites of its kind in Western Canada, the Pacific Northwest Cannery Historic Site provides insight into life at remote salmon canneries and how the industry shaped the economy and culture of the province. With an expert from the Cannery, we’ll explore North Pacific Cannery’s historic boardwalks, industrial buildings, residences, and wilderness surroundings on an exclusive field trip to connect us with the salmon canning industry while highlighting the people, living quarters, workspaces, and functions of a remote cannery. While here, experience live demonstrations of cannery machinery and thereby get a glimpse into the unique living experiences of workers from First Nations, Japanese, Chinese, and European descent. This journey will span from the earliest days of salmon canning to the modern methods that take place today. Enjoy dinner at the hotel.
Day 9 – Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary Full Day Field Trip
Activity note: Walking about 1 mile throughout the day; paved streets. Getting on/off bear viewing boats; field trip is about 6 hours aboard all-weather 60 and 72 foot vessels; maximum capacity of 100 passengers. Vessels are equipped with onboard washrooms, comfortable seating; viewing from the cabin or outside deck.
(BL) Board the ship for our exciting bear watching adventure. Once aboard, a local expert will give a presentation to set the stage for an incredible journey to the Khutzeymateen Valley, home to one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in North America. As we travel further north through Chatham Sound, we’ll see the foliage become denser while hardy Western hemlocks carpet the mountains that guard the entrance to the estuary. Along the way, watch for porpoises, seals, sea lions, bald eagles, and blue herons as we learn from the onboard experts about this diverse marine environment and pass cliffs that rise up from the waters bordering the 14-mile long Khutzeymateen Inlet towards peaks of over 6,500 feet high. Beyond lies a valley of ancient spruce forests and the protected land of the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary where we will have an opportunity to observe these legendary giants in their pristine natural environment. Truly a photographer’s paradise, it could be the highlight of our program.
Enjoy lunch aboard the ship. Grizzly bear viewing will continue in the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. Khutzeymateen Provincial Park [a.k.a. Khutzeymateen/K’tsim-a-deen Grizzly Sanctuary] was established as the first area in Canada to be protected specifically for grizzly bears and their habitat. It also represents the first undisturbed estuary of its size to be protected along the north coast of BC. The topography of this land and marine sanctuary is diverse, with rugged peaks towering to 6,000 meters above a valley of wetlands, old growth temperate rainforests and a large estuary. An abundance of wildlife shares the area. Dinner is on our own.
Day 10 – Ferry to Port Hardy, Canada’s Inside Passage
Activity note: Early hotel check-out for transfer to the ferry dock; less than 1 hour driving. Board ferry for a ride of 274 nautical miles; about 16 hours. Participants will have onboard cabins for the duration of the journey. Late night arrival in Port Hardy.
(BD) Enjoy breakfast aboard the ferry. (HIGHLIGHT) Enjoy a cruise on the famously awe-inspiring Inside Passage route. This 16 hour journey will take us past spectacular coastal rainforests and majestic coastal mountains. As we travel, learn about coastal ecological issues while passing noted villages, first contact sites and maybe even some sea mammals.
Lunch is on your own aboard the ferry. We’ll continue to cruise through Canada's Inside Passage. Cut from the coastal mountains by glaciers millions of years ago, the fjords of Canada’s Inside Passage provide vistas of spectacular coastal rainforests, beaches, waterfalls and mountains.
Enjoy dinner aboard the ferry. Upon our late arrival in Port Hardy, BC on Vancouver Island, we’ll transfer to the hotel and check-in. Located at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, BC, Port Hardy is terminus for the Inside Passage Ferry and nestled on the edge of the Queen Charlotte Strait in the small Hardy Bay. Hotel: Kwa’lilas Hotel
Day 11 – Telegraph Cove: Whale Museum, Orca Whale Watching
Activity note: Driving from Port Hardy to Telegraph cove is approximately 40 miles; about 1 hour each way. Driving from Telegraph Cove to Parksville is approx. 200 miles; about 4 hours. Getting on/off the boat; walking on boardwalks; whale watching trip is approximately 3.5 hours. Vessels carry up to 49 passengers and have on-board washrooms. Bring a light jacket or rain gear.
(BLD) Breakfast at the hotel. We head to historic Telegraph Cove, BC’s last boardwalk community considered by some to be the best location in the world to observe Orca (Killer) Whales. The Johnstone Strait and Broughton Archipelago are home to a bounty of marine wildlife including humpback whales, Steller sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, bald eagles and so much more. These protected waters are an ideal location to view and listen to orcas and other marine mammals as they feed, socialize, and raise their young. Upon arrival, we will go on an expert-led exploration at the Whale Interpretive Centre with a docent from the museum. The facility is home to one of the best collections of marine mammal skeletons in British Columbia including a whales, dolphin, porpoise and seals. It was established to provide public awareness about the biology of marine mammals and to provide increased awareness of the biology, habitat needs and threats to local marine mammals.
We’ll have boxed lunches in the village before we depart for the whale watch, or aboard the boat. Next, board a boat and head out onto the protected waters off the shores of Telegraph Cove to cruise through the passages and around the islands that teem with wildlife in one of the most beautiful locations on British Columbia’s coast. To enhance our field trip, the boats are equipped with underwater microphones (hydrophones) so we can listen in on the squeaks, whistles and echolocation that allow orcas and dolphins the ability to communicate and locate their food. There will be a brief on-board presentation about the whales and other marine mammals. The captain and naturalists are happy to answer questions throughout the day.
Enjoy dinner at a popular restaurant. The restaurant is built over the water, known for its yellow cedar post-and-beam style construction and beautiful copper tables surrounded by one-of-a-kind stained glass windows and doors. We’ll then transfer for late night check-in at the hotel in Parksville, which is close to where we will board the ferry in the morning. Hotel: Quality Resort Bayside
Day 12 – Coach to Nanaimo, Ferry to Vancouver
Activity note: Driving approx. 40 miles; about 1 hour to Nanaimo; and approx. 40 miles; about 2 hours exploring Vancouver. Getting on/off the ferry; crossing from Nanaimo to Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) is about 30 nautical miles; approx. 1.5 hours. Minimal walking throughout the day.
(BD) After checking out of the hotel we will transfer to Nanaimo to board the ferry back to Vancouver around midday. Lunch on your own aboard the ferry. After transferring via ferry to Horseshoe Bay, just outside of Vancouver, we’ll arrive in the early to mid-afternoon. Upon arrival, we will board a motorcoach for an expert-led exploration of Vancouver and Stanley Park with a local historian before heading to the hotel to check-in. Enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Hotel: Pacific Gateway Hotel
Day 13 – Program Concludes / Departure
(B) Breakfast at the hotel. Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon. Independent departures after breakfast.