On this comprehensive northwest park tour, you'll discover some of nature's most stunning creations. Begin in cosmopolitan Seattle, then travel east to cowboy country and the great wilderness. Experience the grandeur of Glacier National Park's frozen peaks, delight in the vistas of Canadian National Parks at Jasper and Banff, and round out your odyssey with three nights in Vancouver, British Columbia's sparkling city by the sea. Along the way, you'll enjoy an exciting ride on The Ice Explorer snowcoach and savor a special lunch at Edwardian-flavored Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Plus, extend your travel dollar with our pre-trip extension in Seattle & Victoria, or our post-trip extension in Seattle.
Once in Seattle, meet your fellow travelers, including those who arrived here earlier for our optional pre-trip Seattle & Victoria extension, during a Welcome Reception at your hotel.
After breakfast, you’ll begin a full-day ride eastward through the ruggedly beautiful Cascade Mountains to Spokane, about 320 miles from Seattle. During your travel today, notice as the mountain landscape transforms into grassy plains. You’ll make several stops along the way, including a break for lunch on your own in Leavenworth, a town reminiscent of a Bavarian village. The day's final destination, Spokane (the "Lilac City"), was founded in 1871 and sits on the Spokane River in eastern Washington State.
Get better acquainted with your fellow travelers over a Welcome Dinner at your hotel this evening.
After breakfast, depart for Kalispell, Montana, stopping for a presentation at Cataldo Mission State Park, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, by a local guide known as a "black robe."
The "black robes" originated as a group of Jesuit settlers who had learned of the incredible powers of indigenous medicine men, known for wearing black vestments. Today, the church known as Cataldo Mission stands as the oldest building in the state, and a symbol of unity between local tribesmen and the Jesuit settlers.
Upon arrival in Kalispell this afternoon, settle into your hotel, located just outside Glacier National Park. You’ll enjoy dinner on your own this evening; your Program Director will be able to offer recommendations.
Today, you’ll travel to Montana's Glacier National Park, a beautiful wilderness area of more than one million acres. Established in 1910, the U.S. and Canadian governments combined it with Alberta’s Waterton Park in 1932, creating the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Over millennia, glaciers carved out a rugged landscape of spectacular mountains, pristine lakes, and breathtaking scenery.
In the late afternoon, you will see the local cowboy culture brought to life during an included visit to the Lonesome Dove Guest Ranch. You’ll get a true taste of life on a rustic Montana ranch—a bed and breakfast that caters to both its guests and their horses. Here, you'll meet the cowboys and see the beautiful horses.
After a home-cooked dinner on the ranch, you will return to your Kalispell hotel. Be sure to look up at the stars that light up Montana’s fabled “Big Sky” before you depart.
Please note: Weather conditions in this region are always unpredictable, so the road to Glacier National Park may be closed unexpectedly at any time of year. In such cases, alternate itineraries will be arranged.
Today, you head north into Canada on the British Columbia side of the Canadian Rockies. Choose a spot for lunch on your own in Fort Steele Heritage Town, a restored 1890s mining boomtown that will stimulate your senses with the sights and sounds of frontier life. Feel the rhythm of western life through the town’s scripted street dramas by joining tours aboard horse-drawn wagons, or by listening to costumed townsfolk in lively debate over the controversies of their day.
The latter part of the afternoon will be spent traveling to your lodging in Banff; you'll arrive at the hotel late in the afternoon. You dine on your own this evening — ask your Program Director for suggestions on nearby restaurants.
After breakfast, you’ll tour the town of Banff, truly a gem set in the Canadian Rockies. The site of Canada’s oldest and most spectacular national park, Banff is nestled in a charming valley dominated by high mountains. During today’s included tour, discover why it’s also the country’s most popular parkland.
You’ll also enjoy the scenic Tunnel Mountain Drive that loops around the park. Close by, you’ll find the curiously shaped hoodoos—spires of eroded limestone and sandstone.
Then, visit the Buffalo Nations Museum, dedicated to the Native Americans who inhabited the Northern Plains and Canadian Rockies before the arrival of the Europeans. Enjoy scenic views throughout your return to Banff, where you may spend the afternoon and evening at your leisure.
Today’s full-day transfer to Jasper is a 185-mile trek across one of the most spectacular highways in the world, the Icefields Parkway. Stop along the way for lunch at beautiful Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The lake was named for Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, daughter of Queen Victoria. When thawed, the blue-green waters appear almost tropical, though it generally stays frozen through mid-June. The Victorian lodge commands a spectacular view of the lake and surrounding mountains, and it offers paths you can stroll between shoreline and cliffs. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is large and varied enough to impress you as a world unto itself.
After lunch, ride over Bow Pass, which rises to an altitude of 7,000 feet. This Icefields Parkway route shows you the many glaciers of the Columbia Icefields, the largest body of ice in the Rocky Mountains; and the Athabasca Glacier, the biggest glacier accessible by road in the Canadian Rockies. You’ll ride the Ice Explorer onto the Athabasca Glacier, whose ice is almost 1,000 feet thick. Stepping onto the glacier’s surface, don’t fight the temptation to toss a snowball or two!
You’ll stay the next two nights in the town of Jasper, an old trading post town located in the heart of Jasper National Park, the Canadian Rockies’ largest National Park. Dine on your own in the hotel or at one of Jasper’s restaurants.
Today is yours to make your own independent discoveries. The town of Jasper was founded in 1911 when the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was built along the Athabasca River to the Yellowhead Pass, although a settlement here served as a trading post for fur trappers before the railroad came. Today Jasper is a quiet, friendly town set in the heart of a broad valley and guarded by mountains.
Aside from wandering the town, you may wish to take a ride up Whistler's Mountain aboard the Jasper Tramway. Back in town, the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum is an engaging repository of artifacts from the days of the area’s earliest settlers.
Perhaps you will choose to take an optional river rafting tour on the Athabasca River today. The Athabasca originates in Jasper National Park, and has calm stretches from which you can enjoy the wildlife and scenery sliding by.
You may also choose to join us for an optional cruise on Maligne Lake this afternoon, a golden opportunity to relax and experience the sheer majesty of the Rockies in all their unspoiled glory. Before setting out, enjoy afternoon tea at Maligne Canyon. Then, depart on your cruise—you’ll cruise this turquoise lake for about 90 minutes, passing by world-famous Spirit Island.
Please note: The Maligne Lake Cruise and afternoon tea operates from June to September.
Your full-day transfer to Sun Peaks takes you past Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Travel along the scenic Thomson River, with a picnic lunch along the way. Your transfer continues through Wire Cache Provincial Park and along the Thomson River, a tributary of the mighty Fraser River, before you arrive late afternoon at your hotel.
Dinner is included at your hotel tonight.
Travel today to Vancouver, stopping en route at Fraser Canyon to board the scenic Hell’s Gate Airtram. Then, enjoy an included lunch overlooking the canyon. This beautiful, historic canyon is formed by the Fraser River, which begins in the Canadian Rockies and runs through narrow canyons and vast valley floors down to its Pacific Ocean outlet in Vancouver. This area is world-renowned for salmon fishing and white-water rafting. During late summer and early fall, you may see some Sockeye Salmon breaking the water’s surface as they make their way from the ocean upriver to their inland spawning grounds.
Continue your ride down from the Cascades to the Pacific Coast, arriving at your Vancouver hotel late in the afternoon.
Vancouver is both beautiful and sophisticated. Ask your Program Director for suggestions on where to dine on your own this evening. You’ll find a wide choice of excellent restaurants, with myriad international cuisines available.
On this morning’s included city tour, you’ll see how Vancouver’s urban character is complemented by its proximity to mountains, lush forests, and beaches.
Then visit Stanley Park, dedicated by Lord Stanley in 1889 for the “use and enjoyment of all people of all colors, creeds, and customs for all time.” The park houses an aquarium, a collection of totem poles, and a miniature railroad, and it’s adorned with majestic evergreen forests, a beautiful formal rose garden, and pristine beaches.
Your tour concludes in Vancouver’s Gastown, the historical center of the city. In 1867, a retired riverboat captain, John “Gassy Jack” Deighton, arrived and opened a saloon. Despite repeated attempts to give the district a more dignified name, it has maintained its nickname of Gastown. After its heyday, the area was destined to sink into a seedy “skid row” district, but was rejuvenated in the 1970s. It is now a charming restored district that was declared a historical monument in 1972.
Enjoy your afternoon and evening at leisure. You may want to explore cosmopolitan Robson Street, a shopping mecca for more than 100 years. Or, discover one of Vancouver’s most striking landmarks, Canada Place.
Or, join a Capilano Suspension Bridge optional tour—during which you'll utilize suspended walkways to view the area's coastal forest and thriving flora and fauna.
Enjoy dinner on your own this evening.
Visit Vancouver's exotic and expansive Chinatown. You'll enter the second-largest Chinatown in North America through the gaily-painted pillars of China Gate. Once inside, you’ll find such landmarks as the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archives and the Sam Kee building, the narrowest office building in the world. You’ll notice that many of Chinatown’s buildings date from Victorian times and have typically Chinese features. The Chinese were among the first settlers of Vancouver, so while it’s a relatively new city, Chinatown is one of its oldest neighborhoods.
While in Chinatown, you'll explore the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the first of its kind outside of China. As you wander the manicured grounds, you might feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to 15th-century China, and you’ll learn about the Ming Dynasty through the architecture and horticulture you find here.
After time to explore on your own, enjoy lunch at a traditional Chinese restaurant.
You have another evening free to pursue your interests in Vancouver on your own, whether they include nightlife or a relaxed dinner in this friendly city.
You will ride back to Seattle this morning, with a stop along the way to take in the scenery and stretch your legs.
You arrive at Pike Place Market in Seattle with time to explore independently. Pike Place Market is a nine-acre historic district originally created in 1907 to provide farmers with a place to sell their produce without the high increase of middlemen’s commissions. Today, Pike Place offers the best in local produce, seafood, meat, and international foods, along with unique gifts handmade by local craftspeople. After lunch on your own, meet your Program Director and board a coach for an included city tour.
Enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant this evening. Take this opportunity to relive memories of your trip and perhaps exchange addresses with newfound friends.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Or, begin your optional post-trip extension in Seattle.