RFI Toronto, & Calagry to Vancouver

Hi folks

I need your sage advice please! Thinking about a June Rocky Mountain road trip, with family plus a few nights in Toronto to start, then flying to Calgary and stopping off at Bow River, Lake Louise, Golden Municipal Campground for Glacier NP, Revelstoke, Kamloops, Fountain Valley, Pemberton and finishing in Vancouver, via Whistler for 3 nights. Aside from Vancouver and Toronto it would be one night at each stop (Toronto would be staying with family and would include a trip to Niagra falls ) which I worry is too short a time to see much wildlife. I confess I know very little about this sort of itinerary and would appreciate your advice. It will be self drive either with hiring an RV or a car and staying in hotels.

I’m not sure exactly how wildlifey this trip would be and whether it’s worth my while going (it’s been orchestrated by my dad ho wants to see family n Toronto). Any advice welcome.. Also my dad has mobility issues and wouldn’t be able to do much walking so I’m not sure how much the would limit us as well in terms of wildlife viewing.

Here’s what I have so far:

The attractions that my dad has suggested we focus on:


The plan and costings:


There may be a possibility to add a day in Vancouver, but family are only available to show us around at the weekend and I’d be limited to 2 weeks due to already hoping to join Tomer’s Borneo trip later in the year. The plan doesn’t currently include any time on Vancouver island, would this be a mistake?




  • Jon Hall

    Vancouver Island is a good place to see several species including Black Bears, River Otters and Orcas. The only species that you won’t see elsewhere is the VI Marmot … so it really depends what species you want to see.

  • kittykat23uk

    Hi Jon, well the only other place I have been in North America is yellowstone for a week where we saw most of the mammals you’d expect to see there. Not to say that I wouldn’t like to see them all again.

    Definitely orcas and other whales are the main target for me. But for my dad the main targets for the trip are to spend time with family, see the falls and experience the scenery of the rockies.

    Given that she cant walk very far and given the limitations of one night stops mostly except in Vancouver, I guess what I’m trying to determine is whether the wildlife is going to be generally abundant and varied enough for it to be worthwhile for me to join her on this sort of trip. Especially if we arent going to go to vancouver island itself.

  • Curtis Hart

    I am not familiar with a lot of those Canadian stops, but doing a quick trip like that with one night stops doesn’t seem like it will get you a lot of wildlife. It would be easier if you said what exactly you wanted to see, and how many species you would need to see to make it worth your time. Your not going to pick up many larger species that you wouldn’t have seen in Yellowstone. The odds of getting a Lynx or interesting mustelid are against you, but possible. I think most of your new species would be rodents in the squirrel family. The only place with whale watching will be Vancouver area. I know there is talk of them shutting down the Orca watching trips in that area, be sure to check the current status before you go.

    I think you will be happier with a car and hotels than dealing with the driving hassle of an RV. In my opinion the only benefit to the RV is that you may see some wildlife in a campground at night.

  • kittykat23uk

    Okay well, my main interests aside from the orcas and other cetaceans would be the bears, then wolves, cats (which I guess are very unlikely here) and lagomorphs/ smaller predators plus birding.

  • Curtis Hart

    I have driven through that part of Canada a couple times, and I didn’t have much trouble finding plenty of Black Bears, but no Grizzlys. I was just driving through, so no extra effort was made. For wolves, I know they are quite hard to see in Glacier, that may transfer to the Canadian Rockys as well. For example, my cousin worked in Glacier for 5 summers and saw 5 Wolverines, but not a single Wolf. There appear to be only two lagomorphs on your route, the Pika has several Inaturalist records along your first day’s drive. I usually end up seeing a few Snowshoes when I’m in range. Walking the campgrounds at night or early morning can be productive. My only advice on the smaller predators, is to watch the scree slopes where you would look for Pika. There is usually a community of small mammals, Ground Squirrels, Chipmunks, and Marmots, often you can see a Weasel or even a Marten hunting in these areas. I think birding should be pretty good in June in that area. It will be on the late side of spring migration for Toronto though.

  • kittykat23uk

    Thank you Curtis this is very useful info.

  • vnsankar

    My last trip to this area was 6 years ago (in August), but I still may have some tips for you. Icefields Parkway was pretty good for mammals, though not at the level of Yellowstone. On two passes of the Lake Louise-Jasper stretch (which will take most of a day), I saw a bunch (6+) Black Bears and a Grizzly. There’s a picnic area where you can see Mountain Goats easily at a salt lick on the river very well and you may see Bighorn Sheep up around Jasper town (maybe Maligne Lake too). However, the best places to see them are the Minnewanka Lake Road near Banff and the road to Radium in Kootenay NP.

    For Wolf and Lynx, you have to go in later winter (best time being early March-early April I think). You can see the rare Mountain race of Woodland Caribou then too. Pretty much the whole road offers possibilities but the area round Sunwapta Falls and the stretch north of Lake Louise are reportedly better IIRC. I didn’t see either in summer and your chances are remote at best.

    Near Lake Louise, the Bow Valley Parkway is a solid option for dawn/dusk drives but check opening hours as they started closing it at night a few years ago. I saw several Black Bears over 2 morning and 2 evening drives. Wolves (mostly in winter) and Grizzlies are possible, but I didn’t see either. I did see a Grizzly at the Lake Louise ski area (from a chairlift).

    You can see Hoary Marmots at Whistlers Mountain in Banff. There are pikas, Snowshoe Hares, and mustelids (I guess only Marten is remotely realistic) throughout but not sure where you’d have the best chance of seeing them. A night drive in the wilder areas S of Banff may be an option, but not sure you’ll have time for that in your schedule.

  • tomeslice

    Canada has so much potential, but I don’t have too much experience, except to echo Jon’s remark about Vancouver Island.

    I was there back in 2012ish, and saw guaranteed grizzlies in Knights Inlet (trips leave from one of those towns WAY up north, like 7-8 hours from Victoria in the southern part of the island), along with black bears, orcas, seals, and other stuff. Marten and puma populations on the island are good, and VI is supposed to have the highest density of pumas anywhere (although of course they’re much easier to see in Chile and Paraguay because of the landscape).

    From Tofino, on the opposite side of the island, there are boat trips to see sea otters and sometimes wolves, porpoises etc. Pumas (locally called cougars) are sometimes seen from either the grizzly tour or the tofino tour, but it’s pretty rare. Martens are a bit more common in knight’s inlet. There are also no bobcat or lynx on the island, if I remember correctly.

    But anyway, this requires you to spend time on VI, which you weren’t planning on doing. Unfortunate it’s the only part of BC I could help with. Anyway, good luck, I’m interested to see what you come up with.

  • kittykat23uk

    Thanks both of you.

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