Road Trip 2018 Recap

Road trip through Drumheller, Yellowstone National Park, Sandpoint, Banff and Jasper

Anyone else find it impossible to get back in the groove after vacation? That’s so me right now! I was only away for just over a week and then had a few extra days off work (brilliant idea past self) but I’m still getting back into a routine.

As many of you will already know, the bf and I hit the road to explore a few new to us spots in Canada and the US. I will say I was a little hesitant to travel south of the border, but luckily everything went smoothly. We had the trip booked for a while, and the political climate seemed to get worse and worse the closer our departure date got. We made it in and out with no hiccups, and no one yelled at us for being snowflake Canadians. Win.

Drumheller

Our first stop was the heart of the Alberta Badlands. The bf had never been to Drumheller, and I only went once on a school trip when I was way younger. It’s known for its dinosaurs and hoodoos.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum is the biggest tourist attraction and is a must visit when in Drumheller. It’s very cool, even if you’re not a ten-year-old who’s obsessed with dinosaurs. Pro tip for adults: they’re open until 9 pm every night so go later (we went at 6 pm) and you’ll get to play the interactive games with limited children.

Road trip through Drumheller, Yellowstone National Park, Sandpoint, Banff and Jasper

Shockingly, my favourite part of Drumheller is not the museum. It’s the scenery. There are incredibly cool rock formations and canyons all around the area. The hoodoos are the most popular, but also check out Horseshoe Canyon and Horsethief Canyon (confusing right). You can hike right down into both of them and get the views from the top and the bottom. Just be careful if it’s been raining at all; the clay turns incredibly slippery when it’s wet. I may or may not know that from experience.

Road trip through Drumheller, Yellowstone National Park, Sandpoint, Banff and Jasper

I recommend driving the Dinosaur Trail. It’s a scenic route that will take you past both canyons and across the Red Deer River on the weirdest ferry (Bleriot Ferry) I’ve ever experienced.

Yellowstone National Park

Next up we drove south into the States for a few days in Yellowstone. We stayed in an Airbnb just outside of Gardiner, Montana which is at the north entrance to the park. The location worked great for us and staying outside the park was significantly cheaper.

I’ve heard people mention how busy Yellowstone is but holy man are they not kidding. The place was a complete zoo! We were in the park by 8 am on a Tuesday by mid-June, and already all the parking lots were packed full. You had to park way down the road for any of the popular spots, and if there would be random standstill traffic and points along the route. We later found out this was from people stopping in the middle of the road to catch a glimpse of wildlife. I will never again complain about Banff being busy.

Other than the crazy busyness, Yellowstone is very cool. On the first day, we drove the ‘grand loop’ and stopped at most of the must-see spots. The geysers and basins are spectacular. We were there on a pretty cool/rainy day, and I bet it would be even better in the sun. There was a lot of steam coming off the basins which obscured the colours a bit. And yes, we saw Old Faithful.

Road trip through Drumheller, Yellowstone National Park, Sandpoint, Banff and Jasper

Our second day we went horseback riding in the morning and then did the Lamar Valley portion of Yellowstone. I grew up riding and LOVE horses, so it’s something I splurge on when we’re on vacation sometimes.

If you’re looking to see wildlife, then Yellowstone is the place to be. We saw so much more wildlife than we’ve ever seen in the Canadian Rockies. Numerous bear sightings, tons of bison, elk, deer, coyotes, etc. On the first day, we were stopped on the highway as a herd of bison walked right past the cars. Lamar Valley in particular has the most wildlife. It’s off the grand loop, so it’s wasn’t as busy, and we were able to make it out and back in an afternoon.

Road trip through Drumheller, Yellowstone National Park, Sandpoint, Banff and Jasper

Sandpoint

The next stop on road trip 2018 was Sandpoint, Idaho. It was recommended to me by a friend and ended up being the trigger for this trip.

It’s a resort town that has access to both mountains and a lake. For those of you that know Banff, it has a similar feel. There’s a historic (and touristy) main street with lots of cute stores and restaurants and is outdoor activities for everyone.

In Sandpoint, we also rented an Airbnb that was just a block off the main strip so we could walk almost everywhere.

The first day we rented kayaks and hit the lake. I’ve never actually kayaked before, but it went well. I didn’t fall in or have to be towed to shore. My arms were dead the next day though.

Road trip through Drumheller, Yellowstone National Park, Sandpoint, Banff and Jasper

The second day we went hiking. We had planned to do more hiking in Yellowstone but it took longer to get around than we expected and the weather was pretty sketchy. I swear the same cloud followed us around the entire trip! In Sandpoint, we did the Mickinnick Trail that takes you up a mountain to a fantastic overlook of the lake. It’s a tough, steep climb but worth it when you to the top. It would also likely be better with blue skies, but the clouds were better for hiking.

Road trip through Drumheller, Yellowstone National Park, Sandpoint, Banff and Jasper

If you ever visit Sandpoint, the beer cheese soup from Mick Duffs is terrific. It is going to be one of those things that I will randomly crave in the future. I need to find a knockoff recipe somewhere. Oh, and their beer is pretty good too.

The Icefield Parkway

I have lived in Alberta for 99.9% of my life and had never driven the Icefields Parkway before. It’s the highway that goes from Banff to Jasper and is said to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world. We’ve been to both Banff and Jasper numerous times, but it’s always for a quick weekend away, so we never do both. That was to end on this trip. After Sandpoint, we drove up to Canmore (just outside of Banff but cheaper) and spent one night there before taking the long way home. Our plan was actually to spend one more night in Jasper to give us more time, but the accommodation was too pricey to justify.

Road trip through Drumheller, Yellowstone National Park, Sandpoint, Banff and Jasper

The drive was just as spectacular as you can imagine. Our tag-along rain cloud hit us hard just after we hit the road, but luckily it cleared up later in the day. We had wanted to fit in a longer hike but ended up nixing it because of the sketchy weather. There were still lots points to stop that didn’t require a long trek, and I’m super happy we did it. Although now I want to do it again!

If you’re ever visiting the Rockies, I would say it’s a must-do if you have a car. My suggestion, time permitting, would be to drive up one way, spend the night, and then drive back down the other way. That will give you more time to see everything and do a few hikes.

What we saw:

  • Lake Louise
  • Bow Lake
  • Peyto Lake
  • Waterfowl Lake
  • Saskatchewan River Crossing
  • Big Bend
  • Tangle Creek Falls
  • Sunwapta Falls
  • Athabasca Falls

Road trip through Drumheller, Yellowstone National Park, Sandpoint, Banff and Jasper

Conclusion:

The weather was hit or miss for most of our trip, but it was still good times all around. Yellowstone was worth seeing, but I have to say that I’m happy Jasper and Banff are the closest mountains to us. I love long weekends in the mountains, but the crowds would discourage frequent visits for me.

Cost-wise this wasn’t exactly a cheap vacation. I am not a camper, so we did stay in hotels/Airbnb’s the whole time and we ate out a lot. There weren’t any particularly expensive meals, and we often had free breakfasts, but even cheap restaurants add up. As always, it’s about priorities. I’m the kind of person who would rather budget more for meals and not live off protein bars.

Tell me about your summer plans? Do you have any trips coming up?

Road trip through Drumheller, Yellowstone National Park, Sandpoint, Banff and Jasper

This post was proofread by Grammarly.

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11 comments

  1. It sounds like your trip was awesome! I loved seeing all the pics you posted on Instagram. I’ve been out west before, but I’ve never spent any significant time in Alberta. I’ve also never been to the States and given the climate right now, don’t see myself going for the foreseeable future.

    My summer plans include travelling back to southern Ontario for a wedding and hopefully soaking in some northern Ontario experiences.

    1. I wasn’t too thrilled to be heading to the States at the time either, things weren’t nearly as bad when we had initially planned the trip. We did have a great time though.

      We get pretty darn great summers in Canada so there’s nothing wrong with staying close to home.

  2. I am from the States, and it makes me laugh that you girls are bantering about the climate. LOL You were actually in the cooler part of the country! God help you all if you ever get down south to the humid part.

    Glad you got to see Yellowstone. It is very impressive! And I’ve actually been up through Alberta and Saskatchewan. I loved Alberta, but Saskatchewan is basically our Kansas, only much bigger. That was not a fun drive!

    I loved seeing your account of the states you visited. Always fun to see an outsider’s perspective. I’m actually moving away from Colorado down to Florida next week. Looking forward to living on the other side of the country for a while.

    1. I’m had to laugh because we were talking about the political climate and not the weather 😉 It certainly wasn’t hot when I was down there, it was cool and rainy most of the time!

      Saskatchewan is not fun to drive…so boring but Alberta is beautiful. Good luck on your move!

  3. You take amazing pictures, Sarah!! Seriously.

    I have always wanted to go to Drumheller!

    I’ve been to the Icefields when I was a young kid but it would be nice to go again!

    1. Thank you so much!

      Drumheller is very cool, and I imagine even better if you have kids. Maybe baby GYM will become a dinosaur crazed toddler 😉 The drive along the icefields is so, so cool. I highly recommend it if you’re ever headed this way.

  4. This is awesome, I love a road trip, and I’d love to go to Yellowstone! Those bison are amazing. That must have been quite the experience.

    We have two small kids so it’s mostly camping for us in the summer. Long road trips aren’t really possible. We’ll spend a week along Lake Huron at the end of July and a week along Georgian Bay in August.

    1. I’m not a big camper but it’s certainly an affordable way to travel and great if you have kids. I haven’t spent time out that way but I’ve heard Georgian Bay is beautiful!

  5. Looks like you had a great trip and really liked you went to Yellowstone. It’s one of the national parks that I really want to checkout. Great picture of the bison, can’t imagine how much wildlife is out there especially the bears.

    1. Yellowstone was very cool, and definitely worth visiting. I was shocked how much wildlife we saw in the park, especially considering how busy the park was with people. I’ve been to the Canadian mountain parks and haven’t seen nearly as much wildlife.

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