Tourism Abroad - Disabled Accessibility

The Canadian Rockies - Part One

Calgary to Vancouver Road Trip - June 2019

Day One – Up, Up and Off We Go!

The Airline and the Airport

All was accessible at Heathrow Terminal 2 with lifts, escalators and disabled toilets in place.  Check in seemed to be a bit too compact for my liking.

We boarded the Air Canada flight via a walkway.  After a fairly smooth 8.5 hours flight, we landed safely at Calgary International Airport.  All is fully accessible and with immigration having a quick flowing queue, we were out of the terminal in forty minutes.

Wyndham Gardens Hotel, Calgary

The entrance to the hotel was flat with electronic doors, and had a nice spacious lobby with two lifts.  The staff were helpful and accommodating, and the hotel was located close to the airport. There was a free regular shuttle bus service to and from the airport which we did not use.

The bedroom was spacious, clean and equipped with air conditioning, a coffee machine, a fridge and a microwave.  The bathroom was clean with two sinks; the shower was in the bathtub.

Breakfast was served daily in the restaurant, for an additional charge and consisted of cooked or continental.  There was also a bar onsite.

There isn’t anything of interest around the area where the hotel is based.  It is advisable to get a taxi into Calgary which is around twenty minutes’ drive, costing between $35 - $40, (£22 - £25).

We got a standard taxi into Calgary for drinks and dinner.  On arrival in the district of Eau Claire, we went to The Barley Mill for a few drinks.  This pub had a nice beer garden with friendly staff.  Afterwards, we went across the road to Joey Eau Claire for dinner.  The food was good and the atmosphere here was lively.  The disabled access here was flat with disabled toilets in the main areas.  However, the tables are quite close to each other so space to move around can be limiting.

We did not see much of Calgary, but it did look to be modern and the streets were clean. This town is relatively new and was established in 1875.

Day Two – Car Hire

The car hire was situated in the city centre and took around thirty minutes to reach.  Once there, the paperwork took around thirty minutes to organise and sign for.  The staff were very helpful, and the counter was low for a wheelchair user with good lighting.  There was also a disabled toilet onsite

The car was a fairly new Ford SUV known as Rosie, but despite it being midsize, it was rather challenging to fit three suitcases in the boot.  Pretty soon, we were all ready to rumble and were off on a spectacular adventure, deep into the Canadian wilds…

Peter Longhead Provincial Park

We decided to visit Peter Longhead Provincial Park as it would have been just over an hour to drive straight from Calgary to Canmore.  We stopped at Black Diamond, a very small town for a bite to eat on route interstate 22.  The pavements were flat with dropped kerbs.  The town had a few shops, a petrol station and a few café’s.

It is important to note that some roads in Canada were closed due to avalanches and snow damage.  This was the case on this particular road; however, we decided to go as far as we could; the scenery was spectacular.

Super 8 Hotel, Canmore

This hotel had disabled parking onsite, with a concrete ramp leading to the electronic doors.  The reception area seemed smaller than the Calgary hotel, but there was plenty of space to move about.  There were two lifts going up to two floors.

I had booked a disabled accessible room which was spacious with one King bed.  All the basic amenities were included, with air conditioning, a fridge, microwave and a coffee machine.  The safe was built into the TV unit which was at a good height for wheelchair users. 

The bathroom was adapted with a roll in shower and had grab rails for assistance.  There was a chair that could be used in the shower if needed.  The toilet had a grab rail on one side.

The hotel was situated a ten minute drive from the town centre, so we do not recommend walking.  Parking in the town was very easy with plenty of disabled parking.

Breakfast was included within our nightly rate, however, this was not of a good standard for us and we decided to use the Patrino’s Restaurant, which was very satisfactory and right around the corner from the hotel.

There was also a bar at the hotel which we did not use.  We found this hotel to be clean but a little dated.  The room had a great view.

The town of Canmore was easily accessible, with ample disabled parking bays.  The roads were clean with flat pavements and lowered curbs.  There were lots of small shops, many restaurants and information services.

Day Three – Banff National Park

On arrival at the main entrance to Banff National Park, we were enquiring with a park ranger about concessions to enter four national parks.  Unfortunately, there are no concessions for disabled people and I had to pay $170 (£104) for six days per car.  This may seem expensive, but it was so worth it as we ventured deep in to the Canadian Rockies.

Upon entering Banff National Park, a cruise on Lake Minniewanka was first on the agenda.  Lake Minniewanka is a vast glacial lake situated three miles from Banff Town and at an altitude of 4,900 feet.

The parking here was ample with plenty of disabled bays.  There were two disabled toilets located within the men’s and women’s toilets.

Lake Minniewanka offers boat tours of the lake which are around an hour and the dock was all fully accessible.  When enquiring about tickets, my support worker was provided with a 50% discount.  The only issue here was that I felt it would have been difficult to get a wheelchair on the boat, so if one can transfer from their chair onto the boat then this is possible.  I would advise wheelchair users to contact this attraction.

After refuelling up the car and a bit of grub in Banff Town Centre, we visited the Banff Hot Springs.

Banff Hot Springs

At this attraction there were disabled parking available, plus a ramp to take you inside.  One lift took you up to pay, then back down in the lift.  Once down we then had to take some steps to reach the disabled changing rooms.

Entry to the pool was a little difficult, wet and slippery, but once in the pool it was hot, 38 degrees.  We stayed in the pool for around 45 minutes, which was long enough.

Lake Louise

As the day was trotting on, we decided to visit the famous lake in Banff National Park, Lake Louise.  On the way up there were a few road closures, due to avalanches.

On arrival, we parked in a disabled bay; there were also disabled toilets near the car park.  From the car park there was a slight slope going up to the famous lake.  Lake Louise had a flat concrete promenade going round some of the lake.  Due to this attractions high altitude (5,740 feet), it was quite cold in June.

Heading back to Canmore, we stopped in town for some Spanish fusion at Tapas Restaurant.  This restaurant had steps up to enter but there was a ramp.  The lighting inside was dimly lit and there was no disabled toilet.

Day Four – Kootenay National Park

The next day we took the Bow Valley Parkway to explore Kootenay National Park, an area of dramatic scenery awaited.

Entering the park we stopped at Storm Mountain viewpoint, a 10,863 feet high mount.  There was a small car park with toilet facilities.

Continuing our journey, we headed to The Paint Pots.  This is a 1.9km trail, where one can discover pots of many colours.  There are parking and toilet facilities at this attraction.  This involves a walk through a forest, over an iron bridge across the Vermillon River and then onto the first lot of paint pots.  We could not go any further due to flooding and had to walk back.

Wheelchair users would find this trek difficult to navigate, especially with someone pushing them; the bridge had quite a few steps.  Even I found this trail rather challenging to walk as it’s all natural, with uneven, narrow footpaths and bumpy tree roots.  There was a bench to have a breather by the river.

Radium Town is situated in the south part of Kootenay National Park, 85 miles from Banff Town.  There are a few shops, restaurants, and very importantly, a gas station; Rosie’s tank was a dry as a Martini!

We had lunch in Fired Up BBP which was reasonable with good food and friendly staff.  There were disabled toilets onsite with good parking facilities.  However, there were no ramps for wheelchair users to access the outside seating area.

Rundlestone Hotel, Banff

On arrival at the hotel, we parked and went up the ramp, there were no electronic doors and we struggled to enter the hotel with our cases.  Staff were welcoming and helpful; there was an underground car park, with a lift going up to all floors.

The bedroom was compact with limited space to manoeuvre around.  There was a fridge, coffee and tea making facilities, with a microwave. The room overlooked the indoor pool and Jacuzzi.

The bathroom was small and the sink was in the bedroom area, this would seem unusual for some, but worked well when sharing. The shower was in the bath with no grab rails for support.

There is a restaurant in the hotel and breakfast was typically Canadian, with a choice of continental if required.  The room was dimly lit so we had to sit by the window.  Staff were very helpful and the breakfast was reasonably priced.

There were toilets in the bar area, but they weren’t accessible as they were down a few steps.  There was only one disabled accessible room at this hotel.

Banff is a large and busy town with a high density of traffic and tourists.  There were many shops, cafes and restaurants dotted about.  This town has wide pavements to help mobility and has plenty of disabled parking bays.  However, the shops and restaurants usually were a couple of steps up.

Tony Roma’s Restaurant

We had dinner here; the entrance was not wheelchair accessible and had a flight of stairs going up to the main restaurant floor.

We expected this restaurant to be Italian, but there were very few Italian dishes on the menu.  This eatery was not disability friendly, expensive and the service was slow.  The toilets were equally hard to get to with lots of steps going down into the hotel next door.

Day Five – Banff Town and Sky Bistro

After some morning retail therapy, sat outside at Park Distillery Restaurant and Bar, on the main Banff Avenue, for a beverage.  There was a ramp going up into the restaurant and had disabled toilets.

Bow River Falls

This 9.1 metre high falls is a popular attraction in Banff NP and is a setting for several famous films, like Lassie and River of No Return.  Here White Water Rafting is available to book.

Access from the car park to the main viewing area was generally good as the path was concrete.  There were also toilet facilities.  There is a large hotel, Fairmont Banff Springs and Golf Course nearby.

Banff Gondola and Sky Bistro

We had to book the Sky Bistro restaurant a few weeks in advance to secure a table; this is advisable should you wish to dine in the restaurant, which was not too expensive.

There were not many disabled parking bays here and we struggled to get close to the entrance.  There were two steps up into the main building and we had to wait for a time slot to get on the Gondola.

Once on the Gondola it takes around ten minutes to get to the top, this is an amazing experience with stunning scenery once at the top.

There are three different levels to this attraction and all are accessible by lift with toilets on each floor, these toilets are electronically opened by a button.

It is fascinating to read about the history and building of the Gondola and the Sky Bistro.  There are a few outside seating areas with amazing views of the mountains.  Please allow two to three hours at this attraction.

Day Six – Yoho National Park and The Icefields Parkway

On our departure day from Banff, we woke up to find heavy snowfall.  It was so magical, just like Narnia; I wanted to have tea with Mr Tumnus…

We left Banff Town headed for the majestic Moraine Lake, roughly an hour’s drive, and with all the snow made it look even more incredible.

There was ample parking here, with toilet facilities.  To get to one of the lakes nearest viewpoints was a short walk but a bit tricky.  Most of the natural path was even, however the footpath became steep as we neared the viewpoint.  Due to snow and with it being quite cold, we felt it would be best not to advance on.

After the majestic Moraine Lake, we proceeded with our epic adventure to the dazzling Emerald Lake of Yoho National Park.

Once at the beautiful Emerald Lake, it was no longer snowing and had warmed up a bit, we decided to have a teddy bears picnic.  We parked in a disabled bay, which was clearly marked and there were disabled toilets by the lake.  The footpath around the lake was gravel yet flat and easy to navigate, with seating scattered around some areas with picnic benches.

There was a bridge going across the lake, big enough for cars and on the other side was a holiday village with lovely houses to rent right by the lake.  There was also a large pub with a restaurant, which was closed at the time.

Soon it was time to depart, heading north along the awe-inspiring Icefields Parkway.

Icefields Parkway (Highway 93)

This 143 mile route runs from Lake Louise up into Jasper National Park and is one of the most scenic drives in the world.  Every turn and every viewpoint along the way is absolutely spectacular.

Bow Lake

This was one of the first view points on the Icefields Parkway, light snow made this even more breath-taking.  Here there was plenty of parking, however it was only a lay-by and did not have toilets.

Peyto Lake

Next along Highway 93 was the picturesque Peyto Lake, which was accessed via Peyto Summit.  This landmark lake is simply stunning as it gleams a spectacular blue.

As it was still snowing, I attempted to slowly walk down the slope to the lakes viewpoint, but as the snow and ice was making it too slippery, I decided to go back to the car.  My support worker went on with my camera to take some stunning photos.

After a day of jaw dropping scenery, exploring Yoho National Park and along the Icefields Parkway, we checked into The Crossing at Saskatchewan River Crossing, off Highway 93.

The Crossing

There is no disabled parking available, but reception had a ramp up.  Cabins were small and in need of renovation, but they seemed cosy enough for one night.  There was no Wi-Fi or mobile reception available.

The bathroom was compact; shower over bathtub, my room was not adapted for wheelchair users.  We were told at reception that they were in the process of building one wheelchair accessible cabin; this would be ready by summer 2019.

There was a restaurant with a buffet, or set menu for both breakfast and dinner.  In the same building, there was a Café and a big gift shop.  There was also a cowboy bar, (Yee-haw!) with a pool table, and great selection of beers to choose from.  This resort is closed from November through to March due to adverse weather conditions.  The Crossing also has a gas station.

Day Seven – Columbia Icefields Skywalk and Jasper National Park

After a hearty breakfast, we checked out and hit the road, continuing north into Jasper National Park to The Columbia Icefields Skywalk.

This location is like a big terminal, with disabled parking, disabled toilets and ramps for good accessibility.  As well as a lift taking you up one floor to a large cafe.

At the ticket desk, there are three attractions on offer; I decided to go for the Skywalk as it seemed the most accessible.  Concessions were provided where my support worker got 50% off.  The staff at the desk were very helpful and informative.

We had to board a bus to access the Skywalk, but I believe it is possible to drive up and drop off; parking is not permitted at the Skywalk.

The Columbia Icefields Skywalk is located on a cliff edge at a height of 918 feet above the Sunwapta Valley.  It involves a walk on (shudders) glass!  This attraction was very well organised and completely accessible for wheelchair users with grab rails all round.  There were no toilets once at the attraction, but a bus leaves every ten minutes.

Sunwapta Falls

This attraction of Jasper National Park was next on the way.  To get to the main viewpoint, the walk from the car park is fairly even, but there is a very steep slope down to the bridge.  Despite it starting to rain, the views of the falls still remained spectacular.

Athabasca Falls

This is another magnificent attraction that Jasper NP offers.  There are various viewpoints scattered around this attraction, but despite it being well paved only the first viewpoint is accessible for wheelchair users.  There are a lot of steps here and with it being very busy, I struggled to manage the steps.  There are disabled toilets onsite.

After an hour’s drive from Jasper Town, we arrived in small town Hinton and checked into Twin Pine Suites for two nights.  I had chosen to stay here as a base as it is the nearest town to Jasper National Park on the east side.

Twin Pine Suites

There are two disabled parking bays at this property but with no disabled accessible rooms.  Accessing the hotel was slightly difficult as there were two sets of doors to navigate into reception.  There was one lift up to the first floor.

The room was spacious and comfortable with coffee and tea facilities with air conditioning, a microwave and fridge.  The bathroom had a step up shower with a sliding door, but no grab rails in place.

There is a restaurant onsite that mostly serves Canadian breakfast.  This hotel appears to be a bit dated and in need of renovation.

Mr Mikes, Hinton

At Mr Mikes, there is disabled parking right outside the restaurant and this steakhouse is all fully accessible with disabled toilets.  This eatery is a steakhouse which serves other dishes like ribs and burgers.  The food was scrumptious and reasonably priced, but the service was quite slow.

Day Eight – White Water Rafting and Exploring Jasper National Park

It was time to get adventurous with a splash, as I attempted to do White Water Rafting.  Having never done this before, Grade Two was the best option.  It was a slow river ride with some rapids; we did get a bit wet!

My support worker booked this by phone a few hours in advance which was very easy to organise.  We met at the designated area in Jasper Town Centre with no problems and the mini bus picked us up at the Totem Pole meeting spot.  There were a few steps up to board the bus.

At Athabasca River, the staff were helpful getting me into the boat and made sure there were measures taken for my safety.  The guide was quite informative about the area and this amazing experience lasted around an hour.  Credit card payment was accepted after the trip.

After a thrilling boat ride, it was time to fill our almost empty stomachs with some grub at Brewing Co Bar in Jasper Town.  This bar had a reasonably priced menu and great service.  It was also fully accessible with good lighting, plenty of space and disabled toilets

Maligne Canyon

This is one of the deepest canyons in Jasper National Park which can take you as far as fifty metres.  Maligne Canyon consists of crossing six bridges, the deeper you go, the more spectacular it becomes.

At this attraction there are ample parking spaces and some disabled toilets.  The ground here was quite uneven, grainy and dusty with quite a steep slope leading down to the first bridge with a grab rail for support.  I only made it to one as there are too many steps with no railing for support, as you descend further into the canyon.

Remember, if you are going down, you have to come back up the same way, which can be very tiring.  My support worker made it to the third bridge, the trek down was spectacular and well worth the effort.

Medicine Lake

At first this lake appears barren with the landscape seeming burnt but still beautiful.  My support worker ventured down a path and found the dazzling Medicine Lake.  The view of this lake was dramatic in its contrasting appearance of dead trees with black boulders, yet the lake itself was a turquoise blue.

Little did we know at this point, that a huge black bear was on his way to meet my support worker, Lee.  What a de-lee-cious feast that would have been!

I would say that this view point was not good for wheelchair users, as the terrain consisted of loose stones.  However, as we came out of the parking area and drove a minute up the road to a lay by, we were able to get much better views of the lake – and the bear!

As the adventure continued we were about to see something incredible.  Around fifty metres from the roadside in the wooded grassland of Jasper National Park, was a family of three bears!  This amazing experience was truly breath-taking as we watched them march on. 

Maligne Lake

This enormous lake is over 13.5 miles long and is one of the largest in the Canadian Rockies.

On arriving at this magnificent lake, there are several beaches to choose from.  They all had ample parking but we did not see any disabled bays at our chosen beach.  There were disabled toilets in the car park.

Maligne Lake is home to the famous Spirit Island, and the only way to see this is by boat.  Unfortunately, as it was gone 5pm, we were too late to board, which was quite disappointing.  The last boat of the day in June leaves at either 3 or 4pm.

There is a large restaurant at the lake; however, we did not go inside.  There was a lot of wildlife in the area, including Deer and Elk; I must have seen Bambi a few times! 

Soon it was time for us to head back to Jasper Town for dinner with something Italian on our minds. 

We stopped at Jasper Pizza Place for, you know…pizza!  This restaurant was spacious, clean and the staff were very friendly and helpful.  There were disabled toilets onsite with good lighting throughout.  There was a car park next to this restaurant with disabled parking bays.

After dinner, we headed back to Hinton for our final night with our upcoming destination, Valemount, next on the itinerary.

To be continued...