People going on the De Anza College Outdoor Club between-summer-and-fall-quarter trip to Grand Teton National park should
make plans well in advance if they are tempted by a side trip to Canada on the way home.
If there is any chance you will decide to go Canada you will need a passport. If you do not have one, it can take awhile to get, since you need to bring in a birth certificate when you apply for a United States passport and the birth certificate can take awhile to get.
Take a look at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Canada.html#/ to be sure you have proper IDs as needed to go across the border. And if you have a passenger who is under 18, you may need a document from their parent/guardian to prove it is okay they are traveling with you.
You will also need to contact your vehicle insurance carrier to get proof that your insurance policy is adequate to cover you in Canada. You should get a Canadian Non-Resident Interprovincial Motor Vehicle Liability Card,
sometimes called a “Canadian ID card”
(FREE from your auto insurance carrier).
This is so you can prove that your USA auto policy liability limits meet the minimum requirements for (and coverage extends to) all Canadian provinces and territories. (If you are stopped by Canadian police or get in an accident in Canada without one you risk a huge fine or having your vehicle impounded until you obtain proof of adequate coverage.)
Be sure to check on insurance coverage for each potential driver of the car you are carpooling in, not just the car owner.
Double check that you have proof of ownership easy to find in the vehicle.
And there are other things you should know about before crossing the border into Canada.
Do not bring fresh fruit across the border – even the banana peel or apple core in your trash. (And double check other requirements before going across the border. https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/menu-eng.html
Use up your firewood supply, or leave it behind for the next campers at your campsite to use.
“Clean all soil and organic debris off of any items including hiking boots, vehicles, boats . . .”
Glacier National Park said in 2020 “Be aware that you may not be able to cross the U.S./Canada border with some brands of bear spray. Canadian Customs will allow the importation of USEPA-approved bear spray into Canada. Specifications state that the bear spray must have USEPA on the label.” Please be sure to confirm this if you intend to extend your trip into Canada.
A lot of driving in Canada is the same as in the U.S.
Your current U.S. driver license is valid in Canada. You drive on the same side of the road, must wear a seatbelt, not talk on your cell phone while you drive and you dial the same 911 in an emergency.
Yup, you guessed it, traffics lights are the same red on the top, yellow in the center and green on the bottom.
Signs are sometimes bilingual in English “Stop” and in French as well “Arret,” or
West / Ouest,
East / EST,
Lake / Lac.
Road signs with max speeds allowed and distances are all in kilometers, not miles.
(Your vehicle speedometer probably has miles and kilometers.)
Common speed limits include 50 kilometers per hour (31 miles per hour) in cities,
80 kph (50 mph) on two-lane highways, and 100 kph (62 mph) on most highways. In National Parks it may be 90 km/hr max (56 mph) on major routes and 60 km/hr max (37 mph) on secondary roads.
20 kilometers = 12.43 miles, 50 K = 31.07 M, 70K = 43+ M
Many traffic signs are a little different than in the U.S., but easily understandable.
To be able to understand what temperature the weather report says (or to set the thermostat at a hotel), here are a few Celsius (Canada and most of the world) and Fahrenheit (U.S.) temps:
40 °C 104.0 °F
37 °C 98.6 °F average body temperature
30 °C 86.0 °F
21 °C 69.8 °F room temperature
14 °C 57.2 °F
0 °C 32.0 °F freezing/melting point of water
In a hotel swimming pool, for example, 1.6 meters at the deep end is 5.249344 feet.
A gallon Canadian = 1.2 U.S. gallon
Electricity is 110 volt.
English is Canada’s main language. French is spoken throughout Quebec and in many Atlantic cities.
The currency is the Canadian dollar, but many places accept American money. ATMs are all over and most major U.S. credit cards are accepted.
Your U.S. cell phone company might have a way for you to re-set yours to function when you cross the border, but we had no luck with that on our most recent trip there. We shopped around and found a low-cost phone with a month worth of time for emergency calls since we were on the road a lot.
Here are some rules for national parks in Canada that should sound familiar:
“You are not allowed to entice, pet or attempt to pet, harass or feed wild animals in the park. Pursuing animals with cameras is considered harassment. Animal behaviour is unpredictable and could result in injury if they are not given enough space.
Obstructing traffic is an offence and a hazard to other motorists. Pull over in designated pullouts only for viewing wildlife.”
“Camping is allowed in designated campgrounds only. Camping – including sleeping in a vehicle – in roadside pullouts, trailheads, and day-use areas is not allowed.”
“You are not allowed to interfere with others’ quiet enjoyment of the park during any part of the day or night. This includes loud music and shouting in campgrounds, and/or in day use areas.” And there will be enforced quiet hours.
Backpacking / hiking in Glacier National Park in the northern part of Montana?
Backpackers and hikers crossing the border into Canada without following special procedures can result in a $5,000.00 fine.
This warning from Canada can apply to any long-distance drive: “Visitors to large cities and popular tourist destinations should be aware that parked cars are regularly targeted for opportunistic smash-and-grab thefts, and they are cautioned to avoid leaving any unattended possessions in a vehicle, even in the trunk. Due to the high incidence of such crimes, motorists in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and some other jurisdictions can be fined for leaving their car doors unlocked or for leaving valuables in view. Visitors should exercise precaution to safeguard their property.”
For road trips, we advise people to check everything that powers, stops, cools, heats, ventilates and lights their vehicle
well before they leave on an adventure. People on a budget often put up with not-essential-for-safe-driving problems with their cars.
But deferred repairs and maintenance can spoil a road trip.
Here is a checklist, including things you can do yourself.
The following about side trips is from Grand Teton trip transportation,
which also has driving directions from Silicon Valley to Grand Teton park,
with ways to save time and money on the drive.
Often in the past people have made the drive home into some variation of a nine-national-parks-plus-Las Vegas-or-Seattle-and-the-Pacfic-Coast-highway-in-six-days-road trip.
Most people also go to Yellowstone National Park, which borders to the north on Grand Teton.
The south border of Yellowstone is only 8 miles from the north border of Grand Teton. It’s possible to do the whole figure eight sightseeing loop of Yellowstone’s main road (the Grand Loop) in one day, but not advised. Cumulative mileages: Upper Loop 70 mi/113 km, Lower Loop 96 mi/155 km, Grand Loop 142 mi/229 km.
Some advice on a visit to Yellowstone National Park, recommended hikes, link to the app for the time Old Faithful geyser is expected to next erupt are at: Yellowstone.
A side trip to the Canadian rocky mountains, for example to Banff National Park, Alberta, could be combined at the end of the trip with a one day (or longer) tour of Yellowstone.
From West Yellowstone (many campgrounds, hotels in the vicinity) it is only ten hours (shorter time if you don’t drive thru Calgary, and if the border crossing is short) to Canmore, Canada (just south of Banff, and preferred to Banff for an overnight for less crowds), and this view from a hotel we stayed at:
This next side trip could also start with the one day tour of Yellowstone mentioned above, but instead of heading for Canada, another very recommended side trip would be to Glacier National Park.
It is only 6 hours from West Yellowstone to Glacier National Park
Here are a series of one minute videos about the Going To The Sun Road:
Some students have said they also want to see Mount Rushmore. Please note that it is a 7+ hour drive from the border of Yellowstone.