Ditch the Pre-Trip Tour Guide | Be Your Own Guidebook

“Most people who travel look only at what they are directed to look at. Great is the power of the guidebook maker, however ignorant.” 
― John MuirTravels in Alaska

Amen to that. It’s about 2 weeks away from a trip we planned months ago and I hadn’t figured out a single thing to do from Wyoming to Canada. Rookie mistake, so I thought. But between buying a house, a housewarming, and a crazy month at work - the excitement was there, but the planner in me wasn’t.

Now a week away and I’m scrolling through Instagram trying to figure out the best places to go. My second rookie mistake. With photos of Lake Louise and Grinnell Glacier filling my feed I assumed those were need-to-see’s, but with time not on my side, it’s the only thing saved in my cache. It wasn’t until flight landed, rental car secured, and us being on the road that I finally decided to forget it. Let’s just see where it takes us. This would be the most thrilling start to any trip we had to date.

Instead of mapping it out to the day exactly what to see, we completely winged it. We arrived at each location, asked the locals, a ranger, our housing host, any one with a real opinion what we should see and it was the best assumed mistake of our lives. 

By tapping into local knowledge on site, we were able to get the best insider scoop. Which places were too crowded, seasonally wrong, and/or just maybe not worth it this time around. For Montana it was the Rodeo, for Glacier it was Iceberg lake vs. Grinnell. In Banff, ditching the crowds at Peyto and heading down to the lake floor, and in Jasper - the sheer thrill of looking at Columbia Ice Field from the sky, instead of the stomped out glacier floor. We got to see sights that not everyone sees, posts and hashtags - and instead, get an experience all our own.

So are the best people to tap into? Here are some of the people who lead us in the right direction:

Housing Hosts - Our southern Montana Airbnb hosts reached out to us while we were in Yellowstone letting us know about their local rodeo. And while we couldn’t make it in time, we did pass one on our way and immediately parked and went in. It was one of the most amazing local experiences we’ve had in awhile.

Locals (of course) - And these may not be the ones at the bar. We chatted up one of the Parks Canada employees who was cleaning out a backwoods outhouse and he gave us amazing recommendations on where to go.

Fellow Hikers - chances are they don’t have the same itinerary as you, and may have seen some amazing sights already. One hiker that we went with on our hike down to Peyto let us in on the Wilcox pass secret, an we joined her there too.

Parks Employees - they know where to go, because they go there everyday. Just ask them some places off the beaten path where you can go, and they almost always have a perfect fit.

Now of course this isn’t an exhaustive list, but we have found some of our best adventures were a journey in the moment. We encourage you to give it a try!