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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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edmonton-jasper, banff, lake louise

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I am looking into a trip starting from Edmonton to see Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, then back to Edmonton. I want to know which is the best way to see the sights and how long is the drive through out. I have never been. Which is the best direction, what to see first. Anyone who can help, I would appreciate it. Thanks

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    Welcome!

    I assume you are in Edmonton, otherwise if you are traveling to the region is it best to fly in & out of Calgary. Going from Edmonton will add several hours driving time to get to the parks. The loop can be done either way - there's no better way to do it.

    As to the length of time - you can blast through in 2-3 days or really see the area in 2-3 weeks. I'd suggest at least 5-7 days in order to start seeing the sights and not be rushed. It also depends on your interests & what you want to see.

    From Edmonton, you'd head out along Highway 16 to Jasper. It's a fairly boring, flat drive until you get to the park gates, then it's really pretty for the last hour or so. Allow about 4 hrs to Jasper townsite, plus extra time to see some sites in the park before the townsite.

    In & around Jasper, you should see Maligne Lake, Maligne Canyon, Edith Cavell area and if you have time, head over across to BC to Mt. Robson Provincial Park. Walk on the trails around the townsite and you can head about an 1hr up to the hot springs at Miette. The least expensive accommodation other than camping are the private home accommodations (B&Bs more or less). Otherwise hotels will be more expensive in the summer.

    From Jasper, it's a flat out 3.5 hours to Lake Louise, but I'd suggest allowing a whole day to see the Icefields Parkway. That drive is considered to be one of the top 20 in the world, and you want to leave time to get out and see the sights/waterfalls/mountains/wildlife. There are a few places to stay along the way, but most people do it as a full day to Banff or Lake Louise.

    There are tons of cool sights - Bow Lake, Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Falls, Weeping Wall, Mistaya Canyon, Peyto Lake, the Columbia Icefields etc. etc.

    Unless you are into hiking, it's probably best to stay in Banff - more options for accommodation and food. Lake Louise is gorgeous, but no residential area so only a few hotels/restaurants.

    I would allow at least a day in Lake Louise to see the lake, do some walks/hiking and see Moraine Lake. If you have time, it's worth another day to explore a bit in Yoho National Park, just over the border in BC. It's about 20-40 minutes drive from Lake Louise/Banff, and has a number of stunning sights including Emerald Lake, Takkakaw Falls, Wapta Falls and the Spiral Tunnels.

    From Lake Louise to Banff, it's about 45 minutes.

    In Banff (and Canmore) you could easily spend weeks doing all the hikes, walks, bikes and canoes. I'd allow at least two full days to see the town and some of the surrounding area. Go to Johnston Canyon if you can, and if the weather is good, do a tram ride up Sulphur Mountain.

    My preference would be to return to Edmonton via the Icefields Parkway, a night in Jasper and back out Rt. 16. It's longer than the boring blast up the QEII, but getting a second shot at the Icefields Parkway is a great thing. Not only does it provide a different viewpoint, but if the weather is iffy on the way down, you still have a chance to see the views.

    Note that you will need to have a parks pass when you are in the parks, including staying in Banff and Jasper. You can buy them per day or a yearly pass for $65 (for one person). If you live here, it's probably better to buy a yearly pass as it will get you into all of the national parks and national historic sites. Daily passes are $10 for a single person in a car and about $20 for up to 6 people in one car and are good until 4pm the following day.

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    Excellent information, kgsneds, even tho' it wasn't provided for me!

    I'm planning a trip to Banff and Jasper NP's for 11 days beginning on 9/16 and this will be very useful. I'll be at Lake Louise for 3 nts., Jasper NP for 5 nts., and Canmore for 3 nts. I chose Canmore over Banff b/c I prefer quieter, less hectic places. (I live in NYC). I will have a car so it's easy enough to get from one to the other.

    Any other info you can offer would be appreciated. I like to see and do as much as possible. I love the outdoors, hiking, scenic drives, and photography and will be trying out my new camera. TIA.

    Don't mean to hijack this thread but OP and I are pretty much looking for the same info.

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    Mid-September is a lovely time to be in the Rockies - the major summer crowds are gone and the trees are starting to come into full fall colors (yup, fall is earlier here!).

    Weather can be a toss-up - you can have glorious warm weather, but especially towards the mid-end of the month, snow can arrive at the higher elevations and even dust the lower elevations. I'd plan for anything from below freezing to upper 60s. You'll want layers for hiking, as well as good wind/rain jacket and hat/mitts.

    While you are in Lake Louise, definitely get over to Yoho for a day. Also, it's peak time to see the larches in full color up at Moraine Lake. At that point, they may restrict car traffic up to the lake to avoid traffic/parking jams and run shuttles, but it's well worth the visit. And allow a day to hike around to the teahouse - start early to avoid residual crowds, and spend a whole day exploring all the trails & views.

    Canmore is quite pleasant - even in the middle of the summer, it's not quite so oppressively touristy or traffic jammed as Banff. There's a nice network of trails in town, plus a great rec centre (Elevation Place). For $8 you can use the pool, hot tub and shower, and $15 provides access also to the gym and climbing wall.

    The town itself is totally walkable, with some nice places to eat (Tavern 1883, Georgetown Inn, Beamers, CommuniTea Cafe, Drake Inn). The Drake and Georgetown have nice decks if the weather is still good. The Wood has a nice deck with a good view of the mountains, but the food is so-so for the price. The Grizzly Paw had good beer/root beer, but I wouldn't go there for the food alone.

    Around Canmore, you can explore Grotto Creek Canyon which has First Nations pictographs and lots of climbers. Also nice hikes around the Canmore Nordic Centre and in K-Country. Ha Ling is nice scramble, for something a bit harder, the east end of Rundle. (But not if you have height issues). Yamnuska is a tricky scramble, but it's a striking mountain for photos - you can see if from other hikes in the area for photo purposes. Heart Mountain is a good, easy hike/scramble.

    In Jasper, allow a day for Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon. Then use a day to some of the closer hikes/sights on the Icefields like Edith Cavell (if open) etc. And another day to head over to Mt. Robson Provincial Park.

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    More excellent information. Thanks so much, kgs.

    As far as the weather, I'm a graduate of the "learn the hard way" school and after unexpected snowstorms in 3 different parks at 3 different times of the year, the one thing I do is go prepared! Thanks for the reminder.

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