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Trip Report The Great Escape to Cooler Weather-Banff, LL, Jasper July 2011

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I'll try to keep this trip report short because it sounds similar to one I just read!
BANFF: After landing in Calgary and renting a car, we drove straight to Banff. We stayed in a standard tourist hotel, the Aspen Lodge. It was fine and clean and our room had a balcony. We walked around Banff Avenue like everyone does and had a great prime rib dinner at Bumper's.
Next morning, OMG what a beautiful day for the Banff gondola (Sulphur Mountain)! Well worth the trip and took the hike to the old weather station. Clear and cool with mountain peaks 360 degrees around us. Lovely view of the Bow River Valley and town of Banff. We checked out Bow River Falls (very nice). We drove the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise Village. I'd take this route if time allows because there was a lot less traffic and the scenery was spectacular.
LAKE LOUISE: We stayed at the Chateau Lake Louise with a lakeview room. I know it's expensive, but this place has been on my bucket list since the first time I saw it as a little girl. Sometimes you just have to do that! The hotel does a nice job of scattering historical photos around the public rooms. The room was lovely (junior suite) and when we woke up the next morning to the sun hitting the top of Victoria Glacier and an utterly calm lake, it was stunning.
I would not recommend staying over on a weekend due to the hoards of tourists (can't blame them though since I was one!). Saturday was crowded but Sunday it was a totally different experience-hardly anyone around. We got up early and hiked to the teahouse (built in 1923 I believe) and beyond to the Plain of the Six Glaciers and boulder field. If you do this hike, leave before 10:00 AM. We only saw one other person (a man actually jogging up and back, must have been a Navy Seal or something) on the way up. Going back down was a different story. The views were amazing and I was glad we had the binoculars.
Our first evening meal was at the hotel's Swiss restaurant, Wallister Stube. I liked it but my husband thought it was overpriced. We did the fondue thing (delicious) and had good service. Our second evening meal we ate at the more casual saloon and snagged an outdoor table which was quite pleasant. For breakfasts we grabbed coffee and a muffin from the hotel deli.
While we were in the LL area, we drove over to Yoho Nat'l Park and the Takakkaw Falls, an amazing sight. Then we drove a little further down Hwy. 1 to Emerald Lake, very pretty but a bit underwhelming after LL. Back in the LL area we went to Moraine Lake. Go either early or late due to tight parking situations and crowds. I was too tired to hike around the lake but it was beautiful. One thing that took a while to get used to was the daylight until 10:00 PM or later. Not a bad thing, just different + I wore my fleece jacket most of the time.
JASPER NP: I had been to Banff twice before but never made it to Jasper. The Icefields Parkway is everything people say, one of the most scenic drives in the world. I think we stopped at every point of interest and scenic overlook: Crowfoot Glacier viewpoint (crowded), Bow Lake and historic Num-Ti-Jah Lodge (not crowded), Peyto Lake viewpoint (beautiful but crowded), Bridal Veil Falls, Columbia Icefields Centre (came back the next day-better weather- for the Glacier Experience), Tangle Falls, and Athabasca Falls (can you tell I like waterfalls?) and then into Jasper to check in to our cabin. We stayed at the Alpine Village cabins on the outskirts of town across the road from the Athabasca River. I'm hesitant to recommend these cabins because they were PERFECT and I don't want to spread the word! They were darling cabins immaculately maintained. The charming individual cabins are nice and private. We saw a herd of elk and even a black bear walked right next to our window! We had a nice view of the river and did a bit of cooking in the kitchen to save money. Unfortunately that entailed a trip into Jasper town and the grocery store which was so crowded and stressful as you might expect a resort town to be. Bummer. Other than that I fell in love with Jasper NP. There were two highlights of our stay: Maligne Canyon and a hike called the Valley of the Five Lakes (no one there and so peaceful). The falls in the canyon through the limestone gorges are indescribable. You can stand on one of the several bridges and look straight down to the roaring water. Soft green moss and mushrooms blanketed the misty ground. It was magical and ethereal like a fairy town. Can you tell I was impressed? Best of all-not crowded!
While in Jasper we also did the tramway but it felt really touristy and they cram about 30 people into each car. It was a popular activity so we had to wait about 30 minutes. At the top we almost made it to the summit but it got very windy and snowed on us so we didn't quite make it to the top.
We ate a couple of dinners in Jasper also, one at Evil Dave's and the other at Earl's, both quite good.
K COUNTRY: We stayed two days at Mount Engadine Lodge which is off the beaten path on a dirt road south of Canmore. EXCELLENT. Great hosts and the promised moose sightings each evening and morning. Food was very good served community table style. We had a cabin away from the lodge and the view was incredible. We hiked to Chester Lake (in the rain) and really enjoyed our stay here. I highly recommend this place if you want to get away from it all.
CALGARY: What can I say? Back in the big city after a leisurely drive on the "Cowboy Trail" through the foothills of the Rockies. We needed to stay over due to an early flight the next day, so we made the most of it. We stayed at the International Hotel in the city centre-huge suite at the cost of a room. The Calgary Folk Festival was going on so we checked that out. It was a gorgeous day and everyone was outside enjoying the music, sunshine, food, and LIFE. What a wonderful way to end our trip! Walked around downtown a little and ate at Cesar's for old time's sake. Nothing like Alberta beef, eh?

Okay, so this trip report is much longer than I thought. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed the travel experience!

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