2 weeks in the Rockies

Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 11:37 PM
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2 weeks in the Rockies

We plan to visit the Rockies the latter part of August or early September and spend about 14 days there. We will be flying into and out of Calgary. We plan to visit Bannf and its surrounding area, then up to Jasper, then south to Glacier National Park (Montana, USA), then back to Calgary. We enjoy hiking (day hikes only).
How many days should we spend in each locale? What are the "must sees"? Is it worth it to drive to Edmonton after Jasper and before heading south to Glacier (to visit the West Edmonton Mall (2 nights there???)?
What are the chances of encountering a bear while hiking?
What time does the sun rise and set in August/Sept?
Any input will be much appreciated.
--Opihi from Hawaii
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Old Feb 23rd, 2004, 06:34 AM
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You know, I have wrestled with that kind of trip planning, too. I don't really have a set answer despite several visits.

Let me make a few comments. The sun goes down fairly late because you are on the western edge of the Mountain Time Zone. In early September the days are beginning to shorten, but day light until 8 PM is good enough to see your way back if you are late on the trail.

Now time allocations. First, I think you need to pick a base for some areas and then move for others.

Part of the problem is finding a good place to stay. Glacier presents a problem because I have yet to find a decent place at a cost in the $75 - $90 range per night. The accommodations within the park are not always up to AAA standards. I find them barely acceptable to not really acceptable but still habitable.

The last time I visited Glacier, 2002, we stayed at a B and B outside of Waterton toward Pincher Creek.
When we drove the Sun Road, we stayed at a place in Hungry Horse that was marginal, and not one that will attract me again. (I might stay there under unusual circumstances if the alternative was to sleep in my car.)

Around Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper, be prepared to pay much more than you would expect. Those areas are in high demand in the summer season and they take full advantage of the demand and supply situation. By mid September, the demand is lessening and shoulder season prices in some places to take effect.

West Edmonton Mall is perhaps an attraction because it is so large. Other than sheer size, I found it to be a mall with an indoor swimming pool.
I found the Ukranian reconstructed village in Androssen east of Edmonton to be far more interesting because it presented details of a culture I knew little about. We were there on a Sunday when Ukranian style food was being sold and musicians were playing native instruments. Quite a food festival and the music makers were talented.

The guides in the building were "role playing" in the sense that it was from the 1930's era. The fellow in the hardware store was sort of funny. He knew how to play his role; he just did not know anything about hardware. I walked in and started asking him for 10 penny nails, staples, and other farm hardware. He did not know the terminology.

My preference for parks to visit is Yoho. But some long hikes are involved there.

Let me throw out two ideas that you may want to consider. Let me preface them by saying that in Glacier and in Yoho and in other areas of Banff and Jasper, the beauty of the backcountry is seen only on an overnight hike. In Glacier there are two backcountry shelters with facilities: Granite Park and Sperry Chalets. In Yoho, there is Twin Falls Chalet, which is about 5 miles up the trail. By staying there, you can penetrate deeper into the valleys along the Yoho River. Unfortunately, all of these operations are somewhat expensive. Some might find them too expensive. They do, however, provide a means to an end, which is seeing parts of the park most visitors never view.

Also, the Icefields Parkway is an attraction without many places to stay along its length. I suggest that you consider staying one night at The Crossing where there is a motel. It is not a real good one, but comfortable enough for a one nighter.

I will sign off by saying I can discuss this with you some more.
I think 3 nights in Jasper would be fully sufficientl. The rest of your time can be apportioned evenly among the other parks, but do allow time for Kootney and Yoho in addition to Banff and Jasper and Glacier.

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Old Feb 23rd, 2004, 07:56 AM
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Hello Opihi,

You might want to consider an itinerary that looks something like this:

1 Fly into Calgary. Drive to Drumheller.

2 Royal Tyrrell Museum and other dinosaur stuff. Overnight Drumheller again.

3 Drive to the Interpretive Centre at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump near Fort Macleod. Overnight in or near Waterton.

4 Waterton / Glacier

5 Waterton / Glacier

6 Banff / Canmore

7 Banff / Canmore

8 Lake Louise (or maybe even further west)

9 Lake Louise or alternative

10 Lake Louise or alternative

11 Jasper

12 Jasper

13 Edmonton

14 Fly out of Edmonton

The benefit of a route like this, I think, is that it would help you to avoid double backing on yourself and, as such, would make good use of your 14 days.

While the Royal Tyrrell Museum is fascinating, I do recommend you see it BEFORE the mountains. The drive across the prairies to Drumheller would be a let down if you did it AFTER the mountains, I would think.

Another thing about my suggested itinerary is that, while it would allow for some hiking here and there, it would not give you enough time to explore any one area intensely. Rather, it would be a general introduction to the Canadian Rockies.

Both Calgary and Edmonton have things to offer if you happen to be in those cities for other reasons (e.g., if you are flying in or out of them). Fond as I am of these two cities, however, I like to think I have a fairly objective view of how they stack up against the really gorgeous cities of the world (like Vancouver and Sydney). The Canadian Rockies, on the other hand, really are world class. If it was my trip, I would not fly a quarter of the way around the world just to visit Calgary or Edmonton. So, unless you are flying in or out of Calgary or Edmonton, I would not recommend going out of your way to see it, certainly not on a initial, introductory trip to this area. If you turn into a Bob Brown, and return to this area repeatedly, then by all means get to know Calgary and Edmonton.

There is tons of information on the Canadian Rockies embedded in previous discussion threads here at Fodors. If you do searches for Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, etc., you will find lots.

Good luck.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2004, 07:17 PM
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opihi - even though I live in Edmonton, I wouldn't recommend spending part of your time visiting West Edmonton Mall (it's just a big building with lots of stores, many of them selling exactly the same things). There are so many beautiful natural places to see in Alberta, don't waste your 14 days.

If you are planning to visit both the Waterton/Glacier National Parks, and Banff National Park, Yoho N.P. and Jasper N.P., I would recommend starting your visit by driving to Waterton/Glacier and seeing that area first, and afterwards driving to the big parks: Banff - Yoho - Jasper.
At the end of your visit you can easily return to Calgary in less than one day via the Icefield Parkway from Jasper. You will be retracing your steps, but the drive is worth doing more than once.

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Old Feb 23rd, 2004, 10:43 PM
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Hi guys. Thanx for the quick responses, really appreciate it. I'm sure we'll enjoy our trip.
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