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Banff August 2016

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Two middle aged couples staying in Canmore 8/20 to 8/27. 1) Looking for itinerary suggestions. We like to hike easy to medium trails. A little concerned about bears. Love the water and plan a level 3 whitewater raft trip. Doing the gondola and the glass bottom walk over the mountains. Doing one 1/2 day of golf. One couple doing spa activities while the other couple hikes. Want to go to hot springs. Would love to see Jasper if it makes sense - actually a high priority.
2) Would also like some feedback on our chances of seeing the northern lights.
3) Seems like so much driving from one place to the next - want to know how we could fit things in the most efficiently.
4) Looking for the best kept secrets of restaurants that we must do.
5) Does rain prevent hiking? Seems like a lot of rain this month so far.
6) Tell us what to remove from itinerary to fit the best sites in.

Thank you for any help you can offer!

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    First, Jasper is not a day trip from Canmore. If you want to go all the way to Jasper, you need to stay at least one night. And finding a place, especially for a single night, at this point is going to be very difficult. If Jasper is a priority, you need to find accommodation there ASAP - and be flexible about which nights.

    It will be a very full day trip to the Athabasca Glacier from Canmore - probably a good 3 hrs driving each way, more if there's traffic or construction. I'd probably skip the Skywalk - long way from any glacier, underwhelming and overprices. They are packaging the skywalk in with the glacier tour ($80 for the two). However, if you buy tickets at the Lake Louise Tourist Office (not the Parks Canada Centre) in Lake Louise, you can get sno-coach only tickets.

    Have you booked a tee time for the golf? If you haven't, that should be done ASAP as tee times may be limited or fully booked. There are only a few golf courses in the Canmore/Banff area, so tee times go quickly. Similarly, I would book the river trips ASAP as they may be booked up - don't know about levels, but from Canmore, the closest whitewater is in Kananaskis or out in BC beyond Yoho NP.

    Staying in Canmore, you will be doing a fair bit of driving no matter what. Parking will be your major issue. I would visit Moraine Lake, Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon on weekdays and arrive before 9am. Do Moraine Lake first because parking is the most limited there.

    Plenty of hiking options, though a lot of the trails around Canmore are closed now because of bear alerts. Most trails though are just fine, though bearspray and being bear alert are strongly recommended. I'd suggest hiking around Lake Louise (need to be a group of 4 for most hikes around Moraine Lake)- lakeshore trail, Lake Agnes, Plain of Six Glaciers. Tunnel Mountain in Banff, perhaps Sunshine Meadows. Emerald Lake over in Yoho NP.

    As to the Northern Lights - I've seen a couple of alerts in my e-mails recently. But given the rain and long days, I haven't heard that anyone's actually seen them lately. Summer is not a good time to see them - much better in the winter when days are shorter and weather tends to be clearer.

    Lots of rain, but it tends to be mostly afternoon/early evening thunderstorms. So plenty of time left for hiking, and you can still hike in the rain. Just avoid exposed areas if there's actual thunder or lightning. And have a good rain/wind jacket and hat.

    Lots of good places to eat in Canmore - make reservations if possible (essential at the Iron Goat). My favorites include Iron Goat, Georgetown Inn, SpiceHut, Murrietas and the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company. For breakfast, Summit Cafe. For lunch or snacks, CommuniTea Cafe, Good Earth, Harvest Cafe and Beamers. Also can pick up tasty treats at the farmer's market on Thursdays.

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    We were in Jasper in early July. We decided shortly before our trip to spend the night there. We were able to get a reservation for one night at the Maligne Lodge. It was okay-nothing great for the price, but I was glad we didn't try to drive there and back in a day. Spending 2 nights would be necessary if you want to do a lot of hiking, but we were able to see quite a bit and the weather was rainy.

    We didn't take the coach to the Columbia Icefield. It was very busy and would have taken a lot of time. I don't think you can reserve a specific time. I didn't realize you could buy a ticket for the glacier tour only. At the Icefield Center you are forced to buy a ticket that includes the Skywalk. A rip-off in my opinion.

    We spent quite a while driving from Canmore to Jasper. It was on Sunday and only one construction delay. The drive is incredible. The weather wasn't great. Rain off and on, but DD took lots of great photos. The sky was especially beautiful with the sun and clouds.

    We also stayed in Canmore. Before you go purchase your pass on-line for the highway that goes from Banff to Jasper. It was a great time saver as there were lines at every entrance.

    Be sure to go to Moraine Lake early in the day. We made a mistake in not doing that. When we were able to get in later in the day it was raining and we didn't stay long, although we did climb to the top of the rock pile in the rain. I would love to go back on a sunny day.

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