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Banff - best route to visit these highlights

Banff - best route to visit these highlights

Jul 9th, 2017, 09:49 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2017
Posts: 2
Banff - best route to visit these highlights

Hi All,

I am working on plans for our September 2018 Canadian Rockies trip and have a question. We will have 6 days to spend in the Banff and Lake Louise areas. Afterwards we'll travel the Icefields Parkway to Jasper for 3 nights, before returning to Canmore and then Calgary and then home to Kansas. We'd like to see/do the following in the Banff/Lake Louise area: Bow River Float, Tunnel Mountain Hike, Tunnel Mountain Drive, Upper Hot Springs, Cave Basin, Banff Springs Hotel, Banff Gondola, Lake Minnewanka, Bow Valley Parkway, Lake Louise, Johnstone Canyon, Yoho, Takakkaw Falls, Emerald Lake, Stanley Glacier, Sunshine Meadows, Fenland Trail, Moraine Lake, Lake Agnes hike. Can someone help me put them in a best/efficient driving route so we avoid doing a lot of backtracking? Any help would be greatly appreciated as we don't know anything about the area. Are there maps or travel guides you'd recommend? I'd also like to hear about anything else I should include.

Thank you so much!
midwestmarinemom is offline  
Jul 10th, 2017, 06:06 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,082
Rather than go thru them all I'll give you some help.

Take a piece of paper and put Banff Townsite at the bottom.

Then put Lake Louise straight above Banff about 1/4 of the way up the page.

Then go a little above Lake Louise and a little to the left (west) and put Yoho (Takakkaw Falls).

Then near the top of the page put the town of Jasper.

Then either Google or Google maps each site you listed and place it at each spot on the page.

All sites in any one spot can be seen in any order. What's more important is checking how much time you'll want for each one and plan your days that way.

One thing to consider is there are two roads from Banff to Lake Louise. The highway is faster but some of the sites such as Johnston Canyon is on the old road just to the east of the highway. I think they call it the Bow Valley Parkway.

You left out some amazing sites.

1) In the Lake Louise area. About a mile before the lake is the left turnoffs to Moraigne Lake. This is an amazing site and way more impressive than Lake Louise itself. This is the view on the back of the old Canadian 20 dollar bill. Go early as the parking lot is too small. Don't go to the actual lake. From the parking lot go towards the lake but veer to the Rock Pile. Go around the back and up the rock steps to the viewpoints. One of those sites you'll remember the rest of your life. You may want to do this at different times of the day.

2) Mistaya Canyon. At KM 71 going up the Ice Fields Parkway. A 10 minute walk from the parking lot. Beautiful views of the canyon. Don't miss it.

3) Tangle Falls. At KM 134 going north towards Jasper. This is a beautiful roadside waterfall. Park on the west side of the road and the falls are on the east side. Best seen in the afternoon when the sun isn't in your eyes. Well worth the ten minute stop.

4) Angel Glacier. About 15 miles south of the town of Jasper on the west side. Take 93 and then 93A. You may have to ask for instruction getting there but well worth the time. The road is about 12 miles or so to a large parking lot. You then walk a relatively level 2/3 mile. Best to go in the morning when the sun isn't in your eyes. You will be on the east side of the valley and Angel Glacier will be on the west side. In the middle is the milky white Cavel Lake where the glacier runoff goes. Another one of those sites you'll remember the rest of your life.

Do a Google search for Icefields parkway maps. There's a .pdf file that shows the parkway, the sites and how many KM from either end.
Myer is offline  
Jul 31st, 2017, 08:12 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 251
Hello Myer,

I am at the early stages of planning to go to Banff mid-Sept, 2017 with my spouse and have been reading several posts when I came across this one.
I am thinking of exactly the same itinerary. Mary, I hope you don't mind my tagging along in this discussion.

Do you think 6 days is minimum or average ? We normally like to take our time and not rush from 1 place to another.

For lodging, where would the best location be ? We have our own car to get around. We will be driving from home in the US.

banares is offline  
Jul 31st, 2017, 10:07 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 582
6 days would a minimum for Banff/Jasper without making it fairly rushed. Longer if your focus is on hiking. Generally 6-7 nights is ideal.

The area can't be seen from one location and it's the drive between Lake Louise and Jasper that is the crown jewel of the area. So, we generally suggest splitting your time between Jasper and Banff/Canmore/Lake Louise. Two possible versions:

Night 1 - Banff/Canmore/LL
Nights 2-4 - Jasper
Nights 5-6/7 - Banff/Canmore/LL

Nights 1 -3 Banff/Canmore/LL
Nights 4-5/6 - Jasper
Night 6 or 7 - Banff/Canmore/LL

From your list, I'd suggest Fenland Trail is good for an iffy weather day. It's pleasant, but a flat trail right in Banff without much in the way of views. I'd prioritize other hikes/areas first, and use it as a backup or a nice evening walk.

For Tunnel Mountain, you would drive to the trailhead (either Surprise Corner or over by the campground). So it's really a drive to a hike/walk.

For the Bow River, you'll need to wait and see with regards to river conditions. Most years, rafting/float tours tend to end sometime in late September. After that, water levels are usually too low.
kgsneds is offline  
Aug 1st, 2017, 04:30 PM
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Posts: 23,912
I'm bookmarking for good information. Thank you!
volcanogirl is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2017, 05:18 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,082
I've been to the area several times.

The second time I was there with a friend. We spend a week in Glacier National Park in Montana and since we were flying home from Calgary, I decided to spend 2 1/2 days in Banff and Jasper to decided if I wanted a longer trip.

Before you go on a trip you have to consider your hobbies and priorities. I'm an amateur photographer. I can hike all day even though I'm in my 70s. I just make the hikes a little easier each time.

Since the time in the area was very limited I really planned out the trip to be efficient. Very efficient.

WE SAW A LOT IN A VERY LIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME!!! And we didn't rush anywhere. We just flowed from one place to the next and were non-stop.

Two years later I took my daughter and then 7 year old granddaughter (all three of us are photographers) to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons and 10 days later took my daughter to Banff and Jasper for 5 days.

I'm pretty sure I posted trip reports for both of those trips that took place in 2011 and 2013.

If you want to see some of my photos of these trips you can go to my web site at:

Unfortunately I've gotten a bit lazy and haven't updated it the past few years.
Myer is offline  
Aug 4th, 2017, 09:58 AM
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 2
Do not forget to stop for an hour at Peyto Lake (just north of Lake Louise) on Hwy 93.

My favourite place in the Rockies.
yycroof is offline  
Aug 18th, 2017, 03:27 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 251
Thank you to all for very useful information
banares is offline  
Sep 7th, 2017, 07:18 AM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 103
We just returned from a trip to Canmore/Banff. The weather was perfect for 3 days and then the smokey haze moved in, but otherwise it was great. We saw most of what you list here, but didn't get all the way to Jasper as we stopped at the Icefields.
If you are planning a float trip, I would recommend Rocky Mountain Float tours. We took the 3:30 (3 hour and last one of the season) one and loved it! It's a bit pricey, but worth is and it helps with the currency conversion.
As for driving 93 to Jasper. We didn't see a lot of traffic, but the lower speed limits and scenic stops makes for a much longer trip that you would expect.
Lake Minnewanka was nice find and wish we could have spent more time there.
Lots of opportunity for photos, but limited gas and food.
TravelGram is offline  
Sep 7th, 2017, 09:14 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 1,365
I agree with Myers recommendations of Mistaya Canyon and Mount Cavel lake/glacier (you need to get a pass in advance). Also highly highly recommend the Parker ridge hike on the way to Jasper. Its somewhat steep but the views are simply spectacular and well worth the hike. Also not on your list are Athabaska and Sunwapta falls. Both quite amazing.

Instead of the Gondola we did the chairlift in Banff. Beautiful views and you avoid the crowds.
We split our time as follows

2 nights Banff
2 night Lake Louise
3 nights Jasper.

We could have used one more day in Lake Louise. And I think its possible to cover Jasper in 2 nights. But looks to me that you have sufficient time to take it all in.
mnag is offline  
Sep 16th, 2017, 08:45 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 251
Thanks again for your suggestions. I am a little late in my planning; so I have our trip planned Oct 6-15. I'm afraid some of those must-see sights can not be seen during that time.But I'll keep them in my notes for the next time.
banares is offline  
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