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Banff/Canmore, Lake Louise (Field?) and Jasper in July

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Nov 26th, 2013, 08:09 PM
  #1
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Banff/Canmore, Lake Louise (Field?) and Jasper in July

We are an Australian family of 3 (Mom, Dad and 20 year old daughter) and will have 10 nights in this area next July. Initially I was thinking of staying 7 nights in Canmore and 3 nights in Jasper. We generally like to self cater, and travel out from a base, not moving "house" too often. We enjoy beautiful scenery (I gather there is plenty of that), some walking (maybe a couple of hours, but not serious hiking), and seeing wildlife.

This is the first leg of a 4 week holiday and an easy pace to start with would be good after the long flight from Australia (flying to Calgary via Vancouver).

I am now wondering:
(1) Would Banff be a better (more central?) location for a base than Canmore. What are the pros and cons of each?
(2) Should we perhaps have 3 bases, and stay a few days in Field? Better located for visiting Lake Louise and Surrounds?

If anyone has any self catering accommodation options, we would love your input. Currently we are looking at Patricia Lake Bungalows in Jasper and a condo in Canmore ( http://www.vrbo.com/250555#rates )

Thanks.
Is it worth
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Nov 26th, 2013, 08:11 PM
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Sorry about the "Is it worth" at the end. No sure where that came from!?
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Nov 26th, 2013, 09:45 PM
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Greetings

With 10 nights, you can certainly stay in three locations, but you might want to choose one location in/near Banff National Park to minimize packing and unpacking.

I'd go with Banff as you'll be closer (in!) the mountains, rather than having to drive up each day. Canmore is located outside the park - certainly gorgeous, but it will add at least 30 minutes on to your drive to Yoho, Lake Louise, Icefields etc. If you do stay in Canmore, It would be nice to stay some place within walking distance of the centre - it has a youthful vibe, and your daughter might enjoy being able to walk or bike around & do some exploring on her own. There are a ton of Aussies who work in the mountain towns, so you'll hear plenty of familiar accents.

The issue is that in Jasper and Banff, self-catering is limited due to strict rules about house/condo/apartment ownership within the national park. Essentially, it's not legit for someone to rent out (or own) a house/condo/apartment unless the renter works in the park or has retired from working the park. It is legit for someone who lives in a house to rent out rooms term to non-residents B&B style, and you can sometimes get a room or suite with a kitchenette.

This link (http://www.banffhotels.org/accommodations-with-kitchen/) details the options in Banff - you may want to balance cost with the cost of a B&B or hotel that includes breakfast. You can make lunch and eat out for dinner. I suspect the options in Jasper are even more limited, especially since there's just one smaller supermarket in town - the closest large supermarket is an hour away in Hinton. So groceries won't be especially cheap. I've heard good things about the Patricia Lake Bungalows, though they are a wee bit out of town.

Banff
Pro - close to the mountains, Lake Louise, Yoho, Icefields, in the park, good dining options
Con - limited self catering options

Canmore
Pro - more self catering options, more supermarket options, can be less overrun by tourists
Con - further from the sights, more driving and have to go through the park gates each day

Field is tiny (<300 people) and a lot of places have 3 night minimums during the high season. It's an easy drive from LL, Banff or Canmore, so probably not worth moving locations for a night or two.

As a note, you will need a park pass to go/stay in the national parks - about $9 per person per day. This would include the time in Jasper, as well as any day trips in Banff or Yoho National Parks. With the three of you and nine nights, it will definitely be cheaper to get the yearly (Discovery) group/family pass which runs around $135. It will be especially handy if you stay in Canmore, because with a pass you can usually bypass the lines at the Banff NP gate on the Trans Canada. You can either buy the pass as you enter the park the first time, or you can order one online - regular shipping doesn't cost extra even for international locations: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/ar-sr/lpac-p...-ndp.aspx#dp03

Have fun!
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Nov 27th, 2013, 11:32 AM
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Thanks so much kgsneds. Your insight is not only appreciated but most helpful. Have taken on board your advice about Banff and have managed to find a nice looking self catering place attached to someone's home in Banff. Looks like it will actually work out cheaper than the condo in Canmore, with the benefit of a better location. Now I just need to book before it becomes unavailable.

Great advice about the parks pass. I had thought about a parks pass for USA (the next part of our trip), but must confess I had not really given it any thought for Canada. Will certainly get that organised.

Really looking forward to visiting North America, and appreciate the advice of others!
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Nov 27th, 2013, 09:29 PM
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Great!

You should ensure that the place in Banff is legit before you book. If it's illegal, it could be shut down at any time and you're stuck finding another place and quite possibly losing any deposit.

I'm not an expert on the exact rules - I think it's OK to rent a room or suite as long as the person lives in the house and runs the rental as a B&B. What is illegal is renting an entire house or an entirely separate suite (garage suite).

Red flags that a rental might not be legal include a listing that doesn't include the address or pictures of the front of the house (i.e. things that town enforcement could use to identify someone who is illegally renting a house).
TripAdvisor has a good article: http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Travel-g15...n.Rentals.html

Their suggestion is to check that the place is a licensed B&B - all legit places should be on this list on the official tourist site: http://www.banfflakelouise.com/Place.../Bed-Breakfast

It's not that people are anti-tourist (hardly!), but the need to keep housing available & affordable for people who work in the park (in Banff, for parks services, guides etc). One only has to look at Canmore to see what happens when land/property is snapped up by people looking for weekend houses or to make money on vacation rentals. You get a lot of places that are only occupied on weekends, prices going through the roof, locals having a hard time finding affordable places to live and conflict between full time locals & weekenders/short term renters.

Have fun!
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Nov 28th, 2013, 11:38 AM
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Thanks for the warning. We found the rental on Homeaway.co.uk. I have emailed the owner to ask for some official registration details and see what comes from that. It looks like a great place (suite converted in the basement of the family home, as part of renovations to the home this year), but as you say, we cannot afford to have our holiday "complicated" with illegal accommodation.
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Nov 28th, 2013, 08:51 PM
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A basement suite in a house where the owners are living should be OK. Renting out a whole house/unit or absentee owners are not.
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Nov 30th, 2013, 05:33 PM
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http://www.fodors.com/community/cana...-report.cfm?27

Here's a report I posted a few years ago. Maybe it will be of some help as you plan.

We also like to self cater and use VRBO to book condos--but not here. When we visit in the summer, we try to stay in Lake Louise because it is closer to the trails we like to hike, closer to Emerald Lake/Yoho/Lake O'Hara--more info in my report. I would suggest that you make reservations to hike Lake O'Hara one day--even though our day there was a rainy,cloudy,foggy washout.
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Nov 30th, 2013, 10:19 PM
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LindainOhio - I agree about Lake Louise and that's where I always stay there when I'm at the Banff end of the Rockies (unless I need to be in Canmore for a course). However it's pretty much devoid of any self catering accommodation other than the hostel. Which is why I limited my suggestions to Banff or Canmore.

Lake O'Hara is another great place, but perhaps not something that would be on the schedule of folks interested in "some walking", rather than longer hikes. Getting a spot on the shuttle can be tricky from overseas since my understanding is that you have to call well ahead to book and it's a single phone line (i.e. busy signal!). So I'm not sure it's something that would be a priority on a trip for folks who are not serious hikers. There are many other hikes which don't require booking a shuttle.
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Dec 1st, 2013, 01:20 PM
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kgsneds and LindainOhio you have both been a wealth of information. Tying down this trip is taking a rather long time as it is "complicated" with our 20 year old heading to North America for a semester abroad (but has not yet found which of her 5 university choices she will be accepted to).

This Canadian Rockies portion is being tied in with a fortnight in Alaska (read your trip report on that area too Linda - thanks.) We then have about 6 days before hubby heads home. We are probably going to go down to San Francisco / Yosemite for this. Then daughter and I have 3 weeks before she heads to university. We are thinking of getting a car and doing Yellowstone down through the national parks to Las Vegas or Phoenix for this part of the trip.

But back to the Canadian Rockies. Some changes mean we are now planning on flying into Edmonton (1 night) and out of Calgary (1 night) (so reversing the direction). This leaves us with 9 nights. For Jasper, Patricia Lake Bungalows will be a good base for us. In Banff, the Homeaway landlord has not responded to our email so perhaps this a sign!? Our alternatives are now: Tunnel Mountain Lodge who have some one bedroom condos and chalets with kitchens. And now we have added Lake Louise into the mix. Paradise Lodge have some suites with kitchen facilities too. I had originally thought 3 nights in Jasper and 6 nights in Banff (don't even remember how I came up with that split!). Now I am weighing up 3 nights in each, OR 4 nights Jasper and 5 nights Lake Louise. Or even 4/3/2.
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Dec 1st, 2013, 10:09 PM
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There are a number of very legit tourist accomodations in Banff townsite that have one or two bedrooms + kitchen. A few examples: Tunnel Mountain Resort, Banff Resort & Condos, Douglas Fir Resort & Condos ... the list goes on.

Where the problems arise is where people are renting non-official places from their homes.
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Dec 2nd, 2013, 05:26 AM
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You could check out the Baker Creek Mountain Resort (didn't they used to call themselves "chalets"? - anyway), they are close to Lake Louise on the Bow Valley Parkway going toward Banff. Bow Valley Parkway is a very scenic road in the park that runs parallel with the Trans Canada Highway. Good location to see wildlife. www.bakercreek.com

If somebody has already mentioned these, I missed it and forgive the duplication.
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Dec 2nd, 2013, 11:43 AM
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Baker Creek Resort is supposed to be nice, but it's a bit outside of Lake Louis, so it's not convenient if you want to be able to go out to eat/get to a supermarket/explore on foot. I think it's also on the pricey side, but not sure. If I remember correctly, Paradise Lodge is quite expensive though it gets excellent reviews.

BTW, I think Baker Creek is on a different section of the Bow Valley Parkway, but during late spring through mid-summer, parts of the Bow Valley are closed to cars after 5 or 6pm due to wildlife. So if you are returning later in the evening, you will have to take the Trans Canada.

I have heard positive recommendations in regards to Tunnel Mountain. The landlord could be away (still early season) or busy, but it might be better to be safe than sorry. Anything listed on the Banff-Lake Louise tourism site I provided earlier is perfectly legit.

BTW, off topic a bit, but if you are considering Arizona, it's a great place for a little mother-daughter bonding. Places like Sedona a pretty much spa central, so excellent places for a little pampering. We went through Flagstaff, which is a college town with a young vibe, and has some good places to eat without breaking the bank. Also worth checking out one of the 'ghost' towns like Jerome - very unique. If you are interested in doing the Grand Canyon, book ASAP as all hotels in the park (and it's a long drive to the closest lodging outside) are managed by one contractor and are available up to a year (or more) in advance. El Tovar is pricey, but the Bright Angel right next door simpler rooms and good rates.
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