Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise - Autumn

Jul 19th, 2008, 07:22 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 139
Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise - Autumn

My wife and I are planning a trip West (from Minnesota) for September 30th - October 7th. We have been doing some searched on Banff and Jasper National Park.

It seems like this time of year could be quiet and nice. We're from Northern MN so are used to cold, crisp fall weather.

We're looking for some suggestions on how to spend out time. We like hiking (3-4 mile trails at most), driving and just enjoying the beauty. Are the colors past their peak at this time? Any worries out of the ordinary re: black and brown bears filling up for winter??

nelcarp is offline  
Jul 19th, 2008, 08:14 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 169
The boyfriend unit & I have, in the past, gone up to Jasper in early October (both back in the lean years when we tented, and more recently when we could have a real cabin). The foliage colors are gorgeous then! The elk and sheep are in rut, which can make for some interesting sightseeing on the trails. Nothing like a horny elk bugling right outside your bathroom window at 3 a.m. to liven things up.

Bears will be filling up in preparation for hibernating, but Parks Canada is quite vigilant about posting warnings on trails where there have been bear sightings. Just avoid the posted areas.

I strongly recommend "The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide" by Brian Patton & Bart Robinson - it covers just about every trail worth hiking. Also, a trip to the hot springs (Miette in Jasper or the Upper Springs in Banff) is a different experience, especially when you do it on a cool, overcast day.

There is a definite decrease in the numbers of tourists after Labor Day - it's much nicer and quieter then. As for the weather - it will probably be in the 30s (F) at night, but daytime temperatures could be anywhere from the 50s to the 70s.

Finally, if I had to choose, I would go for Jasper. Much less crowded, a lot less "touristy", and very beautiful surroundings.
luna is offline  
Jul 20th, 2008, 05:58 AM
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Any recommended itineraries would be helpful, just to get us started. Suggestions for accommodations? Should we look at staying in one location for 5 nights as a base or move? Finally, what should we expect for lodging costs? We usually prefer being out of the towns/cities and in the mountains if possible. However, we need to try to keep our costs around $150/night.


nelcarp is offline  
Jul 20th, 2008, 10:52 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
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You will be here for the peak in fall colours (aspens in the valleys are the most colourful and peak at end of September, first week of October. Larches, which only grow as far north as roughly Lk. Louise are also golden then.)

The tourist season is starting to slow down at that point, but will still be ongoing, just not quite as busy as summer months. All paid attractions (gondolas, rafting, horseback riding, boat cruises etc.) and access roads will still be open. The peak season ends with Canadian Thanksgiving, which is October 13 this year.

Depending on weather conditions, hiking in the some areas of the sub-alpine and alpine can start getting "iffy" by then. I have hiked at higher elevations as late as October 7th, but that is not possible every year. If we have a warm, dry month in September, it may be that there is little snow or ice on the trails, but any shady or north-facing trails at higher elevations (above, say, 6000 feet) may have snowy or icy patches. At that elevation at that time of the year, it doesn't get much above freezing in the shade. I don't have a problem with slogging through snow or ice - except for when it affects footing where there is exposure and the consequences of a slip can be severe.

Besides the usual rain gear, warm layers for colder temps etc., bring a warm hat and light gloves for hiking - I keep them in my pack (and use them, on occasion) through the summer, but you will need them in Sept/Oct.

It is always a good idea to consult the trail office (Banff, Lk. L, Jasper) before heading out on the trails, to get an idea of current conditions and also animal sightings, info on trail closures etc. Parks Canada also has some pretty good free maps and trail brochures.

Be aware that the trails in the Moraine Lake/Larch Valley area of Banff National Park usually have a "tight group of four" restriction at that time of the year, for hiker safety, and most importantly, to allow the grizzly bears less interruptions to foraging as they prepare to hibernate. You can meet others at the trail head, and group up.

The fall is a very active time of year for all bears - they are feeding for up to 20 hours a day. "Bear aware" behaviour on trail is a must - be noisy and be aware of your surroundings so that you can avoid a surprise encounter.
As mentioned by Luna, that is also the elk rutting season - male elk are very dangerous at that time of the year. Stay in your vehicle when viewing (you will often find them in open areas alongside roads) and do not get too close; some hormone-crazed elk will go after vehicles to protect their harem.

Canmore/Banff/Lake Louise/Field can all be used as a base for the Banff/Yoho/Kootenay NPs, but Jasper is a little far for a day trip. If you do not want to drive as far as Jasper townsite and stay overnight, you may want to consider going up the Icefields Parkway as far as the Columbia Icefields, as a daytrip. However, I do recommend visiting Jasper... of course I am biased, having lived here for close to 30 years, but visitors, having been to Banff, often mention how "quaint", less touristy, and quiet and friendly Jasper is, compared to Banff. Jasper is about 4500 people to Banff's 8500.

Banff and Lake Louise info for accommodation can be found at I think it will be harder to find accommodation in Lk. L in your price range, as there is less to choose from there. Canmore is another town about 15 minutes east of Banff and also has lots of accommodation options. Field is a very small village in Yoho NP in Field (pop. ~200), and has a few guesthouses and the nearby Emerald Lake Lodge (definitely out of your price range).

Regarding accommodation in the Jasper area: some of the outlying cabin "resorts" (a much-overused word, I use it loosely) may be in your price range, especially the ones that are farther from town (and dining options). In Jasper NP, you might try Sunwapta Resort, about 60 km (40 mi) south of town. Pine Bungalows, just a few km from town, may also be in your price range. Pocahontos Cabins, which is about 50 km east of town, is advertising at $119 per night in October. Reviews for a lot of the accommodations in the parks can be found at

In September, there is usually some "softening" of hotel/motel rates, but in summer season, the cheapest hotels in town start at $200 and most are more. I suspect that for your time frame, $150 including all taxes, may be hard to do at a hotel or motel. Listings are at Jasper Tourism & Commerce's website:

You might want to consider private home accommodation or B&B; listings are at For a room with private bath, rates tend to be in the $80 - $100 range; more for a larger, more luxurious accommodation or one that offers breakfast. Some of these stay on their high season rates until Thanksgiving but they are still a bargain relative to hotels. Rooms cover a wide range, from basic "budget" bedrooms, to 2 or 3 bedroom suites with a full kitchen, to hotel-style rooms... price is generally a good indicator of what you'll get.

You could probably take a chance on
finding accommodation as you go - booking rooms "off the street" can be cheaper, as hotels will often drop their rates to fill their rooms as the day goes on. In Jasper, there are daily vacancy lists for both hotels and home accommodations posted at the Visitor Centre every day, with courtesy phones for free phoning. Booking as you go may save you money overall, although you may need to be prepared for the occasional night that may blow your budget, if you happen to hit a particularly busy time and have to book based on what is available rather than on price.

Hope I've answered all your questions; don't hesitate to post more!
krp329 is offline  
Jul 21st, 2008, 08:42 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 1,477
We are doing this trip a couple weeks before you . You should be able to get off season rates. I think the least amount of time to spend here is 10 days but we didn't have that much time either.

Our itinerary:
First nt: airport hotel

Next 3 nts: Hiker special at Lake Louise: Paradise Lodge
We have also stayed at Baker Creek and Emerald Lake Lodge--both very nice.
Lake Louise is closer than Banff to the hikes we want to do.

Love, love, love the drive on the Icefields Parkway. It's beautiful, so it's worth packing up an heading to Jasper. I really would prefer to stay one place the whole time, especially when only there a week--but the scenery and hikes on this drive are wonderful.

Next 2 nts: Jasper--Patricia Lake Bungalows. We stayed last visit at Beckers. Wanted to stay at Alpine Village, but they required 3 night stay. (I like the location of these 2 better)If we weren't taking 2 other couples with us, we probably would have stayed in one of the homes in town.

Drive the Parkway again---different stops this time.

Last night-- Banff--2 br suite at the Fox Suites. Afternoon flight home.

I'll post a trip report when we return. This is our third visit.

Our last visit was the first week in Sept. and we had snow flurries--so be prepared.

LindainOhio is offline  
Aug 1st, 2008, 02:18 PM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 17
I'm wondering if this is all too much of a whirlwind. I assume you are flying into and out of Calgary? I like your itinerary, but am worried - since this will be our first trip from the eastern USA - that we may miss too much in just a week's time.
What about flying into Calgary and out of Edmonton? Jeez...I'm getting crazy here with this planning!
Jody53 is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2008, 09:15 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 593
> What about flying into Calgary
> and out of Edmonton?

You are not really gaining much by flying out of Edmonton. That will save you an hour or so of driving - Edmonton airport is four hours from Jasper, Calgary's is five. I prefer the drive to Calgary down the Icefield Parkway - you are in the mountains most of the way, and once out of them, the views towards Calgary are pretty nice too. The drive to Edmonton, by contrast, is one hour in the mountains, 2 hours of forest, then one hour of farmland.

Also, there may be an additional charge to pick up a rental car at one airport and drop it off at another.
krp329 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2008, 04:50 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 1,477
I would not cancel a trip to the area because I only had a week. There are so many places in the world that I haven't been to---I prefer to find a new place to visit when we travel. This will be our third trip to the Canadian Rockies--the scenery will take your breath away. I can't wait to return.
LindainOhio is offline  

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