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Banff - Jasper weekend itinerary October

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Need some ideas for trip itinerary - arriving at Calgary mid October, arriving Thursday morning, will rent a car, flying out from Calgary on Sunday noon. My first visit to the area.

What can I cover on a long weekend? Hoping to include Lake Louise, Jasper, maybe Emerald Lake in Yoho.

What activities are available during October? Is kayaking an option?

Any recommendations for cabins?

Many Thanks,


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    Your time is very limited - if you arrive in the morning, you can certainly be out in the mountains and have some part of the day to enjoy.

    However, if you are flying directly to the US on the way out, you will need to clear US immigrations and customs in the Calgary Airport. So you need to arrive at least 2.5 hrs in advance (earlier if you are coming on our holiday weekend - Oct 11-13) not counting time to return the car. This means leaving Banff/Canmore around 7:30-8:30 am for a noon flight - depending on weather, traffic and your location.

    So you really have 2.5 days at best for sightseeing. Considering also the rapidly shortening days, going to Jasper is not realistic. I would stay in Banff or Canmore, then do day trips to Banff, Lake Louise and the southern portion of the Icefields Parkway.

    Mid-October can be anything from pleasantly cool to totally wintery in the mountains. Temperatures are already slipping below freezing on many nights, and snow would not be at all unexpected in mid-October (already had some this year and more forecast tomorrow). Though, in the valleys it likely would not stick all day. At Lake Louise and along the Icefields Parkway, the snow could be there for good.

    So kayaking is out - some of the higher lakes could even have a film of ice by then! You also most likely will not be able to go to Moraine Lake or Takkakaw Falls since those roads are shut in very early October.

    Your best bet is to focus on short walks and hikes in the lower elevations, and enjoy the late fall briskness and possibly some pretty earlier snow. On a good clear fall day, you could have great views from the gondolas or hiking viewpoints. Plus chilly evenings are perfect for going to the hot spring. Definitely bring lots of layers, hat, mitts and good water/weather proof shoes.

    A suggested itinerary:

    Thursday - arrive, get rental car and drive to Banff - purchase your Parks Pass as you enter Banff National Park on the TransCanada or buy it ahead of time online at the Banff Lake Louise tourism website (you'd need three days worth of passes).

    Depending on timing, perhaps lunch & a short walk in Canmore on your way to Banff, or go straight to Banff and use the rest of the day to explore Banff townsite. This includes the museums, Bow Falls, short walks along the river, the gondola (if the weather is good), the hot springs (go later in the evening to escape crowds) etc.

    Friday - head out to Lake Louise and the Icefields. There are limited to no dining options past Lake Louise (most, if not all of the hotels shut after October 13) so bring a packed lunch and get gas before you are past Lake Louise. Usually people will go as far as the Athabasca Glacier/Columbia Icefields, and stop at places like Bow Lake, Peyto Lake etc.

    Saturday (this day can be flipped with Friday if Friday's weather isn't good) - depending on your interests and the weather, you could do more in the Banff area or head to YoHo. In YoHo, check out the Spiral Tunnels, Emerald Lake (walk around the lake if the weather is good) and if the weather is nice, it might still be good for the shortish hike to Wapta Falls.

    To airport

    As a note, October 11-13 is a holiday weekend here. If you are planning to travel that weekend and you haven't booked accommodation and restaurants yet, do it ASAP and expect that options may be limited.

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    As to cabins (sorry missed that on my first read through), there are some options in Banff. Short terms rentals are not permitted in the national parks, so accommodations in cabins tends to be part of lodge style hotels or backcountry cabins. At the lodges, cabins usually contain 2-4 rooms, so are not private cabins.

    Paradise Inn and Moraine Lake Lodge in Lake Louise have cabin style lodging, but the latter shuts on October 2 and the former probably no later than October 13. Emerald Lake Lodge in Yoho has cabins, though I'd check to see if they are open (some hotels in Lake Louise and Yoho will close between Thanksgiving and early December since it's a very quiet time of year). Baker Creek Chalets has cabins I think, though you would want to be closer to Calgary than there on your last night. In Banff, I know there are a few places, possibly Tunnel Mountain Resort and Storm Mountain.

    All legit options in Lake Louise and Banff are listed here:

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