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Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper itinerary - only 3 days !

Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper itinerary - only 3 days !

Old Jun 3rd, 2003, 08:15 PM
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Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper itinerary - only 3 days !

We are planning to travel to the Canadian Rockies in early July -- unfortunately we only have 3 days, arriving Thurs night and leaving Sun afternoon! I was hoping that folks who've been there might be able to give us some advice on our itinerary.

We definitely want to do the Icefields Parkway drive, but we are wondering whether we should try to do all three places (Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper), or either skip Banff or not go all the way up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper.

One possible itinerary would be --

Thurs : fly to Calgary, arrive at 8pm, drive to Banff (or stay in Calgary area)
Fri : explore Banff area, drive over to Lake Louise, do some short hikes around Lake Louise or Moraine Lake
Sat: drive up Icefields Parkway part way to Jasper National Park, turn around and return to Banff in the evening
Sun: spend the morning in the Banff area, then drive back to Calgary and fly out mid-afternoon

or if we are willing to do more driving, another possible itinerary would be --

Thurs : fly to Calgary, arrive at 8pm, stay in Calgary area (or Banff)
Fri : drive to Lake Louise, do some short hikes around Lake Louise or Moraine Lake
Sat: drive up Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park
Sun: wake up early and make long drive back to Calgary from Jasper, fly out mid-afternoon

In either case, things are pretty rushed, but unfortunately we just have the 3-day weekend. Any thoughts/ideas would be really appreciated!

Thanks, Josie
JosieK is offline  
Old Jun 4th, 2003, 07:10 AM
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I live right by the mountains and make frequent trips skiing, hiking and touristing with visitors. I would never attempt what you have planned. It is too hectic and you will spend all of your time in the car. Here is what I suggest:

Thurs: Stay overnight in Calgary and start your trip fresh the next morning.
Fri: Hit the road about 8 am and drive to Banff. Near Exshaw get off the Trans Canada and take hwy 1A. You are more likely to see Bighorn sheep. Although it will be busy, do the Johnston Canyon Hike off of 1A heading towards Lake Louise. Head back to Banff for a dip in the Hot Springs. Enjoy cheese fondue at th Waldhaus Restaurant by the Bow Falls. Head into town for nightlife or crash.
Sat: Drive to Lake Louise and see sites there. Visit Moraine Lake on way down. Go to the Ski Hill and take Gondola ride up. Back in car drive west again stopping at Spiral Tunnels for a few minutes. Back in car head west again and right by Kicking Horse campground take road up to Takakaw Falls. Walk to bottom of falls and remember your raincoat. Stop in Lake Louise for dinner at Train Station rastaurunt. Go back to Banff for night.
Sun; Brunch at the Banff Springs Hotel. Head back to Calgary.
I hope this helps you out. Driving up to Jasper for such a short period is a waste of time.
Sorry I can't tell you where to stay in Banff. We always camp.
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Old Jun 4th, 2003, 07:42 AM
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if you really want to do the parkway then i would choose your second option. stay in jasper for the night and drive back early in the morning.
however, as wonderful as the parkway and jasper are, i think you'd enjoy your whole experience more if you just stayed in banff (and i'd drive there the night you arrive to wake up in the mountains) and explored the banff/lake louise area. it is still spectacular even if you don't see the parkway.
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Old Jun 4th, 2003, 08:02 AM
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Where your upcoming trip to the Canadian Rockies is concerned, you might be trying to squeeze in a little too much. I would omit Banff and focus on Lake Louise and the Icefields Parkway. There will be plenty of daylight, for travel. You might put in a 12 hour sightseeing day, but that is not uncommon in that territory.

I am not sure I would drive to Banff after a 8 pm landing in Calgary. By the time you clear immigration control and get your rental car, the time will be nearly 9 pm. You would arrive in Banff after 11 pm. There are many good hotels and motels on the northeast side of Calgary fairly near the airport. By staying there, you would be in a position for an early start the next morning.

The road from the Calgary airport south to the Trans Canada Highway is a good one. Traffic is usually light for the first 4 or 5 miles.
We stay(ed) at the Greenwood Inn, which is fairly good. I am sure there are better, more expensive places. But this one has ample parking and the rooms are decent.

From Calgary you could drive directly to Moraine Lake and Lake Louise that first day. Visiting that area could take most of the day.

You could on that second night, Thursday, stay at the Crossing on the Icefields Parkway. There is a motel, restaurant, gas station at the point where the David Thompson Highway joins the Icefields Parkway.

The next night, Friday, you could spend in Jasper, and the third night, Saturday, return to Banff or Canmore. Sunday, do it as you have planned.

You don't want to cut airport arrival to thin if you are flying back to the USA from Calgary. US bound passengers must go through US immigration control before boarding. I know this sounds funny, but INS has an agent in Calgary and all identities are checked there.

In recent years I have taken my passport with me. I find it makes life easier when entering Canada and returning home. Highway crossings have gotten more strict since 9/11 -- most of it paranoid almost. Airport immigration control, both coming and going always has for me been much more strict than highway crossings, up until now.

For example, last year at the Chief Mountain entry station, the US official looked at my passport and then asked a series of questions -- even though most of the answers were in the passport. I guess he wanted to see if it was really me, like the picture was not the right one.

I think that the most beautiful sights around Lake Louise are the lake itself and Moraine Lake. The walk along the north shore to the lake and along the glacial outwash plain toward Mount Victoria is know as the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail. It is spectacular, but sometimes crowded. The total distance from the parking lot, past Chateau Lake Louise, and along the lake shore to the end of the trail is about 3.5 miles.

After that Moraine Lake and Lake Louise, I like Takkakaw Falls which is about 17 miles away in Yoho NP.

From Yoho you could drive to the Crossing and have the whole next day to explore the Icefields Parkway.
In Jasper, there are 3 good activities:
visit Mount Edith Cavel for a look at the Angel Glacier, ride the cable lift up to the Whistler, and visit Maligne Lake. The boat ride on the lake is ok, but nothing stupendous. The cable car lift up to the Whistler is fun, but not a must. The Angel Glacier is a must in my opinion.

When I drive south on the Icefields Parkway, I always seem to see a new view. I don't think you will be easting your time returning that route.

You also have the option of leaving the Icefields Parkway at the Crossing on the David Thompson Highway. This route leads you to the town of Rocky Mountain House and Red Deer. If you have a good map, you can dodge around Red Deer on secondary roads. These roads are fine, light traffic, and mostly straight.

The first time we were out there in 1987 we spent one night at the Crossing and then spent most of the day along the Icefields Parkway. We spent two nights in Jasper, visiting the attractions I mentioned above. Then we drove to Banff from Jasper.

You will not be able "to do it all", but you will have time to see some spectacular scenery. When I am out there I am reluctant to quit. You may be the same way once you get there and the adrenalin starts pumping. Even at 70 after many visits, I still get enthused about being there.
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Old Jun 4th, 2003, 06:00 PM
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Hi, JosieK. We do "compressed" vacations, too, and have done one like what you are considering. I agree with the posters who suggested skipping Jasper. You would be spending a lot of time just driving and probably would have a more memorable vacation stopping for scenic hikes and roadside picnics. Since you are arriving in Calgary at 8 PM, you might want to consider driving part way to Banff. Stop at Canmore the first night. Lodging is less expensive and you'll be only about 30 minutes away from Banff. You'll awake to breakfast in the Rockies. I'd take hwy 1A as JanieC suggested, but save sight-seeing and shopping in the town of Banff for later. If you get an early start on Friday, I'd go to Johnston Canyon. It is beautiful, but does get over-run with tourists later in the day. Continue on 1A to Lake Louise. At Lake Louise, you can hike up to the tea house for a snack or climb one of the peaks (Big or Little Bee Hive) or go canoeing on the lake. The views are inspiring. Also, be sure to see Moraine Lake, especially later in the day (around 5-6 PM) when the sun is behind the ten peaks. If you are photography buffs, this is the time to take pictures. Dine at Moraine Lake or the Post Hotel (bar for informal dining - same food as the dining room). Return to Banff or stay in Lake Louise. I would choose the latter, if you want to go up the Icefield Parkway to Athabasca Glacier on Saturday. Snowcats will take you onto the Glacier or you can walk on it. On the return trip, stop at Peyto Lake. On Sunday, have early brunch at Chateau Lake Louise or Banff Springs Hotel. As Bob_Brown mentioned, you will go through US immigration in Calgary, so leave time for this in your plans. Enjoy your trip!
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Old Jun 4th, 2003, 09:21 PM
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This is all great advice! Thanks so much JanieC, ltt, Bob Brown, and PoohBear !

We will definitely take the 1A, go to Johnston Canyon, and spend some time around Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. The main question for us will probably be whether to drive the Icefields Parkway, and if so, how far up to go -- e.g. PoohBear suggested to drive up to Athabasca Glacier; or go all the way to Jasper.

Bob, your itinerary is terrific but it does assume one more day than we actually have -- we arrive in Calgary on Thurs night, not Wed night. Bob and Pooh, thanks also for the good advice on passports and leaving time for US immigration!

JosieK is offline  
Old Jun 5th, 2003, 05:53 AM
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Sorry I miscounted. But we are really splitting hairs here and trying to get all we can in a short time period.

I think a better way to look at it is this: You will see a lot and you cannot really go wrong with what you see.

Moraine Lake from the rock pile near the parking lot is beautiful. If you walk to the other end of the lake and look back, the scene changes.

Lake Louise is best viewed early before the mobs arrive.

Takkakaw Falls is a very high stream of water. Its source is the Daley Glacier well out of sight from the valley floor. If you walk from the parking lot to the plunge basin, be prepared to hear a noise like a jet engine and to feel considerable spray from the falls.
I think the falls are the most interesting when seen from the opposite side of the valley, about 1,500 feet up. The problem is time.

At any rate, think of this trip as a scouting mission and start planning your next visit. If you are like me, I enjoy returning to the area.

If you elect not to go all the way to Jasper, I think the Icefields Center is a good destination. I once rode the glacier crawler onto the glacier and thought it was interesting.

There is also a museum/visitor center there and a motel. The motel has some nice rooms, but it is a little pricey.

This question came up at a good time because I am thinking about what I want to do with 3 days in the region.
I have seen most of it before and am in the position of what to see this time.

Gimpy joints are now a fact of life and darn it all, they force compromises and limitations. No more 10 mile hikes in the middle of the day.

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Old Jun 5th, 2003, 12:58 PM
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JosieK, Athabasca Glacier may be a bit of a stretch; it's about 20 miles from Jasper. However, if you are really energetic and don't mind long days (i.e. finishing dinner at about 11 PM), you would be able to make the drive and spend time out on the glacier. However, if you are really into hiking and climbing, I would save this for a return adventure.

On my first trip to the Rockies, I had 1.5 days post conference to explore. I did only short stops (20-30 minutes) and saw Banff, Lake Louise, Moraine, Hector, Bow, and Peyto Lakes and Johnston Canyon. I brought box lunches and stopped to picnic along the roadside (1A and the Icefield Parkway). Whatever you do, you'll have a memorable trip and want to return again and again.

Forgot to mention in the previous post, at Canmore, you can see three magnificent snowcovered peaks, the Three Sisters, right from hwy 1.
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