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Canadian Rockies in late June, 2018

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Decided to book June 20 to July 2 due to our other summer plans. Hoping the weather will be find for hiking. Contacted two places ( Lake Louise area and Jasper area) and neither are booking yet! Thinking we'll do 3-4 nights in Lake Louise to start, then 4-5 nights in Jasper, then 2-3 nights around Banff area. Better off staying in Banff or in Canmore? Realize our last weekend will be national holiday, so assume big crowds then.
Also, are there things to do that we should book in advance?
We like to do 1/2 day hikes most of the time, but could stretch it for something special.

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    Sounds like an excellent plan!

    Generally by late June, barring a very snowy spring, most trails will be safe/in condition for hiking. The exceptions might be the higher alpine trails like the Alpine Circuit at Lake O'Hara. Also, the full meadows trail at Edith Cavell often isn't open until July so the delicate alpine flora has a chance to dry.

    With Canada Day (July 1) on a Sunday, many people will likely have the Monday as an 'in lieu' day. Most kids will finish school the week before, and tourist numbers generally ramp up to peak numbers by mid June. So expect a very, very busy weekend.

    With that in mind, I think you are wise to do Lake Louise first. For the holiday weekend, you could stay in Canmore and explore Kananaskis Country and trails around Canmore. It will still be bustling, but those areas don't attract the big bus tours or the major bulk of the tourist numbers.

    On holiday weekends, it's not uncommon for accommodations to only take full weekend bookings, or at least prioritize longer bookings until much closer to the date. So your best is to plan to be in one place for the final Fri/Sat/Sun nights. Canmore is a very nice alternative to Banff, but it's not going to be any less busy that weekend. The advantages would be (possibly) slightly cheaper rates for accommodation and a less touristy feel.

    I think your suggested itinerary would work well, but you'll want to have your accommodations booked sooner rather than later. Most places actually are taking bookings now, but there are a handful of hotels and some PHAs (Jasper) where bookings may not be accepted until early 2018 or later. There's no harm in making a booking with a good cancellation policy now, then changing your plans if something else more appealing opens up later on.

    It sounds like hiking is one of your main foci, so I wouldn't limit yourself to half day hikes. There are a lot of hikes that are either longer, or can extended beyond a half day to make them more relaxing/less strenuous. For instance, you could easily spend more than a half day doing a loop of the two teahouses at Lake Louise. That gives you time to hike a relaxed pace, enjoy the teahouses and stop to take pictures/rest/enjoy the scenery.

    Other than accommodations, there's nothing you need to book now. There are a number of paid attractions & tours, but despite the sometimes heavy marketing, none are necessary to enjoy the area and some get rather mixed reviews. Additionally, many are weather dependent, so locking yourself into a date/time ahead of time isn't necessarily a good idea.

    While not cheap, the gondolas can be a great way to see the views if the weather is good. The Jasper Skytram is excellent, and the Banff gondola gets good reviews.

    If you like hiking, there's also the option to take gondolas/chairlifts at Lake Louise or Sunshine. Those can be done as stand-alone, or in combination with hikes accessed from the lifts/gondolas. I'd probably opt for Sunshine, as the gondolas/lift combo gets you way up and meadows are beautiful. Needs to be booked in advance, but not until at least late next spring.

    There are boat tours of Maligne Lake and Lake Minnewanka - the former is probably the more scenic. But it depends on whether that appeals to you & your budget.

    The other main paid attraction are the SnoCoach or IceWalk tours on the Columbia Icefields. The former is packaged with the SkyWalk, which gets decidedly mixed reviews and takes a chunk out of your day. If you are hikers, the latter might be a lot more appealing as they are 3 or 5-6 hr walks/hikes on the glacier with a certified mountain/alpine guide. They allow you to see much more of the glacier than the tiny roped off section for the sno-coach tours. The snocoach tours don't need to be booked - they leave every 5-10 minutes all day. The IceWalks are only offered once or twice per day, so should be booked well in advance, especially for weekends.

    Besides those main attractions, there are a variety of half to multi-day tours. I'm guessing the ones that might appeal to you are guided hikes and wildlife tours. Those probably won't take bookings until sometime in late Spring 2018.

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    You'll love the Sun setting in Jasper...

    at 10:22pm on June 25!

    I was in the area a month earlier than that, this year, and it looked and felt quite cozy temperature-wise, in many ways.

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