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Canadian Rockies: when to go, where to base?

Canadian Rockies: when to go, where to base?

Old Jan 2nd, 2012, 06:15 AM
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Canadian Rockies: when to go, where to base?

I'm planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies this spring/early fall (trying to avoid the crush of July/August) and was wondering if someone could help me decide if late June or September is a better time to visit Banff and Jasper. I've already consulted climate charts and it seems the weather is about the same, maybe slightly wetter in June? I'd prefer to go in June (since it's sooner!) but can wait till September if it really makes a big difference weather-wise and crowd-wise. We're planning on hiking (day-hikes, no camping) and just general sightseeing.

Also -- if anyone can help me figure out what would be the best base(s), that would be great too. We have about 9 or 10 days in the area and would like to see at least a bit of Banff, Lake Louise, Icefields, Jasper and Yoho.

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2012, 08:52 AM
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I would recommend late June or very early September. I have family from the area and they always warn against venturing into the mountains in the September time frame due to road closures and possible early snowstorms, which are not uncommon.

I would recommend staying within the park itself. Depending on what you are looking for, Banff is a great "base" option since there is plenty to do there in the evening such as shopping and entertainment. We stayed at the Fox Hotel & Suites for a few nights and were very happy with our stay there.

Lake Louise, on the other hand, is a small village and thus more quaint. We stayed there for two nights, but were bored during the evening.

If I had to choose when to go, I would opt for late June. Better to go when everything is thawing out for the year instead of the reverse. Plus you can see the grizzlies in Lake Louise during June. We saw three while taking the Lake Louise Gondola ride, and it was great experience. The Icefelds are also a must do.

Hope you have a wonderful time!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2012, 01:07 PM
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When there last I rented a convertible carrentals.com drove up from Calgary and road tripped around Fairmont Banff Springs
Chateau Lake Louise were my favs.June best for me.It is awesome. canadianrockies.net good info also the Rimrock
Banff is nicecheaper www.otel.comforme last Have fun!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2012, 07:05 PM
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I prefer late Aug. or early September. There is still a lot of mud and some snow in June. I think last June some of the lakes still had ice in early June.

We are hikers, usually only have a week, but still split our time between Banff or Lake Louise and Jasper. We prefer to stay in Lake Louise rather than Banff because it is closer to the hikes we enjoy. I would rather just stay in one location for the entire visit but I would never want to miss Jasper and the driving the Icefields Parkway.

Globalgirl is right, there is no night life in Lake Louise. We are up early, so by the time we clean up, have a happy hour, and go to dinner--we are tired. We do enjoy the Outpost Restaurant at the Post Hotel.

I have a trip report listed here. Click on my name to find it. I'm sure there is a way to link the report but I'm not sure how to do that.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2012, 03:59 AM
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Lake Louise isn't even a village. Of course there won't be any night life.

But it does have the spectacular Moraine Lake. I could just sit on top of the rock pile for hours watching the view change as the sun comes up and casts different light.

We were there in mid-July, weren't crushed by crowds and felt that a couple of weeks later might have been a bit better.

In June there will still be snow and a fair amount of mud.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2012, 02:59 PM
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I like Jasper in late September or even October. I generally arrive on the Canadian (ViaRail). I always stick to the paved highways if there is any threat of snow.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2012, 05:39 PM
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Fall is our favorite time to visit this area, usually mid-September to early October. Gorgeous!

In Jasper we have stayed at Patricia Lake Bungalows, it's just outside town on a lake in a peaceful nature setting yet just a couple of minutes from town.

Banff has a slew of places to stay, and we usually opt for timeshare. But know that Canmore is also an option (about 20 minutes from Banff township).

We stayed at the Deer Lodge in Lake Louise, just a short walk from the Fairmont but an entirely different atmosphere - more of a rustic chalet. http://www.crmr.com/deer/

Allow upwards of an hour to travel from Banff to Lake Louise, as the speed limit is not too high. Take the Bow Valley Parkway and you may well see wildlife (mountain goats, big horn sheep, elk, etc.)
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Old Jan 5th, 2012, 05:30 AM
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The best time is September.We always had wonderful weather.For Jasper check out Becker chalets,great place.Paul
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Old Jan 5th, 2012, 08:49 AM
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We went mid September and had temps from -3 to 23 so can vary, We spent 2 nights in Banff, 1 Night in Lake Louise 2 nights in Jasper then drove back through icefields and stayed another 2 nights in Banff.
Agree with another person not much to do at night at Lake Louise, went to Fairmount for dinner then back to village. If when you leave Banff and you want a stop try this place for lunch or brunch Baker Creek Chalets on the Bow Valley Parkway in between Banff and Lake Louise,
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Old Jan 6th, 2012, 02:25 PM
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Thanks for all the replies... I guess it sounds like September might be better than June. Too bad, I was hoping to go sooner!

I'll be sure to check on all your lodging recs as well.
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Old Jan 8th, 2012, 11:11 AM
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For hiking, I would recommend early September (first three weeks only) over June. Even in mid or late June, some of the higher trails and passes are still snowbound; in early June, there can still be avalanche hazard on some trails, depending on how much snow there is through the winter and how warm the spring is. Things can start getting "iffy" again by the end of September, with snowy or icy trails up high. Some popular trails are closed until they have a chance to melt and dry up, to limit the damage to fragile alpine areas that can occur when people start walking off the trail. (The growing season is so short up there that damaged can take many years to regenerate.) These include the Parker Ridge trail near the Columbia Icefields, and the Cavell Meadows train, one of the best day hikes in Jasper National Park. September also has the advantage of no mosquitoes. June isn't too bad usually, except that by the end of the month, their season is starting.
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Old Jan 13th, 2012, 02:08 PM
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Im going to piggy back on this thread... would late July or early August be too bad with mosquitoes in this area? I suppose "too bad" is subjective, but are the mosquitoes so bad that one can't be out in the evening?
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Old Jan 23rd, 2012, 09:50 AM
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if your able to do late august / september, by FAAAAAAR, september is the month in these rockies. last several years has provided for the best summer period in September, most stable snowpack up in the elevations for hiking, and amazing warm days, long nights.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2012, 09:51 AM
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sorry, saw another post about mosquito's... again is why September is the rockies month... bugs gone inby middle august
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Old Jan 25th, 2012, 09:59 AM
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We were there in mid-July and in some places, mostly forrest trails, mosquitos were an issue. Forgetting the bug spray in the room also didn't help.

I was out taking photos early and late and it wasn't an issue.
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Old Feb 25th, 2012, 08:00 AM
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Thanks again for everyone's help so far... after some more research, I have another question. Would it be feasible to base in Canmore for daytrips to Lake Louise/Yoho, or is that too far? I'm finding the accommodation prices in Banff/Lake Louise to be a bit out of my budget, but Canmore seems more doable.

I'd like to limit the moving around from inn to inn as much as possible, but don't want to spend too much time each day on the road just getting to hikes either.

Right now the plan is to base in Canmore to see the Banff/Lake Louise/Yoho region, then move on to another base in Jasper for a few days.

Let me know what you think!
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Old Feb 25th, 2012, 09:08 AM
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We've done that before and felt it was very workable. In fact, we've also stayed at a timeshare about 20 minutes out of Canmore to the east (farther from the park) and felt that was ok as well.

Canmore is certainly less expensive, and is a worthwhile place on its own.
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Old Feb 26th, 2012, 06:00 AM
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We also found that Lake Louise/Banff had expensive lodging, but if you go in Sept. there are often discounts--especially around mid September. I kept checking for deals on my refundable reservations. For a quick check go to www.kayak.com.

We like to stay in Lake Louise because it is closer to the hikes we enjoy, an easy 40 minute drive to Yoho, near Moraine Lake, Lake O'Hara and at the start of the Icefields Parkway. We drive into Banff on rainy days and for one night dinner.

We booked a 3 nt hiker special at Paradise Lodge in Lake Louise that was our most expensive lodging--but they also include a very nice breakfast buffet--not a hot entree but very nice.

I have heard good things about the hostel in Lake Louise--I hear it is horrible in winter when a lot of ski bums stay there but pretty nice in the summer when mostly families are there.

There are a lot of hotels in Banff and the rates should be pretty good in Sept. If you are travelling alone, there are some rooms for rent in local homes.

There are a lot of roomsa available for rent in Jasper but Patricia Lake is very affordable--not the more upscale Grove, butthe original cabins and rooms at Patricia Lake. We loved sitting on the dock with a bottle of wine at sunset.

I know a people do stay in Canmore--we haven't stayed there. It would add some driving time to get to hikes. We generally like to just pick a condo/hotel, stay there a week and do day trips. When we visit this area, we split our time between Banff/Lake Louise and Jasper.
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Old Feb 26th, 2012, 07:47 AM
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The past 2 times I've been in the area I stayed in the Jasper area. Both times were in late October so September should work for you. Be sure to visit a hot spring. http://www.hotsprings.ca/
Patricia Lake was a WWII top secret site where the Brit and Canadian military were trying to learn how to make an aircraft carrier of Pykrete (frozen mix of ice and sawdust).
I prefer arriving in Jasper by train to flying to Calgary.
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Old Feb 29th, 2012, 10:19 PM
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tuscanlifeedit, that is the height of the mosquito season, but where they are is very localized. There will hardly be any in built-up townsite areas, but if you are in forest, especially montane forest near lakes or wetlands, or subalpine forest, which is generally damp-ish, they'll be pretty thick. (There is one area called "Mosquito Creek" just north of Lake Louise; there's also a "No-see-um Creek" near Saskatchewan Crossing.)
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