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salman Jun 27th, 2005 02:40 PM

Drive: Seattle - Banff - Jasper

I'm planning to drive up to Banff over the July 4th weekend. I have a intenaray in mind - and i've heard there is a lot to see in that area. If anybody could prioritize for me the places to visit/see or nice hikes in the areas, i'd really appreciate it.


Day 1 - From Seattle drive to Kamploops

Day 2 - Drive to Banff (need suggestions for sights and hikes)

Day 3 - Banff and Lake Louise and Yoho (if possible) again I need suggestions for places and short hikes (1-2 hour hikes)

Day 4 - Jasper (suggestions, please?)

Day 5 - Drive back to Seattle.

I was also wodering what the best driving option would be i.e. Trans Canada, the coquihalla or mix and what is the best direction to drive throught the icefields - Banff to Jasper or in the opposite direction? I can adjust my internary accordingly.


sunbum1944 Jun 27th, 2005 04:17 PM

HIKES- I love the hike to the tea house at Lake Louise and I loved the hike at
Johnson Canyon- they are both very popular hikes though and Jul 4 may be extra busy so not sure if you would enjoy having that much company.
Also hike/walk around Lake Moraine
The visitors center in Banff is great about helping you choose a hike -

Judy_in_Calgary Jun 27th, 2005 07:12 PM

Hello salman,

I think it will be a bit of a challenge to pull off a trip that is as long as this one will be, in as short a time as you're going to devote to it, and at such short notice.

July 1st is the Canada Day public holiday, so it's a public holiday weekend both in Canada and the U.S. The Canadian Rockies are busy throughout July and August, but all the more so during holiday weekends.

Several accommodations in smaller towns like Lake Louise and Jasper have 2-night or 3-night minimum stay requirements in July and August. I've noticed that some of the Jasper properties that do not ordinarily impose those restrictions do impose them over the summer long weekends. So finding one night's accommodation in Jasper is going to be a challenge.

Whether you should do the journey in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction depends, I believe, on accommodation in Jasper. Try to find accommodation in Jasper on what would be Night #1 and also on what would be Night #4. If you can secure accommodation in Jasper on one of those nights, grab it, and build your trip around it. Itíll be easier to find accommodation in Revelstoke and in the Banff / Canmore area.

Here are some itinerary ideas. This is laid out in a counter-clockwise direction, but it could be switched around.

Day 1 - Try to drive as far as Revelstoke, as it will enable you to do a more leisurely drive to Banff the next day. Map Quest says that Seattle to Revelstoke via the Coquihalla and Kamloops is 7.5 hours. A more scenic route would be to go through Kelowna, but that would take 8.5 hours (all times quoted are without stops).

Day 2 - Drive to Banff. That takes 3-1/2 to 4 hours. Over and above that, you'll lose an hour when you cross time zones between Revelstoke and Golden, BC. Between Golden and Lake Louise you'll pass through Yoho National Park. You could see its sights today. That would save you from coming back later. See Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls. It takes 2 hours to walk the entire lakeshore path around Emerald Lake, if you'd like to do that. When you get to Banff, stroll down the town's main shopping street before dinner.

Day 3 - Go to Moraine Lake. Go there first, because its parking lot fills up. Walk to the top of the pile of rocks at the north end of the lake, and then do the lakeshore walk. Do the hike to Lower Consolation Lake if you like. Then go to Lake Louise. Do the Fairview Lookout hike. It departs from the boat house from which they rent canoes. Itís a 1-mile, uphill walk to the lookout from which you get a good view of the lake and Chateau Lake Louise. On the way back to your accommodation, drive the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy #1A) to Johnston Cayon. Good luck finding parking. Try to walk into the canyon at least to the Lower Falls. It takes about an hour to walk to those falls and back to the parking lot. Overnight in Banff again.

Day 4 Ė Drive to Jasper. It takes 4 hours without stops. However, if you stop at Peyto Lake Lookout, the Columbia Icefields, Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls, and factor in a lunch break, it can take as much as 7 or 8 hours. At Athabasca Falls turn onto the alternative route to Jasper along Hwy #93A. Then take the turn off to Mount Edith Cavell. Stop a couple of times to look at the views of the Astoria River Valley. When you get to the parking lot, get out and walk a short distance along the Angel Glacier / Cavell Meadows hike. Itís a half-day hike, and itís unrealistic to expect to do the whole thing. However, you get pretty views along the entire route, so even doing a short bit of it is rewarding. Return to Hwy #93A, and continue on to Jasper. Depending on how much of the Angel Glacier / Cavell Meadows hike you do, this might stretch your drive to 10 hours.

Day 5 Ė Drive from Jasper to Seattle. Even if you take the shorter route along the Coquihalla Highway, Map Quest says it takes 10.25 hours without stops. Consider that youíll need to stop for lunch, to cross the border, etc. I think itís unrealistic to try to take the more scenic Hwy #1 through the Fraser River Canyon. The Coquihalla Highway in any case is quite scenic. The one factor that will help you is gaining an hour shortly after you cross from Alberta into British Columbia.

Hope that helps.

salman Jun 28th, 2005 09:44 AM

Hi Judy,

Thanks for that wonderful and detailed reply, just what i needed! Now all i have to do is secure some accomadation in Jasper and Banff.

Everybody I've talked to has advised that i should atleast spend a week in that area and i'd love to do that but i just dont have the vacation for it :( and i really want to do this trip this year.

Thanks again!

salman Jul 22nd, 2005 04:22 PM

Just thought I post a report of my trip.

Fri, July 1st 2005: Left Seattle after work around 6:00 pm, reached Kamloops around 11:30 pm and checked into thriftloge. Drive was ok, most of it was at night, took the Coquihalla with the fast 110 kms speed limit up to Kamploops.

Sat, July 2nd 2005: Left early for Jasper via Wells Gray P.P and Mt. Robson. Wells Gray P.P is a must, the waterfalls are awesome, Helmcken is amongst the best Iíve seen. Stopped at Mt. Robson visitor centre along the 16 - highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Reached Jasper around 3:00 PM. Went straight to Whistlers campground, setup camp and hit Jasper. Had an early dinner and walked around Downtown. Then went off on 93-A South to the Mount Edith Cavell lookout. Awesome glacier at its base and another one spilling over, I think, Angel its called. Saw some really interesting glacier colors. After the hike to the glacier and lots of photos and the view from Cavell lake, we went to Sunwapta Falls. Got there around sunset, walked along the canyon to the lake shore and then drove to the camp at whistlers and called it a day.

Sun, Jul 3rd 2005: Again an early start - drove to Maligne lake and canyon. Lake was ok by Rockies standards; we got there early and on the way back stopped at Medicine Lake - found it more picturesque than Maligne. Stopped at the Maligne canyon on the way back, a must especially 'til the 3rd or 4th bridge... some nice waterfalls and rock formations. After the hike at the canyon we were off for the Icefields parkway... found it to be one of the most beautiful drives. Since, we were driving from Jasper continuously found my self stopping at turn-a-rounds and vistas for the views I was seeing through my rear view mirror. Although, I did it from Jasper to Banff but I would strongly recommend to do it both ways, because I kept looking over my shoulder to see what kind of a drive it would if driving up from Banff. Stopped at some really nice glacier vistas, stopped at the Columbia Icefield, took the Brewster tour... very informative and well worth the money... but a little too commercialized for my taste. At one time they'd have 5 Brewster vehicles in a rather small area - so about 100 or so people on small section of the glacier that you're allowed to stand on. Had many-a-gulps of the glacier melt as our guide had told us it's a good anti-aging tonic. Learnt a lot about how glaciers are formed and how the visible part of the Columbia Icefield in only 2 percent of the whole. Saw the triple continental divide so if you were to spill of drop there, it could end up in the Pacific via Columbia River, Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi or Artic via (not sure). Tour finished but not my thirst for glacier water; it wasnít quite quenched so, after getting back to the visitor center, drove to the base of the glacier and started hiking up. Went quite a way up 'til there were only a few other, took a few cool photos and hiked back to the parking lot. Then continued our journey south for Lake Louise and Banff, around 3 pm, I think. Stoped at Peyto lake (another gem of the Canadian rockies) and then another lake and reached Lake Louise. Rented a canoe for an hour, soaked up some partially clouded sun, enjoyed the close-up views of glaciers at one end of the lake and the chateau at the other. Around 8 pm started driving towards Moraine lake. Got there just in time for some beautiful pre-dusk shots of the lake. The color of the lakes in unreal from milky green (Lake Louise) to turquoise and a most beautiful greenish shade of Moraine lake. Hiked up to the pile of rocks and stood in awe, it has to be one of the most picturesque spots. Took lots of pictures and then went to Johnston canyon resort and checked in for the night.

Mon, July 4th 2005: Again an early start, hiked Johnston canyon to upper falls... and again a very beautiful hike - lovely canyon and rock formations. Wonderful bridges constructed so you can get as close to the falls as possible. Nice hole through the rock to get a real close view of the lower falls and enjoy the spray. Hike took about 2 hours, wanted to go to inkpots but there was still a lot to see and not to mention the drive back to Seattle. So, went to Banff next, saw the sulfur cave Ė an ok place. Parking really misleads you... huge lot for an average spot. Then vent to Sulfur Mountain, back to Banff... drove around town and we were on the Trans-Canada again. While driving back couldnít get the most picturesque lake out of my mind so sure enough we found ourselves at lake Moraine again. Did the hike along the lake, had an early lunch at the lodge and stated thinking about our return journey through Yoho N.P.. So once again on the trans-Canada heading towards Seattle via Yoho. We saw the tunnels built by railway engineers - hats off to them for pioneering exploration of Canadian Rockies and setting up the first N.P at Banff. Stopped at Takkakaw falls - 4th highest of Canada, also on the cover of the Mountain guide (available from any of the visitor centers in Banff and Jasper). Then stopped at emerald lake and when I looked at my watch it was already 4:30 pm. After that only stopped for gas and quick bites and the border crossing. Thought about driving through Fraser canyon but it was already dark so stuck to the Coquihalla, crossed the border at Pacific highway checkpoint and was home at 2:30 am Tuesday, July 5th 2005. Went to work as usual on Tuesday morning, while returning the car I noticed Iíd put on about 1700 miles on it.

The places, the views were out of this world. The color of the lakes is like nothing Iíve seen before. Glaciers were so accessible; we could walk right up to them and drink the melt. Canada is blessed with some of the most beautiful places.

Salman Khalid
July 22, 2005

- The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to
count our blessings.

rkkwan Jul 22nd, 2005 06:23 PM

Nice report. I was also in the general area those few days.

The triple continental divide at the Columbia Icefields are Pacific Ocean (via Columbia River), Arctic Ocean (via Athabasca River) and Atlantic (via Saskatchewan River). Saskatchewan River eventually flows into Hudson Bay, which is considered part of the Atlantic system. Water from the Columbia Icefields does not flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

Judy_in_Calgary Jul 22nd, 2005 09:43 PM

Wow, salman, you packed a lot into that trip. Thanks for the report. Glad you enjoyed the scenery.

salman Aug 6th, 2005 12:54 PM

I've put up a few photos from the trip on my website. Check em out at

Judy_in_Calgary Aug 6th, 2005 01:31 PM

Great pics, salman. I enjoyed looking at the ones of the Rockies and the others as well. Thank you.

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