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Excursions in Glacier NP, Waterton, Banff, Jasper

Excursions in Glacier NP, Waterton, Banff, Jasper

Feb 7th, 2008, 04:59 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 55
Excursions in Glacier NP, Waterton, Banff, Jasper

Hi folks: Planning a trip in mid July to Glacier/Waterton, Banff, LL, and Jasper. We'll be doing a fair bit of hiking but I am wondering if there are any 'highly recommended' or 'must do' excursions/activities for which we need to make advance reservations now? Thanks. Any ideas or recommendations are welcome.
dw732 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2008, 07:06 PM
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With regards to hiking, the only trails that may require reservations are back-country, overnight trips. This is because there is a limited number of tent pads in the camping sites and you must set your tent up on one of them. If you are only planning on doing day hikes, this shouldn't be a problem.

As for hike recommendations, a little more info would be required. What are you looking for, easy day hikes, more difficult ones? What's your fitness level/experience?
ShelliDawn is offline  
Feb 8th, 2008, 12:54 PM
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In years past my wife and I have done a fair amount of hiking in that area.

In Glacier, there are 3 outstanding hikes you can easily do in a day -- assuming you are fit.

1. The Highline trail along the Garden Wall from Logan Pass. This one you can cut off at any point and return. I suggest at least going past Haystack Butte, which will be obvious to your left as you walk along the ledge of the Garden Wall section of the trail. One year we saw a herd of young mountain rams and I got some neat pictures.

2. The Grinnell Glacier. This one was great but the melting ice has reduced it to a lesser status in my book. You can save some energy by taking the boat from the front of the hotel. Check the schedule so that you don't miss the boat, literally.

3. Iceberg Lake. The trail starts near the cabins at Many Glacier. It is about 5 miles and leads to a spectacular cirque where the ice now melts by early August, even late July. The mountain walls tower 3,000 feet above you, straight up.

In Waterton, the boat ride on the lake is a good thing to do.
For real test of hiking, do Crypt Lake. You cross the lake on the boat and begin the hike. You return the same way. The hike is long, and at times steep, but rewarding.

As for Banff - Lake Louise - Jasper let me recommend most highly the terrific hiking guide by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson: The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide. Quite simply put, it is the best hiking guide in English, surpassing the almost legendary guides to the Swiss Alps by Kev Reynolds. I have the 7th edition of the guide but it is a few years old now. It is still valid because the mountains have not moved!!

In the Lake Louise area, my favorite hike is the Plain of Six Glaciers trail which starts from the viewpoint of Lake Louise near the Chateau. The trail climbs steadily westward along the north side of the lake and the glacial path toward the mountain that forms the backdrop to the west end of Lake Louise.

You can augment this hike by detouring to the Beehive. That adds length and height to the trip. You need to be in shape for this one.

My second favorite of them all is the Iceline in Yoho, just over Kicking Horse Pass. It is a steep climb up the side of the valley, but one you level off (relatively speaking) you get some stupendous view of the Yoho Valley. As you climb, look east toward Takkakaw Falls. Once you are high enough you can trace the flow of water from the Daly Glacier to thew brink. When you are higher than the brink, you get a good perspective of just how the falls are formed

The Iceline itself is one of those trails that goes a long ways with its various extensions at the end.
You can cut it off at any point and return. Or, if you are of a mind, spend two nights at Twin Falls Chalet. The Chalet is highly rustic, but it is a base for taking the Whaleback which is perhaps THE most spectacular trail in the park.

I would suggest it as a day hike, but to take the full loop is rather demanding. Again, it depends on what kind of hiking condition you are in.

If you spent the nights at Twin Falls you could do both Waterfall Valley and the Whaleback. Waterfall Valley is unmarked, but obvious. It is a high hanging valley surrounded by mountains and glaciers with Mont de Poilus being the featured point.

It is so remote that in my 3 trips up there I have yet to see another person.

It is beautiful so say the least.

There are dozens of others. Get the hiking guide, and spend three or four hours reviewing the almost endless possibilities. There is more to do in those mountains than you will do in a lifetime.
bob_brown is offline  
Feb 9th, 2008, 07:40 AM
Join Date: May 2005
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There are many great hikes to do in this area, but the one for which you will want to make a reservation is the hike onto Athabasca Glacier along the Icefields Pkwy. This is a guided hike onto the glacier that gives you a new understanding of glaciers and a very unique experience. I highly reccommend it, as long as you are reasonably fit and ready to strap on a pair of crampons (they provide them for you).There are half day and full day tours, leaving from the same place as the snocoach. I don't think you need reservations this far ahead, but it would be a good diea to make them a few weeks before the trip. I don't know the website offhand, but I know I found it somewhere here on Fodor's when I was planning my trip. You'll want to plan this hike for a day you are driving between Banff and Jasper, as it is pretty much exactly halfway between the two parks. Have fun!
msteacher is offline  
Feb 9th, 2008, 07:42 PM
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Thanks for all the hiking tips everyone! Msteacher, my father in law is going with us, 75 but fairly healthy. Would you say the Athabasca Glacier hike would be a little to strenuous for him?
dw732 is offline  
Feb 10th, 2008, 06:10 AM
Join Date: May 2005
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Hmmmmm... my guess is it would probably be too much for him. Since the hike takes place at the big Icefields welcome center, a solution might be for dad (perhaps with another member of your group?) to take the snocoach ride on the glacier, then hang around indoors at the welcome center (there's a restaurant and some exhibits to look at), while the rest of your group does the half day glacier hike.
msteacher is offline  
Feb 11th, 2008, 06:01 PM
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dw732, my father is also 75 and comes out to visit me in Jasper to hike every year in the fall. He is VERY fit - works out at the gym five days a week, cardio and weights, and has no cardio/bp or health issues - but even so, we have to be careful to "acclimatize" him because he lives almost a sea level and really feels the elevation. We don't do the higher elevation/more strenuous hikes until he's been here about a week.

The toe of the Athabasca Glacier at the Icefields is at a fairly high elevation - about 6500 ft/almost 2000 m. I would suggest you contact and ask the guide for his recommendation about it.
krp329 is offline  
Feb 12th, 2008, 02:49 PM
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Those are all good suggestions. I'm thinking it will be a little too much for him. He lives in Orange County, CA so getting aclimatized to 6000ft will take some doing. Thanks for the tips.
dw732 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2008, 05:39 AM
Join Date: Feb 2008
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thanks for the information about the hike onto Athabasca Glacier.
Any other erecommendations on the drive from Banff to Jasper? What is traffic like in July?

BarbaraDa is offline  
Feb 18th, 2008, 09:12 AM
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I think Peyto Lake is lovely. You will, unfortunately, have company at the viewpoint; every tour bus that travels the parkway stops there.

Bow Lake is another lovely view.

Parker Ridge is often closed but if it is open it makes a nice hike. The start is steep uphill, however. You wander the meadows and get a good view of the Saskatchewan Glacier.

If you stop at the parking lot on the big hill that leads to Sunwapta Pass and walk to the lower end, there is a barely marked trail that leads to Panther Falls. The plunge is spectacular, but the viewpoint is often wet from the spray.

My wife and I went down there one bright August day wearing our full rain gear - Goretex pants and jackets.

Some old geezer, about my age, was sitting on the front of his car. When we went by, he gave us a curious look. When we came back we were still dripping from the spray.

The same man was still sitting there, and still trying to figure it out. My helpful wife passed by him and said, "We went for a swim."

bob_brown is offline  

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