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katherinebw Jul 9th, 2015 05:36 PM

Forming itinerary--Moraine Lake to Jasper to Banff Springs this Sept.
We land in Calgary in early September and stay for 10 days. We will start at Moraine Lake Lodge (3 nights), Jasper (4 nights), and finish at Banff Springs (3 nights). I'm hoping you kind folks can help me organize our trip logically, i.e. in what order should we see things from point A to point B to point C. Here are my questions:
1. Is Johnston Canyon north or south of Lake Louise?
2. We will take all day on 9/6 to get from Moraine Lake to Jasper. What stops should we make going north from Moraine Lake to Jasper and how much time should we reasonably allow at each stop? One thing we will skip is the glacier bus tour.
3. What to see going south from Jasper to Banff Springs, again taking the better part of a day?
4. Would it be best to take a packed lunch on the Icefields Pkwy between Lake Louise and Jasper?
5. How difficult is the Plain of Six Glaciers hike?
6. Is Athabasca Glacier closer to Jasper or Lake Louise?
7. Has anyone gone horseback riding in Maligne Canyon (I think we could stand about 2 +/- hours).
8. Where is Beauty Creek in Jasper? Would you recommend it as a stop?

Thanks so much.

kgsneds Jul 10th, 2015 07:46 AM

1) Johnston Canyon is south (more or less) from Lake Louise - it's between Banff and Lake Louise.

2) People seem to spend 6 - 8 hrs for the drive. Where you stop is up to you - there are lots of waterfalls, lakes, viewpoints. The big ones seem to be Bow Lake, Petyo Lake, Mistaya Canyon, Athabasca Glacier (even without the tour), Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls etc. There is a good map of the scenic places on the Parks Canada website:

3) It really depends on your interests, what you didn't see on the way north and the weather. If the weather isn't good when you're going to Jasper, then this would be your chance to really see stuff. If you hike, you may want to stop for hikes on one or both days.

4) That is always my suggestion - there are only 4 places with food between Lake Louise and Jasper. A couple have decent food, but the prices are high and they can be very crowded with bus tours. Better to have your own lunch so you can stop wherever is convenient and enjoy lunch with a view.

5) It's probably moderate, but it really depends on your fitness and comfort on rocky/a bit exposed trails. I think it's maybe 400m elevation gain over about 5km. For most it would probably be about 4 hrs round trip, though there are lots of connector trails so you can do lots of variations. The trail is pretty much flat until near the end of the lake, then starts upwards from there. Very pretty, striking views. The steepest part of the trail is probably the incline up from the lake, and then last stretch before the teahouse.

6) Closer to Jasper, but not by that much. People do day trips there from both Jasper and Lake Louise.

7) No, but it's probably not a place I would choose. If I were going to do a nose-to-trail trail ride, I'd want somewhere with better views. The canyon is nice, but really easy to explore on foot and I believe the bridle path stays high up so you don't really get to see the more interesting parts of the canyon.

8) I haven't done this area, but have heard great things about it. It's a short hike and north of the Athabasca Glacier towards Jasper.

katherinebw Jul 10th, 2015 05:03 PM

Thank you so much, kgneds. I didn't have a comprehensive map that showed all of these places. I did get a book out of the library today that had a pretty good map, finally. The black and white maps in the tour guides were not helping me, which probably made me sound like a bonehead. I can't wait to get there.

katherinebw Jul 11th, 2015 05:09 AM

And thank you also for the map. It gives me everything I need!

MollyBrown Jul 12th, 2015 07:12 PM

You can't really go wrong with the above reply. All the trails will be great in September and the crowds will be low. We are experiencing some forest fire in Jasper and around maligne right now, but still be nice.
If you are looking for a great place to eat in Jasper try Evil Daves... Just yummy food.

Myer Jul 15th, 2015 10:40 AM

And nobody has mentioned the most beautiful of all next to Moraine Lake.

About 5 miles south of the north entrance to Jasper Park (this is several miles below Jasper there's a road that leads to The Path of the Glacier Loop at Mt Edith Cavell.

If you Google it you can get detailed instruction.

It's about a 10 mile drive and at the end of the road is a large parking lot. My first time there we had to park on the side of the road as the parking lot was full.

Then you have A 2/3 mile hike along one side of the valley until you are opposite the most spectacular glacier - Angel Glacier.

Go to Google Images and look for Angel Glacier.

Go in the morning so the sun will be to your back when you face the glacier.

Just below the glacier is a waterfall with the run off from the glacier. Then you have the milky-white lake with the run off.

Truly a spectacular sight.

Hopefully this link will take you there.

kanunu Jul 22nd, 2015 08:24 AM

Lots of good ideas noted above. Be prepared for the possibility of snow hanging around for a few days, but it will melt when the inevitable warming occurs. It does punch up your photos, with the mountain tops bright white against the deep blue sky.
Angel Glacier is a good destination. I am partial to the Moraine Lake area, lots of good hikes, and spectacular viewing opportunities near there.
You might consider the Parker Ridge Trail, near the Icefields. Great views up there, that you can't see from the highway. I can't see taking that Glacier bus ride, to hear all about glaciation (for the 100th time in my life!)
And while you are out that way, go all the way to Maligne Lake - I've always enjoyed the boat ride, there.

Myer Jul 27th, 2015 03:36 PM

Make sure that when at Moraine Lake you climb the Rock Pile and spend time at each viewpoint. Not only that, I would go at different times of the day.

If I had to select my favorite spots in the Banff Jasper area they would be (in no particular order) -

Johnston Canyon all the way to the 2nd waterfall
Mistaya Canyon
Moraine Lake top of the Rock Pile
Angel Glacier
Bow Lake lookout

We tried the Beauty Creek hike twice. On the way north towards Jasper and then on the way back.

Going north we saw several waterfalls but none that look spectacular. Then it started to thunder and rain so we cut that off.

Going south we started again and went a bit farther than the first time but we had other more important things to do and had to end up in Calgary.

katherinebw Jul 29th, 2015 04:12 AM

Thank you both so very much for this great information. We have put Angel Glacier and Parker Ridge trail on the itinerary.

kgsneds Jul 29th, 2015 08:22 AM

I would choose Wilcox Pass over Parker's Ridge if you have time for only one. Wilcox offers a number of excellent viewpoints over the Athabasca Glacier/Columbia Icefields. You can hike 45 minutes or so to the first viewpoint or continue as long as you like up into the alpine pass.

panecott Jul 29th, 2015 11:13 AM

I think all the information you've been given is great. I would just add that no matter where you go along your route, it will be spectacular. Frankly, you just can't go wrong in the Canadian Rockies.

Good idea to skip the bus tour of Athabasca Glacier, however, a climb up to the glacier on your own is definitely worthwhile. It's directly across from the Visitors' Center.

I did a similar trip to yours last September, except I finished in Canmore rather than Banff. It was glorious.

Presumably you will visit Lake Louise from Moraine Lake. Try to get there early to beat the crowds and the buses. It makes all the difference.

katherinebw Aug 10th, 2015 05:13 AM

Thanks again! Will include Wilcox Pass on the itinerary and assess as we go along. Panecott, your trip report was so helpful in planning our trip. We do plan to visit Lake Louise while at Moraine Lake and hope to get there by 7:30-8:00 a.m.

Myer Aug 10th, 2015 07:05 AM

Something you should be aware of especially if photography is an interest.

The drive between Banff and Jasper (towns) could take a lot longer than you would expect.

This is because there is a lot of great roadside scenery there.

katherinebw Aug 10th, 2015 01:23 PM

Thanks, Meyer. We do plan to take the entire day up and then back to Banff towards the end of our stay, because photography is an interest. BTW, we leave from Newark at 8:00 a.m. on a Thursday. I'm just checking the "processing time" and they are saying we should be there by 5:00 a.m. Three hours ahead of flight? We don't check bags... Have y'all arrived three hours ahead?

katherinebw Aug 10th, 2015 01:24 PM

And, Meyer, I've very much enjoyed your trip reports, too. You must be a professional photographer?

panecott Aug 10th, 2015 02:08 PM

katherine, you go thru' customs on the Canadian side so there will be a long line for that, then another line for security.

I can't imagine how busy it would be at 5 a.m., but better safe than sorry.

Glad my TR was helpful, and I look forward to reading yours when you get back.

katherinebw Aug 11th, 2015 12:54 PM

Panecott, how early did you get to Calgary for your return flight?

Myer Aug 11th, 2015 07:54 PM


Not a professional but a long time hobbyist.


panecott Aug 12th, 2015 05:05 AM

katherine, I honestly don't remember.

I had an afternoon flight and drove from Canmore and I know I gave myself plenty of time. I'd guestimate I got there about 2 hours in advance.

kgsneds Aug 13th, 2015 12:57 PM

Are you talking about needing 3 hrs leaving from Newark or leaving from Calgary?

Frankly, I find international departures from Newark to be a bit of nightmare. It might depend on your airline, but it always seems to be a zoo, with staff who aren't very helpful, poorly signed and you can get stuck behind someone who is having issues with the machine/passport/visa/language. I'd be inclined to leave extra time - once you get past security it's a nice terminal, so not a bad place to hang out.

Returning via Calgary, you will need to go through US immigrations/customs and security. So I would leave at least 2.5 hrs. First thing in the morning can be very busy as there are a number of flights leaving and security/immigrations aren't open 24-7.

panecott Aug 14th, 2015 05:25 AM

I just realized she was asking about leaving from Newark. I read it as "for Newark".

Anyway, I'd get there at least 2 hours in advance. I hate hanging around airports waiting, but it's much better than rushing if you're late.

katherinebw Aug 23rd, 2015 06:01 AM

We've resigned ourselves to getting to Newark the asked-for three hours in advance, which means getting up at 3:00 a.m. We travel simply--one carry on, so hopefully it will be painless. Our return flight from Calgary leaves at noon, so that won't be any problem.

On another note, has anyone heard of any wildfires in Banff or Jasper going on now? Trying to get this info on the internet is surprisingly hard, at least for me.

And thank you again for all this valuable information.

kgsneds Aug 24th, 2015 09:41 AM

As far as I know, there are no active wildfires in Banff or Jasper National Parks. We had quite a bit of rain and snow last Friday, so conditions have improved considerably.

Parks Canada is usually good about posting info on fires that affect trails/facilities - look on the page for each park as well as on the Facebook sites for each park.

That said, there are quite a few fires burning in Washtington, Montana, BC and probably elsewhere. Those fires are causing significant smoke issues in various locales (today is bad, but I think it's supposed to be much better tomorrow).

However, conditions in terms of smoke change very quickly, so it's hard to predict more than a day ahead of time. You can see smoke forecasts here:

katherinebw Aug 27th, 2015 06:37 AM

Thank you. Hope things improve over the next two weeks. Looks like it's going to be a bit rainy, and I guess we'd better be ready for some snow as well.

katherinebw Aug 27th, 2015 06:51 AM

Another thought-- After arriving at Calgary around noon, would it make sense to stop at Johnston Canyon and see that, and then perhaps Lake Louise, then dinner at Station House or Outpost Pub before going on to Moraine Lake Lodge and checking in? Reminder, we are in our late 60s but quite active. We would see everything we could at the Lodge over the next two days, then go on to Jasper, spending the entire day on the Icefields Pkwy enroute.

kgsneds Aug 27th, 2015 09:52 AM

Smoke has gotten worse - but rain is supposed to arrive to today, so things should hopefully be better by the weekend.

If your flight arrives around noon, you'll probably be headed out of the airport between 1 to 1:30pm at the earliest.

I would actually suggest stopping in Canmore for a late lunch and to pick up any picnic supplies you might want. The supermarkets there are just off the highway with lots of parking - much easier than trying to get to either market in Banff. Lots of nice options for a meal in Canmore and I suspect you will be hungry after your flight.

From there, I think you'd have time to see Johnston Canyon if the parking situation is OK. I'd leave Lake Louise for the next day - better to get up bright and early and spend a day exploring there. Since you are staying at Moraine Lake, you don't have to worry about dealing with the traffic to get up there.

I'd also definitely check out what guided tours Moraine Lake Lodge is offering. I believe they are free or low cost for lodge guests and look excellent - and a way to do some the trails that require a minimum of 4 people.

katherinebw Aug 27th, 2015 11:28 AM

Sounds like a good plan, thanks again. We have already signed up for the guided walks at the Lodge. They also give talks in the evenings. We are so looking forward to this trip. BTW, I just called the Lodge to reconfirm and get their GPS address. They told me GPS doesn't work up there and just go to the village and follow the signs to the lake.

katherinebw Aug 30th, 2015 07:43 AM

Now it seems like there may be snow for a day or so next week. Yikes. What activities would you suggest on days when visibility may be very low?

kgsneds Aug 31st, 2015 08:17 AM

GPS certainly works up there, but cell reception might be iffy. GPS uses satellites, not cell towers. That said, you do not need GPS to find the lodge. There's only one way up there - head towards Lake Louise, turn left on the road to Moraine Lake and go all the way to the end.

I wouldn't worry about snow - likely to be at only higher elevations. And melt off very quickly. Even then, it probably would occur at night or early in the morning.

If the weather doesn't cooperate for one day - which isn't unusual at all - then you do lower elevation hikes, check out museums in Banff, soak in the hot spring or just relax at the lodge. I hiked in rain this past weekend - as long as you are not in exposed areas or on slippery rock, it's doable and there were certainly more than a few folks waiting out the rain at the teahouse. I think it only actually rained for an hour or two out of the whole day.

katherinebw Sep 1st, 2015 05:58 AM

Thank you again, kgsneds. Your help has been invaluable to us. Will do lower elevation hikes... And thankfully the weather report this morning looks a bit better for the next several days than it did.

kgsneds Sep 1st, 2015 11:48 AM

As a note, they've announced that Johnston Canyon will be closed - all trails/access - starting September 8. Apparently they are doing major upgrades - probably at least partly spurred by the incident this summer in which a boy was badly hurt by a falling tree.

I don't know your exact dates, but you will need to visit Johnston Canyon by the 7th if you want to see the falls.

katherinebw Sep 1st, 2015 01:14 PM

Thank you! We plan to see it on either 9/3 or 9/4.

panecott Sep 2nd, 2015 05:21 AM

Have a great trip, Katherine.

katherinebw Sep 2nd, 2015 12:37 PM

Thanks so much!!

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