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From Calgary to Jasper and Back Itineray Help

From Calgary to Jasper and Back Itineray Help

Old Aug 11th, 2006, 10:08 AM
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From Calgary to Jasper and Back Itineray Help

I'm just starting to research our big vacation to the Canadian Rockies next June. We'll probably only have 9 days (8 nights) to do the whole trip. I haven't made the flight reservations, but it looks like we'll arrive in Calgary in the afternoon and depart from there early, early in the morning.

I'd like to spend a few days in the Lake Louise area, then a few in Jasper. Our last night will have to be in Calgary. Does it make sense to spend 3 nights in LL, drive on to Jasper for 2 nights, and then backtrack to Banff for 2 more nights? We need to avoid really long car trips for a couple of reasons, so we can't drive straight to Jasper from the airport.

As for lodging, we really love cabins or small lodges with great views and beautiful surroundings. Our 9-yo son will be with us, so we're not that interested in fine dining. I was thinking of Emerald Lake Lodge for the first few nights. Any suggestions for places to stay in Jasper and Banff? Baker Creek Chalets maybe?

Thanks for your help. I'll probably be posting lots more questions in the next few months.
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Old Aug 11th, 2006, 01:16 PM
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>>>>>>Does it make sense to spend 3 nights in LL, drive on to Jasper for 2 nights, and then backtrack to Banff for 2 more nights?<<<<<<

It would make sense if you had 9 nights. However, given that you've said you'll probably have 8 nights, and given that you will have to book end your trip with 2 nights in Calgary, you'll probably have to cut 1 night from Lake Louise.

If you were travelling as a couple who wanted to get away for some rest and relaxation, I would recommend Emerald Lake Lodge. Given that you will have your son with you, I don't know that it would be the best place. Its location might be just a little too secluded and a little too far from the premium hiking terrain around Moraine Lake / Lake Louise.

I think you would be better off staying at Paradise Lodge and Bungalows, which are half way between the village and the lake of Lake Louise and therefore about 1.5 miles from each or alternatively at Baker Creek Chalets. I used to think Baker Creek was 10 minutes' drive from Lake Louise village, but a recent poster correctly pointed out that, if you adhere to the speed limit on the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy #1A), Baker Creek is more like 15 - 20 minutes from Lake Louise.

By the way, Baker Creek Chalets is closer to Lake Louise than it is to Banff townsite. It would be an unsuitable property if you wanted to be close to the town of Banff.

In Jasper you could consider Alpine Village, Becker's Chalets, Jasper House Bungalows, Patricia Lake Bungalows, Pine Bungalows or Pyramid Lake Resort.

In Banff you might consider Buffalo Mountain Lodge.

I don't know when in June you want to come. If you have a choice, I believe it's better to come after the first week of June. Moraine Lake usually is not looking its turquoise best before then. You might ask if it's worth planning a vacation on the basis of whether or not one lake has reached the peak of its beauty. In my opinion it is.

But I believe you are on the right track if you're thinking in terms of June. It's less busy than July or August.
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Old Aug 11th, 2006, 02:25 PM
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Thank you so much, Judy. I was hoping you would respond. I've been studying your great website and I'm gradually getting my bearings. This trip is a really big deal to us. I want to do it right. I think we will get to Calgary early enough to drive directly to Banff or Lake Louise, so we can spend an extra day in the parks.

Any suggestions for things to do to keep a 9 yo boy happy? He likes to hike - just not all the time. Actually, he's a little disappointed we're not going in January so he can ski.
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Old Aug 11th, 2006, 03:14 PM
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Emerald Lake Lodge is about 16 miles from Lake Louise itself, right over Kicking Horse Pass.

There are some good hikes that radiate outwards and upwards from Emerald Lake.

What you do depends on how fit you are. Hamilton Lake is spectacular with a climb of 2,800 feet in 3.4 miles.
That's getting up high at a good rate.

Emerald Basin is not quite as difficult, and a tad shorter.

Around Lake Louise, the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail is the most popular, and for good reason. In early June, the far end of the trail might well have snow on it despite global warming.

In early June I would expect Lake Louise to still have ice on it.
It is at about 5,600 feet of elevation.
Moraine Lake is about 6,200 feet. It too could well have ice on it in early June.

Many of the trails will be closed that early in the season because of ice and snow.

I would make my dates in late June.

I have visited lakes at around 7,000 feet in early July and they were still 80% frozen over.

As for the trips up and down the Icefields Parkway, I recommend it.
The views are not the same coming back because the angle changes as does the view in front of you.

Allow time for places along the parkway like Bow Lake, Mistaya Canyon, Peyto Lake, the Icefields Center, Athabasca Falls, and several other dazzling views.

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Old Aug 11th, 2006, 04:55 PM
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Totally agree with Bob Brown about timing. I think the latter half of June is best. It's a compromise. At least the second half of June is better than the first half from the point of view of lakes having thawed, etc. Yet it's still early enough that you're avoiding the July and August crowds.

I believe your son would love a visit to the Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller. If you were willing to do that, you could consider this itinerary:

1 - Land in Calgary. Stay in Calgary or, better still, if you feel up to it, drive 1.5 hours to Drumheller and overnight there.

2 - Go through the Tyrrell Museum. Drive to Banff for only 1 night. It takes 3 hours if you go Drumheller - Beiseker - Airdrie - Cochrane - Banff.

3 - Jasper

4 - Jasper

5 - Lake Louise

6 - Lake Louise

7 - Lake Louise

8 - Calgary

9 - Fly home.

Something that would make the Tyrrell Museum more interesting for your son would be a hike to the Burgess Shale out of Field, BC. You cannot hike there on your own. It's a protected UNESCO Heritage Site. You can't just hike there on your own. You have to go with a government-approved guide. The hike to Walcott Quarry is very ambitious. However, there is another, more reasonable hike to the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds.

The Tyrrell Museum is devoted primarily to dinosaurs, which lived in the Late Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods that together make up the Mesozoic Era.

However, the Tyrell Museum also has a wonderful model of an ancient ocean. It depicts what the Burgess Shale looked like when it was still an ocean. The sea creatures in the model are many times larger than their actual size, which makes it easier to visualize them.

That ocean dates back to the Middle Cambrian Period, much earlier than the dinosaurs.

I think it would be neat for your son to see the display in the museum and then to see the rock formations in which the fossils of Trilobites, Sponges, etc., are visible.

Unfortunately, this website seems to suggest that the guided hikes to the Burgess Shale formations start only on July 1st:

http://www.burgess-shale.bc.ca/hikes/stephen.htm

Another neat thing you can do, since you're preparing so early, is book spots as day trippers on the Lake O'Hara bus. Bookings are cut off 3 calendar months prior to the actual date on which you want to travel on the bus.

http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/bc/yoho/activ/activ15a_e.asp

Something else that may help to make things more interesting for your son is a guided ice walk onto the Athabasca Glacier at the Columbia Icefields. He may find that more interesting than the Snocoach ride onto the glacier, which is what most tourists do. If you want to do the ice walk, reservations are essential. I don't mean you have to reserve now. But you do need to reserve some time ahead.

http://www.icewalks.com/

Hope that helps.
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Old Aug 11th, 2006, 08:48 PM
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I second the motion to visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller.

The educational program at the museum is exceptionally good and mostly aimed at children. I attended several of the presentations to see how the museum did it. Even though I ended my working career as a college prof, I picked up a few tricks from the educational staff at the museum. Never too old to learn a new technique!!

The drive from north Calgary to the museum is mostly flat, and most any of the roads will get you there. I have a provincial map of Alberta, and I just picked a route and started driving.

I think you can drive from the northern suburbs of Calgary is about 90 - 100 minutes.

In years past, the museum sold an excellent CD with a good sampling of photographs and information that was aimed at younger learners, but well enough done to convey information to just about anyone with an interest in the subject.

I bought several and gave them to various 5th and 6th graders I know.
(Not all were relatives.)



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Old Aug 12th, 2006, 07:29 AM
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Thanks Bob and Judy. The Tryell Museum sounds fascinating. We'll definitely do that.
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Old Aug 12th, 2006, 11:00 AM
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If you look around the Canadian subset of Travel Talk, you will soon find out that I have visited Alberta several times.

I live about 2,500 miles from the Rockies, but I have enjoyed every trip I have ever taken to Alberta.

If you visit Drumheller, you can drive a few miles east and begin to see what the Alberta badlands are all about.

As you travel westward, you can pass from the badlands which don't grow very much, to the fertile grain fields, to the city of Calgary, and then to the mountains.

I think you will enjoy the trip, and a little visit to the parts of Alberta that are not the spectacular Rockies will reveal a different Alberta.

As large cities go, I like Calgary. Last year we spent a little more time there looking around and meeting people. It was a good variation from our usual "run for the hills" approch.

I don't have anything to add to the list of lodging possibilities that Judy gave you. In Jasper, I have used Jasper House Bungalows and some of the "Parks Approved" private accommodations.

Around Lake Louise, I have rented an apartment in Field the last several visits. As a result, I am not up on the hotel and motel situation.

We stayed at Mount Engadine Lodge last year for 4 nights and enjoyed it very much. But that is not the kind of accommodation you need this trip.

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Old Aug 30th, 2006, 06:53 PM
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I will be arriving in Calgary around noon and plan to drive to Jasper that afternoon. What is the best route? If I am driving on the Icefields Parkway where would you recommend I stop on my way to Jasper?

I will have 3 days and 2 nights to sightsee. I was thinking I would stop at the glacier for the Sno Coach tour on the 3rd day on my way to Lake Louise. I hope to spend day 2 taking the Jasper Tram and maybe a hike to Mt. Cavell. I would also like to squeeze in a stop to Maligne Lake and Spirit Island.
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Old Aug 30th, 2006, 08:36 PM
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Hi aneckc,

>>>>>>I will be arriving in Calgary around noon and plan to drive to Jasper that afternoon. What is the best route? If I am driving on the Icefields Parkway where would you recommend I stop on my way to Jasper?<<<<<<

I answered this question in detail at TripAdvisor, so I think you're okay on that score.

>>>>>>I will have 3 days and 2 nights to sightsee.<<<<<<

My understanding is that you will have 1 full day in the Jasper area, that is, day #2 of what you are calling 3 days.

What I think you think of as day #1 will be the day you land in Calgary. So, when you touch down in Calgary (around noon if I remember correctly), it'll be all you can do to reach Jasper townsite by that evening, assuming just 1 stop for a meal along the way.

What you seem to call day #3 will be the day that you drive back down the Icefields Parkway from Jasper townsite to Lake Louise.

Let's separate out the landmarks that, while they technically are in Jasper National Park, are located along the Icefields Parkway and logically should be seen on the way from Lake Louise to Jasper or on the way from Jasper to Lake Louise, and other Jasper National Park landmarks that are not on the Icefields Parkway and that should be seen while you're based in Jasper townsite.

VISIT FROM JASPER TOWNSITE

* Maligne Canyon
* Maligne Lake (with or without optional cruise to Spirit Island)
* Miette Hot Springs
* Mount Robson (actually in Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia, but sometimes visited from a base in Jasper)

VISIT WHILE DRIVING ICEFIELDS PARKWAY

* Athabasca Falls
* Sunwapta Falls
* Columbia Icefields
* Peyto Lake (towards the southern end of the Icefields Parkway, and technically in Banff National Park, but a "must see")

FLEXIBLE

These are landmarks that are a short distance from the Icefields Parkway but, because they're at or close to the north end of the Icefields Parkway, near Jasper townsite, they lend themselves to being visited either from Jasper townsite or from the Icefields Parkway.

If you have a limited time in Jasper townsite, as you will have, you need to spend your 1 full day visiting the landmarks that do not lend themselves to being included on the drive down the Icefields Parkway back to Lake Louise.

You also need to be flexible so that you can respond to factors that may crop up, primarily weather conditions. For example, there is no point in paying for the tram up Whistlers Mountain if the top of the mountain is socked in by cloud. If visibility is poor, a canyon is always a good place to go because a canyon still looks beautiful (in some ways more beautiful) during mist and rain.

Another thing to know about Whistlers Mountain is that the tram does not go right to the top of the mountain. You get a better view if you are willing / able to do the little hike to the top of the mountain. All other things being equal, early morning and late afternoon are the best times to go. If you go in the morning, you have the sun behind you in the east when you look towards Mount Robson in the west.

I am fond of the view of Spirit Island. But you should know that the cruise across Maligne Lake gets mixed reviews on the travel discussion forums. There are people both here and at TripAdvisor who have found the cruise underwhelming. Even I admit that Maligne Lake's colour is not up to the standards of Moraine Lake, Peyto Lake, Emerald Lake and the lake of Lake Louise (all of which are in about half an hour's radius of Lake Louise).

If you do choose to do the cruise to Spirit Island, the sun is in the best position in the afternoon. The reason is that you look eastwards towards Spirit Island. If you want a good photo, it's best to have the sun behind you in the afternoon.

The opening of the road to Mount Edith Cavell varies from year to year. If I recall correctly it was about mid-June this year. Sometimes it's as earrly as the beginning of June. You will not be allowed to do the Angel Glacier / Cavell Meadows hike, because the hiking trail opens only around early - mid July, depending on when the snow melts. Even if you are not allowed to do the hike, the drive to Mount Edith Cavell is very worthwhile, because you get beautiful views of the Astoria River Valley below.

So, if conditions permit it, I suggest you spend what you call day #2 riding the Jasper Tram, visiting Maligne Canyon and then driving to Maligne Lake and taking the cruise to Spirit Island.

On day #3 (the day that you drive to Lake Louise, right?), I suggest you visit Mount Edith Cavell, and then continue down the Icefields Parkway to visit Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, the Columbia Icefields and Peyto Lake en route to Lake Louise.

Hope that helps.
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Old Aug 31st, 2006, 06:40 AM
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Thanks for your continued help Judy. Is there any hotel or motel along the Parkway closer to the glacier and other sights that I might stay at rather than continue on up to Jasper? It just doesn't seem to me like there is much to see or do in the immediate Jasper area. I'm trying to make this vacation as relaxing as possible, not trying to drive all day and rush from one sight to another. That is, I'd like to break things down to "must sees" and prioritize the rest.

One other really "stupid" question- if I go jogging on some trails in Jasper or Lake Louise, how likely am I to encounter a bear? Is that a danger?
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Old Aug 31st, 2006, 10:55 AM
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>>>>>>Is there any hotel or motel along the Parkway closer to the glacier and other sights that I might stay at rather than continue on up to Jasper?<<<<<<

Yes, there is a sort of rustic but charming place called Num Ti Jah Lodge. It’s just off the Icefields Parkway, overlooking Bow Lake. It’s about half an hour out of Lake Louise, so about an hour from the Columbia Icefields. It serves good food.

Another option is the Crossing Resort at Saskatchewan River Crossing, where the David Thompson Highway (Hwy #11) makes a T-junction with the Icefields Parkway (Hwy #93). My understanding is that in the US the word “resort” is used for a property that has extensive sports facilities on its grounds – swimming pools, tennis courts, a golf course, that kind of thing. In Canada it seems that the word “resort” can be used to describe anything from a teepee to a luxury hotel. The Crossing “Resort” along the Icefields Highway is a clean, adequate, motel-like property with a restaurant that is one notch up from greasy spoon. The Crossing Resort is about an hour from Lake Louise, so about half an hour from the Columbia Icefields.

There also is a motel-like property at the Columbia Icefields. Again, it’s clean and adequate for an overnight stay. The restaurant there is uninspiring, maybe not quite greasy spoon, but nothing to write home about either. The Columbia Icefields is roughly half way between Lake Louise and Jasper, so about 1.5 hours from each.

There is a property at Sunwapta Falls that is supposed to be quite pleasant. I have eaten at its restaurant, and it’s very respectable – notably better than those at the Columbia Icefields and Saskatchewan Crossing. Sunwapta Falls is 40 minutes or so beyong the Columbia Icefields, so about 50 minutes from Jasper townsite.

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Old Aug 31st, 2006, 10:56 AM
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>>>>>>It just doesn't seem to me like there is much to see or do in the immediate Jasper area.<<<<<<

It’s not the end of the world if you don’t visit Jasper. But Jasper National Park does have a few things to offer. In my opinion Jasper NP’s Maligne Canyon is better than Banff NP’s Johnston Canyon. The road from Jasper townsite to Maligne Lake gives you an above average chance of viewing wildlife. We have had better luck with wildlife sightings on that road than on any road in Banff National Park. Although the views from all of the gondolas / trams in the mountains are beautiful, the one from the top of Whistlers Mountain outside of Jasper townsite is better than the one from Sulphur Mountain outside of Banff townsite (provided one is willing / able to do the extra hike to reach the top of Whistlers Mountain). The drive to Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park is my favourite side road in the Canadian Rockies. It is one of those roads where the journey is every bit as important as the destination. The views from Cavell Road down to the Astoria River below are absolutely lovely. Another thing that Jasper National Park has going for it is that it receives “only” 2 million visitors a year, compared with Banff National Park’s 4 million. Fewer guided coach tours make it as far as Jasper, so there are fewer buses, and there just are fewer people in general. I like that.

But even after I’ve said all that, you still don’t need to go to Jasper.

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Old Aug 31st, 2006, 10:57 AM
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>>>>>>I'm trying to make this vacation as relaxing as possible, not trying to drive all day and rush from one sight to another.<<<<<<

Okay, fair enough. I can understand that, and it’s an approach I like to take when I go on vacation. But, if that is your philosophy, I don’t really understand why you would want to transfer from Canmore to a property along the Icefields Parkway. Whether you transfer to the Icefields Parkway or to Jasper, you’re still going to have to pack up your suitcase, check out of one hotel, check into another hotel, unpack, etc. If you are going to transfer from Canmore to another spot at all, then I think it makes sense to go all the way to Jasper. Jasper is only 1.5 hours beyond the Columbia Icefields. There you have a much bigger selection of accommodations and restaurants than you have along the Icefields Parkway. Although Jasper is no great metropolis, as we’ve discussed before, it is in a very pretty setting.

If I was going to transfer from Canmore to some other place for the night, my personal preference would be to transfer to Jasper. Otherwise I would stay put in Canmore for another night.

If you did the Columbia Icefields as a day trip from Canmore, included stops at Peyto Lake and Sunwapta Falls, and factored in a lunch break, the entire return trip would take 8 – 9 hours.

If you really want to spend the night somewhere along the Icefields Parkway, I would say the place at Sunwapta Falls (Sunwapta Resort or something like that) would be your best bet. If you went only as far as Sunwapta Falls on that day and did not need to drive back to Canmore, you would have time to fit in a hike that departed from the Icefields Parkway, maybe Parker Ridge or Wilcox Pass.

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Old Aug 31st, 2006, 10:57 AM
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>>>>>>if I go jogging on some trails in Jasper or Lake Louise, how likely am I to encounter a bear? Is that a danger?<<<<<<

Well it’s not very likely but it is a finite possibility. The problem with running (and for that matter bicycling) is that it is a silent activity that suddenly may bring you face to face with a bear. Bears don’t like surprises. They like to have warning that you’re coming. If they are wild, have not been habituated to humans, and are aware of your approach because of noise or whatever, they generally will avoid you. If you confront a bear suddenly, he/she does not have a chance to avoid you and is forced to confront you.

In June 2005, a 36-year-old resident of Canmore was killed by a grizzly bear. She was running with two friends on a hiking trail near Silver Tip Golf Course. As the trio rounded a corner in the trail, they came face to face with a grizzly. One woman climbed a tree, while the other two women slowly backed away. Although the two companions did not see it happen, they heard their friend’s screams as the bear pulled her down from the tree and killed her. The victim left behind a 5-year-old daughter.

Since 1993 there have been 27 significant encounters between humans and bears in Alberta, and two of those encounters have proved fatal. In addition to those significant events, there have been many minor bear-related incidents. Your chances of being injured or killed in a traffic accident are a lot higher than your chances of being done in by a bear. Still, there is a small but finite risk of finding yourself in an argument with a bear.

If I was going to run in the mountains, I would look for an open area where there were no trees. The Banff Recreation Centre, with a soccer / rugby field and a running track, sounds like a good bet to me. In Jasper townsite, Centennial Park has a soccer / rugby field and three baseball diamonds. The paths around Vermilion Lakes just to the west of Banff townsite are in a flat, open area. There are few flat, open areas in which to run in the Lake Louise area. I guess you could run on the lakeshore path, but you would need to do it early in the morning before the day trippers arrived.

If I were you, I also would ask at the Visitor Information Centre in each mountain resort town. The staff who work in those places are really good about answering questions, and they have up to date reports on the conditions of various trails. They are an excellent resource, not just for this question but for any question you may have while you’re visiting the mountains.

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Old Aug 31st, 2006, 10:58 AM
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Oops, sorry, I didn't mean to say "more" at the end of that last post. I'm done.
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Old Sep 1st, 2006, 09:01 AM
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Hi Judy- thanks again for all your help and advice. This is what my plans are shaping up to with your help.

Fly into Calgary around 1200. Rent a car and drive out to Columbia Icefields Chalet for 2 nights. Perhaps stop in Canmore for lunch and gas if not earlier.

Depending on time, may drive further north to Maligne canyon and Lake. Possibly do boat trip to Spirit Island.

Day 2: early morning Snow Coach ride to Icefields before tour buses. Afternoon drive and hike out to Mt. Edith Cavell.
Do I have time to squeeze in Athabasca Falls sometime too?

Day. 3: drive to Lake Louise with stop at Peyto Lake. Check into Paradise Lodge and Bungalows

Day 3,4,and 5 : Lake Louise- hike around lake, Gondola ride, canoe on Lake.

Banff hike to teahouse, gondola ride. Maybe do a coach ride and BBQ on the way back.

Moraine Lake either early morning or late afternoon after tourists leave. Hike to pile of rocks, canoe, picnic lunch.

Day 6: leave early for flight out of Calgary.

What do you think? Any other suggestions?
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Old Sep 1st, 2006, 12:02 PM
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>>>>>>Fly into Calgary around 1200. Rent a car and drive out to Columbia Icefields Chalet for 2 nights.<<<<<<

The idea of driving to the Icefields Chalet for your first night is fine. The idea of spending TWO nights there is a mistake, in my opinion. The restaurant there, as I think I have mentioned before, is one notch up from greasy spoon. There is nowhere else to eat for miles around.

>>>>>>Perhaps stop in Canmore for lunch and gas if not earlier.<<<<<<

Once you leave Calgary’s western city limits, there are virtually no opportunities to stop for gas or to eat until you reach Canmore, an hour away. There are a couple of truck stops between Calgary and Canmore, but they have very minimal facilities. I certainly do not recommend them, except in an emergency.

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Old Sep 1st, 2006, 12:03 PM
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>>>>>>Depending on time, may drive further north to Maligne canyon and Lake. Possibly do boat trip to Spirit Island.<<<<<<

To drive from the Columbia Icefields to Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake, do the cruise to Spirit Island, and drive back to the Columbia Icefields would take a MINIMUM of 7.5 hours, not counting time for a meal. Time requirements are as follows:

1.5 hours – Drive from Columbia Icefields to Maligne Canyon.
1.0 hour – Walk in Canyon
1.0 hour – Drive to Maligne Lake
1.5 hours – Cruise
1.0 hour – Drive from Maligne Lake to Jasper townsite
1.5 hours – Drive from Jasper townsite to Columbia Icefields
---------------------
7.5 hours – TOTAL
---------------------

The reason that the drive to Maligne Lake takes longer than the nominal distance may suggest is that the speed limit on Maligne Road is 60 km/h (38 MPH).

By the way, the speed limit on the main highways in the mountain national parks is 90 km/h (56 MPH).

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Old Sep 1st, 2006, 12:06 PM
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The rest of your itinerary is fine.

Yes, you can fit in a stop at Athabasca Falls en route to Mount Edith Cavell.

RECOMMENDATION : You would be able to expand your trip to include the Jasper stuff if you were willing / able to add 1 night to your itinerary.

I also highly recommend that you go to the websites of Travel Alberta and Tourism British Columbia, and order their FREE maps and travel guides.

Travel Alberta would give you material on Banff and Jasper National Parks. Tourism BC would give you material on Yoho and Kootenay National Parks (in case you also want to see Takakkaw Falls and Emerald Lake, which I believe you could work into your itinerary).

Once you have maps and travel guides, I believe you will be able to get a better handle on driving distances and times.

Hope that helps.
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