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Glacier National/Waterton vs Banff/Jasper

Glacier National/Waterton vs Banff/Jasper

Jul 23rd, 2004, 10:35 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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Glacier National/Waterton vs Banff/Jasper

How does Glacier National Park (Montana)/Waterton compare with the Banff/Jasper parks ? I have not seen much mention of them on these discussions.

We have very limited time - 5 whole days & the morning of the 6th day - not including travel - with a 7 yr. old who luckily loves hiking short trails. We arrive & depart from Calgary - plan to rent a car.

What would be a recommended itinerary to cover Waterton/Glacier, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper ? I am trying to nail down my overnight locations first to get lodging.
SDeb is offline  
Jul 24th, 2004, 05:23 AM
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I think you can do it all. Some may say it's just a drive-by, but you will see alot. Most definitely take a day to drive the 'Going to the Sun' road in Glacier. It's stunning. Also go to Waterton to see the bears; they're everywhere. Maybe stop at the Prince Of Wales Hotel, a grande old lodge (think a VERY 'upscale' Old Faithful Inn!) for a beautiful view.

However, IMHO there is nothing like the Canadian Rockies and you might want to spend the majority of time there. First, Lake Louise is just a stop, look, and photo-op IMO, (altho there are trails nearby) as St. Mary Lake in Glacier is just as beautiful.

You will need at least 1/2 - 1 day to drive the Icefields, as they are spectacular! Plan more time if you take the SNO-COACH on the glaciers! But it will be COLD so you may choose not do too much hiking with a child...we didn't but still felt we saw everything. You will see ALOT on the drive and from the look out points. And you will never forget what you see!

BTW, we stayed for two nights in Canmore at the Best Western Pocatella Inn (great indoor pool w/waterslide!)to explore the banff/jasper area, one night in GLACIER NP and one night at St. Mary Lodge (wouldnt recommend that lodge, however) and saw it all.

Hope this helps a little. Have a wonderful time!
ellen_griswold is offline  
Jul 24th, 2004, 06:28 AM
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The Canadian Rockies are amazing! We honeymooned there ages ago and went back with our children last year. You can definitely do some great hiking with your 7 yr old, not a problem.

At Lake Louise there are a couple trails that you could do, and you can also make them into a big loop if you want to do a full day hike. The trails are the Lake Agnes, the Big Beehive, and the Plain of Six Glaciers. There are tea houses at both Lake Agnes and the Plain of Six Glaciers which is a good treat for kids and adults alike.

There is Johnston Canyon which is on the Bow Valley Parkway, sort of between Banff and Lake Louise. The lower and upper falls are very pretty and a very whort walk to both...continue on on a real trail and head up to the inkpots and back. You get away from some crowds this way too.

There is so much to do up there and I know our children really enjoyed it and wished we had more time.

Depending when your trip is, definitely get reservations as far ahead as possible. We really like Baker Creek Chalets.
mms is offline  
Jul 24th, 2004, 02:19 PM
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Banff park is considerably more than the town itself, which has grown to the size of a small city. It is just as crowded, if not more so, than downtown Calgary or Edmonton.

In thinking of the area, I am always amused by the fact that no one mentions Kootenay and Yoho parks which immediately adjoin the other two.

The Icefields Parkway is a long, beautiful drive. To do it justice takes more than just one day. I keep finding places to visit along the parkway each time I drive it.

If I had to select one over the other, the Lake Louise Area, which includes Moraine Lake, and the various high points around both lakes, plus Yoho, plus the Icefields Parkway, plus Jasper would be my pick.

I have driven the Sun Road quite a few times. While it is a scenic route, the Icefields Parkway has more to offer in my view.

If you decide to do both, do Glacier NP USA first because I think the Icefields Parkway will eclipse it.

Geologically, Glacier and Waterton are part of the Canadian Rockies. The rock formations in Waterton and Glacier are so ancient that they contain no fossils with bony parts.
bob_brown is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 07:18 AM
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Hi, When are you going? It is very cold even in the summers which might make a difference with your child in terms of hiking.
We did a similar trip several years ago and were able to see everything. We didn't hike very much since we had small children at the time but felt we got a great overview of the area and you can see everything pretty well from look out points. We were very happy we didn't focus too much time on one particular area since our time was limited, so we did get to see everything. We might go back but as everywhere we travel, I would rather see everything *a little* then just *alot* of one thing. Just my opinion but it works well for us.

I would also suggest just driving the Going-to-the-Sun road with a stop at St. Mary's Lake, its beautiful. That could take almost a day but less if you watch your clock. I would only spend 1/2 day hiking around the Lake Louise area, also beautiful but similar to other lake areas. Then the rest of the time I would spend in the Banff and Columbia Icefields area. We didn't take the SNOCOACH because someone had just fallen in and died right before we arrived and it totally freaked us. Happy trails!
audra is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 09:19 AM
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As an experienced hiker in the Canadian Rockies, in fact I just returned, I never found it cold even at elevations of 8,000 feet except on the icefields where we were standing on ice. But nobody stays long on ice surfaces without knowing what they are doing.

In July and August, even hiking the Iceline Trail, which skirts the Emerald Glacier, can be warm to hot if the sun is shining.

I will admit that hiking in a sleet storm one mid September day above tree line had the potential to be cold, but under my Goretex jacket all I had on was a short sleeve shirt. The Polarfleece stayed in my pack. I did have on rain pants over long trousers, which kept my lower half too warm.

People on that day who had no protection at all from the elements probably thought it was miserable. And I did see some badly equipped hikers.

A whole group was making an excursion from Takkakaw Falls to Emerald Lake with virtually no equipment other than one guy who had a huge knife strapped to his high boots. When the sleet came, we had parted company, so I don't know how they fared, but I can imagine their situation.

Conversely, a new mom with her baby and her sister were out hiking, too.
Auntie had the baby in a child carrrier with a zip-up hood. Mom kept peeking in, and made sure the baby was warm and happy. The two ladies had the right equipment, so the sleet was of no real consequence for them, or for us.
bob_brown is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 09:33 AM
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SDeb, you don't say what time of year you're visiting. To confirm what Bob said - during a 3-week hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies, we barely used anything heavier then t-shirts, and then, only in the alpine areas for a short while. At times it was hot. Audra must have hit on some unusually cold temps, which I've heard CAN happen here. Be prepared, but don't be surprised if you don't need much cold-weather protection!
Molly2 is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 11:38 AM
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I guess it depends on an individual perception of *cold*. When we were there in late July - early August, it never got past the mid 50's in the town of Banff. Our hotel front staff told us it was *normal*. I vividly remember one clerk saying she wears gloves most of the year! But we weren't complaining as it was still incredible being there.

Driving through the Columbia Icefields it was 33 degrees, and snowing periodically. The day at Glacier was a bit warmer, a sunny mid-60's. To this northeastern girl who toughs out each winter, that is still cold for *summer vacation*. We wore jeans, sweatshirts AND jackets every day in Canada. Still had an awesome time, however!
audra is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 01:38 PM
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Wow, audra - mid -thirties! We were there mid-July, and it was 70s-80s every single day for 3 weeks, with sunny skies almost every day. We thought "what an ideal climate"! I guess the weather there really does vary a lot.
Molly2 is offline  
Jul 25th, 2004, 08:09 PM
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Thanks a lot for all the info. We will be there the week of Aug.1 - a week away. Checked the weather this week & it seemed to be in the 70s.

Here is our schedule - need to fill in appropriate activities - suggestions appreciated.

Fly in July 31, 11 pm - out Aug. 6, 2 pm - Calgary.

Day 1 (Aug. 1)- Glacier National Park, overnight at Waterton
Day 2 - Quick Waterton Park look, get to Banff - see/do something in the evening, overnight at Banff
Day 3 - Banff area, overnight at Banff
Day 4 - Lake Louise, Icefield Pkwy Drive, take Snowfields tour, get to Jasper, overnight Jasper
Day 5 - Jasper all day, but need to drive back to Canmore - will be a long day, overnight Canmore
Day 6 - Something to do till 10 am - drive back to Calgary

Sounds ultra hectic even as I type this in, but as Audra said, we would like to do a little bit of everything on this trip.

Let us know what we should definitely not miss. Thanks again for your suggestions.
SDeb is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 05:59 AM
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Cheer up SDeb - the current forecast for the beginning of next week is for temps in the low 80's!!!
By the way, the average temperature for Banff and Jasper in August is not in the low 50's. Although it may be "normal" to occasionally get those kind of temperatures, the "average" is significantly higher than that.
What really marks the difference in the mountains is the way the temps plummet at night. Even when the days are hot, the nights will be really cool (and the early mornings are wonderfully invigorating!!).

Besides taking short hikes, I would recommend taking the gondola up to Sulphur Mountain (there's a boardwalk at the top with lovely views of the Bow Valley and Banff townsite), and/or the tram up to The Whistler's in Jasper (spectacular view of the Athabasca River valley, and some 50 miles to the west - the top of Mount Robson is visible on a clear day - it's the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3954 m (that's 13,048 ft above sea level if I did the conversion math correctly).

In Jasper there's also a nice not very long (but rocky) walk at Mt Edith Cavell to the "toe" of Angel Glacier - you can see most of the little glacier from the parking lot, and can walk as much or as little of the path as you like (or have time for).
Another short (but uphill) walk in the Jasper townsite area is Old Fort Point which takes you to a viewpoint of what is geologically termed a "hanging valley".
If the weather is rainy, the path around Lake Beauvert at Jasper Park Lodge is a nice little walk.

Have a great time in the mountians!!
Borealis is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 11:52 AM
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After spending the day in Jasper, driving back about to Canmore may be a problem. It is not a quick a drive, even without sightseeing stops. According to Parks Canada, driving from one end of the parkway to the other, varies from 3 to 5 hours, depending on traffic.

carolynn is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 12:06 PM
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Hello SDeb,

For your Waterton to Banff drive, you could take Hwy #2 north to Calgary and then Hwy #1 (the TransCanada Highway) west to Banff.

However, you probably would have taken Hwy #2 south from Calgary to Waterton/ Glacier in the first place, so I wouldn't recommend retracing your steps.

It would be more interesting to get from Waterton to Banff via Hwy #22 (affectionately known as the Cowboy Trail).

To do this, take Hwy #6 from Waterton to Pincher Creek, then Hwy #22 north to Longview. At Longview turn west onto Hwy #541, which will turn north and become Hwy #40. This will take you through Kananaskis Country. At Seebe turn west onto the TransCanada (#1) Highway, which will bypass Canmore and take you to Banff townsite.

I've never done that route from Waterton to Banff all in one go, so I don't know how long it takes. I would guess 4 hours, not counting stops.

Here's a map of the route:


In the Lake Louise area, I highly recommend a stop at Moraine Lake (off on a 9 mile side road from Lake Louise).It is very worthwhile to take the short walk to the top of the pile of rocks at the end of the lake. The view from there is beautiful. The Moraine Lake parking lot really fills up on a summer's day, so it's worth doing this as early in the day as possible, and certainly before Lake Louise, which has a larger parking lot.

On the way from Lake Louise to Jasper, the Peyto Lake lookout is very worthwhile.

You might spend your short time in Canmore by driving to Spray Lakes Reservoir in the mountains just south of the town.

Suggest you have lunch at Calgary Airport prior to checking in for your flight. The airport has a decent food court, and the Delta Hotel, which is right inside the airport complex, has a nice restaurant. Once you check in for your flight, go through immigration and customs formalities, and wait for your flight at the departure gate, the selection of food is less inspiring.

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 12:08 PM
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In my experience, those estimates that are given by various organizations (Mapquest, AMA, Parks Canada) always overestimate the amount of time that it will take to drive any route.

Jasper townsite to Lake Louise will take about 2 hours, Lake Louise to Banff townsite will take another 45 minutes, and Canmore is a mere 10 minutes past that. If you do it all in one go without any stops, you should be able to drive that route in 3 hours (or a few minutes more). Five hours is vasty overestimating the time. Plan for 3 to 3.5 hours. [by the way, we have driven Jasper to Calgary in less than five hours.]
Borealis is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 12:52 PM
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Judy, as usual has great suggestions. If you do take hwy 6 from Waterton to Pincher Creek, I believe you join up with Hwy #3 at Pincher Station and from there you travel to Lundbreck where there is the turnoff to Hwy #22. But, my suggestion if you do take that route, take an hour or two and visit Lundbreck Falls and then on up to the Crowsnest Pass (only about 10-15 mins. after the Hwy 22 turn off) and see the Frank Slide. It is worth the time.

Hwy #22 is a beautiful drive, right throught the foothills of the rockies and the huge ranching country of Alberta.

You can't miss with the suggestion to travel this route.
2jacks is offline  
Jul 26th, 2004, 02:29 PM
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It sounds hectic indeed, especially with a 7 year old in the car. I've been to Glacier and Banff, but not Jasper. The geographies are similar between the three parks. Personally, I wouldn't want to spend that much time on the road. L. Louise is in a beautiful setting and an incredible location. I'd spend more time there and maybe stay up in Jasper. As much as I liked Glacier, I'd skip it and focus a bit more. A week isn't much time for a part of the world so rich in scenic beauty and hiking opportunities.
Orcas is offline  
Jul 27th, 2004, 08:12 AM
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Is there any reasonably priced lodging between Jasper & Banff/Lake Louise that we could stay at instead of driving all the way in one go ? 3 hrs. does not sound too bad if there is no option.
SDeb is offline  
Jul 27th, 2004, 08:27 AM
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Hello SDeb,

There is very little accommodation between Jasper and Lake Louise, and you would be very lucky indeed to find space in an Icefields Parkway property at this late date.

I think you would be well advised to drive till at least Lake Louise for your last night. That's about as far west as I would want to stay if I had to drive to Calgary and catch a plane the next day. If you stay in Lake Louise, depart for Calgary an hour earlier than you would have departed from Canmore, i.e., 9 am instead of 10 am.

However, if you're unable to find accommodation in the small village of Lake Louise at this late stage, I wouldn't worry about it. Just press on till Canmore for your last night, but in that case I think it would be good to leave Jasper by mid afternoon of the day you do the Jasper to Canmore drive.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  

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