More questions Banff/Jasper NP vacation

Apr 25th, 2006, 10:37 AM
  #1  
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More questions Banff/Jasper NP vacation

Our planned visit is now 7 adult "hikers", arriving in Calgary ~ 1 PM on a Thursday mid-July and returning at 1 PM the following Friday, giving us 2 half days to travel and 7 full days to enjoy the Canadian Rockies. We have decided against trying to see Waterton, and want to stick with the Jasper/Banff NP areas for the most part. The suggested itinerary with Judy_in_Calgary's help is roughly:

Thursday after arrival- Drive to Jasper NP, stopping to see some of the landmarks along the Icefields
Parkway.

Fri, Sat, Sun - From the Jasper base, explore Jasper National Park.

Mon - Drive back down the Icefields Parkway, stopping to see some of the things
you missed on the way up. Set up new base in Lake Louise or Banff area.

Tue, Wed, Thur - Explore Banff and Yoho National Parks.

Fri - Set out for Calgary ~ 8 AM to make a 1 PM flight

We are starting to look at some of the specifics and have come up with some questions:

(1) Three hikes we would like to do are Moraine Lake, Parker Ridge, and Plain-of-Six-Glaciers. Any suggestion for timing or other great hikes?

(2) Horseback riding---is it worthwhile use of time in the NPs, and preference to do this in Jasper or Banff areas? Suggested stables?

(3) I have also read from some that they preferred having a base of operations closer to Lake Louise area as opposed to Banff, as more of the hikes and activities are in that direction. I don't remember how long it takes to drive (with summer traffic) from Banff to Lake Louise. Becker's Chalets don't have availability so we are trying to decide about staying closer-but-outside of the Banff town itself. If we stay in Douglas Fir or one of the Banff lodges will it take us a lot of time to "get out of town" to head up the Icefield Parkways each day? We want to maximize our time 'outside' of our car(s).

(4) Also, I have read about people taking a side trip to Emerald Lake; is that a good side trip? Some hiking there? How long to get there from Banff/Lake Louise area?

(5) Rafting, biking, or canoeing---has anyone done these in either park and what was their experience like? Do you need wet suits for the water? What companies did you use?

(6) Recommended restaurants in Jasper and Banff? We aren't looking for fancy surroundings or show...just good basic food. Particularly we like to have a good breakfast and find maybe a place that will pack lunches for hikes.

Thanks for all your suggestions/help!


philsbert1 is offline  
Apr 25th, 2006, 01:15 PM
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Hmm. The distance between Lake Louise village and Banff townsite is about 39 miles, depending on where to where.

The driving time is about 40 minutes, depending on traffic.

I am not sure I understand the reference to Becker's Chalets because it is in Jasper.

Parker Ridge is a fairly short hike, and is often closed in the early season because the surface is very fragile and easily destroyed by foot traffic.

Moraine Lake is a fairly short walk along the north shore. You can go all the way to the far end of the lake and look back. It is more spectacular from the parking lot end.

There are some other, longer hikes in the area. Consolation Lake being one of them.

The Plain of Six Glaciers trail goes about 3.4 miles from the hotel end of the lake to the teahouse. You can go beyond the teahouse to the rock wall of Mount Victoria which will extend your distance about another .3 miles.

If you want more, add the Beehive and Lake Agnes. That makes about a 15k walk out of it.

Lake Louise to Emerald Lake is about 20 miles. Once there, you can walk around the lake, which is a flat walk. If you want more, let me make this suggestion.
With 7 adults, I am sure you will have more than one vehicle. One of you go to the Takkakaw Falls parking area.
Another one go to Emerald Lake.
The party at Takkakaw heads up the trail near Whiskey Jack Hostel and takes the turn south toward Yoho Lake.
The party starting from Emerald Lake head around the north shore of the lake and follow the train markers for Yoho Pass and Yoho Lake. Total distance one way is about 10K.

But for the effort, I think the Iceline is a better option for the views.

I have no restaurants to recommend other than the Post Hotel up hill from Lake Louise Village.

I try to avoid both Banff town site and Lake Louise for staying overnight.
bob_brown is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 07:02 AM
  #3  
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"I am not sure I understand the reference to Becker's Chalets because it is in Jasper."

I'm sorry...my mistake. I am confusing Bakers Creek with Becker's. We have requests in for several Jasper area accommodations---Alpine Village, Tekarra Lodge, Jasper House Bungalows, Patricia Lake Bungalows, and in Jasper town, Bear Hill Lodge and the Jasper Inn. They all seemed to be fairly well rated in traveladvisor.com. Are any of these more recently renovated or have advantages over another?

For Banff, we are considering Douglas Fir Resort, but it seems to be on the other side of town from where we would head out each day. That is why we were wondering if something in the Lake Louise area would be more convenient.

Thanks for the suggestion re the Emerald Lake hike. I'm not sure I understand "But for the effort, I think the Iceline is a better option for the views"?? What is the Iceline?

The combined Lake Agnes/Big Beehive/Plain of Six Glaciers hike will be definitely one of our choices. Similarly Moraine, and hopefully Parker's Ridge will be open in mid-July.

In Jasper, we are looking at Old Fort Point Loop and Bald Hills. I'd also heard about hikes at Wilcox Pass and Mt. Edith Cavell.
philsbert1 is offline  
Apr 30th, 2006, 07:16 PM
  #4  
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As we finalize plans for our trip, it looks more and more like trying to make it from the Calgary airport to Jasper in one afternoon/evening might be too much. As an alternative, I have wondered about:

Thursday - leave Calgary airport ~ 2 PM, drive to Banff, perhaps stop for a short walk around, drive on to Lake Louise and stay there for the night. We were looking at the Lake Louise Inn for lodging.

Fri - Drive up to Jasper, taking our time and stopping along the way. Lodging at Jasper House Bungalows or Jasper Inn.

Sat, Sun - From the Jasper base, explore Jasper National Park.

Mon - Drive back down the Icefields Parkway, stopping to see some of the things we missed on the way up. Set up new base in Lake Louise or Banff area. Looking at the 2 bdrm Hidden Ridge Resort units vs. renting a home in Banff town itself.

Tue, Wed, Thur - Explore Banff and Yoho National Parks.

Fri - Set out for Calgary ~ 8 AM to make a 1 PM flight.

Any comments on revised itinerary or lodging choices? Thanks!
philsbert1 is offline  
Apr 30th, 2006, 07:43 PM
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Hi philsbert1,

Your revised itinerary is fine. If you left it exactly as it is now, you would have a good time. However, I consider Lake Louise to be a better base for exploring the Lake Louise area itself as well as nearby Yoho National Park. With that in mind, you might consider this itinerary:

Thu – Drive to Lake Louise as you stated, and overnight there.

Fri, Sat - From your base in Lake Louise village, explore Moraine Lake, the lake of Lake Louise, and Yoho NP.

Sun – Drive to Jasper.

Mon, Tue – Explore Jasper’s environs.

Wed – Drive to Banff.

Thu – Explore Banff’s environs.

Fri - Set out from Banff at 8 am to make 1 pm flight out of Calgary.

All the accommodations you've mentioned are fine.

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Apr 30th, 2006, 07:53 PM
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Yes...that makes sense. Thank you. In retrospect it seems a waste to drive away from Lake Louise area so soon. If Lake Louise Inn is a reasonable place to stay, we would be better off sticking around that area. I tried for Bakers Creek Chalets but they had no openings.
philsbert1 is offline  
Apr 30th, 2006, 08:38 PM
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We took a 3 1/2 hour horseback ride from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes and the Little Beehive. We loved the incredible views over Lake Louise at Little Beehive, but were not thrilled with our 30-minute stables-imposed limit at the teahouse, which was so busy that we could not get our hot chocolate in time. If you want to enjoy a relaxing hour or two at the teehouse, I'd advise you to hike there instead of taking a stable ride. Also, we river rafted the Athabasca River in Jasper. Much too mild for our tastes -- and we're not that adventurous. See if another area river has higher class rapids.
laurafromtexas is offline  
Apr 30th, 2006, 09:34 PM
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LaurafromTexas...We were planning on hiking rather than riding on the Lake Agnes/Lake Louise/Beehive trail, but thanks for the warning. We thought we would try horseback riding at Jasper instead. Also, thanks for the tip re rafting. As an alternative, we may try that on the Kicking Horse R. or canoeing somewhere. Where did you stay at Lake Louise? My only trepidation comes from questions re lodging at the Lake Louise Inn which wasn't highly rated at traveladvisor.
philsbert1 is offline  
May 1st, 2006, 06:15 AM
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To economize, we stayed in a rustic cabin at the Kootenay Park Lodge ($99 CDN per night). I would not recommend it as it is too far off the beaten path (about a 45-minute drive to both Banff and Lake Louise). Someone else will have to help you with recommendations for accomodations.
laurafromtexas is offline  
May 1st, 2006, 07:31 PM
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Most of the complaints about Lake Louise Inn arises from the fact that its regular rooms are small. Apparently in a former life it used to be the hostel in Lake Louise village. However, its loft suites, which were built later, are more spacious.

Paradise Lodge and Bungalows is a good property. It's located more or less half way between the village of Lake Louise and the lake of Lake Louise, so approximately 1.5 miles from each.

A place of which I am rather fond is Deer Lodge. It's a quaint, little, old hotel a stone's throw from the lake of Lake Louise and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. The stairs creek, but the place has character. The regular rooms are miniscule, so ask for a Tower Room or, better still, a Heritage Room.

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 08:30 PM
  #11  
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That does help. I also actually found a pretty good rate for Lake Louise Inn for the Bighorn Loft Suite, and if the "virtual tour" online is at all close, it looks nice. But now I am getting some flack from some of the others on the trip that think we may be overdoing it...trying to see too much with making 3 location changes (packing and unpacking) and spending too much time in the car, though I would think staying near Lake Louise would decrease our "on-the-road time". Other options would be to do the long haul directly from Calgary to Jasper the first day as in my initial note, stay there 3 days and come back to either Lake Louise Inn or Hidden Ridge Resort in Banff and do the rest of the touring/hiking based out of that (only have to pack and unpack twice). Or they proposed cutting Jasper out and just spending our Thursday-Friday AM in either Lake Louise or Banff and doing all of our traveling from that base. I was looking forward to seeing the Jasper area, but it would be too much for just a day trip, right?

On another note, does anyone have an idea about where to try and rent a van, rather than minivan in Calgary?
philsbert1 is offline  
May 2nd, 2006, 08:58 PM
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I should add, the list of hikes/sites/activities we were interested in...and we know there is no way we could do everything...was, in some type of order:

(1) Moraine Lake (one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen)
(2) Plain of Six Glaciers/Lake Agnes hike
(3) Parker Ridge hike
(4) Peyto Lake
(5) visit Yoho, maybe canoe Emerald Lake and/or visit Takakkaw Falls, or hike in the area
(6) Icefield Ctr/Athabascar Glacier visit
(6) Mt. Edith Cavell
(7) Maligne Lake
(8) raft the Kicking Horse R.
(9) horseback riding in Jasper

so you can see our highest priority choices were closer to Lake Louise. But I wanted to get at least a taste of the "get-away-from-it-all" , and Jasper seemed to fit that bill moreso than Banff.
philsbert1 is offline  
May 3rd, 2006, 10:49 AM
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Hi philsbert1,

I'm now so confused I don't know what to say.

Yes, if you'll be landing in Calgary around 1 pm, it would be possible to drive all the way to Jasper by that evening.

But I can't remember whether or not you've shared with us the area from which you'll be coming (east coast USA, west coat USA or whatever). If you'll be flying here from the Eastern Time Zone, keep in mind that you will have done a substantial flight to get here, and your body clocks will be 2 hours ahead of the Mountain Time Zone.

Still, if you think you'll have the energy, the drive from Calgary to Jasper is doable. It takes about an hour to clear immigration and customs at Calgary Airport. Build in an hour or so to stop in Lake Louise village for dinner. You should be able to reach your Jasper accommodation by 9 pm. Fortunately at that time of year it'll still be daylight.

I think it would be a real shame to exclude Jasper from this trip. Also, considering the activities you want to do, I believe Lake Louise is a better base for you than Banff would be (just my opinion).

There are car rental companies that rent maxi vans. However, they have only a limited number of those vans, and they get booked up early. Since you'll be arriving at the tail end of the busy Calgary Stampede period, I think your chances of securing such a van might be somewhere between slim and non-existent.

However, I think your desire to travel in a maxi van may be misplaced. Even if you manage to get hold of a maxi van, will it have enough room in it for 7 people plus their luggage? Do you honestly want to travel in a group of 7 people who have only 1 vehicle amongst them? This would limit your flexibility. If some of you want to do one thing and others of you want to do another thing, you'll have no chance of going off in different directions. If I were you, I would consider the benefits of travelling in 2 vehicles.

Your wish list excludes Maligne Canyon, which is about 7 miles outside of Jasper townsite. I highly recommend that you include it. Although I like Maligne Lake very much, if I was forced to choose between the canyon and the lake of the same name, I would choose the canyon.

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
May 3rd, 2006, 11:51 AM
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Thanks, Judy, as always. I appreciate the insight. Sorry if I have confused you (but then again I am confused with so many choices/factors ;-))I had not read about the Maligne Canyon hike; that sounds great, especially since we will be doing a lot of lakes with our other hikes. I am resigned to your "slim-to-none" chance re the van rental, as I have had no luck finding one anywhere. Our number did drop down to 6, but with luggage will still need a maxivan or 2 vehicles. We just wanted to enhance the comaraderie among the group being in one vehicle AND save the gas money (and spare the ozone , as at least the majority or our travels will be together. Bummer.

Our lodging has changed also. If I have any say about it, and we do go to Jasper, we are looking at a Deluxe Chalet at Bear Hill Lodge now in Jasper, or for $70 less per night, two chalets at Beckers Chalets without kitchens...a definite concern. DO you have any thoughts on those places?

Also found out we could get two bungalows at Paradise Lodge to accommodate all 6 of us, but it would be $140 USD more per night than the Lake Louise Inn. Is that a fair trade-off?
philsbert1 is offline  
May 3rd, 2006, 07:48 PM
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Sorry, philsbert1, I don't know anything about Bear Hill Lodge. Also, while Paradise Lodge and Bungalows tends to get good reviews on the travel discussion forums, and while I've driven and walked past it many times, I've never been inside the property. So I'm not in a position to compare the accommodations you've asked about. I hope someone else will be able to help you.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
May 3rd, 2006, 08:11 PM
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Bear Hill lodge is in the Jasper townsite, about a ten minute walk from the town centre, abutting the residential area.
Beckers is about 5 kilometres south of Jasper on a picturesque turn in the Athabasca River.
The quality of the rooms in each is similar although Beckers has some newer cabins as well as the original log structures.
Beckers has an excellent restaurant right on site. There are several restaurants with easy walking distance of the Bear Hill Lodge also.
lunabug is offline  
May 5th, 2006, 08:26 AM
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Another question, this one re timing: In July, is there any advantage to visiting the Lake Louise and surrounding area on weekdays rather than a weekend, i.e., do the crowds vary that much? I believe this would be the last weekend of the Stampede. I thought of it as far as how it would affect an itinerary. Since Jasper is considerably farther from Calgary, would it be better to visit there on a weekend, and come back and visit Lake Louise/Yoho during the week?
philsbert1 is offline  
May 5th, 2006, 09:26 AM
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There would be some merit in visiting Moraine Lake and Lake Louise on a week day rather than a weekend. There also would be merit in avoiding Moraine Lake and Lake Louise during Stampede.

You would accomplish that if you went to Jasper early during your trip. Indeed that would be one of several advantages of heading for Jasper early on.

However, if I were you, I would not bend myself out of shape to visit Moraine Lake and Lake Louise on a week day instead of a weekend. If you can work it out like that without straining yourselves, yes, it would be better to do it that way. But if it would involve a convoluted set of movements, it would not be worth it.

The biggest favour you can do for yourselves in the mountains is to walk 50 yards into the forest. I'm not kidding when I say that, by doing that, you'll leave behind 95% of the other people who are visiting a popular scenic lookout point.

We often have picnic lunches when we go to the mountains. For example, there is a nice picnic area in the forest next to the Moraine Lake parking lot. Tables are spaced far enough apart that each group has privacy. There are open air tables as well as covered tables, which come in usefully if it rains. We have never experienced an occasion, even on a popular public holiday long weekend, when all the picnic tables have been taken. On a Friday in July 2005 we were the only travel party using the picnic tables.

The beach at Pyramid Lake, outside of Jasper townsite, is another favourite Rocky Mountain "restaurant" of ours.

Of course if you're hiking you can just stop and eat wherever the spirit takes you.

Each of the mountain resort towns has at least one deli (and sometimes more than one deli) from which you can buy take-away lunches. I forget the name of the one that we use in Jasper. In Lake Louise village there is Laggan's Bakery and Deli.

If you happen to have a collapsile cooler, you might find it useful to bring it with you.

We always bring a corkscrew from home, so we can buy a bottle of wine if we're going to have a picnic dinner.

While I'm discussing food and drink, I'll mention that water from hotel taps is safe to drink, but water from lakes and streams is not. You should carry a water bottle when you go hiking.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
May 5th, 2006, 09:51 AM
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Thanks for the info. The deli spots are essential as we almost always pack our food/lunches for the trail (and are very careful about packing everything back out . In fact we are planning on stopping at a grocery in Canmore on the way in and purchasing enough food to feed ourselves a few dinners and as many lunches as we can. One of my concerns about Beckers Chalets was being able to refrigerate enough of our foodstuffs (and maybe cook a little) since all of the units with kitchens are booked; that is why the switch to Bear Hill. We aren't going to the mountains primarily for the cuisine but definitely want to try some of the local eateries, and it sounds like Banff has quite a few. The only points I am mulling over now is whether to stay in Hidden Ridge on our return to Banff or some local housing right off main street. I would prefer the ambience/quiet of being outside of the city, the large 2 bdrm Hidden Ridge units look very nice (and there is a hot tub for those post-hike sore muscles), but it's a little more than $100 extra per night. I'm a spendthrift, but not with other people's money so I'm waiting on a consensus.
philsbert1 is offline  
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