Oh, wise travel experts, please advise!

Old Feb 19th, 2016, 07:55 AM
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Oh, wise travel experts, please advise!

My husband and I are headed to Banff, Yoho and Jasper in early September for our daughter's destination wedding. Since we are traveling so far, we're making it a vacation. I've been reviewing the trip reports and have a basic itinerary planned.

We are 60 and active, enjoy nature and hiking. Would like to avoid crowds as much as possible but aren't into complete wilderness. We prefer to use a location as a base so to limit the time spent relocating, but don't want to back track and spend lots of time in the car either.

Please review and offer suggestions.
Day 1: fly into Calgary, rent car and travel to Banff (town)
Day 2: travel Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louise
Day 3: Lake Louise/Moraine area
Day 4: Lake Louise/Moraine area (wedding)
Day 5:Yoho
Day 6: Yoho
Day 7: travel Icefield Parkway to Jasper
Day 8:Jasper
Day 9: Jasper
Day 10: travel Icefield Parkway to Canmore or Calgary
Day 11: fly home from Calgary

All reports detail how magnificent this area is so I wanted to give each place enough time to explore. My questions are: too much time in any one area? not enough? Should we relocate to Yoho (I am going to attempt to get bus tickets to Lake O'Hara) or would it be better to stay in Lake Louise?

I am praying for good weather. Daughter has her mind made up on an outside Banff National Park wedding in September! I keep reading about how many times it has snowed the first week in September. I am not sure my Floridian blood will be able to keep from freezing. I realize no one can do anything about the weather but I am hopeful you'll help with the travel plans.
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Old Feb 19th, 2016, 09:47 AM
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You've got an excellent start to your trip!! In general, we suggest 3-4 nights in Banff/Lake Louise and 2-3 nights in Jasper as a minimum for exploring the Rockies. And it seems like you've allocated plenty of time.

If you want to minimize relocating, I'd probably suggest sticking to one locale to explore Banff, Lake Louise and Yoho NP. They are within easy driving distance, so there's no reason to split the time unless you want to experience more than one location overnight.

It would help to get a more exact idea of your dates - the first week in September may overlap with Labour Day. And if you haven't already booked rooms, that may limit your accommodation options for the long weekend. Lake Louise, in particular, has only a handful of hotels, so availability may well already be quite limited over Labor Day weekend.

Jasper also is booking very quickly this year - and most of the non-hotel lodging options have 2 or 3 night minimum stays. I'd get that booked very soon.

Where exactly is the wedding taking place (any outdoor wedding in the park would need to receive approval/permit, so I am assuming the location is already set)? Is it in Lake Louise? And what days do you need to be staying in the wedding locale? That will make a difference.

I don't think staying in Yoho NP makes much sense - the options are extremely limited. The only townsite is the tiny (200 people) hamlet of Field which has one hotel and a few B&Bs. And the Emerald Lake Lodge and Cathedral Mountain Lodge outside of Field. Most places will have a 2 or even 3 night minimum stay; they also may not take bookings for only part of a holiday weekend - at least not until much closer to the date.

The choice of Lake Louise vs. Banff is personal - Banff offers a LOT more choice of dining, accommodation and rainy day activities. Lake Louise is often a better choice for those with a hiking focus as you're close the trails. Be aware though, that most hotels are not by the lake, so you will need to drive or walk 4-5 km from most hotels to the trails, lake etc.

I'd suggest something like this, but it will depend on the timing (i.e. you want to be in one location for the holiday weekend). Book ASAP or you may find options quite limited.

Day 1 - fly in, drive to Lake Louise
Day 2 - Bow Valley Parkway, Johnston Canyon, Banff area, stay in LL
Day 3 - Lake Louise, Moraine Lake (or O'Hara), stay in LL
Day 4 - wedding, stay in LL
Day 5 - Lake Louise, Moraine Lake or Lake O'Hara or Yoho, stay in LL
Day 6 - flex day for either Lake Louise, Banff, Yoho NP or O'HAra
Day 7- drive to Jasper
Day 8 - Jasper, stay in Jasper
Day 9, Jasper, stay in Jasper
Day 10 - back to Banff or Canmore
Day 11 - fly home
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 09:06 AM
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Thanks so much for your insight. We plan to travel after the Labor Day weekend (September 5- 15)in an attempt to minimize the crowds. The wedding is outside at the park (midweek)and hopefully Daughter has taken care of all the necessary wedding details. We are just showing up. I appreciate your advice about not moving on to Yoho so will book the extra days at Lake Louise. I researched accomodation availability and will book this weekend. Do you have an recommendation on the location to stay prior to flying home? Banff, Canmore or Calgary?
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 05:59 AM
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You mentioned avoiding crowds several times. Be aware that you are picking a very popular location slightly past the prime tourist season. That means it's possible that an early winter can cross your path.

What are your interests? Hiking, photography, general sights, etc?

You've mentioned areas but I'll suggest some specifics.

Across the highway from Banff Townsite is Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive. Be sure to take the first short turnoff early in the morning to Cascade Pons. Spectacular view. Along the scenic road you have a good chance of seeing big horn sheep and ewes.

On the way from Banff Townsite to Lake Louise, take the Bow Valley Parkway and take the Johnston Canyon hike to "BOTH" waterfalls. This trail was built onto the side of the canyon.

In my opinion Moraine Lake is way more spectacular than Lake Louise. At Moraine Lake don't go right to the lake. As you approach the lake veer to the left and climb the Rock Pile. You don't actually climb the pile. There's a path with rock stairs around the back to goes up to various viewpoints. This is the view on the back of the old Canadian 20-dollar bill. This sight is worthy of several visits at different times of the day. Starting at sun up and onward.

On the way from Banff to Jasper.

Bow Summit(Km 40). About a half hour walk to the Peyto Lake overlook. One of those spectacular, iconic views. I've been there three times (all July & August) and this place has always had quite a few people there. There's a reason for it.

Mistaya Canyon (Km 71). A 15 minute walk froom the parking lot. You can walk along the side of the canyon and it's roaring water.

Icefield Center (m 127). Spectacular views of a not very spectacular looking glacier. Depending upon what you do you can spend anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours here. You can even drive across the highway to a parking lot and walk up to thee tip of the glacier. Wear warm cloths to do this. Cold and windy even in mid-summer.

Tangle Falls (Km 134). A very short stop for a roadside, beautiful waterfall. Park the car and walk across the road. Best in the afternoon when the sun is facing the east side.

I'm not a big fan of the waterfalls from here up (Sunwapta, Athabascaa). Just not good views after the wak there.

Just outside of Jasper Townsite is Maligne Road. Maligne Canyon gets some publicity but the views are absolutely underwhelming. Just not worth the time.

But if you want some of the most spectacular views go to Angel Glacier. This is about 10 miles south of the town of Jasper. Then take the Cavell Road for about 10 miles. The first time I went there I wondered about this place. On the way along Cavell Rd we saw almost no cars going in either direction. When we got to the end of the road the parking lot was full and people were parking along the side of the road.

It's a 2/3 mile fairly level walk to one of the most spectacular views you'll see. You will be on one side of the valley and the glacier with its unique shape is on the other side. The runoff goes over a waterfall into the creamy white lake below. Go in the morning while the sun is behind you lighting up the glacier. Spectacular view.

None of the above really take a lot of time. So with good planning and some luck you can see a lot in a short period of time.

If you're interested you can see some of my photos from this area at www.travelwalks.com
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 03:23 PM
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For Johnson Canyon, go in the morning fairly early. We have found that the parking lot fills up pretty quickly even in September into early October.

It's so worth it, though.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 04:48 PM
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I've been to Johnston Canyon three times. When I read about it there was nothing making it too outstanding. As usual, I wondered if we'd be the only ones there.

When we arrived we found a very large parking lot that was full. We were lucky that somebody pulled out just as we passed their space.

You are correct. It's so worth it.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2016, 03:51 PM
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We stayed 4 nights in Field at the Edgemount Guesthouse against most of the advice here and loved it. We had a cute little self catering flat with a view to die for. I was very hesitant but after stopping in bustling Banff for groceries then into LL we so enjoyed the quiet and sleepy village. And we did all the suggested site seeing from there, what a perfect end to each say sitting on the balcony with a glass of wine, BBQ cooking and watching the sunset on those incredible mountains.

We stayed at Moutain Lily B&B in Canmore for a couple of nights before an early morning departure to drop the car and catch a flight. Again not as busy as Banff and the B&B remains very high on our list of all time favourites and we have stayed in many all over the world. Try for the upstairs suite. Dave and MJ are delightful people and run an extremely clean establishment. Breakfast was pretty darn good too.

Good luck with your plans and enjoy you daughters wedding. i have a large canvas print of Lake Moraine taken at sunrise in my study - I stare at it daily, what wonderful memories of a special part of the world.
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Old Feb 25th, 2016, 09:34 AM
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Thank you for all the replies. All so useful and I especially appreciate the different perspectives. I am locked into staying near the Lake Louise location and the time frame due to the wedding festivities, but will take another look at Field for additional days as I loved the description Maudie provided.

Myer- truly appreciate your rundown of sites to see (and not to see). Your insight will greatly help as I plan our activities. Thank you especially for the directions to find the locations. I do realize we may run into early winter and have suggested to daughter that a Plan B might be in order in case of snow (or rain). I am praying that the weather will be good for ceremony. The scenery is so spectacular that it is worth the gamble and I can see why she fell in love with the idea of wedding pictures with a mountain backdrop.
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