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Part of Larch Valley Hike Banff versus Going to Yoho

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Assuming the Banff - Jasper fire is no longer an issue. ?
The complete trip is 5 days long including some Jasper.

Putting together a final list of todos and potentials.

I have Plain of Six Glaciers and/or Lake Agnes on my list.

Now I'm wondering if I should opt for part of Larch Valley hike versus spending part of a day in Yoho.

Going up Yoho Valley Road. Takakkaw Falls. Spend some time around Emerald Lake. Maybe Hamilton Falls. Possibly go to Wapta Falls. Not a heavy day of hiking.

The whole Larch Valley hike is probably too long and time-consuming but I would be more tempted if the spectacular scenery is there and this is not a get-to-the-end hike for the payoff. Half way might be tempting.

Anybody done both? Thanks.

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    You could drive to Moraine Lake in the morning, go to the top of the rockpile then walk the lakeshore and continue past the lodge to the Larch Valley hike. It is only 1.5 miles to Larch Valley. In late Sept. the larch trees are supposed to be beautiful here. You wouldn't have to go all the way to Sentinel Pass. It is an estimated 2 hour hike to the pass. This hike has been on our list but we have never hiked it. There was a bear warning last time we were there. It is a very popular hikes.

    At Moraine Lake, we did take the easy hike to Consolation Lake--beautiful views at the lakes--you are totally surrounded by mountains.

    Then you could drive out to Emerald Lake Lodge and have lunch. They often have wonderful bumbleberry pie. You could stop at Takkakaw Falls and the spiral tunnels on the way back. I think the drive out to Emerald Lake Lodge is really beautiful and you could get a taste of Yoho.

    Do you have the Brian Patton Canadian Rockies Trail Guide? It is a great hiking guide.

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    Actually, we're not going in late Sept. We're going a week from Tue.

    I didn't really consider Consolation Lake. But that's an option and much shorter than Larch Valley. So we could do that and go to Yoho.

    I was also considering doing the first part of the Icefields Parkway before going to Yoho as Yoho is slightly up. That was part of my fire plan to get the lower part done before the road closing. But the reports so far seem to indicate that the fire is no longer an issue. Hopefully that's the case.

    Now. If I have to chose between Larch Valley and Yoho what do I do?

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    I would do Larch Valley and Yoho. The drive to Emerald Lake Lodge was about 40 minutes from Lake Louise, a really beautiful drive. We stayed out there once with a last minute discount.

    I think Yoho and the Icefields Parkway are in opposite directions. I wouldn't combine those 2. I would just save the Icefields Parkway for the day you drive to Jasper. Pray for a clear day. We drove it once in rain and fog and never saw a mountain--definitely stopped at the waterfalls that day.

    Driving up and back on the Icefields Parkway is great and the scenery is spectacular. You can stop at a few places as you head to Jasper and then stop at different places on the drive back down. We enjoyed hiking Parker Ridge(be sure to head to the ridge at the top-straight ahead and to the left) and Wilcox Pass. I like both these hikes but wouldn't hike them both on the same day. We did one when we drove up to Jasper and the other on the drive back down. Parker Ridge would be my choice if I could only hike one. As you know there are a lot of other great places to stop. We picked up sandwiches at Langens???in the Lake Louise shopping plaza and picnicked.

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    Linda Thanks.

    You think we should make a quick stop at the Rock Pile (one of several stops there), do Larch Valley in the AM and very early PM and then go to Yoho?

    If the views at Consolation Lake are so good, why would you pick Larch Valley over Consolation Lake? That much better?

    How much time do you think we should allow for going to Yoho, up Yoho Valley Road, Takakkaw Falls and spend some time around Emerald Lake. Maybe Hamilton Falls.

    I guess Wapta Falls would be a casualty. Not a hiking afternoon.

    We're photographer with an emphasis on wildlife. So going to the same place such as Lake Minnewanka Road for bighorn a couple of times is what we'd probably like to do.

    We don't usually eat a restaurant breakfast and lunch (we don't want to waste the time) but breakfast is included in our 3 nights of Banff lodging so we'll just have it early and go.

    I think I'll do some Youtube viewing.

    Any more comments and suggestions?

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    You've run into a common problem for the area - too much to see and do, with too little time!
    Consolation Lakes is a nice easy hike, relatively flat. Parker Ridge is a lot of uphill, but the view on top is great. Larch Valley involves a lot of switchbacking through the evergreens, without too many views until you get to the top. Nice and peaceful up there!
    The view from the Moraine Lake rockpile is stunning. While its a great spot anytime, the colour of the water always seemed best to me at mid-day, if you are into photography (though this is contrary to usual nature photography practise).
    Yoho Park and it's highlights are also great. I suggest doing as Lindain suggested, and go to Yoho/Emerald Lake, and bypassing Icefields Parkway until you are going to Jasper, as that's just too much driving, then, to have time to catch all the highlights.
    If you really want to treat yourself, plan ahead and get to Lake O'Hara (in Yoho Park) on your NEXT trip!

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    As for wildlife photography, well, you probably know the drill well. Get out early and late, hang around the areas where there are natural attractants (salt licks, cliffs with clay for mountain goats), and take as many quiet side roads as possible. You will find a lot more animals while driving, than you could hiking, as you can cover so much more territory, and the park environment has the wildlife nowhere near as wary as outside the parks.
    You could find elk right in downtown Banff, often. We have seen them on the golf course, many times, along with coyotes, deer, etc. Not what you'd call a natural setting, though.
    Whenever I see an animal, I don't want to attract a crowd, so I don't make it obvious I am taking wildlife pictures. It's amazing how many cars can go by, and not see an animal in plain sight. But if they see you with a camera, the brakes get slammed. OK, so taking pictures out of a car is a pretty horrible thing to do, but I seldom have the time to do "proper" wildlife photography. Although, on some hiking trails that aren't too busy (e.g. Parker Ridge, at times - mountain goats, or the road to Mt. Edith Cavell, and the hiking trail beyond), you really can do some discrete stalking, and plan your photographic ambushes, especially if you are in meadows, up around the tree line. If the big game doesn't cooperate, there are always other willing subjects, such as ptarmigan families, pikas, hoary marmots, ground squirrels, and the odd golden eagle (usually distant....).
    And don't forget to take your 'luck' with you - needed to be in the right place at the right time!

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    Thanks for the post and info. I've been to Banff twice before and Jasper once. While always looking for more wildlife locations I've got my own short list now. I just returned from Yellowstone and Grand Tetons with my daughter and granddaughter. Only saw two distant bears but a fair amount of others. I've been to Glacier (MT) twice and to me that's wildlife central.

    Your advice is pretty much what I tell others about wildlife shooting; research locations, get there when they're most active (usually early and late) and be lucky.

    I've read some blogs where a person indicates they want to do some wildlife viewing between xx:xx and yy:yy on their schedule. I picture a couple sitting on the deck of a lodge, sipping drinks with their legs covered with a blanket waiting for one of each species to be paraded out. Amusing.

    With only 5 full days including driving up from Banff (we arrive at 6PM on day 0 and drive to Banff) to Jasper and the last day from Jasper to Calgary with stops along the way.

    As part of our photography hobby we enjoy shooting wildlife, spectacular scenery and waterfalls (waterfalls for me though not so much my daughter). We normally do a couple of moderate hikes.

    I have Plain of Six Glaciers penciled in (possibly add Lake Agnes but I suspect much of this part is in the woods with the scenery all at the end).

    The conflict is with one of the days. My original plan for that day was to drive Lake Minnewanka road (this appears several time for bighorn), then Bow Valley Hwy (this appears several times), go to Moraine Lake (Moraine Lake appears in our itinerary several times) and continue up to Yoho.

    Then I read about the wild fire and started to tweak the order of the Icefields stops to make sure I didn't get stuck by the roadblocks.

    That's why I'm tempted to do a bit of extra driving to do some of the southern Icefields stop on a day prior to our drive up to Jasper. I'd have a similar issue on the way down.

    According to a post in the other thread I started about the fire, it was mentioned a couple of days ago that due to some rain the fire is no longer and issue (I'll call the Lake Louise Visitors Center in a couple of hours for an update). If that's the case I can untweak.

    Then I read a bit about scenery along the Larch Valley trail. You appear to contradict what I thought saying that the scenery is all at the end. If that's the case I'd be tempted to drop it.

    What's the scenery like on the Consolation Lakes hike. A relatively short hike with the payoff at the end is a little more tempting than a longer, more strenuous hike with all of the payoff at the end.

    Also, assuming the fire is no longer an issue, I'd be much more tempted to put Consolation Lake together with Yoho.

    I've read about Lake O'Hara but I'll pass on something I have to plan too far ahead. Also, we're going in a week so it's probably too late.

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    The fire is a non issue now. There's been plenty of rain (and snow), and the smoke from the fires in NWT/BC is either gone or blowing somewhere else.

    Remember that for Larch Valley/Consolation Lakes or any of the other hikes beyond Moraine Lake you will need to be in a tight group of at least four people. In August, you should have no issues with finding other folks to hike with at the trailhead, but it is something to consider.

    Laggans is the bakery/cafe in Lake Louise, and Yoho is a different direction from the Icefields Parkway (west on the TransCanada, vs. northish on 93N.

    In Yoho, I'd do Emerald Lake and Takkakaw Falls. Wapta Falls is a short hike - Hamilton Falls is not worth the hike. Not much to see and the trail is confusing and doesn't give you great views.

    Please, please, please DO NOT stop on the roads to take pictures of wildlife. Only stop at proper turn-offs where you can get your car fully and safely off the road. I've had to deal with WAY too many wildlife jams in the parks over the recent weekends, and they are not just annoying, but unsafe (tourist nearly walked in front of my car when I was going by) for humans and the wildlife.

    Really, the best way to see wildlife is to be patient and to go for longer hikes. My best and most tranquil viewings have been at quiet times with few other folks around where the wildlife has been at a distance, so not feeling harassed/threatened, relaxed and carrying on with normal life.
    If you want bighorn, hike up to Wilcox Pass early in the morning - lots of male sheep hang out up there before it gets too busy.
    Lake O'Hara has been booked out for July & August for months - not even any cancellations showing as of late.

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    Thanks kgsneds,

    What I meant by the same direction is that you continue up the same highway a bit towards the Icefields Parkway before turning towards Yoho.

    I have stopped on Maligne Road, Minnewanka Rd and the Parkway for wildlife. But I always pull onto the gravel on the side.

    It's usually those people who want to get a quick shot from the car and then move on who stop in the middle of the road and then wait. I've seen some just sit there and another actually backed up. Also, I've seen those tour buses stop in the middle of the road for a minute or two since they have no intention of pulling over and letting people out.

    I actually did once walk in front of a car in Banff (near the falls) when a driver who was not blocked in any way blasted his horn for about 10 seconds to scare a male deer or elk (don't remember which) away when people were photographing it.

    After he stopped the horn I stood in front of him the same length of time he blasted the horn. If he wants to teach us a lesson he'll have to learn one as well.

    I've seen bighorn and ewes along Lake Minnewanka Road several times. I've read in several places Mt Norquay has bighorn but I saw a black bear there very early in the morning and a mother black bear and three cubs in the evening. Unfortunately I didn't bring a long lens as I was on a trip with my wife. The morning black bear was close enough that I didn't need anything long. But the mother and cubs were a bit out there so I had to do some photographic surgery to get anything worth looking at.

    Thanks most for the fire update. Now that the rain has helped I hope it goes away for next week.

    Last week I was in Yellowstone with my daughter and granddaughter. We saw no black bears (although some people said they saw one right near our lodging in GTNP). I saw two distant grizzlies with a bison carcass but they were way out there. Same with a wolf.

    I did see some ewes, bison, deer and elk up close several times and a moose in the water from a bit up a hill.

    Someone above wrote about Larch Valley that it's one of those hikes where the payoff is at the end. If that's the case I'd rather spend less time doing Consolation Lakes and then head for Yoho.

    I have some places penciled in for several stops. Those are the wildlife locations. For wildlife three things have to happen; Go to the right places, go at the right time and be lucky.

    Thanks again and please keep the info coming. It all helps now that I'm starting to undo my plan that accounted for road closures to make sure I'm on the correct side of the closure.

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    If the views at Consolation Lake are so good, why would you pick Larch Valley over Consolation Lake? That much better?

    I have never done the Larch Valley hike but your first question asked if you should do Larch Valley OR Yoho. I just thought you could do them both.

    Consolation Lakes is just an easy hike to the lake but I think it is beautiful and peaceful there.

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    We're planning on hiking Plain of Six Glaciers the day before and possibly tack on Lake Agnes from there. Not sure how much.

    The next day scenery is more important than the hike. Also, we'd be driving from Banff. So "if" Larch Valley is mostly in the woods until the end (I don't know if it is - a poster above indicated so) and Consolation Lakes has great scenery and Consolation Lakes is much shorter time-wise giving us time to go to Yoho (whew - a long sentence) then I'd lean towards Consolation Lakes.

    At first I was choosing between Larch Valley and Yoho. Then the possibility of going to Yoho and doing a hike in the Moraine Lake area was brought up. Then Consolation Lakes was brought into the picture.

    As the thread evolved and people responded different ideas were brought in.

    I assume you've been to Consolation Lakes (you mentioned you haven't done Larch Valley). Peaceful on a 5 day trip isn't important but beautiful is. Shear, snow-capped mountains would go a long way to "beautiful" for me. A few people boating on a lake with relatively flat terrain would not.

    If we select Consolation Lakes and Yoho I'm wondering about the sequence. I've been to Moraine Lake twice for the Rock Pile view though never hiked there. So the Moraine Lake view at different times may be a priority.

    Moraine Lake Rock pile view
    Consolation Lakes
    Moraine Lake Rock Pile view
    Moriane Lake (?)


    Moraine Lake Rock Pile view? (this is extra out-of-the-way driving)
    Moraine Lake Rock Pile view
    Consolation Lakes
    Moraine Lake

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    The tourist just wasn't looking where they were going - I was driving by and they started back across the highway without looking. Thankfully they looked at the last moment...

    As to your Banff experience, that driver was actually well within his/her right. I'd have probably done the same - it may seem fun to you to take photos, but for the locals it gets irritating very quickly and wildlife in the town site creates a whole series of safety issues for the locals and the wildlife.

    For one, you don't actually have to be blocking the road to cause issues - even when you think you are parked on the gravel shoulder, cars on the road usually still have to slow down to be safe and make sure they don't hit people walking along the road. And, almost certainly, people were way too close to to the elk when they were taking pictures, so they were violating park regulations.

    More importantly, if you were in Banff (near the falls), there is actually a concerted effort to keep wildlife, especially the elk, out of the townsite. When elk are spotted in the townsite, they try to scare them away so they don't make a habit of grazing in town. Not so much for the tourist jams, but to minimize the chance of them calving and breeding in/near town - baby elk attract bears and protective mama elk and rutting male elk can be very dangerous. Also, it helps to reduce the risk of elk vs. vehicle incidents - more an issue in the dark and twilight of winter and late fall. It's best for all involved if the elk stay away from Banff townsite.

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    If you are going to try to do Plain of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes, I would do Lake Agnes first, go up the Beehives and then down to Plain of Six Glaciers. I didn't have trekking poles the first time we hiked this but I use them now. I was tired after this hike and going down to the Plain of Six Glaciers trail is hard on your knees when you hit a certain age. Going up the way we came down though would have killed me. I assume we came down the right trail;it was steep. We just hike one trail or the other now.

    The rockpile,as you know is just a great place to view Moraine Lake. I would do it in the morning, since mornings are less crowded and then hike a trail and head over to Emerald Lake. I guess you are talking about returning to Moraine Lake for photos at a different time of the day?? You will just have to play it by ear or by the weather.

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    I agree some people just don't look where they're going. However, it us the tourists who support the local economy with our spending. If we're discouraged from coming then who suffers the most. I can go somewhere else such as Glacier (MT). I've been there the past two years with a quick scouting trip at the end of last year's visit.

    I also agree with you that some people were way too close to the elk. I almost slammed a teenager who was shooting using his flash. When he didn't listen to me telling him to close his flash I started stepping in front of him and stepping backwards.

    I don't think the answer is to drive past tourists photographing an elk and honking the horn. That may spook the elk but not solve the problem. People much smarter than me have to do what's necessary to keep them out of town. If that's possible. This driver was just trying to show those photographing that he is able to disrupt them. It didn't change anything and the elk never even looked up. Too busy eating.

    In most places I always recommend inpark lodging. Especially if wildlife viewing is a priority. That way you keep driving in the dark to a minimum. I'm aware the hitting animals is a major problem in many parks.

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    Just to let you know what we did.

    On our first day there we went up the Rock Pile at Moraine Lake. It was a beautiful day with a deep blue sky. We took in each of the viewpoints. After a day like that any other day would be had to beat that so we never went back. see more below.

    From there we went to Lake Louise and it too was perfectly clear. The best I'd ever seen it.

    We hike the Plain of Six Glaciers. I guess due to age and the fact we started later than I expected (we started the day driving Lake Minnewanka road looking for big horn sheep and Norquay Road looking for anything) it took longer and we arrived at the top later than expected. That clinched not linking to Lake Agnes.

    The next day was nice but cloudier and hazier than the previous day so we didn't walk up the Rock Pile even though we had decided to hike Consolation Lakes.

    Groups with a minimum of four were required due to bear activity so we hike with two sisters from Germany. We never saw a bear and neither did anybody else we met on the trail. I was disappointed that the whole hike was in the woods and no scenery. At the end we sort of got to a lake but all we saw were rocks.

    From there we went to Yoho and the Takkakaw falls. Spectacular and definitely worth the drive. They arranged the viewing very well. Too many waterfalls are ruined due to how the bridges and viewing are arranged right in the way. Not this one.

    We had rain on and off the day we drove from Banff to Jasper. Otherwise no rain and mostly sun.

    What we couldn't do on the way up we did on the way down.

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