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Please please help with banff/jasper/ll itinerary

Please please help with banff/jasper/ll itinerary

Old Jul 17th, 2005, 12:58 PM
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Please please help with banff/jasper/ll itinerary

This has been a great site with a ton of useful information. I've learned a lot but still need help in nailing down our first time trip to banff/jasper/ll in september.

Here is what i know:

Fly into calgary, drive to Banff for 4 nights. Then to Jasper for 3 nights, then to L. Louise for 2 nights.

Can't really change this itinerary

Based on what I've read here, these seem to be the things not to miss (but feel free to comment on if i've left something off or need to remove something:

Angel Glacier
Peyto Lake
Athabasca Glacier and Falls
Maligne Canyon
Mt. Robson

EMerald Lake
Moraine Lake
Takkakaw FAlls
Sulphur MOutain
Johnston Canyon
Bow Valley
Lake Minnewanka

Here is the trouble. I desperately need help figuring out which of these to do from each base camp (i.e. what is best from Banff, from Jasper and from L.L given number of days we will be there).

I know there are a lot of experts out there, so any help and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

jomale is offline  
Old Jul 17th, 2005, 04:07 PM
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Hi, You're in for quite a trip!!! My husband and I went to Jasper and Banff three years ago and loved every moment!! I can't give the best advice on all the sights you listed, but Peyto lake is not to be missed!! It is breathtaking and you feel like you are millions of miles away from civilization. I would say you could easily do that on your way back from Jasper to Lake Louise. One other sight not to be missed in Medicine Lake which is about 25 minutes from Jasper and on your way to a popular site which I can't think of (sorry!)...The drive from Banff to Jasper is spectacular, and you will find yourself wanting to stop every mile or so for another photo op - that's probably why I don't remember all the specifics, but each view and site was amazing.

Sorry this wasn't more specific to your questions, but I can assure you it will be an amazing trip!!
chefpilsy is offline  
Old Jul 17th, 2005, 04:57 PM
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Well little of what you list is close to Banff except Lake Minnewanka and Sulphur Mountain. You can drive the Bow Valley Parkway from there, but it goes all the way to Lake Louise.

Given your list you need less time in Banff, more time at Lake Louise, and a second go round planning what to do on the Icefields Parkway.

For example, on the Icefields Parkway, do you plan on stopping at Bow Lake, the Icefields Center, Mistaya Canyon, or Sunwapta Falls? Or taking the Parker Ridge walk to see the Saskatchewan Glacier?

I take it from your list that you are not much into hiking.

As for Johnston Canyon, I suggest you drive there along the Bow Valley Parkway from Banff. But get there early because I have driven in there and found people hunting for parking places like vultures circling. I said to heck with it and drove over Vermillion Pass to Kootenay and walked up to the Stanley Glacier Basin.

Also, Lake Louise itself is not on your list. I assume you are going there.
I suggest you see Takkakaw Falls Emerald Lake, and Moraine Lake from Lake Louise.
Takkakaw is worth it! And to get there you drive over Kicking Horse Pass.
Stop and view the railroad because it is unusual.

Angel Glacier, Malinge Canyon (where is the lake on your list?), and Mt. Robson are to be seen from Jasper. You could add the Whistler to your list.

Athabasca Falls is a few miles south of Jasper on the Icefields Parkway. So is Peyto Lake, but it is more at southern end of the Parkway.

The Bow Valley Parkway is a pleasant drive, and on the occasions when I had time,I got off the Trans Canada and used the Bow Valley Parkway. Last year we did it full length from Lake Louise.

You will get a good look at the side of Castle Mountain when you do. Some good viewpoints along the Bow Valley.

I also suggest that on your Johnston Canyon day you turn up the road and drive to the top of Vermillion Pass.
Too bad Marble Canyon is still closed because of fire damage to the bridges.
But the drive is a nice one.

You can take it while you are staying in Banff.

Also, if time hangs, drive the Spray Lakes road south of Banff. You can go all the way to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on it. Nice, spectacular drive.

You will not run out of things to do and places to see!!

How late in September are you going.
The air can get a bit nippy in mid to late September.

bob_brown is offline  
Old Jul 18th, 2005, 06:37 AM
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Hello jomale,

This is how you could consider using your time:

Banff Day 1 - Visit Johnston Canyon, which is on the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy #1A). Go there first because, as Bob Brown says, it's popular and its parking lot fills up. I don't think that will be as much of a challenge in September as it is in July and August, but it would be best to play it safe. After that return to Banff townsite, ride the gondola up Sulphur Mountain, stroll down Banff's main shopping street, and visit Lake Minnewanka.

Banff Day 2 - Visit Kananaskis Country. Drive east from Banff on Hwy #1. Turn south on Hwy #40 as far as Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Then, immediately north of Kananaskis Lakes, turn northwest onto the gravel Smith-Dorrien Road, which will take you past Spray Lakes and into the town of Canmore. Return to Banff.

If you like, you could do an even bigger, more ambitious circuit. In that case you could drive further east on Hwy #1. Then you could turn south onto Hwy #22 and drive to Bragg Creek, which is quite a cute little hamlet. From Bragg Creek, make your way south through Turner Valley and Black Diamond to Longview. At Longview turn west onto Route #541. When Route #541 meets Hwy #40, turn north. You will drive over the Highwood Pass, which is the highest stretch of paved road in Canada. Then you will reach Kananaskis Lakes. Immediately north of Kananaskis Lakes, turn NW onto the Smith-Dorrien Road. As I mentioned before, Smith-Dorrien Road has a gravel surface. It's a scenic road, but if you want a paved route you could stick with Hwy #40 till it reaches Hwy #1. Then turn west and return to Banff.

Banff Day 3 - Visit Moraine Lake (9 miles from Lake Louise village) and the lake of Lake Louise (3 miles from Lake Louise village). If you like, ride the gondola up Mount Whitehorn at Lake Louise. Lake Louise is about 50 minutes from Banff townsite.

Jasper Day 1 - This day will be the day on which you drive from Banff to Jasper. The Icefields Parkway (Hwy #93), which connects Lake Louise and Jasper, starts just west of Lake Louise.

At a minimum, stop to see Peyto Lake, which you will reach about half an hour out of Lake Louise. However, while you're driving the Icefields Parkway, it would be nice also to see Mistaya Canyon, the Columbia Icefields (where you can ride a Snocoach onto the Athabasca Glacier), Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls. (Although you have listed Athabasca Glacier and Athabasca Falls together, they are about 45 minutes apart from each other.)

Jasper Day 2 - From your base in Jasper, drive along Maligne Road. Stop at Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake. The cruise across Maligne Lake to see Spirit Island gets mixed reviews on this forum. I am one of those who likes it. If you do justice to these places, especially Maligne Canyon, this one road can occupy you for the better part of a day.

Jasper Day 3 - If you like, ride the tramway up Whistlers Mountain. Then visit Mount Robson Provincial Park to the west of Jasper.

Lake Louise Day 1 - This will be the day on which you drive from Jasper back to Lake Louise. Instead of heading out of Jasper on Hwy #93, as you normally would do, head out on Hwy #93A. From Hwy #93A, turn onto Cavell Road. Stop a couple of times to see the views of the Astoria River Valley. When you get to the parking lot at the end of the road, get out and do some or all of the Angel Glacier / Cavell Meadows hike. It's a beautiful hike that takes half a day if you do the full circuit. Even if you don't want to do the full circuit, at least walk a little way so that you can see Angel Glacier.

Return to Hwy #93A and continue driving south on it. In the vicinity of Athabasca Falls Hwy #93A will join Hwy #93. Carry on south to Lake Louise.

Lake Louise Day 2 - Do a circuit through Yoho National Park to Golden, down the Columbia River Valley to Radium Hot Springs, through Kootenay National Park to Castle Junction, and back to Lake Louise again. Castle Junction is not a town. There are no buildings there. It is merely the spot where Hwy #93 from Radium Hot Springs intersects with Hwy #1 more or less half way between Banff townsite and Lake Louise.

While you're in Yoho NP, stop to see the railway tunnels, Takakkaw Falls, the natural bridge over the Kicking Horse River and Emerald Lake.

Here is a web site on which you can look up maps and descriptions of the four contiguous Rocky Mountain national parks (Jasper, Banff, Yoho and Kootenay):


Here is a map of Kananaskis Country:


Here is a map of the Cowboy Trail (Hwy #22). It will show you the relationship of Bragg Creek, Turner Valley, Black Diamond and Longview to Kananaskis Country. Click on the map till it enlarges:


Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Old Jul 18th, 2005, 05:57 PM
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Thanks for all the great help. It's a bit overwhelming since there is so much to do, but at least it seems like there's little need for advance planning in terms of reservations, etc.

We will be doing some hiking and we're going early september, right after labor day. I would like to go white water rafting but I understand that the water may be low so it may not be feasible.

Bob, I noticed your e-mail address, are you at Univ of Georgia in Athens? My husband and I live in atlanta, and he went to uga law. In fact, lately we've made the trek to athens fairly frequently taking our youngest dog to the vetinary school.
jomale is offline  
Old Jul 19th, 2005, 06:30 AM
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Hi Jomale

We have just come back from our honeymoon in the Rockies where we split our time between Banff and Jasper.

Everyone's suggestion sound great and I can't think of anything we did that hasn't already been mentioned, apart from Vermillion Lakes literally 5 mins from the centre of the Banff townsite. The Trans-Canada highway actually runs close-by, but don't let this put you off- it's still a very quiet and serene place. If you like birdlife there was a resident bald eagle and osprey, both which spent most time over Vermillion Lake 1. It was supposed to be a good place to see beavers though we didn't see any unfortunately.

I know you said you can't really change your itinerary, but I don't think it's essential to stay in lake louise- we saw all places from either Banff or Jasper.

Here's what we saw from Banff:

Sulphur mountain (gondola)
Lake Minnewanka
Johnson Lake
Two Jack Lake
(all 3 lakes above are on the Minnewanka Loop)
Bow river (nice walk)
Vermillion Lakes
Emerald lake
Takkakaw falls
Saskachewan river crossing
Lake Louise
Moraine Lake
Bow Valley (good for seeing elk)
Banff itself is a good place just for spending time

I would set aside an entire day for your trip from Banff to Jasper, via the Icefields Parkway.

Along the way, we stopped to see:

Waterfowl lake
Mistaya Canyon (worth the walk down from the lay-by)
Peyto lake
Athabasca glacier (very cold, but spectacular)
Bow Lake
Athabasca Falls

Jasper is far less busy than Banff.
From Jasper we saw:

Medicine lake
Spirit island (in Lake Maligne)- this is a 90 minute round-trip by boat- book ahead at the office in Jasper on Patricia Street. I'd say it's definitely worth the money and time, but be aware that you literally get only 10 mins to the second to view Spirit island and get photos...

Maligne road gets you to Medicine and Maligne Lakes, and is apparently a good place to see bears if you drive along it in the evening...

We also went to see Pyramid Lake and Pyramid island in the evening- about 15 mins from Jasper townsite. It was nice a peaceful, and also quite eery with loons calling on the lake.

We then drove back down the Icefields Parkway and back to Banff as we liked it so much..

I'm sure you'll have a fantastic trip.

Chris_Erica is offline  
Old Jul 20th, 2005, 06:38 PM
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Chris_Erica, thanks for the info and congrats on your wedding.

Of the things you did from Banff, what was the farthest away. I'm trying to get a feel for how far things will be from our hotel in terms of drive time.

Also, any good restaurant suggestions?

Finally, did you do any excursions worthy of note (i.e. snocoach to the glacier, hummer tours, whitewater rafting horseback riding, etc?). I'm trying to get a feel for what if anything we will need to plan in advance.

jomale is offline  
Old Jul 21st, 2005, 05:17 AM
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I know that when planning a first trip to the Canadian Rockies there is an urge to plan, plan, plan. Make the most of it, etc.

In my years of going to Western Canada, I have set a few definite objectives of major importance. The rest I let fall in where it may. I read the guide books, study the maps, and know what is possible and what is available. Then I let immediate conditions determine exactly what I do each day.

For example, last year we drove to Johnson Canyon. The parking lot was full; like for a UGA football game.
So I said to heck with this and headed over Vermillion Pass to Kootenay and explored the Stanley Basin.

When driving up and down the parkway, we have usually read about some trail, and then go there to see what it looks like. If it is too long or too arduous, we don't do it.

For example, the meadows above Peyto Lake, Bow Summit, are a beautiful spot with panoramic views.

I know Judy likes to plan much more carefully than I do. My approach has been to learn what is there, have a mental list of attractions, and then do what I can.

My approach is a little different because I have a pet aversion to Banff. I try to keep out of there and go elsewhere. My favorite spots are well off of the paved roads and to see them, we use back country sleeping accommodations, one of them rustic to the extent that it does not have electricity and requires a 5.5 mile hike to reach. I will be there in a month and hope I have the stamina to get way up in a valley that has no marked trail.

I can recommend two excellent books to help you have the materials needed to make daily decisions on what you want to do. One is the hiker's Bible for the Rockies: The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, 7th edition, by Bart Robinson and Brian Patton. It is, in my opinion, the best hiking guide in English. It surpasses the classics by Kev Reynolds on Switzerland.

The authors live out there and have for years. The book gives elevation changes, measured distances, and other vital details. I don't leave home for Alberta without it.

The other book, Handbook of the Canadian Rockies by Ben Gadd, is a comprehensive guide to the geology, flora, fauna, and weather of the Rocky Mountain region.
Ben has spent a lifetime putting this fantastic book together. It is about as good of all encompassing study of a natural region that you will find, anywhere. Since I acquired both books, my enjoyment of the region has increased.

Unfortunately there is more to see out there than I have the energy, money, and time to do. Mostly it is the energy; I cannot do 16 miles a day over those trails anymore.

But I urge you to look over both of these books. The trail guide will even give you splendid ideas on what to see along the roads, and don't overlook the short trails at the ends of the sections. Without reading those pages, I would never have visited Panther Falls or the Falls of Beauty Creek or found Waterfall Valley.

To answer your other question, I retired from UGA officially in '98, but hung around until 2001.

The Vet School has served us well in the past because some of the doctors over there are among the best anywhere in the world.

Two retired friends of mine were at the top of the list. One is/was a neurosurgeon and also head of the small animal clinic; the other is a world class expert on the pancreas and liver. Also, his clinical diagnostic skills were (and still are) legendary.

I used to take my old dog over there. I usually told my friend I was coming, and he would assembled his students because he knew I was fully aware that this is a teaching hospital. He and my dog were good friends because he had seen her several times. She was very trusting and cooperated nicely. He would emphasize the importance of gaining the animal's trust and Ginger would assist by licking his hand, right on cue.
Then she would tolerate 4 or 5 vet students checking her over. I think the care she got over there enabled her to live for 17 years before lympho sarcoma got her.

This may sound strange, but when I have a major physical ailment myself, like hip replacement, I call one of my Vet School friends first and solicit his or her advice! They don't have the luxury of diagnosing a patient who can tell them exactly where it hurts so I find that they possess diagnostic skills I wish people doctors had.

There is no doubt about it, the UGA Vet School has some very talented faculty and staff.
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Old Jul 25th, 2005, 07:45 AM
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Hi Jomale
In reply to your second question, the furthest things we did from Banff was visit Lake Louise, and Emerald lake and takkakaw falls.

How long it takes depends on which route you take.- You can either go by the slower and longer, but more scenic Bow valley parkway, or take the shorter, quicker trans Canada highway. I'd say that by the highway, lake louise is approximately an hour from Banff. Bow Valley parkway would take longer- but the whole idea of taking the parkway is to take in the scenery and the wildlife, so it's a trip in itself really.

Banff restaurants that we liked: Wild Bills Saloon (great ribs!). Silver dragon chinese restaurant. Melissas (near Banff Park Lodge) was also excellent, and is very popular- perhaps reserve in advance. We had a good breakfast in Brunos bar & Grill on Caribou Street (just off Banff avenue, near to the Mount Royal Hotel)

Jasper restaurants: AVOID L&W- huge range of food, but it was very disappointing, and I have heard other says the same. We had a great meal at Miss Italia. Bears Paw Bakery does fantastic stuff for breakfast

We didn't take a snocoach tour, though now I'm back I kind of wish we had, although we did take a walk up onto the glacier, but u can't get as far as on a snocoach. I don't think there's any big need to pre-book these as they run pretty frequently.
We went on a boat trip in Jasper to see Spirit island (in lake maligne). We did pre-book this at the office in Jasper- but we only booked at the end of the day before. I don't think it would be essential to pre-book that tour, though it would probably mean hanging around at lake maligne until there was a boat with spare places if you didn't pre-book.

I have heard some say that you don't really see much on excursions and tours that you can't see just by sightseeing yourself, and I think I'd agree with that. Everything is pretty accessible.

Hope this helps
Chris_Erica is offline  
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