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carioca Jul 8th, 2006 12:19 PM

ROCKIES- advice please
We will be arriving in Calgary and then driving to Jasper spending there two nights.The third day we will driving in direction of Banff visiting the Icefields views and the fourth and last day visiting Lake Louise and Banff. In our fifth day we will be driving to Calgary´s airport to our flight that leaves at 1.35 pm to Rio de Janeiro.
I have two questions:
We have reservations for two nights in Jasper and two in Canmore. Would it be better to spend one night near Lake Louise and just one in Canmore so we would not have to drive back to visit Lake Louise or it is close enough so this does not make any difference?
Considering that we have an international flight at what time should we leave Canmore, in time to deliver our car, and get our luggage from the store room and be on time for our check in and flight at 1.35 pm on a saturday morning ? Should be better sleep the last night in Calgary?
Thanks for your help

Cruiseryyc Jul 8th, 2006 01:10 PM

Yes I would suggest getting a room at Lake Louise so you don't have to back track. It's about a one hour drive from Lake Louise to Canmore so it would save you a lot of time. You should be at the airport at least two hours prior departure for an international flight, plus time to drop off your rental car. Canmore is an hour drive from the airport so if you left by 8:00 a.m. you should be okay (as long as there is no road construction). If you are concerned then you might be better staying at one of the hotels close to the airport in Calgary

Judy_in_Calgary Jul 8th, 2006 01:30 PM

>>>>>>We will be arriving in Calgary and then driving to Jasper spending there two nights.<<<<<<

I saw in another thread that you would land in Calgary at 11.00 a.m. It would be helpful if you realized that you probably would not reach Jasper before 6.00 p.m. or perhaps even 7.00 p.m.

Since you will have come from Vancouver and will not have to clear immigration and customs, it probably will take you 30 minutes to get your luggage off the carousel.

Even if you put excess luggage in storage and collect a rental car, you should be able to depart from the airport an hour after landing.

The drive from Calgary to Jasper nominally takes 5 hours. But you may need to line up for 20 minutes or so at Banff National Park's east gate to buy a national park pass.

Then you're going to get hungry and you're going to have to stop and eat. It probably would be a good idea to stop for an afternoon snack in Banff townsite or Lake Louise village.

There are few restaurants along the Icefields Parkway, and a couple of them are not that great anyway. However, the restaurant at Sunwapta Falls, which you should reach about two hours after Lake Louise, is pleasant. If you feel hungry when you get there, it would be a good idea to stop and have your evening meal. Keep in mind that if you don't eat there, it'll still be about 40 minutes before you reach Jasper townsite.

>>>>>>Would it be better to spend one night near Lake Louise and just one in Canmore so we would not have to drive back to visit Lake Louise or it is close enough so this does not make any difference?<<<<<<

Since you'll be spending such a short time in the mountains, I agree with Cruiseryyc you would make better use of your time if you spent one night in Lake Louise and one night in Canmore.

But I also believe you need to use a certain amount of caution on the day that you drive from Lake Louise to Canmore. Since you will have checked out of your Lake Louise accommodation, you'll be driving with your luggage in the trunk of your car. I suggest you keep your trunk locked, and I also suggest that you carry really valuable items (passport, money, camera) with you when you are sight seeing. I used to think the Canadian Rockies were safe, but a Calgary friend of mine recently had a bunch of stuff stolen from her car that was parked just off the Icefields Parkway.

Vacouver also is a place where you need to be careful. Someone reported on one of the travel discussion forums that a memory stick that contained his/her vacation photos was stolen from his/her rented car in the parking lot of one of Vancouver's popular tourist attractions.

>>>>>>Considering that we have an international flight at what time should we leave Canmore, in time to deliver our car, and get our luggage from the store room and be on time for our check in and flight at 1.35 pm on a saturday morning ?<<<<<<

Again I agree with what Cruiseryyc told you. My feeling is that you would be safe if you spent your last night in Canmore and left there at 8.30 a.m. on your departure day.

<b>Things to see</b>

Since you'll have a rather short time in the mountains, you'll enhance your trip if you're as efficient as possible.

Top landmarks in the Jasper area, to my taste, are Maligne Canyon, the tram ride up Whistlers' Mountain, and the drive to Mount Edith Cavell (all the more so if you do the Angel Glacier / Cavell Meadows hike).

The most important things to see when you come back down the Icefields Parkway include Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls and, above all, Peyto Lake. Many visitors like to stop at the Columbia Icefields and ride a Snocoach onto the Athabasca Glacier.

I read in another thread that your trip would include a visit to Alaska. Since that is the case, the Columbia Icefields may be less meaningful to you than they are to some other visitors. You might enjoy using the time doing one of the short but rewarding hikes along the Icefields Parkway, e.g., Wilcox Pass or Parker Ridge.

On the day that you come back down the Icefields Parkway to Lake Louise, you also may have time to take a detour into Yoho National Park to the west of Lake Louise and visit Takakkaw Falls.

On the day that you drive from Lake Louise to Canmore, the most important landmarks to see are the lake of Lake Louise, which is 5 km from the village of Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, which is 9 km from Lake Louise, Johnston Canyon, which is along the Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy #1A) between Lake Louise and Banff townsite, and Banff townsite itself. If you must sacrifice something on that day, the place to eliminate would be Johnston Canyon. Nice as it is, it is less impressive than Malgine Canyon in Jasper National Park. The most important place for you to see on that day, in my opinion, is Moraine Lake.

The weather in the mountains changes a lot. I suggest you read the What To Pack page of my website:

Hope that helps.

carioca Jul 8th, 2006 02:50 PM

Thank you for your answers.
Would you have any suggestions about a place to stay near Lake Louise?
I tried some recomendations and they are already full for the end of august.
Judy , I read informations in your site about most subjects and they are fantastic.
Is it possible to buy the park pass in Vancouver so we would not have to spend time in The Rockies at a line? We will be 6 adults travelling in one car.

brookwood Jul 8th, 2006 03:01 PM

I agree somewhat with those who suggest spending a night in Lake Louise, but on a qualified basis.

First, all lodging in Lake Louise Village and the vicinity is expensive.

Secondly, the approximately 70 K one-way distance between Canmore and Lake Louise itself is non trivial on a time constrained trip.

On the other hand, the total driving time will be a little over an hour if you travel the entire distance on the Trans Canada Highway. That time for me is not entirely wasted if I take the Bow Valley Parway rather than the Trans Canada. The drive is very scenic and you have several stopping points along the way, such as Johnston Canyon and Falls. There is also a very good viewpoint of the west wall of Castle Mountain, which is in reality a huge glacial cirque that is best seen when driving toward Castle Junction and Lake Louise.

In years past I have opted to stay near the Calgary airport on the night before departure, but that was mostly because my flights to Atlanta left early in the morning.

To drive from Canmore to the Calgary Airport, I would allow a minimum of 4 hours. The airport is on the northeastern side of town. It can be reached fairly easily, but you will need to drive through Calgary on surface streets.

The most direct way to get there, without changing streets several time, is to follow the Trans Canada through Calgary until you intersect the Barlow Trail east of downtown Calgary. Turn north onto the Barlow Trail, and stay on the Barlow Trail until you get to the airport.

There are slightly faster ways, but one must know the northern part of Calgary fairly well to avoid taking a wrong turn and ending up costing additional time.

Canmore to Calgary is about 115K, depending on the starting and ending points. The airport, once you turn onto the Barlow Trail is about 8 K by the time you get into the rental car return area.

Barlow trail becomes a semi freeway once you get past McKnight Boulevard. Until that point, traffic in the middle of the day moves along fairly well.

At worst you are looking at 130K of driving, most of it on good roads.

I think 4 hours of lead time to reach the airport, get through check-in, and then go through security would be sufficient.

Being somewhat risk averse, I would allow more like 5 hours to give myself a little more time.

My usual plan because of morning flights is to spend the last night at the Greenwood Inn, which is an easy drive along the Barlow Trail from the airport. I have used the Greenwood several times, and have no reason as of now to change to another hotel.

I know I can make an easy exit from the hotel parking lot, turn north on the Barlow Trail, and drive directly to
the airport without much opposition.

I might add that the Calgary airport is one of the more user friendly airports I have used in my travels. My arrivals and departures there have been relatively hassle free, except of course for American customs and immigration.
But you will not need to tolerate that hassle.

Judy_in_Calgary Jul 8th, 2006 03:30 PM

Hi carioca,

Glad you've found the information helpful.


The advantage of Lake Louise is that it's centrally located with respect to excellent scenery and hiking territory. The disadvantage, as you've discovered, is that it has a relatively small stock of accommodation.

In the Lake Louise area you could try Baker Creek Chalets, Paradise Lodge and Bungalows, and Deer Lodge. Those would be the preferred properties.

If you just can't find the right accommodation, you could even consider the Crossing Resort, which is a motel-style property at Sasktachewan River Crossing, where Hwy #11 forms a T-junction with the Icefields Parkway (Hwy #93). It's not a fancy property, but it's okay as a place to spend a night.

The hamlet of Field in nearby Yoho National Park has some bed and breakfast type properties. But the stock of accommodation there is very limited, and I'd be surprised if you managed to find accommodation for six people in late August.

Then, as brookwood said, it is possible to stay in the Banff / Canmore area. It would involve some driving back and forth, but it would not be the end of the world.

<b>National Park Pass</b>

I've just phoned the national park information office in Banff.

The woman who answered the phone said that the Husky gasoline station at Dead Man's Flats, which you reach a short distance before Canmore, sells national park passes.

In addition to that you can cheat and buy your national park pass in Banff townsite. I say that requires cheating because, once you enter the national parks, you are supposed to have a national park pass if one of your four tires leaves the pavement of the main highway. So, before you turn into Banff townsite, you technically are supposed to have a national park pass. However, no one will find out if you don't have a pass as you drive into Banff townsite. The woman on the phone admitted that.

But you must buy yuor pass no later than Banff townsite. When you enter the Icefields Parkway (Hwy #93), the road that leads from Lake Louise to Jasper, there often is a park warden checking that motorists have park passes.

If you choose to buy your pass in Banff townsite, you can use the drive-through lane on the far right when you enter Banff National Park's east gate. That lane is for vehicles that already have national park passes or that intend to drive through Banff and Yoho National Parks without stopping.

Going into Banff townsite, parking, finding the tourist information office, buying the pass, returning to your car and driving back out of Banff townsite would actually take longer, I believe, than lining up at Banff National Park's east gate.

The Husky gas station at Dead Man's Flats probably would provide you with the fastest method of buying a pass.

carioca Jul 9th, 2006 06:42 AM

I just got an e-mail from Paradise Lodge and they have rooms for the night we need. So I will make reservations .
Thanks again.

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