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Seeking Advice on Banff/Jasper trip Fall 2015

Seeking Advice on Banff/Jasper trip Fall 2015

Old Feb 1st, 2015, 11:36 AM
  #1  
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Seeking Advice on Banff/Jasper trip Fall 2015

We are energetic seniors and were going to go to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Banff, and Jasper this fall but decided it may all run together in our minds, so we are only going to Banff and Jasper. We are flying into and out of Calgary and have reservations in Banff Springs for the first three nights. We will then drive the Icefields Pkwy to Jasper and stay there four nights. We will head back to the airport in Calgary via the Icefields Pkwy and we don't want to rush. What would you suggest for our last two or three nights that, if possible, doesn't overlap the sights we will already have seen around Banff Springs? We will try to see many of the sights mentioned in this forum. Perhaps during those last few days we'll see some sights we may have missed the first part of the trip, but we don't want to go back to Banff Springs and we'd rather not stay in the city. Thank you.
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Old Feb 1st, 2015, 12:10 PM
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You may want to go to Miette Hot Springs Resort from Jasper.
http://mhresort.com/mhresort/welcome.html
From Jasper you should take a hike in the Maligne Canyon. The lake at the top of the canyon may be empty by the time you're there. Elk sometimes come right into Jasper.
It's been decades since I've been to Banff. I've been to Jasper several times since 2001. I arrive in Jasper on the ViaRail Canadian.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 06:35 AM
  #3  
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Thanks very much tomfuller. We are looking forward to Jasper and will definitely hike Maligne Canyon. I should probably be more clear in that we don't want to leave Jasper and arrive at the Calgary airport in the same day for our return flight. We can take a couple of days to get back to the airport but don't want to spend those last couple of days back in Banff Springs, so looking for suggestions as to where to stay that's within an hour or two from Calgary airport yet still see beautiful scenery.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 06:41 AM
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You could stay in Lake Louise and use it as a base to visit Yoho National Park or stay in the park, say at Emerald Lake Lodge. Of course if you haven't seen Lake Louise and environs while at Banff, there is much to see there.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 12:32 PM
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I like the suggestion of Lake Louise. You can stay in Fields which about about 20 minutes from Emerald Lake, but it's a tiny town with very limited lodging and food options. Perfect for some, but limiting with others. Lake Louise would be a good base to see Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Yoho NP and Kootenay NP. Emerald Lake Lodge is gorgeous, but it's a good 2.5 hrs from the airport and if you are coming later in the fall, you could potentially get messy early wintry weather at higher elevations.

Another option would be to stay in Canmore and explore Kananaskis Country. You don't mention the exact dates of your trip, but if it's later fall, that area is less likely to get early snow/ice. From Canmore, it's about 1.25 hrs to the airport, give or take.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2015, 05:19 PM
  #6  
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Lake Louise and Moraine Lake is an area we definitely want to see, but isn't it quite close to Banff? Canmore sounds lovely, too, but my question is the same. It looks pretty close on the map. We will arrive in early September and leave around the 15th. Will look at the map again and definitely check out Fields and Emerald Lake Lodge.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2015, 09:47 AM
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Ah! In early September you should have no issues with weather. We did get a big snow dump this past Labor Day weekend, but that's quite unusual.

Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are about 45 minutes from Banff (+20-25 minutes from Lake Louise up to Moraine Lake) and Canmore is about 20-30 minutes from Banff. So Banff can be used as a base for exploring both areas, but it depends on your interests and what you want to see.

We'd suggested Canmore or Lake Louise since you will already be staying in Banff for several nights. The advantage of staying in Lake Louise is that you can hit the trails and/or get to Moraine Lake before all the tourists/bus tours arrive. Especially in mid September, this can be important as tourist numbers to Moraine Lake peak when the larch trees turn their spectacular fall yellow color. At that point, especially on weekends, Parks may actually close the road to Moraine Lake off and limit access to the shuttles only.

Canmore on the other hand, provides closer access to a lot of hikes and sites in Kananaskis Country which would be a bit of a drive from Banff. Plus it tends to be less crowded and cheaper in terms of accommodation. You can also stay out in Kananaskis Village on Rt. 40, which is in the heart of the mountains there. I think K Country is as stunning as the national parks. Canmore or Kananaskis Village would also be a lot closer to Calgary and you wouldn't need to have a parks pass there.

Note than September 7 is a holiday here, so that weekend could be quite busy. B&Bs and some hotels may have a 2-3 night minimum over the holiday weekend, especially in Field and Jasper
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Old Feb 3rd, 2015, 01:29 PM
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We are now thinking Moraine Lake Lodge. I know it's not closer to the airport, but we are starting to do "bucket list" trips, and this Lodge looks like it would be a fine end to what we think will be a beautiful trip. Our flight leaves Calgary at 1215 p.m., so we'll just leave the lodge allowing enough time to get there. Do you know anything about this lodge? Reviews are great. We'd probably get a room in the lodge on an upper floor. The cabins look nice but cost more. It's either this or Stone Ridge in Canmore. Any thoughts?
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Old Feb 6th, 2015, 02:04 PM
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Moraine Lake Lodge is the starting point for a couple of our favorite hikes (Sentinal Pass and Eiffel Lake) and in a spectacular setting. I will definitely stay there someday when we are empty nesters, rooms just aren't set up for families. Only downside is it is very busy there during the day with day trippers. Much like Lake Louise where we've stayed in the past mornings and evenings before/after the crowds make it worthwhile. Nothing against Canmore, but it would be a no brainer for me.
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Old Feb 9th, 2015, 09:07 AM
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Moraine Lake Lodge is in a stunning setting and gets good reviews. It is likely to be very crowded in early September with the crowds coming to see the larches, but as lodge guests, you will always be allowed to drive up the road. And I think a room on the second floor would give you more privacy since there are day visitors/hikers walking all over the area from before dawn to sunset. Plus you'll be able to enjoy the area after most folks have headed back down the road.

I seem to remember that the lodge has guided tours and hikes for their own guests. Definitely worth taking advantage of while you are there. Note that hikes in the Moraine Lake area, other than right on the lake shore require you to be in a tight group of at least 4 people due bear issues. So unless you can find others to head out with, the guided hikes might be your best option.

A few thing..

If you are flying directly back to the US, you will go through immigrations and customs in Calgary. So you need to be at the airport a good 2.5-3 hrs in advance of your flight. I'd leave 2.5 hrs from the lodge to the airport, so it's an early, but not very early morning.

Also be aware that the Moraine Lake is about 20-25 minutes up a windy road from Lake Louise. So if you want to have dinner/drinks/evening activities elsewhere, you will have a bit of drive back to the hotel. 20 minutes or so from Lake Louise and more than an hour from Banff. If driving that road after dark doesn't appeal, you might look into early dinners or having special lunches/brunches in other locations like the Chateau Lake Louise.

Also, the lodge has some sort of tourist oriented cafe/store, but if you want to stock up on stuff for lunch/get basic supplies, I would do that in Canmore/Banff or even Lake Louise rather than paying the tourist inflated prices at the lodge.
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Old Feb 9th, 2015, 09:28 AM
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One thing you might want to consider is Lake O'Hara. However this might not fit with your getting to the airport at noon but if you have to leave a day early to stay in Calgary it may be worth it. This is world class scenery. The cabins at Baker Creek in Banff Park are very nice also but I think if you stayed in Kananaskis the drive down Hwy 40 is stunning. There are several little hikes in the area where you could bring a light lunch and be gone for several hours. One of my favourites is the cross country ski area where it is flat about a mile hike near Spray lakes/ Shark Mountain to a underground river (Karst). It is really beautiful.
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Old Feb 9th, 2015, 04:17 PM
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Wow--lots more to consider now. Thanks so much, everyone. I was not aware that we would have to allow time for customs in Calgary. Thought that part would happen in the US as it has when returning from Europe. Stairgod, do you have lodging you can recommend at Lake O'Hara
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Old Feb 10th, 2015, 09:51 AM
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Yes, you pre-clear US immigrations and customs in Canada, so you don't have to deal with that in your destination airport. It's a unique situation for travel from Canada to the US. There are no separate lines for US citizens (unlike at US airports), which is why it's good to allow extra time.

I think Stairgod might be thinking of Emerald Lake - the Emerald Lake Lodge is in a stunning setting and good location from which to explore Lake Louise and Yoho NP.

Lake O'Hara is a bit different - it is accessible only via bus or by walking up a 11 km access road. Spots on the bus have a strict quota in order to limit damage/human footprint in the area. Lodging options include a tent campsite, an ACC hut and a lodge. Bookings at the lodge are extremely hard to impossible to get - people joke about having to inherit spots! Bookings at the ACC hut are by lottery which occurs each fall for the next summer.

For day visits, you have to get one of the quota spots on the bus. Booking opens up exactly 3 months in advance of the date - it's all done by a single phone line. So it requires some luck to get through to the line, and then more luck to get through in time to get a spot. The only other option is to keep an eye out for cancellations or to show up early before the first bus of the day to see if there any same day cancellations.

However, the reason we jump through such hoops to get to Lake O'Hara is that the area is stunning. I was fortunate to spend a few days there last September and found the scenery amazing. You have high alpine passes, lakes, scrambling, glacial views, craggy peaks, waterfalls and lots of wildlife.
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Old Feb 10th, 2015, 06:47 PM
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Do they do guided walks in the Lake O'Hara area like they do in Moraine Lake? If so, I might just get on the phone three months in advance. I can be persistent. Do I google "Lake O'Hara Bus" to get the number?
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Old Feb 11th, 2015, 11:08 AM
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Go to link below and click on the "Printable Version" link for details on making reservation;

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/bc/yoh...ohara/visit.as

We’ve tried our last three visits and were only successful the first time we tried in 2007. That despite calling exactly 30 days @ 8 AM Mountain Time prior to all three visits and on multiple days – a tough ticket. Unless you stay at the lodge I know of no guided hikes. We did what they call the “alpine circuit” and the trails were well marked, though a difficult hike. It is a beautiful place and unlike Moraine Lake or Lake Louise very few people.
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Old Feb 11th, 2015, 01:22 PM
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There are no guided hikes through Parks Canada - the only option would be to sign up for a guided tour. For instance: http://rockiesadventuretours.com/lak...ded_hikes.html

Spots on the bus can be a bit easier to get for September since kids are back in school and tour groups are more likely to have spots they aren't using. It's also generally easier to get spots midweek rather than on weekends. If you don't get tickets via calling, you can always check back for cancellations later in the summer. Parks will update the page one or twice daily with a list of dates for which there are available spots.

I was able to get a spot for last September from the cancellations list. However that was for a camping spot, and those are a bit easier to get. I took the first bus there were a number of people who came 45-60 minutes early for last minute cancellations. There turned out to be 4 or 5 open spots, though that may have been more than normal due to an unusually big dump of snow earlier in the week.

If you are going to call for tickets, be prepared to spend at least half, if not a full day up at Lake O'Hara. There are easier trails, though the alpine circuit is what would probably be considered challenging with a touch of scrambling. You can always do a short section or stay on the lower trails that don't have as much elevation gain.
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Old Feb 11th, 2015, 03:23 PM
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Hi Kgsneds,

It is Lake O'Hara but I haven't been there for years and I think you have covered it. I just figured September???
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Old Feb 12th, 2015, 04:34 PM
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You are all so helpful. Thanks so much. I hope to finalize our plans tonight with Lake Moraine being first choice, Emerald Lake second, and hopefully a day trip to Lake O'Hara. I think we'll spend our last night near the airport in Calgary just to be safe.
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Old Feb 17th, 2015, 10:01 AM
  #19  
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One more question--my dear husband's birthday will take place while we are in Banff Springs. Can you recommend a restaurant for a special dinner? We like everything. For this one, cost doesn't matter. We'll cut back on other meals.
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Old Feb 19th, 2015, 06:32 AM
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The Banff Springs Hotel has a couple high end restaurants that I have eaten at. Food, atmosphere and service was great. Sunday brunch has to many choices. I just did an Urban Spoon search on Banff and nothing spectacular turned up, however there must be some high end restaurants other then the chains like Tony Romas or The Keg. Melissa's Mistake is a good restaurant but not high end.
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