two weeks in the rockies

Old Mar 25th, 2007, 04:16 PM
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two weeks in the rockies

Hi - we are planning a two week trip for early september, 2008 to the canadian rockies. i know - long time ahead - but it's how we plan! We love to hike and will do anything from 1 to 8 hours. Also kayaking, scenic driving and touristy stuff. I had thought of combining this with Glacier in the US but decided that the Banff/Jasper area seemed to have more than enough to keep us happy for two weeks. Tell me if I'm wrong. Will we be burned out after two weeks in those areas?

Mainly I am trying to figure out how to divide my trip without staying in too many different places. Two or three sound pretty good for that amount of time but we are open to suggestion. As hikers and kayakers will we want more time in one area over the other? Are we best doing some of the other parks nearby, too? Any suggestions on how to break this up will be appreciated. i've been reading the other posts but the majority deal with one week and a lot of people are not hikers. We like to be able to spend enough time in a park to get a real feel for it - not just a pass through. So much to see! This question is getting long - thanks for any help.
sue
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Old Mar 25th, 2007, 09:46 PM
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Hi sueoz,

If you want to do a lot of hiking and see each area in depth, two weeks is a good amount of time to spend in the Jasper - Yoho - Lake Louise - Banff area.

I don't think whitewater rafting will be good at that time of year. It's best in the early summer, when the melting snow swell the rivers. To be honest, I don't know how long the whitewater rafting season lasts. I don't even know if rafting is available in September.

But, other than that, September is a really nice time to visit the Rockies.

If I were you, I would devote 60% or 70% of the time to the Banff - Lake Louise - Yoho corridor and 30% or 40% to Jasper.

If you stay in only one place for the more southerly portion of your trip, I would make that place Lake Louise. It's centrally located with respect to prime hiking territory.

If you are willing to split the southerly part of your trip between two different bases, then you could stay in Yoho National Park, which is towards the western end of that strip, and you could also stay in Banff or Canmore, which are towards the eastern end of that strip.

There is lots of different kinds of accommodation in the mountains -- big, luxury hotels, medium sized hotel and motels, small hotels and inns, self-catering chalets, B&Bs, hostels and backcountry lodges.

A backcountry lodge is an establishment to which you cannot drive in your car. Either you have to hike there, or in a few instances you can catch a special bus or a helicopter.

The forests that cover the Rocky Mountains are dominated by coniferous species that stay green year-round. But there are some deciduous species that turn yellow and gold in the autumn. There are not many of the reds and oranges for which the eastern half of North America is famous. Nonetheless, on a crip autumn day with a clear blue sky, the yellows and gold in the Rockies look glorious.

At lower elevations (relatively speaking), the poplar (aspen) trees usually reach the peak of their colour around the middle of September.

At higher elevations the larch trees reach the peak of their colour during the latter half of September. Larch trees look like coniferous trees, because they're have needles. But actually they are deciduous. Their needles turn golden in the autumn and then fall off.

Jasper attains the peak of its fall colour later than Banff, Lake Louise and Yoho National Park. That's counterintuitive, because Jasper is further north. If all other things were equal, you would think that Jasper would peak earlier. However, Jasper is a lower elevation than Lake Louise and Banff, so autumn arrives there just a little later. The peak of the colour there is late September / early October.

In the autumn, there are some hikes that especially are noted for their colour:

* Sunshine Meadows - It's between Banff and Lake Louise, and you have to access the trail by bus.

* Larch Valley, a hike that departs from Moraine Lake, 14 km from Lake Louise.

* Beehives near Lake Louise -- you can make a day of it by hiking the Lake Agnes / Beehives / Plain of Six Glaciers circuit

* Lake O'Hara -- you have to catch a bus there

A hike that is not only beautiful but also fascinating from a natural science point of view is the one to the Burgess Shale in Yoho National Park. You can read more about it here:

http://www.slowtrav.com/canada/rockies_burgess.htm

The best overall book about the Canadian Rockies is "Handbook of the Canadian Rockies" by Ben Gadd. It covers everything you could possibly want to know about the rockies -- climate, geology, flora, fauna, hiking, maps, history. If you buy only one book, this should be it.

If you want an in-depth hiking guide, the book that hikers in the area regard as their "bible," you also should get "Canadian Rockies Trail Guide" by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson.

Another forum where it would be worth your while to hang out is Club Tread, which is dedicated to hiking in Washington State, British Columbia, and Alberta:

http://www.clubtread.com/

Hope that helps.





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Old Mar 26th, 2007, 04:48 PM
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Judy - Thank you so much for the detailed response. We are looking at the first two weeks in September so I don't imagine foliage will play a big part. I especially appreciate your input on how long to stay where. We also love to spot wildlife. Is Jasper best for that? I am a guidebook junkie - so thanks for that info as well. I have a lot more research to do but this gets me on the way.
sue
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Old Mar 26th, 2007, 10:25 PM
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>>>>>>We also love to spot wildlife. Is Jasper best for that?<<<<<<

No, I would not say Jasper is best for viewing wildlife.

Yes, over the long haul, I've had better luck in viewing wildlife in Jasper National Park than I've had in Banff National Park.

But Waterton Lakes National Park is better for wildlife viewing than Jasper National Park is.

The four contiguous mountain national parks (Banff, Kootenay, Yoho and Jasper) are hit and miss when it comes to wildlife viewing. You may see nothing that's worth writing home about in the wildlife department, but you may be lucky and see several species.

It depends what you mean when you say you like spotting wildlife. If you mean you love hiking and it's nice if you happen to see some wildlife along the way, then the Canadian Rockies are for you.

If wildlife is a non-negotiable item on your wish list, then the Canadian Rockies are not for you. In that case you should Google words like "Alaska" and "Knight Inlet, British Columbia" and "Hyder, Alaska." I mentioned Hyder separately from the rest of Alaska, because it actually is accessed from Stewart, British Columbia.

See dwooddon's photos and trip reports of Hyder:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...1&tid=34855463

Hope that helps.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2007, 06:03 AM
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Hi sueoz,
Your 2 weeks in the canadian rockies will be an awesome time and you won't be burned out. Your legs and feet might be from to much trail time! Our first time to Banff was also in early September. We just had one week. We love to hike and my wife loves to photograph wildlife when they are spotted too. Our entire time was spent in Banff National Park, so much wonderful hiking to do that we never made it up to Jasper. The Columbia Icefields was as far north as we ventured. We are actually going back for 2 weeks this summer to Banff and then up into Jasper and Mt. Robson Provincial Parks.
Just from my previous experience of the area, I'd have to agree with Judy in Calgary about breaking up your time. Lake Louise area can be a little touristy, but you won't have as many people during September. (Watch out for Labor Day weekend, around Sept. 4. Its a holiday for us americans.) It is absolutley gorgeous at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
There were several trails I had on my must do list, but do to Grizzly bears ,the Parks had the trails shutdown or you needed groups of 6 people to go. But it didn't keep us from having a great time, I don't think we hiked a bad trail our entire time.
Be prepared for cool weather during September. During the day it was warming up, at night and in the high country it was definately getting below freezing some and we encountered light snow. But that is all part of being in the Mountains.
Kanaskies Country, just south of Banff area is also a beatiful area with good hiking possibilities as well.
The town of Banff is very pretty. The Park's head quarters is located there and the flower gardens are beautiful if they are still out depending on when you get there. There are some nice day hikes in the immediate area. I'd try to avoid the area on a weekend if you can, do to the amount of people. We made our day trips to the town of Banff as rest days from a couple long hikes.
If you fly into Calgary, I'd recommend 4 days in Lake Louise area, a 2-3 days staying over in Yoho area, then tripping up to Jasper for 3-4days. Return to Banff for a rest brake and an easy return trip to Calgary International. You will find plenty to do. Have a great trip.
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Old Apr 25th, 2007, 03:05 PM
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Thanks so much for the thoughtful replies. I am really excited about this trip and trying to research as much as possible before i make reservations.
sue
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