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Waterton Lakes NP or Banff NP ... or maybe Jasper?

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We are planning to spend a few in Glacier National Park, MT, and we could possibly plan some additional days for additional siteseeing. If we could only do one, which is better for scenic drives and hiking: Banff or Waterton Lakes National Park? Our trip looks something like this:

Day One: Arrive in Montana in the late PM
Day Two: Drive to Glacier National Park (about three hours); spend time in the park
Day Three: Spend time in Glacier National Park
Day Four: Drive on Going-to-the-Sun Road (then either Waterton or Banff)
Day Five: Would really like to get to Banff
Day Six: Would love to drive up to Jasper, but don't want to be in the car "the whole time" -- also don't want to shortchange one area for a glimpse of another area.
Day Seven: Have to drive back to Montana (8 hours from Banff)
Day Eight: Flying Home

Looking at this, would it be better to spend additional time in Glacier NP? We definitely want to see Banff; should we focus on that and forget about Waterton? Is it really unrealistic to try to go up to Jasper as well (my interest there is the Icefields Parkway.)

Any expert advice would be welcome! :-)

  • Report Abuse

    Last summer I took my adult daughter to Glacier NP in Montana. Being Married with a 6 year old she always want less days and I, of course always want more.

    We settle on 4 days plus travel.

    We spent 3 1/2 days in Glacier (way too little in my opinion).
    We came and left from Calgary so going to Waterton lakes for a few hours was barely out of our way.

    We photographed the hotel from afar, went inside for a few minutes went over to see and photograph the waterfalls and did the most strenuous hike of the trip; Bears Hump.

    Upon returning I immediately started to makes plans to return to Glacier this August (next week). I'm spending a week (with a friend) in the park and then barely over two days going to Banff and Jasper.

    I was in Banff for several days a couple of years ago so I feel I can pick exactly where we'll go in Banff. I haven't been to jasper so my plan is to stop at most of the viewpoints along the Icefields with one or two short waterfall hikes.

    I've picked out two routes very close to the town of Jasper for wildlife potential and scenery. Cavell Road and Maligne Road. I'm not sure if we'll get to both.

    Then we'll end up in Calgary where we sleep over and return home the next morning.

    There's a pretty good chance that the trip to Banff and Jasper will just be a scouting trip for a more extensive trip in a year or so.

    That's my plan.

    Now about your.

    When are you going?
    Where are you flying into and out from?
    With the amount of time you've allowed for Glacier I expect you don't plan on going to the Many Glacier area. This is the most spectacular part of the park.

    It's a 5 hour drive from Rising Sun Motor in about 5 miles along GTTS Road from the St Mary entrance to Banff Townsite.

    I suggest you save Banff and Jasper for another time, add a day to Glacier and spend half a day going to Waterton Lakes.

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    if you want to see Banff...you could stay there for your last two nights before returning to Montana. you would only get a "sample" of what's there but it is beautiful to see and if you don't mind driving, i'd do it if you are the type who enjoying benging in the car and enjoying the scenary. definitely can't fit jasper in.

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