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Trip Report - Glacier, Banff & Jasper National Parks - Aug 2013

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Trip Report - Glacier, Banff & Jasper National Parks - Aug 2013

Old Aug 27th, 2013, 05:13 AM
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Trip Report - Glacier, Banff & Jasper National Parks - Aug 2013

Last year (early Aug 2012) I took my daughter to Glacier NP. Being married with a young daughter, she didn’t want to be away for more than 4 days plus travel. As it turned out, that excellent trip was just not long enough for me.

I then began to plan another trip with a friend (he lives in Toronto and I live in South Florida) for this year. Since we were flying into and out of Calgary, the itinerary included Glacier for a week and then Banff and Jasper for 2 ½ days.

Lodging

We stayed at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (motel units perfectly suited the purpose) for three nights and Rising Sun (cabins – washroom very cramped) for five nights. Each provided basic living accommodations though Swiftcurrent rooms were somewhat nicer and in better condition.

We also stayed one night each in Banff, Jasper and Calgary (at the airport). Motels in these locations are clearly tourist oriented and at a higher comfort level.

Flight arrivals and departures as well as crossing the border twice all went off without a hitch. We stopped at the Walmart Supercenter just below the airport for supplies and at Thronsons in Babb for bear spray. We had no problem bringing the bear spray back across the border into Canada.

We entered Glacier about 5PM and decided to immediately get things started with the short but steep hike to Apikuni Falls. This was a good start for two people not accustomed to anything more than zero elevation. After the hike we saw a roadside black bear who didn’t cooperate for photos.

Each of our three days in Many Glacier had at least one visit to Fishercap Lake either early, late or both. There were almost always moose and/or deer there. A good entertainment spot.

During our three days in Many Glacier we hiked to Iceberg Lake, went on the Grinnell Glacier ranger-led hike and hiked to Redrock Falls. Each of these hikes provided its own flavor of spectacular (the words spectacular and amazing will get used often in this report) scenery.

I highly recommend both the Iceberg Lake and Grinnell Glacier hikes. Neither is difficult though Grinnell Glacier is somewhat shorter but steeper and more strenuous. Also, the waterfalls that must be walked thru on the Grinnell Glacier hike could be an issue. We witnessed a fairly serious accident there. Both provide spectacular scenery.

As we began leaving Many Glacier for Going to the Sun Road and the Rising Sun Motor Inn we had not as yet seen a grizzly bear. In a show of confidence I changed to my longer lens and kept the camera on my lap.

Sure enough, halfway to the Many Glacier exit we saw about a dozen people on the side of the road all looking in the same direction. Not just any grizzly but a silver one. I took about 85 pictures and then heard the dreaded ranger’s voice. “If that bear isn’t 150 yards away I’ll start writing $150 citations”. The bear was 24 yards away and the area cleared fairly quickly.

During our 4 days along GTTS Road we spent one day in Two Medicine. That day consisted of hiking to Astor Falls (yet another very nice waterfall) and then Aster Park Overlook. The Overlook hike is short, steep and strenuous. Unfortunately the view from the top is mostly obstructed so not worth the time or effort.

We then hiked to the beautiful Rockwell Falls and after relaxing there hiked over to the boat dock at the end of Two Medicine Lake to catch the boat back. On the way out we stopped at Running Eagle Falls. This is also known as “Trick Falls” as during the early spring this appears to be two waterfalls in one. I was surprised by this waterfall. A lot more than I expected and definitely worth the stop. Also a very nice setting.

Along GTTS Road we hiked the following:

St Mary and Virginia Falls. These are two beautiful waterfalls and shouldn’t be missed.

Baring Falls. I skipped this last year and didn’t expect much. I was wrong.

Hidden Lake Overlook. Beautiful scenery. Not very long nor strenuous. The stairs along the boardwalk can be strenuous for old knees. We saw a mountain goat wandering around the overlook.

The early part of the Highline trail. Mostly just to walk along the cable and view early scenery. I did this last year and was quite comfortable. However, this year I wasn’t quite as comfortable with this area and that immediately past the cable. I’m not sure why. More spectacular scenery.

Along the Siyeh Pass trail as far as Preston Park where we saw a grizzly and cubs.

Avalanche Lake on the west side. Beautiful hike with excellent scenery around the lake.

Visited Logan Pass several times hoping to see bighorn sheep. We “only” saw were mountain goats who put on a show. Somebody mentioned that they must be on the payroll.

Triple Falls. This is three waterfalls forming a “U” shape being fed by stream and falls coming from three directions. I’ve never seen anything like this. Unfortunately it’s in an area near Logan Pass that is not open to hikers. I guess they want to protect the vegetation. We were tracked down by two rangers. One was an enforcement ranger with a stun gun and revolver. She was not happy to have walked a mile to get us. I believe this should be turned into a trail so more people can take advantage of the unique scenery and waterfall.
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Old Aug 27th, 2013, 05:16 AM
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The drive from Rising Sun to Banff was an easy 4 ½ hours.

Upon arrival we immediately headed to Johnston Canyon to do the relatively short hike to the Lower and then Upper falls.

The first part of the trail is mostly paved and has a constructed walkway hanging along one side of the canyon providing amazing canyon views. The waterfalls have a unique and interesting shape. Only a very small percentage of those who go to the Lower Falls continue on the beautiful Upper Falls. Definitely do this.

We then drove up and down Mount Norquay and along Lake Minnewanka Road in search of wildlife. We did see some female bighorn sheep along the road near the lake.

We took an evening drive over to the Lake Louise area to see the spectacular Moraine Lake. We got there a little late and decided to come back the next morning to see the lake hopefully bathed in sun.

The next morning we again drove up and down Mount Norquay and along Lake Minnewanka looking for wildlife. Once again we saw some female bighorn.

We then started the long drive up the road towards Jasper.

We stopped at Moraine Lake for amazing morning views of this most beautiful lake. Lake Louise was very foggy so we bypassed it.

The scenery along the road was spectacular.

The next stop was Bow Summit and the short hike to the amazing Peyto Lake. Both Moraine and Peyto Lakes have that beautiful turquoise color.

Using my map of the Icefields Parkway, we made stops at many of the viewpoints and waterfalls.

Tangle Falls is one of the more spectacular waterfalls and is right beside the road. We missed it on the way to Jasper (the sign said Tangle Creek) and made a point of stopping on the way back.

We stopped at the Columbia Icefields Visitors Center going both ways for more spectacular views. This time of the glaciers.

We took an evening drive along Maligne Road just north of the town of Jasper. We did see a black bear but it was getting dark.

The next morning we went for another drive along Maligne Road and were rewarded with a black bear and her 3 cubs. There were several other people taking photos and eventually the mother became a bit uncomfortable with the attention. She took the cubs up a small hill and had them climb a tree while she came back to complete her meal. Eventually she went back up to get them and disappeared into the forest.

Before starting the long drive back to Calgary we drove along Cavell Road just south of the town of Jasper. We only saw a couple of other cars on the road. I expected the short Path of the Glacier hike to be more popular. What a surprise when we got to the large parking area and it was full. Cars were even parked along the roadside.

This very short hike ends at a viewpoint facing the spectacular (there’s that word again) Angel Glacier. Although the rocky trail leading to the milky lake in front of the glacier is closed, that didn’t stop many of the people from walking down to the lake. This short hike should not be missed. We didn’t have time to hike the Cavell Meadows trail. Next time.

The road back to Calgary was interrupted by many stops along the way.

A black bear on a small hill, a stop in the town of Banff, an elk on the edge of town and another drive on the Lake Minnewanka road. This time we did see some male Bighorn sheep though it was almost dark.

We finally arrived at Calgary airport close to midnight.

The Banff and Jasper area definitely has another trip in it.

This trip provided just what I was looking for: spectacular scenery, many waterfalls and a good selection of wildlife.

The weather was great though we were hit with a couple of very short downpours along the Banff and Jasper roads. The clouds quickly cleared and the sun came out.

Photos of the trip can be seen at:
www.travelwalks.com
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Old Aug 27th, 2013, 10:45 AM
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Love the Canadian Rockies. We would love to get to Glacier to hike someday. Thanks for reporting back
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Old Aug 27th, 2013, 11:42 AM
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LindainOhio,

The parks in Canada are very different from the parks in the US.

Banff, Jasper, Waterton Lakes, etc all have tourist towns inside the parks. That makes for more lodging and restaurant choices (not less expensive due to competition). However, there's something about a tourist town (with people walking up and down the main street wandering in and out of gift shops) in the middle of a national park that bothers me. Good and bad.

Interesting that the only rangers I saw in Banff and Jasper were those at the entrance gates.

Also, in Banff and Jasper a fair amount of the spectacular scenery is visible roadside or almost roadside. In most cases hiking is an activity and not really required to get to many sights. Just different. Not good or bad.

Some places such as Johnston Canyon and Moraine Lake were packed with people. The large parking lots were full.

I think they spend a lot of money publicizing Banff and possibly Jasper as well.
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Old Aug 27th, 2013, 01:51 PM
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At some point, I want to see Banff/Jasper/Lake Louise. I think you and I are totally opposite on waterfall opinions. I was super disappointed in Running Eagle/Trick Falls. I thought being there the 3rd week of July,that most of the falls would really be rolling. Some were nice, but nothing like I had hoped for. Weeping Wall was just that weeping, I wanted to see it really sobbing.

So now that you've been twice, do you have a favorite hike?
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Old Aug 27th, 2013, 01:51 PM
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BTW, nice photos. Especially the lake reflection shots
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Old Aug 27th, 2013, 02:31 PM
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spiro,
For me a waterfall doesn't have to be roaring. It's more the shape. Of course, a dry waterfall isn't interesting.

I thought the setting around Running Eagle Falls was very nice. Especially since I didn't expect anything since I knew the upper falls wouldn't be running.

I like the scenery of Grinnell Glacier but it's steep and tough on the body. Also, that waterfall you must go thru is an issue.

We were at the picnic area across the valley from it when we heard a whistle blow. We could see the falls but not what happened. Somebody fell off the slippery rocks and fell about 20 feet. Apparently he was out for a while. Our ranger took off running there.

Four hours later on our return we saw the helicopter leaving.

Back to the hike comparison. When you get to the end, I thought Iceberg Lake is much nicer than Grinnell Glacier.

Both are excellent scenery hikes.

In Banff & Jasper we only did two consumer-type hikes. Johnston Canyon and Trail of the Glaciers on Cavell Road near the town of Jasper. Both unique and beautiful.

I did Iceberg Lake each time I was there. We couldn't complete Grinnell Glacier due to snow the first time.

Surprisingly, the scenery on the Hidden Lake trail is beautiful.
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Old Aug 27th, 2013, 02:48 PM
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I was trying to compare your silver grizzly to photos I took of one just up the road from Many Glacier Hotel(probably 2-3 miles). Was this one smaller, probably young bear. My photo of it is not really good, it was nearly dark. That was close up. The one eating berries is cool too. Sounds like your lucky not to get 2 tickets. HA
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Old Aug 27th, 2013, 06:01 PM
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spiro,
They all eat berries to prepare for winter. The best photos you get are the ones between eating.

I looked back at what you wrote before. Lake Louise is in Banff.

To me the more spectacular lakes are Moraine and Peyto Lakes. Lake louise does have a glacier in the background but no longer has that turquoise color to it. The other two have that deep color.

Also the setting of them is nicer. There's a reason Moraine lake is the image on the back of the old Canadian 20 dollar bill.
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Old Aug 27th, 2013, 09:05 PM
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We were in Banff and Jasper mid-August as well. Lake Louise did have a beautiful milky turquoise color when we saw it. Must depend on the time of day and the weather.
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Old Aug 27th, 2013, 10:10 PM
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Great shots!
Getting that many close-up wildlife shots requires a huge amount of patience, and great "luck", as well as a lot of skill in being in the right spot at the right time, even in a national park. The number of bears you saw was pretty amazing.
Your trip covered some of what has to be some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world, and one just can't get enough of that.
One thing about Banff and Jasper, these "railway towns" were there before the National Parks were, and while growth of the towns is restricted, it is a little disturbing to see it. But it does allow a lot more people to spend time in close proximity to the Parks' wonders..... which may or may not be a good thing. Canada has a good percentage of it's land area set aside in parks, some very large ones with virtually no human development. Mind you, they are in very remote locations.
While I am all for wildlife photography, seeing a grizzly putting up with a bunch of people within 25 yards or so, has me a little concerned about that bear's future. I can understand why the Ranger got everybody out of there!
(For what it's worth, photo #96 looks like big-racked Mule Deer buck, to me, rather than an elk.)
Being able to spend only 2 1/2 days in Banff and Jasper Parks, is a little like eating 1 potato chip - cruel and unusual punishment! Your Trip Report and photos make me want to return..... thanks!
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Old Aug 27th, 2013, 10:47 PM
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For Myer, as I yet said to you, exceptional quality of your portfolio...
On the falls, I think Spiro and you are on 2 different ways : - Spiro find more attractive the "big" falls -perhaps like the one in Yellowstone on the lower brink near Canyon, and effectively, not really abondant in Glacier...
-You are more attracted by shape or unusual falls, like the Triple falls and Glacier is a good place...
As I said on his trip report to Spiro to see some of the nicest falls in Glacier you have to hike some miles(Rockfalls, Florence falls, Morning Eagle falls).
But there are more "high" than large and perhaps that what I preffered with Anny.
Some lakes have those "high" falls(Avalanche, Snyder, Lincoln, Medecine Grizzly Lk.
And Finally I think that for larger falls early in the season could be better.
I agree that i have been always disappointed by the whiping wall and never recognize the brochure's pictures but we are here in August...the first 2 weeks of the aperture of GTTR should be the good timing...(this year, there was a "whipping" wall in the east part of GTTR which was much nicest than the usual...).
Now, conditions change year/year...and in some hikes we found some falls dried and in others much biggers than last year and as Anny didn't like to cross the streams it can be a problem sometimes...
Glacier stills rest definitively incredible and specially for wildlife : in addition to the bears, mooses, goats,...we saw even 2 specimen of canadian fauna and we had with them a unforgettable moment in Rising sun..
Erik
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Old Aug 28th, 2013, 03:28 AM
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Great photos Meyer!...trip report too...thanks for sharing.
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Old Aug 28th, 2013, 03:38 AM
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kanunu,
You are probably correct about the deer. Somebody said it was an elk. To me it didn't have that classic elk look.

About the towns in the Canadian parks. I think I did say there was good and bad. I just prefer less organization and more nature. But, it does make lodging and food less of an issue. So. . . . it is what it is.

About the silver grizzly. We were only that close because the grizzly was that close. Not because anybody went closer. The people who were there were on the side of the road. Nobody attempted to go into the bushes to get a closer look. Did the grizzly even know we were there? It's possible it was so busy eating that it didn't know or care. I never saw it look up.

My issue with the ranger is that people spend money and make an effort to go to the parks. The rangers care little about the people visiting and only about the bear. I really don't see much of a difference between cars going by a grizzly or stopping by the roadside. I would have an issue if people tried to get closer than where the cars are parked. If somebody can convince me that there's a difference between a car stopping and a person standing roadside then I would agree.

For that specific grizzly, almost all of the people were viewing thru roadside bushes and were at least partially blocked.

Erik,
Waterfalls are an interesting topic. String waterfalls seen at a distance (or waterfalls so far away that they appear to be strings) don't interest me very much. I thought Aster Falls was only "ok" but the much smaller Baring or Redrock Falls were a pleasant surprise.

Also, Birdwoman Falls is almost 500 feet high. However, viewing it from two miles away doesn't create much excitement. I think our bad timing also may have something to do with it. We saw these falls a couple of times but always with bad lighting.
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Old Aug 28th, 2013, 03:39 AM
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Thanks for the great trip report and photos, myer. It really brought back many wonderful memories of my summer in Glacier. We really need to plan a trip. Peter would LOVE the photographic opportunities there.

The picture of the silver grizz's face (and large paw!) in the berries is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing. Looks like an incredible trip.
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Old Aug 28th, 2013, 05:26 AM
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Yes, it was a great trip. Now I think it's time to move a little.

We spent only 2 1/2 days in Banff & Jasper (I was in Banff a few years ago with my wife). We went partly because we were so close. But also to scope it out as a trip on its own.

I'm looking at Banff, Jasper and maybe Yoho.

The guy I went with can't go again. Now I'm looking for someone else to go. Maybe my daughter. But she always wants less days and I want more.
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Old Aug 28th, 2013, 05:49 AM
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Did you visit :
- Rocky mountains NP-I look sometimes on my guide about it but seemed difficult to organize..?
- Washington state's park : North cascad, Olympic, Mount Rainier,Columbia river and then going south, Crater, Redwood ??
- and finally, we made it 22 years ago-our first US trip : Sequoia and King's canyon ??
Erik
PS seemed we need some more diners to speak about all the possibilities...
After one more year in Glacier, as Salome, our daughter want a "come back" here, schedule would be for us
- 2015 : Beartooth highway(and hikes there),Yellowstone/Grand Teton,and drive north to Missoula by Bitterrot valley(and hikes)
- 2016 & 2017 : Seattle to san Francisco with all the parks I talked supra
Rocky Mtn NP from Denver is an option but I don't know how difficult are the hikes there...
And a come back to Sequoia + Yosemite/Lassen,...can be a nice option...
Lot of trip...
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Old Aug 28th, 2013, 07:03 AM
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Nice report, thank you We have made a few trips to the Canadian Rockies and absolutely love the area! At Johnston Canyon, you can continue further up to the ink pots, which are pretty cool, IMO. Once you get on the trail for this area, there are very few people, which is a bonus.

I agree, Moraine Lake is stunning.

One hike that I like, even though it is popular, is the Lake Agnes, Big Beehive, and Plain of Six Glaciers. Most people do parts of this, but we loved doing the whole thing and the tea houses were great treats for the kids.

We stumbled on so many places around there on our honeymoon many years ago and so knew we would have to come back, and have
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Old Aug 28th, 2013, 07:40 AM
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Erik,
I have thought a few times about looking at Rocky Mountain NP. Maybe I'll look at it again.

When I look at a trip I want to focus on my interests: Scenery, waterfall and wildlife.

For me the hike isn't really the enjoyment. It's what we see at the end of the hike.

If something is spectacular and only 1/4 mile, then that's just as good as 1 mile or 4 miles.

I have a trip coming up with my wife in a little over a week. After that it's on to planning 2014.
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Old Aug 28th, 2013, 08:05 AM
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Rocky Mountain is nice. A lot of it is pretty high elevation(and I normally don't worry much about elevation). You could encounter moose, likely to see deer, chance of seeing a bear(but not great). Not nearly the wildlife as Yellowstone or Glacier. The last time I went there, I camped in a tent, which was fun. I may go backpacking there next summer. For me, It is super easy to get to. A 1 hour plane ride and then it's not far from the Denver airport. I like it, but not nearly as well as some of the other places Erik mentioned. North Cascades are a bit like Glacier. Not as much wildlife, peaks are more jagged, and there is more snow and glaciers. I just love Mount Rainier. Sequoia and Lassen are great too. Lassen is nice, because very few people.

I was having a hard time myself deciding what #96 deer/elk was, but I didn't say anything for fear of being wrong. HA.
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