Banff and Jasper advice

Discussion in 'Travel' started by steve_manilov, Apr 18, 2011.

  1. I am tentatively planning a trip with friends to Banff and Jasper this August. The main idea is tourism and photography (for me). The group is not very rugged and would not take hikes for more than 30-45 minutes or so away from the main road. Hence my questions:
    1) How many days would you suggest for Banff and Jasper, considering mainly traveling by car on the public roads and stopping at sites with short hikes (30-45 min or so)? One week is maximum though. I am wondering if 5 days is sufficient.
    2) Where do you recommend to stay (camping is out)? Should one stay in one place and make day trips or move around, if the parks are large?
    3) What are the main sites and how long to plan on staying at each? Would Lake Louise for example warrant a full day stay with an overnight (if there are motels there)?
    4) Is there a better direction to travel, start from the North and drive South or the other way around?
  2. Look at the Beehive Circuit trail here - -. This is a beautiful trail but it is 7.6 miles. There are plenty of shorter trails and views to amuse the non hikers while you are gone. Many views for all across Lake Louise and the glaciers on the far side.
    I would drive from south to north so you won't have the sun in your eyes all day. On a cloudy day, either way.
  3. david_henderson


    I'd say that a week would do it with say 2 days in Banff , 2 in or around Lake Louise and 3 in Jasper. I don't think the order will matter too much. Much of the good photography in this part of the world is very early in the morning. It makes sense to be near to wherever you intend to photograph so that you (if not the rest of the group) can get out early and be back for breakfast. Otherwise you might find a lot of clear blue sky, light grey mountain and conifers- fine for sightseeing, not so good for photography.
    From Banff the place I wouldn't miss, and its nearby, is Vermilion Lakes at either end of the day
    From Lake Louise the places to see photographically are Moraine Lake, Lake Louise itself, Herbert Lake, and Bow Lake whilst a side-trip over the divide to Emerald Lake and Takkakaw falls fills in a middle of day easily enough. The fabled dawn shot from near Chateau Lake Louise is difficult and depending on contrast, may not work.
    Round Jasper I liked the photography round the less well-known Patricia Lake and Pyramid Lake interesting and of course you'll do the trip to and on Maligne Lake too. To get the photograph of spirit Island at the far end there are two tactics - either make sure you're off the the boat first then hare up the path to be sure you get a couple of shots away without too many people, or alternatively negotiate an outward trip on one boat and an inward trip on the next. How easy either of these will be in August is anyone's guess.
    Round and just off the Parkway itself and reachable form Jasper or en route to Jasper . Peyto Lake, Athabasca Glacier and Falls, and the trails in front of Mount Cavell are all going to be scenic but busy, and indeed in general I'd suggest that unless you are out and about very early and very late in the day you may not come back with the impression that you've had a wilderness experience.
    One final thing- take insect repellent and something to soothe bites.
  4. I echo the 2 days Banff/Lake Louise and 3 days in and around Jasper. Banff is much more developed (commercially) than Jasper but there is lots to see and do in both. Check out if you want to get some elevation (7,472 ft) **without the hiking!
    Since you mention a rental vehicle - drive and enjoy the Icefields Parkway. A beautiful highway between the two towns with tons of photo opportunities (just google it). I'm a camper-type person so I can't really make any recommendations on lodging.
    Enjoy the trip, August in the Rockies is great.
  5. I don't have much to add to David's response, except to recommend a stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the easy hike around the lake is truly enjoyable.
  6. Check out Darwin Wiggett's "How to Photograph the Canadian Rockies". There are many beautiful places other than the tourist-bound cliches. If you stay at Aurum Lodge in Banff, the surrounding area alone would be much more inspiring than the tourist standards. Alan, the owner, is an accomplished photographer. I believe he will be happy to point you to the right direction.
  7. Peyto Lake, between Lake Louise and Jasper is only a 10 or 15 minute walk off the icefields highway. I personally like the trail up Castle Mountain (between Banff and Lake Louise) but it is quite a hike (and about 3000 feet of climbing). A shorter trip by car near Banff will take you to see the Voodoos along the Bow River.
  8. I can definitely second the recommendation to take a side trip over the Divide to Emerald Lake and Takkakaw Falls, in Yoho National Park.
    We stayed at the Mt. Royal Hotel in Banff. It's a little hokey, and some of the rooms (like the one we had) are less than modern, but the location is great, and the price was reasonable. The St. James Gate Irish Pub on Wolf Street had an excellent lamb shank braised in Guinness. There is also a restaurant called Melissa's on Lynx Street that was very good, and not overpriced like many of the "tourist trap" places. It's kind of fun to walk around downtown Banff at night. There is a lot going on.
    Patiently (well, sort of) waiting for a glass of Guinness to settle, at St. James Gate Irish Pub.
    While in Banff, the tramway ride and then short walk to the top of Sulphur Mountain, where there is an old weather station, is a lot of fun. Do not be tempted to walk back down, take the tram both ways. (Long story, that let's just say did not end well.) In any event, the view from up there is pretty amazing.
    Not too far from Banff, the Johnson Canyon trail is pretty easy, thanks to the cool system of catwalks. I was able to do it with a totally borked up knee (from walking down from the top of Sulphur Mountain the day before).
    Cave and Basin National Historic Site, in Banff, is worth a stop too. If you want some more ideas, there are a couple of galleries here from my trip to that area in summer of 2009.
    Have a great trip, it really is a beautiful part of the world.
  9. I agree with all the suggestions above. The last trip we visited Banff/Jasper my wife was expecting so we didn't do strenuous hiking. A nice walk in Jasper is around Lake Annette. You can go all the way around and have various mountains (Mount Edith Cavell, Whistlers, Pyramid Mountain, Colin Range) in good light depending on the time of day.
    As others have noted, the Icefields Parkway is magnificent with many accessible locations. The light is best in the morning. In August, make sure you leave early as the photography is better and you won't be in a caravan of slow moving campers.
    You will probably have better wildlife viewing opportunities in Jasper, although the last time we were there in August we saw a pack of wolves one morning on the Bow Valley Parkway.
    Have fun.
  10. Thank you so much for all your responses. You guys are great! And the photos are magnificent too. I hope this trip will finally happen this year.
    August is my target month, but just in case I am also considering around July 4th holiday. What do you think about the weather in the early July? A bit chilly or not much different than in August?
  11. July and August can have similar weather. Note that certain hotels fill up early during the peak summer season. Note that July 1 is Canada Day and has a similar vacation focal point as July 4 in the states.

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