Banff and Jasper

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1. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2946 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Hi

I'm planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies this summer. I think I have the logistics nailed, but it looks like there will be some tough choices to make over what to see and do in the available time.

My girlfriend and I will have a car, and are planning to stay some nights in each of Jasper and Banff. We're keen hikers, I love glaciers and soaking in hot springs. Standing on mountain summits is high on my list, particularly with views of glaciers below, though my partner tends to prefer hikes of a few hours to big epic treks. I also suffer the effects of altitude sickness easily so try not to take on much exertion over 7000ft up.

I've looked through the official sites for hike ideas, and there are many choices. Does anyone have any favourites to suggest? Anything from hikes to easy outlooks to boat trips or the nicest hot springs to visit?

2. Posted by OldPro (Inactive 400 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

What is the available time?

For example, I would suggest taking your girlfriend for a drink in one of the bars in the Banff Springs Hotel even if you can't afford to stay there. It's worth it just to have an excuse to walk around in the hotel which is like a maze and see what it is like inside. The same is true of having a lunch in the Chateau Lake Louise hotel while overlooking the Lake. Check the list here of all the choices in the Banff Springs Hotel here: http://www.fairmont.com/banff-springs/dining/rundlelounge/

Lunch at the Lakeview Lounge in the Chateau here:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-g40LAoJUzaM/Tf_97_adgjI/AAAAAAAAAWI/6ay1_obFBMI/s1600/The+Lakeview+Lounge+At+The+Chateau+Lake+Louise.jpg
Arguably, one of the best views from a restaurant window in the world.

You can hike around the shore of Lake Louise if you want but even better is Moraine Lake in my opinion. The lakeside trail there is an easy hike for your girlfriend and there are longer more taxing hikes as well if you feel up to it.
http://banffandbeyond.com/the-lake-with-the-twenty-dollar-view-moraine-lake/

You can also rent a canoe but remember, these are glacial lakes and so are very cold even at the peak of summer. If you aren't confident in a canoe this is not a good place to tip over. LOL

Everywhere in the area is full of tourists and the main street in Banff is about as tourist kitsch as it gets but everyone has to spend an hour or two seeing it anyway. Hotels are all overpriced and many have that tired, overused look unfortunately. We have enjoyed staying at the Tunnel Mountain Resort just on the outskirts of Banff, a couple of times. If the budget is tight then the HI hostel just across the road is a good alternative.
You can expect to see deer walking around on the grounds with either choice.
http://tunnelmountain.com/

http://www.hihostels.ca/westerncanada/332/HI-Banff_Alpine_Centre.hostel

You can spend as much time as you have doing hikes from just one base and choosing 'best' just isn't possible. There are just too many choices. I single out Moraine Lake just because it is easily accessible and iconic in Canadian history (on the $20 bill).

The drive from Banff to Jasper is of course very scenic along the Icefield Parkway. Again, too many possible hikes to choose from. Check this list: https://www.banfflakelouise.com/blog/11stopsip75 Most people will stop at the Columbia Icefields Centre. I've never bothered with the 'Glacier Adventure' but a lot of people obviously do. I'm not into group 'tours' as you probably know.
https://www.brewster.ca/attractions-sightseeing/columbia-icefield-glacier-adventure/

Jasper has a more laid back feel than Banff as it is smaller. I've never really spent any real amount of time in Jasper so I don't have anything to say about it. When I lived in Calgary, Banff on the other hand was a day trip or weekend destination for me.

Hot Springs I'm not a fan of generally unless they are reached after a hike away from the crowds and remain natural. The commercialized hot springs around Banff/Jasper/Yoho are all basically swimming pools. The one I used to visit when living in Calgary was Lussier Hot Springs in Whiteswan Lake Provincial park which is south of Banff National Park but not easy to reach just for a soak.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lussier_Hot_Springs

3. Posted by Sander (Moderator 6027 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Agreed with Moraine Lake. Absolutely stunning, and lots of great hikes there - an easy stroll following the shore, or harder hiking (but still very doable) heading out and up, with the views to reward you for the effort. One I remember particularly fondly was via Larch Valley, up to Sentinel Pass. (We didn't hike all the way up the pass itself; too much snow, and we weren't properly equipped for that, but just getting to that point was well worth it.)

I also really liked the hike to Castle Mountain. The first stretch is relatively uninteresting, but the payoff is in the lakes at the end (when I visited in early July a couple of years, the high one was still partly ice covered).

When I was there, I spent two weeks in and around Banff, and a week in and around Jasper, and that felt like proper amounts of time, and the right balance between them. Banff (the park, not the town) had more hiking which appealed to me, while we saw more wildlife around Jasper (though both really had lots). There's better food options in Banff (town), but Jasper had a more 'honest' (less 'resort') feel to it.

[ Edit: Edited on 16-Jan-2017, at 10:21 by Sander ]

4. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2946 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Thanks guys. We're coming in from Edmonton, probably 3 nights in Jasper, down to Banff for 2 nights, then back up to Jasper for a further 2 nights, with the idea that this gives us a day each way to spend in the areas between the two - icefields parkway and lake louise. So we've around 8 days, in September.

At moraine lake it appears we're restricted from doing more than the lakeshore unless we group up with others due to the bear restrictions - groups of 4+ only, by law. Because of that, the Lake Louise area has been more on my radar: I've read about walks on the plain of 6 glaciers and to the big beehive.

5. Posted by OldPro (Inactive 400 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

With only a week, I wouldn't move from 1 base, either Jasper or Banff but it's your dime and your time.

It's kinda like, here are 176 things I'd like to do, of which 82 are near J and the rest near B. Should a do 4 near J and 4 near B or should I do 10 by not spending time moving at all. If you really feel you must move, then why not move just once, not twice.

Don't forget the drink and the lunch Andyf, they're what keeps girlfriends happy, just like chocolates and flowers. Never believe a girl who says they don't. My wife loves to hike and never says no to a good hike but she also wants that nice lunch in a special place. Not a choice of one or the other of course, always both.

6. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2946 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Hi OldPro

Re moving twice - well we need to drive those miles anyway to get back to the airport; I'd sooner break it up into comfortable segments, and would like a look around both Banff and Jasper parks as well as the areas in between. A driving day with scenery is good in the mix for us.

Thanks for the lunch and drinks ideas though they are really not our thing, nor our budget. As per the original query, I'm really looking for suggestions of personal favourites to help narrow down the many options for hikes which are listed by Parks Canada.

Has anyone got any comments on the Maligne Lake, Edith Cavell, Rainbow Ledge or Miette Hot Springs areas? Whistler's Peak? Utopia Pass or Sulphur Skyline hikes? Lower Sunwapta Falls hike? Geraldine Lakes? Struggling to choose between things which all sound worthwhile.

7. Posted by Sander (Moderator 6027 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Quoting Andyf

Has anyone got any comments on the Maligne Lake, Edith Cavell, Rainbow Ledge or Miette Hot Springs areas? Whistler's Peak? Utopia Pass or Sulphur Skyline hikes? Lower Sunwapta Falls hike? Geraldine Lakes? Struggling to choose between things which all sound worthwhile.

Wasn't that impressed by Maligne Lake. Pleasant strolling at most, but what I mostly remember is having to run from the thick swarms of mosquitos. Might've been due to bad weather on the day, though. *compares photos online* Yeah, we didn't get this turquoise color at all.
If Whistler's Peak is Whistler's Mountain (the one with the tramway), then the tramway is something to get away from swiftly. Very barren up there, but gorgeous in a desolate way. Great views, of course. Otherwise too touristy by far due to the tramway (still way better than the same experience at Sulphur Mountain in Banff, though). I enjoyed spotting the (extremely well camouflaged) Ptarmigans up there.

Quoting OldPro

Don't forget the drink and the lunch Andyf, they're what keeps girlfriends happy, just like chocolates and flowers. Never believe a girl who says they don't.

In the hope of not coming over too harshly, as you undoubtedly mean well by saying this, and I'm sure it's a generational thing, but... do you realize how incredibly sexist this sounds? There are undoubtedly many women who enjoy chocolates and flowers, or the more general feeling of being paid attention to. But there's nothing inherent in being a woman (or even in being a significant other) that makes such things a priority, and the worldview which believes otherwise is really not a worldview which many people - regardless of gender - want to live in.

[ Edit: Edited on 17-Jan-2017, at 09:44 by Sander ]

8. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2946 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Thanks Sander.

Noted re the tramway tourists!

I think I've read that the turquoise colour comes later in the season, after things thaw higher up and there's more runoff of rock flour from glaciers. As we're going in September that should be better.

And agreed re the chocolates and flowers thing. Lol. ;-)

9. Posted by OldPro (Inactive 400 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Swarms of mosquitoes? I take it you are not very familiar with their behaviour Sander. Or what time of year was it you were there, you may be confusing black flies which are closer to the UKs midges. I say that because while you can see numerous mosquitoes, you generally don't see 'swarms' of them which you do see for black flies.

Timing in regards to both is everything. The black flies first appear in late May and are pretty much gone in a month. Usually around the May 24th long weekend they start to hatch in moving water (spring run-off). People do hike in the woods on that weekend but it's iffy. One year, not too bad and another year seriously annoying. It is not unknown at all for someone to receive literally several hundred bites in one day. It can make some people seriously ill indeed. There is really no avoiding them if they are active. I've had to cut May 24 weekend trips short because of them.

Mosquitoes are a bit different. First, they like specific times of day. They are always most active at dawn and dusk. They don't like hot and dry weather, so a long hot summer can see a lot fewer of them around than a mild, wetter summer. They need stagnant water pools to breed in. They also don't seem to like wind very much. Walking in open areas makes no difference for black flies but does cut down considerably on how many mosquitoes you will see. Walking in the bush, in the shade and out of the wind is therefore going to see you perhaps get more bites. So you pick your time of day, you pick your year even and you pick what trail you want to hike accordingly. They usually show up in late June right through September and even October depending on weather.

Most Canadians do their serious hiking in April/May and then after September till the snow arrives depending on what part of Canada you are talking about. The reality is, most don't hike in the woods very much June through September. For years, my last hiking/backpacking in the spring was the May 24th long weekend and started again on the September 5th Labour Day long weekend. In between was a 'no go zone'.

When I lived in Greece, tourists from the UK would show me huge bites on their legs, arms, etc. that they had got from a mosquito. I get a bite, it itches for a day, there is no big lump, the next day the itch is gone, the little red spot is still there and that's it. A mosquito bite results in an allergic reaction. Over time, like many things, your body builds up an immunity to it. So you could say that mosquito issues are a nationality issue. The problem today is that now they are carrying serious diseases which you do not have an immunity to. Just like ticks, another one to watch out for. Mosquitoes and ticks were a nuisance at worst before. Now they can actually be deadly. I can also remember drinking the water from any lake or stream with impunity. That too is a thing of the past.

DEET is the most effective repellent. Light coloured clothing and not wearing perfumes/aftershave also seems to help a bit. If it ever seems the need for a mosquito head net is warranted, I'm not dumb enough to be out their hiking. I would hike on the Icefield in July, I would never hike in the woods then. In September I would walk around a lake shore and accept the odd few bites, I still wouldn't hike in the woods. The most effective deterrent known is to simply not be where they are, when they are there, I'm afraid. That's why Canadians who are serious about hiking and wilderness backpacking fly elsewhere in the summer months if they want to enjoy the wilderness.

Regarding lunch etc. I don't take it harshly Sander. You are entitled to be wrong about it.

10. Posted by Tabithag (Respected Member 1042 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

On the subject of chocolates and lunches etc, speaking as one of those said females, I can confidently say that my husband is swayed by chocolate far more than I am.

Whilst he and I both enjoy a nice meal etc, my husband knows better than to think that he can use one to 'keep me happy'. What make me happy, is that we make our decisions together, and whether or not it includes a meal would depend on what is important to both of us at that time.