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Glacier or Banff?

Phoenix, Arizona
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36 posts
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Glacier or Banff?

I have been to almost all of the western national parks in the lower 48 and have even worked at a few, so I have seen a lot of awesome scenery. Yet, of all the places I've been, Glacier is the place I've spent the least amount of time in and I have never even been to Banff at all. My brother wants to do a backpacking trip in Yosemite this summer- a park I know quite well- but I am more inclined to go to these two parks. The problem is, the way my schedule is working out with perhaps only a week to visit, I may have to choose between them.

A few years ago a family member of mine went to both parks and said that he preferred Glacier, but other people have told me that Banff is vaster and much more spectacular. My family member said that he liked the heights on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and was disappointed with the Icefields Parkway (which he took to Jasper) because it never got up that high, and he also said that the Moraine Lake and Lake Louise areas were very commercialized. On the other hand, I have heard other people say that Banff is far more impressive than Glacier overall. So I'm conflicted. (Even a few have mentioned that they preferred Jasper over both areas.)

It might be easier for me to get to Glacier but I don't want to feel as though I've missed the best part if I don't go to Banff (or Jasper). Since this would be a trip on a budget, I would probably camp so lodging or dining differences between the parks won't really matter to me. I just want a relaxing wilderness experience and I am addicted to spectacular scenery. Those of you who are familiar with both parks, which one would you recommend for someone who wanted a good introduction to the Rockies? Will I have missed the very best of all if I only go to Glacier? Or vice versa?

Spokane, Washington
Destination Expert
for Glacier National Park, Spokane
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1. Re: Glacier or Banff?

Your on the Glacier page, so we're likely to steer you to Glacier :) I do prefer Glacier as you are right in the mountains, where Banff you are away from them and it takes more effort to get up into the trails and high country. Generally, less traffic in Glacier and less expensive. Still, Banff has some stunning sights. You could get your "international" by going into Waterton, which is also stunning.

indiana
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for Glacier National Park
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2. Re: Glacier or Banff?

I agree, I would go to Glacier. Banff and Jasper are beautiful but the hiking at Glacier is so accessible and the sights as beautiful, IMO. Waterton is about an hour from the Many Glacier area and would be a nice day trip.

Baton Rouge...
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3. Re: Glacier or Banff?

if you have never been to Banff I would go there.

Calgary, Canada
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for Waterton Lakes National Park, Nelson
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4. Re: Glacier or Banff?

Okay, first things first. I think you're correct in your thinking that you don't have time to see both of these parks in one week - you'll have to choose :-(

Moraine Lake and Lake Louise are FAR from what I would describe as commercialized! (Although both lakes do get pretty crowded with sightseeing tourists during the summer.) If you plan to visit these spots early in the morning or later in the day(ie: before 10 am or after 4 pm) you can beat the tourist throngs. I would give the same advice for Johnston Canyon too. The town of Banff, on the other hand, is the commercialized part of Banff NP. This is where the shopping and the night life is to be found. But the town of Banff is only a very small slice of the park. You can easily get away from the crowds, simply by putting a little distance between yourself and the town.

As a person who lives 3 hours from GNP and 2 hours from Banff NP, I have spent a fair bit of time in both areas. Both are spectacular. I think that the Rockies in the GNP/Waterton area are much more rugged, wild, than the Rockies in the Banff area. But if hiking is not your passion, you might get bored with GNP after a few days (sorry guys!) and if that is the case I would urge you to spend a couple of days of your vacation in Waterton NP or a couple of days in the Flathead Lake area. Banff NP and Jasper NP would offer you more things to see and do besides hiking and you could easily spend 2 weeks between these 2 areas.

BUT, there is no GTTS road in Banff! The Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper is really spectacular in its own right but it's no GTTS... Banff and Jasper NPs are definitely much, much vaster than GNP, your friend got that part right.

Have I sufficiently confused you? lol. sorry about that. It's a tough decision to make and I would say the best way for you to make that choice would be to have a look at where your own interests lie and also how much money you have at your disposal for your trip. I can't say for sure, but it is possible that getting to Banff could be a little more expensive than getting to GNP.

I hope that helps a bit!

- CG

Bemidji, Minnesota
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
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2,648 posts
18 reviews
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5. Re: Glacier or Banff?

Is this your last trip ever? Will you never in your life get a chance to visit either of these areas?

You have said that you have been to Glacier but haven't spent enough time there, but you have never been to Banff. Why not allocate this year to doing an exploratory trip. Drive up to Banff, try a few of the trails if you like and have the time. Visit Jasper NP too and of course, since it is so close (adjacent to Banff) you should take a look at Yoho and/or Kootenay NP too. All these parks have wonderful scenery and they all have hiking. Once you leave the towns, you can have the solitude you want if you only hike a bit (excepting Johnston Canyon, which always seems crowded).

Next year you will be more informed and can decide if you prefer hiking in the Canadian Rockies or Glacier.

Sacramento...
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12 posts
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6. Re: Glacier or Banff?

Sorry to sound silly here but are we talking about the Glacier Park in Montana or British Colombia?

Bemidji, Minnesota
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for Yellowstone National Park
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7. Re: Glacier or Banff?

Since the original poster mentioned national parks in the lower 48, I assumed they were talking about the U.S. Glacier instead of the Canadian Glacier.

Sacramento...
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8. Re: Glacier or Banff?

After I sent that I realized I really was silly. I saw some hotels further on the website that were for Montana and I figured it out. Oh well. Thanks for your reply

Bemidji, Minnesota
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for Yellowstone National Park
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9. Re: Glacier or Banff?

I'm glad you brought it up as there are many people in the US that don't realize that Canada also has a Glacier National Park.

calgary alberta
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279 posts
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10. Re: Glacier or Banff?

Either trip will be terrific for scenery and both have their own appeal.I truly love both areas and have been through both many times.Both will be crowded at the more popular attractions during July and August(for good reason!).My favorite time for visiting both locations would be in June or September.However if you're camping July and August would be more comfortable at night.

Going to the sun highway in Glacier Park is a magnificent drive through the mountains by way of a narrow rugged road.At the summit, which is at a high altitude,there are a couple of beautiful relatively easy hikes.As well there are several nice easy hikes on both sides of the summit along the way.It is my favorite drive over a relatively short distance.You can easily cover the drive in a day or two stopping to take hikes along the way.Many Glaciers and Two Medicine both offer additional very scenic opportunities.

That being said I would say the drive from Lake Louise to Jasper(including both places)is without equal in North America for the variety of spectacular scenic locations along the way.

The drive between the two locations is a couple of hundred miles and it only takes between 3 and 4 hours if you don't stop along the way.However to see all of the worthwhile sights you could easily spend a couple of weeks in the area and most of the sights are truly spectacular.I am not including the nearby Banff location in this description as I feel the Banff area is not quite as scenic,although it too has some impressive scenery.

My advice to you is to spend some time researching the area to narrow down the locations which appeal to your tastes.

If you have already been to GNP the answer to your question is obvious.