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General Lodging Question

Louisville, Kentucky
Level Contributor
24 posts
General Lodging Question

My wife and I are in the early planning stage of a trip to Banff and the close by national parks with our two teenagers in July, 2018. We have never been to the area and need some guidance on lodging. We have vacationed in many of the US national parks and have enjoyed our stays in the rustic style park lodgings (moderately priced) with easy access to hiking and touring of the parks. My question is are there similar lodgings in the Banff area parks? We don't really want to splurge too much on the lodging as we will be very active on this vacation (long hikes, canoeing, horse back riding, etc.) and are mainly interested in a clean rustic place to sleep and grab a good meal. Nice scenery and proximity to the lakes and good hikes would be important too. Any input would be much appreciated. Thanks,

11 replies to this topic
Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary
Level Contributor
27,161 posts
94 reviews
1. Re: General Lodging Question

As I understand it, the prices for US national park lodges are low because they are operated by the government. In Canada, all fixed roof accommodations in the national parks are privately operated and thus charge market prices. (Campgrounds, on the other hand, are all operated by Parks Canada in the national parks and thus are cheaper than they would be otherwise.) BTW, the town of Banff is located within Banff NP; your posting sounds like you were a little unsure about that.

The short answer to your budget question is that you won't find any "moderately priced" accommodations in Banff NP during high season, although the exchange rate will help out. (It also depends on what "moderately priced" means to you.) If you're not completely hooked on the idea of Banff, you could have a similar experience in Kananaskis Country, a large mountain recreation immediately southeast of Banff. The area is geared towards day use, so there is no convenient town with restaurants and shopping (Canmore would be closest), and limited accommodations (Delta Kananaskis, wilderness hostels, Mt Engadine Lodge to list the main ones). But K-Country has lots of hiking trails, lakes, and great mountain scenery, including Canada's highest driveable mountain pass.

Canmore also makes a good, more economical base for visiting Banff NP, because it's just 10 minutes east of the park boundaries. But it's slightly cheaper because the location is less convenient.

If you're also planning to visit Jasper NP, north of Lake Louise via the spectacular Icefields Parkway (and you should), you will want to look into budget-friendly Private Home Accommodations (PHAs), which are licenced and inspected rooms or suites located within a resident's home. Go to www.stayinjasper.com for listings.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
8,170 posts
4 reviews
2. Re: General Lodging Question

Do you have some idea of your budget in CAN $?

In general, accommodation in the national parks in the Canadian Rockies is a bit different than that in similar US national parks. Development is strictly limited, so the vast majority of accommodation is clustered right within the few townsites. The limited accommodation outside the townsites tends to either be camping/very basic & self catering, or on the expensive side. Staying outside the townsites also means you are tied to your car for any dining options, and to get to public transport when parking becomes an issue.

If you are looking to do lots of hiking and be near the lakes, you might consider spending at least part of your trip in Lake Louise. The hotels tend to be pretty expensive, but there are some options that might work. Paradise Lodge gets solid reviews and might be good for your family, but is self catering. It would either be a walk to Deer Lodge (Chateau Lake Lodge can be tricky for non guests to get into restaurants) or drive down to the village. The Hi hostel is another option - good hostel and has a variety of private rooms, some with private washroom. Showers would be shared, but could be better to have access to multiple showers rather than a room or suite with a single shower.

Castle Mountain Chalets are an option between Banff and Lake Louise, though that essentially means driving to just about anything and you're limited to their very basic meal offerings. Not near any lakes.`

Plenty of simple options in Banff, though nothing is cheap in the Rockies in the summer. The other issue will be space - depending on the age of your teenagers, putting all four people in one room may not be an option. And multiple rooms could get pricey. So you may want to explore B&Bs and places with larger rooms/suites. Douglas Fir is one option. Hi Banff (hostel) also has private rooms. All accommodation in Banff and Lake Louise is listed at www.banfflakelouise.com) so you can search and see the options.

In Jasper, you will probably want to be in Jasper townsite because the trails/attractions are all in various directions, so staying near any one place means a lot of driving and very, very limited dining options. The new downtown hostel has a variety of rooms, but I suspect you could find some great suite options at a private home accommodation: www.stayinjasper.com Note that not all PHAs will be listing rooms at this point.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
8,170 posts
4 reviews
3. Re: General Lodging Question

In the US, accommodations in the parks tend to be owned by the government, but the government contracts the operations of the accommodations/facilities out to private companies. Which means that prices are sometimes very good, sometimes pretty expensive. Grand Canyon has everything from very inexpensive, too pretty darn expensive.

Canmore is a good option, with lots of hiking and boating right in the area. There are a number of rental condos which can work out fairly well for four people, especially if someone sleeps on a pull out couch. The Alpine Club/Hi hostel also has the Boswell Cabin which is rented by the room - each half has two rooms, each room holds 3 people. The two rooms are in the upper floor, with a bathroom, shower and small living/cooking area on the first floor. If you rent both rooms (about $90 per room), you have the whole half to yourself. Nice porch with grill and great view.

There are also some new options in Canmore that may be open for next summer, and some other fairly basic, inexpensive - for the Rockies - motel type accommodation.

Oshawa, Canada
Level Contributor
6,725 posts
33 reviews
4. Re: General Lodging Question

Banff National Park covers over 6600 sq km, the town inside Banff National Park is called Banff. It’s not nearby the park.

Similarly Jasper inside Jasper National Park.

Canmore is outside the National Park and generally less expensive but becaware it is an extremely popular destination and during peak season it’s not unheard of for everything to be booked full.

Louisville, Kentucky
Level Contributor
24 posts
5. Re: General Lodging Question

Thanks so much for the excellent suggestions. Paradise Lodge looks like just the type of place I have in mind. I was tentatively thinking of splitting our time between the town of Banff and the Lake Louise area. I realize they are fairly close to each other but I like the idea of staying in Lake Louise at least for a few days to get an early start on longer day hiking in that area. I also think my wife and teenage daughter would appreciate a separate stay directly in Banff for the proximity to shops and some non-nature diversions, etc (while my teenage son and I max out on more hiking). One additional question. We have 8 or 9 days to work with on this vacation. I know that Jasper is recommended by many, however I am not excited about two full days of driving to go back and forth (flying in an out of Calgary). Would it make sense to just do a portion of the Icefields Parkway as a day trip from Banff or Lake Louise, perhaps combining with a nice hike from the Parkway? Would we be missing much by not driving the entire Parkway or staying in Jasper? Put another way, what would Jasper add to the trip that is different from Banff and Lake Louise?

SE Ontario
Level Contributor
25,487 posts
15 reviews
6. Re: General Lodging Question

The Icefield Parkway is considered to be one of the most scenic, spectacular drives in the world. You will regret coming all this way and not doing it. Jasper is a lovely mountain town, much smaller than Banff, and, imo less commercialized (read tourist trap) than Banff.

We suggest doing the parkway in both directions for a number of reasons:

1) the views differ in each direction

2) although the drive is only 3.5 hours straight through, it usually takes closer to 6 or more hours, depending on the number of stops you make.

3) If the day you drive the parkway is overcast or raining, etc., by having another day, it means you can catch all the views you missed the first time.

4) there are a number of great hiking opportunities in the Jasper area.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary
Level Contributor
27,161 posts
94 reviews
7. Re: General Lodging Question

+1 to everything Phpr wrote above. You will regret it if you don't take the Icefields Parkway to Jasper. The drive is consistently named one of the top 10 scenic drives in the world. It's that amazing.

Louisville, Kentucky
Level Contributor
24 posts
8. Re: General Lodging Question

Thanks again for all the great advice. We have booked 3 nights at Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff and also 3 nights at Paradise Lodge in Lake Louise (thanks for the tip on Paradise Lodge ksneds), with two nights in between yet to be booked. Despite the long drive, I am now sold on doing the entire Icefields Parkway to Jasper, knowing there are lots of options for short hikes and sight seeing along the way. A few more questions. I see that Maligne Lake would be adding another fairly long drive from Jasper. Since we will already be seeing the lakes in the Lake Louise area and off the Parkway, I am thinking no need to include Maligne Lake on our itinerary and eliminate that extra driving. Does that sound reasonable? Also, I am considering Sunwapata Falls Lodge on the northern section of the Parkway for two nights lodging and then doing a day trip into Jasper for a meal and perhaps a family bike ride close to town (which our ladies would like to include on the trip). I like the idea of getting a head start from the Parkway on the trip back to Lake Louise. Thoughts?

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
21,814 posts
130 reviews
9. Re: General Lodging Question

A family bike ride is a nice idea - there is a lot of fairly flat riding in the Athabasca Valley close to the Jasper townsite. From town out to the beach at Lake Annette is a nice ride via trails and secondary roads. Or, there are lots of mountain biking trails near the town too. Bike rentals are rather expensive though. The three shops offering them are Jasper Source for Sports, Freewheel Cycle and Viscious Cycle.

Almost all the various popular scenic attractions or activities are close to an hour's drive from Jasper townsite, making Sunwapta Falls Lodge not exactly central to most. From town, Maligne Lake, the Miette Hot Springs, Mt. Edith Cavell, the Athabasca Glacier (Icefields Visitor Centre) and Mt. Robson are each out in various directions, like spokes from a hub, and each is 45 - 60 minutes driving from town.

The Maligne valley is a wildlife hotspot, and some of the prime hikes in Jasper National Park start at the lake (Opal Hills, Bald Hills). The other reason to go there is if you want to take the boat cruise to Spirit Island, although this is pretty expensive, especially for a family of four.

Sunwapta Falls Lodge to Mt. Edith Cavell is about an hour (or about 45 - 50 minutes from town), so that is one spot that doesn't have much in the way of "extra" driving to get to. It's spectacular, and again, one of the best hikes in JNP is there (Cavell Meadows). Sunwapta Falls to Athabasca Falls is slightly close than driving from town, and you could include a visit to AthaB Falls as part of your drive to Mt. Edith Cavell.

Sunwapta Falls Lodge is a rustic property about 55 km from town, and very quiet at night, with little traffic going by on the Icefields Parkway. The falls are a short walk away, and while very popular in the daytime, you'd hardly see many others if you visit there in the evening. So there are certainly "pluses" to staying there. If, however, your reason for choosing it is not location but price (since it is one of the cheaper properties in the park), you might want to have a look at PHA, or private home accommodation. These are rooms or suites in resident's homes, all in the townsite and all are inspected and licensed. Many are private and self-contained. You can find them listed at www.stayinjasper.com . A two bedroom suite, with a kitchenette (usually fridge and microwave) gives you much more space than a hotel room and allows you to do some self-catering (breakfast, lunch and snacks), which can keep your costs down. The advantages to staying in town is that you are more centrally located to various scenic locations, and have many options for shops and restaurants. There are nearby scenic spots you can visit in the evenings if you wish - Pyramid Lake and Island, Maligne Canyon, Lakes Edith and Annette etc.

But Sunwapta Falls Lodge is certainly a viable option, and as mentioned, gives you a 45 minute head start on your drive to Lake Louise, vs. staying in Jasper townsite.

seattle
Destination Expert
for Seattle
Level Contributor
20,214 posts
112 reviews
10. Re: General Lodging Question

Maligne Lk is actually only about 26 miles from downtown Jasper and is the #1 to spot wildlife. The boat ride on Maligne Lk is one of the nicest in the rockies. Since your going to go to Malgne Canyon its worth the extra drive. There is a great restaraunt at Maligne Lk which you can enjoy without doing the cruise and in the restaraunt there are walking trail guides which you can take from the restaraunt if you don't do the cruise. For me its one of the highlights of Jasper.

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