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Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

Saint Paul...
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Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

My husband and I are visiting Canada for the first time in mid-July. We enjoying daily hiking, but would not want to exceed 6 miles for a hike. We are spending 5 nights at a bed and breakfast in Banff and 3 nights at Patricia Lake Bungalows in Jasper. We purchased several books on the area, but they leave us wondering why we didn't book a month to see the area! Can you offer advice on "must do" activities /sights that we can tackle in the limited amount of time that we have?

Banff, Canada
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1. Re: Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

Hello Liz:

If you click on the "must-sees" question under Top Questions for Banff (top right of your screen), that will give you a good start. The answers to Top Questions are written by travellers like you and me in response to popular questions from the forums.

Saint Paul...
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2. Re: Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

Wow - that gives me a good idea of what can be done in the time we have - don't know how I missed it on this website. Another question: Under the suggested itinerary for 7 days, day 4 lists multiple things that can be done when on the way from Banff to Jasper. Can all of these things be accomplished easily on that drive - or will we feel rushed? Can we do any of them while staying in Banff or Jasper - or are they more "on the way" destinations?

Edmonton, Canada
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3. Re: Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

They certainly can be done in one day, as long as you are not avid hikers. There are extensive trails at Athabasca falls, but if you plan to spend about 30 minutes to an hour, you should be just fine. The drive from Banff to Jasper is about 3 - 4 hours non stop. So if you plan to take a whole day, you shouldn't feel too rushed.

Edited: 04 February 2012, 01:21
Banff, Canada
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4. Re: Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

But since you do enjoy hiking, and since the Parkway has so many wonderful short hikes, maybe take one of your Banff nights and move it to Num ti Jah Lodge or to the hotel at the Columbia Icefield. Just for something differest, and to give you two leisurely days on the Parkway.

Saint Paul...
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5. Re: Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

I don't see Sunshine Meadows listed as a "must do". Will we be in the Banff area too early (July 11-15) for the peak wild flower bloom? Is this a worthwhile activity - considering our limited time? What about the hike at Lake O'Hara? How difficult is it to get a reservation for the bus? As far as staying closer to the Icefield's Parkway, we are pretty much locked into our reservation in Banff, but we are early risers and wouldn't mind being on the road by 6am as we head to Jasper. Where do you suggest that we devote most of our time along the way?

Jasper, Canada
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for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
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6. Re: Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

Peak bloom time for subalpine areas is July 15 to Aug. 15, but of course, so much depends on the weather. Last summer, for instance, was much colder than usual, and bloom times were at least two weeks later than normal. However, even outside of the "peak times", there are flowers blooming. In the montane (lower elevations), there are many, many species of flowers blooming by mid-July.

I have never booked the bus to Lake O'Hara, but my understanding is that it is best to phone starting at exactly 8 am (MT) to make a reservation, 3 calendar months ahead of when you want to go. I've heard that sometimes, the available seats are sold out by 8:15. Cancellations and no-shows are also possible, and I've heard of some getting seats by showing up at the parking lot. There are other nearby hikes available in Yoho NP, so it's not too hard to switch to "plan B" if you aren't lucky enough to get on.

Six miles is about 10 km - lots of hikes fit your requirements. On your way to Jasper, you may want to stop and hike either the Parker Ridge trail or the Wilcox Pass trail, approx. 5 km and 8 km respectively. (Wilcox = 4 km to the pass marker as turn-around point).

I think one of the attractions of hiking at Sunshine is that it's an easy way to get up to a higher elevation... this is also one of the attractions of hiking near the Icefields, because you are already starting up fairly high (in the subalpine), so it doesn't take as much work to get up to treeline and above.

Banff, Canada
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7. Re: Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

Greetings Liz

The peak season for wildflowers is generally mid August but that can vary depending on the previous winter and weather throughout the spring and summer as krp has stated. Sunshine Meadows is a great area for hiking and it is also an excellent alternative to the Lake O'Hara region.

Getting reservations for Lake O'Hara is very difficult. You need to call 3 months in advance to the day you want to go to the area. To get through the reservation system requires a lot of patience and persistence and you would want to have a few days to possibly go to Lake O'Hara as you may not get a reservation for your first date of choice. If you do get a reservation for Lake O'Hara there are dozens of trails to hike and explore.

Because it is so difficult to get into Lake O'Hara I would recommend hiking at Sunshine Meadows for you instead. It is much better if you have a limitation on your time in the Rockies.

I would also recommend Parker Ridge and Wilcox Pass for hiking as you get tremendous views from both trails.

BanffLakeLouise

Saint Paul...
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8. Re: Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

Is Sunshine Meadows an all day destination? It looks amazing, but with only four days to fit everything in, I am hesitant to devote an entire day to one destination. (One reviewer complained that she spent two hours waiting for a bus to get back to the bottom.) And speaking of fitting everything in, please let me know if this plan is too much for one day: Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, Lake Agnes Teahouse, and Yoho National Park - at least to Emerald Lake. Am I out of my mind, or can it be done with enough time to relax and enjoy each destination?

Banff, Canada
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9. Re: Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

If you're going to hike only one day in Banff National Park - you're going to want to do this at Lake Louise. Plan on spending and enjoying one day on the trails. Lake Agnes is part of a "circuit". If you're going to hike to Lake Agnes - it makes sense to continue your hike. The hike continues around the back of Lake Agnes and climbs to a junction. At the junction you visit the Big Beehive viewpoint, before descending a connector trail back down to the lake. It will probably take 4-5 hours - so with the drive to and from Lake Louise, it takes a day of your time.

The other thing to consider is you're going to be tired after enjoying a day at elevation in the mountains.

You're also going to want to enjoy some time at Lake Louise - photos, strolling, ice cream, a meal and maybe a canoe trip. These things all take time. :)

At the end of the day you might be able to squeeze in a drive to Moraine Lake - and an hour of photo ops. Keep your schedule flexible. Put these other ideas in "your back pocket" and if you have time - go for it. But don't try and rush everything by, just because it's on the list.

As far as Sunshine Meadows - it's a beautiful destination for hiking. It's also completely different visually and geographically than Lake Louise. Yes, usually people take a day to enjoy their hike. Some people only take 2-3 hours and hit one viewpoint. But, you're paying good money to be there, why not take advantage and spend the day? The Sunshine Meadows offers up a loop circuit with 4 Main viewpoints - Rock Isle Lake, Simpson, Standish and Monarch Viewpoints. To me, it would be a shame not to do the whole thing. Pack a picnic and enjoy your day.

Saint Paul...
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10. Re: Banff / Jasper vacation ideas

Is this a reasonable plan with 5 nights and 4 full days in Banff? One full day devoted to the Lake Louise/Moraine Lake area (Advice please: Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse or Lake Agnes Teahouse and Beehives). One full day to hike and see the sights near / within the town of Banff. One full day to see Yoho National Park. One day to do either Lake O'Hara (if we get reservations) or Sunshine meadows as an alternate plan. We would then have a full day to explore the Parkway on the way to Jasper. Any suggestions? Thanks for all of your advice!