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Banff/Jasper sightseeing

hmf
uk
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Banff/Jasper sightseeing

We are intererested in visiting the Rockies and have looked at some tours. However we were wondering if a trip was feasible independently. I think we can book the VIA rail to Jasper and similarly the Rocky Mountaineer from Banff to Vancouver but I'm not sure about sightseeing from Jasper and Banff and also getting from one of these places to the other. We would not wish to drive- are there daily trips from the hotels which can be booked at short notice to see some of the main sights (we don't mean detailed hiking)? and how easy is it to get from Banff to Jasper or vice versa?

Also are most of the hotels/lodges in Banff and Jasper near to eating places or do most people eat in the hotels?

Thanks very much for any advice and information

Calgary, Alberta...
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1. Re: Banff/Jasper sightseeing

Much of what krp329 told you in the Jasper thread applies also to Banff. That is to say, if you stay at a hotel in or close to the centre of Banff townsite, you will be within easy walking distance of heaps of restaurants, all the way from fine dining to casual.

In addition to that, there are day tours that you can take from Banff townsite. Brewster operates day tours, but I like the idea of Discover Banff Tours, because it uses smaller buses. When I have a choice, I generally prefer a more intimate, personalized option.

http://www.banfftours.com

It would help you a lot if you read the section of the TripAdvisor Inside Pages that is devoted to Banff National Park. (In addition to information on Banff National Park, it also has some information on Jasper and Yoho National Parks, which are contiguous with Banff NP.)

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g154910-s1/Banff-Nati…

Although there is a great deal of relevant information there, I think that the most important page to read is the one on CLOTHING. Many first time visitors do not appreciate how variable mountain weather is and what they need to pack in order to be prepared for all eventualities:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g154910-c13644/Banff-…

When you travel from Jasper to Banff, it would be highly desirable to see Peyto Lake en route from Jasper to Banff. I use Peyto Lake as a "turkey filter." That is to say, if a bus trip does not include a stop at Peyto Lake, I consider it to be a "turkey," and I would not even keep it on my list of possibilities.

Similarly, when it comes to day tours that go to Lake Louise, my "turkey filter" is a stop at Moraine Lake. If a company does not offer a stop at Moraine Lake, it would drop off my list, and I would not even take another look at it.

The only qualification that I would mention about Peyto Lake is that, since it is half an hour's drive north of Lake Louise, it might be possible to see it as part of a day trip that centred on Lake Louise. If that was the case, it would not be so crucial to see it en route from Jasper to Banff.

You have not mentioned WHEN you want to do this trip. I suggest that you visit the mountains when the lakes are thawed and you can see them in all their turquoise glory. I personally think the latter half of June and the month of September are the best times, followed by July and August. That is explained in the Weather & When to go section of the Banff National Park Inside Page:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g154910-c14017/Banff-…

Another issue that is tied into timing is DIRECTION OF TRAVEL. In the early summer it is better to travel from Vancouver towards the Canadian Rockies, because the coast warms up much earlier than the mountains do. In the autumn it is better to travel from the Rockies towards Vancouver, because the mountains cool off sooner than the coast does.

If you include Ontario that the mix, as you are planning to do, what can be said for Vancouver and the Rockies also applies to Ontario and the Rockies. That is, Ontario warms up sooner than the Rockies in the early summer and stays warm for a bit longer in the autumn. Ontario can get very hot and humid in July and August, so there again, if it was my trip I would prefer to visit it in June or September if at all possible.

If you go to the Search box at top left hand corner of the TripAdvisor screen, you can get detailed information about your various destinations if you type Inside Toronto, Inside Jasper, Inside Vancouver, and so on.

Hope that helps.

hmf
uk
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2. Re: Banff/Jasper sightseeing

Thanks alot, Judy, for all your information and advice -that gives us much to consider.

We were planning on either June/early July or Sept. You say you prefer the second half of June and the month of Sept- could you explain why you therefore think the latter half of Sept is preferable to the first half of June-is it mainly to ensure that ALL of the lakes are properly thawed? also is the amount of daylight a factor as presumably there is quite alot more in June than Sept?

Thanks again for all your help.

Calgary, Alberta...
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3. Re: Banff/Jasper sightseeing

>>>>>>We were planning on either June/early July or Sept.<<<<<<

July 1st is the Canada Day public holiday (like a bank holiday in the UK). From that weekend onwards, pretty much until the end of August, is the prime tourist season in the Canadian Rockies. July and August are the months when Canadian school children are on vacation.

>>>>>>You say you prefer the second half of June and the month of Sept - could you explain why you therefore think the latter half of Sept is preferable to the first half of June - is it mainly to ensure that ALL of the lakes are properly thawed?<<<<<<

Yes, the issue in early June is ensuring that all of the lakes are properly thawed. Most of them are thawed by early June. However, one lake, Moraine Lake, is dodgy until AFTER the first week of June. If you want to be SURE of seeing it at its best, I would say it's safer to plan your visit from the middle of June onwards. The good thing about late June is that it's late enough to see the lakes at their best, but early enough to dodge the July / August tourist crowds.

You may wonder if it's worth timing your trip around the optimum conditions at just one lake, Moraine Lake. When you see Moraine Lake, I believe you will agree it was worth it.

>>>>>>also is the amount of daylight a factor as presumably there is quite a lot more in June than Sept?<<<<<<

Yes, there is more daylight in June, and that certainly is an advantage.

The amount of daylight certainly is starting to diminish in September. Yet September also tends to be a very pleasant month in the mountains. Around the middle of the month and into the later half of the month the autumn colours are very pretty.

When I mention autumn coliours, I need to put that statement into context. First of all, unlike the eastern part of Canada, Alberta gets few reds and oranges. Our autumn is dominated largely by yellows and golds. Even then, there is a limited amount of autumn colour, because much of the alpine forest is evergreen.

However, at higher elevations there are larch trees that have an unusual characteristic. Although they are deciduous trees that lose their leaves in winter, their leaves are in the shape of needles, like those of coniferous trees. You see them in Banff National Park. There are a good number of them in the Lake Louise / Moraine Lake area.

At less high elevations in the mountains, the poplar (aspen) trees turn golden. You see a lot of them near Banff and to the east of Banff, in Kananaskis Country.

If you get a sunny September day, the yellows splashed against the blue sky are something else.

If you could be persuaded to drive, you would find Kananaskis Country jaw droppingly beautiful around the third week of September. Driving would be very easy. You'd have a beautiful paved road almost all to yourself. You'd pass half a dozen cars during the course of a September day. Well maybe that's a LITTLE bit of an exaggeration, but it's not far off the mark.

I am not aware of bus tours that go through Kananaskis Country at any time, much less September. I believe you would have to drive it.

The downside of September, compared with June, is the issue of sunlight. Not only are the days starting to get a little shorter, but it takes a while for the sun to rise above the mountains. I return again to the topic of Moraine Lake. In the latter half of September the sun doesn't shine on it till about 1.00 p.m. or so. When the lake is in the shadow of the mountains, it is a lovely blue-ish turquoise colour. But the real magic is when direct sunshine reaches it and it turns a green-ish turquoise. This is not a make or break issue, but it does require you to plan your day. For anyone else reading this post, this factor is relevant in September, not earlier in the summer when direct sunshine falls on the lake much earlier in the day.

If you chose to do your trip in September, you could start in Vancouver in the early to mid part of the month, travel through the Rockies in the latter half of September, and then travel on to Ontario in early October, when the eastern half of Canada is displaying its glorious reds and oranges.

If you did the trip in June, you might consider starting in Ontario in early to mid June, travelling through the Rockies during the latter half of June and reaching Vancouver in early July. Vancouver is a large city and is well able to absorb its summer tourists. The coastal climate usually is not too extreme either way. Typically Vancouver's July weather is not as stiflingly hot and humid as Ontario's July weather can be.

Hope that helps.

Calgary, Alberta...
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4. Re: Banff/Jasper sightseeing

Postscript. During my long winded explanation above, I forgot to mention that the larch trees, those unusual deciduous trees with the needle-shaped leaves, turn golden during the latter half of September. They are a popular attraction in their own right.

hmf
uk
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5. Re: Banff/Jasper sightseeing

Thanks alot, Judy for your very useful insight. Didn't know about the vacation times for schools in Canada- in England they generally finish for summer from about mid-July.

Thanks again.

6. Re: Banff/Jasper sightseeing

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