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Jasper or Kootenays?

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santa barbara, ca
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Jasper or Kootenays?

Hi all,

We are considering a trip in August to the Canadian Rockies. Given that it is peak season, I am wondering if we would be better off spending time in the Kootenays on the BC side, rather than fighting the crowds at Jasper.

We love to hike, but probably won't camp or backpack. If we take day hikes, do we stand a chance of escaping the crowds in Jasper?

The Kootenays look lovely but I can see they don't have the majesty of Jasper - still, might be worth it if there is a little more quiet to enjoy the nature. Thanks in advance for your advice!

Jasper, Canada
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1. Re: Jasper or Kootenays?

I don't know the Kootenays well enough to draw comparisons between there, and here in Jasper, so I'll mainly just tell you a bit about hiking in Jasper.

I don't know what the hiking infrastructure is like in the Kootenays... here in Jasper, there are thousands of kilometres of trails, and because they are all under one jurisdiction (Jasper National Park), it is easy to visit the trail office in the Visitor Information Centre to get updates on trail conditions, wildlife sightings, or any trail closures. They also have excellent brochures with basic maps. Just to whet your appetite, here is the hiking page on the JNP website: pc.gc.ca/eng/…activ7.aspx

There are a few very popular trails in Jasper National Park where you won't exactly find solitude (although you won't find crowds either), but on most of them, once you are a few hundred metres away from the trailhead, you will see few people in a day of hiking. The "crowds" are found where there is pavement - in town, and roadside attractions.

One thing to consider - are you planning to drive here in your own vehicle, or fly in and rent a car? The reason I ask is that most rental car contracts prohibit use of the car on gravel roads; from what I've heard, in the Kootenays, some trailheads are accessed via logging roads. Here in Jasper NP, they are all accessed from paved roads.

I'm not sure when exactly you are coming - the end of August is not quite as busy as the beginning; the long weekend at the beginning of August is the absolute busiest time in the summer tourist season, with all accommodation in Jasper usually selling out. So book early if that is when you are coming. August remains a busy time, but after the middle of the month, the numbers do start to drop off a bit, especially families because of the kiddies going back to school either at the end of August or early in September.

santa barbara, ca
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2. Re: Jasper or Kootenays?

Thank you, this is helpful. I think it will be worth it for us to come to Jasper and hike - looks great!

We are looking at mid-August (15th or so). We will fly into (Edmonton or Calgary? Haven't checked that out yet...) and rent a car.

As to places to stay: We like comfort but don't need luxury. Jasper Lodge is out of our price range. Is there lodging in the park that is affordable and provides easy access to the best hiking? Thank you again!

San Antonio, Texas
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3. Re: Jasper or Kootenays?

There are only a couple hikes in the Kootenays (paint pot & one other) and they are very short trails. You can do both and go to the hot springs in a 1/2 day easy. Much better hikes in Jasper. I fact unless you want to say that you have been to another park or hit the hot springs I would recommed skipping Kootenay.

Jasper, Canada
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4. Re: Jasper or Kootenays?

I think the OP is debating a vacation in either the Alberta Rockies (Jasper NP) or the Kootenay region of southeastern BC (which is much larger than just Kootenay National Park), commonly known as "the Kootenays" :

http://www.hellobc.com/kootenay-rockies.aspx

One thing I forgot to mention is that later in August is also a better choice because mosquito season will be over. Also, some vegetation in subalpine and alpine regions will be starting to change colour - it's not dramatic like eastern North America forests, but it does add to the beauty of the mountains.

Edmonton airport (YEG) is four hours from Jasper, Calgary (YYC) is five. The drive from Edmonton is quite dull but the drive from Calgary is spectacular, along the Trans Canada highway #1 to Lake Louise, and then the Icefields Parkway (hwy#93). You often have to connect in Calgary for flights to Edmonton too, so if this is the case, you lose any time you may have gained in a slightly shorter drive. I would pick whichever city has the flights that work best for your schedule and your budget, with a preference for Calgary.

Where to stay? There are some "outlying" accommodations (outside of town) but the town of Jasper is centrally located in the park, so generally the most convenient for anyone wanting to see various areas of the park. The main scenic attractions and hiking areas radiate out in various directions from town, like spokes from a hub, and most of them are "about" an hour's drive from town (~ 45- 50 min. to about 1 1/4 hours) My 4 favourite hikes in Jasper National Park are: Opal Hills (at Maligne Lake), Wilcox Pass (just south of the Columbia Icefields), Sulphur Skyline (at Miette Hot Springs) and Cavell Meadows (at Mt. Edith Cavell). There are hikes closer to town, and accessible right from town, but these are lower elevation hikes in the "montane" zone, not the higher subalpine meadow or alpine ridge hikes. Two of the montane hikes that are popular (for good reason) are the Valley of the Five Lakes and Old Fort Point - but these are also busier trails, especially the 5 lakes. Most of the hiking on Pyramid Bench, immediately accessible from town, are nice walks in the forest, with some lakes or other wetlands, some rocky ridges etc. There are occasional views, but a lot of the trails are in densely forested areas.

You can find all the hotels listed at the official tourism page www.jasper.tourism , and reviewed here on TripAdvisor. Most hotels start at about $200; standard rooms at some are in the $225 - $300 range in high season. A few older hotels and some of the more basic cabin accommodations have units in the $150 - $200 range. Taxes are additional.

Private home accommodation and B&B listings can be found at www.stayinjasper.com , and many of them are reviewed here on TripAdvisor. These are rooms or suites in residents' homes; all the ones on that site have been inspected and licensed by Parks Canada and the Municipality of Jasper. There are a few that offer continental breakfast. These range from about $65 - $70 for a basic room up to about $175 for a deluxe suite.

santa barbara, ca
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5. Re: Jasper or Kootenays?

This is such a wealth of helpful info - thank you!

I am now on to a new question - in looking around, it seems there are more options for affordable lodging in Canmore. How does the hiking in Banff compare with Jasper? Also, if we want the feel of the mountains - kind of like camping but with a bed to sleep in :) - is one preferable to the other in terms of lodging availability??

Or should we plan on two days in Banff, two days in Jasper? We have a week altogether, but DH is reluctant to move around much and prefers picking one spot and doing day trips from there.

Thank you again!!

Texas
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6. Re: Jasper or Kootenays?

Hi! I am by no means an expert on the Canadian Rockies, BUT we vacationed in Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper 2 summers ago, and if we could go back twice a year, every year... we would!!! My husband and I manage to still talk about aspects of this trip every single day. So, here's my passionate advice and recommendation (very short version):

1. Visit Banff and Jasper both while you are in this area. Do whatever it takes to persuade your husband. They have different feels to them, but you will love them both! You don't want to go all that way and not visit both places. And, it's not possible to do a "day trip" to either place from the other and enjoy/see/do/make it worth your time.

2. Definitely spend a day driving the Icefields Parkway and stopping at all the amazing lakes & mountains along the way, picnic, hiking, etc...! Beautiful, Breathtaking, WOW!! - You've never seen anything like it. You cannot visit this area and miss out on the Icefields Pkwy!

3. If you can squeeze in 3 nights in Banff, and 3 nights in Jasper that would be good - more would be better, but if you can at least swing 6 nights that would be good. Banff is a better base than Canmore (in my opinion) because it puts you closer to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake (a day trip and two places you don't want to miss), and the Bow Valley Pkwy (great for wildlife viewing) and probably everything you'd want to do in the area. You'd waste a lot of time driving back and forth if you were in Canmore.

4. Lodging - we stayed at Alpine Village (WONDEFUL!) in Jasper, and I would think that Jasper gives you more of a "camping but with a bad to sleep in" feel. We stayed at a bigger, regular hotel on Banff Ave. while in Banff.

5. I don't know anything about the Kootenay.

Enjoy your trip!!!!!

santa barbara, ca
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7. Re: Jasper or Kootenays?

This is great info, Texas, and I love your enthusiasm :) - thank you sooo much!

Funny - we just last night settled on staying in Alpine Village. We were debating between that and Patricia Lake Bungalows - that looks nice too - but the cabins at Alpine appealed to us more (despite the fact that Patricia Lake is very attractive...). Anyway, haven't booked yet but that's the plan.

I will look more at staying in Banff, and appreciate the advice about Banff vs. Canmore. I had the impression that Lake Louise and Moraine would be super crowded in August and thought we'd be happier putting our time into more out of the way hiking spots in Jasper Park. Most recently the itinerary was:

Day 1 - fly to Calgary, stay the night there

Day 2 - drive up, pass through Banff and spend some time on the Icefields Pkway

Days 3 - 7 - Stay at Alpine Village, day trips to hike, canoe, and explore off the beaten path trails (if that's possible)

Day 8 - back to Calgary, a night there then fly out the next morning....

Or something like that. But may we should re-think and spend two-three nights in Banff.

If anyone else wants to chime in, I'm open to suggestions! Also any suggestions on where to stay in Banff as I have not researched that yet.

Thanks all!

Texas
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8. Re: Jasper or Kootenays?

We were at LL and Moraine at the end of July, and there were a lot of people around. However, both lakes are so gorgeous, and at LL with the Chateau and Glacier as the backdrop, it's just breathtaking. You'd still be able to enjoy them even with more people there. We canoed at Moraine and did not have to wait in line. We did notice a tour bus or two that stopped but for the most part, they get off the bus, walked to the first look out at the lake, snapped a picture, and left within 30 min. of getting there. My biggest regret of the trip is that we did not allow time to hike to the Teahouse at LL. We got there too late in the day. I hear it's a great hike!

You might consider at least 2 nights in Banff. Depening on what time your flights are out of Calgary and what you're wanting to do there, you could easily make it to Banff for that first night or back to Calgary from Banff the day you fly out. We spent our first night in Calgary but we won't be doing that next time.

You'll love Alpine Village - it's so nice and the people there are very friendly. The adirondack chairs on the river are great! I'd book that as soon as you can. You have to list your 3 choices of cabin types in order of preference. We submitted ours in January (for a July stay) and got our 2nd choice - which was GREAT, but I'd hate for all 3 of your choices to already be booked.

San Antonio, Texas
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9. Re: Jasper or Kootenays?

I am a Lake Louise person, I like to hike. LL will give you an 45 minute to 1 hour head start over those staying in Baniff townsite. to hike Banff & Yoho.

santa barbara, ca
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10. Re: Jasper or Kootenays?

Sorry, I don't get it - are you saying we should stay in Lake Louise to hike Banff and Yoho? That sounds like a good idea!