We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

Toronto
Level Contributor
134 posts
12 reviews
Save Topic
Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

I plan to be in the area for a bout 4 days and nights in late march. I am mainly interested in seeing natural sights and doing photography. I'll be driving a regular full-size car.

I'm starting in Jasper and my plan so far is to spend two full days leisurely driving and stopping along the Icefields Parkway (once from Jasper to Banff, once back) and then one full day in/around Banff/Lake Louise and one in/around Jasper.

I'm setting aside two days for the parkway in case of poor weather or whatnot, hoping I get good light for photos on at least one of the days.

I'm happy driving through beautiful places, so have no issues spending full days driving from sight to sight. I usually enjoy day-hiking, but given the time of year I'll probably keep it to short walks and driving.

What I really need help with is knowing where I can go in and around Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise that has open roads. I've done research but am now reading that some places I planned to visit are not accessible in March (e.g. Mt. Cavell). Great views and secluded places are what I'm after, not interested in skiing or resort-type stuff.

Thanks!

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary
Level Contributor
25,401 posts
86 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

Stroke Moraine Lake off the list as well; the road is closed until about Victoria Day, although a portion of the road is used by cross country skiers, if I recall correctly. Lake Louise is open year-round, as is Johnston Canyon with its two waterfalls. Traction aids, such as Yak Trax, are recommended for Johnston Canyon, as the trail there can be icy. Part of the Lake Minnewanka road is closed in winter, but you can still drive all the way to the lake and back in a loop.

You should probably have a contingency plan ready in case heavy snowfalls close the Icefields Parkway for 24 hours or more, which happens roughly once or twice a winter, and March typically sees fairly heavy snowfalls. Aside from that, your plan for the Icefields Parkway is exactly what we often recommend on this forum, even for summer trips, and for the reasons you gave. The views in each direction are also quite different but equally beautiful. Do be sure to check the road report and weather forecast for the Icefields Parkway, as the road is only patrolled during daylight hours in the winter, and is extremely quiet during this time of year.

Also accessible, weather permitting, are the following short trails in the immediate Banff townsite area: Tunnel Mountain, Fenland Trail, and the Marsh Walk just below the Cave & Basin. The Banff Gondola operates year-round, and you can get some stunning views from the top which do not have the town or any ski runs or lifts in them. Bow Falls looks more dramatic in March than in June, in my opinion; the lower water levels expose the rocks more.

seattle
Destination Expert
for Seattle
Level Contributor
18,898 posts
108 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

In Jasper you should be able to get up to Patricia and Reflection Lake and probably Maligne Canyon, Athabasca Falls. Peyto Lk will be closed as well as its a steep drive up and a very icy walk down.

Toronto
Level Contributor
134 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

This is great advice. And yes, I do plan to book advance accommodation only for my first night in Jasper (i'll be driving in from Edmonton in the afternoon/evening) and then adjust the rest of my plans based on weather.

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
18,416 posts
107 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

None of the seasonally closed roads in Jasper NP will be open yet in late March. This includes the Cavell Road, the Miette Road, and the southern half of highway 93A, from Athabasca Falls to Meeting of the Waters (it is a xc ski trail). Besides the main highways (16 & 93), the secondary roads that are open are the Maligne Road... and the Maligne Road. Oh, and Pyramid Lake Road. (it's only 10 km to Pyramid Lake)

In Banff, the Moraine Lake road is a ski trail for several km - it's not possible/adviseable to ski all the way to the lake unless you have specialized avalanche gear. Not sure about other roads there... here is a Parks Canada road report page that includes both Banff and Jasper NP's:

www.pc.gc.ca/apps/rcond/cond_e.asp…

As to day hiking, most trails are still in winter or early spring condition in late March (late March and early April are probably the worst times of the year for hiking in the Rockies) - trails at subalpine and alpine elevations are still in full winter (ski season goes till April/May). On valley bottom and lower elevation trails, expect packed snow, ice, mud... or, in a few very cases (open, well drained southwest facing trails), there may be good conditions. Bring a pair of cleats if you have some (Yak Trax or similar) - they will likely be handy. Check at the Parks Canada trail office, or the online trail reports, for up-to-date conditions. Jasper NP Trail report: www.pc.gc.ca/apps/tcond/cond_e.asp…

... and Banff: www.pc.gc.ca/apps/tcond/cond_e.asp…

The glacial lakes - Louise, Maligne, Bow, Peyto etc. - are usually frozen into the first week of June. They are still beautiful to see and photograph in winter. Bring your sunglasses!

Edited: 09 March 2010, 07:15
Banff, Canada
Level Contributor
188 posts
Save Reply
5. Re: Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

Some accessible areas in Banff/Lake Louise at that time of the year with spectacular photo opportunities...

Vermillion Lakes - especially the classic shot looking back at Mt Rundle

Fenland Trail

Emerald Lake / Yoho / Mt Burgess

Lake Louise

Lake Minnewanka

there used to be a brochure of the top 10 photo opps in Banff Lake Louise as recommended by Eddie Hunter (mostly summer) and I can't find it on their website anymore. Maybe pop by the Visitor Info Centre when you arrive for that and more suggestions.

banffinfo - Banff Lake Louise and Jasper Reservations

Toronto
Level Contributor
134 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

Excellent, thanks for the ideas!

LINCS
2 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

Hi

I was wondering if you could help us??

My boyfriend and i are flying into Calgary on 17th April and the plan is to have a rental car and make our way to Vancouver. Stopping off at Banff, Jasper, crossing over to Kamloops etc, then to Whistler, and down to Vancouver/Vancouver Island etc. We are still deciding on the fine detail of the route, but you get the jist...

We were planning on hiring a mid-size 4x4, but the cost is very high. So we were wondering if a standard saloon would do the job? We are just a little concerned about road conditions etc.

Can you help us?

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give,

Rach

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
18,416 posts
107 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

"Saloon" is not used here to refer to cars. You don't hear it very often, but it's usually understood to be a western-style drinking establishment. If I recall correctly, a "saloon" car is what we refer to as a sedan (a four door car that can usually hold five or six people). Renting one of those will be just fine - no 4X4 necessary. If road conditions are really bad (a snowstorm or freezing rain), you are best to postpone driving, even if you have a 4X4. Some drivers get over-confident in a 4X4, and travel too fast for road conditions.and wind up in the ditch, or even worse, rolling over (they tend to be top heavy and more easily rolled than other vehicles.) Snow tires make far more of a difference in winter driving conditions and very few rental cars have them anyway, whether they are sedans or 4X4s/SUVs.

LINCS
2 posts
Save Reply
9. Re: Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

thanks very much, that helps a lot. Sedan it is.

10. Re: Banff, Jasper & Icefields in late march - what's open?

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 11 September 2010, 03:27