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Please critique my itinerary! Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise

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Please critique my itinerary! Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise

I have been pouring over the forums and reading my guidebook, trying to piece together an itinerary for our upcoming vacation. We will be in the Rockies July 31 to Aug. 12, and have three boys, ages 15, 13, and 11, so I'm trying to plan a variety of activities.

We have reservations at the Hidden RIdge Resort in Banff (6 nights), Patricia Lake in Jasper (4 nights), and the Fairmont Lake Louise (2 nights). Here is what I've come up with so far:

Day 1: arrive in Calgary at noon, drive to Banff (groceries in Canmore). Settle in, maybe a little exploring.

Day 2: Banff Village, gondola ride, Vermillion Lake (sunset?), Lake Minnewanka (maybe do the boat ride) and a drive around past Two Jake Lake and Johnson Lake.

Day 3: Sunshine Meadow (do not have bus reservations yet)

**is this enough to fill the day?

Day 4: White water rafting (Hydra River Guides) in the morning (drive to Field). Johnston Canyon in the afternoon, hike to upper falls

**should we switch these around so we can find parking at Johnston Canyon in the morning?

Day 5: Yoho National Park: Emerald Lake (canoe?), spiral tunnel, Takakkaw Falls, natural bridge

Day 6: around Banff: upper hot springs, Tunnel Mt. drive, hiking?

**what have I missed that I should add here?

Day 7: Drive the Icefields Parkway up to Jasper (I have a whole list of spots to stop and see along the way, including the Snocoach glacier trip--we also have the return trip to explore here)

Day 8: Maligne Canyon and Lake (boat ride?), Medicine Lake, hiking and driving tour

Day 9: Biking on the Athabasca River Valley loop, explore Jasper town, gondola ride??, Miette hot springs??

**what else should I add here?

Day 10: Athabaska Falls, Path of Glacier loop, Mt. Edith Cavell

Day 11: Drive the Icefields Parkway down to Lake Louise (again taking time to stop and explore), explore Lake Louise

Day 12: Moraine Lake (canoe?), gondola and hike, explore Lake Louise area

Day 13: Drive to Calgary for 2:30 pm flight home

First of all, do I have any major misses here? I like to have things pretty planned, but leave the option open to do whatever we feel like doing that day (I hate wasting time in the morning trying to decide what to do!).

We definitely want to do some great nature hikes, wildlife viewing would be great, and I've tried to plan several activities like biking, canoeing, and rafting.

Do these days all look do-able, or are some days too ambitious or don't have enough planned?

Since we will be spending two days driving the Icefields Parkway, should we concentrate on the upper half the first day, and the lower half the second time? We will be driving the Parkway on both a Sat. and a Wed. Which day would be less crowded to book the Snocoach trip?

I don't like that we have to drive from Banff all the way to Field for the rafting trip, and the next day drive back that way to Yoho Nat'l Park, but since we only have 2 nights in Lake Louise and there are things we want to see there, I think that's the best way to see Yoho. Thoughts??

There are three places to ride the gondolas, but since this gets pretty pricey, which one's are the must-sees? I'm thinking we could skip the Jasper gondola. Same for canoeing; if we could only canoe one time, which lake would you recommend?

Any other suggestions would be welcomed as well! Thanks in advance!

Banff National Park
National Parks, Hiking Trails, Nature & Wildlife Areas
Red Rock Canyon
Canyons, National Parks
Temple Mountain
National Parks, Nature & Wildlife Areas, Mountains
Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Please critique my itinerary! Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise

We did the Sulphur Mtn gondola in Banff and I thought it was pretty good. We didn't do the Jasper Gondola (it was grey and overcast, so no point going up in the clouds), but from the bottom, it didn't look as good to me.

In fact, you may want to let weather determine a lot of things. So, if for example you have poor weather on one of the days that you are planning to drive the Icefields Parkway, then you'll want to do most of your stops on the other day. And your day for the gondola may depend on whether or not its a sunny day. Hot springs and forest trails are good in any weather.

There's Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff, which I know nothing about except that its there. There's also the Banff Centre, which is a major national Arts school and runs some great summer programs which often have concerts and performances, so worth finding out if there's anything you can go see.

krp recommended a good hike for us when we were in Jasper - Old Fort Trail I think? I'm sure she'll come along and provide the info. Our kids were 8 & 10 and I thought it was a good level of difficulty and a good length for our kids (and their sadly out of shape parents. :>)

Jasper, Canada
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2. Re: Please critique my itinerary! Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise

The Old Fort Point loop, or any of the various loops at the Valley of the Five Lakes are close to town and relatively easy hikes, but still have great views. I like to do the OFP loop clock-wise, that is, start in the forest, and finish by coming down the stairs - that way you get the elevation gain gradually, and "work up" to the view. I believe the loop is about 4 km - pc.gc.ca/eng/…river

If the weather isn't great, or you want somewhere for your boys to blow off steam in the evening, the Jasper Aquatic Centre might be a good option for a couple of hours. There is a water slide, and usually water polo nets in the shallow end of the pool (seems to be popular, especially with boys), and the climbing apparatus over the deep end is lots of fun for the bigger kids too. For mom and dad, there is a hot tub and a steam room, as well as one lane for fitness swimming. The pool is located right at the bottom of the hill as you enter town from Patricia Lake Bungalows. Public swim hours are everyday from 2:30 pm until 8:30 pm. Family admittance is $16.50.

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3. Re: Please critique my itinerary! Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise

Although the views from the Jasper gondola are dramatic, it can be very cold there. Given the time you are going, you probably won't have clothes to 'deal with' this! Good call to edit this one.

Calgary, Canada
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4. Re: Please critique my itinerary! Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise

Your itinerary shows that you've been doing your homework! I just have a few comments.

Day 2 - Keep an eye open for bighorn sheep when you're driving the Lake Minnewanka loop; they frequently come right to the side of the road. The ewes and youngsters are often mistaken for mountain goats because they don't have the massive spiral horns of the adult males. And don't overlook Bankhead on this loop; the Lower Bankhead interpretive walk (and "stairway to heaven") is worthwhile.

Day 3 - See this recent discussion on whether Sunshine Meadows is enough for a full day:


Day 4 - I would be tempted to do Johnston Canyon first, because you will see more wildlife in the morning than you will after the tourist throngs have come and gone. If you're a birdwatcher, Johnston Canyon is known for its small Black Swift population. Also, if it's a hot day, you'll enjoy doing the river rafter later in the day and your hiking in the cool of the morning, I would think.

Day 5 - The Spiral Tunnels viewpoint is on the north side of Hwy 1 (Trans-Canada Hwy aka TCH). Because of the heavy traffic and the way the turnoffs are arranged, it's highly recommended that you visit them when you're heading westbound; the eastbound access is not nearly as safe, traffic-wise.

Day 6 - Although the Cave & Basin National Historic Site would ordinarily be a great destination for you, it is closed for major renovations this summer. However, the Marsh Loop just below the Cave & Basin is a very nice short interpretive boardwalk which lets you see the "wild" hotsprings as they flow into the marsh. And if you are birdwatchers, there is a permanent blind at the Marsh Loop :-)

Other places to check out would be the Mt Norquay viewpoint, the Fenland Trail (next to Vermilion Lakes), Bow Falls, and - if you haven't yet seen an elk - the Banff Springs Golf Course road.

Day 7 - My apologies if I sound like a broken record here, but remember to pack a picnic lunch and refuel before you head up the Icefields Parkway. There is food and fuel on the Parkway, but it's limited and therefore very busy; remote, and therefore pricy due to higher overhead costs.

Jasper, Canada
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5. Re: Please critique my itinerary! Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise

Regarding temperatures at elevation ... if I recall correctly, the "rule of thumb" is that for every 1000 feet you ascend, it will be 1 degree (Fahrenheit) colder than in the valley below. Of course, if it is also windy, it can feel even colder.

The Jasper Tramway's upper terminal is at 7472 feet, according to their website. It can be cold there on a gloomy, overcast day, but if you are lucky with the weather, it can also be a hot summer day. I have spent days hiking from the tram, up into the meadows between The Whistlers and Indian Ridge in shorts and a sleeveless top (and I have also been up there on cold, windy days with many layers on!) Banff's Sulphur Mountain gondola advertises their summit elevation as 7486 feet, so pretty much comparable. It will definitely be much colder on the Athabasca Glacier sno-coach tour (which goes to 7500 feet) because there is always a very cold wind on the glacier, and from the effect of the vast icefield.

Edited: 13 July 2011, 16:40
Banff, Canada
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6. Re: Please critique my itinerary! Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise

On Day 3, generally Sunshine Meadows will take the bulk of your time and your energy. There's enough trails to keep you busy here all day, so pack your picnic and mosquito repellent and plan on a full day. Certainly, there's always the possibility of squeezing more in to your day - a short scenic drive? Mount Norquay viewpoint? The Hoodoos? One of the many short walks in the Lake Minnewanka region? A "must-do" hike up Tunnel Mountain?

On Day 4, I would keep your AM booking with Hydra, so you can relax and enjoy your afternoon in Yoho. Logistically - it just makes sense to do something in Yoho. Save Johnson Canyon for another day - and yes, do it early in the AM to avoid the crowds. Not far from the Hydra River Base and located in Yoho National Park is the Wapta Falls. It's awesome. I'd do that. You might even be able to fit in some of the other sights of Yoho as well, or maybe even all of them.

Days, 3,4,5 and Day 6: "What should I add here?" I hope this doesn't sound silly, but add in a little flexibility. Sometimes, the weather decides what, when and where you will be going here in the mountains. Day 6 would also allow you a little "flex-day". It's not hard to fill your time here - a visit to Johnson Canyon or a return visit to the Lake Minnewanka Loop to take short walks at Johnson Lake, picnic at Cascade Ponds, hike to Stewart Canyon or visit Bankhead. All places you don't want to miss. You haven't made any mention of Kootenay - it would be worth it to make the short drive from Johnson Canyon up Highway 93 South and make stops at Storm Mountain Lodge for lunch and go for a short walk at Marble Canyon.

In Lake Louise - if you were going to take one longer day to hike, this is the place to do it with your family. A hike to one of the teahouses - either Lake Agnes and the Beehives OR Plains of Six Glaciers Teahouse is a Must-Do.

If you have the luxury of scheduling your visit to Moraine Lake in the early AM or the late PM - that is also what I would recommend. It's an incredible place, but the parking can be busy.

Generally, you've done your homework and you have a very good idea of what you would like to do. It sounds like you are going to have an amazing holiday! So, relax - and enjoy your holiday in the most beautiful place on earth.

Oh, and if you're going to canoe - do it on one of those turquoise lakes where ever it fits in your schedule and the weather is good. You can't go wrong with a canoe ride on Lake Louise.

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7. Re: Please critique my itinerary! Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise

Thank you everyone for your replies! I've added several suggestions to our plan :) I had forgotten the Hoodoo's, and the Aquatic center in Jasper is a great idea! My boys are all swimmers, so that would be a fun place to spend some time if it rains. I decided to move our Yoho National Park day to the afternoon after our rafting trip. It might not be much time, but it saves us from driving back again the next day. And I was then able to move Johnston Canyon to the next morning.

I like to have a general idea of where we'll be spending the day, and a list of activities in that area, then each day we can pick and choose whatever we feel like--I'm a flexible type A!

Thanks again, we're looking forward to our trip in two weeks!

8. Re: Please critique my itinerary! Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise

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