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Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

Delaware
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Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

I am planning our 30th wedding anniversary trip for next year. My husband and I would like to fly into Calgary (from Washington, DC), rent a car, and drive through the Banff and Jasper Parks areas without missing any of the important sights since this might be our only visit ever to the Canadian Rockies. This needs to be completed in one week as we will then fly on from Calgary to Vancouver and do the highlights of British Columbia and Seattle in the following two weeks. I need help with the following:

1) I assume it's best to fly into Calgary to start and end the loop, but if there is some compelling reason to change this portion of our trip to a fly into Edmonton and fly out of Calgary (or the opposite) please let me know.

2) We are currently thinking of starting the trip on Saturday, June 28 and leaving the Rockies on Saturday, July 5, then moving on to points west. But if there is an advantage to pushing the trip back a week or so and arriving later in July (perhaps the weather is more reliable? perhaps there is less likelihood of snow on higher trails? perhaps there is better wildlife viewing?) then please let me know.

3) We are both in our early-mid fifties and in good shape for our age, but I am carrying around enough extra weight at this stage of my life that extreme or advanced hiking is not for me. However, I do enjoy hikes with moderate elevation gain, so would love to know what trails are recommended that can be done in less than 3-4 hours round trip and involve no more than 1000 feet of elevation gain.

4) We have the money to spend top prices for lodging but will be very annoyed to spend that money and have a sub-par experience. Also, we prefer quiet places where there will not be a lot of families. We have nothing against children and have two grown ones of our own, but this is supposed to be a romantic interlude and would love any lodging suggestions that might meet our needs.

5) Any advice about the best dining and other tips will be much appreciated!

Thanks to all for taking the time to read this and respond!

Calgary, Canada
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1. Re: Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

Hi, Iaminmd!

1. You're correct, it's best to fly in & out of Calgary, as it is much closer to the mountains than Edmonton.

2. There are two good reasons to push your trip back a week. July 1 is Canada Day, so many people will be making June 28-July 1 into a 4-day weekend. That means more traffic on the highways, much lower vacancy rates, and possibly higher room rates for that weekend. Also, as you point out, a week later can mean that more high elevation areas are drier and more accessible.

4. Don't expect to get the same value for money in the mountain parks that you may be used to getting back home. It's a very desirable destination with a limited supply of rooms - particularly in Jasper. You're visiting in high season. Rooms will be priced accordingly.

In Jasper, you may find that private home accommodations (PHAs) are a good fit for you. These are licenced and inspected rooms and suites in resident's homes; they are not B&Bs. They go from pretty basic rooms to nice suites; many are reviewed on TripAdvisor under the B&B heading. You can find a full listing and more details at www.stayinjasper.com

Accommodations here are not allowed to bar children, so the best you can do is to pick accommodations that are not geared toward families. In Banff, you may want to look at the Rimrock Resort Hotel, Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Banff Boutique Inn, the B&Bs, or Banff Park Lodge. This is a wide variety of accommodation types and price points, so check the reviews and their websites to see what would be a good fit for you.

5. There is a huge array of dining establishments in Banff, with all kinds of cuisines and price points. Any particular likes or dislikes?

Delaware
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2. Re: Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

Thanks for responding and for the advice. I might need to repost this in the Jasper and Banff forums to get more feedback. As for dining preferences, not fast food or fried food but otherwise we like to eat all sorts of different cuisines and we are fans of red wine.

Calgary, Canada
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3. Re: Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

Don't bother to repost in Jasper or Banff, I'm pretty sure that the regulars there also watch this forum.

Jasper, Canada
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for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
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4. Re: Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

I agree completely with Country_Wife on points #1 and 2.

Re: hiking suggestions - the national parks' website have information you can peruse about trails. www.pc.gc.ca/banff www.pc.gc.ca/yoho www.pc.gc.ca/jasper ... look under Activities/Summer Activities/Hiking. I am an avid hiker and would be happy to answer any questions you may have once you have narrowed down your choices. If you use your local library, you might want to see if you can borrow or call in various hiking guidebooks - Patton & Robinson's "The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide" covers all the national and provincial parks in the Canadian Rockies, but there are other good ones too.

Here in the Jasper area, the Old Fort Point loop fits your requirements, as does the Kinney Lake hike at neighbouring Mt. Robson Provincial Park, BC, which is a one-hour scenic drive away, with nearby waterfalls to visit - it makes a nice day's outing.

In northern Banff National Park, on the Icefields Parkway, I would strongly recommend the Parker Ridge trail.

Almost all of my favourite hikes are a little "more" than the requirements you have laid out, in terms of elevation gain (but not time). I, too, am approaching my mid-fifties and carrying some extra weight, but it's amazing what you can do slowly and steadily ... and perhaps with a bit of training in the weeks before you come. ;-) A lot of the "classic" hikes here in the Rockies have between 1200 and 1500 feet of elevation gain, and you will really miss out on some gems, such as the tea house hikes at Lake Louise (Plain of Six Glacier, Lake Agnes), Larch Valley at Moraine Lake, Wilcox Pass, Opal Hills, Bald Hills (which I am doing tomorrow. :) :) :) ). However, that said, even a week split between Banff and Jasper is not a lot of time for much beyond the main natural and tourist attractions - the parks are vast areas with a lot to see, and thousands of kilometres (or miles ;-) of hiking trails.

Regarding #4, accommodation and costs - accommodation in Canada tends to be much more expensive than in the US to start with, and then the Canadian Rockies resorts are more expensive than other places in Alberta. According to Travel Alberta tourism stats, the average room rate for the Alberta resorts in July 2012 was $236, and for August 2012, $243.

For dining information (#5), I would suggest monitoring the restaurant review section here on TripAdvisor and short-listing any that appeal to you.

I would also suggest reading through some of the trip reports in the second in the list of "Top Questions" at the top right of your screen, for ideas on what to see and do, where to go, as well as some thorough browsing on the national park websites (links given above) ... they are a gold mine of information.

Lincoln, United...
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5. Re: Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

Please try the Bed & breakfasts in both areas. Great value. Exceptional value. Breakfasts are delicious and some provide lunch covered with a bag given to take away cakes etc, enough to keep you going until the evening. Some of the luxury accommodation on offer can match four star hotels for considerably less dollars. This will save you a great deal of money. The hotel prices can be anything up to four hundred dollars extra for similar accommodation. Alberta is an expensive area to visit, gas although cheaper, a large amount is still required for distances covered, allow for this. We agree with suggestion to avoid the end beginning of July. We visited mid June and towards the end of this period noticed the difference in visitor numbers. Mid June there is plenty of wildlife about with less people ideal.

Lincoln, United...
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6. Re: Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

Can I add that the locals give better advice regarding off the usual main roads, to get the most from the area they live in. The Bed and breakfasts gave us some great tips that paid off fantastically that other wise would have been over looked by us. Don't forget that many of the owners of these B&B will have knowledge gained by themselves and visitors to the area. The Jasper B&B owner gave advice about an old back road and the time to visit. We ended up the only two people around and were given the privilege of seeing a lonely beautiful black bear out for an evening stroll very close to our car. (Didn't get out unlike certain silly tourists. ) Please note sadly bears can be shot for attacks, and can kill you.)

Delaware
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7. Re: Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

Thanks for all the great tips and advice. It is really appreciated. I can't believe I have to wait a whole year to visit this beautiful part of the world.

Rockville, MD
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8. Re: Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

Hi laminmd--We are making part of the same trip next week (fly into and out of Calgary, stay in Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise, and Calgary for the last night). We have some similarities in life situation (we live in Rockville, are coming up on 35th anniversary, are healthy but not up for extreme/advanced hiking) and looking for similar travel experiences (quiet, romantic, not many kids). Although I can't rate our lodgings until we come back, I did a lot of research and ended up reserving a couple of places that you might want to consider. In Banff we are staying at the Banff Log Cabin B&B (http://www.banfflogcabin.ca/index.php)--very private and romantic. In Jasper we are staying at the White Brick Inn (http://www.bbcanada.com/12909.html?showpage=1), which also seems private and nice, though more of a standard accommodation than the log cabin. If you want, I can let you know how they were as soon as we get back.

Delaware
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9. Re: Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

Thanks for letting me know, freedshop. I would love to hear about your trip afterwards and will take any advice you think is worth sharing. When is your trip and where else will you be going? Have a great time!

Rockville, MD
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10. Re: Need advice for Calgary-Banff-Jasper-Banff-Calgary Loop Trip

We will be there July 17-29. The places I listed are the only places we are going--we are not going on to British Columbia and Seattle as you are. (But we did have a wonderful trip to BC, Seattle, and Olympic National Park about 15 years ago--I'm sure you will love it.) If I don't remember to contact you in the first week of August, please send me a private message to remind me.