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need help with Banff-Jasper-Lake Louise itinerary

Rockville, MD
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need help with Banff-Jasper-Lake Louise itinerary

We are leaving next week for Calgary and will be in Banff (5 nights), Jasper (3 nights), Lake Louise (3 nights), and Calgary for the last night. We have a tentative itinerary but it has too many choices so we need help narrowing them down. Complicating the plan is that a recent flare-up of foot and knee pain means I probably won't be able to do more than a few short and easy hikes (maximum 60-90 minutes roundtrip). We will have a car so I'm hoping we can see a lot of beautiful sights by driving to viewpoints as well as taking boat and gondola rides. Here are the possibilities for each location (not including Calgary)--please let me know what you think.

Banff: Sulphur Mountain gondola; Lake Minnewanka driving loop (if open) and boat cruise; Stoney Squaw hike, drive along Bow River Parkway and Johnston Canyon with hike to upper falls; sunset drive along Vermilion Lakes; walk through Banff Springs Hotel, go to "Surprise Corner" view of hotel

Drive to Jasper via Icefields Parkway--if we stop at viewpoints for photos but do not take any hikes, how long should the drive take?

Jasper: This is where we have too many possibilities, including Athabasca Falls, Mt. Edith Cavell (not sure if Cavell is beyond my hiking ability), Maligne Canyon (beginning from lower end--not sure if this is too difficult), Medicine Lake, Patricia Lake, Pyramid Lake, Lake Trail (Mary Schaffer Loop), Valley of the Five Lakes Trail, Lake Annette, Old Fort Point, Lac Beauvert, Jasper Discovery Trail, Jasper Tramway, Mount Robson Provincial Park. Since we only have 2 full days in Jasper, which of these should get priority (given my physical limitations)?

Drive to Lake Louise via Icefields Parkway--may do Parker's Ridge trail if conditions are OK

Lake Louise: gondola, Lake Moraine, Yoho National Park (Spiral Tunnel viewing point, Takakkaw Falls, natural bridge over Kicking Horse River, Emerald Lake Loop). I figured we would spend one day doing the gondola and Lake Moraine and the other day at Yoho--does this work?

Banff National Park
National Parks, Hiking Trails, Nature & Wildlife Areas
Red Rock Canyon
Canyons, National Parks
Temple Mountain
National Parks, Nature & Wildlife Areas, Mountains
Jasper, Canada
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1. Re: need help with Banff-Jasper-Lake Louise itinerary

For Jasper: forget the Discovery Trail - it's 8 km and takes about 2 hours and most of it is not that scenic. You can always do bits of it if you choose. For Maligne Canyon, I think you should start at the top, and go down to the 4th bridge and back up. Fifth Bridge is out (damaged in last summer's flooding and not yet re-built), and doing from Sixth Bridge up to the top and back down will be longer than 90 minutes. At Cavell, you'll be able to do the short "Path of the Glacier" trail, if not Cavell Meadows, although you could also always hike partway up the Cavell Meadows trail, possibly to the first look-out, and then back down.

You can do the following as a day trip up the Maligne valley: Athabasca Overlook, Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake, the Mary Schaffer loop. Patricia and Pyramid Lake can be visited as a short drive from Jasper townsite; take a short walk over the pedestrian bridge to Pyramid Island. There is a great view of Pyramid Mountain from the end of the island.

Athabasca Falls can be visited during one of your trips on the Icefields Parkway.

Parker Ridge is not that long (about 5.5 km round trip) but there is a bit of elevation gain (about 900 feet) so you may find it pushes the edge of your abilities. Highly worth it if you can do it though.

Rockville, MD
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2. Re: need help with Banff-Jasper-Lake Louise itinerary

That's very helpful--thanks! Since Athabasca Falls is pretty close to Jasper, we would be coming to it late in the day (or maybe early evening) if we stop on the way from Banff to Jasper; but if we stop on the way from Jasper to Lake Louise we would be coming to it in the morning. Is there a preferred time of day to stop there, in terms of view and/or parking and crowds?

Also, can you estimate the driving time from Banff to Jasper and from Jasper to Lake Louise with stops only for viewpoints (no hiking)? That will help me figure out if we can do any hikes along either route. I have seen estimates of driving time but they vary widely. We are driving from Banff to Jasper Monday July 22 and from Jasper to Lake Louise Thursday July 25, both starting around 9 a.m. I'm hoping that weekday traffic will not be as bad as weekends.

Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: need help with Banff-Jasper-Lake Louise itinerary

<< can you estimate the driving time from Banff to Jasper and from Jasper to Lake Louise with stops only for viewpoints (no hiking)?>>

A day and a half. LOL Ok, only slightly kidding. Yes, you can *drive* it in four hours, but we were hard pressed to get as far as the Icefields by 3 in the afternoon, and we were forced to skip Parker Ridge due to a shortage of time. So many beautiful stops. It also depends on how long you stop. I think many people get in and out of the Peyto Lake look out in 20 minutes, but we were there for over an hour.

Calgary, Canada
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4. Re: need help with Banff-Jasper-Lake Louise itinerary

On the other hand, if rain or clouds obscure the views, your trip may be much shorter. But waterfalls (Tangle Falls. Sunwapta Falls, Athabasca Falls) are still worth a stop in poor weather.

Edited: 10 July 2013, 17:13
Jasper, Canada
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5. Re: need help with Banff-Jasper-Lake Louise itinerary

V67 has nailed it... we can tell you the driving time, but the rest is so dependent on you. LOL Last time we stopped at the Peyto Lake viewpoint, we were also there over an hour, not including the short hiking loop through the alpine meadows, which I've never done and plan to visit next time.

Banff to Jasper is ~290 km or about 3.5 hours, with no stops Jasper to Lake Louise is 230 km, or about 2.75 or 3 hours. Both may be slightly less if you aren't stuck behind RVs up the hills. ;-) (And a lot of those are foreigners on vacations with a rental RV and they're here all through the week.) Last week, on Tuesday, I drove part of the parkway, from Jasper to Parker Ridge (a few km's south of the Columbia Icefields), leaving town about 1 pm and arriving back into town about 9 pm. The mid-day traffic was very busy; in the evening, there were hardly any vehicles on the road at all.

I'm not sure if lighting at any particular point in the day makes any difference with Athabasca Falls (I just go when I go and haven't worried about it); early or late would both be better in terms of fewer people. Don't forget we also have long hours of daylight now, so if you have snacks and beverages with you, you won't have to dash in to town because you're starving for dinner.

Rockville, MD
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6. Re: need help with Banff-Jasper-Lake Louise itinerary

This is very helpful. My main concern about the Banff-Jasper drive is to arrive in Jasper before 8 pm because we need to meet someone at his shop in town to get the address and keys for our lodging. It sounds like we should be able to do it even with a few stops, as long as we get on the road by about 9 a.m. We made a similar drive in Rocky Mountain Natl Park a couple of years ago (from Grand Lake to Estes Park) and did a lot of "jump out of the car and take a photo" stops, but there were some stops where we really needed to walk around a bit and just soak in the view. But at least we will be making the Icefields Parkway trip twice so don't need to cram everything into the first trip.

Greater Sydney...
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7. Re: need help with Banff-Jasper-Lake Louise itinerary

Having also driven in Rocky Mountains NP in Colorado I can assure you that there is MUCH more to see along the Icefields Parkway so don't judge your timing on along those lines. You will have lots of time in your time frame though, but may be a bit short for the Parker Ridge hike.

C_W is quire correct in that on our first trip we had glorious weather and took 9 hours, but of the return trip the weather was absolutely rotten and it took only 4 hours to LL which included a bear jam I started. :)

Rockville, MD
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8. Re: need help with Banff-Jasper-Lake Louise itinerary

The Rocky Mountains drive was pretty spectacular, so I can only imagine how great the Icefields Parkway will be. Hopefully it will be sunny on at least one of the trips. It should be OK if it takes 9 hours, as long as we start not much later than 9 a.m. But we will probably skip Parker Ridge anyway because it may be too much stress on my foot/knee.

Thanks for all the input.

9. Re: need help with Banff-Jasper-Lake Louise itinerary

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