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Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

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Windsor, Canada
posts: 6
Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

Hi there,

We are planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies in early July. We will bring 2 girls aged 10 and 6 and 3 seniors aged 70+. The seniors are not very fit. The girls are average but definitely not sporty.

It’s our first time there. After doing lots of research on this site and also reading the Moon Canadian Rockies book, I made the following plan:

Day 1: Late night fly to Calgary. Stay in Canmore.

Day 2: Drive along Icefield Parkway, stop in Hector Lake, Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Waterfowl Lake(depends on time), Mistaya Canyon, the Ice Explorers Tour of Columbia Icefield, spend the night in Miette Hot Spring

Day 3: Maligne Canyon, Pyramid Lake, Horseback riding or rafting, Miette Hot Spring

Day 4: Mt Edith Cavell, Athbasca Fall, Parker Ridge (if everybody is ok with hiking), Lake Louise, spend the night at Banff

Day 5: Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake of Yoho, Johnston Canyon

Day 6: Banff Gondola, Upper Hot Springs, Bow Fall, Cascade Gardens, Banff Park Museum(optional)- spend the night at Calgary

We will arrive on Thursday night and leave on next Wednesday morning. I heard that Banff will be very crowded in July and August so I think we had better spend the weekend in Jasper instead of Banff. If that doesn’t make any difference, I would prefer visit Banff first and then go to Jasper.

I also read from this site that parking will be an issue for Lake Louise and Moraine Lake, so I put them one in late afternoon and the other in early morning next day. I would rather visit them on the same day if we don’t need to wait in a long line to get into the parking lot.

We plan to stay in Banff and Miette Hot Spring instead of Lake Louise and Jasper because my hubby said the hotels are cheaper there and he doesn’t mind driving the extra distance. We are on a budget but I can talk him out of it if that is not a good idea.

I would like to know if I planned too much or too little for each day, or if there are some places we should or should not go. There are so many beautiful places to see. However I don’t want the group to be too tired. Please provide any advices and suggestions you have.

Thanks a lot.

11 replies to this topic
Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 12,211
reviews: 80
1. Re: Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

Hi, and welcome to the TripAdvisor forums!

Day 2 - "spend the night at Miette Hot Springs" - ?? This will involve a further hour of driving after you finish driving the Icefields Parkway, and will add an extra two hours of driving to your activities on day 3, and an extra hour on day 4. (Upon re-reading your post, I see that you have mentioned you are aware of this but I am leaving my comments in case you are not aware of the amount of time it will require.) I think a better choice would be to stay in the Jasper townsite area, which is centrally located for all the things you have listed on subsequent days, and visit the hot springs as one of your excursions/activities.

It sounds like you are a group of seven people. There are plenty of hotel and cabin accommodations in the Jasper townsite, and nearby. Some of the more economical ones are Patricia Lake Bungalows, Pine Bungalows, and Bear Hill Lodge, or you might want to consider private home accommodation (PHA). However, there are not that many PHAs that can take a group of seven - but there are a few. There is a search function at the www.stayinjasper.com site and "number of guests = 7" is one of the options you can use to search. There are also lots of PHAs all over town, and if you cannot find one that can accommodate you (either because of lack of availability or not having the bed configuration you need), you might consider booking two that are close together.... find one that interests you, and then ask the host to recommend other PHAs nearby.

Depending upon what you mean by the seniors being "not fit", you may find the Parker Ridge hike to be too much for some. It's about 5 km return, but the big factor is the elevation gain (and then loss, on the way back). I believe it's about 250 to 300 metres, and the trail starts at significant elevation (around 6000 feet). This is one of the "attractions" of it - since you already start so high, you are up above treeline quickly, with a minimum of effort compared to trails that begin at lower elevations. However, even though that elevation is not considered "high" (as in possibly causing altitude sickness), it is still high enough that you will notice the slightly thinner air ... you will be huffing and puffing your way up the hill more than you would expect, compared to similar exertion at a lower elevation. Also, the elevation loss is enough that anyone with knee problems might want to think twice. If the seniors in your group are not fit enough that they could enjoyably walk 5 km (about 1.25 to 1.5 hours at a moderate pace) at home, I would re-think this.

Edited: 9:57 pm, April 01, 2014
Windsor, Canada
posts: 6
2. Re: Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

Hi Krp329,

Thank you so much for your detailed reply. I already read lots of your posts from this site and they are very very helpful.

I will remove the Parker Ridge trail from my list. It was highly recommened here and is listed as an "easy" trail so I was thinking of trying it. So glad you pointed it out for us! Actually I choose the Banff Gondola instead of Jasper Tramway because of the 1km trail at the upper terminal of Jasper Tramway. I will also rethink about the hotel in Jasper area.

Thanks again!

Edmonton, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
posts: 1,143
reviews: 1
3. Re: Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

Greetings

I would also suggest that you may be packing too much into some of the days, especially with seniors and a 6 year old.

On Day 2, if you are staying in Canmore, you've got a good hour or more drive to Lake Louise where the Icefields Highway starts. Then all the stops, then another hour from Jasper to Miette Hot Spring.

On Day 3, I would leave a half day for Maligne Canyon unless you are going to take a very quick look. And leave some time to go up to Maligne Lake. It would be a stretch to do something other than a short trail ride - you will have a bit of a drive to any rafting.

Day 5 - Johnston Canyon is between Banff and Lake Louise - you'd need at least 30 minutes to drive there and 1 - 2 hours to enjoy the Canyon. Then another 30-45 minutes to Lake Louise and 15-25 minutes from there to Moraine Lake. The drive to Moraine Lake can take longer if there are big crowds as parking is limited and buses go very slowly up the road. Then about 40 minutes down the road and out to Emerald Lake.

You don't mention a visit to Lake Louise - perhaps you could stop by either going or coming from Jasper.

I don't think Jasper is going to be any cheaper or more expensive than Banff in the peak summer months - and both will be crowded. So you could choose either to start out your trip, though you'd need a night in Canmore or Banff after your flight. I would do some research before discounting any location - remember that staying out at Miette Hot Springs will mean more driving and that means more money spent on gas. And less time to enjoy things. You will also have many fewer options for food - almost all restaurants and the small supermarket are in Jasper. Spending just a bit more on accommodation might be a much better trade off.

If you are really on a budget, you might want to con

Windsor, Canada
posts: 6
4. Re: Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

I really appreciate your reply, especially the time needed between the destinations. Since Banff and Jasper are both crowded during weekend, we will probably be staying the first 3 nights in Banff and then go to Jasper. In this case, we don’t need to switch hotels that often. I will think about staying in Jasper instead of the hot springs.

Is the drive to Lake Louise as crowded as to Moraine Lake? From the map, it looks to me that we have to stop by Lake Louise before going on to Moraine Lake. If both are crowded, we have to leave more time for that.

Thanks again for your post!

Banff, Canada
Destination Expert
for Banff, Lake Louise
posts: 2,632
5. Re: Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

The Turn off to Moraine Lake is about halfway between Lake Louise and the highway. Both lakes are quite busy during peak hours, but Lake Louise has a much larger parking lot. (it can still be very busy but they do not have to close the road like Moraine Lake).

The big issue with Moraine Lake is that the parking area is very limited, so they sometimes have to close the road for large portions of the day during high season. However, there is a shuttle available to both lakes to alleviate the parking/traffic issues. The schedule for this shuttle is not yet available for this coming summer, but once you arrive it should be available at any of the information centres in the area.

Places like Moraine Lake, Lake Louise, and Johnston Canyon are best visited in "off peak" hours (Either early in the morning, or after dinner) to avoid the crowds.

Windsor, Canada
posts: 6
6. Re: Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

Thank you banfflakelouise! I think we will probably split the visit to Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Johnston Canyon into different days to avoid peak time. Are these places more crowded during weekend than weekdays?

Edmonton, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
posts: 1,143
reviews: 1
7. Re: Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

Weekends will always be more crowded - add in local tourists and people using weekends to minimize days off from work.

The road to Moraine Lake is between the 'townsite' of Lake Louise (if you can call it that) and the lake itself. Which are about 10 minutes apart. So most people do both in one day - get to Moraine Lake early and then down and back up to Lake Louise.

I still don't think you'd be saving money at Miette - I believe there's just the one hotel/lodge actually at the Hot Springs. Probably not cheap given the location and you'd pretty much be limited to eating there unless you want a very long drive back from dinner. There are a couple of places to stay at the junction of the Hwy 16 and the road up to Miette. Again, you are dealing with a long drive to any other location for eating, buying groceries or any other items.

If you intend to do any picnic lunches or cook any meals, I would try to stock up on non-perishables in Banff (or even better in Canmore on the way in...). There's just one or two small markets in Jasper (the big supermarkets are all the way out in Hinton), and prices reflect the location.

Windsor, Canada
posts: 6
8. Re: Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

Thank you again ksneds! We will think about the stay in Miette or Jasper. Hot Springs is a major attraction for the seniors in our group, so I was thinking staying there will get two birds in one stone. But as you and krp329 pointed out, one hour extra driving after a long day and other cost is really an issue.

For Maligne Canyon, we will go down to the 4th bridge instead of the all trail, hoping that could save us some time and energy. I read from other post that Maligne Lake is not very impressive without the boat tour. I think maybe the white water rafting will be more exciting than a boat tour for kids? Maybe we can only decide after we arrive there and see how everybody is doing at that time.

It's our first time to the Canadian Rockies. Thank you all for helping us!

Edmonton, Canada
Destination Expert
for Canadian Rockies
posts: 1,143
reviews: 1
9. Re: Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

Remember that there are hot springs in Banff as well, so Miette is not your only chance to enjoy hot springs.

It's probably worth noting that these are not the fanciest of springs - Miette has two hot pools (one warmer than the other) and a cold pool while Banff has just one pool. They're pretty much just swimming pools (and not that large) ,and people tend to sit on the water on the outside ledge and chat. They're not pools where you can do laps or play games. At peak times then can be very crowded, so there can be a line up or even a wait to get in (only so many people can be in the pool at any one time).

The spring in Miette is adjacent to the hotel up there, so you have those amenities. At Banff, there is a spa, plus a gift shop and cafe. But it's not fancy and it's not a place you'd be hanging out for hours. When we go to the one in Banff, we usually are in the pool for 30 minutes or so, and that's in the cold of winter.

That's fine for Maligne Canyon - you can start off at the top where it's most impressive and walk down as far as you want. You probably want to get there early, as it's a popular place for big bus tours to stop and the stairs/paths are not that wide. I think Maligne Lake is quite stunning, as is the trip up along the road. It's up and away from a lot of the hustle & bustle, with striking mountain scenery. I've never been there at the right time for the boat cruise, but I've always heard very positive feedback. I wouldn't decide now, but the kids might really like the tour.

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 12,211
reviews: 80
10. Re: Please help with our 6-day vacation plan

The Miette Hot Springs "Resort" are some cabins and bungalows that are actually quite reasonably priced. I have never stayed there, but from the pictures on their website, they look a bit dated. I think the main reason they are inexpensive is that the location and extra driving makes them less appealing to many visitors, since it is a long drive up a somewhat winding dead-end road to get there.

The only other place nearby is Pocohontas Bungalows, part of the Mountain Park Lodges chain, which are located at the intersection of highway 16 and the Miette Road. These have some newer cabins, but some of the older ones also look very dated. Personally, I would not want to stay there because of the highway noise - the Trans-Canada/Yellowhead highway 16 is one of the major transportation corridors through the mountains with a lot of truck traffic. There is a speed limit reduction there for the intersection, so the trucks are all braking as they go by the cabins.

The Overlander Lodge is located a bit further east on highway 16, outside the park. here would also be some highway noise there. Again, the main disadvantages to any of these accommodations is the additional driving time to get to any JNP attractions, and limited dining choices unless you drive elsewhere.

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