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Help with itinerary

Wilsonville, Alabama
posts: 21
reviews: 13
Help with itinerary

My husband and I are planning a trip to the Canadian Rockies in late July and will have 5 full days to hike and sightsee. We will fly in and out of Calgary. We enjoy hiking moderate trails (6 miles or less?) with waterfalls, mountain tops, and/or meadows.

Questions:

Is it a good idea to stay in Canmore for home base?

Or traveling to Jasper area -should we plan to stay a night or two there?

What are the best hikes and must see sights with best use of time?

Thanks for any advice for this long-awaited trip!

Edited: 7:15 pm, February 25, 2013
Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary, TripAdvisor Support
posts: 22,345
reviews: 66
1. Re: Help with itinerary

This TripAdvisor Traveler Article may help you get started; it's about the Canadian Rockies for first-time visitors:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g659487-c161219/Canad…

Traveller Articles are written by TA members like you and me, in response to popular forum questions.

Once you've had a chance to read the articles, please feel free to post any further questions on the forums.

Charlottetown...
posts: 31
reviews: 113
2. Re: Help with itinerary

Canmore is a great little town...and not inundated with Tourists like you get in Banff or Lake Louise. It also has a few great restaurants and some great things to do. It is just east of Banff National Park...and there are some great hikes. But if this is your first trip I would probably recommend Banff or Lake Louise or somewhere in between. Banff would be ideal as it has a more diverse choice in accommodation options...from high end hotels, to more economical options as well as some great B&Bs.

Banff is about 45 minutes from Lake Louise and 2.5hrs to the Columbia Icefields...Although the Columbia Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives you could ever take - with a multitude of stops along the way.

Hikes - Johnston's Canyon up to the Inkpots would do - about 4kms one way...so 8kms -ish. there are 7 waterfalls in the first few Kms...and this part of the trail is paved, and easy to moderate. Once you pass the upperfalls it is about another hour and twenty minutes to the Inkpots. The trail becomes more remote and definitely a lot fewer people. Good sturdy hiking shoes is what I would recommend for the second part of the trail. It takes you through a forested area most of the way...and then opens up into a large meadow. The Wildflowers would be in bloom and I think a Must Do.

From Lake Louise the two most popular hikes are Lake Agnes - My Fave and the Plain of 6 glaciers. Lake Agnes is about 45min to an hour one way. Moderate. You pass Mirror Lake and the Behive Mountain. When you get to Lake Agnes there is a Tea House with Lemonade and Sandwiches. (Expensive) I recommend bringing your own snacks. The the other hike, the Plain of 6 Glaciers is a bit more arduous - but not too steep. When you get to the Tea House at the end of this one (not the same tea house as Lake Agnes) you can continue past right to the end of the trail and see Abbotts Hut on the other side of the Glacier. This hike is not as scenic in my opinion, the Victoria Glacier looks like a big rock pit.

Not far from Lake Louise is Moraine Lake - A MUST SEE...I think even prettier than Lake Louise. There are a few hikes here. A short one to the top of the Rock Pile gives you an amazing view of this beautiful lake. Another hike that I liked here was Constellation Lakes. Not too much in the way of an elevation gain...but when you get there, you have to transverse some huge boulders.

A few other things that I think everyone should see - Takakkaw Falls - this is a 254 meter high waterfall... Not far from here is Emerald Lake - some nice hikes here - the one around the lake is beautiful.

The drive up to Jasper is one of the most beautiful drives you can do...I would recommend a couple of nights in Jasper. The town has a similar feel as Jasper - doesn't feel as touristy as Banff. The stops to make between Lake Louise and Jasper would include Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Mistaya Canyon (my have). And of course the Columbia Icefields themselves. The drive from Lake Louise to Jasper is about 3 1/2 hours...but I would give yourself a good 8hrs...in order to see everything along the way.

Jasper has some Must See's as well. Athabasca Falls, Maligne Canyon as well as Maligne Lake Road....and so much more.

hope this helps gets you started. I lived in this area for years and Loved it!!

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 11,859
reviews: 80
3. Re: Help with itinerary

Hi maggiemae - nice to have you here on the forums! I see you are in my second most favourite place in the world, after the Canadian Rockies - PEI! I have family there and will be there for a visit this summer :)))

I thought you might be interested to know that the Plain of Six Glaciers trail beyond the tea house is now closed, and has been since last summer, possibly the one before (don't remember when it took effect). Apparently the moraine there is quite unstable. (Had to laugh at your description of the glacier looking like a "rock pit", because that's essentially what the moraine is... tons of rocks left behind by the glacier). I looked on the Banff NP website for the notice, to post it here for your perusal, but it's not there right now, probably because access there is seasonal. Lately, when Parks Canada closes something, they don't just post a sign and say "it's closed" - they issue a Superintendent's Order under the National Parks Act; contravening it means a mandatory court appearance and a fine up to $25,000.

Btw, I lived in LL many years ago too (worked at Deer Lodge for three summers and the LL Inn for a winter, before coming to Jasper) and have fond memories of hiking in the area. The Consolation Lake hike is nice, but imo, nothing compared to the other hikes at Moraine Lake - Larch Valley (and on to Sentinel Pass) and Eiffel Lake (and on to Wenkchemna Pass) ... although going on to either of the passes will put you out of the "6 miles or less" category, and also bump the hikes from moderate to strenuous.

However, some relevant information about these hikes for m0j077 would be that most of them (except the Consolation Lake trail) are usually under the "tight group of four" hiking restriction by late July. This is in effect for grizzly bear conservation and hiker safety; if you are only a couple, you will have to wait at the trail head and team up with another pair of compatible hikers.

m0j0, I am an avid hiker and would be happy to assist with informaton about Jasper National Park if it turns out you are coming here, although with only five days, you probably don't have enough time. We usually recommend people spend a minimum of 5 to 7 days, split between Banff and Jasper National Parks, as a minimum just to see the main tourist sights and attractions... adding in hikes requires either more time, or making difficult choices.

Wilsonville, Alabama
posts: 21
reviews: 13
4. Re: Help with itinerary

Thanks so much for the helpful article. It gives us much info for our trip!

Wilsonville, Alabama
posts: 21
reviews: 13
5. Re: Help with itinerary

I appreciate all the detailed advice on hiking trails and things to see. Now I wish I had planned for more days. Hope to hike as many trails as possible, especially to see the lakes and waterfalls. Still looking for lodging. Thanks again!

Charlottetown...
posts: 31
reviews: 113
6. Re: Help with itinerary

What are you looking for in the way of accommodation? Did you want Canmore or Banff??

Wilsonville, Alabama
posts: 21
reviews: 13
7. Re: Help with itinerary

At this point, either location because we haven't decided on a place. I was considering Canmore because I thought it would be more affordable. Any suggestions?

Wilsonville, Alabama
posts: 21
reviews: 13
8. Re: Help with itinerary

When you say, "allow 8 hours to see the sights" on the drive to Jasper, does that time allow for hikes along the way or just stopping at overlooks, etc?

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
posts: 11,859
reviews: 80
9. Re: Help with itinerary

That's hard to say, because it depends how many viewpoints etc. you stop at, and for how long. At the Peyto Lake viewpoint at Bow Summit, will you just walk to the viewpoint, or do the entire loop through the alpine meadows? At the Icefields, do you do the snocoach tour (90 minutes) or spend some time in the glacier exhibit. The Parker Ridge hike is about 5 km round trip, so perhaps 1.5 hours, or a bit more? Wilcox Pass is 8 km to and from the pass marker, but maybe you'll only want to hike partway up to the viewpoint overlooking the Athabasca Glacier and the icefield (approx. 3 - 4 km, round trip). Do you plan to hike to Mistaya Canyon, and Sunwapta Falls (short hikes)? Of course, weather may be an issue too .... it seems every time I drive by the turn-off to Mistaya Canyon and have the chance to stop and do the walk (i.e. I am not heading to Calgary to catch a flight, or somewhere with a deadline), it's pouring rain... so I have yet to do that walk.

If you want to "do it all", or as much as you possibly can in one day, I would plan for an early start, and pack a picnic lunch, drinks, and snacks. Have a confirmed reservation at the other end so that you don't have to rush to get there and find accommodation. Daylight hours are long in July.

Charlottetown...
posts: 31
reviews: 113
10. Re: Help with itinerary

Ok...so Accommodation - the reason I ask what type of accommodation you are looking for is there are all kinds of options out there.

Are you looking for a place with a kitchen? Would a B&B interest you. What is most important to you - do you like a lot of amenities...or as long as the room is clean and the staff are friendly...a comfy bed is all you need?

No - 8 hours to Jasper are just the stops along the way - 90min ish - at the Columbia Icefields if you want to do the tour. Once you are on Highway 93 N (Columbia Icefields Parkway) There is Num Ta Jah Lodge at Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier would be the first stop. There are some nice walks by the lake, there is also Bow Glacier which feeds the lake which in turns is the head waters for Bow River.

The next stop is Peyto Lake Lookout. It is a 10 min hike from the parking lot to the lookout point - this is one of the bluest lakes in the park...and the lake and valley is really a stunning sight.

The next stop that I like to do is one often missed by travellers. Mistaya Canyon is one of my fave spots. There is a parking lot on the left side of the highway. You park here and take the trail down to the Canyon. There is a wooden bridge that takes you from one side to the other...it is a very narrow canyon and you will be at the point in the river where it pours into the canyon. The way the water has worked the rocks is one of the most beautiful things I have seen.

Your next stop will be on the Big Hill....when you stop here you will be able to see the valley you just drove through. Stunning.

The next stop is The Columbia Icefields. The buses leave about every 15min from the Info Centre...the bus takes you up the side of the glacier - then you get on to a Snow Coach and head out onto the Glacier. You spend about 20 minutes on the Glacier (the area is checked and guaranteed safe.) The minimum time spent here would be about 90min...but you can really spend so much more time exploring the area and taking in the history.

Next is Sunwapta Falls. Then 20ish KM after that is the Goats and Glaciers View Point. Then Athabasca Falls and then Jasper. If you want to include hikes...I would suggest stopping at Sunwapta falls for one night and which would allow you to get in at least one hike.

Those are the "Planned" Stops - then there is the "OMG - Stop the Car!!" every inch of this drive seems to get more beautiful the further you go. And then the drive back - it is a different perspective...and like its a whole different drive :)

In Jasper there are a few things I would recommend. Hiking Maligne Canyon. Also heading to the Jasper Park Lodge - there are some hike around there. . And heading out to Maligne Lake - there is a really nice boat tour and it is a stunning drive. Also taking the Tram up Whistlers Mountain...Of the three in the parks - it is my favourite.