Canadian Rockies - 2018
September 2018 - From Calgary to Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper and All Points In Between
Arrive in Calgary
Cocktails at James Joyce on 8th Ave. then Dinner @ Thai Sa-On. Really great Thai food here.
Sites to see as time permits
Check out the Calgary Tower Any visit to Calgary is incomplete until you’ve seen the city from the top. Take in 360 degree views and test your courage by stepping onto the glass floor. For those who live here, this is your chance to see your city like you’ve never seen it before. Come (re)discover Calgary and its Tower
River café – Bow river dining
17th ave retail & entertainment dist.
Stay at the Fairmont Palliser Downtown Calgary for 1 night
Drive to Banff (Via Trans-Canada Highway/AB-1 W) (approx. 1.5 hours)
Not much to do along the way but plenty of spectacular scenery.
I would recommend taking a side trip into the very scenic Kananaskis area. This is one of most scenic areas to visit in all of Alberta and you will pass the exit for this county about 35/40 minutes outside of Calgary. You can drive for about 30 minutes or so and return back to the highway to continue on to Banff, but this is a great area to look for wildlife to spot Bears or Moose even.
Another great option is the town of Canmore which is located about 20 minutes on your drive before Banff. It is a great little Alpine town with a nice little main street and shopping and dining as well as hiking options, etc. Maybe just drive in and take a nice little walk along the river if nothing more than for some scenic photos. This is the last little town before you enter the park.
Stop at Lake des Arcs viewpoint and drive through Canmore nearing Banff.
Purchase Park Pass There is an "Entrance" to Banff National Park gate on your drive in if you are coming from Calgary where you can purchase your passes. Driving in Banff National Park (as well as the surrounding parks) you will need a park pass and you can purchase them in advance online here at https://www.banfflakelouise.com/parks-pass-online. You can also purchase them at the Visitor Information Centres in Lake Louise village or Banff Town. The Park Pass provides entry to Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks. You can find additional information about the fees on Parks Canada's website and a good article for additional information about when to purchase a park pass be found here at http://banffandbeyond.com/understanding-the-parks-canada-entry-fees/
Stroll through the Banff Springs Hotel: Nicknamed the "Castle in the Rockies", the original Banff Springs was built in 1888 by the Canadian Pacific Railway In the words of CPR president William Van Horne, ""If we can't export the scenery, we'll import the tourists." The hotel is open to the public. You can see Van Horne's "million dollar view" from the Rundle Lounge, look for fossils in the limestone staircases, and admire the Scottish baronial-themed "Great Hall".
Take a walking tour through Banff starting with "Surprise Corner" view of Banff Springs Hotel: follow Buffalo Street in Banff up the hill to come to the parking lot for this roadside viewpoint. You have to walk back about 200 metres once you've parked your car, but the amazing view of the Banff Springs, with the river below and the slopes of Sulphur Mountain above, is definitely worth it. Morning is the best time for photos.
Continue walking to Bow Falls (year-round): This waterfall is not particularly high, but the sheer volume of water roaring over it at some times of year makes it an impressive sight. Most spectacular in June and July, but still beautiful at other times of year, especially in winter, when it is a mass of jagged ice blocks. Very accessible - visible from the parking lot, or from a flat walkway near the parking lot, or from a steeper trail. Stay on the trail and behind any barricades -- it's not worth losing your life to try to get a better camera angle.
Stroll downtown, get oriented, visit information center.
Take Sulphur Mtn Gondola if weather is good. With six stunning mountain ranges and the sweep of the Bow Valley laid out before you, views from the Sulphur Mountain summit are nothing short of breathtaking. And there’s much more to discover inside the state-of-the-art facility that’ll heighten your senses at every turn. Why not start with a walk along the Sulphur Mountain Boardwalk to learn more about Canada’s first national park? Or perhaps go indoors to sample from two delicious restaurant menus? Then get hands-on in our world-class interpretive centre. A short (1 km) walk takes you from the top of the gondola along the ridgetop to a historic weather station and cosmic ray research station. For the best views, take the gondola when the weather is clear.
EVENING WILDLIFE SAFARI (2hr) Discover the challenges of protecting animals and their habitat in Banff National Park. Your guide will lead a safari to the hotspots where you are most likely to see Rocky Mountain creatures.
Historic Fairmont Banff Springs for 3 nights
Had dinner at Stanley's Smokehouse at the resorts golf club. views were spectacular but food was sub-par especially for a resort of this caliber
Drive/Hike/Bike Lake Minnewanka Loop (Banff Ave to Lake Minnewanka Scenic Dr.) (Approx 45 min). This is a nice driving road that allows you to come back to town in a short period of the time, or you can spend all day there, it depends on how you do it. You can stop at Lake Minnewanka for a light walk or boat cruise (there are washrooms). Stop at Two Jack lake for a picnic and watch locals fish or canoe (there is an outhouse). Go to Johnson Lake and walk around the lake or watch locals swim on a hot day. You may see Big Horn sheep between Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake
Lake Minnewanka, Lake Minnewanka boat cruise, Lake Minnewanka driving loop: Lake Minnewanka is a glacial lake surrounded by mountains. Small herds of Bighorn Sheep can usually be found in the Lake Minnewanka area. You can choose to take a cruise on the lake (1hour), or get away from the crowds and walk along the lakeshore to Stewart Canyon (level paved trail, 1.4 km), splash your toes in the freezing water on a hot day, do an overnight hike to Devil's Gap (25 km), have a picnic (picnic tables & picnic shelters provided), or check out the many stops on the Lake Minnewanka driving loop, such as the site of the long-abandoned Bankhead mine and town, Johnson Lake, Two Jack Lake, and the Cascade Ponds (a favorite swimming area). Lake Minnewanka is a 10-minute drive from the town of Banff. Lake Minnewanka is accessible year-round, but the lake itself is frozen from around mid-November to late May. Some sections of the Lake Minnewanka loop road may have seasonal closures in the winter months.
Sunrise or sunset drive along Vermilion Lakes: Located just west of the town of Banff, this series of three marshy lakes have the spectacular wedge shape of Mount Rundle as a backdrop. This view has been a favorite subject of photographers and painters for decades. Waterfowl, beavers, muskrat, and the occasional canoeist can be spotted on the lake in the warmer months.
Return to Banff and Fairmont Banff Springs
Drive & Hike Yoho National Park (4.5 hr RT) (the Trans-Canada Highway for 23 km (14 mi) west of Lake Louise) Yoho Valley Road is known as a beautiful area for hiking. Lake O'Hara is the best-known hiking area, but the area of the many waterfalls is also magnificent. There are a few options but, for example, the Iceline or the Whaleback are fabulous. Anyone visiting the Rockies should see this.
SPIRAL TUNNELS (51 min) There are two viewpoints where you can safely watch trains and learn more about the Spiral Tunnels and Kicking Horse Pass National Historic Site of Canada. On average, 25 to 30 trains pass through the Spiral Tunnels daily, though not on a regular schedule. The Spiral Tunnels can easily be found heading west on the Trans-Canada Highway 1 for 19 km (11.8 mi) in Yoho National Park.
TAKKAKAW FALLS (+30 min) Takkakaw Falls is the second highest waterfall in western Canada. Follow the Trans-Canada Highway for 23 km (14 mi) west of Lake Louise until Yoho Valley Road. Follow Takkakaw Falls road for 13 km (8 mi) to the parking lot.
THE TOWN OF FIELD (+30 min) Field is 27 km (17 mi) west of Lake Louise along the Trans-Canada Highway. The settlement of approximately 300 people is located in the Kicking Horse River valley. Stop at this historical rail town for lunch or dinner at Siding Café or Truffle Pigs Bistro, stop at Cilantro on the Lake or the Mount Burgess Dining Room.
NATURAL BRIDGE (+8 min) The Natural Bridge can easily be accessed by driving 3 km (1.9 miles) from the Town of Field on Emerald Lake Road. Sculpted by the erosive forces of rushing water over what had once been a waterfall, the Natural Bridge is a powerful reminder of how much influence water has in shaping the landscape.
EMERALD LAKE (+10 min) Emerald Lake is the largest of Yoho’s 61 lakes and ponds and is a jewel of the Canadian Rockies. A popular 5.2 km hiking trail circuits the lake. Canoeing is an option and Cilantro Restaurant at the Emerald Lake Lodge offers a daily menu. Follow the Trans Canada Highway 1 west for 40.7 km (25 mi) until Emerald Lake Road. Follow this road for 6 km (3.7 mi) to the parking lot.
WAPTA FALLS (+45 min) Wapta Falls is the largest waterfall on the Kicking Horse River. Head west from Lake Louise on the Trans-Canada Highway for 55 km (34 mi). A short road off the highway will take you to the start of an easy 2.4 km trail to the falls.
Return to Banff and Fairmont Banff Springs
Drive from Bannf to Lake Louise
Drive Bow Valley Parkway (AB-1A W) (Approx 1 hour 15 min) to Lake Louise, visiting Johnston Canyon en route. Feel the spray of waterfalls from catwalks that cling to the canyon walls: 1.1 km (20 min) to the Lower Falls: 2.7 km (1hr) to the Upper Falls.
Drive/Hike Johnston Canyon: Johnston Creek rushes over two waterfalls in this narrow stone canyon. The Lower Falls is accessed through a dramatic natural tunnel; the Upper Falls has a dramatic high viewpoint. From the Upper Falls, it is 3 km further to the Ink Pots, several cold bubbling mineral springs. Located on the Bow Valley Trail (Hwy 1A), midway between Banff and Lake Louise. Can also be accessed from the Trans-Canada Hwy (Hwy 1) via the Castle Junction with Hwy 93 South.
View Castle Mountain from the "Kodak Rock" viewpoint
Check in to the the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Take the Lake Louise Gondola (8am-6pm) Shuttle from hotel, no resv, cash only) Experience the panoramic splendor of Lake Louise! The fourteen-minute ride travels to a top elevation of 2088 meters (6850 feet) where you can experience the majestic Canadian Rockies from a bird’s eye perspective. Enjoy the magnificent view from your choice of an open chair or fully enclosed gondola. Be sure to bring your camera to capture the beauty of Lake Louise, glaciers, natural springs, wildflowers and possibly some wildlife. Scenic highlights include Lake Louise, Mt Temple and Victoria Glacier. Various hiking trails are on offer including to golden Larch trees in the fall. An active wildlife corridor makes this one of the best and safest places to view wild grizzly bears. Discover why this magical place is home to so many grizzly bears as you explore one of the most important bear habitats in Banff National Park. Enjoy various snacks and beverages at the lodge while taking in the unobstructed views of the surrounding mountain range. Interpretive wildlife programs and guided walks are also available. There is complimentary shuttle service to and from the Lake Louise gondola from our hotel. For lunch at the Gondola, the Whitehorn Bistro is your best option and has the best views anywhere in the area. The food is also excellent.
Hike the FAIRVIEW LOOKOUT Distance: 2 km round trip Elevation Gain: 100 m Time Required: 45-60 minutes round trip Difficulty: Easy. Fairview Lookout is hidden on Fairview Mountain above Lake Louise and is great for those seeking fabulous views without summiting a mountain. The trail begins from the boathouse and continues uphill through the forest, eventually revealing fantastic views of both Lake Louise and the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
Evening Canoe on Lake Louise you can rent a canoe until as late as 8 pm or reserve the evening canoe (guests only of course) at 8:15 pm to 9:15 pm. You will have some amazing photos out on the lake at this time as there will not be as much traffic on or around the lake.
Dinner at the Lakeview Lounge or Poppy Brasserie
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for 2 nights
Visit/Hike/Boat Moraine Lake and the lake of Lake Louise.
Moraine Lake: This magnificent glacial lake and its Valley of the Ten Peaks graced Canada's $20 bill from 1969 to 1979. Many visitors feel it is more beautiful than its famous neighbor, Lake Louise, a 20-minute drive away. An easy walk leads to the Rockpile viewpoint. Take a boat tour. Visit Moraine Lake before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. for the greatest chance of finding parking. Shuttles are available from Lake Louise
ROCKPILE TRAIL (30 minutes) Hike up the Rock-pile for an alternative view of these turquoise waters and the nearby Tower of Babel. Hiking up this short interpretative trail gives a different perspective and beautiful view overlooking the lake from the top of the moraine. This is the spot where the photo was taken that was on the back of one of the older Canadian twenty dollar bills that featured Moraine Lake
LARCH VALLEY (2 hours) Larch Valley is one of the most heavily visited hiking destinations in the Canadian Rockies - and no wonder. This meadow-land above Moraine Lake, with its dense stands of alpine larches and panoramic views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, is exquisite. Although the valley can be reached in an hour, it’s easy to spend a full day exploring the surrounding area. This is a popular hiking destination and in late September, when the larch needles have turned to gold, it is particularly popular. In mid-summer, however, the larch needles are pale green and the meadows are carpeted with wildflowers.
MORAINE LAKE SHORELINE (1 hour) The hike around the Moraine Lake shoreline is the easiest way to appreciate the beauty of this famous alpine lake. A flat, easy trail weaves its way through shoreline trees and offers extraordinary views of the Ten Peaks, a series of encircling summits all over 10,000 feet. This is an easy walk that allows you to take in the views of the mountains and glaciers. The trail works its way through the trees offering views of the lake along the way, with backdrops of glacier covered mountains. There is a boardwalk at the southern end of the lake where a rushing stream descends from the Wenkchemna Glacier.
HALF DAY HIKE: LAKE AGNES (Guided or Self) Difficulty: Moderate. From the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, it is a 4.4 mile round trip to Lake Agnes (3-4 hours). Framed by a quaint European-style tea-house. the Lake Agnes hike is one of the most popular hikes in Banff National Park and for good reason. You won't be alone on these trails, but you will escape most of the crowds of Lake Louise and can enjoy delicious tea and cake before the return journey. The hike begins with a climb through an old-growth forest of spruce and fir trees. It climbs steadily to Mirror Lake tucked under the sheer cliffs of the Big Beehive and past a waterfall before arriving at the renowned Lake Agnes. Built in 1901 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Lake Agnes Teahouse is a great place to relax and refuel before your descent with cofee, tea, cakes, pastries and other snacks (cash only 8:30-5).
Return to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Drive to Jasper via Icefields Parkway (Highway 93N). Fuel up the car, grab some snacks and Picnic lunch for the journey and stop at one of the stunning viewpoints or picnic areas for lunch.
Icefields Parkway (Highway 93N) The road connecting Jasper and Lake Louise is the Icefields Parkway. It is one of the most scenic drives in the world; in fact, National Geographic Traveler magazine identified the whole Banff-Jasper route as one of their 20 "drives of a lifetime". Although it is possible to drive this route in 3 hours (not including any stops for food, fuel, etc.), it is a crime to do so due to the jaw-dropping scenery. It may also be impractical because, at the height of summer, slow-moving tour buses, RVs, and cars full of sightseers can cause traffic slowdowns. Here are some spots along the way that you shouldn't miss:
Bow Lake (21miles)
Peyto Lake and Bow Summit viewpoint (25 miles) short trail, opportunity to experience alpine flowers/meadows
Waterfowl Lakes and Waterfowl Lakes campground (35 miles)
Saskatchewan River Crossing, Howse Pass viewpoint, and The Crossing Resort (48 miles). Junction with David Thompson Highway (Hwy 11) to the east.
Weeping Wall viewpoint (66 miles)
The Big Hill and the Big Bend Viewpoint at the top of the hill at the big bend (70 miles)
Parker Ridge trail-head (73 miles) – 1.8 mile round-trip hike, spectacular views of the Saskatchewan Glacier and Mt. Castleguard
Columbia Icefield, Columbia Icefield Centre, and Athabasca Glacier (79 miles). with or without Brewster Sno-coach ride Tangle Falls
Goat Lookout - More than just another pretty picnic area with a view, Goat Lookout is 38km south of Jasper in the Icefields Parkway Region, and its panoramic vista of the Athabasca Valley provides reason enough to visit. But perhaps the main draw of the area is the wildlife that comes to enjoy the natural salt licks. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep congregate here, making for terrific photos in both summer and winter.
Sunwapta Falls and Resort (109 miles)
Athabasca Falls (124 miles)
Jasper (144 miles)
Check in at to Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for 3 nights
Check in with info center, get oriented. Start visiting must-sees in Jasper area:
Jasper National Park
Maligne Lake named for the color of its water, the surrounding peaks, the three glaciers visible from the lake and Spirit Island, a frequently photographed islet. The lake is located 44 km (27 mi) south of Jasper town, and is accessible by motor vehicle, including shuttle buses from Jasper. Boat tours run to Spirit Island in the spring to autumn season. The 44 km Skyline Trail, Jasper's most popular, highest and above treeline, multi-day hike, begins at Maligne Lake and finishes near the town of Jasper. Other popular day hikes include the Opal Hills and Bald Hills loops.
Maligne Lake boat cruise Declared the “Best Boat Cruise in Canada” by 8 million Reader’s Digest subscribers, the Maligne Lake Cruise is an experience like no other. Join us on a panoramic tour across the crystal waters of magical Maligne Lake, fed by the glaciers of Jasper National Park. Glide past the jagged mountain peaks as we cruise to Spirit Island, a world-famous destination only accessible by boat.
Vanishing Medicine Lake; Medicine Lake is the Greta Garbo of Jasper, regularly stepping out of the public eye. Fed by the Maligne River, the sparking lake appears in spring as the glacier-melt fills the basin; it stays all summer then disappears,leaving gravel and mudflats behind. First Nations legends attribute this vanishing act to spirits, while geologists talk about an intricate system of underground drainage caves. Whatever you choose to believe, the lake's magic tricks make for a compelling visit.
Up Whistler's Mountain - The Jasper SkyTram is not exactly an insider secret, but it's still an absolute must-do while you're here. The tram carries you, your family, and even a well-behaved dog up to the viewing platform atop Whistlers Mountain, some 2,277 meters above sea level. The breathtaking seven-minute ride culminates in views that open out all the way into British Columbia on clear days. Talk about a Rocky Mountain high! Hike to the summit (1.5 mile RT, 600 ft elevation climb)
A Heavenly Glacier - Mount Edith Cavell, named for a heroic WWI nurse, is the lofty peak just across Beauvert Lake. Locals love spending an afternoon on the mountain, with its meadows full of wildflowers like brown-eyed Susan and dryads, and a glacier shaped like an angel with out-swept wings. The Edith Cavell Meadow is a flower-lover's dream during mid-summer, full of vivid color. The drive is half the fun, a winding ribbon of road through sub-alpine forests.
Northern Lights - If you're in Jasper in winter, catch the most amazing light show on the planet: the Northern lights. People think you only get a good view in remote regions, but Jasper has so little light pollution that the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada officially designated it a “dark sky preserve.” To view the eerie, neon-green fingers of light uncurling against the black, velvet sky, head up Old Fort Point or to the deck of JPL's outdoor pool.
Return to the the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Mount Robson Provincial Park This is British Columbia's second-oldest provincial park and the site of Mount Robson (12972 ft), the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. The provincial park starts at the west boundary of Jasper National Park, on the Yellowhead Highway. The Mount Robson viewpoint is about an hour's drive from Jasper.
Return to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Drive from Jasper to Calgary (approx.. 6.5 hours)
Drive Icefields Parkway AB-93 and TransCanada AB-1 back to Calgary (approx 5 hrs) or AB-16 to AB-624 E to AB-20 S to AB-11 W to AB-2 S (approx 6.5 hrs)
Check in to the Fairmont Palliser Downtown Calgary for 1 night
Have Breakfast in Calgary
Uber to the airport