I am planning a trip to Alberta and I was initially thinking late August but from what I am reading... that is high tourist time. Would one recommend waiting until early Sept? Also what would the temps be like at that time?
As a life-long Albertan, I can tell you that early September is still peak tourism season in the Canadian Rockies (Jasper and Banff National Parks). After Labour Day holiday weekend, when the children are back in school, there may be fewer families travelling during weekdays, however, there will still be plenty of international tour groups and retired folks.
It's difficult to predict the weather during September - it sometimes snows (or there may be smoke from British Columbia wildfires as in the last 2 very dry summers) or you may be able to enjoy beautiful "Indian summer" weather until about mid-October. After Canadian Thanksgiving in October is normally when the "off-peak" season begins. Depending on what outdoor activities you plan to do, check on hours of operation (for example, some canoe rentals are available mid-June to mid-September due to water levels). Plan to dress in layers for the weather and wear proper footwear.
I work as a tour guide in Western Canada and I can tell you that September is the busiest time for tour groups! It won't make it any easier for you to book accommodations. But it is also my favorite time in the Rockies. The weather is usually nice but be prepared for chilly temperatures at night and in the morning. Starting about mid September, you can also see the larches in higher elevations changing to a beautiful golden color.
As mentioned, there will be fewer families visiting. Camp grounds might be less crowded if you want to consider this mode of travel (tenting or renting an RV) but be aware that some camp grounds close at about mid September.
What part of Alberta will you be visiting? I lived in the Lethbridge area for several years and have also spent many holidays hiking in the Jasper/Banff area of the Rockies and in the Waterton Parks area. Each year is different, but September is my favourite time to visit and hike in the mountains. Yes, you can get snow, but that seems to be true for many months of the year. The colours of the leaves are amazing, the bugs are mostly gone, and equally important is that the tourist crowds seem to be less. We took a mid September holiday this year through the Jasper, Red Deer, Drumheller, Pincher Creek, Waterton area and experiences all kinds of weather. It was a fabulous holiday but we needed summer t-shirts as well as some warmer clothes. Just be prepared and wear layers.
Good to know, Susan! I will be in Jasper mid-September and looking forward to it!
Make sure you detour to Drumheller and check out the badlands; it’s a pretty cool place and, in my opinion, worth the hour drive from Calgary.
Also, my personal preference is for Jasper over Banff. It can be a bit trickier to get accommodations in Jasper compared to Banff, but if you like to hike you will enjoy much more personal space in Jasper. Banff, being so close to Calgary, tends to see more tourist groups and large swarms of tourists.
When travelling between Banff and Jasper, do take the scenic route through the mountains. It is the most beautiful drive I’ve ever taken.
Please do take note of what others have said about layers and unpredictable weather. Last time I did the scenic drive between the two we got caught in a snow squall. In late June ;)
Lived in Alberta for 40 years....we used to say, expect snow from beginning of September through to the end of August!
September and October were my favourite months living in Calgary, usually still warm and sunny with cool evenings and the trees beginning to change.
Southern Alberta has some interesting Provincial Parks, Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump, Dinosaur Provincial Park. And of course the amazing national parks, Waterton, Banff, Jasper and lesser known ones such as Bar U Ranch, Rocky Mountain House, Fort MacLeod, and Cypress Hills (Sitting Bull’s refuge after Little Big Horn). I would say south of Calgary would be less busy than the mountain parks in September.