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Canadian Rockies - Canmore or Banff for 3 nights?

Hi,
I am a solo travel who will go on a Canadian Rockies tour, Banff/Lake Louise/Jasper, in August 2022. I'm flying to Calgary early and will have three nights before tour begins and am undecided where to spend those nights. (free nights August 18 - 21, 2022). I originally thought I'd spend the time in Calgary, but decided I'd prefer to have opportunity to hike and be in a more natural setting. I will not have a car.

It would be convenient to stay in Banff as the tour starts there. But I'm thinking Canmore might be less hectic and an easier location to adjust to elevation/time change. Though Canmore is small and doesn't have museums, walks, etc as Banff (again traveling solo & no car).

I am talking with a company about taking two guided hikes. If that works out, I'll only have 1 day to keep myself occupied. If it doesn't I'll have 3.

This is new territory for me and any words of wisdom would be most appreciated.

Adrianne

Posted by
4249 posts

You will love the area! How about staying at a lodge in one of the parks? Jasper park would be quieter and probably less expensive. There is one lodge that has a hot spring pool.

Posted by
84 posts

Adrianne, I grew up in Edmonton, and summer vacations were always spent in Jasper…Pine Bungalows cabin #13. When I got married, my husband and I camped there in the summer and skied in the winter.

You will be coming from Calgary, so it makes sense to stay in the Canmore/Banff area before the official trip. Both places have a lovely walkable downtown. I’m sure you could arrange tours or hikes where you could be picked up at your hotel from both places. There is little elevation difference between the 2 places.

Both places will be very crowded this summer. Even before Covid, Banff had hordes of people in the middle of summer. Now that travel is opening up, it will be packed. Availability of accommodation might just determine your location.

Allan from Calgary, speak up about your home town of Calgary and give this gal a reason to see your lovely city. Other than a losing hockey team, it’s a nice place to see.

Thank you for choosing Canada as your destination in. Maybe Vancouver Island will be a future holiday.

Posted by
5448 posts

We did four days in the Canadian Rockies on a bus tour a few years ago. We stayed in Jasper and Banff and it did not seem hectic at all. Both towns are rather small with lots of great scenic views. Don't remember Canmore. There are several great sites to see in the area. Don't miss Lake Louise. Also, go up the mountain at Jasper.

If you plan on just hiking everywhere, you will miss a lot.

Posted by
133 posts

Another vote for Jasper N.P. We rented a "cabin" in the park way back in 2006 and loved the peace and beauty there. The small town has a few restaurants and shops. Our cabin was like a really nice hotel room and was a short walk to the lake, where we watched the sunset and enjoyed gin and tonics in an idyllic setting. (We had a car and had been on a road trip, so brought our own cocktails.)
Not sure how you would get into town (shuttle, Uber?), but Jasper N.P. and Jasper town are far more peaceful and far less touristy than Banff. The whole area is beautiful, and I have no information about hiking, etc., but Jasper outshines Banff in my eyes. Wherever you decide to go, though, you will love the time you spend in this gorgeous part of Canada.

Posted by
2285 posts

I'd love to be able to recommend that you take some time to see Calgary and some other daytrip sites in directions other than toward Banff, but if you won't have a car then I'd highly recommend staying in there since that is where your tour starts. Jasper is too far away if you need to get back to Banff to start your tour, I suspect you'll be hitting all of the blockbuster views on your tour anyway. Canmore is also nice with some fantastic restaurants, but in August it will also be hectic along its main shopping street, and the majority of hotels are on a very touristy street near the highway. Banff is larger and you can find your way off the beaten path a bit easier. Hotels in both will be expensive this time of year and fill up fast. I suggest you start booking hotels now.

I don't know your budget, but some mid-range hotels in Banff and Canmore to consider:

Restaurants in Banff

Hotels in Canmore

Restaurants in Canmore

If you decide on Canmore and are walking downtown, check out Ken Hoen halleries https://kenhoehn.ca/ He's quite a renowned nature photographer and has some beautiful photos.

Posted by
1777 posts

Canmore is worth a day but I would stay in Banff and take a day trip to Canmore. The in-your-face mountain is worth a visit. Good food and shopping too.

Posted by
3650 posts

It's hard to recommend anything without knowing the length and stops of the tour. I assume the highlights of Banff, Peyto Lake and Moraine Lake, are included in the tour.

If staying in Banff town try to get out during the day taking shuttles to hikes in other parts of the park, one link is noted above. A shuttle to Lake Louise would allow you to do the longish Big Beehive hike which would not be part of your tour. If that's too strenuous you could turn back after a sit at the tea house halfway up.

3 options, all with car:

  1. Explore Drumheller (for the dinosaurs) and Calgary those 3 days.

  2. Drive though Banff to the BC parks adjacent to Banff and Jasper and spend time there. Takakkaw Falls is amazing.

  3. Drive to Waterton Lakes NP and spend a couple nights there.

Off the beaten path in Banff NP, on the old highway, is the Ukrainian monument.

adjust to elevation/time change

It's mountain time so only 2 hours. The elevation of the "bottom" of these parks where the lodging is is fairly low elevation, 4500-5000 ft. The park to be concerned about altitude is Rocky Mtn NP in Colorado, where the bottom is 8000 ft.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks to everyone who responded! Based on recommendations a hotel room in Banff has been secured. Now working on guide for day and half of hiking. That will leave a day or so for a bit of R&R, see 1-2 things in Banff that tour doesn't cover. Maybe the ROAM bus to Canmore.

FYI, the tour does include the must-see sites, and things to do. It's 8 nights total: 2 in Jasper, 2 in Lake Louise and 2 nights in Banff on either end. I've traveled with the company before, and they do a good job typically including local expert lectures, etc.

Adrianne

Posted by
272 posts

It has been years but I lived in Calgary and we used to go to Banff Hot Springs which was great. Sometimes we got a massage prior to going to the hot springs. ( we used our health plan so I can't remember the cost of the massage but it was more than I would have paid on my own)