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Glacier National Park, Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper

My husband and I are traveling for our 30th anniversary in August and I would like input on my itinerary.
Day 1: Flight gets into FCA in the evening, spend the night close to airport.
Day 2: Rent a car. Drive "Going to Sun Road" Make several stops along the way, maybe hike, take a packed lunch or granola bars and water. Spend most of the day enjoying the drive with many stops. Go to Many Lake Lodge. Spend the night.
Day 3: Hike around the lake or possibly take a boat on the lake in the morning. After lunch, drive to Waterton Lake. Take a boat ride on the lake and possible hike Bears Hump Trail. Spend the night at Prince of Wales Hotel.
Day 4: Drive to Canmore, Canada. Stay 4 nights at the Stoneridge Mtn. Resort. (Looks like a nice place and a good value compared to Banff prices and yet only 20 minutes from Banff) Drive to Banff. Walk around town. Talk Gondola ride. Make reservations at Indian restaurant at Banff Fairmont for dinner.
Day 5: Either take a tour of Mtn Lakes & Waterfalls or drive ourselves . Moraine Lake, Takakkaw Falls, Spiral Tunnels, Lunch at Deer Lodge or Emerald Lake Lodge. ***I could really use input on this day!!!!!!
Day 6: Chill in the morning. Raft the Bow River. I have read that there aren't many rapids but great for pics. Is this true ? Can I take my Canon digital camera? Go into Banff or stay in Canmore for dinner.
Day 7: Sunshine Meadows hike, boat ride on lake Minnewanka
Day 8: Check out of Stoneridge. Drive up to Jasper. Stop and do the Icefield in the afternoon. Spend night at Fairmont.
Day 9: Jasper Skyline, Maligne Canyon lake?, Miette hot springs, or hike Edith Cavell? Not sure about this day. Spend night at Fairmont.
Day 10: Drive to Fairmont Lake Louise. Stay there 3 nights. Have lunch. Canoe. Relax and ENjoy!
Day 11: Get up early and hike lake agnes trail to Mirror Lake and have a bite to eat at Tea House and then keep on ???????
Day 12: Lake Louis Gondola and / or possibly a SPA massage?
Day 13: Drive 5 1/2 hours back to FCA to catch a late afternoon flight home.

Any info you can give to enhance our trip would be very much appreciated. If there are parts of it that don't make sense, please let me know. Also, we are foodies and love good wine, so if you have restaurant suggestions, we would greatly appreciate those also. Look forward to hearing some input. Thanks in advance for your help with our trip!
Day 10:

Posted by
608 posts

We did a similar trip last summer and it was honestly one of the most beautiful places we have ever been! You will have an awesome time! Your itinerary sounds great. I would say make sure to get to Lake Morraine as early as possible - the lake is more likely to be still for beautiful photos and it gets very, very crowded later in the day. Also, when driving the Icefields Parkway I recommend an early start for better chances at wildlife sightseeing. In Glacier, also, Going-to-the-Sun road gets very busy and it can be impossible to park at Logan's pass after 9 or 10 during busy season, so try to start early there too.
We had our anniversary dinner at The Three Ravens in Banff and it was incredible. I highly recommend that for a nicer meal.

Posted by
382 posts

I agree with Tamara, That sounds like a good itinerary. You need to visit all of the attractions early in the day. (The sun comes up early this far north). Crowds are crazy. Make sure you stop at Athabasca Falls on the way to Jasper. When you are in Glacier National Park make a trip down to Glacier Park Lodge. It is a beautiful building that was constructed by the Northern Railroad. It is fabulous. We took the boat ride on Maligne Lake outside of Jasper in the morning and hiked Edith Cavell in the afternoon. It is a cool hike. The first time we visited we could hike down to a lake at the toe of the glacier. Now you are highly discouraged from hiking down to it. Do you already have your hotel reservations? I hope so, everything books up quickly. Moraine Lake is my favorite of all the lakes up there. You'll spend several hours there. It is gorgeous and very peaceful. Emerald Lake is also very pretty and the spiral tunnels are very interesting. All of the places you listed are easy to drive to yourself. You'll want to drive so you can stop whenever you want. The scenery on this trip is some of the most beautiful in the world. You just have to share it with a lot of other tourists. Always go early or you won't find a parking spot. If you stop at Bow Lake, drive a little past the first place where everyone stops for pictures. You can turn West on a small dirt road. There is a little shop/café there and you can get better pictures. This lake is like glass every time I've been by it. It has beautiful reflections. Have a wonderful trip. You will love it and the exchange rate is very favorable.

Posted by
996 posts

We did a similar trip to that same area last year. You're going to love it, as this has to be one of the most beautiful places in North America!

I second the idea to visit Glacier Park Lodge. (Maybe have lunch?) We actually stayed there, and it's a beautiful, historic property.

For the Going to the Sun Road, two suggestions. First, as others have said, the parking lots fill rapidly. Do this first thing in the morning. If you are driving yourself, be aware that some stops (and some great hiking) may not be possible because those parking lots have already filled.

If you want the best chance to admire the scenery along Going to the Sun Road, you could always take one of the historic red bus tours. We had a fabulous guide for ours, funny and very knowledgeable about the history of the area and what to see/do. The reason I loved doing this was it allowed us both to see everything instead of having to watch out for traffic, hikers, bikers, etc. Now you can't stop and hike if you do this, but you are able to see everything with the best possible view.

Whatever you wind up doing, I hope you have a wonderful time!!

Posted by
2272 posts

Looks reasonable to me.
Seems a shame to have to backtrack to Kalispell and lose most of your last day in transit. Might be worth looking at an open jaw, flying out of Edmonton or Calgary, although the one-way international drop charge for your rental car might make that a non starter.
Any of the hikes you list would be terrific - they're all gorgeous.
A very pretty alternative to the Trans Canada Highway from Banff to Lake Louse is the Bow River Parkway. We always saw animals on the Parkway - not so much on the Highway.
You'll be there during the height of the tourist season so be prepared for crowds, and the best way to deal with them is to get out as early as you can.
The Icefields Parkway is a great scenic drive. Time and interest permitting, another terrific walk is the Wilcox Pass Hike south of Jasper. It climbs up from the valley to a saddle where it levels off for a couple of miles. There's a resident herd of bighorn sheep that seems to be nearly tame (walked right by us as we were having lunch) and we saw Caribou in the distance too.
The hike up to the Six Glaciers Tea House is worth the effort - spectacular views, and the food up there was surprisingly good.
If it's just the two of you striking off into the bush you should check locally for bear advisories ... and maybe consider having some bear spray along.

Posted by
36 posts

You'll totally enjoy it. I'm from Calgary and have a view of those mountains out my window. Canmore is just as lovely, and a bit less touristy as Banff and more reasonably priced because it is not situated in the park. A great hike in Canmore is Grassi Lakes - beautiful view and crazy two lakes up at the top. Also make sure to check out Johnston Canyon, just past Banff. Great trail and gets pretty busy as the day goes on. In Banff, there is also the Cave and Basin tour which is interesting. The river is fun, too. No real rapids or anything, but beautiful scenery being right in the mountains - see wildlife all over. I still would be hesitant about taking a nice camera on the float - you just never know. I also vote for Moraine Lake! Keep in mind because the roads are pretty twisty to get there, it will take you way longer than you think. Enjoy!!

Posted by
4370 posts

There are flower gardens in Banff that are very pretty. I think we walked around Banff for a couple hours and then headed on our way. Get to Moraine lake early to get parking. I don't see the Peyto Lake overlook in your itinerary. It's a must, absolutely beautiful! I also do not see Johnston Canyon. We hiked up it. It's lovely. There are lots of lovely waterfalls in Jasper. Jasper is quieter and worth more time. Highly recommend bear spray and noise when you walk the trails. That said, we've encountered bears several times on hikes in various parks--even a mamma with cubs. We backed off and clapped our hands and they went on their way.

Posted by
2526 posts

Here are just some stray comments about your proposed itinerary. First, the hotel next to the Glacier Park International Airport (code FCA) is the Radisson. While it's new and perfectly fine, it's located in what surely must be described as a tourist wasteland...nothing about. But then, that's all you wanted. Have you considered spending the night in Whitefish which is less than 12 miles from the airport? Plenty of accommodations and restaurants. It's just two miles further to Glacier National Park than the airport hotel. Also, consider two nights in Whitefish before venturing to Glacier National Park. There are plenty of activities...just do a search and you'll see. For Glacier National Park and driving the Going to the Sun Road, start your day very early as the park is plugged quickly. There's construction of additional pullouts, etc., so going may be slow at times. Parking is a MAJOR issue. Thinking you might stop and stroll the Trail of the Cedars, then casually stop one or more times, before easing into a slot at Logan Pass to simply enjoy the magnificent views, may not be your reality whatsoever. Suggest spending two nights at Many Glacier Hotel, as you will be tired and arrive late from driving through Glacier National Park. Why not enjoy what's before you? Your estimated drive times, especially your return to the airport may be overly optimistic given peak tourist season including a gazillion or more RVs on the road towing boats. Also, passing south through the Roosville Border Crossing can be trying experience at times given large numbers of folks heading south. And my last thought...are you looking at travel next month? If yes, last minute available accommodations during peak tourist season may shred your plan.

Posted by
171 posts

Some folks really like the glitzy/touristy scene of Banff, but I've always felt that Jasper provided a more authentic Canadian Rockies experience. So I'd suggest spending more time in Jasper, and less time in Banff/Lake Louise. Also, as others have mentioned, consider an open jaws flight option (into FCA, out of Edmonton or Calgary) to make better use of your time. But if your plan is really for this August and you haven't yet secured lodging, all those plans are probably moot anyway...

Posted by
2526 posts

Using random dates on the Kayak website, an intermediate car gathered at a FCA and dropped at YYC, costs about $100 more per day. That may explain not utilizing an open jaw flight scheme.

Posted by
1015 posts

Great trip planned.
My two cents ...
Banff is not all it's cracked up to be I much prefer Lake Louise and I love Jasper
Bow River will be pretty low in August I suspect. If possible try the Kicking Horse
I have a poster of Mt. Edith Cavell on my office wall - it's one of my favorite places to hike in N.A. but I like the Maligne Canyon hike too
Columbia Icefield is a very neat experience
Waterton is a super cute place

Posted by
4370 posts

There has been a large fire in Waterton. I was/am considering it for a summer vacation. I have been to Glacier numerous times as well as Banff and Jasper. I just spoke with someone at Waterton Parks Canada and I was told the west side of the park is closed. One of the non reservable campgrounds is closed. They do not know when they will be opening specific areas. The village/town of Waterton is open.

Posted by
149 posts

Your itinerary looks good but book your accommodation ASAP. You may have to adjust your plans to fit what's available. Also keep in mind that it generally takes longer to drive than you expect.

The bear's hump hike in Waterton is closed due to last September's fire, as are the other hikes on the west side of the park. The townsite and Prince of Wales were not affected. The boat ride is nice. The visitor's centre burned down but Alberta tourism has another one in Glacier National Park. Stop there for maps and advice before leaving the states.

I also prefer staying in Canmore over Banff. Have breakfast, brunch or lunch at Chez Francois, next to the Days Inn - the best eggs Benedict I've ever tasted! Rocky Mountain Flatbread has imaginative and delicious wood-fired-oven pizza. Grizzly Paw brewing sells their craft beers and sodas from a little shop adjacent to their pub.

Consider venturing a short distance into Kootenay National Park to Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots. Easy hikes and generally not quite as crowded.

The Icefields parkway is spectacular. Definitely do the tour out onto the glacier and visit Athabasca Falls.

Purchase a Parks Canada annual pass when you enter Waterton. It is good for all of the parks and you can bypass the line of cars waiting to enter Banff. It will be valid until the end of August 2019 so you can enjoy another Canadian vacation :)

Posted by
8 posts

You might want to check on the fire burning in Glacier Park. From the short video I saw this morning, it looked like it might be around Lake McDonald, which is on the west side of the park. (The Eastern side is much drier.) If Going to the Sun Road is open, don't expect to see any glaciers. They are all gone. I can remember, about fifty years ago, there used to be a glacier that was so large it was well over my head and they had to cut through it to keep the road open. Not anymore.

Posted by
4370 posts

I believe there are still glaciers at Many Glacier. But, yes, the fire looks horrific. Earlier this summer and perhaps still, there was a fire in Waterton.

Posted by
800 posts

If you're going to go on the water look into the waterproof cases available for your camera. Don't do like my brother and think they're expensive. He spent a week in the Grand Canyon and has no photos to show because his camera got ruined the first day.

Posted by
1 posts

Would love an update on how your trip went. Anything you wish you had dedicated more time to? Anything that just didn't live up to the hype?

And happy belated anniversary!

Posted by
432 posts

What a lovely trip you have planned. We live near Jasper and travel in the parks at least once a year. Some additional thoughts on stops and places to eat:

  1. Stop at Num Ti Jah Lodge, just north of Bow Lake/Lake Louise This is a historical lodge and right on the shores of Bow Lake. We've had good food in their restaurant and there are amazing views.
  2. Sunwapta and Athabasca Falls are two excellent stops along the Icefields Parkway. So is the Icefield itself and the Icefield Skywalk.
  3. Shorter hikes for you to consider along the Icefields Parkway are Wilcox Pass (overlooks the Columbia Glacier - stunning!!) (some one mentioned this already), and Parker Ridge (overlooks Saskatchewan Glacier - also stunning)
  4. Restaurants in Jasper = have to stop at The Bear's Paw Bakery or The Other Paw Bakery Cafe. They're owned by the same company and have THE BEST goodies and coffee. Also good lunches. We've had good meals and wine selection at Evil Dave's Cafe and Syrah's of Jasper.

Have fun! No matter where you stay and where you travel to, it will all be good.

Edit = sorry, silly me. Should have looked at the date! Hope you had an amazing trip.