We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

Level Contributor
21 posts
5 reviews
Save Topic
Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

Hi everyone,

We're planning our first Banff/Jasper trip this mid September (4 nights only), and would appreciate all the experts here to chip in some advice on our proposed itinerary. (sorry this is long, been reading lots of TA post to come up with this)

We are a couple from the city, no experience in hiking, mainly would like to do some sightseeing, take some awesome pictures, and hopefully bump into as much wild life as possible.

Day 1 - arrive in Calgary at night

stay in a hotel nearby the airport

Day 2 - Banff area

- we will rent a car with GPS, where can we get the gps/map code for all the major places?

- we would like to do some grocery shopping, is it better to do it in calgary or when we arrive in canmore/banff? Any big grocery stores near the airport?

We booked 2 nights in canmore, assume we arrive around noon, do we have time to do the below before the sun goes down.

a. Banff Gondola (if weather is nice and clear, or can move to day 6)

b. Grassi Lake in Canmore (spoiled by all the great lakes we will see in the next few days, worth to have a look since it's near our hotel?)

c. Johnston Canyon

d. drive to banff springs

e. dinner in Banff town (or canmore, depends when we can check in)

Day 3 - Banff /Lake Louise area

Do we need a full day in Lake Louise area? we would like to do some easy short hike during our trip, if we could only do one, should we pick the tea house hike in lake louise? We want one that has the best scenery yet not too difficult for beginners.

a. Lake Louise (worth to do the Gondola as well since we will do the banff or Jasper one?)

b. Morraine Lake

Day 4 - Canmore to Jasper

We booked 1 night in Jasper Town.

a. Peyto Lake

b. Icefield Centre , take the ice explorer

c. read there is a location call Tangle Hill/ Fall? Or Kerkeslin Goat Lick. We wanted to see the goat. Possible in mid September? Where is this place exactly? can't locate it in google map

c. Anything else we can squeeze in?

Day 5 - Jasper to Banff

We booked our final night in Banff.

Assume we need to be back to banff around 8pm, we can only stay in Jasper until 3-4pm. We know we don't have time in Jasper really, but we wanted to experience the full icefield parkway drive, so what is the one/two "must do" in Jasper given our time constraint?

a. Jasper Tramway? or

b. Maligne Lake (we decided not to do boat ride) or

c. Athabasca Falls? or

d. Mt Edith Cavell ( is it a safe and easy drive up? we're new to all these), but we don't have time for a hike. anything to see if we just "stop by"?

Day 6 - Banff to Calgary

We have a flight at 3pm, so guess we have to leave at 11pm.

Morning drive to Lake Minnewanka (is early morning to best time to see wild life here?) and Vermillion Lakes.

Any drive thru in banff we can take our breakfast with us to Lake Minnewanka?

Anything we should add/remove from the list above? Any fall colors in Banff/Jasper in mid september? any place we can see some nice wild flowers?

Thanks all

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
17,442 posts
107 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

Goat Look-Out is located a few kilometres (5?) south of Athabasca Falls; it's a rest stop and picnic area. Goats are more commonly seen there in the spring - there are mineral licks there; in spring the goats are deficient in certain minerals and lick/eat the earth at the licks. I'm not sure how likely it is you will see them in the fall, but there is a beautiful view of the river, and sometimes the goats are on the very steep river bank, so do pull in and have a look, even if you don't see them beside the road.

Tangle Falls is right beside the road, about 10 kilometres north of the Icefields visitor centre.

Mt. Edith Cavell is a safe and easy drive (just a few tight turns at the bottom of the road), however, the road is currently closed after a glacial icefall caused flooding (the Ghost Glacier fell off the mountain into the pond below; it was very fortunate this happened overnight, or there would have been dozens of people killed), and the area is being assessed for safety. I suspect that they are very worried about icefall from the Angel Glacier, since there are some very precarious looking seracs hanging.

You can see Athabasca Falls on either of your trips on the Icefields Parkway, so I'd suggest the Maligne valley - Athasbasca Overlook, Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake. There are a number of short and longer hikes at Maligne Lake.

Canadian Rockies...
Level Contributor
621 posts
15 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

I think you're trying to pack a little too much in.

Day 2

I'd leave Calgary early morning, head straight into Banff, check out the gondola & the Banff springs, & have lunch in Banff. Head back to Canmore, get your groceries at Safeway or Sobeys, check in, have a relaxing dinner in Canmore.Skip Grassi Lakes, i just don't think it's worth cramming it in.

Day 3

Early morning, start at Johnston Canyon ( lots of wildlife on the 1A highway) then on to Moraine Lake & Lake Louise. Skip the gondola in Lake Louise. Have dinner in Banff, head back to Canmore for bed.

Day 4

Take your time going up the Icefields Parkway, I think your day 4 plan is good.

Day 5

I'll leaf to the Jasper experts ;)

Day 6

If your flight leaves at 15:00, I might leave a bit more than 4 hours, I like to be really early to the airport though;)

Have fun!!

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
3 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

Bow River Parkway to Lake Louise is recommended, not the main highway, and better chances of seeing wildlife.

Very expensive food and water on top of the Sulphur mountain (gondola), so pack your food and water.

The hotsprings are not worth the money.

Old Spaghetti Factory is a very reasonably priced and good quality restaurant for dinner. Do NOT go to Silver Dragon chinese restaurant...poor quality service, quite a contract to the Old Spaghetti Factory.

We liked Jasper more than Banff for visits, as it is less commercial and more pristine. Make sure you go to Maligne lake, as the 45 minute drive from Jasper has good chance of seeing wildlife.

you will need one full, long day on the Columbia Icefield Parkway to do justice to the scenery, of course including a stop and tour of the Athabasca glacier. Take your time on this road.....one of the best road trips in the world!

Canadian Rockies...
Level Contributor
621 posts
15 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

There are so many good restaurants, I really can't imagine visiting the old spaghetti factory! The bison, bear street tavern, Eddie burger, maple leaf grille, the juniper bistro, georgio's, just to name a few in Banff. The above poster is correct in that it's cheap, but its a typical budget chain.

Calgary, Canada
Destination Expert
for Calgary
Level Contributor
25,019 posts
78 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

Some folks really enjoy Old Spaghetti Factory in Banff exactly because it's a budget chain: good cheap food and reliable service is not always something you can count on in Banff. I recently read a restaurant review (not of OSF) where the reviewer said that he lost his sense of taste 5 years ago, so he just looks for food that will fill him up (and, I trust, not make him sick). Everyone's different!

Rareaman is thinking of the Bow Valley Parkway, just in case you want to try to search for more info. An excellent route, well worth taking, and people are reporting a lot of wildlife sightings there if you're travelling in early morning or late evening (near dawn / dusk).

Banff, Canada
Destination Expert
for Banff, Lake Louise
Level Contributor
2,854 posts
Save Reply
6. Re: Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

I would like to add that in all my visits to the Silver Dragon (which there have been many), I have had excellent service. Really wonderful and attentive staff. Of course, Banff has a high turnover rate with employees, so the service in town can vary as CW mentioned, but as can be expected anywhere. It's all about picking which restaurant will suite your needs/tastebuds best.

As for the choice in gondola's be sure to read through the reviews and see which you are interested in, but also go when the weather is best. At the time of year you are coming, the larch trees will hopefully be a beautiful golden yellow from the Lake Louise gondola which could be a factor to contribute to your decision.

Also, concerning the "hotsprings are not worth the money". Decide when you arrive. Many people absolutely love the experience, while others feel like sardines in a can. You can see the hotsprings from above without even entering the pool area. For $7.30, it's your call!

Level Contributor
21 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions :)

Yes I have read that we should travel thru the bow valley parkway to lake Louise instead of the main road too. I've will change our schedule to directly check out the banff gondola and area before going back to Canmore for our check in.

Will have 2-3 nights in banff for dinner, actually thought would be a good idea to do old spaghetti factory for one night and nicer dinner for the remaining.

Guess we will have to skip mt Edith in that case. Unless its reopens in mid sep. Probably do the Maligne / medicine lake drive and see if any short hikes there. But is it worth to stop by to check it out, if it re opens ? We'll be doing the ice explorer to see the glacier for sure.

For the tea house in lake louise, I read it could be really crowded and long wait. Anyone know how long it would take (and difficulty ) if we just hike up to a point where we can get a nice view looking back down at the lakes, then turn back ?

We have a birthday dinner on the night we arrive in jasper, any suggestions?

Thanks again everyone

Level Contributor
21 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions :)

Yes I have read that we should travel thru the bow valley parkway to lake Louise instead of the main road too. I've will change our schedule to directly check out the banff gondola and area before going back to Canmore for our check in.

Will have 2-3 nights in banff for dinner, actually thought would be a good idea to do old spaghetti factory for one night and nicer dinner for the remaining.

Guess we will have to skip mt Edith in that case. Unless its reopens in mid sep. Probably do the Maligne / medicine lake drive and see if any short hikes there. But is it worth to stop by to check it out, if it re opens ? We'll be doing the ice explorer to see the glacier for sure.

For the tea house in lake louise, I read it could be really crowded and long wait. Anyone know how long it would take (and difficulty ) if we just hike up to a point where we can get a nice view looking back down at the lakes, then turn back ?

We have a birthday dinner on the night we arrive in jasper, any suggestions?

Thanks again everyone

Level Contributor
21 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions :)

Yes I have read that we should travel thru the bow valley parkway to lake Louise instead of the main road too. I've will change our schedule to directly check out the banff gondola and area before going back to Canmore for our check in.

Will have 2-3 nights in banff for dinner, actually thought would be a good idea to do old spaghetti factory for one night and nicer dinner for the remaining.

Guess we will have to skip mt Edith in that case. Unless its reopens in mid sep. Probably do the Maligne / medicine lake drive and see if any short hikes there. But is it worth to stop by to check it out, if it re opens ? We'll be doing the ice explorer to see the glacier for sure.

For the tea house in lake louise, I read it could be really crowded and long wait. Anyone know how long it would take (and difficulty ) if we just hike up to a point where we can get a nice view looking back down at the lakes, then turn back ?

We have a birthday dinner on the night we arrive in jasper, any suggestions?

Thanks again everyone

Level Contributor
21 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Banff/Jasper 4 nights - advice please

Sorry about the duplicate post, tried to remove them but it's still here.

Saw on Facebook how bad mt Edith cavell is now. Sad to see this, global warming. Don't think it can reopen any time soon.