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Review my Banff Itinerary

  • Last Updated:
  • Aug 12th, 2017 5:30 pm
[OP]
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Sep 19, 2013
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Review my Banff Itinerary

Hi,
We are taking a 7-day trip to Banff from Winnipeg in the 2nd week of Aug which is also a long weekend. Heres some infor about us -
- travelling with a 4yo and my parents which are in mid-60s
- 1st trip to the Rockies and we are looking for a relaxing trip with all the sightseeings and stuff
- Not much into hiking
- It’ll be me and my wife driving, but mostly me

Day 1 (Sat, Aug 5th) – Start from Winnipeg at 8:30-9 am. Reach Brooks whenever but I am guessing it will be around 9-10pm with all the stops and everything.
Day 2 – Start from Brooks at 9 am. Check in to the AirBnB acco in Calgary. Drop luggage and go to Heritage Park. Return from Heritage Park and if time permits, explore mall or buy some ready to eat stuff to save $$ on eating out.
Day 3 – this is Monday which is a holiday. Start at 9 am and go to Banff, park the car at free parking lots in Banff downtown. Do Banff Gondola, Banff cruise with the shuttles. Then Morainne Lake and Lake Louise visits. If time and energy permits, do Hector Lake lookout.
Day 4 – this is going to be a long day, so start at 6 am and go to Columbia Icefields and do skywalk. I have decided not to do glacier bus ride (reasons mentioned below). Then go to Athabasca falls and while returning do as many lookout points as time permits.
Day 5 – go to Johnston canyon trail. Don’t think we will be able to do the whole trail, but whatever we could. Then just go see all the points like waterfowl lakes, peyto lake, bow lake. Then towards the evening go to upper hot springs and relax in the pool.
Day 6 – explore Calgary, chinook mall, etc and plan on returning to brooks at around 9-10pm.
Day 7 – start at 9 am and return to Winnipeg.

Brooks hotel and Calgary AirBnB has been booked. I am yet to book tickets for the activities - gondola, cruise, skywalk, heritage park.

Questions –
1) Which lookout points are must-do, which ones can be skipped – Herbert Lake, Hector Lake Lookout, Bow Lake Lookout, Peyto Lake Lookout, Waterfowl Lakes, Mistaya Canyon, Weeping Wall, Cirrus Mountain, Bridal Veil Falls, Tangle Falls Lookout, Quartzite Boulder Field, Sunwapta Falls, Kerkeslin Goat Lick, Athabasca Falls
2) How is the traffic situation on the drive between Calgary to Columbia Icefields. Can we rely on the times shown on Google maps plus some buffer OR is there lot of traffic?
3) How are the shuttle and wait times for Banff Gondola and Banff cruise. Is day 3 realistic as its also a holiday?
4) Is there parking available near Banff lake cruise (lake minnewanka scenic drive) or you *have* to take the shuttle from Banff downtown? in my plan, i am taking the shuttle but can drive there if someone tells me that i can park near the cruise itself.
5) Any other tips?

Considered but skipped (for now)
- glacier ride - don’t think we will enjoy that much and it looks expensive for the price. Also this is a busy day, so we would rather see athabasca falls.
- Fort Calgary (still thinking to do on day 6)
- Drumheller Dino visit (my son would love this, but thinking maybe some other time in future).
36 replies
Deal Addict
Feb 7, 2017
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Re - Drumheller & Royal Tyrrell Museum

Your little guy is just 4, so I'd save this exploration for when he is 6, 7 or 8 and more attune to learning about both Dinosaurs and his place in the world related to Cdn Geography

Work it into a southern prairie road trip that takes in the concepts / places of:

Manitoba - Manitoba Flag - Live Buffalo - Saskatchewan - Saskatchewan Flag - Prairie Farming - RCMP College & Museum in Regina - Alberta - Alberta Flag - The Cdn Badlands - Royal Tyrrell Museum - Smashed in Head Bufalo Jump - Fort McLeod & NWMP Museum

This trip is even better if you can time it with the Calgary Stampede

All of this is an educational road trip filled with stuff that boys love (Animals - Farming - Policemen - Weird Geograhy - Dinosaours - and Rodeo)

Maps, Flags, Books, Toys & Models, along with Souvenir Tshirts (plus fossil from the Museum) will make this a road trip he'll treasure for ever
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Jan 31, 2013
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The Athabasca Falls are very close to Jasper, that will be a crazy long day, if you want to drive to Jasper and back and stop at the touristy points.

Make it as far as Columbia Icefields and keep Jasper for another trip.

It's hard to say how busy it will be, but what I've heard it can get pretty crazy. Have you booked the accommodation yet?
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Dec 28, 2007
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To be honest, Day 4 will be a long day, Columbia Icefields Ice Explorers and the Skywalk are 2 of the biggest tourist traps ever. Day 6. As for the Chinook Mall, I would go to Cross Iron Mills instead.
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Apr 26, 2004
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Day 4 sounds crazy. You're basically going up and down the Icefields Parkway in the same day.
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Aug 2, 2001
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One over-arching comment - it will be VERY BUSY on the long weekend. You may be shoulder to shoulder with people at the popular attractions like Johnsons Canyon. EVERYTHING you can book ahead do. This applies to all my comments - I won't repeat it but do not forget it. People have posted insane pictures of crowds on Reddit and that's not during a long weekend when school is out.

- Lake Minnewanka has a parking lot you can use. It is a very large area, with much more to it than the lake cruise. Some people go there for picnics and just to spend the day. You are able to park near the cruise, it is a short walk. However the shuttle eliminates dealing with parking because you may end up in a far corner of the lot and it be a long walk. You also get a discount for booking ahead but I assume the downside is that it's non refundable.
- Calgary has an outlet mall nearby called "Crossiron Mills" that may be worth visiting if you want to do shopping
- If you're not into hiking you can't get very far in the Icefields if I recall. I believe you can hike to get a good view, but that's out of the picture with what you said. So I'm not sure the Icefields are worth doing without doing the tour itself (and that's without debating the quality of the tour)

Here are some good Reddit threads that talk about things like hidden gems and such:
https://www.reddit.com/r/alberta/commen ... e_rockies/
https://www.reddit.com/r/alberta/commen ... eed_limit/
https://www.reddit.com/r/alberta/commen ... sperbanff/
https://www.reddit.com/r/alberta/commen ... irsttimer/

Rather than type it all myself - read those!
[OP]
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Sep 19, 2013
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knuks101 wrote:
Jul 17th, 2017 8:11 pm
It's hard to say how busy it will be, but what I've heard it can get pretty crazy. Have you booked the accommodation yet?
thanks, yes acco has been booked for the whole trip.
[OP]
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Sep 19, 2013
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TrevorK wrote:
Jul 17th, 2017 10:27 pm
One over-arching comment - it will be VERY BUSY on the long weekend. You may be shoulder to shoulder with people at the popular attractions like Johnsons Canyon. EVERYTHING you can book ahead do. This applies to all my comments - I won't repeat it but do not forget it. People have posted insane pictures of crowds on Reddit and that's not during a long weekend when school is out.

- Lake Minnewanka has a parking lot you can use. It is a very large area, with much more to it than the lake cruise. Some people go there for picnics and just to spend the day. You are able to park near the cruise, it is a short walk. However the shuttle eliminates dealing with parking because you may end up in a far corner of the lot and it be a long walk. You also get a discount for booking ahead but I assume the downside is that it's non refundable.
- Calgary has an outlet mall nearby called "Crossiron Mills" that may be worth visiting if you want to do shopping
- If you're not into hiking you can't get very far in the Icefields if I recall. I believe you can hike to get a good view, but that's out of the picture with what you said. So I'm not sure the Icefields are worth doing without doing the tour itself (and that's without debating the quality of the tour)

Here are some good Reddit threads that talk about things like hidden gems and such:
https://www.reddit.com/r/alberta/commen ... e_rockies/
https://www.reddit.com/r/alberta/commen ... eed_limit/
https://www.reddit.com/r/alberta/commen ... sperbanff/
https://www.reddit.com/r/alberta/commen ... irsttimer/

Rather than type it all myself - read those!
thanks for the valuable info.
[OP]
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Sep 19, 2013
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from the comments, looks like skywalk maybe an overkill on the busy day 4. but for the price ($29X4), i thought it was worth it.
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amitdi wrote:
Jul 18th, 2017 11:27 am
from the comments, looks like skywalk maybe an overkill on the busy day 4. but for the price ($29X4), i thought it was worth it.
It would be worth it for free but not for $29 a head. It is highly over-rated.
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amitdi wrote:
Jul 17th, 2017 3:51 pm

Day 3 – this is Monday which is a holiday. Start at 9 am and go to Banff, park the car at free parking lots in Banff downtown. Do Banff Gondola, Banff cruise with the shuttles. Then Morainne Lake and Lake Louise visits. If time and energy permits, do Hector Lake lookout.
Oh man, if you can do Banff during the week, not one of the busiest weekend of the year (yes can be even busier than Canada Day and Labour Day). The Gondola will likely be a 1-2 hour + wait on a holiday, and that drive back to Calgary on a long weekend is pure hell (it's once taken 3 hours without accidents 2 years ago, just crazy heavy traffic). You will enjoy Banff far more on a Tuesday.

Drumheller / Royal Tyrell Museum is a fun day trip, if not for your son, for yourself on Day 3. Fort Calgary isn't too interesting.

Day 4 people have commented on it, I would say to skip it altogether for similar reasons. Also note that you are not allowed to get to the actual icefield on foot anymore. Do Banff / Lake Louise / Morraine Lake on that day instead.

I would suggest some lesser traveled areas that are just as beautiful, such as Elbow Falls. Note that there are currently a few ongoing fires in Banff and Kooteney National Park which may impact your travels if they prolong or worsen.
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Sep 21, 2004
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Conquistador wrote:
Jul 18th, 2017 11:59 am
It would be worth it for free but not for $29 a head. It is highly over-rated.
Agree. Highly overrated.

OP, your initial itinerary is a big challenge. I will just point out a few major flaws:

1) Day 3 (stat holiday). Good luck finding a spot downtown. Instead of going to downtown, go to side streets (Muskrat St or Otter St) and park there. Take the bus to Gondola, and then take the free shuttle to Minnewanka (you won't find parking in the Gondola parking lot; there are so many cars this year they simply turned away all vehicles after the lot is full). Book the ticket NOW and specify the cruise time because it will be sold out if you buy the ticket on the spot. The shuttle to Minnewanka runs once an hour so by the time you get back to Banff, it will be late afternoon / early evening. If you still have energy at 7pm, go ahead and drive to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake. There should be enough parking spots in both locations late in the day. However don't count on it. As for Hector Lake lookout, it's such a minor spot so don't even bother.

2) It takes 3.5 hour (assuming no traffic jam and no stopping, which is impossible) to drive from Banff to Athabasca Falls. 7 hour driving minimum; in realistic probably 8-9 hours. If you, the 4 yr old kid and the elderly are up for it, sure. Buy the skywalk ticket in advance if you want to go, because if you don't, you will wait 1-2 hours if the ticket is not sold out for the day. Budget another 1.5 hour for the skywalk tour as the shuttle ride is 15 minute each way.

3) Day 5. Johnston Canyon. Go early or you will have to park a distance from the parking lot. There will be a huge crowd. Since you have a 4 yr old kid, simply visit lower fall as upper fall may be challenging for a kid. Otherwise, spend the bulk of the day at Bow Lake and Peyto Lake area. For Bow lake, best viewpoint is at the shoreline by the small hotel.

As for viewpoints, since your time is limited, I'd stop at the following: Herbert, Waterfowl, Weeping Wall, Big Hill/Bridal Veil Fall, Tangle Fall.

I'd recommended you to take shuttle to Minnewanka on day 3 and the simply reason is you may not find a parking spot or you will have to walk a really long way. Of course, if you take the shuttle bus, you may have to skip Two Jack Lake since you still have to budget time for Lake Louise and Moraine Lake this day. It's your call.

Also, I recommend skipping Johnston Canyon on day 5 altogether since you will be exhausted after Day 4. And skip Athabasca Falls on day 4.
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Oct 14, 2007
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hope the smoke clears by then, friends of ours had to cancel for this weekend....we are in Waterton on Sunday and hope it isn't too bad
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Aug 12, 2004
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hordosr wrote:
Jul 18th, 2017 5:00 pm
hope the smoke clears by then, friends of ours had to cancel for this weekend....we are in Waterton on Sunday and hope it isn't too bad
It's not looking very good right now. These types of fires can burn for weeks and months. The flames are now only 2.5 km away from Sunshine Village and the fire has grown immensely today. All it took for Fort McMurray is a sudden great wind change after the fire was thought to be under control. OP keep an eye on the news, you may have to have a backup plan.
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May 29, 2006
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Calgary downtown is amazing, go to the core mall, hang out on Stephen ave, I'm staying at the marriot downtown right now and my room is amazing, I'm looking at the Calgary tower right now. Stephen ave is simply alive with people from 4-7ish, its a walking only street in the heart of Calgary. so many places to eat and have a drink.

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