Banff and Jasper National Parks

We loved our trip to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, Canada! We flew into Edmonton and rented a car. From the prairies, we continuously climbed into the hills and then the mountains. We checked into the Day’s Inn in Hinton. The motel has spacious and comfortable rooms with fridge, coffee maker, microwave, and Wi Fi. A basic continental breakfast is served. Supper at Ranchers Sports Bar and Grill, next door, was tasty. We had veal and pizza, and blackout torte for dessert.

After breakfast, on to Jasper National Park! The mountains are breathtakingly beautiful! It’s about a 20 minute drive to the park gates from Hinton. Park admission is valid for both Jasper and Banff National Parks. We headed to Miette Hot Springs. Stops at Punch Bowl Waterfall, Ashlar Ridge, and other scenic overlooks afforded spectacular views and a chance to get out and stretch. Finally, we arrived at the springs and hiked to the sources. We had a chance to soak our feet in the warm mineral springs and see the ruins of the 1938 bath house. The spring sources were steaming, smelled of sulfur, and were a deep green in color. It was a fun hike and full of hidden treasures. We saw a rattlesnake curled up next to one of the warm springs, and a deer grazing by the parking lot. In fact, we saw lots of deer on the main roads.

We retraced our route back to the main road, Rt. 16 to the town of Jasper, a quaint and bustling little town. Flowers are everywhere, and the architecture is charming. The Japer Brewing Company and Pub was our lunch stop. Their six beers are brewed in house, and we could look into the basement and see the brewery! We ordered a sampler to taste all six. We found we liked the Rockhopper and Honey Beer best. The Vanilla Blueberry was a good dessert! We shared a bison burger and salmon burger, which were delicious. A little sightseeing and shopping, and we were back on the road. At the edge of town we saw a herd of elk. Taking Maligne Lake Road, we encountered some magnificent sights! First, Maligne Canyon gave us majestic views of the gorge, with water rushing and falling. Impressive and magnificent! An imposing elk with huge antlers was quietly munching his lunch. A stop at the dry lake bed of Medicine Lake was fascinating! Tall trees were growing in the bed, because during only part of the year is the lake filled with water! Walking on, we found the rest of the lake, clear as glass, and not as cold as one would think! We got our feet wet, while taking in the spectacular mountain scenery! A herd of big horned sheep blocked the road on our way out, and one took a liking to Greg. She licked his arm and hand, and then tried to munch on his shorts! Then she started for MaryJo, who cleverly out maneuvered her! The sheep ended up tasting the car in front of us, and created quite amusing entertainment for all! On the way out of Jasper National Park, we encountered several animals, who feel no danger! Returning to Hinton, we had supper at Olympia Restaurant, a Greek family run place. MaryJo chose Chicken Mantza, a pan fried stew. Greg ordered the lamb souvlaki. Both were very good!

This morning, after packing, we bought a picnic meal at the IGA at the edge of town, and drove to William A. Switzer Provincial Park, where we enjoyed a wonderful view of Kelley’s Bathtub and the superb Rockies! There are hiking trails, camping, and canoe rentals at the park. It could be a good wallet friendly weekend getaway.

Following a short hike around the lake, we drove on towards Jasper, with the aim of getting to Banff. The weather was very chilly and overcast. Only a small group of big horned sheep was out. We stopped at some overlooks to take photos and take in the astounding views. A short hike at Horseshoe Lake gave us tremendous views and some exercise. Athabasca Falls bestows magnificent views of the falls and canyon. We appreciate that we are able to be here and see such splendid natural sights. Honeymoon Lake is another very pretty spot, and no one else was there!

The Columbia Ice Fields are a series of glaciers, and extremely interesting! In 1844 the glaciers covered where the Ice Centre, a hotel and restaurant is now! Markers show the retreat of the melting glacier to where we saw it today. Because glaciers are very dangerous and people have been injured, visitors are only permitted to walk on the glacier with a trained guide. The glacier is 150 square miles with a depth of 1,148 feet. The walk to the boundary is very steep, and the weather can be harsh, so be prepared! It is exciting to stand at the edge of a glacier! Allow at least an hour! We were cold and damp, so tea and two bowls of soup at the Centre were in order!

Once we crossed over to Banff National Park, we noticed that the mountains seemed even higher, and some of the landscape was other-worldly. Glaciers were on many of the mountains, and the rain was falling. There were several exquisite waterfalls to see; blue mountain lakes; and rushing mountain rivers.

Lake Louise is a charming little village on the way to Banff, and worth a stop. Moraine Lake is there, and some hiking trails, so a half day would give time to explore.

Finally, the town of Banff. It’s nestled in the mountains and exudes charm. It is a little touristy, but there is enough shopping and dining to keep the traveler busy for at least a day. We enjoyed our meal at St. James Gate Irish Pub. Bison Boxty and lamb shank was tasty and filling. What is boxty? A thick and hearty potato pancake. The pub exudes charm! Our home for tonight is Wit’s End, a B & B across the river, but still in town. Our room is very pleasant, comfortable and roomy, with a garden view. Our hosts, Barbara and Vic, are friendly, knowledgeable, and laid back. We recommend it for comfort, hospitality, and information.

Barbara’s breakfast was mouth-watering – scones, eggs, fresh fruit, and coffee. This morning, we did more shopping, stopping at the Hudson Bay Company, which has to be the world’s oldest department store. It’s been in operation since 1670! A trip to the Indian Fur Trading Post was fun. It’s near the Luxton Museum by the river. Two museum visits gave us more of a sense of the rich history of Banff. The Whyte Museum highlighted the Lutz family. Norman Luxton was a driving force in the growth of Banff in the first half of the 20th century. He owned the first all year hotel, a livery, the first movie theater, and was in politics. His wife’s family was powerful in the area during the 1800’s. The Stoney people, the Indians in the Banff area, are also given attention in the museum. Luxton and the Native elders shared a bond of respect and admiration. His wife, daughter, and mother-in-law are featured in the display, “Three Strong Women.” We purchased a Heritage Passport, which includes admission this museum, Banff Park Museum, and the Cave and Basin Museum. A 50% off the Buffalo Nation Luxton Museum is included. That is a bargain! The Banff Park Museum showcases the wildlife of the area, housing stuffed and mounted buffalo, cougar, caribou, sheep, birds and butterflies among others. Allow about an hour for the Whyte museum and 30 minutes for the Banff Park Museum.

Lunch was our final event in Banff. Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon served us a tasty elk burger and a boar burger with side salad. Wild Bill is a real life Banff hero from the 1800’s and 1900’s. His last name, Peyto, is given to nearby Peyto Lake.

On the way to the town of Golden, our next destination, we stopped to hike to Johnston Canyon, a worthwhile trek! The falls were splendid! The journey took us less than an hour. It was a little crowded, even with the rain, but by the time we reached the falls, there were very few people around. On the road again, we encountered four majestically antlered elk! They know they are VIPs, and don’t allow us people to hurry them along. They promenade along the road and graze gracefully by the roadside.

Banff has been a first class destination, both the park and the town. We have really enjoyed ourselves and found some authentic treasures. On our next trip, we’ll spend more time. Banff can easily accommodate a week’s vacation. On to Golden, British Columbia, and what’s around the next bend in the road!