Sightseeing Jasper and Banff in the Canadian Rockies

Jasper National Park, Alberta

By John McKiernan
Staff Writer

With the sun beginning to show itself around Banff and Jasper, the fan mail has almost doubled. That’s right, nearly four letters a week. The beautiful towns of the Canadian Rockies have a winter reputation with some of North America’s best winter activities but many forget that it is a practical paradise during summer. Masood from San Francisco is one of those who wants to know more about Banff and Jasper’s summer activities.

Hello Mr. McKiernan,

I am trying to plan a spur of the moment trip to Banff and Jasper National Parks in the next couple of weeks and was hoping that you might be the man to help me. This is a location I have been meaning to visit for some time now.

My question is:
1. Is this a good time to visit? I am from SF bay area and 50-60.
2. If it is pleasant to visit, then what are some must see spots in a 2-3 day visit?
3. Are all attractions accessible?

Thanks, Masood.

The Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park.

The Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park.

Well, thankyou Masood for your letter and moreso for being the first person to refer to me as mister since the lawyers came after me.

Question 1: Is this a good time to visit?

Not being overly biased but it is always a good time to visit these Canadian havens. However, from your email, I take it that you aren’t looking for extreme snow boarding. Now is definitely a good time to visit. The weather is perfect, the crowds haven’t started arriving yet and there are gentle hikes that will allow you see some great wildlife and scenery. There are also many specials on accommodations and activities off-peak season.

Question 2: What are some ‘must-see’ sights for a 2-3 day visit?

I highly reccommend renting a car for a day or two and taking a cruise to see the Icefields Parkway. It is one of the worlds most spectacular mountain highways with so many animals and sights to see that you really have to try and remember that you are driving. Some of the best photos you will take will come from here. Also, if you fancy a bit of fishing, this is a good spot.
Location: North-south highway route between Lake Louise and Jasper. Fifty minutes west of Banff, two and a half hours west of Calgary, three and a half hours west of Edmonton.

Waterfowl Lake in the shadow of Mt. Chephren, Banff.

Waterfowl Lake in the shadow of Mt. Chephren, Banff.

Another thing ‘not to be missed’ at this time of year is the Jasper Tramway, the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada. This is the most laid back and relaxed way of seeing the stunning views from above. It is also much more economical than renting a helicopter! The best time to go is early morning or late evening as the crowds are generally much slimmer and you have the views all to yourself.

Question 3: Are all attractions accessible?

Summer is the time to go if you are looking for accesible attractions. Whereas during winter, some hikes are closed or considered too dangerous for casual climbers, summer brings a whole new picture. Make sure to ask at your hotel about local conditions but most activities in Banff and Jasper are completely accesible especially if you rent a car. This gives you the independence to sightsee at your own pace. Hope you have a great trip!

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