Banff Walk

4:57 p.m. on September 2, 2004 (EDT)
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a.k.a. Roman

I'm going with my girlfriend to Banff for a week of backpacking. We're trying to figure out the following
a) Where are the prettiest places to backpack?
b) Would you recommend a series of small trips, 2 bigger trips, or one 7 day trip in a certain area?
c) Once we arrive at Banff we plan on hitchhiking to trailheads. Reliable idea? And is it safe to leave a car in Banff town for a week?

Any other advice would be appreciated. We're both very excited to visit this park. Thanks a lot!
Roman

10:17 p.m. on September 5, 2004 (EDT)
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Be sure to take the trip from Lake Louise to the Lake Agnes Tea House. Only about 5-7 miles roundtrip (depending on the detours your take) but worth it for the views. Banff appeared to be a safe town, don't see a problem leaving a car there.

10:35 p.m. on September 7, 2004 (EDT)
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Pretty places in Banff NP? Put your finger down on the map...it's pretty hard to go wrong in Banff. (If you're trying to escape the crowds, it's even harder to go wrong in some of the other nearby parks) Find a trip or trip that looks reasonable for you milage-wise, and it's almost guaranteed to be pretty.

I'd lean toward doing one or two longer trips, spending more time in the backcountry. A series of shorter trip could leave you with "in-between" nights in the big frontcountry campgrounds -- those in the Lake Louise area in particular are very close to the train tracks, and the frieghts run all night. Not a pretty night's sleep.

11:20 a.m. on September 8, 2004 (EDT)
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I would suggest you consider Lake O'Hara as a base camp. You get there by going just over Kicking Horse Pass from Lake Louise and parking in the lot next to the highway, then taking the shuttle bus to the lodge. There is a very nice campground a couple hundred yards away. The hikes to places like Oppabin Lakes are really beautiful. You can dayhike to a couple passes that overlook Lake Louise from the west end for fantastic views. Be prepared for rain or even snow, since this is the Canadian Rockies (my son's first "backpack" and snow camp was here at age 3 - wasn't supposed to be a snow camp, but it did drop 3 or 4 inches). Also, be aware of the bears and what to do about them - they do wander into town and the car-camp campgrounds. Do use the provided bear lockers, and it would probably be a good idea to carry a bear cannister with you on any overnights. But mostly educate yourself on bear avoidance.

Another fantastic place that is a bit further to drive (but well worth it) is to go over to the Bugaboos. You get there by continuing from Kicking Horse Pass or Radium Hot Springs to the Columbia River Valley, take the road to the CMH lodge (watch for logging trucks), park at the trailhead (use the provided wire mesh around your car to keep the marmots away from the brake lines), and hike the few miles to the camping area near the Kain hut. If you are moderately ambitious, you can do a dayhike to the top of Eastpost Spire for even more fantastic views (your boots should be waterproof, though, since you will cross a glacier).

As Dave and Andy said, the whole system of Canadian Rockies parks is fantastic. You can't really go wrong on picking a gorgeous place. Get a good map, hang it on the wall, and toss a couple darts, then start hiking. The town of Banff is very crowded and touristy, though, so you will want to head away from town pretty quickly (unless you like cheap baubles for souveniers). There are several excellent mountain shops, though, that can provide lots of good information. And, if you are from the US, Canadian dollars are really cheap, plus if you keep your receipts, you get your taxes refunded at the border on the way home.

4:01 p.m. on September 8, 2004 (EDT)
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Lake O'Hara is a fabulous suggestion. What Bill didn't mention, however, is that access to the area is tightly controlled. You need to make reservations three months in advance for the bus and campground. (Three months isn't bad -- if you wanted to go upscale, the waiting list for a room at the Lake O'Hara Lodge is several years long!) There are some same-day spots on the bus, but they're apparently hard to get. The Parks Canada web site has fairly complete info at http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/bc/yoho/activ/activ15a_E.asp

10:47 a.m. on September 9, 2004 (EDT)
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a.k.a. Roman

We're driving from Seattle and I'm trying to figure out the fastest route. Would it be faster via I-90 to Spokane and then hooking North?

6:47 p.m. on September 9, 2004 (EDT)
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Lake O'Hara

I haven't had a problem with getting on the bus walking up, nor have any of my friends who stopped by there in the past couple of years. But maybe, like the super-popular spots in the Sierra, US Rockies, Cascades, etc, they are putting limits now.

However, there are lots of other places that are "undiscovered" that are just as beautiful not far away.

You didn't want to go to the Lodge anyway - too civilized.

12:03 p.m. on September 14, 2004 (EDT)
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Getting to Banff from Seattle

Roman -

The most scenic way would be to head into BC (cross at Sumas, WA/Huntingdon, BC, for a somewhat out of the way, less busy port of entry), pick up the Coquimalla Highway to the Trans-Canada going through Kamloops, Revelstoke, and Golden in BC, then over Kicking Horse Pass into Alberta, past Lake Louise and into Banff. Going to Spokane then north might be faster, but the roads crossing in eastern Washington, Idaho, and Montana are all fairly slow on the Canadian side, with the possible exception of going all the way to Great Falls, then up through Lethbridge and Fort MacLeod to Calgary, then backtrack to Banff. The Great Falls way is longer, but you are on faster roads, and Montana speed enforcement is much less stringent than BC or Alberta.

Personal preference is to use the TransCanada - more scenic, not much more time.

September 23, 2014
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