to Travel to Alberta:
Best weather: May-Sept. Winter sports, Dec-March.
Dinosaur Provincial Park Hoodoos
by Joanne Merriam
Main holiday attractions
Banff and Jasper National Parks: In the Rocky Mountains bordering British Columbia these two are Canada's most spectacular national parks and Alberta's primary tourist destinations.
Banff is easier to get around and to reach than Jasper.
The Banff must-dos - if time is very short - are taking at least a walk on the shore paths of
Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.
If you like hiking and have more time then do a more serious hike such as the stunning Plain of Six Glaciers Trail from Chateau Lake Louise to the base of Victoria Glacier. Alternatively get onto the water, these lakes are among the most magical kayak/canoe locations on the planet.
15 miles from Banff town on the way to Lake Louise (BTW, Lake Louise is the name of both the lake and a lovely small resort town nearby) stop off at Johnston Canyon, summer or winter, for a 'fairytale' walk on elevated paths through this narrow chasm, with tunnels, colourful rocks, bubbling streams and waterfalls.
Walking on water in a Banff canyon.
If you are not a big walker then take the pricey but exciting Sulphur Mountain gondola from Banff town (and save a lot of money by walking down from the top and/or not eating at the rubbish restaurant at the top!).
Also head for the sights at Yoho National Park, such as Emerald Lake, Takakkaw Falls, the Kicking Horse River natural bridge, then take a drive on the sensational Icefields Parkway, one of the world's most stunning drives that runs from Lake Louise to Jasper, stopping off at another great lake, Peyto, en route to the Columbia Icefields.
At the Icefield older tourists generally take a Snocoach ride onto the Athabasca Glacier or the fit do a (highly recommended) 3/5 hour hike on the glacier - but make a reservation, these guided hikes are popular.
Banff town, around Tunnel Mountain. Photo taken from Sulphur Mountain.
Banff town, inside the national park at an altitude of 4,800ft (1,463m), is surrounded by mountains and offers many tourist-oriented activities including natural hot springs, hiking, biking and climbing in the summer and a small and scary gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain where the view is stunning, but the cost is high ($30 pp) and the restaurant at the top is terrible.
Fit visitors can cut the cost by hiking down the trail to Sundance Canyon.
In winter skiing is popular at two nearby resorts, Sunshine Village and Ski Norquay.
Banff Pictures. More Banff National Park.
Moraine Lake, Banff.
Generally the best sights have crowds and parking problems in the summer, especially gloriously green/blue Moraine Lake, so early arrival is imperative. e.g. 9 am. Lake Louise offers very much the same stunning views and pleasant walking trials as Moraine Lake.
Some of the alternative Banff activities include climbing, camping, fishing, horseback riding, wildlife spotting, mountain biking and easing your tired muscles in hot springs. In winter - apart from the obvious skiing and snowboarding try skating, waterfall ice climbing, ice diving, snowshoeing and outdoor hot springs.
Red Rock Canyon, Waterton Lakes National Park.
Getting to Banff:
- Calgary International Airport operates the nearest flights for Banff; frequent coaches and mini-buses do an airport-Banff town shuttle. The drive airport-Banff is 90 miles (145 kms) and will take about 2 hours.
- Cars may be rented at the airport of in Banff town. Tourists must buy a national park pass at the Banff Park gate.
- Driving from Edmonton to Banff will take about 4 hours as it's 250 miles (400 kms).
Nice little Rocky Mountain earners:
-In addition to Banff and Lake Louise resort towns, there's beautifully located Canmore in Bow Valley, 70 miles (110 kms) west of Calgary (in Kananaskis Country) that's famed for ice climbing, regular climbing, caving, mountain biking and kayaking/canoeing.
In the southwest Waterton Park on the US Glacier National Park border has many attractions centred on Waterton Lakes National Park including fine hiking and biking trails, board sailing, fishing, horse riding, golf, hot springs, white water rafting and the usual winter sports.
Jasper National Park seen from the Whistler Mountains
Jasper National Park is similar to Banff NP, though bigger, less developed, less easy to reach and consequently the less popular of the two
parks but still a rugged, beautiful, World Heritage Site with hundreds of miles of outstanding hiking trails and terrific white-water rafting.
Highlights are the huge Sunwapta Falls, an Athabasca Glacier hike, spectacular Athabasca Falls, a Mount Edith Cavell trail (steep but with breathtaking views within 1 hour of parking), a Maligne Canyon Ice Walk (in winter, short or long walks, a tricky and sometimes steep trail so walking poles are useful) and Miette Hot Springs for a good soaking after a hard day.
Jasper is 192 miles (370 kms) from Edmonton, 256 miles (404 kms)
from Calgary and 500 miles (800 kms) from Vancouver.
More on Jasper National Park.
n.b. weather conditions are very changeable in Canada's Rockies,
so be prepared for anything and there are grizzlies wandering about so stick to trails and observe the bear necessities.
Calgary: a kind of Houston-of-the-north, Calgary is a prairie oil town that
offers tourists a popular zoo/Botanic Garden/Prehistoric Park; a Heritage Park ('taste of the past'); the pleasant historic, busker-friendly and pedestrianised Stephen Avenue Walk; 'the world's greatest western extravaganza' Calgary Stampede in the last week of July annually; and the primary starting point for exploring Banff National Park.
Edmonton: another rich, well developed Canadian city and the capital of Alberta, Edmonton's biggest party
of the year is July's 'Capital EX' (aka Klondike Days), gives good access to Jasper National Park and offers North America's biggest shopping centre, the 800 store West Edmonton Mall.
A black bear looking for a picnic. Your picnic.
Alberta Wildlife: Bears - black and grizzlies,
moose, elk, caribou (reindeer), coyote, wolves, foxes, lynx, bobcats,
cougars, mountain goats, deer, bison, beaver, muskrats, bald and
golden eagles, nodding donkeys, and more, more, more.
The Calgary Stampede promoted as 'The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth', is a combination festival, exhibition, and rodeo held in Calgary over 10 days every July. It is a massive event and famously the world's largest outdoor rodeo.
Apart from the rodeos other Stampede attractions include stage shows, concerts, chuck wagon races, exhibitions and pancake breakfasts.
The spectacular - and cowboy oriented naturally - Stampede Parade through downtown Calgary takes place on opening day. Many tourists participate in the occasion by wearing western clothing. More Calgary Stampede.
Calgary Stampede, matching excitable 4LD with insane humanoids.
Festivals in Alberta:
Mid July, Calgary Stampede, a 10 day world-class rodeo riot. A wild
yet comradely festival enjoyed by the whole of 'cowtown', events
include Chuck Wagon racing, rodeos, a spectacular parade, country
music performances and free pancake breakfasts!
Last week of July, Edmonton's Capital EX (formerly Klondike Days), 10 days of concerts, racing pigs,
racing bath tubs, racing rafts and probably racing prices, though
the pancakes are free.
August, Edmonton Fringe Festival, wacky theatre of all kinds.
January - February, Banff/Lake Louise Winter Festival.
some precise dates see: English
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