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The Perfect Week in Banff and Jasper National Parks

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With enough backcountry hiking and long trails to keep you busy for years on end, whittling a summer trip to Banff and Jasper National Parks down to a week takes some discipline. But even if you have to cut out the challenging 27-mile Skyline Trail, you'll have enough time to float rivers, hike a wide selection of shorter trails, strap on crampons and wander out onto the Columbia Icefield, and dip your feet into the chilly waters of Lake Louise. And drive around Lake Minnewanka, raft part of the Athabasca River, and bag your first peak in the Canadian Rockies. Along the way, you'll eat fondue, drink beers at Jasper Brewing, and melt into a giant cinnamon bun (or two). And the accomodations? Pure luxury. Seriously.
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Improvement District No. 9, AB T0L, Canada
The three-and-a-half-mile journey from Sentinel Pass to Larch Valley is the kind of hike you'll dream about years after returning home. Intrepid visitors leave from the Moraine Lake Lodge area, at an altitude of 6,190 feet, then climb a series of...
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Moraine Lake, Improvement District No. 9, AB T0L, Canada
Nestled at the base of the Valley of the 10 Peaks, Moraine Lake boasts turquoise waters that change color throughout the day as sunlight refracts off the minuscule particles of glacier-ground rock suspended within. Though it has a B-list rating...
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Athabasca Glacier, Improvement District No. 12, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
The Columbia Icefield is one of the largest masses of ice south of the Arctic Circle, an otherworldly expanse straddling the Continental Divide. You can get on the ice in two ways: Take the Brewster tour company's Ice Explorer snow coach (a...
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This five-kilometer (3.1-mile) hike starts at Bow Lake, directly in front of the legendary, red-roofed Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. The turquoise waters and historic stone-and-log structure make for great photo ops before you even get on the trail. Then, the...
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Lake Louise, AB, Canada
When you enter Banff National Park, you are immediately struck by its vastness. In the winter, the mountains tower above with their snow-covered peaks and the snowy pines go on like an endless, seemingly impenetrable sea. During my visit to Lake...
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Banff, AB, Canada
The section of Alberta Provincial Highway 1A that runs parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway between Banff and Lake Louise is known as the Bow Valley Parkway. Developed as a scenic drive by Parks Canada, the road has a series of marked stops along...
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611 Patricia Street Kiosk, Box 398, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
Rafting down the Athabasca River is a great way to take in Jasper's tranquil scenery—with the occasional face full of cold water to remind you to keep your eyes wide open! This river's rapids are just Class II in places, offering a float...
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Improvement District No. 9, AB T0L, Canada
Tunnel Mountain's trailhead is located right in downtown Banff, so you'll probably be able to set out on this hike directly from your hotel! This relatively easy trek allows you to conquer your first peak in the Canadian Rockies by climbing just...
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Banff, AB, Canada
Built to commemorate Parks Canada’s 125th anniversary, this bike path connects Banff to the neighboring town of Canmore. The trail follows the Rundle Range down the Bow Valley, so scenery appears around each bend. This paved 26.8-kilometer...
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Lake Minnewanka Trail, Improvement District No. 9, AB T0L, Canada
Including the travel time to get to the road from the Banff town center, the drive along the Lake Minnewanka Loop takes only about an hour, but the numerous stops and viewpoints along the way make this 24-kilometer (15-mile) side trip worth...
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Originating at Bow Lake, nearly 100 kilometers (62 miles) up the Icefields Parkway from the town of Banff, the Bow River runs down the valley all the way to Calgary. Most journeys into the Canadian Rockies follow the Bow River upstream; it's what...
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405 Spray Ave, Banff, AB T1L 1J4, Canada
Set in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Banff National Park, the year-round Fairmont Banff Springs was the brainchild of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne, president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. On arrival at Banff, the tourism visionary made...
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Opened in 1915 as Tent City—a string of luxury canvas tents along Lac Beauvert, with vistas of Whistlers Peak and Pyramid Mountain—the iconic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge was possibly North America’s first “glamping”...
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200 Pipestone Rd, Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0, Canada
The Post Hotel's main dining room offers one of the most luxurious culinary experiences in the Rockies, probably because it's stationed at the only Relais & Châteaux property in Banff National Park. Boasting one of the largest wine...
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203 Caribou St, Banff, AB T1L 1A8, Canada
Step through Magpie & Stump's swinging doors, and you'll hear the sound of peanut shells crunching beneath your feet. The rowdy pub's saloon decor is an interesting choice, considering its menu is all Tex-Mex: Think spicy pork tacos, nacho...
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608-B Patricia St, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
Coco’s Cafe in Jasper is a shrine to everything that's wonderful about the first meal of the day. Java snobs will love the Phil & Sebastian Coffee, and health-conscious guests are always impressed with its locally sourced, organic...
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211 Bear St, Banff, AB T1L 1A1, Canada
With tasty specials available most days throughout the off-season months, the Bear Street Tavern has a loyal clientele of locals year-round, giving it a genuinely homey and down-to-earth ambience. The menu, however, consists of more than just...
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203 Village Road, Lake Louise, Village Rd, Alberta, AB T0L 1E0, Canada
Reasonably priced food is somewhat hard to come by in the upscale hamlet of Lake Louise, which is why Bill Peyto’s Café is such a find. Located in the HI Lake Louise Alpine Centre hostel and within walking distance of the Samson Mall,...
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110, 211 Bear Street, Banff, AB T1L 1A8, Canada
Vegetarians and veggie lovers alike can sometimes get overlooked in Alberta, a region prized for its beef. Enter Nourish Bistro! This farm-to-table restaurant is the place to go if you’re craving a little more green in your diet. The staff...
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207 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L, Canada
Dining at the Grizzly House is an experience. As soon as you walk in, it's obvious the place hasn’t changed much since it first opened decades ago. The interior is dark, and the wood-paneled wall is lined with taxidermy trophies. But the...
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211 Bear St # 213, Banff, AB T1L 1E4, Canada
Best known by locals for its stunning views of the Canadian Rockies (nab a seat by the giant windows to make other diners jealous!), the Bison’s best-kept secret is its addictive dinner and Sunday brunch menus. Chefs Liz and Kirk are...
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700 Tunnel Mountain Rd, Banff, AB T0L, Canada
Set just a 15-minute walk from the irresistibly photogenic town of Banff within the pristine surrounds of Banff National Park, Buffalo Mountain Lodge lives up to every rustic Rocky Mountain vacation fantasy. Deer can even be spotted nibbling on...
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Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
An overnight stay at Tonquin Valley Adventures' lodge is perhaps the best way to experience the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. (It's a well-earned one, too: The lodge lies almost 20 kilometers, or about 12 miles, from the nearest road!) To...
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624 Connaught Dr, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
Opened in 2005, the Jasper Brewing Company was the first brewpub within a Canadian national park. It is now a local’s staple hangout. Seven different beers—like the Rockhopper IPA and Honey Bear Ale—are brewed on location, so make sure to order a...
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AB-93, Alberta, Canada
The Icefield Parkway isn’t just a highway linking Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta. It’s a 230-km road trip through the Canadian Rockies, past a series of emerald-green alpine lakes fed by nearby glaciers. The entire route connects Jasper and Banff...
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Improvement District No. 9, AB T0L, Canada
This is another fun adventure that's not strenuous in Banff. Take a gondola up Mt. Sulphur. That building in the photo is where the gondola comes in. Then you can walk along a boardwalk up to the summit, from where you have panoramic views of the...
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108 Banff Ave, Banff, AB T1L, Canada
Cruising down Banff Avenue, you eventually stop looking in shop windows as the strip's souvenir stores all begin to blur together. At the far end of town, however, is a locally owned womens-wear boutique that is worth a visit. Cabin 108 carries...