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8 Reasons to Visit Banff & Jasper National Parks Early

8 Reasons to Visit Banff & Jasper National Parks Early

​When we made our plans to visit Banff and Jasper National Parks along our route to Alaska, we weren’t really thinking about timing – as in, what the weather was going to be like there. More so, how many of the gorgeous emerald green and blue lakes were going to be thawed by time we got there? Despite our worry, we’ve come up with 8 legit reasons in this post on why this timing is great for visiting these parks.

Watch the video below to see why we loved our time in Banff and Jasper National Parks! ​

Banff National Park, Jasper and the Icefields Parkway in Spring - RVing to Alaska | Go North Ep. 6

I’m not going to lie, it was extremely disappointing to arrive at Lake Louise – the gem of Banff, renowned for its magical beauty – and see it almost completely frozen and covered in white snow. ​We also heard that pretty much all the hikes that had been recommended to us were still closed. Those that were technically “open” had high probabilities of avalanches. Perfect.

  ​But as we were standing there, taking our obligatory photos (though far fewer since the water wasn’t glowing teal), something amazing happened. A peal of thunder came echoing across the lake, and as we looked for the sound we saw a mass of snow crashing down from the side of one of the mountains, making this tremendous racket. It looked like a white waterfall!

Reason #1 – Avalanches

​After the first one, we thought “Hey, we were pretty lucky to see that!” and “We wouldn’t have seen an avalanche if it wasn’t still all snowy.”

We started to make the hike alongside the lake figuring we’d go as far as we could before it was closed. Partway along the lake another thunderous crash – another avalanche! Then a little while later, another!

Each one was as mesmerizing and humbling as the last. While they look small when they are a long way away, when you compare them to familiar things, like a tree, you realizing that this huge mass of snow is falling hundreds of feet through the air and down the mountain. It really was pretty cool! You can watch the avalanche footage in our Go North Episode 5!

Reason #2 – Lack of Crowds

​As we walked, we realized just how sparse the crowd was. While we had initially been surprised by how many people were here to see frozen Lake Louise, it soon dawned on us that had Lake Louise actually been in its glory that the place would be absolutely crawling with people – all trying to get their selfie or group picture at the water’s edge.

The hike along the edge of the lake was very wide and well-trod, hinting at the massive stream of people that frequent the hike. We suddenly felt very happy that we weren’t being surrounded, and practically had the place to ourselves!

Reason #3 – Snowcapped

​The snow itself changes the whole experience. The mountains all around would look different. I personally love when mountains have that snow-topped look, and while I don’t they would be any less grand without it, it really adds a drama and dimension to the mountains.

  The glaciers along the Icefields Parkway were immense and hiking the Athabasca Glacier seemed all the more fitting!

Reason #4 – No Need for Reservations

​We ate out at this excellent restaurant with no wait time and no reservation needed. (If you’re looking for killer plant-based cuisine, go to the Nourish Café! Highly recommend the Vegan poutine!)

We also walked up to Tunnel Mountain campground one afternoon without a reservation and got a 2-night stay without a problem.

Reason #5 – Skiing

​Snow and snowcaps means that you might squeeze in a ski trip before the season is done! The beauty of this is that it could be a lovely 70 degrees F/20 degree C day, but after a gondola ride to the top of the mountain, you can have a marvelous ski or snowboard adventure!

  ​We did just this – we caught the last week of the season at Banff Sunshine that rocked our world! We had never alpine-skied before and it was incredible. 

Reason #6 – Free Gondola Down Sulphur Mountain

But you have to hike up it first! If you hike up before MAY 17, or after 7PM a hiker can ride the gondola down for free. After MAY 17 and before 7PM it costs money to ride it back down – half the price of general admission to the Banff Gondola. To ride the Sulphur Mountain Gondola up and down, check their website for prices.

We did the hike up – all 20+ switchbacks and 744m/2440ft gain over about 3.5 miles – and the view at the top of the valley was great! We were very happy to ride the gondola down – both to savor the view and to save our legs!

Reason #7 – Hot Springs are Better!

​While hot springs are great ANY time, there is something wonderful about soaking in a hot spring on a chilly day, staring at some snow-capped mountains. The Upper Hot Springs were a wonderful way to rejuvenate our bodies after the Sulphur Mountain climb. Admission is only $8.30CANand you can rent suits and towels there if you happen to forget yours at home.

Reason #8 – Lack of Crowds

​I know this was already mentioned, but it is worth mentioning again. We’ve heard the horror stories of how incredibly busy Banff and Jasper National Parks get in the summer, and we were on drives and hikes that we could imagine being packed like Yellowstone.

We could stop at any turn-off, we were one of a handful of cars in huge parking lots (you know they are that size for a reason), and we’d only cross paths with a handful of people on hikes.

The Johnston Canyon hike was one notable instance – the parking lot was HUGE and it was us and one other car when we did this amazing hike to the waterfall. This one was so cool – it had a cave that opened up to a natural viewing platform right by the waterfall! Tom and I had it all to ourselves.

driving through banff national park

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Jeff Blithe

Wednesday 24th of June 2020

I just started following you two on Youtube and on your website. I've been through Banff several times on my trips from GA to my daughter's house in Grande Cache. I'll have to spend more time in the parks after seeing your video. You guys have done an amazing job with your videos. You have inspired me in so many ways. I can't wait to Go North again! Take care and keep on doing what your doing!

Andrew LeGrow

Thursday 9th of April 2020

Great videos and unbelievable footage. I own 2018 Lance camper 1172 and it is equipped with a single solar panel. How do I set it up like your camper where I can operate the TV, electronics, etc without starting up the generator and be more self-sustaining. Also, if you haven't already, can you do a video on how to pack a truck camper for long trips, anything will help. Your videos inspired me to take my grandchildren on a Alaskan trip of a life time when they get old enough. Keep up the great work and keep on living the life!!!

Caitlin Morton

Friday 10th of April 2020

Hi Andrew, Thanks for watching! We have a blog and video about packing the truck camper in Episode 3 here: https://www.mortonsonthemove.com/travelblog/how-we-packed-our-truck-camper-for-alaska-go-north-episode-3 We also have a blog about our Electrical System build here: https://www.mortonsonthemove.com/toms-tech-blog/truck-camper-lithium-alternator-charging Cheers! ~Caitlin

Deborah Kerr

Friday 17th of January 2020

Canada is beautiful!! I guess if someone wouldn't want to go clear up North to Alaska, Canada would be just awesome too!!

Darlene

Friday 4th of October 2019

We are headed to Canada and Alaska in 2020. We were going to do Banff and Jasper on the way back in September, but after watching your episode, I am rethinking it to early May. If either is an option (and from what I see, September isn’t quite as crowded as July and August), would you still recommend May? I’m so torn...

Caitlin Morton

Sunday 6th of October 2019

Hello Darlene, You'll have a much different experience in September than May due to the fall colors and the lakes will likely still be open (not frozen over yet), so I really can't say if it would be better. We had the snow and avalanche dangers blocking many of the trails and attractions, and without the snow pack melting it might allow more access to hiking etc. Ideally, one should visit once in all seasons! Either way, I think going the shoulder season route is DEFINITELY the way to go, and it will be spectacular either way :)

Ken and Margaret Chapman

Thursday 27th of June 2019

Banff is a great place. We were there in early June. Still had ice on the lakes. We are traveling in Alaska too maybe we'll cross paths. Hope you are having a great time. From Ninilchik Alaska.

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