Driving is not a problem. Parking is. If you go in summer and if the weather
happens to be good, you would probably have to start early or be prepared
to park illegally at the view points and trail heads.
The main highways tend to double up as park roads. So watch out for the
daily commuters, commercial trucks etc. when you are looking to find the
perfect spot to stop to take the picture.
The road signs tend to refer to everything as a "creek". For example if
you want to go to Paradise Valley, Tangle Falls or Wilcox Pass, look for
signs to Paradise Creek, Tangle Creek and Wilcox Creek.
Try NOT to miss
Banff Gondola or the equivalent hike up the Sulphur Mountain.
Lake Louise and the walk to the two teahouses behind Lake Louise. Don't
miss out on the view from the top of the Big Beehive (total: 17 kms
8 hrs round trip).
Johnston Canyon. It is 11.6 kms (4 hrs return) to the Inkpots. Most people
turn back at the Lower Falls (2.2 kms return) or at the Upper Falls
(5.4 kms return).
Crowfoot and Bow glaciers
Columbia Icefields. The hike up the Wilcox Pass (2.5 hrs return) offers
some great views of the region.
Mt. Edith Cavell and the Cavell Meadows + Path of Glacier trails (9.1
Maligne Lake and the cruise to the Spirit Island. The island can also be
reached by a strenuous full day kayaking.
Hike up the Opal Hills or the Bald Hills. Both of these offer some great
views of the Maligne Lake.
Sulphur Skyline trail (strenuous day hike)
Skyline trail (2 to 3 days backpacking trail)
Lake O'Hara and the Alpine circuit (12 kms 8 hrs)
Emerald Lake. The loop around the lake is 5.2 kms (2 hrs). Try walking
the loop in early morning or late evening to get the best views.
Takakkaw Falls and the Iceline trail (20 kms 8-9 hrs).
Wapta Falls (4.8 kms 2 hrs return)
Paint pots (1 hr return)
Stanley Glacier trail (11 kms 5 hrs return)
Carthew Alderson trail (20 kms 7 hrs one-way). You can book a shuttle to
drop you at the trailhead and thereby avoid having to walk back 20 kms.
Hotel / Hostel / Campsite Review
Is brutally expensive. In most places, the choice is between YHA, camping
or expensive hotels. In a place like Lake Louise, a private room even in
YHA would set you back by CAD $100.
Camping is the cheapest option. But most places don't take reservations.
You would lose half a day in just getting a site.
Read the description of the YHA before booking. If it says "rustic" it
means that the hostel does not have running water or flush toilets!
The Whisky Jack Hostel in Yoho and the YHA at Mt. Edith Cavell have one
of the best views in the Canadian Rockies. Do try to stay here if you are
OK with shared rooms and little "rustic"ness.
The best hikes in Lake Louise region (Paradise Valley, Valley of Ten Peaks,
Consolation Lakes, Sentinel Pass etc.) is closed to groups smaller
than six (during most of the summer). You need to either hook up with someone
or start off as a bigger group if you want to hike these trails.
The 11 km access road to Lake O'Hara is closed to private vehicles. You
need to have an accommodation either at the campsite or at the lodge in
order to qualify to ride the shuttle bus.
You can choose to walk up and down the 11 km road to get to Lake O'Hara.
But you will not have the time to walk the Alpine circuit - which was the
best among all the walks we did on the trip.
Campsites in O'Hara tend to get booked early. You can book 3 months (90
days) in advance. For July and August, trying to book 89 days advance
is probably too late!
Save your hotel bills. As long as it is over $50, you can get back the sales tax. This works for everything except your food, car or petrol expenses. Details available at the airports you fly back from.