Camping to Rolls Royce’s in Banff & Jasper National Parks

By on September 15, 2011

By Carol Lovegren Miller –

Banff & Jasper National Parks in Alberta Canada have something to please every taste, from an opulent hotel overlooking Lake Louise with a Rolls Royce parked outside, to endless world-class mountain climbing, and every variation in between.

My family and I entered the parks via the magnificent Kootenay National Park west of Banff. When we stopped to pay the $136.40 fee required for a family of five to spend eight days in the Canadian national parks, the woman chirped, you must have brought this good weather with you! Since when do Oregonians bring good weather?

In the morning we crawled out of soggy tents into drizzling rain. Perhaps a day in town would be a good choice. En-route to the town of Banff, via the Bow Valley Parkway, I abruptly decided that we should stop and hike Johnston Canyon, a trail that sees a million hikers a year. Surely the popular trail wouldn’t be busy on such a wet day. It was. As we rubbed shoulders with the tour bus crowds, our boys dubbed easy hikes like this one, “perfume trails”.

In Banff and Jasper there are endless opportunities to spend money:  cute shops, enticing restaurants, adventure options, and attractive housing choices abound. While we were in Banff, rain showers turned into a tremendous hailstorm which battered touring bicyclists, and wiped out the electricity for the entire region.

Visiting national parks opens doors to meeting interesting people. Many of the campgrounds have shelters with wood stoves. Canadian parks charge $8.25 for campfires, but if you build your fire in the communal shelter, it is free; so naturally we migrated to the shelters. While we dried our camping gear and prepared meals, we chatted with intrepid travelers from all over the world.

Communication with Canadians is not always easy, as many French Canadians speak limited English. In Alberta, signs are written in both English and French. A woman from Quebec explained that because everyone in her family was of French descent, she was not allowed to attend an English speaking school as a child.

couple standing in front of Lake Louise Canada

Kyle and Carol Lovegren

Despite hundreds of people being accommodated, the campgrounds are laid out so as to not feel crowded. In addition, it was reassuring to discover that bears are kept out of the tent portion of Lake Louise Campground by a five strand electric fence. Even so, all the campgrounds require that food related equipment be cleaned up after every meal and stored in the car. Not an easy task when everything has to be fit like a jig-saw puzzle back into a crammed-full minivan.

Due to bears, some trails require hikers travel in groups for safety. While hiking, my ever-vigilant husband, Kyle, carried bear spray and watched for bear sign. He was rewarded with more “bare sign” than he expected, when he spotted some guy’s lost underwear hanging from a tree.

Although we saw a number of bears, we only saw them along roads. While we watched, one black bear casually dislodged a large rock with his paw, sending it crashing down the hillside toward the tourist below who quit gawking and frantically jumped into his van to move it out of the way of the bounding rock.

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Linking Banff and Jasper is the spectacular Icefields Parkway. While hiking to Wilcox Pass, a “don’t miss” trail along the Parkway, we met some frightened hikers and their dog hastily hustling down the trail. “There are some aggressive ‘longhorn’ sheep blocking the trail,” they warned. Not deterred, we soon came upon peacefully grazing Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.

Just west of the Columbia Ice fields Visitors Center an easy “perfume hike”, with about 40 feet of elevation gain, takes visitors to the toe of Athabasca Glacier. As we strolled along we heard a woman vehemently proclaim, “This is it, this is the last climb for me today!”

A featured attraction in the parks is hot springs. So one evening we drove the long roller-coaster road from Jasper out to Miette Hot Springs, a family-friendly place with four pools. The hot pools are so warm, that cold pools are provided to cool down in. My masochistic sons, Chet and Jeff, challenged each other to immerse themselves in the forty degree pool for so long, (two minutes) that it was painful for them to return to the hot pool! While they recuperated, we watched streams of bighorn sheep cross the cliffs above us.

For sheer grandeur, majesty and immensity, the only place anything like Banff & Jasper National Parks in North America is Alaska. Banff is just a whole lot closer.

Carol Lovegren Miller lives in Oakland Oregon, population 950. Carol and her husband Kyle, of 27 years, travel often with their three children, ages 23, 21, and 18. Carol is a substitute teacher for middle school and high school students when she is not writing or traveling. Carol can be reached at [email protected].

Carol Lovegren-Miller

About Carol Lovegren-Miller

Carol Lovegren Miller has been married to Kyle for 32 years and has three grown children. She bakes, cans, organizes church events, and substitute teaches in between her adventures and writing." Carol can be reached at [email protected]

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Camping to Rolls Royce’s in Banff & Jasper National Parks