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Icefield Parkway, Canada

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Icefield Parkway, Canada

Old 02-07-05, 03:18 PM
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beowoulfe
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Icefield Parkway, Canada

Jasper, Canada to Missoula, Montana......anybody do this ride?

Planning to go in late June or early July. Wondering how the temperature was during the day and at night. How easy was it to find food? Which sights did you take in?

Thanks Folks
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Old 02-07-05, 03:58 PM
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You should consider doing a quick search for journals on Crazyguyonabike. I distinctly recall that at least one family did the tour and I have a vague recollection that Denise Goldberg may have also completed that tour.

~Jamie N
www.bicycletouring101.com
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Old 02-07-05, 04:23 PM
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I've ridden Jasper to Banff a couple times, and have done a lot of other cycling in that area. I have lived near the mountains most of my life, and have just recently moved back there again - I'm about 260 kms away from Saskatchewan River Crossing.

Temperature: in late June, early July, be prepared for anything. It could get cold enough to snow, or it could be fairly warm (30C). In the mountains the weather changes so rapidly and dramatically too. One minute you could be cycling along at a nice pleasant sunny 22C, and the next minute a storm system will blow in, rain will pour, the temperature will drop to 5C, and you'll notice flakes mixed in with the rain.

Food: You can get whatever you want to eat in Jasper, then there's a little cafe at Beauty Creek (I think), just before the Sunwapta pass. If you miss that, that's OK, because there's a visitor's center at the Columbia Icefields not too far along the road. After the Columbia Icefields there's another visitor's center at the Saskatchewan River Crossing, and then the next food source would be Lake Louise. After Lake Louise it looks like your next food stop would be Radium, and and then Invermere.

Sights: Practically EVERYTHING along that route will be something worth seeing!! (but maybe I'm biased). At Jasper you'll want to take in the Maligne Canyon, and you might want to check out the Miette Hot Springs (although they are a littlw ways out of the way) You'll go right by the Athabasca Falls - stop there to replenish your water, use the toilet and take some pictures of the falls. The Columbia Icefields are famous and you'll cycle right by them, so you might want to stop and do a little hiking. When you reach Lake Louise, you'll just arrive at the town, not the lake. A short trip UP the mountain and you'll be at the lake - it's worth it, even if it is a bit of a climb. And Radium is known for its hotsprings ..... just to name a FEW of the things to see along the way.
Do a google search on any of the places and things I've mentioned and there will be all sorts of sites with photos, virtual tours, and lists of what to see and do.

BTW - how are your climbing skills?
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Old 02-07-05, 05:02 PM
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Jamie is right - I did do that route as part of my first solo tour. (I was a bit of a baby in that I hooked up with an organized tour for the last week - that was my safety net in case I hated solo touring, but of course I loved it!). My tour went from mid-July to mid-August, and I hit some very hot weather which I don't believe is normal.

You might be interested in mytour journal. Feel free to sign my guestbook if you have any specific questions. I didn't have any problem at all finding places to camp, and food wasn't an issue either. I was carrying a stove and cooking breakfast and dinner most days.
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Old 02-07-05, 05:13 PM
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Just curious ... how much time do you have to do this ride? It could be done in about 2-3 days, Randonneuring style ... or about 10 days at a comfortable touring pace. Of course, the more time you've got, the more time you have to take little side trips and see more.

For example, I'd recommend a side trip to Johnson's Canyon and Banff if you can fit it in ... that would probably be an extra couple days.
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Old 02-07-05, 05:59 PM
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Howdy -

I think you'll be getting a LOT of feedback on this one. It's a great ride and many people have done it. Are you using a touring or mountain bike? There are a few places of dirt/gravel roads that give you additional route options. There are three sections - 1. The Jasper/Banff 2. In Between and 3. Glacier/Missoula
May I suggest doing it south to north since you are planning an early start - the two extra weeks may help with warmer weather in Canada. Plus you have the sun behind you.

1. Jasper to Banff - I've done it a few times - - once in the last week in July the temperature in Banff and Jasper never topped 50F (10C) - it was a real bummer for me, but at least I had warm gear - folks spending $1000 with Backroads were in shorts and cycling jerseys and freezing. Even then it was fabulous. The road has a wide shoulder - albeit with thin bumps every 25 ft which I call butt whackers. You are forced to use the Trans-Canada in two places - just outside Lake Louise and again just outside Banff. There are great hostels every 30 miles or so - reservations STRONGLY suggested. The Canadian park campgrounds DON'T have hiker/biker sites which should not be a concern early in the season.

2. In Between - Adventure Cycling sends you over in to BC from Castle Junction to Radium to Fernie and back to Crowsnest Pass. From Banff townsite you can bike a bike trail to Spray Lakes Road which is dirt to Kananaskis Lake. The trail is downhill northbound and much easier, especially if you are loaded down. Or you can take the TransCanada to Canmore and the back road to Route 40 which is the paved access to Kananaskis Lake. Route 40 continues over Highwood Pass - as beautiful as the Icefields Parkway with a fraction fo the traffic. You can either take this all the way to Route 22 or follow the Forestry Trunk Road along the Livingstone and Oldman Rivers to it's connection with Route 22 north of Lundbreck. Nice waterfalls and provincial campground there. Yet another option from Kananaskis Lake - if you are touring on a mountain bike is to cross Elk Pass on the Telegraph Road to Elk Lakes in BC - one time I was the ONLY person in the park as far as I could tell - spectacular mountains, lakes, and glaciers. Then continue down the Elk River Valley to Elkford and pavement then to Sparwood and east over the Crowsnest Pass. From Lundbreck it is a quick shot to Pincher Creek - big time tailwinds if you are south/east bound - and down to Waterton Lakes National Park. The townsite campground is a zoo - I'd camp either at Crandell Mountain or continue on up to Crandell lake backcountry site.

3. From Glacier to Missoula - Oh?? And did I say Going-to-the-Sun Road?? It's also a must on this tour. After Waterton, you cross the border on Chief Mountain Highway - some pretty tough climbs - but nice cycling none-the-less. I would definitely plan to do Many Glacier - which I believe is the most beautiful road-Accessable part of the park. Then head down to St. Mary get on Goint-to-the-Sun. Eastbound or Westbound on this road? Westbound - 1. Less of a climb westbound 2. The sun is at your back in the morning illumination the mountains with spectacular light. 3. No bike restrictions on the uphill portion. Eastbound - A. By afternoon there can be a stiff west wind. Then the question is which side of the Rockies should you ride on? Highway 83 on the west side is a much more direct shot to Missoula but has more traffic and is more closed in by forest. Highway 89 on the east side has incredible views of the Front Range, less traffic - but lots of roller-coaster hills plus winds to contend with. Even so - the east side - usually wins out with me. And it is longer. \From Choteau Hwy 89 conects to Hwy 287 thru Augusta. Use Highway 200 to get back to Missoula for either option - sometimes has a little more traffic than I like.
Anyhoo - ask me questions if you like.

Have a nice trip - J
johnegan@vcn.com

Montana climate averages - http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/summary/climsmmt.html
Alberta climate averages - http://www.climate.weatheroffice.ec....nselect_e.html
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Old 02-07-05, 06:07 PM
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I would actually suggest going from north to south because of the prevailing winds and I believe the terrain is a bit easier that way.


The road has a wide shoulder - albeit with thin bumps every 25 ft which I call butt whackers

That's from run-off.


One other thing to watch for are the RVs -- when those things spot a rest stop/lookout they barrel right for it running over whatever is in the way. If you hear one coming up behind, give it the right-of-way ... it'll take it whether you give it or not, and it is just more comfortable for you if you get out of the way.
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Old 02-07-05, 10:40 PM
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I live in Calgary but I have only done the Jasper-Lake Louise portion once, it was June and we had snow (it melted on the road but there was 2-3 inches on the grass) and high winds. So be prepared.

there are restaurants at Athabasca falls, Sunwapta falls and Num-Ti-Ja lodge at Bow Lake as well as the other places mentioned.

jamawani has some good ideas, there are lots of options if you don't mind riding on gravel
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Old 02-07-05, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by skookum
I live in Calgary
Hi! I'm a neighbor of yours to the north ... from Red Deer.


BTW - I've been in the Columbia Icefields area many times and it's rare to find a day where it isn't snowing at least a little bit up there.
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Old 02-07-05, 11:11 PM
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You'll have a scream on the bent!

I've ridden that stretch 4 times, 2 each way and it's a toss up as to which way is better.

There are two(2) roads in North America that are that top the list of most scenic. The second is the stretch between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef NP in Utah and the first is Icefields Parkway. I could be biased, but I've ridden a bunch of em)!

The hostels are superb, each with thier own flavor, the one in Banff is so-so (commerical), Lake Louise is 5 star and they serve meals(the best in town) there. Most of the Provinicial parks do not offer showers, the rivers are clean but real winnie shrinkers! The hostels, most of them, have showers or baths and last time i was thru there they were cheaper than the park campsites. Ranpart Creek Hostel is especially fun, they were not using electric then and ran on propane but they had a sauna and you jumped in rampart creek afterward, seperate cabins with wood burning stoves for those cold rainy nights.

Speaking German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, French, etc will be a plus because you will met many cyclists and tourist from around the globe.

The towns along the route get busy and competition for camp space can be fierce, but I don't see how anyone could have a bad day along that route, even if you slept on a rock. One look at the colors the lakes throw at your eyeballs and you will know what I mean.

Jasper fills with motor homes and tour buses so accomodations can be tight, the hostel just south of town may be a good alternate.

There will be tour buses and motor home up the wazo but in most places the shoulders are very wide and cater to cyclists. The passes can be narrow and rough desents due to frost heaves on the higher elevations, gives the black top a washboard effect. It is a pain in the forks for a wedgy rider but you should be able to cruise down whole lot better with the bent, the mesh seat will soak up the nasties and you should be able to hold well at higher speeds. first time I came down Sunwapta I thought the forks were going to vibrate off when I picked up speed; but on the recumbent, Oh My!

Bike shops are few and far between, the one I know of in Banff carrys much but I still could not get a matched set of tires there. Not sure any shops between Banff and Jasper, dont think so. Calgary has couple three but is off the path unless you're going to the Stampede!

Bakery in Lake Louise to die for and you age standing in line. I think they probabbly own Tahiti and go there in winter!

Highwood pass, south of Banff, coming/going from Cross Nest is highest paved road in Alberta, no camping along route, day time use only, but I slept there on picnic table late one night, best downhill is approaching from NOrth and scream down the other side. I spent a long time climbing from the South, took a swim in the lake and then the down hill into Canmore, going north was anti-climatic, except the campground at Canmore was practically empty and most importantly,one of the few provincial parks with showers.


The above posts say much, our Wyoming friend has pointed out some great routes, cause like everything else, getting there is half the fun!

Hey, Crossing the Border! I crossed once at Chief Mountain and the Canandains confiscated my small can of pepper spray i had haning on my handle bar(faux paus). They stood there in the rain, with a clipboard, asking me if I had the following, guns, knifes, blah, blah, mace, pepper spray, and the whole time, staring at the pepper spray. I said well, yes, and handled it to them. This would have been okay, excpet now I have to get off the bike, go inside the inspection station and empty my panniers and show them i had no heavy weapons, like AK47 and the SAMS missile launcher(left them home this time, wasnt going thru Nebraska!)(you know why Nebraska sucks-cause the wind is always from the west in Wyoming! Another story and more reasons) The kicker was, I could not keep the pepper spray even though they sell it in Canada, just down the road at Waterlakes store; because it was not properly labeled "NOT FOR USE ON HUMANS." No ****, that was what they told me, even showed me the ones on they gun belt with the label affixed, same brand as mine, but then why were they carryin them(dah)!

The lesson here is label your pepper spray, and lets get all those saturday night special and uzzies and assault rifles labeled "NOT FOR USE ON HUMANS" and we, like the Candains, will cut the ****cide rate to practically nothing over nite!

anyway, more than you wanted to hear, have a great trip.

Michael
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Old 02-08-05, 04:38 AM
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Thanks for the replies, Folks!! They are extensive and you obviously put a lot of work into them.

I'm going to have to spend some time going over them after spinning class (6AM ). Looks like I'll have a great read.
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Old 02-09-05, 11:15 PM
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If you want to camp at Highwood Pass just get your tent out of sight of the road. Thats what a friendly park ranger told us once. Remember it is bear country so don't sleep with your food and keep a clean camp.

We once camped within spitting distance of the hotels in Kananaskis village. It was labour day weekend and we combined a bicycle tour with my parents 40th wedding annniversary which they were celebrating at one of the Kananaskis hotels. Being a long weekend the campgrounds were all full and we thought we would just duck into the bush and camp. Of course by the time we finished dinner and had a few drinks it was about ten o'clock and pitch dark. Didn't feel like riding down the highway so we walked along a gravel path that runs along the escarpment above the valley. It is separated from the hotels by a couple hundred meters and some forest. We pitched our tents next to the path and crawled into our sleeping bags. Woke up at six and hurriedly got our tents down, as the first early birds walked by.
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Old 02-11-05, 08:17 PM
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Beowoulfe,

Maybe we'll see you up there. My wife and I are headed there this summer too. I'm still in the route planning stage but we should be there in early/mid-July.

Here's how to spot us...
Our latest Touring Journal
I just rescued the remaining photos from my old computer and will be finishing this log soon.

Maybe you'll make it into our next tour log.

Cheers,

Ron (Miles 2 Go)
South Ogden, Utah...for now.
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Old 02-12-05, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Miles2go
Beowoulfe,

Maybe we'll see you up there. My wife and I are headed there this summer too. I'm still in the route planning stage but we should be there in early/mid-July.

Here's how to spot us...
Our latest Touring Journal
I just rescued the remaining photos from my old computer and will be finishing this log soon.

Maybe you'll make it into our next tour log.

Cheers,

Ron (Miles 2 Go)
South Ogden, Utah...for now.
Hey, that would be great! That's about our timeframe. We will be easy to spot.....2 Greenspeed trikes.

There are some exceptional responses to help with the planning in this thread. A lot of effort went into the replies.
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Old 12-14-05, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani
2. In Between - Adventure Cycling sends you over in to BC from Castle Junction to Radium to Fernie and back to Crowsnest Pass. From Banff townsite you can bike a bike trail to Spray Lakes Road which is dirt to Kananaskis Lake. The trail is downhill northbound and much easier, especially if you are loaded down. Or you can take the TransCanada to Canmore and the back road to Route 40 which is the paved access to Kananaskis Lake. Route 40 continues over Highwood Pass - as beautiful as the Icefields Parkway with a fraction fo the traffic. You can either take this all the way to Route 22 or follow the Forestry Trunk Road along the Livingstone and Oldman Rivers to it's connection with Route 22 north of Lundbreck. Nice waterfalls and provincial campground there. Yet another option from Kananaskis Lake - if you are touring on a mountain bike is to cross Elk Pass on the Telegraph Road to Elk Lakes in BC - one time I was the ONLY person in the park as far as I could tell - spectacular mountains, lakes, and glaciers. Then continue down the Elk River Valley to Elkford and pavement then to Sparwood and east over the Crowsnest Pass. From Lundbreck it is a quick shot to Pincher Creek - big time tailwinds if you are south/east bound - and down to Waterton Lakes National Park. The townsite campground is a zoo - I'd camp either at Crandell Mountain or continue on up to Crandell lake backcountry site.
Bringing this one back up as to not rehash everything, but assuming I'm going north to south, how much more difficult is it to take the paved roads (one of our members is on a road frame with a Bob trailer) on the Kananaskis route than the ACA Great Parks Route? It's obviously shorter "as the crow flies," but I wonder how the terrain compares. I have a topo program (Delorme) for the US, but not for Canada, so I have no good way of telling..
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Old 12-14-05, 04:18 PM
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South of Radium the AC Route is nice but not spectacular. Hwy 93 has a fair amount of traffic - sometimes with a shoulder, sometimes not. Hwy 3 over Crowsnest is fairly busy, but I remember a small shoulder much of the time. The route thru Kananaskis is far more scenic - plus there are facilities (stores, campgrounds) spaced along the way. It's off route to camp right at Kananaskis Lakes but well worth it - the walk-in campsites are right on the lakeshore with sublime views into the mountains. It's a good climb to Highwood Pass, but then all downhill to the junction where there's a store and nearby campground. Then a riverside ride to Longview. Hwy 22 is like Hwys 93 & 3 - - moderate traffic but with a shoulder. It's nice high grasslands/foothills.

From Castle Junction to Lundbreck it's actually a little shorter going by way of Kananaskis - even when you stay to the pavement. I'm guessing 360 vs. 420 kms.

Pic of Highwood Pass
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Old 12-14-05, 11:58 PM
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How much, if any, of the Forestry Trunk Road is paved between Hwy 541 and Hwy 517? Is that a tough stretch?

How's Spray Lake Road for that matter, even if it's dirt? Doable on a road bike with a 28mm tire?

Last edited by Shemp; 12-15-05 at 12:16 AM.
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Old 12-15-05, 09:06 AM
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The Forestry Trunk Road is unpaved all the way from Hwy 541 to Hwy 517. The surface varied from hardpack to moderately rough - but can change from year to year depending on snow/rain and blading. Also, Hwy 517 hardly qualifies as paved although it is indicated as such on many maps - - let's say paved in spots. So it's 95 km from Highwood Junction to Hwy 22 that are fairly tough, but certainly doable. There is a firefighters camp with a cookhouse about halfway along where you can get water - plus the cooks usually find a goodie or two for poor bicyclists.

Spray Lake Road, on the other hand, is quite nice. I've done it a couple of times and the surface has been extremely hard packed - almost riding like pavement. Some people have complained about dust. I always start out very early to enjoy the early morning light on the mountains and to deal with less traffic - although on Spray Lakes Road you shouldn't have more than a couple of cars per hour. I have always cut off on the Goat River Trail up to Banff rather than continue on into Canmore. Northbound, the Goat River Trail is downhill all the way. Southbound it's uphill. If heading into Canmore, it's pretty steep. Downhill northbound, uphill southbound. You may want to e-mail Canmore Tourism and verify how far out of town that Spray Lakes Road is paved - I've heard they have extended the pavement.

All in all, the Spray Lakes Road (Also called Smith-Dorrien Road) is one of the nicest, easiest dirt roads there is. The Forestry Trunk Road is a little tougher. There are also som eincredible trails that head off of Spray Lakes Road = Burstall Trail for one - that quickly take you into the high country. For reasons that are beyond me (And I've written Alberta Parks) there is no camping at all along Spray Lakes Road from Kananaskis Lake to the far end of Spray Lake - even dispersed. Along the Trunk Road it's a different story - with incredible camp spots galore along the Livingstone River.

If you are not in a hurry and don't give yourself an impossible distance to cover, you will find both of these roads to be incredible.

Enclosed a pic of Spray Lakes Rd.
Best - J
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Old 12-15-05, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
When you reach Lake Louise, you'll just arrive at the town, not the lake. A short trip UP the mountain and you'll be at the lake - it's worth it, even if it is a bit of a climb. . . .

BTW - how are your climbing skills?
She's right to ask about your climbing skills. That short trip up the mountain to the Lake is about a 600 foot rise in elevation, as I recall. Over about a mile in distance.

But definitely worth it!
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Old 12-15-05, 12:18 PM
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BTW -

I recently scanned an excellent map and brochure on the Icefields Parkway with detailed kilometer posts. Also, since it's under Crown copyright noncommercial use is fair use. I pay attention to stuff like that.
It's over at Crazyguyonabike - North and South halves -
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/resou...ds&context=all
Click on the photo to get an enlarged version - then copy to your computer and print.
Size limitations preclude posting anything here.
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Old 12-16-05, 12:02 AM
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Another BTW -- there is a good bike shop in Lake Louise (town) - it's in the Sampson Mall, just down from the incredible (and extremely busy) Langen's bakery
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Old 12-16-05, 12:11 AM
  #22  
jamawani 
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But stock up on your food supplies in Jasper or Banff - the little store at Saskatchewan Crossing is pricey and the grocery store at Lake Louise is outrageous!
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Old 12-16-05, 12:19 AM
  #23  
BigGuy
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Amen to that - I complained to management last time I was there - left a bunch of stuff at the checkout - local townspeople get a discount....not that I'm suggesting you misrepresent yourself...
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Old 12-18-05, 12:43 PM
  #24  
foggydew
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I basically did your route in 1995 starting in Jasper on June 1 and cycling to Browning Montana (at which time we headed west to the coast). We had a great ride that year and followed our original plans with a few deviations. Two passes that we wanted to do were closed, Highwood due to the Elk mating season and Going-to-the-Sun due to the winter snowpack (still 10 ft in the highest areas!!). We used Highway 22 to connect between the TransCanada and Highway 3 - a very nice rolling and winding route in the foothills. The weather was varied - we started off in 25 Celsius temperatures in Jasper but four days into the trip east of Banff we had to hunker down for an extra day and wait out a large rainstorm which caused extensive flooding and damage all over southern Alberta. It turn out that this was one of those "200 year" storms - even the town of Waterton was flooded in spots. When we headed west out of Browning, near East Glacier there had been a snow storm the night before with some slush still on the roads. So expect anything as far as weather.

The hostels on the Parkway are great as are the campgrounds with Lake Louise and Banff having very modern hostel facilities. The highlight for me on this stretch of the trip is Waterton Lakes National Park -- my favourite of the three Alberta rockies National Parks. It is still small and enough off the beaten track not to attract the crowds like Jasper and Banff. The scenery is fantastic for the entire route.

Enjoy your trip.
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Old 12-18-05, 12:56 PM
  #25  
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If you do Waterton, I would suggest camping at Bertha Bay - a backcountry site right on the lake. You would need to get a backcountry permit at the Warden's Station which is just before you get to the townsite. You can store all your panniers and extra food in the bear lockers at the far end of the townsite campground. There's a bathhouse with showers there, as well. Then it's only a mile and a half hike to the campsite - although it does climb a chunk. The townsite campground has 843,000 people - Bertha Bay may have 8. Last time I was there I was all alone.
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