We went to Banff and Jasper on a tour arranged by Rocky Mountain Railtours. They arranged rooms at the 3 famous CP Lodges; Banff Springs, Chateau Lake Louise, and Jasper Park Lodge. We went on a bus tour of the parks instead of a car rental because I thought it would be less stressful to leave the driving to the bus driver.
Banff Springs Lodge is a big historic castle with elegant architecture. The spa is one of the highest rated in the world. If you are only interested in using the spa, skip the staying at lodge because they charge everyone including hotel guests. They have two heated saltwater pools indoor and out, no extra charge. There is a big remodeling project going on summer 2000 and we had non-stop jackhammers from 0800 to 1800. Ask for a room in the new building if you go this year! Most of the employees are seasonal college students 18 to 24 who live in dormitories provided by the lodge. This is true for most hotels and restaurants in both parks, and probably the destination US national parks as well. The hotels pay minimum wage and the workers make most of their income from tips. I imagine that many of the workers are also glad to be in such a beautiful environment. In any case, some of the workers are only interested in making big tips and the service can be spotty, although most of the people we dealt with were quite friendly. I did get the feeling at times that they were most interested in waiting on the super-rich-big-tippers. So if you want good service, dress up like a generous rich person. I have decided that if you want good service from a hotel; avoid all corporate owned hotels and stick to small indepently owned motels where the owner personally greets you and is glad for your service.
Chateau Lake Louise is the 2nd famous historic lodge. The lake is quite peaceful, and I imagine that having a room with a lake view is quite peaceful. Unfortunately about 40% of the rooms, including ours, face the main auto entrance and bus loading zone. The rooms also lack air conditioning so it is necessary to leave the window open to get cool air (and traffic noise). If you want to experience Lake Louise, insist on a Lake View room. I imagine they are C$300 per night in the peak season, we had our rooms arranged by a tour company.
The Jasper Park Lodge is the 3rd historic lodge. Again the rooms in the 2 story units are not sound proof. If you care about noise insist on an upstairs room. The dinner selections are quite limited. There are 3 restaurants but they all have the same 5 entrees and nothing under C$25. If you want a light dinner, forget it. The lodge is about 4 miles from the town. There are lots of nice restaurants in town. Next time I want to stay at a motel in the town of Jasper.
Both parks have lots to see including waterfalls, lakes, glaciers, bears, and elk. There are lots of short, rewarding hikes and lots of longer ones. The gondola rides in Jasper and Banff are both spectacular. There is a snowbus that takes you out into the middle of a glacier; it is an interesting experience; but some might find it expensive and time consuming.
I recommend having a rental car to see everything and go at your own pace. On the other hand, our tour bus drivers did have lots of interesting information about the parks; and there are lots of situations where someone might get frustrated driving and even get road rage. Picture small parking lots with lots of tourists, some of who are blocking the road waiting for the first space when there are lots of open spaces available with a short walk. Many of the park roads are 2 lanes with lots of RVs and limited passing zones. The high altitude, steep grades, and drivers in unfamiliar territory cause many vehicles to go excruciatingly slow. Every few miles there is a minor traffic jam when people stop to photograph an elk or bear by the side of the road.
The last part of our tour was a 2 day train trip on Rocky Mountain Railtours. The train was very nice and there was lots of wonderful scenery. The train ends up in Vancouver which is also a great place to visit. The service on the train was excellent.
Read all 44 Reviews
Write a Review