Jasper vs. Banff National Park
So I thought I would finally catch up on my park reviews this week by diving into the beautiful Canadian Rockies. I did this trip solo after having spent time in Yellowstone/Grand Tetons and a weekend celebrating my sister’s wedding. Let me tell you, it was so needed because as much as I’m a social butterfly this chick loooves some quality me time.
It’s no secret I love using the internet to plan a trip but if you google Jasper or Banff National Park be ready for the most insane overload of ideas, suggestions, and tips. I wrote down some major highlights and as always went on a bunch of random, spur of the moment, pull over hikes. I had 4 days in Jasper and 3 in Banff so I scratched the surface but do feel like I did each park justice. Canada is beautiful and these two are by no means the only places worth visiting. In fact, the next time I go I would love to go someplace else (less busy) entirely. Where’s your favorite spot in Canada I need to go?
These parks are more beautiful in person and live up to the hype. I will be honest, I did little true hiking hiking. I did more tourist hiking never getting more than a couple miles in. Most of the popular stuff is within a 30 minute walk from a parking lot: think Arches National Park. Regardless they both are really sights to behold. Everything from learning the science behind the water color to just experiencing the beauty was totally worth it. Here’s my breakdown of the roses and thorns of each park. Let me know what your favorite places in each are!
Roses-So I hadn’t heard much about Jasper in comparison to Banff. Everyone talks about Banff. I went to Jasper first with not really low expectations but little I would say. First off, go to Pyramid Lake. I went at sunrise and holy smokes. It was one of my favorite stops, only a couple miles outside of the town of Jasper, it was gorgeous.
Edith and Annette Lakes are minutes from each other (and downtown) and renting a bike from town to explore them was one of the best decisions I made! That gorgeous color like Maligne without the headache of people.
Hiking the Valley of Five Lakes trail (minus the mosquitos) was everything I thought it would be. A series of small lakes with some spectacular views made this hike totally doable, around 5 miles, but still definitely a workout with some good elevation changes.
Thorns-While not a thorn for me the town of Jasper is super quiet at night. Not a lot to do after dark so if you’re into somehow going out after exploring (first please teach me your ways 🙏🏾) this is going to be a bit of a let down. It’s definitely a mountain town though with some unique character. Jasper is beautiful but I probably saw 1/3 of it. There is an entire northern part of the park I couldn’t make it to and for that reason alone it’s a thorn because it would take weeks to explore it all.
Roses-Everyone talks about Banff for a reason. It’s pretty legendary and I quickly saw why. Unreal mountain back drops, walking on my first glacier, and the creamiest blue lakes make this park like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Peyto Lake was actually my favorite from Banff which I assume most of you will find sac religious. Lake Louise gets all the attention but it also sits steps from a massive resort and is crawling with people at all times (I’d know I went at both 5:30 am and 8:45 pm). I somehow avoided all crowds at Peyto and got to enjoy this bad boy almost totally alone. The turquoise blue of these lakes is unreal.
Athabasca Glacier was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. It was an overwhelming feeling similar to what I got standing in Rome last summer. Being around something that’s been here that much longer than you is so freaking powerful.
The town itself of Banff has an insane amount of charm. There is a plethora of food options and a couple of fun breweries. Nothing was super far from the actual town of Banff and getting around felt a whole lot faster/easier to me.
Thorns-This place for all its beauty is crowded as hell. I’m talking full parking lots at 5:45 crowded. I’ve actually never seen the likes of it. And yes I know 🙄that’s what I get for going during tourist season but I am use to at least being able to wake up super early and miss everyone. Not here. And while there are many more food options the pricing here was always considerably more than Jasper.
Ultimately, I think Jasper is where you want to spend more of your time. The insane blue lakes are everywhere and the crowds were just so much smaller/more manageable. I stayed in hostels at both places (HI Jasper and Banff Hostel International) and found that the pricing was similar-ish at $100 a night which is absolutely insane for a hostel but compared to hotel prices was heaven.
I’m excited to be able to go back one day and I definitely didn’t hit everything on my list. Biggest regret? I didn’t make it to Johnston Canyon in Banff. Let me know your roses and thorns of Canadian Parks! XxAbby