Icefields Parkway Traffic Direction

Discussion in 'Canada' started by T100-SC, Mar 12, 2019.

  1. T100-SC

    T100-SC Ride Old Bikes

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    Perhaps a silly question from some PA flatlanders that are planning a Banff/Icefields/Jasper trip in early September...
    Per a previous post I'm clear that there will be significant "tourist" traffic on this road...we're fine with that and will pack our patience.
    Question: Is there a significant difference in traffic depending on direction of travel?
    In other words...if we were traveling "clockwise" from Kamloops...up to Mt Robson...over to Jasper...and then SOUTH on the Icefields...
    Would the traffic at least seem lighter then heading NORTH on the Icefields?
    Just wondering....I appreciate any advice...
    #1
  2. kmev

    kmev Adventurer

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    I went that same route and direction in late June. I didn't have any problems and didn't notice much of a difference.
    #2
  3. ommoran

    ommoran Experienced Newbie

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    I did it in July and my experience was the same. Lots of the traffic is was eastish westish... Calgary to Vancouver or the reverse. Stops in Banff and Lake Louise are goofy with traffic.
    #3
  4. T100-SC

    T100-SC Ride Old Bikes

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    We're planning on NOT staying in either Jasper, LL, or Banff...just ride through...maybe gas and a coffee...
    #4
  5. ommoran

    ommoran Experienced Newbie

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    You owe yourself some time in Lake Louise for photos, and in Banff to ride through and see the Banff Springs hotel, etc. They are worth it.

    Jasper is way less crowded and way easier to get around. It's a good place to get a meal. Very different vibe than in Banff.

    Stay in any of the national park campgrounds, that is always awesome.
    #5
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  6. BenzADV59

    BenzADV59 Adventurer

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    Living in Calgary this is my backyard playground. I agree with ommoran - you definitely want to spend time in Lake Louise and Banff.
    September is a good time to do the ice fields highway as traffic thins out a bit compared to July and August. Either direction doesn’t make much difference. I really enjoy the trip from south to north with the morning sun shining on the east side of the mountainsides.
    Lake Louise is a small village with lots of people and not as scenic as the town of Banff.
    Just outside Lake Louise is Moraine lake which is my favourite- and seems to becoming the big draw as most of the time you have to take a shuttle to the lake as the parking lot can’t handle all the traffic. Might be ok on motorcycles in Sept but if not it’s still worth the time.

    Regardless of which direction you travel, you will be amazed with beautiful scenery. You will also be amazed that gasoline can cost as much as it does at the Saskatchewan crossing gas pumps.
    There is a restaurant and gas station - tourist trap - about 1/3 of the way up -from Lake Louise to Jasper direction- that has the worlds most expensive food, beverages and gasoline. I try my dammedest to avoid at all costs. Fill up in either Lake Louise or Jasper before heading out. Still expensive at those but less pump shock.
    I have a Goldwing 1800 and a R1200Gsa and can make the trip avoiding Sask Crossing.

    You should have great weather in September, but be prepared for anything-one September 12th we got 18 “ of snow in Calgary. Unusual but possible.

    Hope this helps.
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  7. MCMXCIVRS

    MCMXCIVRS Long timer

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    As a fellow Calgarian I can concur with this advice. The other issue with the gas station at Saskatchewan crossing is that they only have regular for a price well above the cost of premium. It's a good spot to pull off and take a break so long as you don't need to actually buy anything there. There are so many sights to see along the parkway that you could easily spend an entire day or more travelling it. For that reason, you may want to consider a stay overnight at one end or the other to allow yourself the time to truly enjoy the route. As a side trip from the parkway, you may want to take a run from Saskatchewan Crossing east on Hwy 11 along Abraham lake. Its a beautiful road with little traffic and amazing views of the glacial fed lake (its actually a man made lake on the Saskatchewan river) with it's gorgeous blue colour. If you go as far as the small village of Nordeg, you can get fuel there for more nominal prices.
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  8. sturgeon

    sturgeon Long timer

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    Maybe I was just lucky, but the last couple of times I was at Lake Louise (late June-early July), I found the parking lot guys to be very accommodating. They directed me to a non-parking spot near the garbage bins (along with a bunch of other bikers). The bigger problem is actually getting a view of the lake through the zillions of other tourists, mostly with their backs to the lake to get best selfie shot :lol3
    #8
  9. T100-SC

    T100-SC Ride Old Bikes

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    Well...we were thinking of staying a night at Sask Crossing! If riding clockwise...hotels in Blue River... Sask Crossing...then Canmore...avoiding Jasper and Banff hotels. Looking at their web site...it DOES look like a tourist trap! But...we thought perhaps it would be away from the masses....
    #9
  10. Bayner

    Bayner Long timer

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    Canmore is a nice place to stay.
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  11. Noggin

    Noggin blissfully ignorant

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    From my experience, the only disadvantage of going south is riding into the sun and not being able to see the views.

    As for gas prices at Saskatchewan Crossing, just how much do you need to buy? I wouldn't fill a tanker there
    #11
  12. MCMXCIVRS

    MCMXCIVRS Long timer

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    It's just information that can be used to plan the trip and avoid having to pay high prices when there are easy options to avoid it. They make their money off the tourists who fail to plan well.
    #12
  13. Tisatoy

    Tisatoy n00b

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    I would watch the weather in mid September for snow, last year in the middle of the month I did run snow.
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  14. T100-SC

    T100-SC Ride Old Bikes

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    All good advice... As I mentioned above...it looks like they'll get quite a few bucks from us. I sorta thought it would be a good location for a night's stop. Half-way up the Icefields. Avoids crowded Jasper / Banff. Mileage falls just about right... I guess we can put up with a tourist trap for one night...
    #14
  15. GreatWhiteNorth

    GreatWhiteNorth Long timer

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    I wouldn't stay there at Saskatchewan Crossing personally. There's a very nice resort east on the David Thompson Hwy # 11 overlooking Abraham Lake that is much nicer and probably cheaper too. I camped here once, but they have cabins & rooms too:

    https://davidthompsonresort.com/#/
    #15
  16. T100-SC

    T100-SC Ride Old Bikes

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    Excellent suggestion, thanks!
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  17. MikeRC

    MikeRC Adventurer

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    As a life-long Albertan who has spent almost all of my life in Calgary I had many years of my life when I detested any crowded place in the Rockies. I know where the "quiet" places and the "secret" places are for locals. But I have also spent lots of my time showing around visitors from far and wide, and their feedback is that they are more impressed with the places they see in pictures. The Columbia Icefields, Emerald Lake, Lake Louise, Maligne Lake, Mt Assiniboine, Peyto Lake. So I usually suggest the following.

    To your original question, I would think in September when the sun is a bit lower the trip from south to north would be a bit better. I particularly like climbing up from the Saskatchewan River across Nigel Creek and then around Parker's Ridge to the dramatic scenery of Mt Andromeda and the Icefields. Don't reject staying in Jasper, Field or Banff. Over the years the prices of accommodation in Banff and Canmore have become pretty close price-wise and Banff is just a prettier place to walk around (or ride around.....slowly). Also, from Banff you can make the short trips to the Sulphur Mountain Gondola or Banff Spings Hot Pools, or Lake Minnewanka, or around Tunnel Mountain and over to the Banff Springs Hotel to see where the 1%er's stay. Most of the hotels/motels in Canmore are clustered around the rail tracks and can be pretty noisy at night.

    Jasper is a "Dark Sky" preserve and there is nothing more dramatic than taking a short trip up the Maligne Lake road (or even just to Patricia or Pyramid Lake) at night to observe the Milky Way (and maybe even the Northern Lights). Jasper is also laid out in a very open format and I never feel it is very crowded. Consider reservations mandatory for Jasper (anytime) and also Banff or Canmore on the weekends. But try hard to avoid being in the parks on a weekend (even in September). Although Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are beautiful, they are still pretty busy in September and tough to get parking from 9am-3pm even on weekdays (particularly if the larch have started to change colours). Emerald Lake, Field and Takakkaw Falls have a pretty sharp drop-off in traffic in September.

    MikeRC
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  18. knight

    knight Been here awhile

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    The very best way to travel the Parkway , is to ride one way in the morning and the otherway in the afternoon. You will see twice as much .Sunny smoke free days are the best

    Traffic usually flows in packs of 8 to 10 vehicles , when you come up behind these packs or find yourself in the middle of one,pull over and take some photos ,then you can have the road pretty much to yourself on a weekday in Sept

    Lots of tourists driving rentals rubbernecking and slamming their brakes whenever wildlife is seen , so it's best to never tailgate

    I get my kicks by stopping at Saskatchewan Crossing and watching motor homes fill their fuel tanks

    BTW ,the best way to Jasper ,is to ride through the Kootenays and not Kamloops
    #18
  19. Rande Huseby

    Rande Huseby n00b

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    I live just east of Rocky Mountain House and ride out to the Crossing several times each summer. Good advice to go east from Saskatchewan River Crossing and spend the night at David Thompson Resort. You probably would not need reservations there either for camping or to get a room for the night. The drive from the Crossing in to Nordegg I feel is the nicest, most scenic tip in the Alberta Rockies. As for prices, last year gas was 30 cents per liter higher at the Crossing than it was at Inuvik and a short styrofoam cup of bad coffee cost $4.50 so I personally spend no money there. Biggest crooks in Canada is my opinion. But the riding and the scenery is downright spectacular so go for it .
    #19
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