The Jasper Tramway Experience - A Guide to the Tramway Ride, Hiking and Scenery

Riding the Tramway and hiking up the summit is an experience essential to any visit to Jasper National Park.

The “Jasper Tramway Experience”, as I call it, is a 3,000 foot ride up the side of Whisters Mountain while in a tramway (similar to a gondola).  The tramway ride is followed by a steep walk from the tramway drop-off terminal to the summit of the Whistlers Mountain via the Summit Trail.

Along the way, it is clear why the slogan for Jasper National Park is “Wonderful By Nature”.

As you ride the gondola and then hike to the top of the summit, the panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies are spectacular.

Jasper Tramway

Jasper Tramway

View from Jasper Tramway upper terminal

View from Jasper Tramway upper terminal - see Jasper townsite in the distance

Jasper Tramway – Tramway Ride, Hiking and Scenery

The Jasper Tramway Experience is made up of a sequence of 4 segments:

1. The ride up on the Jasper Tramway

  • The ride up on the Jasper Tramway takes you to the upper terminal.  The tramway car has a guide who tells a brief history of the tramway and interesting facts about the park. You may feel like a sardine packed into the tramway car with 10 or 15 strangers. Don’t fret. It is a quick and easy ride. You’ll be surrounded by windows and get a nice view on the way up.  After the tramway drops you off at the upper terminal, you can hang out for a few and soak in the view from the decks.  A gift shop and dining options are inside.

2. Hiking on the Summit Trail

  • If the weather is good (i.e., not snowing, raining or very cloudy), take the hike from the upper terminal to the summit on the Whistlers Summit Trail.  Start your hike up a steep but flat mountainside. There are several long plateaus along the way and it is not a difficult hike. Parks Canada urges visitors to stay on the trail to protect the fragile alpine vegetation.  I recommend wearing layers (maybe even a hat and gloves).  It tends to be cold and windy up here, even during summer.

3. Standing on top of the world

  • This is not just a hike but an experience.  Stop and take in the views at the summit or anywhere along the way.  This is time on top of the world. The view up here of the surrounding Canadian Rockies is much better than from the tramway upper terminal down below.

4. Go back down

  • There’s a sign at the end of the official trail and you can rest here before turning around and trekking back down (the trail unofficially continues on but that’s for advanced hikers). Last time, we packed some goodies from the Bear’s Paw Bakery to eat as our reward for making it to the end of the Summit Trail.  Walking back down is easier.  Head back down the tramway and off to your next Canadian Rockies adventure.

Jasper Tramway Hiking Map – Whistlers Summit Trail Map

Jasper Tramway Summit Trail Map

Jasper Tramway Whistlers Summit Trail Map (click image to view large)

Jasper Tramway Whistlers Summit Trail Hike

Jasper Tramway Summit Trail

Jasper Tramway Whistlers Summit Trail

An aerial view of Jasper townsite from Whistlers Mountain

An aerial view of Jasper townsite from Whistlers Mountain - the upper tramway terminal is on the left, Jasper townsite on the right

Views from the Summit Trail

Views from the Whistlers Summit Trail

View from the summit on Whistlers Mountain - Jasper National Park

View from the summit on Whistlers Mountain - Jasper National Park

Jasper Tramway hike with kids

Jasper Tramway hike with young kids? - Yes, it is doable but a stroller would be challenging on the Summit Trail.

During the summer, be on the look-out for Ptarmigan feeding at the summit. The birds blend in with the background.

Ptarmigan in Jasper National Park

Ptarmigan on Whistlers Mountain in Jasper National Park

For more pictures of Jasper Tramway, view Jasper Journal’s Jasper Tramway photo gallery.

 

[Updated/Revised: 2/10/2013]

Hidden Ridge Resort – Best Hotel in Banff National Park?

Looking for a Banff hotel that’s family-friendly, animal-friendly, and in a great location?  Hidden Ridge Resort in Banff National Park seems to have all of the right stuff to make your Canadian Rockies vacation great.

Now, I’m the type of traveler that likes to spend more time doing and less time in a hotel.  But there’s something to be said about well-appointed rooms and great outdoor hot pools ready for enjoyment at the end of a day of hiking and sightseeing.  Hidden Ridge Resort could make me change my ways.

Hidden Ridge Resort recognition

I did some digging to find out what everyone is saying about Hidden Ridge Resort.

The hotel gets lots of recognition.

On TripAdvisor, Hidden Ridge Resort is ranked #1 of the 32 hotels in Banff townsite section of Banff (the municipality of Banff within Banff National Park – a small-town within the park).  The hotel is also ranked #2 out of the 39 hotels in Banff National Park.

Hidden Ridge Resort is also ranked #7 of the Top 25 hotels for families in all of Canada on TripAdvisor!

Then, I looked on HotelsCombined, which is what powers the hotel search tool here on JasperJournal.com and offers an easy way to get price comparisons from multiple Banff hotels. The reviews on HotelsCombined are excellent too. At the time of this writing, Hidden Ridge Resort was rated as “Great, 8.7″ out of 1228 guest reviews on HotelsCombined. There were 31 guests who noted that the view of the mountains from the hotel was breathtaking.

I like the odds.  But what makes the resort rank so high? And why do I really want to stay here next time I visit Banff?  Here are my findings:

Awesome outdoor hot pools with a view

I have made many visits to the 3 hot springs in the Canadian Rockies (Miette Hot Springs, Banff Upper Hot Springs and Radium Hot Springs). Looking at these pictures, my sense is that the pools at Hidden Ridge Resort offer a similar type of experience. While the hotel pools lack the mineral water of the hot springs, the view is comparable.   To have a view like that while swimming in a heated outdoor pool seems to me to rank right up there with the type of experience had at the Canadian Rockies hot springs and the type of memorable experience I want to have on vacation.

Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Rooms with kitchens = save’s families lots of money on food

I love the local restaurants in Banff and have fond memories of places like the Grizzly House. You should stop by a local Banff restaurant.

By I know it is not practical to dine out every night – both because of the financial cost (especially with a family) and because dining out cuts into sightseeing time. Enter the kitchen. At Hidden Ridge Resort, you’ll get a room with a kitchen and all the stuff needed: refrigerator, microwave, stove, dishwasher, cookware, dishes and utensils.
Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor

With a kitchen like this, you have the option to make your own breakfasts or have simple cereal breakfasts so you can get out sightseeing quicker. You can make you own lunches so you can spend more time sightseeing and less time worrying about where to have lunch.  There are several grocery stores minutes away in downtown Banff.
Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The rooms are huge and condo style!

These rooms aren’t really hotel rooms in the traditional sense.  The rooms are better described as condo apartments.  All have at least one bedroom and one pull-out sofa.  And for bigger families there are even larger condos with up to 4 queen beds and 2 full bathrooms. See the layouts of the rooms here.

In this video, Michael Kwan from MichaelKwan.com did a nice tour of his Hidden Ridge Resort room, which appears to be a “Deluxe One Bedroom + Loft Condo” configuration. In the high season, this type of room is in the $300-400 range but in the winter months, it can be had for under $200. It seems like the perfect configuration for a family or a couple of couples.

Real fireplaces!

Rooms include a real fireplace and cut wood! How awesome is that!?!
Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The layout of the grounds

I like the layout of the grounds shown in this video. The grounds of Hidden Ridge Resort are similar to the grounds of a condo complex.

Pet-friendly Banff Hotel

Hidden Ridge Resort is one of the limited number of Banff Hotels that allows pets. It is fine to bring dogs or cats, though there is an extra $25 a night fee. The hotel seems to go out of its way to make sure the animals have a good time too.

Here, doesn’t Fido look happy?
Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Location away from the town of Banff

The hotel is just outside of the downtown area. Being further away from the downtown has its advantages. It is closer to the wildlife and the nature experiences. Yet, Banff is a short walk away.
Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Happy family

A happy family is the goal of vacation, isn’t it? I’ve seen lots of photos of happy people at this hotel.  That’s good sign.
Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Photos of Hidden Ridge Resort, Banff
This photo of Hidden Ridge Resort is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Conclusion

My final feeling about Hidden Ridge Resort: If you want trusted quality, superb amenities, big rooms and a hotel that’s great fun for families – and don’t want to pay an outrageous price – this is the Canadian Rockies hotel is worth consideration. Just be sure to book early!  Last minute booking attempts during peak season will often lead to disappointment when trying to go to popular locations.

Beautiful Photos of Winter in Banff National Park

Last post, I focused on useful videos showing that winter in Banff National Park is a while lot of awesomeness.

This time, I show some of the most beautiful photos of winter in Banff National Park I could find.

These photos are from 500px, a website where photography pros and enthusiasts alike showcase their works.

There are many wonderful photos not seen by enough people. I wanted to try to give the photographers more exposure, so I’ve showcased a selection of Banff National Park winter photos. (Click on the photos to view full size on the 500px website.)

And remember, when it comes to hotels in Banff, the winter is the off-season and the prices are much lower than the peak months of July and August.

Elk by Amar Athwal (amar)) on 500px.com
Elk by Amar Athwal
Winter Morning at Moraine by Jeff Clow (jeffclow)) on 500px.com
Winter Morning at Moraine by Jeff Clow
Trails of Minnewanka by Neil Jolly (njolly)) on 500px.com
Trails of Minnewanka by Neil Jolly
A Misty Morning In Winter by Hong Zeng (hzeng)) on 500px.com
A Misty Morning In Winter by Hong Zeng
Unforgettable sunrise by Victor Liu (Victor_Liu_Photography)) on 500px.com
Unforgettable sunrise by Victor Liu
Frozen Road by peter j (peterj)) on 500px.com
Frozen Road by peter j
Upheval by Vincent Piotrowski (vincentp)) on 500px.com
Upheval by Vincent Piotrowski
Artist of the light by Victor Liu (Victor_Liu_Photography)) on 500px.com
Artist of the light by Victor Liu
Elk by Victoria Stewart (VikaSImages)) on 500px.com
Elk by Victoria Stewart
Song Sparrow by Amar Athwal (amar)) on 500px.com
Song Sparrow by Amar Athwal
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel by Bowen Clausen (bowenclausen)) on 500px.com
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel by Bowen Clausen
Untitled by Nicholas Zalud (nicholaszalud)) on 500px.com
Untitled by Nicholas Zalud

Wintertime in Banff National Park – videos

Wintertime in Banff National Park is more than just amazing skiing. Many are surprised at just how much there is to do in Banff during winter.

This selection of videos taken by videographers and casual travelers shows the wonders that await in Banff National Park during winter.

What could be better than an escape to Banff during the cold months of December, January, February, March and April?

The answer: You’ll get off-season prices for hotels in Banff National Park during the winter months.

It looks so peaceful, doesn’t it?

Banff Winter Scene II

So relax, grab a cup of tea, and watch these videos. You’ll see the many types of wintertime experiences Banff National Park offers.

I hope you enjoyed this selection of videos.  If so, please share this post!

Why visit Jasper National Park and the Canadian Rockies?

Since  before it was a national park, Jasper, Banff and the rest of the Canadian Rockies were a place away from everything.

It was a rare breed of people who could live here and fewer came to visit.

Today, it is easy to fly into Calgary or Edmonton, rent a car, rent a comfortable hotel room and spend your days experiencing the wild of the Canadian Rockies.

Nature is still calling.

To me, travel is a way to get the most out of life.   And we should travel.

This Jack London quote relates to the experience and why so many people visit Jasper National Park and the Canadian Rockies.

Maligne Lake - Jasper National Park - quote

Maligne Lake - Jasper National Park - quote (click to enlarge)

“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist; I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them; I shall USE my time.”  Jack London

The picture is of a place that should be experienced: Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park.

Photo: Highline Trail near Lake Louise, Banff National Park

This, this here is the place to be standing.

Banff National Park’s famous hotel Chateau Lake Louise is at least an hour or two hike away.

This picture is looking in the direction of a cup of tea at the Plain of the Six Glaciers tea house.  Alas, I was looking back towards the tea house as I headed towards Mirror Lake on the Highline Trail (which runs parallel to the Plain of the Six Glaciers trail for a while).

The Highline Trail is a connector trail that spurs from the Plain of the Six Glaciers and leads to the network of trails around Lake Agnes, Mirror Lake and then to a steep but well-worn trail to Chateau Lake Louise and the Lakeshore Trail around Lake Louise.

Highline Trail in Lake Louise, Banff National Park

Click on the image to view full size (and then right-click to save as desktop wallpaper). Look closely. Notice how the trail continues on, peaking through the trees in the distance.

We ended up hiking over 8 kilometers that day.  If I had to do this hike again, I would have started earlier in the morning in order to have time to go around Lake Agnes.

Photo: Inside the Columbia Icefield Ride

The Columbia Icefield’s Athabasca Glacier ride in Jasper National Park is a fun-for-the-whole-family attraction that is worth the trip from Banff National Park or if staying in Jasper townsite.

Here’s a picture from inside one of the snocoach Ice Explorer buses that ride on the Athabasca Glacier.

While the ride is relatively stable, there is a spot with an incline and a little bit of rocking.  That is around when I took this photo.

Columbia Icefield Snowcoach Ride

Here’s what the Ice Explorer looks like from the outside:

Columbia Icefield ride

Columbia Icefield ride

It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Learn more about the Icefield Parkway glacier ride and find places to stay in Jasper National Park.

Review: My stay at Marmot Lodge in Jasper National Park

This past trip to Jasper National Park, we stayed at Marmot Lodge in the Jasper townsite as part of an epic trip around the Canadian Rockies and Montana.

We stayed in 5 different hotels during our trip. Marmot Lodge did not disappoint.

Marmot Lodge review:

If the experiences of others are like my own, I’m comfortable recommending Marmot Lodge hotel in this review.

Marmot Lodge has 107 rooms and several room configurations options. Some are basic. Some have kitchenettes. Some first floor. Some second floor (without elevators).

We booked a room with 2 double beds and a kitchenette. This is a step up from a standard room.  I was happy with the room quality. Everything seemed new. Maybe I lucked out and got a room that had just been renovated.

The kitchenette had a small refrigerator, microwave, over, stove, sink, pots, pans, dishes and utensils. There’s a grocery store a few blocks away on Connaught Drive, too.

The free WiFi also worked fine for me and the room had convenient electrical outlets, which I appreciate.

As the pictures show, our room was modern looking and spacious.

Continue reading Review: My stay at Marmot Lodge in Jasper National Park

Review: My Stay at Four Points Sheraton Calgary Airport in Calgary, Alberta

We stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton Calgary Airport twice.  2 nights. 2 meals. Zero major complaints.

I thought this was a good, clean, spacious hotel for the money.  I would stay here again and would recommend it to friends.

We used this hotel as a jumping point for this year’s Canadian Rockies national parks and Glacier National Park, Montana, USA adventure that took us through 5 awesome national parks in less than 2 weeks.

I choose to stay here because the Four Points by Sheraton Calgary Airport reviews I saw were very good.  Secondly, after a previous bad experience at a super-budget hotel last time we were in Calgary, I was willing (due to wife’s insistence) to pay a little more for a nicer hotel, but not for an outrageously priced one.

Considerations
First, as you can see from the picture of the view from the window, the view is kind of blah.  Not bad in any way, but it isn’t Jasper National Park either.
Four Points Sheraton Calgary Airport review

Four Points Sheraton Calgary Airport view

Photo: Clouds in Calgary

Is Calgary known for strange weather?

I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in Calgary just yet, using it and Calgary Airport more as a starting point to get to Banff National Park and the Canadian Rockies.

But each time I’ve been through Calgary, the weather has been wild. Last time, there was an amazing double rainbow.

This time the clouds where at play.  And this first picture shows  one of the huge clouds.  I made it black and white because it shows more detail.

Calgary clouds

This second picture is a snapshot from within the rental car while driving.  It is raining but the sun is shining bright in the distance.

Calgary weather