Photo of the Day: Sunwapta Falls black and white

The Sunwapta Falls make a good quick stop on the Icefield Parkway on the way from Jasper National Park’s central townsite area to the Icefield Centre or on the way to Banff National Park.

A stop at Sunwapta Falls offers the traveler a view of a rushing waterfall in a scenic setting. A short path along the edge has plenty of viewpoints.

I’ve been having fun lately editing photos from my last trip to Jasper National Park.  One thing I’m experimenting with is converting color photos to black and white.  Then, adjusting the photos to try to capture the essence of the scene.

In this first photo, the fallen tree outline on the bottom gives a sense of the scale of the falls. Enlarge the photo and you can almost hear the falls.

Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls (black and white) - click image to enlarge. If you like it, feel free to make it a desktop wallpaper.

This second photo shows the river draining into the very start of the Sunwapta Falls.

Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls (black and white) - click image to enlarge

Try converting your travel photos to black and white. It can be addicting.

A Visit to the Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation Centre in Banff National Park

I stopped by the Banff Upper Hot Springs mid-afternoon on a warm summer day.  The parking lot was packed and it was probably a 30-minute wait to get in!  Having gone the day before in the early morning (no lines, no waiting), we decided to skip a second visit to the hot springs and instead try out Banff National Park’s Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation Centre.  Glad I did!

You won’t find a whole lot of mention in the travel books about the Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation Centre as it is not really a tourist attraction.  It is more of a place where the locals go to get away from tourists.

As it turns out, there are a lot of reasons to visit the Sally Borden facility.

  • Are you looking for less-crowded indoor activities in Banff due to rain or inclement weather?
  • Did you go to Banff Upper Hot Springs during peak hours and saw the line and said “what now?”
  • Is your hotel pool is too small, too crowded, too noisy, or just plain non-existent?
  • Are you looking for indoor rock climbing, yoga classes, a “real” fitness centre or other fun activities away from all the tourists?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, the Sally Borden Centre is a good option.

Located on the outskirts of the town of Banff, the Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation Centre is a fully-equipped exercise and recreation facility.

What I like most is the huge swimming pool.  I think it is Olympic sized or at least close to it.   I thought there was something different about the water too, at least when I was there.  It felt clean and refreshing.  Maybe they use less chemicals than the traditional hotel pool.  The pool is great for doing laps.  And after swimming, there’s a whirlpool and for the kids, a wading pool.

I liked the weightlifting and exercise equipment.  It was what I’d expect from a real fitness center.


If you are looking to spend a day being active, there’s plenty to do.  Beyond the swimming pool and exercise equipment, there’s a steam room, rock climbing gym, indoor running track, squash court, gymnasium, exercise classes, yoga classes, massage, training sessions and other services.

Getting There

The Centre is easy to go to from the town of Banff.  It took me about 10 minutes to get to from Banff Hot Springs on the other side of town.

The Sally Borden building is in the middle of the Banff Centre, a arts and cultural facility with lots of events.  It feels like you are in a college campus and parking is similar.  If you are lucky, you can park in a small row of parking spots next to the Sally Borden building, then climb the steps up to the Sally Borden building.  Otherwise, there are a few parking lots further away that are a short walk to the Sally Borden building.

Hours and Events

Before going, it is good to check out the hours.  There are classes and events going on so not every activity is open at all times or open to the public.

The best bargain is to get a day pass and go on a day with bad weather and stay several hours trying everything out.  The day pass drop-in rate is very reasonable and you can stay all day and have access to more.

For hours, rules, and a schedule of activities, see the Sally Borden Fitness and Recreation Centre website.

Jasper National Park in September – Pros and Cons

If you are thinking about visiting Jasper National Park in September and wondering if it is a good time to visit, you are in for a treat.

All-in-all, the only major trade-off is the likelihood of cooler weather in September compared to July and August – though a given September day can be warmer than an August one.

Visiting Jasper National Park in September offers several advantages compared to the peak months of July and August while still being somewhat of a peak month like its cousin June.

Here is a list of pros and cons of Jasper National Park in September:

Pros of visiting Jasper National Park in September

Pros Why this matters
Less visitors than the peak months of July and August
  • Shorter lines at attractions like the Spirit Island cruise, Athabasca Glacier Snocoach rides, the Jasper Tramway or Miette Hot Springs
  • Less traffic
  • Less of a chance of waiting at popular restaurants
  • Less people camping
Lower prices for hotels compared to peak months
  • With slightly lower prices, you might be able to afford to stay longer.  For example, I just looked at prices for a Pyramid Lake Resort hotel room and the numbers I was seeing for September were around 15% less than August.
Less visitors compared to peak months means more hotel room availability
  • More hotel room availability, especially for last-minute booking, means more flexibility in planning your trip.
Less kids in the hotel swimming pool
  • Kids are back to school in September.  If you stay at a hotel with an indoor pool, you’ll hopefully be able to enjoy a little more peace and quiet.
Still a great time for hiking, canoeing, rafting and other outdoor activities
  • Dress warm, have fun.  September is a great time to visit.  Just be aware of the weather variability, especially at higher elevations where is gets cooler and snow can accumulate.
Fall foliage
  • Jasper sees fall colors at the end of September and early October.
  • The Jasper Tramway is a great way to see panoramic views of the valleys below.  (I believe the Tramway season ends around Thanksgiving in Canada – 2nd Monday of October.)
  • Hiking is another way to experience the leaves changing color in Jasper National Park.
  • Elk rutting (mating) season begins mid-September.  You may hear male elk bugling sounds.  (Keep your distance.  Elk are known to be aggressive and dangerous during mating season and every season Jasper National Park visitors sustain injuries from elk.)

Continue reading Jasper National Park in September — Pros and Cons

Photo of the Day: Johnston Canyon Trail in Banff National Park

Yes, Johnston Canyon Trail in Banff National Park is a popular hiking trail.

There are a million great photos of the waterfalls and Johnston Creek that show why.

This Photo of the Day is a photo of a fragment of the experience of Johnston Canyon, the edge where the water meets the limestone.  The smaller details can be easy to miss:  the rushing water of Johnston Creek, the jagged limestone rocks along the creek shaped by countless years of erosion, and the plants growing on the rocks.

Now multiply this by a hundred and you’ll get a sense why Johnston Canyon is amongst Banff National Park’s most popular hiking trails.

click image to view full size

View the image full size and set as a desktop wallpaper in preparation for a trip to Banff National Park.

Trekking Poles are the Secret Weapon of Happy Hikers in the Canadian Rockies and Beyond

It’s now a year since I bought my first set of hiking poles.  I bought them because I wanted to do more day hiking in the Canadian Rockies.

Shortly thereafter, I did several day hikes in Jasper and Banff National Park.  I loved having the trekking poles.

If you are planning to at least a few day hikes in Jasper National Park, I think that hiking poles are a great accessory.

I feel like my balance is better.  My knees feel supported.  It seems like my chance of stumbling is reduced.  I have more endurance.  I am a happy hiker.

Yours truly hiking on the Sulphur Skyline Trail near Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park

Me hiking on a rainy day on the Sulphur Skyline Trail near Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park

It may sound strange, but I sometimes find myself walking rough terrain without looking down.  Instead, I’m somehow feeling the terrain with my poles and able to step softly.  Without poles, I’m watching my ever step.

On steep hills, I push on the poles with my arms and it seems to reduce the stress on the leg muscles, allowing my to hike further.  This was useful on the Sulphur Skyline Trail near Miette Hot Springs.  At the time, it was one of the longer hikes I’ve done.  The trail is uphill the first half until the summit and the trekking poles made a big difference.

The poles I used helped on the descent too.  I have antishock ones – which basically means a spring is inside the poles like a shock absorber on a car.   The antishock is nice when going downhill and putting a lot of force on the poles.  I also like the antishock feature because sometimes the ground is hard.  It softens the blow.

Recommending a brand is tough because this is new to me.  Shop around.  Some sporting goods stores sell trekking poles.  If found mine online.

Trekking poles can be inexpensive at $30-50 for a basic pair.   Expect to spend $50-100 or more for an ultralight weight pair or special features.

When shopping for a pair, consider the size and weight.  Most collapsible poles are small enough to fit in a suitcase.  Measuring before buying will help ensure fit.

A year later, I still use the poles for day hiking.

Hope this info helps make hiking a more enjoyable activity!

Get Local: Read The Fitzhugh, Jasper National Park’s Newspaper

I recommend getting to know Jasper National Park before visiting.

I mean getting to know the real Jasper.

Jasper National Park is different than most other parks in that Jasper has a full municipality within it, Jasper town-site.

In it are a small population of people who call Jasper National Park home.  To have a home in Jasper means to work in Jasper and be dedicated to Jasper.

Jasper even has its own newspaper, The Fitzhugh, “Jasper’s Independent, Locally Owned Newspaper.”

Check out the online version of the Fitzhugh.  I also recommend picking up a printed paper while in Jasper to read while settling down in the evening in your hotel room.

I assure you that by reading the Fitzhugh you’ll learn things about the inner workings of Jasper that you won’t find anywhere else.  Between Jasper and the neighboring parks and towns, the Fitzhugh brings to light what’s going on – beyond the attractions.

You’ll feel connected to the people and the issues.  When you know what goes on behind the scenes, you’ll realize how important it is that the right decisions are made to support Jasper National Park’s future.

The Fitzhugh often mixes in Jasper history topics too, which I like.  If you want to learn even more about Jasper’s history, also consider a visit to the Jasper Yellowhead Museum or reading my unique posts about Jasper Nation Park history here on travel website.

Make time for the Icefield Parkway during your Canadian Rockies vacation

The Icefield Parkway is the scenic highway connecting Banff National Park with Jasper National Park.

And as far as scenic roadways go, the Icefield Parkway is tops.  You’ll never have a long drive that is so enjoyable. Seriously – unless you are afraid of a little bit of heights and a whole lot of snow-covered mountains and magical blue-green lakes and even glaciers and maybe even some wildlife sightings.

I don’t recommend rushing on the Icefield Parkway on the way to or from Jasper or Banff townsites.  The Icefield Parkway is a destination in itself.  It is nice to stop in the rest areas along the way to take in the scenery.  You may even want to make time for the many excellent hikes along the way.

Here’s a few pictures (click to view larger) from along the Icefield Parkway in Banff National Park in the area south of the Jasper National Park border.

Mountains along the Icefield Parkway

Mountains along the Icefield Parkway

Icefield Parkway in Banff National Park

Icefield Parkway in Banff National Park

Icefield Parkway in Banff National Park

Icefield Parkway in Banff National Park

Whistler’s Inn Jasper – Hotels in Jasper National Park

The most distinguishing feature of Whistler’s Inn Jasper is its central location in Jasper townsite in Jasper National Park.

The hotel is situated on the corner of Connaught Drive and Miette Drive in the heart of the townsite action.

The Jasper National Park Information Centre is next door.  Across the street is the train station.  The Whistler’s Inn hotel is surrounded by restaurants and gift shops.

And in the morning, when you need good coffee, take a short walk west on Connaught Drive to a great independent bakery/cafe/coffee shop called The Other Paw Bakery.

Whistler's Inn Jasper hotel

While it lacks a pool, the 2 hot tubs on the top floor of Whistler’s Inn and the little wildlife museum in the basement make up for it.

The word on the street from Whistler’s Inn Jasper reviews is that the rooms at Whistler’s Inn Jasper are what you’d expect.  Clean and comfortable.

If you are a light sleeper, you might want to call ahead and ask about the availability of a quieter room.   What you’ll want to avoid is being above the 1st floor pub if noise bothers you.  I wouldn’t worry too much though.  You’ll probably be so tired after a day of Jasper National Park recreation that nothing is going to keep you awake anyways!  Or you could turn on the AC or the fan to drown out any noise.  Personally, I always pack ear plugs whenever I travel just in case.

The only downside of this Jasper National Park hotel is parking.  There’s a small lot in back lacking enough  spaces to accommodate all guests.  You’ll have to park on the street – which can be a pain in the peak summer months.   The parking lot across the street next to the train station is a good place to park.

Whistler’s Inn Jasper prices are in the average range for standard rooms. Booking early for vacations in the peak months of July and August is recommended as there are more visitors to Jasper during this time than there are rooms available.

Visiting with Bighorn Sheep at Miette Hot Springs, Jasper National Park

As I was about to leave the parking lot at Miette Hot Springs, a group of bighorn sheep emerged from the woods and headed towards the picnic area.

I thought the fun was done after a day of hiking on the Sulphur Skyline Trail and soaking in Miette Hot Springs – but seeing these bighorn sheep rounded out an amazing day in early July in Jasper National Park.

The bighorn sheep walked up close.  It was a chance to get a good look at the progress they’ve made shedding their thick winter coats for the summer.  But they seemed more intent on looking at me!

Two molting bighorn sheep ewes in the Canadian Rockies

Two molting bighorn sheep ewes in the Canadian Rockies

I was really surprised when an ewe walked up close past a couple cooking on a grill in the picnic area.  The ewe hadn’t a care in the world and ignored the onlooking humans.

As I watched on, it was obvious how accustomed the bighorn sheep had become to tourists.

Bighorn sheep ewe in picnic area

Bighorn sheep ewe at Miette Hot Springs

One ewe even walked up to my rental car as I sat inside. Maybe she recognized me or something. ;)

For a split second the ewe seemed like it was going to climb onto my rental car – and I worried on how I’d explain it to the rental car agency.  Luckily, the ewe was just passing through.

A bighorn sheep ewe ponders climbing onto my rental car

Only bighorn sheep female ewes where to be seen.  The male rams often travel in separate groups.

Bighorn sheep ewes at Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park

It seemed like the picnic area wasn’t just for humans.  It is a good place for bighorn sheep picnics too.  This one was eating leaves off of the ground.

Bighorn sheep ewe eating leaves

What a day in Jasper National Park!

Free Desktop Wallpaper: Banff National Park

I took this photo on the way from the town of Banff to Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park.

It is a simple picture showing the grass, trees, mountains and sky.  I have a print of it on my wall and it looks nice.

If it suites your tastes you can use it as a desktop wallpaper.

Just click on the image to view the full size version.  Then, right-click the full size version and amongst the options should be a “set as desktop wallpaper” option.

Banff National Park desktop wallpaper

Banff National Park desktop wallpaper - click image to view full size, then right-click to see option to set as desktop wallpaper