Here’s How to Avoid the Summer Crowds in Banff and Jasper National Parks

Storyteller

Tips from someone who learned the hard way!

Last week, I took a six day trip to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta, Canada. It was a truly amazing trip, but I kept hitting crowds of hundreds of people when I went to the big spots such as Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Johnston Canyon and others. There was little space to park (if any) and the sites were always crowded with people snapping away photos on their selfie sticks and iPhone cameras. So what are the tricks to avoiding all of these tourists when you are trying to take a trip of a lifetime?

Tip #1

My best advice is to go as close to sunset or to sunrise as possible and to stay until the sun has completely set or risen. Sunset in Banff and Jasper reaches nearly 10:00 PM and it’s still fairly bright out at least an hour to even an hour and a half after that. By this time, most of the people who need to stay in hotels or set-up camp have left the parks attractions to go do so, leaving you with not only fewer tourists around, but also the best lighting for photos and general viewing pleasure. My suggestion to you would be to either check into your hotel or set up camp during the day, and then in the evenings (6PM-11PM) tour the big sights. For myself, I would set up camp and scout out where I wanted to take photos during the day, and then come back closer to sunset to actually take the photos. This way I got to hike and enjoy the scenery during the day and take amazing photos at night.

Tip #2

My second suggestion is to hike or do other activities during the day. Most of the time the classic photo spots at Lake Louise, Maligne Lake and others are crowded with people trying to get their photos. My suggestion to you is to find the trails, hike them and take photos there during the day.  With the harsh lighting of daylight, I'd suggest taking few photos until sunset or sunrise, but I understand the urge to whip out your camera every time you see a glacier lake and take a photo. Either way, trust me on this one, if you do just a minuscule amount of hiking, you’ll beat the crowds. If you can't stay out late or get up early for whatever reason, I would suggest hiking even a short distance and then take your photos, because let’s face it…most people don’t actually hike when they visit these spots. You may not get that "iconic" photo, but you'll have a memory and isn't that what it's all about anyway?

Tip #3

My last suggestion is to use The Outbound to find hikes and views that are not on the “tourist route.” I was really shocked at some of the views and hikes I found that had nobody on them or around them only because there were no road signs on how to get there. I found a hidden lake in the woods, an incredible hike up around Mount Rundle, and so many other amazing treks. Use the Outbound’s app to map out those non-touristy places before you go, because service is slim once you hit the Icefields Parkway. I think you’ll be shocked at how many places you can go that most people completely miss when they head out west in Alberta.

Final words: make sure to travel well. It’s ok to lose service and have your phone die; let it happen. Be prepared for crowds of people, but use the tips here to avoid them and have both an incredible experience and some gorgeous photos. Sunset is usually around 10PM or a little earlier and sunrise is around 5:30 AM or earlier. Getting up earlier or staying up later (or both) will make a world of difference when traveling during the peak summer season in Alberta. Try it out and let me know how it goes!

Published: July 11, 2017

Matt Van SwolStoryteller

Matt Van Swol is a self-taught landscape photographer, writer, and nuclear scientist for the US Department of Energy. After personally struggling with depression for many years, he is passionate about showing others t...

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