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Hiking Banff in May

Chicago,IL
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Hiking Banff in May

I'm getting really scared about my planned trip here. Reading the recent forum posts, I have discovered that a lot of the good hiking trails will still be closed in mid-may (17-20). And apparently the bears are still in hibernation then! Can anyone recommend some good easy-moderate hiking trails that I would be able to enjoy in the Banff/Lake Louise/Yoho/Icelands hwy regions?

Jasper, Canada
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for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
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1. Re: Hiking Banff in May

No, the bears are not hibernating then - it probably is less than a couple of weeks from now that we will start to hear reports of bear sightings, and they'll all be out by mid-May. But yes, hiking is somewhat limited at that time of year because there is still a lot of snow up at higher elevations. That is a long weekend here in Canada (Victoria Day) and you could ski or snowboard at Sunshine Village during your stay if you wanted to... they will be closing after that weekend, although probably more because of lack of skiers and staff moving on to summer jobs, rather than lack of snow.

May is not a good time of year to come to the Canadian Rockies for a hiking holiday. There are *lots* of hikes you can do, but they are not the subalpine and alpine ones that you see on postcards. The best hiking at that time of year will be in the lower valley areas - around the town of Banff, and in the Lake Louise village area in the Bow valley, rather than up at the lake (although the lakeside trail should be fine). The trails that continue beyond the lake - the Plain of Six Glaciers, for instance, may have avalanche danger (this can persist into mid-June), as the trail traverses an area with a lot of avalanche run-outs.

The Banff NP hiking page is here:

pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/activ1.aspx You'll see links at the top of the page to trails in various areas - I would concentrate on the "Banff area" link. Of the "Lake Louise, Castle Junction and Icefields Parkway Areas", I don't think there are any of the Icefields Parkway trails that will yet be accessible (assuming you are not bringing snowshoes or ice cleats, and are not interested in wading ("postholing") through snow that may be deep in some areas). The Moraine Lake road won't yet be open, so you can't get to any of those trails. Some of the Lake Louise village area trails should be ok.

If you are coming up to Jasper, the northern end of the Icefields Parkway is quite a bit lower than the southern end (the village of LL is at about 5000 feet and the parkway starts up from there, however the town of Jasper is at 3500 feet and there is probably 60 or 70 km of the parkway at the Jasper end that is below 5000 feet) and there are some trails along the parkway that will be accessible by mid-May - the Valley of the Five Lakes and Wabasso Lake - as well as Jasper townsite-area trails such as the Old Fort Point loop, the Pyramid Bench network, and trails along the lower Athabasca valley such as the Overlander Trail, and trail 7 along the river itself.

The best thing you can do is to check the trail report online, and to visit one of the Parks Canada trail offices (Banff, Lake Louise, Columbia Icefields, and Jasper) to get information on current conditions, wildlife sightings or trail closures, and possible avalanche conditions.

Australia
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2. Re: Hiking Banff in May

Once here I would look at Kanaskis as well. Its about 40 minutes East of Banff. Again though as said above anything above valley bottom or shaded by trees will be an issue. We are having a great ski season which means a bad (shorter) hiking season.

Banff, Canada
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3. Re: Hiking Banff in May

Don't be scared! There's lots to see and do here in May - it's a beautiful time of year to visit, to make short hikes and to enjoy sightseeing by car. It's the best time of year to see bears! Truthfully, it doesn't sound like you have much time to hike - sightseeing takes time and you've got less than 4 days.

However, it's still not hiking season in the National Park(s) at that time of year. Know that there are some great short walks to keep you busy and see some great scenery, but you won't be hiking at Lake Louise or Moraine Lake - those trails are snowbound in May. It May be possible to enjoy a few short walks on the Icefields Parkway - in particular Mistaya Canon is a great stop in spring.

Here's a few suggestions for short hikes which are wonderful at this time of year:

1. Walk up Tunnel Mountain right in the heart of Banff. It's one of the best views in town. Take 2 hours or more if you want to pack a picnic and enjoy.

2. Johnson Lake. One of the many stops on the Lake Minnewanka Road, Johnson Lake is gorgeous in May and more importantly, won't be frozen and covered in ice. It only takes an hour and a half to walk around the lake and is very worthwhile.

3. Johnston Canyon - located a 30 minute drive from Banff. It's the perfect way to spend a half day. The walk itself will take about 2 hours of your time. If you want to hike further, pack a picnic and your pack and walk to the Ink Pots. 4 hours round trip.

FYI - Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are still frozen - we ski here until the 3rd week of May!!

Chicago,IL
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4. Re: Hiking Banff in May

Thanks for the advice! I'm packing my skiing stuff in case I won't be able to do much hiking :)

Chicago,IL
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5. Re: Hiking Banff in May

One more question. Since Lake Louise is still frozen, does it mean I won't be able to hike there at all? I was hoping to see that area somehow. Cross-country skiing, maybe?

Chicago,IL
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6. Re: Hiking Banff in May

One more question. Since Lake Louise is still frozen, does it mean I won't be able to hike there at all? I was hoping to see that area somehow. Cross-country skiing, maybe?

Banff, Canada
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for Banff, Banff National Park
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7. Re: Hiking Banff in May

The road to the lake will be open, and it's likely that people will have been walking on at least part of the lakeshore trail, and will have packed it down. So you will definitely be able to see the area.

Banff, Canada
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8. Re: Hiking Banff in May

Do you own Ice Cleats? If so, this is the best thing you could bring. It's very possible that you will be able to walk up to Mirror Lake in Lake Louise with the help of your hiking poles and ice cleats. You will definitely be able to walk the shoreline and/or the Fairview Lookout (with Ice Cleats).

9. Re: Hiking Banff in May

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