Banff, Jasper and the Icefields Parkway A motorcycle trip 2019
If you ride a motorcycle, you have a list of roads you want to ride & places you want to see. Going to Banff and the Ice Fields Parkway is on most peoples list. We are lucky enough to live out west, so it’s a motorcycle trip to Banff, Jasper it would be.
We’re about 900 miles from Banff. Since it was going to take a couple of days we planned a layover to break it up. The first day was pounding out some miles through the central Oregon & Washington heat. There’s not much to see or do, so we’ll just start at our two day stop in Coeur d’ Alene. ID.
Coeur d’ Alene worth a trip on it’s own
Coeur d’ Alene ID. is famous for it’s lake. It’s 25 miles long with 110 miles of shoreline, you won’t see it all. Whatever part you do see is beautiful. Once a logging and mining town, Cour d Alene has found it’s niche in tourism.
Visitor numbers are hard to come by, I think they’re afraid it will scare away even more visitors. It boasts a year round population of about 50,000 and growing. Everywhere you look there is new construction. We spoke to several locals who mostly lament the growth.
But hey, we’re here as tourists and we love the place, crowds and all. We know going on these trips to the hot spots, it’s going to be busy. Just go with the flow. Park and walk. There is a parking garage downtown and on a motorcycle, we always find a spot. The garage was full and we did, “Pirate park.”
Pirate parking involves finding a place where the bike will fit, but it’s not an actual parking space. Yes, you are taking a chance on a ticket, but we’ve never been bothered. Use common sense. Don’t park in a disabled zone, or in front of a fire hydrant…..you should get a ticket, or towed. But find a spot, sometimes in a corner or at the end of a row. This is wasted space where a car won’t fit, but a motorcycle…..like a glove.
More to do along the way of the motorcycle trip to Banff & Jasper
Rent bikes and ride the amazing waterfront trail. We’ve rented bicycles in different cities. Rental bikes can be crap, or sometimes really pretty nice.
We rode a few blocks from the bike shop to the parking garage. From there the trail is fairly obvious and you just head out along the lake. Except for one hill the path is flat and easy riding. You climb out on your way back. It’s worth a couple of hours, and maybe a picnic along the shore.
This was the highlight that we planned our Coeur d’ Alene layover around. Timberline Adventures offers several zipping packages. You can do a few, go at night or include lunch. We just went for the most lines you can do in one day.
The photo above is my feet hanging 1000′ above ground. The longest line was 1600′ long. The others were shorter, but 100% fun.
We’ve done enough ziplines, that we look for the best. Timberline Adventures is amongst the best in the west!
We travel by motorcycle for, adventure and food. Yes, the 2Vegans do like to eat and eat well.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express. There is a paved pathway leading down to a new shopping area. It’s oddly familiar like, the Old Mill in our home town. The main street is call, “Old Mill.”
Lots of shopping, Movie theater, restaurants a hotel or two, really nice area.
Rokko’s Teriyaki & BBQ, right next to Starbucks was our first dinner. I know you’ll be as excited as we were to see tofu on the menu 🙂
On to Radium Hot Springs
On this Banff motorcycle trip, the next layover will be Radium Hot Springs. The drive from Cour d’ Alene is only 245 miles. This trip was our vacation, so we weren’t trying to set any distance records. The highway is fairly plain. The border crossing at Eastport was a breeze. The Canadian border patrol guy was one of the nicest I’ve ever encountered. Although Canadian’s are always nice.
Radium Hot Springs is a pretty small town. IF you’re coming from the south and want to buy groceries, stop in Invermere. There is only one grocery store in Radium. It was adequate, but not a supermarket. We don’t have room with all our belongings on the bike, so we couldn’t shop ahead of time.
The small community of, “Canal Flats” is the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River. It’s really a lake there, so you can’t actually find the origin, but it’s a close as I’ve come.
Big Horn Meadow Resort
I plan these long trips almost a year in advance. You don’t always find what you expect once you arrive. I can say, Big Horn Meadow was fantastic. We had a one bedroom condo on the golf course ( we don’t play) and it was luxury for regular prices.
The Big Horn sheep winter here and locals told us they wander all over town. We didn’t see any. Radium Hot Springs is a town, but also a national park. I don’t want to knock any park, because everything in Canada is nice.
However, when we went to the actual hot springs it wasn’t what we expected. It’s very much like a public swimming pool and not really hot. We took some photos, but didn’t get in the water. Big Horn has a nice pool and two hot tubs, so we took advantage of those.
Motorcycling on to Banff & Jasper
The ride from Radium to Banff is only 85 miles, so it was a short day. It rained, but not a lot. Something to always keep in mind when you’re near the Rocky Mountains……it rains. It may not rain all day, but at these altitudes it rains.
We stayed in Canmore AB., which is a bit east of Banff. I thought I was saving money (Banff is expensive) but next time, we’d stay in Banff. The drive is 15 miles, speed limit is mostly 110 kph. Great highway, no issues, but most that you want to do and see is in, or beyond Banff.
Canmore is a nice town, not a lot to do. It does have good supermarkets and we found vegan food in at least one restaurant. It still wasn’t cheap. Since it was our big vacation I got a suite at Holiday Inn. The hotel was really old and pretty ran down. What they called a suite was nothing like I expected. We’ve stayed in at least 50 Holiday Inn/Expresses and this was a dog.
We never spent much time in the hotel, so it was OK…..but not $#@* a night OK. Lesson learned, I’m over it…..sort of. Banff is a town of about 15,000 with a visitor count up to 4 & 1/2 million, it’s crazy busy.
What to do – Where to eat
Cave & Basin
This in-town tour is very limited. Two tours a day with about 20 people each. Book way before you arrive for a chance to see the origin of Canada’s First National Park (Banff). We took the evening tour…..it’s a cave so why go in the evening 🙂 Well, when you’re planning 12 hour days like we do, you need to use every hour wisely.
Johnston Canyon is said to be the most popular hike in Canada. As always, we went early and we were almost alone on the 6 mile trail. By the time we were hiking 6 miles out, it was getting busy.
Later in the morning, it was packed. The parking lot was already full at 0730 if that tells you anything…..GO EARLY.
Lake Louise is an Internationally known top tourist attraction. You are lucky to see it. Generally you will be required to park on the highway, miles away and try to get on a bus. However, on a motorcycle, they waive you past the barricades and you are treated to, “Front Row” parking. Everyone else was turned back to go find a bus. And this was early in the morning.
Chateau Lake Louise
So maybe you’re rich and famous, or just really go all out on vacation. A room here starts around CDN$800/night. A room with a view of the lake is probably a bit more 🙂
Moraine Lake is close to Lake Louise. It is just as beautiful, some say even more so. They block the road about 10 miles from the lake when the parking lot is full. Which is always. You just can’t go there unless you leave at like 5 AM and go straight to Moraine.
UNLESS…..unless you’re on a motorcycle. Whenever I see a barricaded road with rangers guarding it, I ride up slowly. I’ve learned, they always open it up for motorcycles. They smile and waive you through. This is also true at every US National Park we’ve visited (23 so far.) There are no full parking lots for motorcycle riders.
In the case that there is not a ranger close by, I just ride around or through the barricades. That’s OK isn’t it?
Nourish Bistro – Best Restaurant in Banff AB
Go climb a mountain – Sulpher Mtn
Sure you could ride the tram up the mountain and walk down if you really felt the need to walk. Have you met my wife? We always hike up and ride down. Way down there, if you can see that far….that’s where we started.
People on the tram thought I was waiving to them. I was calling for help. Rescue me, call 911. I’ve been kidnapped by a crazed woman who thinks I’m a sherpa or billy goat.
I took this photo at the top of our hike. I see no resemblance, he was even smiling 🙂 I think he was laughing at me.
Karla accuses me of exaggerating. Whatever, so we made it in 2 hours 20 minutes. Which was a record setting time. Did she enjoy it, of course. Did it almost kill me, heck yes I was dying. But that breakfast at Nourish Bistro saved my life, seriously go eat there.
Banff National Park Headquarters
The gardens at the HQ are not to be missed. It’s free, it’s beautiful and right across the Bow River in town. From there you can walk to the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Another CDN $ 800/ a night dive 🙂
Motorcycle Trip to Banff – Walk the Bow River Trail
What we missed in Banff
There is so much to see & do on a motorcycle trip to Banff & Jasper. We just weren’t able to see it all. One thing that we missed, (besides sleep) but you may want to see is the hot springs. I believe they are called, “Upper Springs.” Located where you catch the tram, or start your hike up Sulpher mountain. There are free buses that take you from downtown up to the resort/tram. I would have loved to soak, but I was driven (by Karla) to keep on walking 🙂
We hiked over 50 miles on this trip, but Karla says, “WE could have done 100.” We went at it 12 hours a day, and even I’m not exaggerating on that one. We were out of our hotel by 7 and sometimes 6 AM, and didn’t return until sometimes after 8 in the evening. Life is short, Start Living…. I mean “walking” NOW!
Motorcycle on to the Icefields Parkway and Jasper
If you ride a motorcycle, you’re heard of the, “Icefields Parkway.” This is one of the top rated motorcycle roads in North America. Officially called, Hwy 1 up util it turns west, just north of Lake Louise and heads for Vancouver. At that point, you go straight and you’re on AB 93 all the way to Jasper.
Now, there is also Hwy 1A, also called the, “Bow Valley Parkway.” You really want to ride both of them if at all possible. 1A is a smaller two lane road parallel to the 1. 1A is how you get to Johnston Canyon and it comes back into Hwy 1 at the Lake Louise junction. We rode both, twice. I told you we put in 12 hours or more a day on vacation. Lots of animals on the 1A. Smaller, less traffic and gorgeous.
Is there Ice on the Icefields Parkway?
If you don’t believe in GLOBAL WARMING/CLIMATE CHANGE, you can continue to bury your head in the sand. We will still have lots of sand………BUT THE ICE IS MELTING. This 800 foot thick glacier will be totally gone by 2050. OK, back to the fun stuff.
The distance from Banff to Jasper is 180 miles. Atabasca Glacier is 115 miles, so a little more than half way. It’s a popular attraction. If you want to get tickets for the ice bus, you’d be wise to book in advance. We couldn’t know when we’d arrive, so we took a chance on, “stand by” seating. We had to wait a few hours, but we made it. They let you out for 30 minutes to walk around and sip some, “ice water.” But even in August, it’s pretty cold. Take a jacket and a camera! The skywalk is a separate bus, from the same lodge.
I wasn’t sure about walking out in space, but Karla 2.0, said oh hell yeah, we’re going!! She wanted to bungee jump, but they said, “that’s crazy.” 🙂
Back on the motorcycle to jasper
We pulled into Jasper just in time for dinner, you know before midnight. We stumbled onto what we now know is the best place to eat. The Raven restaurant. Highly recommend, would never go to Jasper and miss this place.
Canadians are so cool
I was lucky to be born in Oregon, on the west coast all that. But I really wish I were Canadian. Those folks are just the nicest, warmest people in every way.
One fellow approached us on the street, looked at our bike with Oregon plates (VEGANS). He asked, “did you ride from Oregon.” When we said yes, he exclaimed, “You must be Superman!” I looked at Lois………
Another guy we were talking to, suddenly stopped and looked at me. He said, “You have Frank Sinatra eyes.” Man, do I love Canadians 🙂
Last hike, Trail of 5 Lakes
I was being a bit of a curmudgeon when I looked at the trail map and said, “we have time to take the short route.” That meant we would only go to lakes # 1-3.” Finally, I outsmarted her. Then I proceeded to get lost. We found ourselves at lake #5……then 4, 3, 2 and finally 1. Yep, trail of FIVE lakes. I am available for hire as a tour guide, no guarantees.
The story of the, “Red Chairs”
Scattered across Canada’s National Parks are 102 red chairs. Said to be in the most beautiful places with gorgeous views. I’m a semi-incompetent tour planner/vacation guide. I wanted to find red chairs. We had already hiked 50 miles in some of Canada’s prettiest places, and not one to be found.
On the last hike, of the last day……….I spy with my little eye……RED CHAIRS !!!!
Now the hard part – Getting back into the States
As the motorcycle trip to Banff, Jasper comes to an end. Finally, after all the border crossings I’ve done….A US agent with a sense of humor. I don’t show his face because I’m sure CBP would not like it.
He did all the requisite security checks, all the questions. A very through job I thought. I just wanted to get going. Of course he saw our license plate says, “VEGANS.” And there is a huge sign on the back of our bike that says, “2Vegans2Wheels.” Just before he lets us go, he gets all serious and says. “You aren’t hiding any meat on there are you?” We all had a good laugh.