Rocky Mountain Honeymoon
February 28, 2010 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Time to plan a Rocky Mountain honeymoon - help me find an out-of-the-way national park, with some affordable long-term accommodations for July 2011.

My fiance and I are getting hitched in July 2011 and we've started to think about honeymoons. We like the idea of a trip to a US or Canadian national park in the Rocky Mountains mostly because we think big mountains are beautiful, but also so we can get some fresh air in a climate with a comfortable temperature at that point in the year. Here's what we're looking for in a park:

* Small or small-feeling - we're not entirely against somewhere like Yosemite, we'd just rather not feel surrounded by tourists. Additionally, we're looking for the kind of place where we can do more unorganized activities without having to get led by a tour guide everywhere.

* Activities - she likes to take photos, I like to hike and walk. Anywhere where there's a nice variety of trails we can take, with plenty of opportunities along the way to stop and snap pictures of flora and fauna is a big plus.

* Food - I'd love to be able to hit a variety of affordable, homey restaurants throughout the vacation. It would be nice to find somewhere not too far away from a walkable small town.

* Lodging - we're on a little bit of a budget, and we'd rather not unpack a million times, so we're thinking about condos or extended stay hotels where we can stay for a week or two and perhaps have enough kitchen space to fix our own breakfasts or prep a picnic if the fancy strikes us. Gimmicky honeymoon stuff - strawberries and champagne or crazy-shaped hot tubs - are not at all necessary.

Thanks for everybody's thoughts!
posted by l33tpolicywonk to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Revelstoke, B.C.

It's significantly less touristy than Banff, but you're close. You're also close to Yoho, which is also a bit less touristy than Banff.

But go to Banff and Jasper. Seriously, it's so beautiful, it hurts to look at at, which is why it attracts tourists.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:16 AM on February 28, 2010

Best answer: I'm biased, but Jasper is the best of the Rockies parks if you ask me.. the main town is friendly and pretty relaxed compared to somewhere like Banff. Plenty of nice hikes, rafting, canoeing, etc, but watch out for bears! Although it's huge in scale I think it has some of that 'small' feel you're after-- there's a really laid-back feeling to Jasper, maybe because it's just so far north and Banff soaks up the bulk of the turists. You can fly into Calgary and take the stunning drive up the Icefields Parkway.

I've never stayed in them myself but I've had dinner at the Tekarra Lodges and they might be what you're looking for.

If that's too far north, Kings Canyon is really beautiful too and a bit more off the beaten track.
posted by Erasmouse at 11:25 AM on February 28, 2010

Jasper Jasper Jasper. Not nearly as touristy as Banff or Yellowstone or Yosemite, and gorgeous, gorgeous scenery. Be sure to drive the Icefields Parkway.

For a dark-horse candidate, you could also consider Olympia National Park in Washington.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:32 AM on February 28, 2010

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park has less visitors than Banff, but is probably not as spectacular ... depends what you want.
posted by lukemeister at 11:33 AM on February 28, 2010

There are too many good ones to list. But why limit yourself to national parks? BLM (Burea of Land Management) has several camp grounds all over the western US in very out of the way places as does the Army Corp of Engineers. There are also lots of good state parks. Some of the more obscure that I like are Bandoleer (SP?) National Monument (new mexico_, Wupatki Ruins National Monument, Painted Desert/petrified forest (Arizona) (ok, some of these are not Rocky Mountains but they ain't far). Also Wyoming has lots and lots like Papagie sinks near lander (actually anything near lander is pretty cool). I think I would pick too or three small towns somewhere in the west and use google earth to pick nearby attractions-a good list would be

Las Alamos, New Mexico
Lander, Wyoming
Kanab, Utah
Vernal, Utah

All are out of the mainstream list of big tourist attractions but have lots of really cool stuff nearby. All also have a lot of motels and such for support if you don't want to rough it. Cheapest of course would be to get used camping equipment somewhere and car camp at all of the nearby camp grounds or if you know how to do it right just out in the public lands somewhere nearby. You will see far more of what the land is like living in it.
posted by bartonlong at 11:35 AM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing Jasper. I lived there for four years and never came close to getting bored. The drive from Calgary on Highway 93 is unbelievable.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:43 PM on February 28, 2010

Best answer: "... We like the idea of a trip to a US or Canadian national park in the Rocky Mountains mostly because we think big mountains are beautiful, but also so we can get some fresh air in a climate with a comfortable temperature at that point in the year. ..."

While I understand your feeling that big mountains are beautiful, I'd like to argue the point that Eastern mountain ranges, such as the Adirondacks, and the Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, have mountains about the same size as those of the Rockies, it's just that when you look up altitudes and peak heights, a lot of people forget that the Rockies are already sitting on top of the 5000+ foot high central continental plateau that runs from western Mexico, up into Canada. I make this point because, if you really want to get out and do some hiking, and aren't acclimated to altitude in the Rockies, the thin air can kick your tail, regardless of season, and you'd be surprised how cold it gets, at altitude, even in the middle of summer, once the sun goes down. Most folks get past the feeling of being easily but constantly out of breath in a few days, but if you have any allergies or asthma, or catch a summer cold, you'll be huffing and puffing a lot harder than you think, and enjoying yourself a lot less. And a few folks in every 100, regardless of health or age, just don't really acclimate that well in the few days time of a short trip. And finally, at altitude, you need to use a ton of sunblock, and keep your sunglasses on your nose constantly, because of increased UV.

So, if you're planning a honeymoon, where you're trying to create some life long positive memories among pretty mountains you can get out and enjoy, in a short window of time, you might want to hedge your bets a bit, and plan your trip to mountains that don't sit on a mile high plain. Or, not.

I think the Rockies are beautiful, too.
posted by paulsc at 1:07 PM on February 28, 2010

Definitely check out some of the ski resorts that are open for the summer. My wife and I stayed at the Grand Targhee Resort (Alta, WY, on the other side of the mountain range from Jackson Hole) in September, 2005. It's very close to Jackson Hole, WY and Yellowstone Park, but has very few of the massive amounts of tourists you'll find elsewhere in July.
posted by camworld at 1:09 PM on February 28, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everybody for their thoughts so far. Jasper looks seriously beautiful and definitely the right direction.

paulsc: Thanks for the good points. I admit I may not be as serious a hiker as I imply, and it might be a good idea to stick to low altitudes no matter where we go. I'd be curious if you (or anyone else) have good recommendations for parks and lodging in the eastern ranges, particularly in the Adirondacks.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:24 PM on February 28, 2010

Glacier is stunning and wasn't that crowded in the summer that I went.
posted by salvia at 1:28 PM on February 28, 2010

Glacier plug: and if you head up the North Fork Rd you can go in a back way and see some extra beautiful spots.

I lived in Columbia Falls for a while. Loved it.

Though outside of Glacier I wouldn't say there's some nice small towns to walk through, etc... Whitefish is nice, but ....
posted by zombieApoc at 1:54 PM on February 28, 2010

"... I'd be curious if you (or anyone else) have good recommendations for parks and lodging in the eastern ranges, particularly in the Adirondacks."
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:24 PM on February 28

Personally, I'm kind of partial to Mount Marcy, the highest point in NY State, and to the difficult to reach, small, mythical source of the Hudson River, Lake Tear of the Clouds on the flank of Mount Marcy. Like most of the high Adirondack lakes, Lake Tear of the Clouds has been acidified by acid rain, and contains no fish, or other major aquatic life, so its waters are clear and usually, ice cold. There is a trail around the lake, for ambitious hikers, and it is the highest lake (well, really, small pond) in NY.

The nearby town of Keene, NY has a number of year round lodging possibilities, in every price range, as well as a good selection of restaurants, grocery stores, and related tourist shopping opportunities. I had a pretty good time one summer, at British Soldiers Camps, about 30 miles northwest of Mount Marcy, at Saranac Lake, NY (and check that Web site for an explanation of what "British Soldiers" really are - not at all what you think!).
posted by paulsc at 2:03 PM on February 28, 2010

Best answer: If you're liking Jasper, I fully recommend the Patricia Lake Bungalows. It's up a moosey road from the townsite, at the edge of a wonderful lake, and you can have a fireplace and a little kitchen, and a living room, and a deck, and your bed will have a fierce mountain creature carved into the headboard. It is private and quiet, and not really on the usual tourist radar. The grounds are friendly and homey, with a shared barbecue area and hot tub, and there are canoe rentals, and I think you can go horseback riding as well. There's no restaurant on the premises, but further up the road is Pyramid Lake, a big hotel with fine dining, which a casual hiker could walk up for.

You'll want at least one brunch at the Lodge, but a great in-town breakfast is served at the silly-named Soft Rock Cafe, plus they do frothy coffee and internet access. There are many, many good restaurants in the area. I like Andy's Bistro, but you will find a reservation is necessary.

If you take a trip through to Banff for the day, and you should, go eat at the Grizzly House fondue restaurant and then check out Cave and Basin. If rare snail conservation excites you, be advised they have one! The Banff hot springs are famous, and the very root of the Canadian mountain parks system. There are also excellent springs just east of Jasper at Miette. Just outside the park on Highway 16 is the Overlander, which has an excellent dining room, and an extensive multi-level deck and patio with resident hummingbirds and a view of the mountains.

There are a million beautiful things to hike to and look at in Jasper. I hope you have a wonderful time!
posted by Sallyfur at 4:17 PM on February 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are several Canadian national parks in the Rockies - Mt. Revelstoke, Glacier (not the same as the Glacier NP that is part of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park), Yoho and Kootenay are in BC and Jasper and Banff are in Alberta. Jasper and Banff are, by far, the most visited of these, so would be busy and likely more expensive than those in BC.

If you're not totally attached to the idea of the Rocky Mountains, you might want to check out Gros Morne National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Newfoundland - lower visitation and a much more out-of-the-way and unique place to visit; those who have been there rave about it.
posted by urbanlenny at 7:42 AM on March 1, 2010

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