Tell me where to go!
June 16, 2014 9:21 AM   Subscribe

I want to go take pictures of mountains in Alberta, but so far, no luck. Snowflakes inside.

I live in Edmonton and have long desired to go take pictures of mountains. Unfortunately, I am not one of those blessed souls who knows how to camp (nor do I own any equipment for such). I'm looking for a specific location (provincial or federal park) to go that will offer good photographic opportunities without requiring me to pitch a tent.


- No more than a 3.5 hour drive from Edmonton. Ideally closer, but I understand no one is moving the Rockies for me.

- Must have easy day trails as I would like to bring an older family member who has never seen the mountains and who cannot manage extended hikes, or steep grades. Two or three hours of walking, maximum. More if there is an opportunity for rest and food, maybe, but there will be a 3.5 hour drive home so it's probably not wise to overextend the driver.

- Not too crowded with people. I understand that we all enjoy our parks in summer, but it will detract from the big rocks if there are three hundred people standing in front of them.

- I would like to be able to drive to a B&B or similar, sleep overnight, and get up in the morning - take pictures - drive home.

- Actually, I'd really like to rent a cabin in the mountains for a weekend, but I can't swing $300/night.

I'm looking for specific suggestions, like "Definitely go to Rock Lake", or "Do not approach Waterton under any circumstances."

posted by Nyx to Travel & Transportation around Alberta (4 answers total)
From Edmonton, your best bet as a non-camper would be to go all the way to Jasper (4 hrs 8 min, as per Google). It's a town with lots of services (restaurants, hotels, and presumably B&Bs). There are a number of easy hikes in the vicinity of the town.

If you're willing to stay a couple of nights, Mount Edith Cavell is a 40 minute drive south from Jasper (again, as per Google). It's kind of an unbeatable spot: glacier/icefall cascading down from a sheer mountain face into a small lake, and the walk in is short.
posted by irrelephant at 10:59 AM on June 16, 2014

3.5 hours is pretty much the edge of the real mountains from Edmonton (either towards Jasper, via Rocky Mountain House, or to Canmore). You are going to end up driving longer than 3.5 hours once you get to your trailhead no matter what you do. Waterton is way more than 3.5 hours.

There will be lots of people in the national parks, especially from now until September. If you are willing to hike more than an hour though, you can easily get away from the worst of the crowds.

In Jasper, you can find B&Bs, but they are not cheap. There are also quite a few hotels, etc. in the parks. For a cheaper option, there are also HI hostels along the Icefields Parkway and in Lake Louise and Canmore. It is more crowded along Highway 1 (Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise) than on the Icefields Parkway or on Highway 16.

I would recommend heading to Saskatchewan Crossing, staying at one of the hostels along the parkway and returning via Jasper (note that this is about 10 hours of total driving). There is also a hotel at Saskatchewan Crossing.

Pick up a trail guide or a map to select an appropriate trail. Note that depending on your definition of steep grades, you may be limited to some of the very easy, flat trails as the less easy trails are often steep. You can ask for details at a visitor's centre.

There are many, many beautiful mountain scenes to be found in the Rockies, so don't worry about picking the best - just get out there.
posted by ssg at 11:24 AM on June 16, 2014

One of my favourite spots in the rockies near Edmonton is the Miette Hot Springs. Bring your camera and your bathing suit! The hot water is great particularly after a long drive.
posted by Poldo at 11:56 PM on June 16, 2014

You're a long way to do the mountains as a day trip, especially because I always find that high altitude fresh air walking around can tire you out easily. So I think the best bet is to do an overnight stay.

Jasper is the obvious choice; it's close and right in the park. If you look during the shoulder season (Labour Day to Thanksgiving), you might be able to find something in your price range, if you get lucky.

If not, the two cheaper options are coming down to Canmore, which is right at the edge of the mountains and has some decent restaurants, etc. or going to Hinton, which is something like an hour away and had little to recommend it, but is clearly the cheapest option.

In terms of specific recommendations, Banff always has more tourists than Jasper, and midweek is quieter than weekend. Both parks have excellent information stations, with staff who will be able to give you detailed recommendations. But seriously, anywhere in the Rockies is great. Just go; they're one of the world's greatest treasures.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:52 PM on June 17, 2014

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