To start our day four off right we enjoyed one of the best hotel breakfasts I've ever had (which really is saying something) at the Lake Louise Inn! It was $1.00 extra per person at check-in and it was worth it, a complete spread from hash browns to multiple types of breakfast meats, sweet-pieces, fruit, on and on along with the most adorable mini Nutella's you've ever seen. We were also able to purchase our tickets for the Lake Louise Gondola at check-out which made it super convenient. There is transportation from the hotel to the gondola however we opted to drive ourselves (something about being on your own time which is just nice.)
At the gondola you have to watch a short informational video letting you know how Parks Canada and other groups work together to make sure that not only you as the visitor but the wildlife are as little impacted as possible, and then your off on your way. There are multiple large electric fences around Banff National Park to detour curious little bears and other wildlife from coming in contact with humans, you see one of these fences on your ride on the gondola, but once your past the fence it isn't uncommon to see one of those fuzzy creatures munching on huckleberries and other foliage down below. However, though we never saw a black or grizzly bear on our trip, the views from the gondola were wonderful and the informational center was sensational. If you have kids or want some hands on learning yourself, the informational center is the place to go. There is a well knowledged staff and lots of specimens for hands on teaching, as well as a nice restaurant and multiple trail heads.
One thing I saw when researching Banff National Park is that I MUST take the Icefield Parkway, a 3+ hour drive between Banff and Jasper National Park. According to National Geographic, it's the drive of a lifetime, and if your out to see some wildlife this is the way to do it. Like I mentioned earlier, we didn't see any bears on our trip, however, during our drive on the Parkway we saw Mountain Goats, Big Horn Sheep, Elk, and a few other small little creatures. The Parkway is also the way to a lot of other popular attractions.
Once we got to Jasper, we instantly fell in love with the town. It was quaint, the Canadian Pacific is in the heart and center of this town and its far less tourist driven but local. Though the tourist shops are still on the main strip, my mom went into a wonderful little flower shop, had some wonderful coffee, checked out a farmers market and got to have Monte Cristos (both our favorite sandwich and if you've never had one SHAME!) at a local Canadian chain.
To say the least, we stayed in Jasper a little longer then planned so we drove back in the dark, but we had a booked night back at Johnston Canyon, and if we had known we would love Jasper so much we would have stayed there the night. However we got to our little bungalow exhausted and happy and well adventured out for the day. Though this seems like a short day, there wouldn't have been enough time if I made every stop I wished to make on the Icefields Parkway as if was filled with glorious views of the Rockies, multiple lakes, wildlife and other spectacular views. Take a day and go drive this stretch, its well beyond worth the pricier gas prices.
hings learned: Plan a minimum of one day and one night at Jasper. Absolutely plan a trip (even a couple hours) on the Canadian Pacific railway. Look into and book hotels/bungalows or town houses before you go and plan your trip accordingly.