Backpacking allows travelers to commune one on one with nature in a way that hiking doesn't. Whereas hiking usually includes one day of trekking or maybe several, backpacking usually indicates a journey that's several days or more. National parks are great for these kinds of trips, especially for beginners, due to their well-traveled trails and notoriety with locals and visitors.
Banff and Jasper National Parks make for great backpacking journeys and give way to unbelievable sights in Canada's Alberta territory. There's no shortage of scenic views and the trails take hikers past rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and even up and down mountain summits. These are only the aesthetic reasons why Banff and Jasper are great for backpackers, though - there are so many more, according to Reddit.
Why Banff And Jasper Are So Good For Backpacking
Both of these national parks are expansive, covering distances that even some American national parks would find themselves swallowed up by. There are more than ten potential routes that hikers can take through the parks which include various hiking trails that wind their way through each park. Backpackers have the option to stay at campsites throughout the park, all of which are clearly marked on trail maps or stopping off in either the town of Jasper or Banff for the night before moving on.
While the hikes are necessarily easy, the reassurance of knowing that both of these parks are well-traveled and that towns exist just outside of them is helpful to new backpackers. With that being said, backpackers should still be prepared to deal with wildlife, potential weather patterns, and varying terrains and elevations. Overall, Banff and Jasper are both safe for backpackers and, according to Reddit, they're great for any number of overnight hiking trips.
Be Aware Of Wildlife, But Don't Fear It
One of the biggest questions asked on Reddit regarding backpacking - especially solo - through Banff or Jasper is whether or not wildlife is a concern. Both parks are home to grizzly and black bears, which both have very different temperaments and should be treated as such. Reddit recommends carrying bear spray regardless of how long the hike or how remote because one can never be too cautious. Additionally, elk are occasionally seen on the trails and can be unpredictable if they're surprised. However, even with that being said, both parks offer incredible insight into the wildlife living in each, making it a favorite among hikers who respect the habitat.
- Reddit Recommends: Bringing bear spray, and making noise whenever hikers are turning a corner that's full of underbrush or could be hidden by trees. Hikers should also ensure that all campsites are bear-proofed, meaning no food left out, and carry bear bangers if that's an option.
- Elk Problems: Give elk a wide berth.
- Bear Problems: Take care not to startle bears. Black bears are more afraid of humans and will usually run off, while grizzlies can be aggressive. Both species can be aggressive if they're with cubs.
Hikers Are Rarely Alone
The great thing about hiking in parks that see hundreds of thousands of visitors each year is that backpackers will never truly be by themselves. Unless a hiker plans to take on the backcountry (which does require permits), the trails are usually pretty well-treaded. While this could be seen as a con to backpacking through Banff and Jasper, for most people, it's a relief to not be completely alone in the Alberta wilderness. The quietest time in the park will be at night when the day hikers have left for the day, and all that remains are those camping within the park.
If backpackers aren't camping in the parks, then they'll be leaving at dusk with the day hikers - therefore still near other people without feeling like they've been completely cut off.
- Reddit Recommends: Both parks are remote and cell service is spotty; while hikers aren't necessarily alone on the trails, there will be periods where they're isolated, and should always let someone know where they're planning to be (with the itinerary, if possible) before heading out.
Where To Stay When Backpacking Banff And/Or Jasper
Backpacking can involved either camping on the trail or stopping off or the night at lodging accommodations such as a hostel or a bed and breakfast. The consensus is that Jasper National Park offers more privacy and is slightly less crowded than Banff, and, as an added perk, its accommodations are also slightly more affordable.
For those who plan to camp, either park will do just fine, but Reddit suggests trying 'car camping' in order to jump on a campsite as soon as another party leaves.
- Reddit Recommends: Consider booking a hotel for the night in Canmore and taking the (ten-minute) bus to Banff. Calgary is also affordable and about an hour outside of both. Lastly, for those hiking in Jasper, Marmot Lodge and the Mount Robinson Inn are budget-friendly; the town of Hinton is another option for those hiking in Jasper.