Parks Canada is expecting the August long weekend to bring a large number of visitors to Banff National Park and is reminding those visitors to plan ahead.
“This weekend could be the busiest one of the season,” said Greg Danchuk, a visitor experience manager with Parks Canada.
Visitors are encouraged to get to the park early, either before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m, to avoid the lines at the park’s east entrance.
People heading to the park can also purchase the entry pass online to speed things up.
“Buy your entry permit in advance, Banff and Lake Louise Tourism sells them online,” Danchuk said. “Get them, you’ve got it, drive through the drive-thru lanes and you don’t have to worry about that line.”
Officials are also expecting popular tourist destinations like Johnston Canyon and Moraine Lake to be extremely busy.
Just last week, congestion and lack of parking forced the closure of Moraine Lake and Lake Louise. People were turned away by officials.
It’s recommended that visitors drive to the park and park their vehicles in the Banff townsite. People are also urged to use transit to get around to different destinations.
“On those long weekends is when cars become an issue, and that’s why we’d like people to use transit to get around,” said Woodrow Olford with Banff and Lake Louise Tourism. “It will take you to Lake Louise, it will take you to Johnston Canyon and a whole bunch of other places like Lake Minnewanka; so it’s quite robust.”
Parks staff as well as RCMP will also be out enforcing the rules of the road in an effort to increase safety for both pedestrians, other drivers and animals.
Danchuk said campers with reservations and people with rooms booked at the Chateau Lake Louise will be allowed to get through roadblocks in the event congestion forces another closure in the area.
With campsites in the area nearly all booked, campers are being asked to respect the area as well as the wildlife.
“That’s a definite concern, that wildlife are becoming more and more habituated to human presence, so education is really key,” said Grace Wark, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association. “We want to make sure that they do still have some tendency to stay away from humans, and in that way, we can prevent situations that are both dangerous for wildlife and for people.”
Meanwhile, in the town of Banff, the large crowds expected this weekend are welcomed by businesses along Banff Avenue.
Dale Sarna is a franchisee of two BeaverTails shops in Banff. He said his shops see a big spike in business over long weekends.
“It’s busy, lots of people lined up out the door,” Sarna said. “For us, we definitely love having it busy on the streets, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Ultimately, Parks Canada staff want visitors to be safe and act accordingly while taking in the picturesque scenery. But Danchuk said visitors should always have a backup plan.
“Always have a backup plan — it will be really helpful,” Danchuk said. “You’ve got something else to do when either it’s too busy at a certain location, or your parking isn’t available.
“Know your plan in advance and you’ll have a much better experience in this place.”