Have you noticed the huge crowds at national parks in the US and Canada? Have you noticed the absurd number of tour buses? We have. We purposely planned our trip back through Canada from Alaska to arrive at Jasper and Banff after Labor Day, thinking the crowds would be smaller and we could better enjoy the parks.
Was that the case? NOPE! As we arrived at Jasper we had no problem finding a parking place in town and had some hope that the crowds would be smaller. But when we went to Maligne Canyon we realized that were completely wrong. Crowds! Crowds! Crowds! Owen felt much like the Grinch and his yelling of “Noise, noise, noise…”.
But that was not the worst of it. We then headed out to Athabasca Falls, hoping to beat the crowds by arriving at 8:00am. When we parked there were very few cars in the parking lot an only 3 buses and 1 tour van. But by the time we made it to the first vista the tour buses started arriving… and kept arriving. To the point that it was impossible to really enjoy this beautiful spot. The crowds became unmanageable in a hurry and to make it worse those 100 folks dropped off by each tour bus were literally running to each vista, snapping a selfie and then running to the next spot, many times making us worry about being knocked down steps or over benches. By the time we called Uncle and returned to our van there were more than a dozen big tour buses parked in the parking area with another 8-10 lined up on the road to get in and dump their tourists into the crowds.
Our experience has been similar at many US National Parks as well, but Banff and Jasper in Canada have to be the worst for this fly in, take a tour bus to a national park kind of issue. Will it ever get better? We doubt it. Money talks and each of those 100s of tour buses pays money and taxes for the privilege to shuttle these millions of tourists to these pristine spots. But, we sure wish it was different some how. Maybe limits on the number of buses? Maybe limits on the number of bus tourists? Our experiences have taught us that money talks and nothing will be done other than maybe expanding the width of roads and creating additional parking for buses. That’s a shame really because we are not sure these natural wonders can live on with so many visitors coming. Granted we were one of those visitors and are just as guilty of wearing away at the trails as any of the tour bus tourists. And many will say the buses are better for the environment with less vehicles on the road. That may be true if every one of those that flew in to see these wonders still came… but they would not because that convenience of being shuttled to and from these places is the big draw.
So are we whining? A little. Sorry. We just couldn’t help visualizing the Grinch shaking his head at all these buses and yelling “CROWDS, CROWDS, CROWDS!”. We have always preferred the off the beaten path, less popular spots to enjoy nature and after our experience in Jasper and Banff we’ve decided that state parks and remote areas fit our lifestyle better than the stress of these over-crowded places. We’ll still go to those… but you can bet at least one of us will complain about it.
If you want to see for yourself watch the video: