HIKING IN THE MAGNIFICENT CANADIAN ROCKIES

- 2002 - 

JULY 23-26
TOWN OF WATERTON, AB
(elevation 1,279 m asl)

We stayed at: Aspen Village Inn
* Lodging in Waterton
*B&B in Waterton

Description

Waterton Lakes National Park was to be our first destination.
After leaving Calgary via the #2 highway we decided to take a detour along the much more scenic highway #22 via highway #533 out of Nanton. Nanton has a very interesting little aviation museum: "NANTON LANCASTER SOCIETY AIR MUSEUM" .

Waterton Lakes National Park adjoins National Glacier National Park (USA) to the south and together they form Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

For thousands of years this was primarily the territory of the Aboriginal tribes of the Kootnai and Blackfoot. Thomas Blakiston was the first European on record to explore the area back in 1858 and he named the lakes for Charles Waterton, an XVIII century English naturalist.

CARRY ON

Trails we Hiked While in Waterton

July 23-26
  • TIME: 7 hrs total.
  • DISTANCE: 20.1 Km (unable to do the loop - the trail closed on the return section after the lookout).
  • ELEVATION: +760 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,410 m.
NOTES:
At the time of our visit the section of the trail from the Carthew lakes to the village of Waterton was closed due to wash-out sections ( (we hiked 16.6 km. return; our time was 6 hrs total).
We started from Cameron lake at 7:30 a.m. and were back at 2:30 p.m.
The part of the trail from Cameron Lake (trailhead) to Carthew summit is the most scenic. The view from the ridge and the peak is quite spectacular spanning to the Montana peaks and lakes to the south and the colourful rock formation around you.
Before getting to the ridge a grizzly bear had come down from the barren scree slope, across the narrow trail and down into the meadow below just a few minutes before we reached the spot. We could still see him grazing about the creek; the party of four just ahead of us had just experienced a very close encounter.
We returned via the same way back to Cameron lake. The temperature was a very hot 30 degrees Centigrade. We were told that two weeks prior, Summit Lake, a lake on the way along the trail, was still frozen and that the area had received half a meter of snow!

Almost everywhere we hiked in this park we encountered the tall and large white blooms of beargrass (also "bear grass" - Xerophyllum tenax).
Sometimes the flowers covered very large areas along the slopes and its faint sweet perfume was quite exhilarating.

We were very lucky to witness this profusion of blooms because normally most of these plants flower every 3-10 years.
  • TIME: 3-4 hrs one way.
  • DISTANCE: 8.7 km one way.
  • ELEVATION: +700 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 1,980 m.
NOTES:
This is a rather unique hiking experience. First we have to take a 20 minutes boat ride to reach the trailhead (there are 2 departures from the Waterton marina one at 9:00 a.m. and one at 10:00 a.m.; the 2 return trips are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.) After hiking for 8.1 km. we must climb a 2 m. metal ladder, go through a natural 25 meter long tunnel in the rock (we can see the light at the other side and we must crouch somewhat sideways and use our hands to enable us to move forward) than we gingerly step down (long step down) on an exposed precipice and with the help of a steel cable carefully reach "terra ferma" again...

This is a popular trail; there were about 50 passengers on the 9 o' clock boat. Once we reached the trailhead the crowd thinned out along the trail according to the various hiking ability. When we eventually reached the tunnel there was a bottle neck because the more energetic ones were already beginning to come back while the slower one were still going up and both the tunnel and the cabled section of the trail can only accommodate a one way activity at a time. We reached the lake at about 1 p.m. and after lunch we started our return at about 2 p.m. and arrived at the pick up dock at 4:35 p.m.

The temperature was 30 d. C. nevertheless we saw chunks of ice floating in Crypt lake.

CRYPT LAKE TRAIL
  • TIME: 2-3 hrs to Upper Rowe lake.
  • DISTANCE: 6.4 km to Upper Row lake.
  • ELEVATION: +580 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,195 m.
NOTES:
This trail starts just before Cameron Lake. We started at 8 a.m. and were back by 1:30 p.m.
At 5.2 km., at the Rowe Meadow area there is the option to take the junction up to Lineham ridge (Tamarack trail) which offers magnificent views (Rowe Meadow elevation 2,010 m.; ridge summit elevation 2,560 m.; this section of the trail gains 500 meters elevation along the 3.4 km trail to the ridge).

This was another 30 d. C. day and after having gone up to see Upper Rowe lake we decided that the strenuous hike to Lineham ridge was best left for a future visit.

On the way down we stopped to have lunch at a pleasant spot on Lower Rowe Lake.

JULY 27-30
TOWN OF FIELD, BC
(elevation 1,243 m asl)
We stayed at: Coyote's Den B&B
* A Travel Guide to Field
* Field's Accommodation Guide
* Map of Park

Description

In Waterton it had rained the previous night and now the temperatures were finally moderating.

We drove to Field via the Crowsnest Pass and via Golden where you will find a large grocery store to stock up; there are none??? in Field and one convenience store in Lake Louise but prices are quite high.

The village of Field, in Yoho National Park , dates from 1884 when the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway reached this point. It was named after Cyrus W. Field, promoter of the Trans-Atlantic cable, who visited the area. The present site was surveyed in 1904 after the north side of the village was destroyed by an avalanche off Mt. Burgess.

Yoho Park was named as such by Deville and it means "wonder, astonishment" in Cree Indian.

CARRY ON

Trails we Hiked While in Field (1)

July 27-30
  • TIME: 8-9 round trip.
  • DISTANCE: 20.4 km loop.
  • ELEVATION: +700 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,195 m.
NOTES:
We hiked the Iceline trail to the junction with the Celeste lake connector. On our way back we proceeded to Yoho Lake and followed the trail around it to get back to our point of departure; the total distance was 14.7 km. (5 hrs.) From the Iceline trail we had an excellent view across the Yoho valley of Daly glacier and Takakkaw Falls (named by Van Horne, suggested to him by Deville, using the Cree Indian word for "it is wonderful"; total fall of 380 m.; free-fall 254 m.)
  • TIME: 1 hr. round trip.
  • DISTANCE: 3.1 km. round trip.
  • ELEVATION: +125 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 1,856 m.
NOTES:
This morning in Field the sky was overcast and it was raining on and off so we drove to Lake Louise where the sky was only partially cloudy.

Because the trail to Fairview Mt. was restricted due to bear activity we decided to do the short hike to the Fairview lookout (clockwise; you get a very beautiful views of Lake Louise) and continue up to Lake Agnes afterwards.
  • TIME: 3.5-4 hrs return.
  • DISTANCE: 9.3 km return.
  • ELEVATION: +403 m (to the teahouse).
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,210 m (Little Beehive).
NOTES:
After having done the Fairview Lookout trail we decided to go up to Lake Agnes and the teahouse.

At Mirror Lake we took the left trail which is a shorter but steeper way up to the lake (the horses go by the right trail).
On our way down we followed this last trail (hence making a clockwise loop) but at the junction with the Little Beehive trail we decided to go to Little Beehive.
At this point we had come down 60 m. in elevation and now we had to go back up 125 m. to reach the top of Little Beehive. It would have been better to take the trail west of the teahouse and backtrack (eastwards) towards Little Beehive without having to loose the 60 m.

On Little Beehive we met new friends: Amelia from Vancouver and her companion Daniel from New Zeland; together we walked down to Lake Louise.
  • TIME: 2.5 hrs to Twin Falls.
  • DISTANCE: 8.3 km to Twin Falls.
  • ELEVATION: +290 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 1,616 m.
NOTES:
Today, July 30th, in Field the temperature reached a maximum of 10 degrees Centigrade.
Easy trail mostly along the Yoho river valley and from where you have access to many water falls including the three major ones in the park: Takakkaw Falls , Laughing Falls , Twin Falls (180 m). At the time of our visit the left flow of the Twin Falls was almost dry (sometimes the channel gets obstructed by debris.) Soon after we had started on the trail it began to rain for a while, but eventually it stopped. It started to drizzle again on our return a couple of kilometres before the end of the hike.

JULY 31 - AUGUST 4
TOWN OF JASPER, AB
(elevation 1,000 m. asl)
We stayed at: 2 Of the Many Guesthouses
* JASPER B&B
* Jasper National Park

Description

Fresh snow fell overnight on the high peaks around Field. It was a cool morning, but very nice, with low clouds slowly, very slowly, drifting along the valley and the flanks of the mountains. It was a dream-like scenario.

On the way to Jasper we stopped at the Columbia Icefields during a lengthy and nasty snow squall; the temperature in the parking lot at the Icefield Centre (elevation 1,984 m.) was zero degrees Centigrade and blowing snow! We couldn't see much of anything and driving was very slow. As we got closer to Jasper the clouds started to clear somewhat and the visibility improved considerably. At the Jasper Park Information Centre the trail report had lots of bear activity warnings including some with cubs.

The morning of August the 1st was very cold (3 d. C. below zero) and we could see an abundance of fresh snow on the surrounding peaks, so we decided to go to Miette Hot Spring (at 54 degrees Centigrade they are the hottest in the Canadian Rockies) for a well deserved R&R (they have three pools: one at 41 d. C., one at 39 d. C, and the last one stood at 13 d. C. because this one was filled with the Miette creek water). The air temperature was 10 degrees Centigrade so it felt great soaking in the 41 deg. C. All 3 pools are in the open.
Some great views along highway #16 to Miette.

On our way back to Jasper we went to Pyramid Lake and walked the short but pleasant nature walk trail; unfortunately the beautiful reddish Pyramid Mountain (2,762 m.) was shrouded in clouds (it was to remain mostly hidden for the 5 days we were in Jasper).

The day after, August the 2nd, was still cold and cloudy and we noticed that the snow had fallen much lower on the surrounding mountains than the previous night. We decided to go up to Edith Cavell anyway; we encountered a snow squall on our way up and the temperature in the parking lot below the glacier was 5 d. C. and it was still snowing.

The short walk (1.6 km. loop; 30 m. elevation gain; 45 min. to 1 hr) to the glacier was grand, especially with the falling snow slowly accumulating on the flowers and rocks; we found the whole experience quite spectacular.
In the 1840's the glacier reached the parking lot itself.

CARRY ON

Trails we Hiked While in Jasper

July 31 - August 4
  • TIME: 2 hrs loop.
  • DISTANCE: 8.3 km loop.
  • ELEVATION: +60 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 1,095 m.
NOTES:
On our way back from visiting snowy Edith Cavell, the weather had cleared up in the Athabasca valley so we went to hike the Valley of the Five Lakes Trail. This is a pleasant easy trail that skirts 5 small, attractive, green jade coloured lakes.
  • TIME: 2.5 hrs to lookout.
  • DISTANCE: 8.4 km to lookout.
  • ELEVATION: +490 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,165 m.
NOTES:
This morning, August the 3rd, we drove to beautiful Maligne Lake. The view was even more spectacular with the fresh snow covered mountain peaks reflecting in the blueish-green water of the lake. We decided to take the boat tour first which will take us to "Spirit Island", a spot just past the midpoint of the length of the lake in an area called the "Hall of the Gods"; it is truly a spectacular view, but of course you have to share the short 15 minutes spent ashore with the rest of the tourists; hardly enough time to suck it all in.

The trail to Bald Hills Lookout follows a rather monotonous fire road, but at 3.2 km there is a junction that will take you up to the lookout via a shorter and much steeper trail with fine views over Maligne lake and the Queen Elizabeth mountain ranges. Although the trail was clear, we encountered snow patches on tree branches and in shaded grassy spots.
The temperature at the lookout was 4 d. C. and at the lake level it was 9 d. C.
On our way down (short snow pellet squall) we took the fire road all the way.
  • TIME: 3-4 hrs return.
  • DISTANCE: 8 km. return.
  • ELEVATION: +400 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,043 m.
NOTES:
In the early morning the clouds were still lingering low on the peaks around Jasper, therefore we went for an easy 1 hour (3 km loop) walk around Lac Beauvert just a few minutes drive from the town. Afterwards we started hiking the Old Fort trail (3 km total) which allows a splendid view over the town of Jasper, the meandering of the vast Athabasca river bed and a good view of Mt. Edith Cavell (3,363 m.) which, to our delight, appeared to be clearing from the clouds. We made a quick descent to our car and drove up to Mt. Edith Cavell; it had been our intention, since we got here, to hike up to the meadows; we were leaving for Lake Louise the next morning; this was our last chance.

We arrived at the parking lot just before 1 p.m. and it was fairly busy with cars and people. With the sun shining, the pond in front of Cavell glacier appeared in all its glorious green with many more ice "calves" than a couple of days before floating about. Angel glacier was also basking in the hot sun causing a good flow of water gushing out at its base.
The view from the moraine, on the way to the meadows, was magnificent. The meadows were full of white and pink heather, indian paint brushes and many other flowers. We were ecstatic to have had the opportunity to see the area twice, in a short period of time, and in so a contrasting scenarios.
  • TIME: 45 minutes to lookout.
  • DISTANCE: 2.4 km to lookout.
  • ELEVATION: +275 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,271 m.
NOTES:
On August 5th we left Jasper, where the temperature was a cool 4 d. C., in the early hours of the morning with the intention of hiking Parker Ridge situated just south of the Icefield Information Centre, on our way back to Field.

This is a short but very rewarding hike. Once on top of the ridge we followed the trail to the left for about 500 meters where we had a commanding panoramic view of the Saskatchewan Glacier and the valley.
Halfway up the trail we encountered snow on the ground, but the trail was clear.

AUGUST 5-7
TOWN OF FIELD, BC
(elevation 1,243 m asl)
We stayed at: Coyote's Den B&B
* A Travel Guide to Field
* Field's Accommodation Guide
* Map of Park

Description

After leaving Jasper and the hike at Parker Ridge (see description further down) on August the 5th we came back at the Coyete's Den in Field because it was our intention to get a day pass to Lake O'Hara. The office to book the bus trip is situated in Field and they open at 8 a.m. (for Lake O'Hara passes).

There are two bus service going up to Lake O'Hara one at 8:30 and one at 10:30; similarly there are two runs coming back in the afternoon, one at 4:30 and one at 7:30. We booked for the 8:30 bus and we were able to catch the returning 4:30 bus. You must book in person but you are allowed to reserved an extra ticket (if your partner likes to sleep in and maybe bring you coffee later on). You book for next day trip.

I was the first in line and that was 4:55 a.m. (and that's because a train was going by Field right at the moment I approached the tracks and it took 8 minutes to transit by); at 5:40 two other peoples showed up each reserving 2 tickets, therefore the next day day-use pass quota was all gone well before 6 a.m. and 2 hours before the office opens.
[The above description is based on the 2002 experience]

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CARRY ON

Trails we hiked While in Field (2)

August 5-7
  • TIME: 2.5 hrs return.
  • DISTANCE: 25 km return.
  • ELEVATION: -30 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 1,120 m.
NOTES:
After having successfully booked 2 passes for the next day it started to rain heavily and steadily. We therefore drove to Golden to do some shopping. On our way back to Field the clouds started to lift and by noon the rain had stopped and we could see the blue sky again. By now we were in the vicinity of Wapta Falls (th

This is an easy nature hike and the view of the falls as seen from the river floor is very nice.
  • TIME: 5-6 hrs for the loop.
  • DISTANCE: 10.4 km loop.
  • ELEVATION: +313 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,325 m.
NOTES:
This morning, August 7th, the sky was partially cloudy and cool but pleasant. The bus ride takes about 20 minutes an by 9 a.m. we were on our way to Lake Oesa (named by S. E. S. Allen using the Stoney Indian word for "ice" since the lake is frozen most of the time). This whole area is quite fascinating to say the least.

We encounter three small lakes on the way to Lake Oesa, all remarkable in their own way. Lake Oesa itself is very beautifully set in a barren cirque overshadowed by 3 thousand plus meter peaks.

From Lake Oesa there is a trail that connects with Yukness Ledge trail, but we couldn't locate it so we decided to return to Lake O'Hara and hike up to Opabin Lake from there (named by S. E. S. Allen using the Stoney Indian word for "rocky"). On our way down, fortunately just below the falls near Lake Victoria, we met Claude from Victoria BC, who helped us find the proper route. We had to go back up above the falls and just a few meters further along he pointed out a boulder with the two yellow II; "follow that mark" he advised us, and after exchanging a few words he left his companion behind and disappeared along that same trail.

His companion told us that today Claude was just hiking leisurely in preparation for tomorrow's hike up the Wiwaxy Gap and the Huber Ledges.

We had to look hard for the next sign (after the first one, the II appeared painted still in yellow but on a dark blue square background) before proceeding along over huge boulders, because a couple of times we found ourself at a dead end. While on the ledge, which at times is quite exposed and in a couple of spots a bit precarious, we were hit by snow pellets and sleet, but looking down to Lake O'Hara and across the basin we could see the high peaks basking in the sun.

Before we could connect with the trail that goes to Opabin Lake we had to once more high-step over and down huge boulders.

The whole Opabin plateau is quite spectacular.
On our way down from Opabin Lake we met new friends, Nancy and Jim, from Minneapolis with whom we hiked the High Trail down to Lake O'Hara.

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SPECIAL NOTE

Along the trail to Lake Oesa we noticed a plaque honouring Lawrence Grassi for his contribution to the design and building of the many trails around Lake O'Hara and other places in the Canadian rockies.

Lawrence Grassi was born in 1890 in the town of Falmenta, in the province of Verbania, near LagoMaggiore, Italy. Lawrence emigrated to Canada in 1912 working first with Canadian Pacific Railway than as a miner for Canmore Mines.
He climbed solo many peaks in the Rockies and worked as an unofficial guides to many other mountaineers. Eventually he became an assistant warden at Lake O'Hara.

There is a school, a lake and a mountain named in his honour. Lawrence died in 1980. (This information was provided by the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies in Banff ).

*** My page on Lawrence Grassi (in italian)

AUGUST 8-12
LAKE LOUISE VILLAGE , AB
(1,536 m asl)
We stayed at: Mountaineer Lodge

CARRY ON

Trails we hiked While in Lake Louise

August 8-12
  • TIME: 2.5 hrs one way.
  • DISTANCE: 6.7 km to viewpoint.
  • ELEVATION: 670 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,410 m.
NOTES:
The weather had changed yet again from cold to a warm trend. This was a fairly warm day in Lake Louise where the temperature reached 20 d. C.The trail to the Plain of the Six Glaciers is a very popular trail; when we started at 10:30 a. m. it wasn't too bad but on our returned it became quite busy; people still going up in the early afternoon.

The second half of the trail is exposed to the high midday sun.
The close-up view of the glaciers is quite imposing; after the teahouse the last 300 meters of the trail follows a rather narrow ridge along the crest of the old moraine; some care is required.
  • TIME: 4-5 hrs loop.
  • DISTANCE: 11 km loop.
  • ELEVATION: 400 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,600 m.
NOTES:
Reservations are strongly recommended for the bus that leaves from either Banff and Sunshine Village parking lot; the day we tried the phone lines were down so we drove up to the village and we were in the parking lot by 7:30. When the tour organizers finally arrived, there was some confusion as who got there first, in fact it didn't seem to matter.

In any case by the time everything got sorted out we arrived at the top at ten past ten. The best part of the hiking loop was the section called Garden Path for the abundance of flowers in bloom everywhere.
  • TIME: 1-2 hrs to lake.
  • DISTANCE: 4 km to lake .
  • ELEVATION: 150 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 1,801 m.
NOTES:
It had rained overnight and this morning the fog was still lingering low in the valley, but as time went by the sunshine broke through.
We found Chephren trail to be very wet and muddy.

The lake setting, with mountain peaks in the 3 thousand meters range as a backdrop, is quite spectacular.

At the beginning if the trail there was a bear warning sign. As we were starting the hike we met Bob and Julie from Baltimore and decided to walk together, and so we made new friends.
  • TIME: 1-2 hrs to falls.
  • DISTANCE: 4.3 km to falls.
  • ELEVATION: 150 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,100 m.
NOTES:
Because the hike to Chephren Lake only took 3.5 hours, instead of going to the nearby Cirque Lake due to the muddy trail, we decided together with Bob and Julie to hike instead up to the Bow Glacier Falls.

After walking along Bow lake and the outwash bed of the Bow river, we reached a narrow gorge where a huge boulder, mentioned by Walter Wilcox back in 1895, still straddles the canyon walls.
Awsome view of the glacier and falls.
  • TIME: 1.5-2 hrs to lake.
  • DISTANCE: 5.1 km to lake.
  • ELEVATION: 185 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 1,895 m.
NOTES:
The easy and monotonous trail brings you to a very interesting setting and astonishingly clear body of greenish hue water.

The temperature at the lake was a surprising 4 d. C.; it was 15 d. C. at the parking lot.

Afterwards we drove to the Paint Pots nature walk just west of Boom Lake.
  • TIME: 2.5-3 hrs to lake (+ .5 hr to top of ridge).
  • DISTANCE:6 km. to lake + .9 km to ridge.
  • ELEVATION: 575 m. (700 m total to top of ridge).
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,375 m at the lake (2,500 m top of ridge).
NOTES:
This trail had been closed on and off due to bear activity. Luckily today, 2 days before going home, the trail was open again (with bear warning) and it was a gloriously sunny and clear day.

This is indeed a beautiful hike with great view across Crowfoot Mountain, Bow Lake and Bow Peak.
The walk through the meadow was grand with many flowers still in full bloom. At the lake, while we were having lunch we observed the aerobatics of an osprey (with two distinctive dark patches on the underwing) diving a couple of times into the frigid water of the lake.

After lunch we decided to hike the steep trail up to the ridge (.9 km; elevation gain 125 m.; .5 hrs to reach the top, not to be missed!); the trail continues to Dolomite pass and yonder, but the view at the top of the ridge was just fantastic and we stopped here.

Far in the distance, in a southerly direction, we could recognize the majesty and aloofness of what I believe to be the unmistakable pyramid shape of Assiniboine peak (I asked at the Information Centre in Lake Louise if that could have been the case, and they concurred).

On our way down from the ridge we encountered a few people who had seen a grizzly with a cub at close range crossing the trail. Some of them, somewhat concerned, turned back even before reaching Lake Helen.

Before starting up the trail I gave thanks to the spirit of the Great Bear for having given us the opportunity to visit this beautiful area; we were guests, really.

Bibliography
  1. The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide; Brian Patton and Bart Robinson, Summerthought Publication, Banff, Canada - Second edition, 1978
  2. Plants of the Rocky Mountains; L. Kershaw, A. Mac Kinnon, J. Pojar, Lone Pine Pub. Canada & USA - 1998
  3. Tour Book; AAA & CAA, AAA Pub. - 2001
  4. Maps by Gem Trek Publishing; Cochrane, Alberta, Canada
  5. Classic Hikes in the Canadian Rockies; Graeme Pole, Altitude Publishing Canada Ltd. , Vancouver - 1999
  6. The Wonder of Yoho; Don Beers, Rocky Mountain Books, Calgary - 1994
Page originally created October - 2002
New graphic April 2020
Giorgio Zanetti