Summer 2018 - Great Canada Road Trip
Updated: Sep 9, 2018
Our 9 day road trip through the Canadian Rockies
The plan for this trip was to explore Jasper National Park, Banff National Park and Glacier National Park. I've spent the last year or so building up my Xterra for a particular trip like this. And since they are relatively close to me, I decided the time was right. I had slotted 10 days for this trip. Since this was uncharted territory I wanted to make sure I had spots to stay each night while in Canada so I pre-booked those nights.
Day 1 - August 25th 2018
Axel and I departed Kirkland at 7:52am. We had half a tank of gas to get us going and then gassed up in Bellingham. We took back roads to the Sumas boarder crossing in which we waited in a 45 second line. The boarder patrol agent was nice and we chatted for a minute and then I was into Canada at 10:24am. We hopped on Canada route 1 in the cloudy / Smokey / rainy air. Once we got to Hope, we turned onto Canada route 5 and climbed an awesome mountain pass. The road got steeper and the rain was heavier. Max visibility was only a mile or so. At 1:45pm we made it to Kamloops to gas up. We continued on Route 5 towards clearwater and turned off into Wells Grey Provincial Park. There were plenty of stops once we got into the park. Prior to being in the park I did very little research and thus was blown away around every turn. It is incredible how deep and dense the forest is out here. The clouds were low, in the trees and everything had a slight wetness to it. This whole area was formed but ancient volcanos. We took a walk down by a river and I noticed that all the rocks were lava rock. Spahat Falls was incredible. We reached our campsite at 6:30pm and took a nice walk. Shepherds pie dinner was quite tasty. We didn’t get to see the sun today and it was rainy for the better part of the day. 389 total miles.
Day 2 - August 26th 2018
We got up at 6:30am to the pouring rain. Fell back asleep till about 7am and the rain died down some so I took advantage of the opportunity. Axel and I took a nice walk to Clearwater Lake and then took off from camp at 8:30am. Made it to Clearwater by 9:55am and gassed up. Driving through the Canadian rockies was definitely a sight to see. We stayed in the clouds and hard cold rain through-out the morning. We made it to Valemount by 12:30pm to gas up. This was our last stop till Japser which was only 60 or so miles out. As we climbed up the mountains the terrain changed from smallish hills to giant roaming peaks bursting out from the clouds. We found a nice off the road spot to stretch our legs before entering Jasper. Finally made it to the park and our first stop was Margiline lake. The drive up to the lake was amazing. It was raining hard and our visibility was limited. When we got to the lake it was cold and you could see a dusting of snow on the upper peaks. At around 6pm we decided to head down to the downtown Jasper area to stop by a liquor store to pick up some alcohol - whisky and a beer = essentials for a cold rainy campsite. Made it to campsite at 7:30pm. Tried to make a fire with wet wood and semi failed. Pad Thai for dinner. It was indeed a cold damp night in the tent. Plenty of cloths and blankets kept us warm throughout the night. I believe it dropped down to 37 degrees.
August 27 2018
We must have passed over into a new time zone as we slept in till 7:30am. It was cold! On and off rainy night. Went for a nice walk to Athabasca River with axel. Slowly packed up the campsite and headed out at 9am to Sulfer Skyline trail. The drive was absolutely awesome. The clouds slowly started to reside. We reached the trailhead around 11am and it was a ladder all the way to the top! I was something like 8km RT and 700m elevation gain. That didn’t stop axel and myself from pushing hard. We huffed and puffed to the top in 1 hour and 15 minutes. While we were hiking the sun started poking through the clouds. Once we got to the top, the views were like nothing else. Giant snow covered mountain peaks, vast glaciers off in the distance, endless forests of green. The cool mountain breeze made it all so surreal. We soaked it in and decided to head down and made it back to the car in 45 minutes. Made it back to town after dipping my feet in a very shallow lake which was fun. Got some meat n cheese and headed back to Maligne Lake to see the difference without any clouds. Epic backdrops with vast mountain ranges off in the distance. On our way down I decided to stop on the side of the road and hike down to Medicine Lake. Very cold water but felt good to dip our feet in. Back at the campsite at 6:30pm. Fire was a must. The wood was still pretty wet from the day. I think I got a little sun as I was hot for the first time and we patiently relaxed for it to cool down so I can layer up. No rain tonight which meant more misquotes. Tomorrow – the epic Icefields Parkway…..
August 28, 2018
Today was a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. A drive amongst giants. Up at 7:15am. Hard rain throughout the night. Nice long walk and out at 8:47am. Gassed up in Japser and hit the road. Our first stops were Athabasca falls and Sunwapta falls. Both massively powerful waterfalls cutting through the narrow canyons. We kept driving south to the the heart of Icefields Parkway, the icefields center and Columbia Glacier. We suited up and walked the toe of the glacier trail. Axel was the talk of the trail as we passed everyone. It was so very cold and windy but jaw dropping to be in the presence of an ancient glacier. Made a quick stop at the large building at the top for a sweatshirt and then it was off towards Parker Ridge. We hiked up the switch backs and made it above tree line in no time. From there we jetted right where there weren't people and made our way for a higher peak. After a little bit I looked down to see that every rock we were hiking over had some sorta of fossil embedded in it! This gave us a very good vantage point of Saskatchewan glacier. Tired legs and wind burned faces after this hike. We trekked on to Saskatchewan river crossing and was quickly geting tired. I needed to find a place to pull over and make some coffee and stretch our legs. I left the park for a few miles and found a tiny little dirt road cutting into the thick trees. I circled back, pulled towards it and read the tiny sign saying, Public Land. Trekked through the trees to a nice secluded spot by the river. Perfect to make some coffee and relax for an hour or so. Onto Lake Louise and into Banff National Park! We stopped at Bow Pass to hike and see Peyto lake. Made it to camp at 7:30pm. Today was a day where it was hard not to stop around every bend and sit in awe by the beauty of the 1000 ft cliffs jetting out from the forests below.
August 29, 2018
Up at 7:20am. Took a quick walk with axel and out of campsite at 8:45. 9am fuel up and was off towards Lake Louise area. Moraine Lake was already filled up and closed so we went up to the parking lot of Lake Louise. After a quick look around to find the trailhead axel and I suited up for the Saddleman Trail. This was deemed very steep hike. We carried on at our usual pace, passing everyone we saw. Axel got to meet a friend, golden retriever named Dakota. Once we made it to tree-line we were following a lady who was at our same pace – awesome! At the saddle there was a sign for Fairview Peak. We were up for a challenge. We followed the lady up. Very steep / rocky switchbacks to an insane view. Then once we got to the top the lady noted, "This is the only place in Lake Louise where you'll find just two people and a dog." Exactly what we were looking for! We trekked it down to the parking lot and enjoyed the sunshine kicking back in the car. The hike was a 7.5 km RT and 595m elevation gain. I was hungry after this hike and asked the park ranger wheres the best burger and beer in town. He recommended Bill Peytos Cafe. I went and enjoyed my first cooked meal of the trip. Elk burger and a beer was quite tasty. Coffee and a brownie and a short little drive to kill time. I wasnt ready to head to the campsite quite yet so we tired for Moraine Lake as it started to rain. We then took and empty trail to Consolation Lakes and it was amazing. So eerie how calm it was out there. Beautiful landscapes. Back to campsite at 7:15. Tired dogs 😉
August 30th, 2018
Didn’t sleep to well this night. Was hot and uncomfortable from a day of sweating and no shower. And then it rained, hard. Which brought snow to the higher peaks. Packed up camp wet and stopped by the little café in Lake Louise for a coffee and a sausage roll. I had asked the lady on-top of Fairview Mountain for a recommendation for a similar hike outside of Banff. She recommended Cory Pass to Edith Pass trail. A modest 9 mile / 3100ft elevation loop. Ate my breakfast on the way to the trail head. It was hard to get started as I was still sore the hike before but the views were great. Axel and I rocked 9 miles in just under 4 hours. I took advantage of the little sunlight and dried everything out from the tent at the trailhead. Drove to Banff and checked into our hotel. Did some bath tub laundry and a nice hot long shower was in order. We chilled for a little bit on the bed and waited for my reservation at Chucks Steakhouse in the downtown Banff area. I left a little early and walked the town and picked up a nice warm flannel, some fudge and beer biscuits for axel. The dinner was better than excellent. Wedge salad, steak tartar and a 22oz wagyu ribeye. Oh man it was sooooo good. And I got to talking with the older couple next to me and they gave me their leftovers. Good whisky and steak put me to sleep when we got back to the hotel. Although it was slightly weird sleeping in a hotel bed after all the nights in the tent.
August 31, 2018
Up at 6:45am. Another night where I didn't sleep to well. Out the door at 8am and headed toward Calgary. Its amazing coming out of the giant peaks to nothing but flat farm land. It was a good contrast, from being surrounded by giants to being able to see for miles and miles. Needed some coffee as still was half asleep. Took back roads and crossed the boarder at 12:45pm. We made it to Glacier National Park at 1:30pm. Only to find out that the Going-To-The-Sun road was closed after Logan Pass. We still trekked in and was amazed by the scenery. From what I saw, I have only scratched the surface of what Glacier has to offer and will be back for more in no time. I had investigated dispersed camping but didn’t know where to go. The park ranger told me that national forest land was just down below glacier, where I needed to go anyways. So back on the road. Found a nice forest road in Lewis and Clark National Forest and went deep. We found a nice secluded camp spot away from the wind. It was super windy all afternoon. I would be mistaken if I told you I wasn’t slightly precautious of bears. There was a hike close by but after a few hundred yards through thick brush I decided to turn back and hike on the forest roads instead. Lots of miles under our belt today and you could tell both of us were tired from the last few days of hiking. Gonna sleep good tonight.
September 1, 2018
Slept in till 7:48am. Slept goooood. Nice cool and cloudy morning. We were visited by a curious doe during the night. Does are good, bears arnt! Outta camp by 9:20am and we eagerly hit the road. We decided to head towards home and get as far as we could before one more camp. We cut through the back side towns of Montana which was cool to see. Through LoLo National Forest and we saw a nice spot to take a dip in the Clark Fork River. Turns out axel does not like to swim! But will jump in the water to get wet. Was nice to cool down. We made it to i90 and followed to sun west. Jetted all the way to Wenatchee National Forest and found camp in the dark. We stretched our legs for a bit in the dark and waited for the distance glow of the sun to go away and for the stars to really come out. A perfect way to end the road trip under the clear night sky with the milky-way over our resting heads. Fell asleep to some coyotes yipping in the distance.