The Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park is at the top of many hikers’ lists – so much so, that when reservations for the season open up at the end of January, you’d best hope you’re online when it opens to secure a campsite for your choice of dates.
What is Lake O’Hara? The Lake O’Hara Region, located in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, is not a place to be treated lightly or spontaneously. It’s protected from the hoards of tourists by an extremely limited bus and campground reservation system, but it’ll be hard to go back to the crowds of Lake Louise after experiencing this serene solitude just 45 minutes further west.
Many of Banff’s most serious hikers will tell you to avoid the Lake Agnes Teahouse hike at Lake Louise due to the crowds. The four hour round trip is appealing to families and those with less endurance, though the first two hours are definitely a fairly solid uphill. The truth is, some of the prettiest views in the world (not all) you will likely never see alone. The Lake Agnes trail has gorgeous views of the azure waters of Lake Louise as you ascend, along with a waterfall that cascades from Lake Agnes down the mountain below. And while there are multitudes of people at Lake Agnes, lined up out the door for tea and biscuits, and while the lake does not have the same distinct blue as Lake Louise, the water’s clarity made for a pretty mountain picture.
On our descent from Crypt Lake on Waterton’s infamous Crypt Lake hike, a fellow hiker told us, “If you haven’t taken the path to the left to see the top of the waterfall, you gotta do it. I’m not sure what I was expecting with viewing the top of a waterfall, but it wasn’t this pristine, exceptionally colourful view of nature in its wildest form. You could hear the narrow falls beginning their roar from the creek’s edge, but other than that noise it was a peaceful haven away from the hoards of hikers, and a gentle respite prior to scrambling along a mountain ledge once again.
In the book/film Wild, Cheryl Strayed details how her mother always used to say that there was a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you simply had to be present for it, to “put yourself in the way of beauty.” We were enjoying beers at our campsite just outside the National Park gates. In the mountains, steaming hot days mean frigid nights, so every few minutes called for another layer of clothing. My eyes drifted from the powerful draw of the fire pit’s flames as I got up for another beer. To the west, the most beautiful pink sky was skirting over the distant peaks. Knowing that time was limited, I left my opened beer in the truck box, grabbed my camera and tripod, and ran out of the campsite towards the highway for a better view. I only brought my wide focal length lens with me, which is a huge regret, but time was of the essence, and I still think I managed to capture that pink hue acting like a gradient over the mountain top, …
After a thousand metre elevation gain on the Bourgeau Lake trail, which consists of an upwards walk through dense forests before a wet and/or gravelly scramble, you reach Harvey Pass and the small Harvey Lake. If conditions permit, you can make the ascent to the top of Mount Bourgeau to unbelievable views. Or just go a bit further from Harvey Pass, and if you’re lucky and it’s autumn, get an incredible view of the larches in their full fall colours. By all accounts, there’s nothing particularly impressive about Harvey Lake, it is just another beautiful lake among many in the Canadian Rockies. But there was just something about the light that day, and the quietness of the trail (we were a group of eight but we only saw four others), and the stillness of that beautiful lake hidden amongst mountains that just really struck me. I didn’t make it to the summit due to the rain and wind, but I still saw this view, among others, that suited me just fine.
You forget sometimes when you spend your life travelling and planning future adventures that sometimes the best adventures are only a five hour car ride away. Though I don’t live as close to the mountains as I’d like, it was possible to drive to the Columbia Icefields from Edmonton, hike up Wilcox Pass to the top, hike back down, and drive back home in the span of one holiday Monday in August. For maximum driving endurance, snacks and good music were plentiful. This is the part of Canada that everyone talks about, that’s featured in travel books, that attracts tourists from all corners of the world to these amazing peaks, unbridled and untamed. With the exception of a herd of calm mountain goats and a curious chipmunk, we had the trail and the view to ourselves. When I was in the mountains earlier last summer for a bachelorette party, the bride admitted she grew tired of the claustrophobic site of mountains and longed for Alberta’s rolling fields. But that could never be true for me – “we …