Western Canada: The Almost-Road to Jasper – Part One

Continued from Moraine Lake

Note:  Our trip to Canada was taken in May 2008

Peyto Lake in Banff National Park

Along the way from Banff National Park to Jasper, you pass short hikes to gorgeous rivers and lakes, as well as a gift store/deli/ice cream counter/cafe where you can reward yourself with that most precious of Canadian treasures — crystallized maple sugar candy.

But, if you’re planning an up-and-back trip to Jasper’s Columbia Icefields with stops along the way, best not to start your day at the Post Hotel in Lake Louise with a massage and brunch and then set out at 1:30.  You’re bound to run out of steam almost an hour shy of your destination.

But better yet, if you do want that relaxing morning/afternoon, but also want to eventually walk on a real live glacier, plan ahead of time and book some lodgings in Jasper for the night.

Our plan was to get to Athabasca at the Columbia Icefields and take the only-found-there glaciermobile tour.

Here’s what we did instead.

After 45 minutes of driving past deep river gorges, soaring snow-capped peaks, and grassy meadows, stopping to marvel at enormous crows and the early-summer-season phenomenon of snow slides that sound like the far-off rumble of thunder and look like fluffy waterfalls, it was time to take our first break.

Bow Lake, beside Num-ti-Jah Lodge

Adam relaxing outside Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

We decided  to stay awhile and enjoy said library, and take in the view from some outdoor Adirondack chairs.  Sadly, the front “yard” of the hotel is yet another parking lot, this one little more than a muddy swamp…so you’re not exactly immersed in the best of nature.

Better to walk 300 feet away and hang out by the lake itself, which is truly a wonder.

The hike up to Peyto Lake

Our next stop was 10 minutes on to Peyto Lake, which a ranger had suggested as a must-see. A short hike uphill through slowly melting snow led us to the lookout.  On sight, our breath caught in our throats.

Peyto Lake

Still half-frozen, it was an icy teal and every bit as stunning as Lake Louise — maybe even more so because of the vantage point from far above.  We laughed out loud, pretty darn delighted that we had this place all to ourselves.

On the hike back down, though, we passed about twenty people and a couple of dogs on their way up.

In Banff National Park, timing is everything.

Continued in The Almost Road to Jasper – Part Two


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