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An Amazing National Park



Banff and Jasper are often sold as a pair, but they aren't actually that similar.  Banff National Park has wildlife fences next to the road for every highway as far as I can see - Jasper has very little fencing (and way more animal deaths).  Banff is thick with tourists, Jasper less so.  Banff attractions have all sorts of parking problems - Jasper you can still just "drop in".  I was happy we did Banff first because it made Jasper really shine by comparison.

Black-Billed MagpieBlack-Billed Magpie In Tree
Every once in a while you can see a Magpie in Vancouver, but for the most part we have crows.  Once you get to the interior, the magpies take over.  They are smart and social and usually aren't that keen on people unless they have figured out that people = food.  We pulled over into a rest stop (bathroom break) and this Magpie was clearly a resident of the rest stop - he didn't go far and spent most of the time watching people.  I was happy I could get close because it is a beautiful bird.


Lunch At The End Of Parking Lot
The drive up the Icefield Parkway is of course amazing.  This is the less developed end of Banff National Park (there aren't a lot of places to buy a coke) and we had no problem finding a spot in the parking lots.  We sat in the parking lot taking in the view of Bow Lake.


 
North Crowfoot Mountain At Bow Lake

The drive north was amazing - any stretch of the highway is more amazing but we didn't have a plan to take good photos. 

 
Wishing Tea In Jasper
After we got the truck unpacked and camp set up, we drove into town to see what the options are.  The kids found a Bubble Tea place that would do well in Vancouver.  Very few towns can boast such a good cafe.  Over the next few days we had a few more dinners in Jasper - there aren't a lot of choices, but generally the restaurants are quite good.



Sixth Bridge, Flower Walk

Alpine flowers get all the glory - literally fields of flowers interrupted only by glaciers and a flawless blue sky.  In the real world, there aren't that many species that bloom in the alpine and sub alpine and after a while you start hoping to find something "exotic".  We asked at the Jasper info center where I could find a trail with valley bottom flowers and they suggested a trail near sixth bridge.

Front And Back Wood LilyYellow Lady Slipper OrchidSmall Round-leaved Orchid

I don't know that much about flowers, but I do have a soft spot for wild Orchids.  Considering how cold this part of the world gets in the winter, I was surprised to find out there was more than one species in bloom. 

Sparrows Egg Ladys Slipper OrchidWood Lily

In Banff and Jasper you need to be prepared to see a bear anywhere, but I wasn't expecting this guy.  I was back at the truck about to put the camera in vehicle when the bear walked around the garbage bin I parked in front of and continued across the parking lot.  I think we surprised each other - the bear tried to act casual, but he (or she) was certainly checking in as he walked away.  I was really happy to see a Grizzly in the wild and happier still that the truck was close by.

Bear Yawning While Crossing Parking LotBear Checking If He Is Being FollowedLooking Where To Go Next

We read online a few weeks later (August 8th) that a hiker shot a black bear (not this bear) at the other end of this trail.  This a national park - the hiker was charged with several counts.

Male Elk Eating
While driving back to the camp site, I spotted this Elk near the side of the road.  Elk are pretty common around Jasper, but one with antlers this large isn't.  It was worth the time to pull over and take out the camera.



Mount Edith Cavell


Start Of Edith Cavell Hike
I don't know how I have never visited this place before.  The road up is paved (but closed when covered in snow) and the parking lot was surprisingly empty.  You are clearly in the alpine when you arrive here - you can feel the thin air.  We wanted to go for a walk in the meadow.  The trail started out paved!

Pink Heather Growing Between Rocks

We got up to the where the trail forks for the meadow and were disappointed to find the trail closed.  Spring was cold and wet and the trail was still very wet.  With the trail so wet, lots of hiking boots would lead to erosion and trail widening so Parks Canada wisely kept the trail closed.  We decided to walk to the glacier viewpoint.

Nara With Fallen Ice Block
At the viewpoint you have a choice.  There are signs saying not to go down to the lake, but there is a well traveled trail with people coming and going.  We talked about risk and then headed down.

Edith Pano
 
  Three Humans For Scale
The risk is avalanches - snow regularly falls of the glaciers and could easily kill you.  The calm pond at the bottom can dramatically (as in faster than you can run) exceed it's banks if the glaciers above drop into it.  While there were lots of people near the lake, there were more going to the snow fields under the glaciers themselves.  That was too risky for us.

Miette Hot Springs

  Soaking At Miette Hot Spring
We visited Radium Hot Springs, Fairmont Hot Springs so I thought it would be fun to add Miette Hot Springs to the list.  Our camp site had showers, but there is something about a hot spring out in the wilderness that can't be beat.  There were warm pools, hot pools and cool pools.  Yes, there were crowds, but finding a nice place to sit wasn't too hard.

Ridge Overlooking Miette

Claira spotted a butterfly on the pool side cement.  We very carefully lifted it off the ground and it could actually fly just fine.  Perhaps 30 seconds later it was back at the same spot, probably sucking up salts.  It was fun to get so close to see the scales on the wings.

Swallowtail On CementScales On Butterfly Wing

After a good rest, we got back in the truck to go back to the camp site.  As is Jasper National Park, we saw a bunch of cars parked at the side of the road and people way too close to the wildlife.  I swear some people were trying to pet the sheep.

Bighorn Sheep On Rock Face
This appeared to be a female group - Mom's, babies and some juveniles.   There demonstrated their amazing ability to climb rock walls, but really they just wanted to go the river edge and eat.

Bighorn Sheep Eating Riverside

The young sheep are entertaining to watch. 

Molting Bighorn Sheep With FlowersYoung Bighorn Sheep Looking At MeYoung Bighorn Sheep With Mom Eating

 

Pyramid Lake

Another morning drive, Pyramid lake is on the "To do" list for many bus tours and I had never been there so I wanted to drive up an check it out.  When I got there (maybe 7am), I saw a family run into their SUV and race off.  I figured they were doing some sort of race or time limited scavenger hunt.  When I walked down the trail to the lake, I realized what their hurry was - the mosquitoes here were terrible!

Bridge To Pyramid IslandPyramid Mountain

  I wasn't going to get up early enough in the morning to really see "first light" so the pictures are a bit flat, but I can see how with good timing (and a lot of bug spray) this would be an amazing place to see the Northern Lights or a sunrise.

Athabasca Falls

One of my Pet Peeves is websites trying to install an overblown sense of urgency. The Athabasca Glacier Tours are like that, trying to warn you to book days in advance or "be disappointed".  A family of four at full price is quite an outlay of cash so we decided to try and get there first discounted ticket, after 3:30 pm.  No problem booking that the day before.  Our plan was to leave the campsite at a reasonable time - stop a few times for short walks and then hit our 3:30 time at the Glacier center.  Once we got going, the kids informed us we had to be in camp for the 7pm interpretive show.  Our first stop out of camp (22 minutes down the highway) was Athabasca Falls.


 
Athabasca Falls At Full Flow
This waterfall has been slowly eroding it's way though the rock here for probably thousands of years.  It's probably the second most "Must Visit" stop on the icefields parkway after the Athabasca Glacier.   I have visited at least two other times.  The trails are paved and wide but it's still worth a stop to see the waterfall and the old courses of the river.



Dry Side

There is a wide bridge to the other side of the river and a different viewpoint.  Depending on the wind - one viewpoint or the other is the wet one.

Wet Side

Stairs In An Old River Course

There are some trails down that show earlier courses of the river.  The erosion is fantastic.


Sunwapta Falls

24 km down the highway from Athabasca falls is Sunwapta Falls.  I've never stopped here before so given our schedule, I decided to stop in and check it out.  Also powerful falls, but you don't get nearly as close.  What is interesting though is that this parking lot is a gateway into all sorts of back country hiking. 



As we drove south on the Icefields Parksway I saw a dramatic waterfall where the water fell and was blown away before it ever reached the ground.  We pulled in and found a climber with his converted van.  Apparently this waterfall (Called Curtain Call) freezes over in the winter and makes an excellent climbing structure.  It can be climbed in the summer as well but the waterfall can make that quite challenging.

Athabasca Glacier

Skylights Mostly Mountains
This is one of those trips I remember from my childhood - when I was a kid we rode the buggies up onto the ice.  I remember the blue and the small piles of dirt on the ice.  The kids had no idea what I signed them up for, but they were excited when they saw where we were going.
 
Fresh On The Glacier
We had our hiking boots on so the ice wasn't too slippery, but you still had to watch your footings.  The kids were surprised at how cold it was on a giant ice cube.

Family On IceNara Filling WaterbottleClaira Mountain Explorer

Stream Running Over Ice
The Glacier is amazingly photogenic, but we didn't have a ton of time to really dig into the subject and we were roped into a small parking lot so no one was lost into a crevasse.

Rock Melting Into Ice

Our Return Ride
We tried to use every minute we had, but the bus has a schedule so we were off back down the mountain.  The guide did have some interesting stories.  There is a triangle of spruce trees high on the mountain side.  Apparently there are 800 year old trees growing in that grove - they are severely dwarfed by have only two months a year for a growing season.


The Icefields Parkway has added a new "Skywalk" that isn't optional - if you go to the glacier, you are going to the skywalk.  I'm not a big fan of forced bundling, but what can you do.    It's the first time the kids have been to one of these cantilevered glass deck walking things.

SkybridgePhotographing The Canyon 

Standing On Glass Walkway
The kids reminded us they wanted to see the program back at the campground so we got on the next bus back and even skipped the gift shop.  I did notice a new tour - "Icewalks".  Assuming my physical fitness is up to the challenge, I think this is how I want to explore the glacier next time I come through here.


Horse Back Riding at Jasper Riding Stables

Claira On Her White Horse
Back in the early planning phase of this trip, I asked Claira what she wanted to do on the trip.  It didn't take her long to find a horseback riding place.  We called and Saturday morning we booked a time.  These are tourist oriented stables - everything is provided, they don't even recommend boots.  They matched us up to horses and we were off!
 
Nara Being Led
 
We booked a one hour ride which included a nice view of the Athabasca River.  Our guide was quite nice, talking about living in Jasper and some local history.  There was a surprise coming though - I asked if we could stop and take a family photo together on our horses and the answer was no because they didn't know if people could get there horses moving once they stopped.  Compared to last year at Big Bar ranch where we were pretty independent (but still guided), this was a shock.  Jasper Stables caters to tourists at all levels so they can't assume that people actually know how to ride a horse.

View To Edith Lake

After the lookout, the trail went back into the forest so we could start on our way back the stables.  I saw some hikers on the trails - I have to imagine there is a better place to hike in Jasper Area than here.

Walking On BoardwalkWalking In Aspen Forest

We got back to base and Claira had a smile ear to ear.  Mission accomplished.

Maligne Canyon

Maligne Canyon makes most "what to do in Jasper" lists.  The kids didn't really want to go out for "yet another canyon", but I thought it was pretty spectacular.

Maligne Canyon Deep In RockHeart Shaped Rock In CanyonLooking Into Malign Canyon


Again for next time - apparently you can walk up the bottom of this canyon in the winter - the ice gets solid enough that it's somewhat safe.  Again - maybe another trip.

Life in Camp

We stayed four nights in camp and almost every day we saw elk walk though or around the camp site. 

Columbia Ground Squirrel On GuardThis Years Elk CalvesElk Near The Playground
 
 
Windy Night At Whistlers


Rain Coming To Wet Road

Bow Lake

On the way up to Jasper we stopped in the parking lot near Bow Lake.  I noticed there was a parking lot closer to the lodge (which is closed this year for renovations) so on the way down we stopped here to have lunch.  There was quite a nice lake front walk so we took a brief walk to stretch out.

Crawfoot Mountain Over Bow Lake

They highlight at a few places that valley bottom is actually in short supply and it's often the most productive place for wildlife.  Just walking around the grounds near the lodge, there was all sorts of discoveries.

Catching TadpolesSmall Bridge With The Lodge At Bow Lake

Western Toad Tadpoles In Shallow PondElephants Head LousewortWhite Bog Orchid

Big Lens Pushing Nara Around
While the lodge was closed to guests, there gift shop and restaurant was open.  I believe the lodge is being renovated, but they did have signs out talking about the Barn Swallows are at risk in the park (the short summers are hard) but an important form of pest control.  The Lodge tries to keep the nests up as much as possible as the birds do better if they can reuse old nests.  Nice.

Barn Swallows At The Lodge At Bow LakeBarn Swallow On Stonework

After lunch, we continued driving South out of the park to Yoho National Park and our next destination - Golden.


Looking Into Malign Canyon
Person: Claira, Helen, Nara
Altitude: 1131m (3710 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: bridge, canyon
Looking Where To Go Next
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Walking On Boardwalk
Stairs In An Old River Course
Altitude: 1176m (3858 feet)
Location: Go To...
Front And Back Wood Lily
Species: Lilium philadelphicum (Wood Lily)
Altitude: 1022m (3353 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: flower
Edith Pano
Altitude: 1762m (5780 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: glacier, panorama, Rocky Mountains
Small Round-leaved Orchid
Species: Galearis rotundifolia (Small Round-leaved Orchid)
Altitude: 1022m (3353 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: flower
Nara Filling Waterbottle
Altitude: 2085m (6840 feet)
Location: Go To...
Male Elk Eating
Species: Cervus elaphus (Elk, Wapiti)
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Start Of Edith Cavell Hike
Altitude: 1756m (5761 feet)
Location: Go To...
Three Humans For Scale
Altitude: 1755m (5757 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains, snow, waterfall
This Years Elk Calves
Species: Cervus elaphus (Elk, Wapiti)
Altitude: 1051m (3448 feet)
Location: Go To...
Photographing The Canyon
Altitude: 1910m (6266 feet)
Location: Go To...
Soaking At Miette Hot Spring
North Crowfoot Mountain At Bow Lake
Altitude: 1937m (6354 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: lake, Rocky Mountains
Walking In Aspen Forest
Bear Checking If He Is Being Followed
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Swallowtail On Cement
Yellow Lady Slipper Orchid
Species: Cypripedium parviflorum (Yellow Lady's Slipper)
Altitude: 1022m (3353 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: flower
Young Bighorn Sheep Looking At Me
Species: Ovis canadensis (Bighorn Sheep)
Altitude: 996m (3267 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Black-Billed Magpie
Species: Pica hudsonia (Black-billed Magpie)
Catching Tadpoles
Altitude: 1943m (6374 feet)
Location: Go To...
Big Lens Pushing Nara Around
Altitude: 1942m (6371 feet)
Location: Go To...
Lunch At The End Of Parking Lot
Altitude: 1953m (6407 feet)
Location: Go To...
Rain Coming To Wet Road
Altitude: 1447m (4747 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Stream Running Over Ice
Altitude: 2085m (6840 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Our Return Ride
Altitude: 2082m (6830 feet)
Location: Go To...
Wishing Tea In Jasper
Person: Claira, Nara
Altitude: 1071m (3513 feet)
Location: Go To...
Sunwapta Falls
Altitude: 1386m (4547 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Pyramid Mountain
Altitude: 1182m (3877 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Fresh On The Glacier
Altitude: 2079m (6820 feet)
Location: Go To...
Bighorn Sheep On Rock Face
Species: Ovis canadensis (Bighorn Sheep)
Altitude: 996m (3267 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Molting Bighorn Sheep With Flowers
Species: Ovis canadensis (Bighorn Sheep)
Altitude: 996m (3267 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Nara Being Led
Person: Nara
Tags: horse
Windy Night At Whistlers
Altitude: 1059m (3474 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: camping, night, picnic table, tent
Small Bridge With The Lodge At Bow Lake
Altitude: 1939m (6361 feet)
Location: Go To...
Maligne Canyon Deep In Rock
Altitude: 1143m (3750 feet)
Location: Go To...
Black-Billed Magpie In Tree
Species: Pica hudsonia (Black-billed Magpie)
Family On Ice
Altitude: 2085m (6840 feet)
Location: Go To...
Skylights Mostly Mountains
Altitude: 2081m (6827 feet)
Location: Go To...
Barn Swallow On Stonework
Species: Hirundo rustica (Barn Swallow)
Altitude: 1942m (6371 feet)
Location: Go To...
Sparrows Egg Ladys Slipper Orchid
Species: Cypripedium passerinum (Sparrow's-egg Lady's Slipper)
Altitude: 1022m (3353 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: flower
Western Toad Tadpoles In Shallow Pond
Species: Bufo boreas (Western Toad)
Altitude: 1942m (6371 feet)
Location: Go To...
Pink Heather Growing Between Rocks
Species: Phyllodoce empetriformis (Pink Mountain-Heather)
Altitude: 1806m (5925 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: alpine, flower
Elephants Head Lousewort
Species: Pedicularis groenlandica (elephant's head lousewort)
Altitude: 1938m (6358 feet)
Location: Go To...
Barn Swallows At The Lodge At Bow Lake
Altitude: 1942m (6371 feet)
Location: Go To...
View To Edith Lake
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Young Bighorn Sheep With Mom Eating
Species: Ovis canadensis (Bighorn Sheep)
Altitude: 1003m (3290 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Wood Lily
Species: Lilium philadelphicum (Wood Lily)
Altitude: 1014m (3326 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: flower
Rock Melting Into Ice
Altitude: 2081m (6827 feet)
Location: Go To...
Heart Shaped Rock In Canyon
Altitude: 1136m (3727 feet)
Location: Go To...
Bear Yawning While Crossing Parking Lot
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Crawfoot Mountain Over Bow Lake
Altitude: 1943m (6374 feet)
Location: Go To...
Ridge Overlooking Miette
Bighorn Sheep Eating Riverside
Species: Ovis canadensis (Bighorn Sheep)
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Elk Near The Playground
Altitude: 1057m (3467 feet)
Location: Go To...
Bridge To Pyramid Island
Altitude: 1193m (3914 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: bridge, lake, reflection, Rocky Mountains
Athabasca Falls At Full Flow
Altitude: 1182m (3877 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Wet Side
Altitude: 1174m (3851 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Claira Mountain Explorer
Altitude: 2085m (6840 feet)
Location: Go To...
Standing On Glass Walkway
Person: Claira, Nara
Altitude: 1910m (6266 feet)
Location: Go To...
Nara With Fallen Ice Block
Altitude: 1764m (5787 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: glacier, Rocky Mountains, snow
White Bog Orchid
Species: Platanthera dilatata (white bogorchid)
Altitude: 1940m (6364 feet)
Location: Go To...
Claira On Her White Horse
Person: Claira
Tags: horse
Columbia Ground Squirrel On Guard
Species: Spermophilus columbianus (Columbian ground squirrel)
Scales On Butterfly Wing
Dry Side
Altitude: 1182m (3877 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains
Skybridge
Altitude: 1909m (6263 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: Rocky Mountains(23), flower(6), glacier(2), snow(2), picnic table(2), tent(2)
People: Claira(5), Nara(5), Helen(2), John(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > Blogs for 2022 to 2005 > Banff Jasper Road Trip > Jasper
From: John Harvey Photo > John's Overnight Page > Banff Jasper Road Trip > Jasper
From: John Harvey Photo > John's Overnight Page > Jasper

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