Jasper, Alberta

After making several stops along the Icefield Parkway, you arrive in Jasper.

I visited this cozy little town on a cold and quiet day for the first time last year in March.

After driving all the way from Lake Louise to Jasper in almost one go (since most of the rest stops and viewpoint areas were still closed at that time of the year) I arrived exhausted at the Marmot Lodge, my accommodation for the night.

I visited the town of Jasper and learned that people can’t buy a house in Jasper as their second home nor can they build new houses in Jasper.

I also learned from a local waitress that a hike to Patricia Lake is definitely worth the effort.

So I hiked it the next day.

The full two hours.

And I found a sign that said ‘Patricia Lake’.  And the lake itself, covered under meters of snow.

I promised myself to return to this place in summer and later that year I did.

This time I drove.

The Epic Icefield Parkway : Exits

Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.

A good friend of mine once told me that it is important to learn what matters in life. To not focus on the short term instant moments but to concentrate more on the longterm satisfaction. Because if you focus too much on the short term things you might loose sight of what happens in the long run and you might miss out on the big picture.

That advice stills sticks.

The Icefield Parkway is maybe a little bit like a chapter of your highway of life.

Lakes can be your ideas, fresh and pure.

Trees the infinite breaths you can take

The wildlife can be your loved ones. Ever present but not always visible.

Other cars on the road to remind you that you are not alone on this road, especially when the going gets tough.

There are the stops to let you take a break and reflect on what’s been and what may come.

The viewpoints to make you realise how amazing this journey can be.

And then there are the exits.

Exits that lead to other highways with other life adventures.

Or maybe they are leading you nowhere.

Or they lead home.

Although I know everyone needs to take their exits in their life at some point, I am having a hard time taking my exits. It’s like I don’t want to miss out on what’s beyond the exit. What I may miss out on. But I also realise that doesn’t matter anymore, because it’s not part of my journey at that point. And the exit I took can lead to an even more exciting highway.

It’s a risk to keep driving so know when to take your exit on the Epic Icefield Parkway.

You don’t want to miss yours.

The Epic Icefield Parkway : The Athabasca Glacier

Look at everything as though you are seeing it either for the first or last time, then your time on earth will be filled with glory. 

Next stop on the list is the Athabasca Glacier.

You will see this massive glacier appear on your left side.

Tickets and start of the tour are on the right of the highway.

Although a ticket to go up to the glacier with the Ice Explorer is not cheap, it’s well worth it.

First a bus takes you from the parking lot all the way up the hill across the highway. From there you transfer to the Ice Explorer, a sort of vehicle specially made for driving on glaciers.

Once you arrive at the glacier you got some time to explore and walk around. You can even taste the pure glacier water and you can see how dramatically the glacier has shrunk through the years.

Brewster, the company that organises these tours, also sell this cool experience in combination with the Glacier Skywalk. This attraction opened recently but is a waste of money, personally. You definitely can have better views for free in the area and  although the attraction is called Glacier Skywalk, there is no glacier in sight. So save your time and money and buy that moose sweater for your parents instead.

The Epic Icefield Parkway : Wilcox Pass

The seeker embarks on a journey to find what he wants and discovers, along the way, what he needs. 

If you want to see wildlife during your visit to the Canadian Rockies then this hike offers you a pretty good chance to see some bighorn sheep. You don’t even have to look that hard to see them as they will be just roaming around the meadows you’ll be traversing.

The hike starts at the Wilcox Pass Campground a little bit south of the Athabasca Glacier. Turn right off the highway and park at the parking lot.

The first part of the hike is through a forest. Once you reach the meadows you’ll soon encounter the bighorn sheep. They just stare at you, not giving a damn what you are doing there.

After you took some snaps of the bighorn sheep you soon will have a great view of the Athabasca Glacier. Take your time here as there are so many great viewpoints to admire the majestic Athabasca Glacier.

If you like to continue your trail to Wilcox Pass please be advised that there is an infinite meadow awaiting you. The whole hike is a one way hike so if you have a car be prepared to turn around at one point.

The Epic Icefield Parkway : Peyto Lake

Take care of all your memories… For you cannot relive them.

Let’s continue, next on our list is Peyto Lake.

Peyto Lake is a very popular and easy stop along the Icefield Parkway.

Needless to say the view is phenomenal !

You can reach the typical viewpoint in 15 minutes so you should not skip this little stop on your way to Jasper.

The Epic Icefield Parkway : Cirque Peak

There are times to stay put, and what you want will come to you, and there are times to go out in the world and find such a thing for yourself. 

Had a good rest last night near Hector Lake ?

Time to move further north.

Next stop : Cirque Peak

This is a day hike usually done between June and October. The view from Cirque Peak is truly spectacular and another must do to add to your list.

You can park your car on both sides of the highway for this one. On your left side you will see the Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint and on your right side you can enter the Helen Lake Trailhead parking lot. The parking lot was pretty busy when we went so this place is pretty popular.

You start your hike with a light elevation through the woods. Once you are out of the woods it mostly is going through meadows until you start your scramble of Cirque Peak which is quite intense.

The view from Cirque Peak won’t disappoint you.

The Epic Icefield Parkway : Hector Lake

Adventure is a need. 

After you took a refreshing plunge into Herbert Lake you can continue on the Icefield Parkway.

Next stop : Hector Lake

The tricky part about Hector Lake is that the little parking lot and the start of the trail are not well indicated. The trail is not well known and there is only a small signpost at the head of the trail that says ‘Hector Lake Trail’. Keep your eyes open on your left hand side once you passed Herbert Lake.

Once you found the head of the trail you can start your descend until you will encounter the Bow River. Please use caution when you cross this river as the stream may be pretty strong and deep. Once you crossed this you are almost there.

A little further you’ll see the lake appearing through the trees and find a great camping spot.

Hector Lake is a gorgeous place to explore. You even have free canoes and peddles at your disposal. Please have respect if you use them and return them afterwards to the same spot where you’ve found them.

My friends and I used both canoes last summer and had the great idea to cross the entire lake but I must admit we miscalculated the distance. What’s new…

Also, halfway our battle across the lake my friend and I were noticing our canoe was sinking very slowly which caused a lot of laughter from our friends in the other canoe. Once we reached the shore we emptied the water out of our canoe and took a nice little break.

The views are amazing and you feel like there is no single other soul in sight (which is probably the case).

We ended up spending three hours rowing to the other side of the lake and back but it was all well worth it !

The Epic Icefield Parkway : Herbert Lake

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true. 

One of the highlights of your journey through Western Canada will definitely be your drive along the Icefield Parkway. This road starts north of Lake Louise where you turn off Highway 1 and enter Highway 93, better known as the Icefield Parkway.

There are a heap of places to stop on this scenic road to Jasper but I’ll be sharing seven of my favourite spots with you this week going from Lake Louise (south) to Jasper (north).

The first stop would be at Herbert Lake. This lake is right off the highway and doesn’t look that much more exciting than the others you have just passed. But don’t be fooled.

Park your car on the parking lot on your left hand side and walk around the lake. At one point in the back of the lake you will discover a jumping plank where you can take a refreshing plunge into the cold water.

Be warned, leeches are common around the jumping plank and the shore so keep an eye out for them. We went in a bunch of times but had no problems.

Enjoy !

Johnston Canyon and Beyond

It’s not the mountains we conquer but ourselves.

Johnston Canyon is such a cool spot it deserves its own blog post.

On a sunny day last summer six of us decided to make a hike all the way to Mystic Pass. We were looking for a hike that day and I briefly read about this cool sounding place. The trail starts at the Johnston Canyon parking lot. Since no one had a better hiking idea my friends blindly trusted my suggestion and off we went. Let’s say preparation is always a very important part of the hike. I made myself one sandwich for the day and grabbed a snickers bar on the way out. We were already late and had some hiking to do. Little did we know we were embarking on a hike that is considered as a two day trip. The actual starting point is the Mt. Norquay Ski area that takes you all over Mystic Pass and ends at Johnston Canyon. Talking about poor planning skills.

A 30 minute car ride later we arrived at the parking lot. I must say, most people who start their hike from the parking lot hike only to the first point, the Lower Falls. This part of the hike is pretty easy and takes you along Johnston Creek all the way to the waterfall. If you have a little more time you can decide to make the climb to the Upper Falls for more viewpoints.

That wasn’t enough. We wanted to reach Mystic Pass that day, we carried on to our next viewpoint, the Ink Pots. My advice, don’t hike beyond the Upper Falls if you choose the Ink Pots as your turnaround point. It’s quite disappointing but the Moose Meadow next to it is a very nice spot to have your lunch along the river.

My friends asked me how much further this Mystic Pass was, I didn’t have an exact number in mind but told them convincingly it was going to be quite a hike still. Who knew I was so wrong with even being so vague. We had lunch and continued our trail. At that point nobody wanted to complain or whine about turning around, the most exciting part was still to come. We crossed the river over a log bridge and followed the signs to Mystic Pass. We saw some bear paws in the mud on our way so make sure you are traveling in group and use caution.

A little later we arrived at Larry’s Camp were we made a little stop. This is a nice-looking camp site next to the river. This is apparently the typical overnight place if you are doing the actual two day trip. At this point I was running low on food already. Luckily I had plenty of water with me. One of my friends was starting to get suspicious about this ‘we are getting closer’ nonsense. To my surprise, my other friend Hannah took charge and reassured them we were almost there. I don’t know if she was really thrilled to see this Mystic Pass or had even poorer map reading skills than I did that day but she convinced them to continue. We were climbing to an alpine meadow area now and start setting foot to a snow area.

We made another stop. We hadn’t seen a sign post in a while now. I started feeling guilty because I talked my friends into this but I didn’t feel like turning around now, we were so close, right ? Someone else who didn’t want to turn around was Hannah, she was determined we were only a few meters away from Mystic Pass. The other four weren’t too thrilled about the idea but Hannah her will was strong. And we gave it one more chance.

We reached an open land, it was getting pretty chilly now because of the altitude we reached and the wind that was gushing through this area through the mountains. A few steps further the snow was up to our knees. And that was the boiling point for two of our friends. Enough was enough. This was the end of the hike for them. Funny enough, we actually were at Mystic Pass but none of us realised it. The view of this place was grand and breathtaking though and well worth the effort.

We decided to turn around at this point. Still not realising we actually reached our goal we walked back, slightly disappointed and famished. The way back was smooth. We nourished ourselves with some leftover nuts and candy bars. We made it back to the Johnson Canyon parking lot right before dark. Thankfully the gift shop and restaurant were still open so we could grab some food and drinks.

Those friends never asked me about a hiking idea again. Ever. But they all agreed it was all worth it. Personally, I think a hike up to Mystic Pass is possible in one day if you just start early enough and make sure you have enough food and water with you. We just started the hike really late and were not prepared for this prolonged journey. So again, make sure you are always prepared for your hikes. Always better to bring a little more food than you think you need.

Mother nature went total karma on me for not being prepared for this hike. When I went back to Johnston Canyon in February I made a very ungraceful slip on the extremely slippery ice in front of a bunch of young kids. They laughed.

Lesson learned.

Around Banff

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined. 

Once you have strolled through the streets of Banff you can start exploring its beautiful nature spots around the town. Make sure these places below are part of your awesome road trip through the Rockies. Make sure you have a mix tape with epic road trip songs ready.

Vermillion Lakes : Before you enter the town of Banff you can make a right to drive to Vermillion Lakes. A great place to make a stop and snap some pictures all year round.

Mount Norquay Scenic Drive : Drive up this road to have a nice scenic view of the town.

Lake Minnewanka : Follow the Lake Minnewanka Road off Highway 1 to reach the lake. Once you park your car at the parking lot you can take a Banff Lake Cruise if you like but I would rather just spend my afternoon at Johnson Lake or Johnston Canyon instead.

Johnson Lake : If you decide to visit Johnson Lake for the afternoon then I can definitely recommend to hike to the back of the lake. There is this swinging rope spot you can have a lot of fun with. Try to go in the morning as the sun is still on your side of the lake. Fun guaranteed as long as you don’t let the rope slide through your fingers while you jump, right Julia ?