This post details stop #4, at Jasper National Park. It’s loaded with pictures of stunning scenery and awe-inspiring natural wonders of the Rocky Mountains.
Although the weather was not always picture perfect, I managed to capture a lot of the surrounding beauty. The cameras stayed warm on this stop!
We didn’t waste any time upon our arrival in Jasper, immediately hitting the visitor center to get the scoop on the must-do’s in the park. With only a few days here (Sept 6-10) we would be challenged to see as much of Canada’s largest National Park as possible.
Founded in 1907, it is one of only 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We could see why, as everywhere we looked there was no shortage of crystal-clear lakes, glacial rivers, amazing glaciers, cascading waterfalls, deep canyons, alpine forests and wildlife – all surrounded by towering mountains.
Our home base was in the heart of Jasper NP. Whistler’s Campground (Steve’s review here) was next to the town of Jasper, which is nestled in the wide Athabasca Valley.
We wanted to experience the beauty of Jasper NP on foot, as there are more than 615 miles of hiking trails of various difficulty to choose from. But we were here during berry season, and the lady at the VC marked several trails as closed due to heavy bear activity.
On most days the sun was hiding behind the clouds and morning temps were in the 30’s. We had to push ourselves hard to get out and hike in those chilly conditions, but we did fairly well.
Maligne Lake is surrounded by several towering mountain peaks, and is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies. It’s a very popular spot, and bus loads of tourists were enjoying the lake view with us. But we left them behind as we followed a trail named after Mary Schaffer, who along with friends was one of the first tourists at the lake in 1908.
There are six bridges that criss-cross Maligne Canyon, and we followed the steep trail up to the fifth bridge. The canyon’s karst system is cut incredibly deep through limestone, and water tumbles through a series of falls and drops. Some geologists speculate that parts of the canyon were originally deep caves that have since been uncovered by glacial scraping and water erosion.
Along the Maligne Scenic Drive we stopped at Medicine Lake, considered a unique body of water. It’s described as such because its water vanishes and re-appears each year. In the springtime runoff fills the lake, but by September (when we were here) the continuously-dropping water level exposes the bottom.
The disappearance of the lake was a mystery until the discovery of a massive underground river system under it, which is where the water all drains.
Pyramid Lake Island
Just a few minutes out of Jasper is a lake-dotted terrace named Pyramid Bench. The island and lake around it get their names from Pyramid Mountain, which stands nearby at 9,064′.
Mount Edith Cavell
From Pyramid Lake we drove further south to see Mount Edith Cavell, also recommended at the VC. The mountain is named after a British nurse executed during World War I for her part in helping Allied prisoners escape occupied Brussels. Getting there involved following a twisty road built in the 1930’s.
Since we had just completed a 6-mile hike at Pyramid Lake, we followed the Path of the Glacier Trail here. It’s an easy walk that took us across rocky landscape to the great north face of the mountain.
This impressive 10,826′ peak receives heavy snowfall even during the summer months. My photos can’t capture the enormity of the mountain and the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Whistler’s Campground was only 2 miles from the Jasper Skytram, so we just had to take a ride. It whisked us up Whistler’s Mountain to an elevation of 7,472′ in 7 minutes. The payoff when we arrived was panoramic views of Jasper NP, and green valleys and mountains that stretched for miles. The town of Jasper lay below, and we caught a glimpse of our campground tucked under heavy forest nearby.
On the way back down we were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow developing over Jasper and the whole valley. It was awesome!
The rainbow signaled our departure back to lower elevations, but it was just the beginning of more spectacular moments to come.
Next Up: Icefield Parkway