Wonderful Jasper National Park – Jasper, AB

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Maligne lake

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.

Athabasca River

Foggy morning over Athabasca Valley and River

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.

Jasper, Alberta

The town of Jasper is surrounded by majestic mountain peaks

Jasper, Alberta

Main drag in Jasper


Raven Totem Pole

A landmark in town stood near the railway station

Two Brothers Totem Pole

Two Brothers Totem Pole- tells the story of a journey long ago of an unusual connection between the west coast islands of Haida Gwaii and the Rocky Mountains

Whistler Campground

Betsy was snuggled in among the pine trees in an electric-only site

Bull Elk

This bull elk was a daily guest at the campground, as he kept an eye on his harem

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.


That’s bear food!

Maligne Lake

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.

Curly Philips Boathouse, Maligne Lake

Turquoise colored glacial Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake

Boat tours were filled to capacity, even on dreary days

Mary Schaffer Loop Trail

Stands of pine and spruce lined the Mary Schaffer Loop Trail

Moss and lichens covered the grounds

Feather mosses covered the forest floor

Maligne Lake

Brrr…I’m guessing this was some kind of a crazy ritual?  It’s 35º out here!

Maligne Lake

Final look at Maligne Lake

Maligne Canyon

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.

Maligne Canyon

View from the fourth bridge

Maligne Canyon

Looking down at the canyon, see the people way back there?

Medicine Lake

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.

Medicine Lake

By September a mudflat and ribbons of water are all that remain

Medicine Lake

You know a lake is shallow when a man can walk his dog all the way across it!

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′.

Pyramid Island

Pyramid Island

Pyramid Mountain

Clouds obstruct Pyramid Mountain

Athabasca Valley

The trees have started to turn – yay!

Patricia Lake

Patricia Lake (left) and Pyramid Lake viewed from an overlook

Patricia Lake

Colorful boats at Patricia Lake

Pyramid Bench

The trails here are not well marked, so Steve had to be diligent with the map


We found one of the six pairs of Red Chairs overlooking Pyramid Mountain

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.

Mt Edith Cavell

A 9-mile switchback road lead us up to the mountain

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.

Path to Glacier Trail

Trail through glacial debris

Path of Glacier Trail

Interesting material along this trail

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.

Mt Edith Clavell

We had lots of company here, since we arrived in the afternoon

Angel Glacier

Angel Glacier – hanging from the mountainside, it sits in a cirque between Mount Edith Cavell (left) and Mount Sorrow (right), supported (so it seems) by its “wings.”

Clavell Pond

Small but stunning opaque green Cavell Pond

Jasper SkyTram

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.



Athabasca River

Gazing down at Athabasca River – look at that glacial water!


Look, there’s the town of Jasper!

Ice field Parkway

Running along Athabasca River is the Icefield Parkway


We enjoyed the breathtaking views, then tried to rush a short hike to the summit – only to turn around halfway as ugly clouds approached, the temperature dropped and ice began pelting us.
Whistler Summit Trail

Whistler Summit

The trail to Whistler’s Summit – we made it just up to the snow line and decided to turn around

Jasper Tramway

On the way back down we were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow developing over Jasper and the whole valley.  It was awesome!

Jasper Sky Tram

Somewhere under the rainbow is Steve, that little speck!

jasper over the rainbow

Double rainbow over Jasper

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




It’s a rocky situation at Glass Mountain

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After talking about scenery,  lava tubes and caves, it’s time to show some rocks that really rock.  Volcanic rocks, that is.  In our first two blogs about the Lava Beds National Monument we explored the hidden world of the lava caves and the rugged surface encompassing the monument.  This time we highlight the naturally occurring volcanic glass – obsidian rock.  It’s a form of Rhyolite that has the highest content of silica.  It is a volcanic glass prized by Native Americans for making arrowheads, knives, spear points and other tools.


Is this really sharp?

Obsidian Roc kFile

A huge pile of Obsidian Rock

This excursion took us about 30 miles south of the Lava Beds as we continued our geologic adventure at Glass Mountain.

Glass Mountain has been designated a Special Interest Area in Modoc National Forest because of its geologic formations.  The area is a 4,210 acre lava flow of glassy black obsidian boulders ending suddenly in white pumice soil.  Wandering around at the top of  Glass Mountain, we encountered prehistoric obsidian mines along a glass flow and were amazed at the ancient quarry remains evident today.  Being there was kind of surreal and made us wonder what it must have been like when this amazing landscape was being formed.  Estimates are that the most recent flows of pumice and obsidian at Glass Mountain occurred less than 900 years ago.

Glass Mountain

Glass Mountain

Ancient Rock Quarries

Ancient Rock Quarries

We are not geologists or rock hounds, but this place rocks!

The drive took us through the Modoc National Forest were we also saw Ponderosa Pines for miles covered with lichens.

Lichens covering trunks of Ponderosa Pines

After wandering through the quarries we drove to Arnica Sink, a dry basin in which water-worn cobbles and pebbles are mixed with sub-angular boulders covered by a washed mantle of pumice.

Arnica Sink

Arnica Sink

Our final stop was at Medicine Lake, which was once the center of a volcano and is over 150 feet deep.  It was quite a beautiful day and only a few folks were enjoying the serenity and beauty surrounding the area.

Medicine Lake

Medicine Lake

Yellow Rabbit flowers were in full bloom and dotted the landscape with yellow and orange glow. Simply beautiful!

Yellow Rabbit Bloom