Highlights in Jasper National Park

While in Vancouver we had found a singular and last available back country campground permit on the Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park on the Parks Canada website. The 44km Skyline trail is very popular and campgrounds limited to single digit numbers, so finding one is rare, especially in high season. However, we did locate one and booked it when we saw it. We got a spot at the halfway point of the trail at Curator Camp just before the highest peak of the trek. This meant that we would have to do the hike in two days, which sounded very doable to us since we did over 30km in one day at Grand Teton in a similar landscape.

The day before we would have had to start hiking, we parked our car at the end point of the trail and set our alarm for 5:30 am the next morning. We decided that we would wake up early and then hitch a ride to the trail head. That way our car would be waiting for us at the end of the trek.  Once we woke up, it was raining a bit more than we would have liked and agreed that we would wait it out a bit. We looked at the weather forecast and saw that it was only about to get a lot worse, including thunderstorms that afternoon after a short period of sunshine. We decided that even though we had booked and paid for a campground we would forego this opportunity. Instead of the hike, we decided to go on a drive to see some of the mountain viewpoints, now that the rain had washed off some of the smog from the air. On our way towards Maligne Lake (also the start of the trail head for the Skyline Trail),  while the sun was shining, a very optimistic Emily suddenly declared: “let’s just do it.” Even though Laurent was a little skeptical, it was impossible to argue with such optimism. So we started the Skyline Trail.

Maligne Lake road

Maligne Lake road

The first three hours or so we spent under green trees and a blue sky, while talking very loudly with each other to make sure we wouldn’t encounter another bear. By the time we had ascended above the treeline (most of the Skyline Trek is above it), the sky had turned dark grey. Not much later it started raining, then storming, then hailing, then more ferociously painful hailing, and the full-out thundering around us.

Skyline trail just before hell broke lose

We changed our minds again. We decided that there are more fun things in life than getting tortured by slashing hail while thunder and lightning blasts away left, right, and centre. We thought about these things…like hot chocolate and a car to sleep in, instead of a tent on the highest and most exposed campground of whole Jasper National Park.  We turned back towards Maligne Lake, where we sat in the lodge and drank the promised hot chocolate. When it cleared up a bit we went out to make some dinner and some nice pictures of the lake.

Maligne Lake

Medicine Lake

After dinner, we went to visit the super cool Maligne Canyon before parking our car for the night at the same stop as before. On the way we again spotted a bear. It was a lot less terrifying this time, because 1) it was a fruit munching black bear and, more importantly, 2) we were inside our car and we could speed away if he got too close.

Less scary black bear

Maligne Canyon

No swimming in this canyon

The next day, we slept in and set off in the rain again to Jasper town to get some breakfast and write a few blogs in the local library. Once we used our one free hour of internet and got kicked out, we went to the Miette Springs. By this time, the sky had cleared up and we decided it would be good for Laurent if he would go for a little run up a mountain. So off he went like a mountain goat, up the steep but beautiful Sulphur Skyline Mountain. At least one of us scaled one mountain top in Jasper. After getting back from this 8 km return trip, it was time to enjoy the reason most people drive this far up north in Jasper National Park: the Miette hot springs.  We paid our CAD $5 entry fee and soaked in the warm water for a few hours, content with the fact that we were not still somewhere on the Skyline trail. One day we will do it, when the views are not limited by BC forest fire smog and it doesn’t thunder.

Up Sulphur Ridge

Some of the smog cleared due to the rain

Big horn sheep

Worth the climb up Sulphur Mountain

Some sheep came all the way down from the mountain for us