Last week was my first week of vacation and I spent the majority of it in Jasper and Yoho National Parks, camping with my brother! We had a really fun trip, did a bunch of hiking, a ton of relaxing, and savoured in the nostalgia of camping together like we did when we were kids and we’d go camping with our parents. Considering we spent five days traveling around Alberta and BC, I had to split this recap up and you’ll be seeing part two tomorrow!
Part 1: Jasper and the first night in BC!
This summer has been absolutely nuts for visiting National Parks and pretty much all campgrounds. I vowed to use my vacation to avoid the mountains on the weekend so that’s just what we did. We left Monday morning and drove to Hinton where we stopped for an inaugural visit at the recently opened Folding Mountain Brewery. We grabbed lunch and each had a flight of beer so we could try them all! The food is really good and the beer was even better. I had the quinoa and roasted vegetable salad, we split the halloomi bruschetta, and Stuart had the beef tacos. The Wild Mountain Hef was my favourite beer, followed by the Three Seasons Honey Wheat Ale!
After the brewery stop we made our way to Jasper where we stopped to pick up some beer for our campsite, filled up with gas, and walked around main street for a few minutes to stretch the legs. We hit the Icefields Parkway to get to our first trailhead – Valley of Five Lakes. It is a super easy (not technical, very little elevation gain) hike around some of the most gorgeous mountain turquoise lakes. There are (shockingly) five of them, all different colours of blue-green based on how deep they are, and it is an easy family-friendly hike.
After this lovely hike we drove to our pre-booked campsite for the night at Wabasso Campground. The campground is just outside Jasper, about 15 minutes away, and is along the 93A highway. It’s a pretty open campground so don’t expect too much privacy in your campsite, but as it was only for one night we weren’t concerned. We set up camp, made dinner, and then hung out and played games until it got dark and we crawled into the tent. Neither of us got a great sleep, and that would be a pattern that would continue for the rest of the trip, but I can’t help but love sleeping in a tent under the stars.
On Tuesday morning we woke up, made breakfast and packed up, then made our way down the Icefields Parkway to Kicking Horse Campground. Kicking Horse is just down the road from Lake Louise, about 2km east of Field, BC. It was so weird to be almost exactly on the Alberta-BC border because our phones and watches would constantly go back and forth an hour and we never really knew exactly what time it was. One of the reasons we stayed in Jasper and took the long route to BC was so that we could drive the spectacular Icefields Parkway which never ceases to amaze me with it’s beauty. Another reason we stayed the night in Jasper was in order to be able to get a first-come first-serve site in Kicking Horse, as they don’t take reservations. We basically needed to get there as early as possible and that’s tough from Edmonton. There were a few sites left when we arrived so we were able to take our pick and grabbed an awesome creek-side site, but just an hour or two later and the campground was full!
After setting up camp, we headed out to our second hike of the trip – Paget Lookout. It’s also called Paget Peak but we stayed at the lookout and didn’t continue on to the scramble to get to the peak. It’s a pretty steep and steady climb, a roundtrip of about 7km but over 1500ft elevation gain. It was hot and slightly smokey which didn’t help matters but when you get to the top it is all worth it. A note on the smoke – because that was one of my reservations with camping in BC – it was definitely noticeable as there was a constant haze that looks like it would be normal for a mountain morning but never really went away all day. You couldn’t smell smoke at all and by mid-week it had begun to clear up more and more, disappearing almost completely by Friday.
We ate some snacks, drained our water, and made friends with some cute squirrels and not so cute horseflies at the lookout. I’ve never had this many horsefly bites until this summer! Paget Peak is actually a diversion off the trail for Sherbrooke Lake so if you’re looking for the trailhead, there are signs for ‘Sherbrooke’ but not Paget. We had to drive back and forth once to catch the parking lot!
There was an accident at the intersection of the TransCanada Highway and Emerald Lake Road which closed the westbound lane of traffic – the direction we needed to go to get to our campground from the trailhead. Traffic was majorly backed up and it took us almost an hour to go the 3km distance. We knew it was certainly a much worse situation for those in the accident so we used the hour in the car to cool off, rehydrate, and have a carpool karaoke battle… wait, is it really a battle if you’re the only one participating?
Post-hike we enjoyed some cold beer and a delicious dinner. When the sun goes behind the mountains just after 7pm it rapidly gets darker and colder so we typically spent the evenings playing Crib and Trouble and an assortment of card games until we were too cold or too tired and wanted to crawl into the tent. It was a great start to our sibling camping trip and the Kicking Horse Campground was PERFECT. Sites surrounded by trees and both a creek and river, close access to Field, Emerald Lake, and Takkakaw Falls, super friendly quiet campers, and hot showers, I highly recommend it!
…Stay tuned for part two!