Do you have a bucket list? You might be surprised to know that I don’t! Well Banff NP, the Icefields Parkway & Jasper NP are amazing and must see places. If you have a bucket list and this isn’t on it I would recommend you add it now.
I guess the only complaint I would have about these marvelous parks is the number of other visitors. And this wasn’t even the busy season yet! So my best advice for my readers is that you visit during the shoulder seasons as the crowds are a bit less and many of the trails are open for exploring.
Jasper NP is a little lower in elevation than Banff so the weather wasn’t quite as cold and there were more trails available at this time of the year. For my stay this time around on the recommendation of the visitor center staff I decided to check out the trails around Pyramid Lake, Maligne Canyon and Valley of the Five Lakes.
The many trails around Pyramid Lake just north of the town of Jasper seemed to be more geared toward locals and that was just fine. The 7km loop found at the end of the road was just perfect and led to some incredible views.
There were very few people on the trail (might have had something to do with the weather as the last km we hiked in the rain) and the elevation gain made the hike just challenging enough to be a good workout. Considering the fact that I did the hike after a couple mile swim in the local pool it made for a great day. The highest point on the trail overlooked mountain ranges, lakes and the town of Jasper.
Maligne Canyon and Valley of the Five Lakes was on the docket for my last full day in Jasper. There actually were many more possible hikes in Jasper and I am looking forward to coming back again.
Maligne Canyon is a deep limestone gorge formed by the Maligne River that flows underground from Medicine Lake above until it reaches the canyon. Maligned canyon has a depth of more than 50 meters at certain points. The canyon is carved into the Palliser Formation, a layer of limestone deposited in a shallow tropical sea by limestone secreting plankton. The flowing water whittles away the limestone canyon.
“What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn’t have any doubt – it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn’t want to go anywhere else.” ~ Hal Boyle
Maligned is French for “evil” or “wicked”. Named by a Jesuit missionary, who called the canyon “la traverse maligned” after his horses were swept away by the fast moving water in 1846. There are six historic bridges (the first built in 1914) crossing the canyon that help visitors explore the area.
The Valley of Five Lakes is a 4.5 km trail that makes a loop passing by five lakes, three small and two larger ones. The five lakes each vary in beautiful shades of green and blue that naturally appear this way because of the glacial rock dust that colors all of the lakes and rivers in the area, along with special algae, the varying depths, and other contributing factors.
We added some distance to the hike by taking the First Lake Trail to the end of the lake and back which added an additional 2.5km to the hike. This was a relatively popular trail added to the fact that it was “May Long Weekend” holiday (similar to our Memorial Day) where Canadians celebrate Queen Victoria’s Birthday by taking a three day weekend and getting out with their families. This trail was also open to bikes and there were a good number of mountain bikes racing along forcing hikers at times to almost leap off he trail. On the other hand it was great to see that there were also some families out enjoying the outdoors biking and with their kids
“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” ~ Wallace Stevens
Something fairly new to Parks Canada is the “Red Chair program”. Parks Canada has placed these red chairs in iconic places throughout their system of parks. Giving visitors a place to enjoy awe-inspiring views and places to relax and discover. The locations of these chairs are noted on the parks maps to give you some incentive to “get out there”. I have passed by several of these locations in Banff and Jasper and the chairs are usually occupied by awe-inspired visitors enjoying the views. Some argue that they are an eye-sore but for me I think it’s a wonderful way to get folks out and exploring.
Something else that I haven’t mentioned is the great staff that works for and cares about Parks Canada. The department has seen the wisdom and the value is stationing park staff (interpreters) in key visitor locations. The set up tables and sometimes ez-ups with displays and handouts and are there to answer questions and point visitors in the right direction. I also saw parks staff out hiking the trails picking up trash and resource staff out monitoring the wildlife and informing visitors of ways to avoid negative wildlife encounters. Great job Parks Canada!
But let’s get back to that bucket list discussion ~ should you have a bucket list? I’m going to go out on a limb and say no. I believe that having a “must do” list can give you tunnel vision; it can take us away from here and now, from the mindfulness of the moment. It can create high expectations and make you so focused on crossing off that one item that you are more likely to turn down any little side adventure, attraction, or spontaneous offer that steals time away from the trip’s “purpose.” And it’s those random side adventures that make travel awesome. It’s better to travel carefree, expecting nothing more than quality time with yourself or those around you.
“Map out your future – but do it in pencil. The road ahead is as long as you make it. Make it worth the trip.” – Jon Bon Jovi
When you have a bucket list, you risk spending precious travel time on experiences you feel obligated to complete, not on experiences that you’re craving at the moment. Travel when you want, and go where you want… follow your whims and your dreams.
And worst of all, a bucket list turns you into a tourist. Focusing on the regional hotspots, those “bucket list” places and experiences, is what tourists do, not what travelers do. Instead escape the crowds of foreigners and instead roll with the locals to where people really hang out, that’s where the experiences happen.
These are my goals for Alaska – try not to over plan, be more spontaneous, let fate guide the journey & enjoy the experiences……..
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson