Northern Shade Gardening

Camping in the Mountains

Thursday, October 23, 2008 Category: General
lower Sunwapta Falls

lower Sunwapta Falls

Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies is brimming with beautiful scenery, plentiful wildlife, and peaceful trails. We went tent camping on the weekend, and had a fantastic time. In the late fall there are few other hikers on the trails. The woods are tranquil with only occasional visitors, but the temperatures are cool. At night it went to -11 C (12 F), while during the day it went up to 5 C ( 41 F). We mostly hiked at the mid elevations, where there wasn’t too much snow yet.

happy little tent

happy little tent

Here is one of our two tents. The silver fly is designed to help reflect heat, to keep the inside cool, but that wasn’t a priority for this trip. If you camp in cooler weather, you know the tricky part is leaving the warm campfire for your cold sleeping bag in the tent at night. I curl up into a little ball inside my sleeping bag, until it warms up. Once it warms up from body heat, it is quite snug and cozy inside.

cooking new banana dish

cooking new banana dish

I love to start a fire first thing in the morning and drink my coffee, while warming my toes close to the blaze. Chopping wood for the fire is also great for warming you up. Our bananas froze over night, so we had to get inventive. We put peanut butter chocolates inside the banana and grilled it in its skin over the fire. What a delicious breakfast it made.

Trail above Pyramid Lake

Trail above Pyramid Lake

Instead of doing the usual longer hikes to the summits, we did shorter hikes, keeping mostly below the snowline. This walk was by Pyramid Lake. It’s a scenic stroll up the ridge from the lake, following the ridgeline, with views over to the Jasper townsite and back to the lake. In the mountains the weather changes very quickly, so it went from blowing snow, to almost clear by the time we got to the top. We were fortunate it partially cleared, allowing us to see the vista back across the lake.

Athabasca Falls

Athabasca Falls

We stopped at Athabasca Falls, which is a very short stroll to some great outlooks. In late fall the water levels going over the falls are probably at their lowest, but it is still beautiful. To give perspective to the shot of Athabasca Falls, the little red speck at the very top is a person.

Athabasca River 2

Athabasca River 2

The Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff is one of the most scenic drives. As you go south of Jasper, on the Icefields Parkway, there are views over the Athabasca River, with the mountains on either side. I’ve sometimes spotted mountain goats here, but not this visit. We did, however, see lots of elk (wapiti), mule deer, big horn sheep and coyotes around the park. It would be hard to visit Jasper and not see these ubiquitous animals. We didn’t spot any black bears or grizzly bears this trip, probably because they are making their way up to their hibernating spots now. A couple of years ago in October, while hiking in the alpine area, we saw a mother grizzly with three roly poly babies following behind her. They all looked fat enough to survive their winter hibernation. There were plenty of small mammals this visit as well. Jasper is an excellent park for wildlife viewing, but for some reason I didn’t end up taking any animal photos this trip.

At Sunwapta Falls there is a short 4 km (2.5 mile) walk to a series of falls. After the first falls, there is a lovely walk along the top of the canyon, with rushing water, cliffs and forest. You gradually come out down at the water level, to the lower falls. It is a wonderful area for exploring.

If you are looking for an excellent place for wildlife viewing, hiking and other outdoor pursuits, Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada is a great choice. There are a wide variety of walks, from short strolls to backcountry hikes. Here is another post I wrote about  hiking in the Rocky Mountains.

I’ve put some shots into a gallery so it will load faster. You can click each photo to get a medium sized picture, and click again to get the full size picture.

68 Responses to “Camping in the Mountains” »

  1. linda :
    October 23, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Oh how gorgeous! It sounds like a wonderful trip.

  2. Nancy Bond :
    October 23, 2008 at 8:53 am

    What a beautiful spot — thanks for sharing your camping trip with us. The scenery is breathtaking.

  3. Racquel :
    October 23, 2008 at 9:10 am

    What a lovely spot to camp & go hiking. Thanks for sharing your gorgeous photos with us. There are some stunning views in that park.

  4. Shady Gardener :
    October 23, 2008 at 9:13 am

    What a beautiful, beautiful place. And thank you for posting all about it. I would Love to visit sometime. I’ve just bookmarked this post. :-)

    Off the subject a bit, you’ve just been nominated for an award. Please accept it. Stop over at “my place.” :-)

  5. Joy :
    October 23, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Every time I hear/read about Jasper, I get a little thrill chill .. it is so beautiful there. Hubby lived there for a while as a kid .. and we were close to Jasper for a while when I was a child. Banff is always amazing .. we travelled through there when my son was just two .. if only I had a digital camera THEN !
    Fantastic pictures from a wonderful time you had .. and I love the ingenuity with the banana and chocolate !! .. but did you forget marshmallows ???? LOL

  6. ChrisND :
    October 23, 2008 at 10:18 am

    I would love to go there hiking and camping! Thanks for sharing. We went through Jasper and Banff on our way to BC one year – didn’t really have time to explore any of the parks, but we did see a glacier (though I don’t recall where). It was at the end of the summer and we had a time of finding a place to stay for an overnight rest…finally we did get a great deal in downtown Banff. This is on my list of places to come back and explore.

  7. Marnie :
    October 23, 2008 at 10:45 am

    What a beautiful place. Love the first photo of the waterfall. I hadn’t thought about how cold it would be getting at night. Brrrrr.

  8. themanicgardener :
    October 23, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Beautiful! Jasper Park is high on my wanna-go list, and this puts it near the top. I, too, love fall camping–even winter camping, though the idea would have horrified me when I was in my teens. I’m glad you pointed out the little red dot/person in the falls photo, because I’d never have noticed it otherwise, and my sense of scale was way off.

  9. Ken from Sweden :
    October 23, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    You have a country to be proud of, wery beautiful photos on some of your landscape.

  10. Victoria :
    October 23, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Wow, that looks amazing. But I am even more impressed by your hardiness. My kids are going camping at Glastonbury (in Somerset, England) this weekend, and I’m like: ” How can you go camping? It’s the end of October!” (The temperature at Glastonbury, by the way, is set to fall to an arctic 54F this weekend.) However, I think I would brave sub-zero temperatures if it meant visiting Jasper National Park.

  11. The Intercontinental Gardener :
    October 23, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Wonderful pictures! For the moment, I have a “stress fracture” in my right foot, but after that, hiking will be definately on the agenda. Your post gave us some new ideas about where to go!

  12. Karin A :
    October 23, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    It looks like you had a wonderful time (but cold!!!) What a beautiful landscape and nice area for hiking. Have a nice weekend! Off for more hiking/camping? Karin

  13. Northern Shade :
    October 23, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Linda, one of my favourite vacations is to go camping in the mountains. It’s very relaxing.

    Nancy Bond, Jasper does indeed have wonderful scenery. Everyplace you go in the park has ice capped mountains, rushing water and wildlife.

    Racquel, on this trip we didn’t get to some of the higher peaks we normally visit. I love hiking up to a summit and getting views down into a few valleys at once. There are enough trails to do a different one everyday for over a month.

    Shady Gardener, if you are going, I could let you know about some of my favourite spots and hikes. I’ve hiked just about every trail in the park a number of times.

    Joy, it is an amazing place, and I find it very serene when I visit. We were lacking in the foresight to bring marshmallows for even more gooey sweetness.

    ChrisND, if you love the outdoors you would love visiting Jasper for an extended visit. You probably saw the Columbia Glacier on the Icefields Parkway. It’s very close to the highway and easy to access. It’s an amazing sight, but even more so when you realize you are only seeing one toe of it, and the rest is hidden behind.

    Marnie, there are some beautiful waterfalls there. They are especially lovely, because the area around has not been developed.
    Although the summer is warmer, it can go below freezing at night in almost any month, though not as commonly in July and August. The alpine areas are frequently windy and cold, and also at the glaciers.

    The manicgardener, you would probably really enjoy Jasper then. If you are planning to go and would like to know more about some good places to see in the park, let me know. In the winter they also have waterfall climbing tours of the frozen waterfalls.

    Ken from Sweden, the Rocky Mountains are magnificent, and there are many beautiful sights to see. Canada is such a large country, there is a tremendous variety of ecosystems and habitats.

    Victoria, if your go in the summer, the temperatures are more pleasant during the day, although it does go down to freezing occasionally, even then. I’ve woken up with snow on my tent in August in the foothills. It’s also surprising how a strenuous hike uphill for a couple of hours can warm you right up, as can chopping firewood.

  14. Northern Shade :
    October 23, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    The Intercontinental Gardener, there are lots of fantastic trails in the park. Although now the higher alpine areas are getting snow covered, but many of the mid elevations are still open now. Fairly soon they will be snow covered too, and ski season will start.

    Karin A, I would love to go hiking in the mountains every weekend, but I can’t always go. Right after I return to town, I always wish I was still there in the wilderness. It is extremely tranquil and restful.

  15. Shauna :
    October 23, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Out of shivery, damp, desparation I took the large camp fire rocks that were all heated up and wrapped them in towels and put in my tent.
    It took the damp off and heated up the tent. Lasted long – worked great.

    I always put a couple of river rocks in the campfire now and put in sleeping bag to warm up.

    NOW BACK TO LOOKING AT YOUR EXQUISITE PHOTOS.Can almost hear the roar of the falls.

  16. Northern Shade :
    October 23, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Shauna, what a great idea for warming your sleeping bag, very resourceful. It’s sort of like the antique bed warmer pans, only more natural.

  17. easygardener :
    October 24, 2008 at 3:20 am

    What wonderful scenery that is, a joy to behold. I wish I could see it for real!

  18. troutbirder :
    October 24, 2008 at 5:32 am

    What a fabulous set of camping-hiking pictures. I’ve been to Athabasca fall twice, in the long past, and now that I am retired think a fall camping trip might be just the thing. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Northern Shade :
    October 24, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Easygardener,the wilderness in Jasper is awesome. It is well worth a visit to see. As well as hiking, you can go white water rafting, horseback riding, canoeing, skiing, or you can just find a big rock and sit with your feet up, watching the view.

  20. Northern Shade :
    October 24, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Troutbirder, camping in the fall in Jasper is my favourite, because it is a quieter time than summer. Also, most trails are still clear enough for hiking. In the spring the trails are often wetter from the melted snow. Spring and early summer are best for viewing the many falls, since the water levels are much higher.

  21. LONA :
    October 24, 2008 at 9:51 am

    What beautiful pictures. The area looks gorgeous.You are a very brave person to camp out in the cold temps.The snow in the mountains made a beautiful picture.

  22. Karen - An Artists Garden :
    October 24, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    What wonderful scenery. I love all the water – the lakes, the waterfalls. Just stunning.
    (I would be less good in a tent :) – I don’t like to admit it, but I have managed to avoid camping all my life).

  23. Northern Shade :
    October 24, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Lona, the mountains do look picturesque, especially now that they are wearing their snow mantle farther down the mountainside.
    You actually get used to the cold weather, especially if you are active and hiking uphill. A campfire late at night and in the early morning keeps the site cozy too.

  24. NorthernShade :
    October 24, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Karen, I love the rushing water in the mountains too. There are so many creeks and rivers, and the water sounds are often within earshot. It is very soothing.

  25. Linda at Meadowview Thymes :
    October 24, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Ohhhhh how wonderful!! You know I am a camper so I loved reading about your campfire and coffee in the morning…I am so there with you! And the scenery is breathtaking. This is where my daughter went this summer. Thanks for sharing this trip–I love camping and the mountains so much-this has been a real treat for me!

  26. Sowing The Seeds :
    October 25, 2008 at 3:57 am

    Thankyou for such a beautiful post. Lovely lovely pics. It just looks so amazing and I hope one day to get to that part of the world. I would love to visit in Autumn when all the maples etc are showing off their colour splendour!

  27. Northern Shade :
    October 25, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Linda, if you love camping, Jasper is a great place to visit. They have many smaller natural campgrounds next to rivers and scenic areas, as well as more developed sites with facilities. Some of my favourite are the less developed ones. I remember you mentioning your daughter’s trip there. Since Banff National Park is adjacent to Jasper National Park, it makes a wonderful large wilderness to explore.

  28. Barbarapc :
    October 25, 2008 at 9:53 am

    It is a remarkable part of the country – when I saw the photos I was transported back to the time when we visited (Kananskis, Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise) over 15 years ago – it has been far too long! Still remember canoeing in Lake Louise and how marvelling how the paddle would disappear into the cold green/blue milk. Thanks for sharing your trip.

  29. Northern Shade :
    October 25, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Sowing The Seeds, the Rocky Mountains are beautiful to explore. Jasper National Park is mostly undeveloped, so it is a great place to see if you like the wilderness.
    It’s really interesting how the ecoregions change as you go up in elevation in the mountains. The lower slopes of the mountains are covered in Montane forest, which is made up mostly of the conifers lodgepole pine and white spruce, and the deciduous aspen trees and some birch trees. When you get up to the subalpine zone you get mostly fir and spruce conifers, and they get shorter as you climb in elevation. Near the top of this zone you get the stunted forms of the trees called Krumholtz or kruppelholz. They can be many years old, but only be a metre tall (3feet). Then above the treeline you get the alpine zone, which has mostly short plants.
    The type of maple trees that get fiery red in the fall are mostly in Eastern Canada. Although we get Autumn colour changes here, they are not as spectacular.

  30. Northern Shade :
    October 25, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Barbarpc, I used to live down near Kananaskis park and hiked there frequently.
    The lakes in the mountains often have the most beautiful colors of blue and turquoise. With their still waters and the reflection of the mountains on the water surface, they are very tranquil.

  31. Kim :
    October 25, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    GORGEOUS photos – what a camping trip! I hate to be cold, so I don’t know how I would have done. But I DO love the mountains and to camp. I used to camp when I lived in Colorado Springs – my favorite place was Eleven Mile Canyon. Even though it was beautiful, the views pale beside your photos – thanks for sharing!

  32. Northern Shade :
    October 25, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Kim, we dressed warmly and kept active to stay warm. On one hike it started off snowing, and we were walking up hill. After a half hour of steady uphill walking, we took off our jackets because we got so warm.

  33. kerri :
    October 25, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    I’m impressed with your hardiness. I don’t know that I’d be happy sleeping in a tent in 11ºF weather, in spite of your reassurance that the sleeping bag keeps you warm :) Jasper looks and sounds like a wonderful place though, and I’d love those hikes with the fabulous views and the wildlife. I’ll bet the air smells wonderful!
    Thanks for sharing these gorgeous photos!

  34. Northern Shade :
    October 25, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Kerri, the sleeping bag is pretty cozy, but I don’t always poke my toes into the cooler bottom corners of the bag. They prefer the warmer centre.
    You are petty much assured of great wildlife viewing in Jasper. In the early fall the male elk are rutting, fighting for females. You hear their haunting bugle calls all the time, and often see their battles, as they attempt to build up their harem. There are many groups of big horn sheep too. The mountain goats are not always as easy to see. In the camp you have to make sure to keep all food away, so you don’t attract bears. There are lots of cute little mammals too.

  35. gail :
    October 25, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    What a fantastic park. Your photos really show us how beautiful the scenery is and what a great time it would be to hike and camp out. I bet it smelled delicious! There is something about a cold morning and a campfire that is appealing. The bananas stuffed with chocolate and peanut butter sound perfect! Thank you, I can’t wait to show the dear Mr! Gail

  36. Northern Shade :
    October 25, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Gail, the grilled bananas for breakfast were delicious. Although we bring a little propane stove with us, I usually do most of the cooking over the fire. I love to sit with my feet propped up on a log, poking at the campfire with a stick to make the flames dance. It’s primitive, but very satisfying.

  37. Anonymous :
    October 26, 2008 at 5:24 am

    Your pictures are stunning. Thanks for sharing!

  38. Stuart :
    October 26, 2008 at 6:23 am

    Gorgeous pics NS and what a wonderful camping trip. We’ve had a few friends visit Jasper, two separate families spent a year in exchange employment, and they still rave about their experiences. I’d love to get there one day.

  39. Katarina (Roses and stuff) :
    October 26, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Wow, fantastic photos and gorgeous scenery! That must have been quite an experience!

  40. Rusty :
    October 26, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Thanks for tour, western Canada is so beautiful. I was there four years ago and felt in love with the place. Your pictures are making me want to come back next year

  41. Northern Shade :
    October 26, 2008 at 9:57 am

    #37, I’m glad you enjoy them. The mountains make for a great landscape.

    Stuart, if you love the outdoors, there are many activities in Jasper. I love remote areas, with few signs of human presence. Outside of the townsite and the two highways, there are vast areas of wilderness to explore.

    Katarina, When you have water rushing down the mountainside, eroding valleys and canyons, there are many fascinating formations. The glaciers have also carved some unique scenery.

    Rusty, many of the National and Provincial Parks adjoin each other, covering the Canadian Rockies, so there are always more areas to explore.

  42. Gartenzauber :
    October 26, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Vielen dank für deinen Besuch, habe mich sehr darueber gefreut.

    Bin von deinen Bildern total begeistert.
    Das muss eine wunderschoene fantastische und romantischerZelturaub
    gewessen sein???!!!

    LG Gartenzauber 2008

  43. Northern Shade :
    October 26, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Gartenzauber, Jasper does have fantastic terrain, and the atmosphere is very calming. I always come back feeling peaceful.

  44. Henny :
    October 26, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Ich kenne Jasper und die Gegend sehr gut, ich liebe diese Landschaft!!
    Ich hoffe bald wieder einen Canadaurlaub machen zu können.

    I hope you can understand my words?
    Oh, I think so,because you answered Gartenzauber !!

    lg Henny

  45. Northern Shade :
    October 26, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Henny, many of the places in the photos must have looked familiar to you then. The landscape is very distinctive. It is one of my favourite areas to revisit too.

  46. Wurzerl :
    October 26, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    What a great impressive landscape!!! What a luck to visit this magic place!!! And what a lucky great moment for me that you share this with us!!! Have a great week Wurzerl

  47. Shady Gardener :
    October 26, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Northern Shade, Oops. Did I mention that I have presented you with an award? Hope you’re able to pick it up. I notice you don’t have anything “cluttering” your sidebars, though…

  48. Northern Shade :
    October 27, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Wurzerl, I don’t have a pretty pond or brook in my backyard, so I have to go to Jasper. The mountains are very awe inspiring, and I’m lucky to live close enough to go camping there. It’s fun to explore the rugged landscape.

    Shady Gardener, my almost name twin, thank you for the award. I am honoured.

  49. Marie :
    October 27, 2008 at 9:46 am

    WOW! What a beautiful place to go tent camping!

  50. Northern Shade :
    October 27, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Marie, it is one of my favourite camping spots. Jasper National Park is very large, so I can go back many times to visit the trails. Some of the trails to the summits and ridges have even more spectacular scenery. There is a great sense of accomplishment in walking to the top, and looking down into the valleys below.

  51. Kathleen :
    October 27, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Wow, after viewing your photos, I am thinking Jasper National Park is one of the worlds most scenic places. I don’t like to be cold and reading about snow, and freezing temps in the sleeping bag had me almost shivering but it was still magnificent!

  52. Northern Shade :
    October 27, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Kathleen, you might prefer the summers in Jasper. There are warm motels too. The scenery is beautiful in all the seasons. In the spring the water levels are high from the melt water, and the waterfalls and rapids are spectacular. In the late spring and summer the flowers are blooming. In the fall the animals viewing is great, and things are quieter. In winter, ski season revs up, and everything is frosted with white icing.

  53. Chloe M. :
    October 28, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    A wonderful description of your trip! Camping in the Sierras here in California is one of my favorite things (other than gardening!)

    As always, beautiful photos.

    Chloe M.

  54. Northern Shade :
    October 28, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks Chloe M. Getting away form urban development is terrific for helping you put things in perspective. I like the simplicity of camping.

  55. Denis Wilson :
    October 29, 2008 at 2:02 am

    What an amazing place. Such huge rivers and mountains. Makes Australia seem flat and dry, by comparison. Lovely blog posting.

  56. Northern Shade :
    October 29, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Denis Wilson, I live east of the mountains, in an area that is flat and dry too, so unfortunately I don’t get any dramatic scenery to incorporate into my garden. The water tumbling down the mountainside, cutting dramatic canyons and features, is awe inspiring.

  57. Birgitta :
    October 31, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    So lovely! Wish I could go / walk with you!
    Lovely autumn!!!!

  58. Northern Shade :
    October 31, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Birgitta, it is a lovely place for a walk. Depending on how high in elevation we were, it varied between late autumn and early winter weather. Some of the waterfall photos have ice clinging to the sides of the rocks, just starting to build up.

  59. Barbara :
    November 2, 2008 at 4:19 am

    You seem to be a tough women, camping at such low temperatures :-) !! It sounds like a great hike adventure! But I imagine that the beautiful and outstanding landscape makes one forget the cold weather. I love the pictures of Athabasca River and Falls very much.

  60. Northern Shade :
    November 2, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Barbara, the landscape is spectacular. I was out in Jasper again this weekend, and I’ll post some more photos of some of the other hikes.

  61. Philip Bewley :
    November 3, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    Just spectacular!
    I have done a lot of high country camping. I love this kind of scenery. The Athabasca river looks awesome!Thank you for sharing this.
    Best regards,

  62. Northern Shade :
    November 3, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Philip Bewley, the Athabasca River starts up at the Columbia glacier, and winds down through the mountains. Surrounded by mountains, and with the changes in elevation, there are terrific views all along.
    I was out hiking again this weekend. After being outside all weekend, I’m averse to being indoors now and confined.

  63. ashok :
    November 4, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Beautiful pictures with excellent narration,thanks for sharing

  64. Northern Shade :
    November 5, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Ashok, thanks. There are many stunning views in Jasper, so it is tempting to take lots of shots.

  65. TulipGirl :
    November 16, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    The sceneries are awesome and breathtaking. I loved looking at each and every picture.

  66. Northern Shade :
    November 16, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    TulipGirl, thank you. I had a lot of fun taking the photos, and had to select only a few for the gallery, so the post would load in a reasonable amount of time. The soundtrack that you hear in person adds to the sensations, from the splashing water, to the wind in the forest.

  67. Chloe :
    November 18, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Northern Shade –

    That is such a beautiful post, both writing and photography, on your trip to the Canadian Rockies! I’m a fanatical hiker too – mostly in the Eastern Sierras. I would love to visit the Rockies someday though.

    Interesting….. how many gardeners do love the mountains.

    Chloe M.

  68. Northern Shade :
    November 19, 2008 at 8:31 am

    Chloe, if you enjoy hiking, you would really enjoy Jasper. There is an excellent variety of trails available. In my next post I talked about some of the day hikes, and in the comment section I described some of my favourite half day hikes to summits or ridges.

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