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Guide to Canadian Rockies & Columbia Mountains parks

Rivalling any mountains in the world for breathtaking beauty, plan herein for great hikes and sights:

1. Canadian Rockies

  • National Parks: Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay, Robson, and Waterton Lakes
  • Provincial Parks: Mount Assiniboine (in British Columbia); Peter Lougheed and other parks in Kananaskis Country (in Alberta)

2. Columbia Mountains

  • National Parks: Revelstoke and Glacier (in BC)
  • BC Provincial Parks: Bugaboo and Bowron Lake

Geologically, the Rocky Mountain Trench divides the Rockies from the Columbia Mountains (to the west in British Columbia).

CANADA: mountain park favorite photos (Rockies, Columbia Mountains, Coast Range)

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Enjoy these wonderful Canadian parks by camper, bicycle, feet, and canoe.

Weather forecasts for Canadian Rockies by altitude, peak, and range:

Rockies: Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks: photo gallery

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Rockies: Banff National Park, Alberta: recommended hikes and tips

A. Banff town and nearby
  • Hike over Cory Pass on the Mount Edith loop trail (best walked clockwise, 8 miles) with impressive views of the spire of Mount Louis. The trail is sometimes rough and steep, but scenically rewarding. Beware of steep snow patches and don’t hike in inclement weather. We hiked snow-free on August 29, 2009.
  • Drive Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A), a slower scenic route which parallels main Highway 1 between Lake Louise and Banff. Johnston Canyon hike: Start early in the morning (or off season) to get ahead of busloads of hikers on this deservedly popular trail. Easily walk 1 to 7 miles, 300-800 feet gain, through an attractive gorge with waterfalls. Only walk further to the so-so Ink Pots if you want more exercise.
  • Backpack to scenic Egypt Lake (with optional hut) starting from Sunshine Village (via bus) and/or its parking lot.
B. Lake Louise area
  • West of Castle Junction, the scenic Boom Lake trail features the mother lode of lichen polygon patterns, a holy grail for this nature travel photographer.
  • Beehive loop hike: Start early in the morning, and expect crowds of walkers on this very scenic hike from Lake Louise to Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, looping back via the Beehive and Lake Agnes Teahouse. Atop the Big Beehive, admire turquoise Lake Louise and Fairmont Chateau where you started far below.
  • Saddleback-Mt Fairview: hike steeply through larch forest 4.6-6.4 miles RT / 1970-3310 feet gain.
  • Moraine Lake, in Valley of the Ten Peaks
    • Whether or not you walk to the pleasant Consolation Lakes, don’t miss the short side trail up a little hill for the stunning overview of beautiful blue-green Moraine Lake, just across the outlet stream!
    • Sentinel Pass (7750 feet elev) is one of our favorite hikes in the world. Hike 7 miles round trip, 720 meters up (2370 feet). Larch trees turn beautifully yellow in mid September. Park your vehicle early in the morning (before 9:00am in summer) at popular Moraine Lake before the lot fills. (Our friends don’t recommend the extra car shuttle effort of walking further from Sentinel Pass down Paradise Valley to a separate trailhead, 10.4 miles, 2370 up, 2900 down.) Alternative branch:
    • Wenkchemna Pass & Eiffel Lakes: hike 11.7 miles RT, 2362 feet gain for golden larches in mid September.
    • Moraine Lake Road closes around Oct 13 or earlier due to snow.
C. Icefields Parkway, from Lake Louise over Sunwapta Pass to Jasper
  • See classic Rocky Mountains reflected in Herbert Lake. Bow Lake reflects Crowfoot Mountain. Great viewpoints overlook blue-green Peyto Lake and Bow Pass.
  • Sunwapta Pass area: Mount Athabasca and other peaks rise impressively above the road. Parker’s Ridge: Hike 4.8k round trip to overlook impressive Saskatchewan Glacier.
  • Hot Showers in Banff NP: Lake Louise Campground, Johnston Canyon Campground, Banff Tunnel Mountain Village Campgrounds 1 and 2 (plus Banff Upper Hot Springs nearby), and Two Jack Lakeside Campground.
  • Food: Get groceries in Banff and Jasper. Food is more expensive at Saskatchewan Crossing (small grocery & restaurant), Castle Junction, and Lake Louise. Restaurants are at Vermilion Crossing in Banff and Sunwapta Falls in Jasper.
  • RV dump stations: Tunnel Mountain, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, and Waterfowl Lakes campgrounds.
  • Camping logistics advice: Bicycle Jasper to Banff, Icefields Parkway

Rockies: Jasper National Park, Alberta: hikes and sights

  • Jasper townsite. Whistlers Tramway and hike: to save your knees, hike up 4000 feet and take the Tramway down (or Tramway round trip). See distant views of Victoria Cross Range, Colin Range, and Mount Edith Cavell.
  • Hot showers in Jasper NP: The Whistlers Campground (closes in mid October), Wapiti Campground (closes in early September), and Miette Hot Springs (day use).
  • RV Dump Stations: Whistlers Campground, Wilcox Creek Campground.
  • Lower Maligne Canyon: hike above a scenic slot canyon and gorge.
  • Maligne Lake: Bald Hills hike 8 miles RT / 2000 ft gain for views of Maligne Lake. Cross Maligne River to park on west side of Maligne Lake. Or from the same lot, hike Little Shovel Pass day hike 12.5 mi RT / 1600 ft. Or backpack the whole Skyline Trail in 2-4 days.
  • Miette Hot Springs: Soak in the hottest springs of the Rockies, with a good view of Ashlar Ridge (drive 1 hour from Jasper). On the turn up Miette Road is Pocahontas Campground (reservations accepted) which will save you from driving an hour back to Jasper. From the same parking lot, hike the impressive Sulphur Skyline 5.5 mi RT/2300 ft (to reach superior views than from nearby Utopia Pass).
  • Mount Edith Cavell: Hike 2-5 miles to see spectacular Angel Glacier and Cavell Pond.
  • Athabasca Falls: Athabasca River plunges impressively at this roadside overlook and short walk.
  • Sunwapta Falls: scenic roadside overlook, or walk further to worthwhile Lower Sunwapta Falls.
  • Columbia Icefield Visitors Centre
    • Admire the Athabasca Glacier. Ride the SnoCoach on Columbia Icefield.
    • Wilcox Pass: Hike 5 miles round trip, 1082 feet gain (7,790 feet max elevation). Start at Wilcox Creek Campground, 1.2 miles east of Icefields Centre.
    • Parker’s Ridge, in Banff NP (7200ft elev): Walk 3 miles round trip, with 910 feet gain, for a great view of Saskatchewan Glacier. Park at marked trailhead, 5 miles south of Icefields Centre.
    • Nigel Pass hike.

Rockies: Yoho National Park, British Columbia

  • Camp at Kicking Horse Campground or adjacent Monarch Campground, in Yoho National Park, BC.
  • Emerald Lake: Walk around beautiful Emerald Lake at lake level 5.2km. Or hike the breathtaking Emerald Triangle 20 km (12 miles, with 3200 feet gain) round trip over Burgess Pass and Yoho Pass in a day as we did. To visit a fascinating chapter in the history of life, reserve a tour of the geologically important Burgess Shale, a restricted area near Burgess Pass. Guests at Emerald Lake Lodge can rent a canoe on the turquoise waters.
  • Yoho ValleyTakakkaw Falls to Yoho Lake makes a great half-day circuit of 6.3 miles (10.1km). Iceline Trail is a classic day hike or backpack.
  • Hike turquoise Sherbrooke Lake combined with scenic Paget Peak Lookout (7 miles round trip with 1920 feet gain). Cathedral Mountain and Mount Victoria North Peak rise dramatically above the Kicking Horse Pass area.
  • The town of Field in Yoho NP is 3.5 hours drive from Jasper townsite.
  • Lake O’Hara (6600 ft elevation) is a gorgeous area with many classic hikes from the campground (or lodge), with very limited access.
    • No cars or cycling are allowed on the bus road to Lake O’Hara, but walking the road is allowed, and then taking the bus ride back down at 4:30 or 6:30pm is free with no reservations required. In 2001, we enjoyed walking Cataract Brook trail (closed as of 2012?) to Lake O’Hara in 8 miles (1350 feet gain), but now you must walk the road or take the bus.
    • You must make bus and tent campground reservations 3 months in advance by phone only (250.343.6433), usually sold out within the first hour. (As of 2012-13, short-term walk-in reservations are no longer accepted.)
    • BUS OPTION: Open June 14, 2013 to September 30, 2013 (dates vary by year). Taking the bus to Lake O’Hara starts several gorgeous day hikes of any length. The bus allows one large or two small pieces of baggage per person. Tent sites have tent pads, well water, cooking shelter, pit toilets.
    • Hike Odaray Highline Trail to Odaray Grandview Prospect.
    • Walk around Lake O’Hara.

Rockies: Kootenary National Park, British Columbia

  • A worthwhile short walk is Marble Canyon, which cradles turquoise Tokumm Creek just above its confluence with the Vermilion River. For over 500 million years before tectonic forces thrust up the Rocky Mountains, a shallow tropical sea deposited carbonate sediments that became the limestone and dolomite rock seen here (not marble). Nearby: historically, humans have mined the colorful Paint Pots, natural ochre beds formed by the accumulation of iron oxide around the outlets of three cold mineral springs, worthy of a short walk.
  • The Rockwall‘s east-facing cliffs form the backbone of the Vermilion Range, which stretches nearly 40 kilometers (24 miles), hikeable via athletic loops or traverses. The Rockwall soars 1000 meters (3300 feet) over Floe Lake, an excellent backpacking destination, 10.7 km one way. A great two-night backpacking traverse stays at Numa Creek Campground then Floe Lake Campground. A great 3-night traverse goes from Paint Pots Trailhead to Tumbling Creek Campground (where you can day-hike to Rockwall Pass), then to Numa Creek Campground, then to Floe Lake Campground, then out; or for 4 nights, start this with Helmet Creek Campground. Hitchhiking, bicycling, or car shuttle is possible to retrieve your car from the starting point.
  • Stanley Glacier Trail includes an impressive ice-carved valley, streams and waterfalls (7 miles round trip, 2000′ gain).

Rockies: Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, British Columbia

Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site. Above photos include Lake Magog, Sunburst Lake, Cerulean Lake, Nub Peak trail, and a Columbian Ground Squirrel. Hike from Banff National Park to Rock Isle Lake via Sunshine Meadows.

Assiniboine Lodge and Naiset Huts

A helicopter can optionally carry you and/or your backpack to Assiniboine Lodge in the remote wilderness at Lake Magog with great views of Mount Assiniboine (11,871 feet, the “Matterhorn of Canada”). Comfortable private rooms in the Lodge are pricey. A cheaper option is to book your group into the dormitory-style Naiset Huts and use their Wonder Lodge Cooking Shelter for comfortable indoor communal cooking (gas cookers provided) and socializing. Or carry a tent and camping gear about 25 minutes further to Lake Magog Campground.

Mount Assiniboine backpacking trip

Trailhead: Spray Lakes-Mount Shark Day Use Parking, on gravel road 1 hour (41.3 km) west of Canmore, Alberta (or 1.5 hours drive from Banff, or 3 hours drive from Calgary). For many more hikes nearby, see Kananaskis Country further below.

  • * Day 1: hike 7.5 miles, 400 feet up, 300 feet down to Bryant Creek Shelter (6000′).
  • Day 2: hike 6.7 miles, 1100′ up through Assiniboine Pass (7000′) and then to Naiset Cabins at Lake Magog (7100′), below towering Mount Assiniboine.
  • Days 3 and 4: Layover days, for hiking around this beautiful area. Nub Peak offers a spectacular panorama (6 miles round trip / 1,900’ gain from the Naiset Huts and Assiniboine Lodge, or shorter from the Campground).
  • Day 5: hike 7.9 miles, 750′ up, 1850′ down, through Wonder Pass (7850′) past huge Marvel Lake to Bryant Creek Shelter (6000′).
  • Day 6: hike 7.5 miles, 300′ up, 400′ down retracing Day 1, back to trailhead.
  • * Or use the helicopter: Send your backpack ahead by helicopter and hike the 14.2 miles in one day. We enjoyed this service going out!

The optional Citadel Pass route to Mount Assiniboine starts at Sunshine Village (7200’), reached via bus in in Banff NP. Hike 8.7 miles to Porcupine Campground, then 9.5 miles to Assiniboine Lodge Naiset Huts (at 7100′ elevation). The hardest part is a steep descent from Citadel Pass (7740’) to Porcupine Campground (6000’).

Rockies: Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia

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Camping near Mount Robson trailhead
  • Getting there: Mount Robson Provincial Park Visitor Centre is 1 hour drive from Jasper town, or 200 miles (4.5 hours drive) from Field in Yoho NP.
  • Robson Meadows Campground: hot showers; 93 sites first-come first-served, 32 sites reservable 2 days to 3 months prior at at or 1.877.737.3783 from 7am-7pm.
  • Robson River Campground: hot showers, 19 sites first-come first-served.
  • Lucerne Campground is located on Yellowhead Lake in British Columbia, 10 km west of Alberta boundary, 32 sites first-come first-served, no showers.
  • Robson Shadows Campground: 5 km west of Mount Robson PP Visitor Centre, panoramic view of Mount Robson, 25 natural campsites on Fraser River, hot showers, group site, phone 250-566-9190, reservations 1.888.566.4821.
Berg Lake, Mt Robson backpacking

In 2008, Carol and I fondly revisited Berg Lake, our first international backpacking destination together (1995), plus other parks, with a group of friends. Backpacking to Berg Lake is about 22 kilometers (13 miles) one way, depending on where you park. All campsites have bear poles, pit toilets, washbasins and grey-water pits. Reserve backcountry sites at 1-877-737-3783, change at 1-800-689-9025, 7am-7pm.

  • Day 1: Hike 6.5 miles, 1735′ feet up, 840′ down to Whitehorn Campground (3700 feet elev).
  • Day 2: Hike 5.6 miles, 2100 feet up, 360′ down to Berg Lake Campground (5400 feet elev).
  • Day 3: Allow time for the eye-popping day hike to spectacular Snowbird Pass, one of our world favorites. Hike 12 miles, 3100’ gain round trip from Berg Lake Campground.
  • Day 4: Hike out 12–13 miles in one day, 1300′ up, 4000′ down. Alternative: hike 7.9 miles to Kinney Lake campground (3300 feet elev); then on Day 5, hike from Kinney Lake campground to trailhead 4.1 miles, 470 feet down.

Rockies: Kananaskis Country, Alberta: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park & more

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The many parks of Kananaskis Country rival the splendor of neighboring national parks but without the crowds. Kananaskis Country is an improvement district (rural municipal administration) in the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies west of Calgary, in Alberta.

Detailed hiking book with maps: Gillean Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide – 4th Edition: Volume 1: Kananaskis Valley, Kananaskis Lakes, Elk Lakes, The Smith-Dorrien (2010).

Recommended hikes and services in Kananaskis Country:

A. From H40 in Kananaskis Country:

B. From Kananaskis Lakes Trail road in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park:

  • Mari Lake Trail: stroll from Elkwood Campground.
  • Indefatigable Trail: hike 3.4-5.7 mi RT/1500-2550 feet gain for one of the best views in this exceptional area. Start from North Interlakes parking lot at the end of Kananaskis Lakes Trail road. See hikes #76+76A in Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide (2010). 
  • Frozen Lake in Elks Lakes Provincial Park, BC: hike 8.3 mi RT/1620 ft gain steeply to gorgeous deep blue lake under Mt Fox, from the trailhead on Kananaskis Lakes Trail road within Peter Lougheed PP. See #58+58A in Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide (2010).
  • Three Isle Lake:  hike 13.9 miles RT/1600 ft gain, a long day, optionally biking 5 miles RT from Kananaskis Lakes Trail road. See #71 in Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide (2010).
    • Or backpack from North Interlakes Trailhead to Forks Backcountry Campground (10 miles round trip, 800 ft cumulative gain). From Forks Campground we day hiked to North Kananaskis Pass (13 miles round trip/2700 ft) with great scenery all along the way! The next day we day hiked to Three Isle Lake (5 miles round trip/1800 ft, much easier without a heavy pack), then collected our tent and hiked back to the car.
    • Harder alternative: a great 5+ day backpacking loop starts from North Interlakes Parking Lot via the north side of Upper Kananaskis Lake to Forks Campground, Lawson Lake,  Turbine Canyon Campground, North and South Kananaskis Passes, Three Isle Lake, up to the airy heights of Northover Ridge , down to Aster Lake, then out via the south side of Upper Kananaskis Lake. Combine #69+70+71A+72+73+71 in Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide (2010).

C. From H742 / “Smith-Dorrien/Spray Trail” gravel road in Kananaskis Country:

  • Chester Lake + Three Lakes Valley: hike 5.2-7.8 miles RT with 1000-1800 ft gain in a delightful ramble through larch forest to lake-dotted limestone barrens. See #92+92B in Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide (2010).
  • Mt Shark Road:
    • Tryst Lake alone is 4 mi RT/853 feet gain (#84).
    • Birdwood Lakes + Birdwood Pass + Tryst Lake: has breathtaking views and superb alpine zone. Adding side trip #84 Tryst Lake (with nice larches) totals 10.4-11.2 mi RT/2483-2653 ft gain; else hike 1630-1800 ft  in 8.8-9.6 miles RT (or 7.8-8.6 miles via wet shortcut from H742). See #85+84 in Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide (2010).
    • Nearby 1km north: Tent Ridge loop hike (6.1 mi/2700 ft gain) is one of the most enjoyable ridge walks (with some easy non-exposed scrambling). See #83 in Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide (2010).
    • Hike and/or helicopter-pack to Mt Assiniboine and Lake Magog (detailed further above).
  • Buller Pass in Spray Valley PP: hike 8.9 miles RT/2200 ft gain (plus Ribbon Lake adds 2.3 mi RT plus 700 ft down & up) from H742. See #77 in Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide (2010).

D. Good base camps with hot showers in Kananaskis Country:

  • Mt Kidd RV Park is enormous, found on H40 just northwest of Spray Valley PP, just 30 minutes north of Lower Kananaskis Lake and 45 minutes east of Banff.
  • Elkwood & Boulton Creek Campgrounds is reservable in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. (If these are full, try the unserviced Canyon & Interlakes Campgrounds which are first-come first served.)

E. Talus Lodge (external link)

  • is a catered premium escape to wildly spectacular hikes (guided or self) in remote wilderness, in a private double room with all meals, with electric generator and hot showers via bucket. The price includes ground transportation from Canmore or Mt Shark Road. Up to 12 guests can choose 3, 4, or 7 nights. Talus Lodge is in a dry, sunny area receiving only 25 inches of precipitation per year, far in the backcountry between Mt Assiniboine and Upper Kananaskis Lake.

Rockies: Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta

Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site. Images include: A stream flowing through colorful sedimentary geology in Red Rock Canyon, and mountains reflected in Waterton Lake.

Recommended hikes in Waterton Lakes NP:

A. Hikes near Waterton Park Campground:

  • Bears Hump: hike 1.8 miles RT/738 feet gain for a classic view of Waterton Lake, starting at the National Park Visitor Center trailhead, early for better photo light and avoidance of crowds.
  • Bertha Lake: hike 8.6 miles RT/1542 feet gain starting from Townsite Campground. A good rainy day hike would be to Lower Bertha Falls (3 miles RT/574 ft gain).

B. Hikes along Akamina Parkway:

  • Akamina Ridge loop (see 2022 trip): 12-14 miles RT/2918 feet gain steeply from Forum Lake to Wall Lake over Akamina Ridge in Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park, BC. Or else hike out and back to Wall Lake and Bennett Pass with optional side trip to Forum Lake.
  • Carthew Traverse: ascend 2460 ft to Carthew Summit (7910 ft), descend 3670 ft to Waterton Townsite, 12.4 miles one way via public or private shuttle. We loved this colorful hike in 2002.
  • Rowe Lakes: hike 7.5+ miles RT/1881 ft gain, optionally extending via a very steep scramble to Lineham Ridge 10.1 mi RT/3182 ft (or onwards to Lineham Lakes 12.3 mi/4500 ft RT, where you might better loop out on Lineham Creek Trail with car shuttle to save 1148 ft). Scramble up Avion Ridge to see golden larch trees starting in late September.

C. Hikes along Red Rock Parkway:

  • Red Rock Canyon: stroll along a remarkably colorful stream. This is also the trailhead for the following hikes:
  • Goat Lake: 8 miles RT/1739 ft gain, or 10 miles to views from Avion Ridge. Or loop further along the same trail:
  • Twin Lakes loop: day hike 15.5 miles in a loop/2133 feet gain. Or backpack: starting at scenic Red Rock Canyon, do 4-day basecamp at Twin Lakes (6450 ft elevation) climbing 1540 ft in 7 miles (or camp 1 night at Goat Lake), hiking out via Blakiston Creek & Falls. On layover days, hike high along Waterton Park’s western boundary to do any of the following: 1) Sage Pass short hike, 2) loop north on route along Avion Ridge to Goat Lake back via Bauermann Creek, and/or 3) go south to Lone Lake or South Kootenay Pass.

Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada and Glacier National Park in Montana, USA comprise Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, which is honored by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. See related articles:

Columbia Mountains, Purcell Range: The Bugaboos, British Columbia

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Bugaboo Provincial Park lies in the Purcell Range of the Columbia Mountains south of Golden, British Columbia. Most tourists are distracted by nearby Canadian Rockies parks along fast paved highways and skip gravel logging roads, thereby leaving the stunning “Bugaboos” as a quiet retreat for hikers, climbers, and helicopter guests of luxury CMH Bugaboo Lodge. Hike in late September to see the glow of golden fall colors of tamarack larch, whose deciduous needles turn from green to bright yellow-orange. Stay in expensive accommodation at CMH Bugaboo Lodge and CMH Bobby Burns Lodge just outside the park, or camp free at 4 primitive sites in Bugaboo Septet Recreation Area. The following view hikes are best on a sunny day:

  • Hike 10 km/6 miles round trip with 730 meters/2400 feet gain to Conrad Kain Hut for breathtaking views of nearby Bugaboo Glacier, soaring granite spires, larch trees, and sedimentary Rocky Mountains eastwards across the Columbia River Valley. This trail makes a fantastic day hike or awesome overnight hike with convenient shelter in Kain Hut (which for a fee provides propane stoves and space for people with a sleeping bag) or nearby campground. A few ladders and hand cables assisting this steep trail may bother those with fear of heights.
  • Hike panoramic Cobalt Ridge, 8 miles round trip with 914 meters/3100 feet gain on a steep but well-defined trail. Two-thirds of the way up, Walter Cobb Lake (or Walter Lake) adds just 1km round trip for lunch in a forest of larch trees that will be golden in late September or early October! Don’t miss the view from the highest point of the Cobalt Ridge. Optionally continuing onward to Cobalt Lake adds 2.5 miles round trip and 150 meters/500 feet gain. Start walking from Bugaboo Septet Recreation Site campground or CMH Bugaboo Lodge or park at the marked Cobalt Lake trail head.
  • For a more distant panorama, hike up Chalice Creek and Ridge, 16 km/10 miles round trip with 730 meters/2400 ft gain, measured starting from Bugaboo Septet Recreation Site campground, near the bridge across Bugaboo Creek, near CMH Bugaboo Lodge.
  • For a close side view of glaciers and peaks, hike to Silver Basin, 12 km/7 miles round trip with 450 m/1500 ft gain. Go past CMH Lodge, make the next right, and park at the first switchback to avoid the short, rough 4WD road to the trail head above.
  • Bugaboo Pass is 5.2+ miles with 2200 feet gain, or longer depending on your car’s progress up the rough dirt road.

Directions to the above hikes in the Bugaboos:

  • See Mountain Footsteps: Hikes in the East Kootenay of Southeastern British Columbia (Fourth Edition 2018, by Janice Strong)
  • From Brisco (about 44 kms north of Invermere on Hwy 95) or Spillimacheen, follow signs to Bugaboo Provincial Park and CMH Lodge on a gravel logging road. After driving 47 kms (1.5 hours), turn right on a rougher road to reach Cobalt Lake trail head and spectacular Kain Hut trail head, or continue straight (left) along Bugaboo Forest Service Road. Before you reach the gate of luxury CMH Bugaboo Lodge, a left turn crosses Bugaboo Creek bridge: then a left reaches Bugaboo Septet Recreation Site (4 primitive campsites in a free, user-maintained campground reachable by 2WD vehicles) or straight up takes 4WD vehicles and hikers to Chalice Creek trail head. Curiously, every parked vehicle is barricaded with provided chicken wire fencing! In the past, porcupines gnawed under vehicles; but author Janice Strong says porcupines damaging vehciles is now rarely a problem for BC & Alberta vehicles since the provinces changed their winter road salt, plus porcupine populations have declined.
Geology of the Bugaboos and Purcell Mountain Range

The ancient Purcell Mountains (a subrange of the Columbia Mountains) formed from sediments around 1.5 billion years ago, a time on earth when only algae grew. Not until the age of the dinosaurs did the much younger Rockies appear east of the Rocky Mountain Trench. Near the end of the Rocky Mountains creation, masses of molten rock pierced the old metamorphic rocks of the Purcells and cooled into hard crystalline granodiorite batholiths of the Bugaboos, 135 to 70 million years ago. Glaciers and water chiseled away weak overlying rock and revealed spectacular granite spires of the Bugaboos. Mining peaked in nearby Bugaboo Falls around 1906 — miners described a deadend mineral lead as a “bugaboo,” the park’s namesake. (Some USA maps label the “Percell Mountains” where their southern limit protrudes into the states of Idaho and Montana.)

Columbia Mountains, Purcell Range: Lake of the Hanging Glacier, British Columbia

Hike along foaming Hellroaring Creek to spectacular Lake of the Hanging Glacier (see Google maps). Drive 1.5 hours west of Radium Hot Springs on the dirt Horsethief Creek Forest Service Road. High clearance vehicle recommended. On 2018 July 19, via rough but dry roads plus two small streams crossed, our Toyota Prius V made it carefully to parking at 1 km from the trailhead, making the effort 11.7 miles round trip with 3100 feet cumulative gain. The scenic reward was worth hiking over and under 60 fallen trees each way. (click for an external PDF guide to this hike).

For hikers, I recommend a 2018-updated book covering this corner of BC: Mountain Footsteps: Hikes in the East Kootenay of Southeastern British Columbia (Fourth Edition 2018). (I call it “Strong Mountain Footsteps” for short.) Southeast BC will attract us back to hike Jumbo Pass, Hourglass Lake, Tanglefoot Lake, and more.

Columbia Mountains: Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, British Columbia

Revelstoke National Park has a nice place to eat lunch then stretch our legs in a natural setting on the short Skunk Cabbage Trail. Starting with a public shuttle ride from the top lot, a pleasant hike is Miller Lake 7.2 miles round trip with 500 feet gain, plus 1.5 miles to Eva Lake.

In BC’s Glacier National Park, Bear Creek Falls Trail (Parks Canada) stretches your legs for 1.2 miles round trip. The easy Abandoned Rails Trail interprets Rogers Pass National Historic Site (2.4 miles round trip). Abbott Ridge trail (Parks Canada) is 8.5 miles round trip with 3400 feet gain, to an great view of Mount Sir Donald and the Illecillewaet Glacier.

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Columbia Mountains: Bowron Lake Provincial Park, British Columbia

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See my article “Pardon Me, I’ll Run to my Ambulance Now.” This true story from Bowron Lake Provincial Park recounts my group’s adventurous 73-mile canoe trip paddling a rectangular circuit of wilderness lakes, where we portaged by rolling canoes on wheels.

See related articles

Recommended guidebooks from

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The following Canadian Rocky Mountains parks comprise a spectacular World Heritage Area listed by UNESCO:

  • Banff National Park
  • Jasper National Park
  • Kootenay National Park
  • Yoho National Park
  • Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
  • Mount Robson Provincial Park
  • Hamber Provincial Park (not pictured in this article)

1 thought on “Guide to Canadian Rockies & Columbia Mountains parks”

  1. Really nice website. After many trips to Mt. Robson and Berg Lake when I was young, I have many happy memories. My Dad worked at Kodak and he and my Mom travelled in a “Colonist Car” (Canadian National Railway) to Mt. Robson for the first time in 1956 with the Genesee Valley Hiking Club. He was so excited about the trip he and some folks from the Appalachian Hiking Club repeated the trip in 1957. I was included this time and had the best time of my life. I feel that I was very lucky to have had such wonderful times in the Mt. Robson area. One of my closest friends I met there–Alice Wright who had visited there from the ’30s and owned the ranch where we stayed prior to the horse ride and hike to the Berg Lake cabins. From there we took day hikes to places such as Snowbird Pass, Mural Gllacier and Mt. Anne-Alice. My Dad and I photographed everything. We hiked on the Robson Glacier which was a new experience for us–we had previously had many years hiking in the Adirondacks, a very different experience.

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