trip report: Jasper National Park – Edith Cavell & Valley of the Five Lakes, August 2019

After hitting the trails hard to start our trip, we need a few easier days. Fortunately, part of the reason Jasper National Park is so popular and a favorite among roadtrippers is the ease to access the amazing scenery in the form of shorter day hikes.

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This is the six entry of our Canadian Rockies trip series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

index

click to expand
1 planning & research
2 trip report day 0-1: getting in
3 trip report day 2-5: Kootenay National Park – The Rockwall
4 trip report day 6: Yoho National Park – Iceline
5 trip report day 7-9: Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park
6 trip report day 10-14: Mt. Robson Provincial Park – Berg Lake & Snowbird Pass
7 trip report day 15-16: Jasper National Park – Edith Cavell & Valley of the Five Lakes
     7.1 Jasper National Park day hikes information
     7.2 trip report
            7.2.1 basing out of Hinton, AB
            7.2.2 Edith Cavell
                  7.2.2.1 hike information
                  7.2.2.2 video
                  7.2.2.3 report
                  7.2.2.4 impressions & rating
            7.2.3 Valley of the Five Lakes
                  7.2.3.1 hike information
                  7.2.3.2 video
                  7.2.3.3 report
                  7.2.3.4 impressions & rating
8 trip report day 17: Jasper National Park – Bald Hills
9 trip report day 18-19: Jasper National Park – Skyline
10 trip report day 20-21: Icefields Parkway – Wilcox Pass & Bow Summit Lookout
11 trip report day 22: Yoho National Park – Lake O’Hara
12 trip report day 23: Banff National Park – Beehives & Plain of Six Glaciers loop
13 trip report day 24-25: getting out
14 final impressions, rankings, & budget

Jasper National Park day hikes information

Jasper National Park is rather massive spanning 4,200 sq mi (11,000 km2) with most of the day hikes centered around the town of Jasper and the few highways that cross the park, including the Icefield Parkways and Highway 16. The park prints a well informed day hiking guide (Parks Canada) and can provide you with additional information at the visitor center in Jasper.

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trip report

Hinton, AB

We pick up the this trip report after our hike into Mount Robson Provincial Park and a zero (day 14). Our next backpacking reservation for the Skyline trail wasn’t until day 18 of our trip.

While Jasper is the popular town most visitors stay at due to its centrality in the park, it is also a very expensive place to stay. We were fortunate to see any places close to USD$100 for a night during our time there. This was exacerbated by the closing of the front country Whistler Campgrounds for renovations that summer. We met a few Great Divide Trail (GDT) hikers had success calling the homestay association number located in the back of the visitor center for an affordable last minute housing (I believe this may be their webpage – stayinjasper.com, but I’m not certain).

So to save money, we were based out of the town of Hinton, which was 45-50 minutes northeast of Jasper on Hwy 16. Sometimes it takes a little longer from wildlife related traffic.

Hinton was main a blue collar town best known for its pulp mill and the odor that came with it. Unlike Jasper, Hinton is outside of the Canadian Rockies and marks the beginning of the Interior Plains (wikipedia). There were plenty of big box grocery stores and amenities in Hinton that makes it a more affordable place to base out of.

However, the biggest money saving reason for our stay in Hinton was the great hotel point redemption at the Econolodge (tripadvisor) there. The cost was 10000 Choice points per night (USD$81 per night equivalent via Frequent Miler valuation). I had purchased Choice points previous through their 2018 Daily Getaways Promo (bought at a rate of 0.514-0.482 cents per point, analysis by Loyalty Traveler) making a night stay between USD$51.40-48.20. My original booking was for 2 nights (day 14 and 15), but we ended the previous trip a day early due to rain (day 13) making it 3 total nights at that rate. Even though that was the last of my Choice points, the rate was still worth it for us to buy additional points for 2 more nights (day 16 and 17) at the rate of 0.825 cents per point (promo explained at TPG).

specialty-room
Meg really enjoyed the in room jacuzzi tub (picture from Ecolodge website).

We took it easy on our legs for the most part during our time while doing some work and relaxing. We spent some time at restaurants and breweries between Hinton and Jasper.

  • In Jasper, the Jasper Brewing Company (tripadvisor) decent beers but not all that memorable. The nachos we had were pretty well portioned.
  • In Hinton, we checked out Rojo Marron Mexican Restaurant & Cafe (tripadvisor #1 rated in Hinton at the time), which provided the fresh take on Mexican, literally, as they had plenty of veggies. Because of that, it isn’t as filling as you’d expect for the price but it was good.
  • Our favorite restaurant in Hinton was the greek Olympiad Restaurant (tripadvisor), which was very flavorful and had large portions.
  • Lastly, we did spend the entire day after our Mount Robson backpacking where we finished off our takeout pizza from Gus’ Pizza Place and Family Restaurant (tripadvisor #2). Again that place isn’t fancy, but all about portion size and value.

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Edith Cavell

The Edith Cavell region of Jasper National Park provides for some easy access to view glaciers, so we headed out for our first short hike.

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a marmot taking in the views at the Edith Cavell region

information

  • name: Edith Cavell
  • type: in & out
  • distance: 4.1 miles (6.6 km)
  • elevation change: 1170 ft. (357 m) ascent & descent
  • time: 1:57 hours (1:44 hours moving)
  • location: Jasper National Park, near Jasper, Alberta, Canada (google map directions)

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We ended up checking out the beginning of the climbers route to reach Edith Cavell Peak on our hike. This was partially due to not paying attention to the signs, partially wanting to explore more on the moraine overlooking Cavell Glacier, partially wanting to avoid the crowds, and partially just taking it easy since we weren’t planning to go that far on the day.

Should you be looking for a more grand hike, the Cavell Meadows Trail up to East Ridge Summit (alltrails) seems like a good one. For a shorter option, just the Cavell Meadows Trail by itself is a good option.

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The junction for the Cavell Meadow Trail and the Climber’s Route. We explored the Climber’s Route to the right for our hike.

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video

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report

We started our hike at the newly completed parking area for Edith Cavell, featuring one of the nicest pit bathrooms we’d seen. Along with the new parking area, the Path of the Glaciers Trail is newly paved and wide.

There are several unpaved offshoots at the beginning of the Path of the Glaciers Trail, but they all end up returning to the paved path. The main paved path inclines at about a 13.4% grade for a third of a mile until the junction where the Cavell Meadow Trail branches off to the left. As the trail ascended, an old part of the trail can be see from the paved path in the drainage below on the right side of the trail. Previously, the trail formed a loop but it was closed due unstable terrain in 2012 when Ghost Glacier fell into the valley.

We continued forward to the end of the Path of Glaciers Trail to the view point. This is a popular spot and we found the overlook to be the end destination for many of the visitors here. The view is composed of Cavell Glacier and its pond with Angel Glacier to the right hanging off the Mount Edith Cavell sitting at 11033 ft (3363 m). The mountain is named for an english nurse who was executed by the Germans in WWI for helping Allied soldiers escape occupied Belgium (wikipedia).

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The former looped trail down to the shores of Cavell Pond was now blocked off now.

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We didn’t stick around for long since the viewpoint was very crowded. We returned to the junction for the Cavell Meadows Trail and started uphills again. After a couple switchbacks, the trail started to follow a rocky moraine. A few worn path up to the top of the moraine can be found at several spots along the trail, some requiring some rock hoping. All along the moraine, you’ll get a better view of Cavell Glacier below.

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The grade for the trail itself was around 7.9% for the 0.6 miles from when we first turned onto the Cavell Meadows trail until the next junction separating the Cavell Meadows Trail and the Climber’s Route. All along the moraine, we heard “meep” sounds from the pikas dodging in and out of the rocks.

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We turned right at the junction to check out the Climber’s Route. It was flat for about a third of mile before the elevation gain and technicality of the trail picked up.

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We hiked up about a half mile on the trail at roughly 16.4% grade. It was rocky the trail was easy to lose at points. When we came to a slightly flat area, we were able to get a good look at the direction that the climber’s route was headed, including some snow at the pass to gain the ridge. Being lazy, we decided to turn around here.

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ratings

The rating below are based on an unevenly distributed scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). For full description of the ratings and the categories, see the explanation here.

views/experience: 3. I was between 3 and 4 for the rating here. The trail does provide for some grand views of the Edith Cavell motif and the two glaciers below. However, it is very very busy trail. I would recommend heading up a little higher for a better and less crowded view on the moraine next to the Cavell Meadows Trail. It is a shame that the former trail to the shores of Cavell Pond is now closed.

The rating really came down to whether I’d travel for the sole purpose of revisiting this hike, to which I’d say not solely for the hike since it is so crowded. Perhaps the idea of taking the climbers route all the way has some appeal for me to return, but that isn’t hiking anymore. So the rating is for the hike is a 3.

difficulty: 1. The trail portion of the hike is pretty mild with plenty of switchbacks. 

technical: 1. The rating here is for the Path of the Glacier and Cavell Meadow Trail to the point we hiked to. It was well marked and no scrambling. The portion of the climber’s route we hiked required a little bit more of route finding through the rocky areas, so it was 2ish.

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Valley of the Five Lakes

A highlight of the Canadian Rockies are the many colored lakes. The Valley of the Five Lakes, located a short distance away from the town of Jasper and on the Icefield Parkway, provided an easy opportunity to check out five different ones.

information

  • name: Valley of the Five Lakes loop
  • type: loop
  • distance: 3.2 miles (5.1 km)
  • elevation change: 277 ft. (176 m) ascent & descent
  • time: 1:20 hours
  • location: Jasper National Park, near Jasper, Alberta, Canada (google map directions)

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Should you be looking for a longer hike (5.1 miles), you can extend the Valley of the Five Lakes hike by circling First Lake (alltrails). You also have the option of hiking all the way to the town of Jasper and beyond as a point to point hike if you are very ambitious (example end point at Lake Annita, alltrails).

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video

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report

The trailhead is located along the Icefield Parkway a few miles South of Jasper. There is a large parking lot to accommodate the large number of visitors that stop here.

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The first half mile of the trail undulates through the forest with a slight uphill at the end before dropping down the a marshy area. There is a nicely built boardwalk that crosses it.

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On the other end of the marsh, the steepest incline takes place over the next quarter mile with a 13.8% grade. During this quarter mile, we came to the junction that determined the direction of our loop hike. We chose to hike counterclockwise and head to Fifth Like first (trail 9a).

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After cresting, we came to an opening with a view of a pond. This isn’t one of the lakes, so our initial disappointment thinking this was what we were in for was unfounded.

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The trail then drops down toward the actual 5 lakes with the steepest portion at -20.4% over 0.05 miles and then undulates over the next quarter mile before coming to a crossing of a stream connecting Fifth and Fourth Lake. Around the outlet was where we got our first look at Fifth Lake.

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Continuing around the lake, there were a few more viewpoints and a dock. The dock was especially popular with visitors.

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From the dock at Fifth Lake, the trail came to the edge of Fourth Lake and then followed around its banks.

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Once we were at the far edge of Fourth Lake, the view was especially nice with ducks diving for fish in emerald colored water.

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Turning around from our view of Fourth Lake was Third Lake and the location of a couple of red chairs (Parks Canada) aimed to encourage visitors to seek out the great views found in the Canadian wilderness, however it isn’t without some controversy (Calgary Herald). Based on the ones we saw, It seems like they encourage increased tourism for these specific places thus increase revenue for the park for conservation projects or even lighten the traffic in the most popular places such as Lake Louise. What do you think? The chair here does show off the Third Lake, another emerald gem amongst the pine trees.

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The sun came out to emphasis the color of the lake was we round Third Lake.

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Shortly after, we were treated to Second Lake with its slightly different shade of green. I would say the best words to describe the green was radioactive or nuclear.

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After Second Lake, we came to a junction for the 9b trail branching to he left just ahead of First Lake. The 9a trail continues on around the entirety of First Lake while 9b heads back toward the trailhead. We turned right on to the 9b trail. But before we headed back, we followed a side trail down to the edge of the much larger First Lake.

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Leaving First Lake, the trail inclines for the next quarter mile at roughly 9.6% grade before dropping back down over a third of a mile at -10.0% grade back to the swampy area and concluding the loop in the process. From the marshy boardwalk, it was a final half mile over undulating terrain through the forest back to the trailhead.

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ratings

The rating below are based on an unevenly distributed scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). For full description of the ratings and the categories, see the explanation here.

views/experience: 3. The five lakes were all different shades of green and really popped when the sun came out from behind the clouds. They are definitely worth the stop, but the loop was also very popular with visitors so you won’t find much isolation.

difficulty: 1. The trail was well maintained and there isn’t much elevation change. The only thing that may make it difficult was the mosquitos we encountered.

technical: 1. All junctions were well marked and the trail was well maintained.

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