Back on June 23, 2012, we talked about the fourth annual Jasper Motorcycle Run.
Guess what? They extended their early bird registration to July 31, 2012, so you’e got only three days left! Read More
We, at Experience The Mountain Parks, thought it would be worth showing you this video as a reminder. You might think: “Hold on a sec, I wouldn’t do this!”. Fair enough, but some of you might have seen it done, or might see it done though, and this video wasn’t staged, it’s real life!
Please, don’t try to get too close to wildlife hoping to send us your best wildlife shot for our annual photo contest!
A BBC video shot over the summer in the town of Estes, Colorado, U.S.A., is showing rutting male elk, so fired up they invade the streets and charge at the tourists.
It truly was my most Canadian moment. I was watching the park paparazzi (a.k.a. park visitors) surround an enormous bull elk in downtown Banff. Cameras were flashing, kids were laughing and pointing, and the elk was becoming increasingly (and understandably) nervous. Just when it appeared as though the elk might charge an overly nosy photographer, a park warden arrived on the scene to diffuse this dangerous situation. This is where my most Canadian moment begins. The warden, wearing a maple leaf emblazoned toque, chased the elk from the crowd using the warden’s motivational weapon of choice. . . a hockey stick. Now I ask you, does it get more Canadian than that? I mean, here was someone wearing a toque . . . chasing a wild animal . . . with a hockey stick!
The mountain parks provide countless opportunities to create memorable Canadian moments, including up close and personal encounters with some of Canada’s most famous celebrities such as moose, beavers, and bears. The Rockies also offer the chance to spy a myriad of lesser known stars — from numerous species of birds in low elevation wetland areas, to mountain goats scrambling atop the highest peaks.
Of course, unlike a visit to Hollywood, there are no maps to the stars’ homes. Nor is visiting a national park an outing to the zoo. There are no signs pointing the way to the moose, no paved trails to the otters, and certainly no caged grizzlies — which is what makes wildlife watching in the Canadian Rockies so exciting; so rewarding; and so very, very unpredictable.
There are some simple things you can do to improve your odds. Venturing out and about at dawn and dusk, when many of the animals tend to be more active, certainly helps. And knowing something of the animals’ preferred habitat is obviously going to improve your odds. But, ultimately, it comes down to patience, curiosity, and heaps of luck.
Knowing how much celebrities enjoy their privacy, please make sure you don’t turn into a stalker, because these megastars really will charge you if you play the role of the park paparazzi. The elk wandering the streets of Jasper may look tame, the bighorn sheep that loiter around the Lake Minnewanka parking lot in Banff may appear harmless, but we need to respect that they are wild animals, and remember that we are the ones paying them a visit–in their homes.
So as you create your own Canadian moments in some of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet, make like a true blue Canadian and be polite. Be respectful. And leave the hockey stick at home (we don’t want you to be that Canadian).
Michael Kerr is former park naturalist and the author of five books, including The Canadian Rockies Guide to Wildlife Watching, What’s So Funny About Alberta? and When Do You Let the Animals Out? A Field Guide to Rocky Mountain Humour. Surf him up at mikekerr.com.
By Michael Kerr
(Photo: Elk in Jasper National Park, courtesy of Travel Alberta)
Enjoy the journey. Slow down. Take the time to soak up the scenery, and if you’re lucky enough to encounter any wildlife, treat it as a bonus!
Keep a safe distance from the animals. That’s why you’ve packed binoculars and a telephoto lens, remember? If you’re closer than three bus lengths to a large animal like an elk, you’re too close.
If you’re close enough that the animal changes its behavior in any way, you’re too close. Use your car as a blind. If you happen upon an animal while driving, only pull over if it’s safe to do so; to minimize the risk both to you and the animal, stay in your vehicle. Cars make great blinds, so you’re less likely to spook the wildlife if you stay quietly inside.
Avoid bear jams. Bear traffic jams are the nastiest jams in the parks. They’re dangerous for motorists, and extremely dangerous for the bears, so show your respect for one of the park’s most famous celebrities, and keep moving slowly along.
Don’t feed the animals. Not only is it against the law, it’s really, really stupid. It’s dangerous for the animals, and dangerous for you. (Even feeding the small animals can give a whole new meaning to the term “hand feeding,” once you realize you no longer have a hand with which to feed the animals!)By Michael Kerr
(Photo: Golden Eagle, courtesy of Travel Alberta)
Trail Running is quickly becoming a popular way for locals and visitors alike to experience trails throughout the world, and the mountain parks are considered one of the top trail running destinations. Many runners simply take hiking trails and instead of walking, they run. It allows them to see more locations and scenery while getting a great workout at the same time.
These runs can also be used as a great hike – although some of the longer ones will need more than one day for a walker to complete. And in turn, most of the great hikes in the area can be run. Don’t be afraid to piece together trails or shorten distances to suit your ability. This is an infinitely small selection of the trail runs available in the chosen areas.
As with all backcountry activities, be aware of wildlife, run in groups when possible and ensure you have enough water and nutrition to make your day an enjoyable one. And don’t forget your camera.
The Highline Trail was opened in August 2009 and has quickly become a local favourite. With four entry points, there are plenty of options for either an out-and-back run or loop run. The well maintained and well-marked single track offers uninhibited views overlooking the town of Canmore, and the trail is regularly shovelled during the winter by a group of dedicated mountain bikers. Popular starting points are the Quarry Lake day use area and Three Sisters Blvd. Regardless of where you begin, you’ll only achieve the 8 km rolling traverse by first testing your lungs on the climbing switchbacks.
On the North side of the highway, Montane Traverse links Cougar Creek and Harvey Heights above Silvertip Golf Course. A well-travelled 8 km mountain bike trail, this undulating single track appeals to runners of all levels. It offers short side loops or can be extended east to include the approximate 8 km G8 circuit. Finish at Cougar Creek parking lot and treat yourself to a pint at the Iron Goat Pub and Grill.
Canmore to Banff
Beginning at the Canmore Nordic Centre, this beautiful trail takes you directly to the Banff Springs Golf Course parallel to the Bow River. If you want to get to Banff on foot, this is the trail to take. Park at the Nordic Centre and follow the Banff Trail (5.5 km) to the start of Rundle Riverside (8.5 km) and follow it directly to Banff. A keen eye for roots and rocks will help you negotiate this somewhat technical trail. You’ll need to either arrange a ride back to Canmore or take advantage of the Bike and Hike Shuttle which runs between Canmore and Banff.
A popular cross country skiing trail in the winter, Goat Creek trail gives runners, walkers and mountain bikers a smooth trip between Canmore and Banff. The 18 km one-way double track trail drops approximately 1,000 ft from Canmore to Banff while skirting the base of Mount Rundle. From Canmore, continue past the Nordic Centre on the Spray Lakes Road/Smith- Dorrien highway for approximately 8 km to the large parking lot at the trailhead.
Challenge Run: Combine Rundle Riverside and Goat Creek Trail for an epic 42 km trail run from Canmore to Banff and back. Starting at the Canmore Nordic Centre, run to Banff via Rundle Riverside, connect to Goat Creek via the Banff Springs Golf Course road and complete the return trip on the Goat Creek Trail. Finish with a significant downhill on Spray Lakes Road back to the Nordic Centre.
The lakeshore trail at Lake Minnewanka is a classic Banff-area trail for runners, hikers and mountain bikers. As one of the first trails to be snow-free in the area, it’s a stunning and fun beginner/intermediate early-season run. From the Lake Minnewanka car park, take the sealed road past the boat docking area and the trailhead will present itself. Although the first part of the trail has some steeper elevation gain, the extent of the whole trail hosts a mildly undulating, winding and fast singletrack. The out-and-back trail is a tad under 30km but is spectacular at any turn-around point making it a favourite for all levels of runner.
Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House – Lake Louise
From the iconic Chateau on the Lake, Chateau Lake Louise, 10 mins from the township of Lake Louise, follow the paved path to the right side of the lake. A wide unpaved pathway leads you, along with many tourists, cameras and over-fed squirrels, to a stunningly picturesque lakeside trail. The trail progressively becomes less of a wide path and more of a singletrack, passing Lake Louise’s ‘Back of the Lake’ rock climbing area. With stunning views of Mt. Lefroy and Mt. Victoria ahead of you and Lake Louise behind you, the trail winds upward to the Teahouse. Enjoy cake and tea and a fast return to complete this 10.6 km run.
Kootenay National Park
This well used trail is a gorgeous, and less busy, early morning run. The 8.4 km round trip trail will take you through former forest fire areas, and offers breathtaking scenery with 1,200 ft. elevation gain. Access this trail left from Highway 93 just 3.5 km of the British Columbia/Alberta border. Be prepared for some tourist-dodging during midday summer weather.
This run is considered a “must-do” for local ultra running enthusiasts. In its entirety, the Rockwall is an astounding 53 km and is usually completed in 3-5 days by overnight backpackers. As a one day adventure, with three mountain passes, this run is only for experienced long distance runners. Access this trail at either the Paint Pots parking lot or the Floe Lake parking lot (more popular option) and run the point-to-point trail through majestic mountain terrain. Transportation will be needed to get back to the start, and many locals hitchhike back to the beginning. Shorter traverse options, or emergency exit points, can be created by following Numa Creek (18.5 km) or Tumbling Creek (26.5 km) to reach Highway 93.
Yoho National Park
The Lake O’Hara area is a must-see in Yoho National Park. Depending on your availability, you can access the multiple trails by either reserving a spot on the shuttle bus that runs from mid-June to early October ($14.70/adult) or running the 11 km access road located 13 km east of Field, B.C. Once there, the trail running options are endless. Download a trail map before you go and plan your route to include any number of trails in beautiful backcountry terrain. Alternatively, set up camp (fees apply) for a couple days and take your time exploring the area. This can be a busy area in high season summer months.
Starting at the Whiskey Jack Hostel, runners can complete a 17.5 km circuit (via Celeste Lake) or a 20.8 km circuit (via Little Yoho). Both routes offer views of outstanding landmarks including Emerald Glacier and Canada’s second highest waterfall, Takakkaw Falls. Look out points along the trail encourage some frequent breaks to enjoy the scenery. From 27 km west of Lake Louise on Highway 1, follow Yoho Valley west to the hostel and trailhead.
Valley of the Five Lakes
Just 9 km south of the Jasper townsite on highway 93, this popular and stunning run allows many options for distance and trails. The traditional short 4.2 km return trail passes wetlands, meadows and five lakes of differing size, colour and uniqueness. The beauty of this area is that trails can be added to make a loop of linking singletrack with endless options and distance including nearby Wabasso Lake.
Athabasca River Trail
The trailhead for this fast and fun 23 km run is at Old Fort Point. Following singletrack behind the Jasper Park Lodge golf course, the trail rises up some easy hills to Maligne Canyon. Time permitting, take the opportunity to follow the self-guided tour at the Canyon. The trail then follows west along Maligne Rd and hooks up over the Fifth Bridge to Trail 7. Gently making its way back to Old Fort Point, the trail follows the curves and picturesque landscape of the Athabasca River. The trail network in this area opens up a world of options for linking up singletrack for a customized running experience.
~Jen Lowery and Edward Marran (See Jen Review of the Keen trail running shoes)
Photos Credit: Edward Marran
We’re launching a new series about movies filming locations.
Did you know lots of blockbusters or TV series were actually partly or fully filmed in Alberta and/or British Columbia?
So we’ll start with our first round in Alberta. This first list is far from being exhaustive as we intend to continue on.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Partly filmed in Canmore, Edmonton, Calgary.
The seasonal travel restriction has ended on one of Banff National Park’s treasured gems. The annual restriction on the parkway helps protect wildlife from disturbance during the critical times when animals are actively looking for food and bearing their young after the long winter.