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Bear Creek Falls, Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is a Spectacular BC Destination

Bear Creek Falls, Glacier National Park

Bear Creek Falls, Glacier National Park

If you type Glacier National Park into your web browser, many of the search results reference Montana’s large national park of the same name. If you dig a little deeper, you will uncover one of BC’s most spectacular and challenging destinations, which covers almost 1400km2 of BC’s Selkirk and Purcell Mountains.

Glacier National Park, in BC’s Kootenay region, is the first national park established in British Columbia and is one of the most interesting parks I have visited, as the spectacular views from the highway are juxtaposed with the challenges of accessibility.

For much of the year, Glacier National Park is blanketed in up to 10 metres (yes, metres!) of snow, making the park inaccessible to all but the most experienced backcountry travellers. While the Trans Canada Highway cuts directly through the park, Rogers Pass can be one of the most treacherous sections of highway in the province with over 130 avalanche paths affecting the highway. By the time the snow melts away in the summer months, the Grizzly Bears have emerged from their winter slumber and many of the hiking trails in the park have restricted access, requiring groups of four people over the age of 12 to hike within three metres of each other.

Backcountry travel in Glacier National Park is not for the faint of heart! Fortunately, Parks Canada has established numerous points of interest within the park that don’t require quite as much dedication and make the park a perfect place to stretch your legs, camp for a few days, and experience some of what the park has to offer.

What to Do

Glacier House, Glacier National Park

Glacier House, Glacier National Park

Highlights in Glacier National Park include:

  • Bear Creek Falls: A short but steep downhill walk brings you from the highway down to a spectacular waterfall. In the summer, enjoy the cooler temperatures the gorge offers by packing a picnic to enjoy along the creek.
  • Glacier House: A luxury destination in the mountains from the early 1900s, the Glacier House hotel was established by the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the railway was re-routed through the 9 kilometre long Connaught Tunnel in 1917, visitors to Glacier House dramatically decreased and the resort was closed and eventually dismantled. Today, you can explore the ruins of the resort near the Illecillewaet Campground.
  • Rogers Pass Discovery Centre: A National Historic Site in its own right, the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre is the only part of Glacier National Park that is accessible year-round. An excellent interpretive centre tells the history of the area and the nearby Rogers Pass Summit site offers spectacular views and informative outdoor displays.

    Rock Garden, Glacier National Park

    Rock Garden, Glacier National Park

  • Rock Garden: This walk only takes about 20 minutes, but take your time and explore the moss and lichen covered boulders deposited during the last ice age. The trail consists of a jaunt through the forest, numerous rock staircases, and a trail through large boulders, so bring appropriate footwear.
  • Loop Brook: Loop Brook is one of my favourite destinations in Glacier National Park. The trail starts at the Loop Brook Campground and travels just over a kilometre and a half through the forest along sections of the old railway grade. The highlights of the hike are definitely the enormous stone pillars that once carried the railway in a loop through the valley in order to reduce the grade of the railway. Excellent interpretive signage along the trail adds to the experience.
  • High-Elevation Hiking: Undeniably, one of the best ways to experience Glacier National Park is to take a hike in the high country. There are numerous trails in the park and the information desk at the Illecillewaet Campground – where many of the most popular hikes depart – has a sign-up sheet for those people wanting to join up with others to form groups of 4.
Loop Brook, Glacier National Park

Loop Brook, Glacier National Park

In the Area

While in the area, consider visiting Mount Revelstoke National Park and Yoho National Park. Take a day trip to Golden or Revelstoke to experience life in a mountain town. Both offer many opportunities for eating, drinking, and recreation. Plan for a meal at the Wolf’s Den in Golden for one of the best burgers you will ever eat. In Revelstoke, stop by the Monashee Spirits Distillery to sample locally made liqueurs.

Where to Stay

Glacier National Park offers three campgrounds: Illecillewaet, Loop Brook, and Mount Sir Donald. All campgrounds are first come first served and offer a place to stay right in the heart of the park.

Glacier National Park is a dream destination for many backcountry and mountaineering enthusiasts, but it also has much to offer the casual visitor. There is a huge variety of hiking trails, from casual walks to demanding backcountry excursions. I have been to the park several times, but I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what Glacier National Park has to offer and it is one of those destinations that keeps calling me back over and over again.

For more campgrounds in and around British Columbia check out the Camping Map at Camping & RVing BC.

Check out more blogs in the National Parks & Historic Sites series:

A Primer to Canada’s National Parks in BC.

Explore Fort Langley & Gulf of Georgia Cannery Historic Sites and Check Out Some of BC’s Fascinating History

BC’s Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Offers Rich Opportunities for Exploring

BC’s National Historic Sites Offer a Glimpse into the Past – Here are 3 to Explore

Kootenay National Park, BC Offers Great Vistas, Hiking & History

Visit Mount Revelstoke National Park in August for its Stunning Vistas & Wildflowers

Yoho National Park, BC – A Jewel in the Canadian Rockies

Glacier National Park: A Special BC Destination

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve – A Great Place to Visit in the Off Season

Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc

Yoho National Park, BC – A Jewel in the Canadian Rockies

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake, Yoho National Park

Alberta often gets the credit for the Canadian Rockies, but BC plays host to a spectacular Rocky Mountain parks of its own – Yoho National Park. This park can be visited as a trip of its own, or it can be part of a larger circle tour through the Canadian Rockies. Either way, spectacular mountain peaks, alpine flowers, and shimmering lakes await you in Yoho National Park.

Yoho is the slightly western counterpart of the better-known Banff National Park. Covering 1,310 square kilometres, the park makes up a portion of UNESCO’s Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. Yoho offers a bountiful range of both easily accessible and more challenging terrain, guaranteeing that you will find something to suit your interests no matter which direction you choose to explore.

Takakkaw Falls Campground, Yoho National Park

Takakkaw Falls Campground, Yoho National Park

What To Do in Yoho National Park

Highlights include:

  • Takakkaw Falls: A 254-metre waterfall with an easy walking trail that gets you close enough to the base to feel the spray. If you choose to stay at the Takakkaw Falls campground, the sound of the rushing water will sing you to sleep each night.
  • Emerald Lake: An aptly named lake that provides stunning scenery and amazing opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding. Hungry? Check out Cilantro on the Lake, the bistro-style dining option at the Emerald Lake Lodge offering great food and even greater views.

    Hiking Lake O'Hara, Yoho National Park

    Hiking Lake O’Hara, Yoho National Park

  • Natural Bridge: A short walk to see how the mighty Kicking Horse River has eroded a spectacular gorge.
  • Lake O’Hara: Backcountry at it’s finest! Lake O’Hara is accessible only by reservation, as the area must be accessed by the Lake O’Hara shuttle bus. Both day trips and overnight excursions are available. Check at the Visitor Centre in Field as last-minute spots sometimes come available, but to guarantee your spot make your reservation well in advance.
  • Burgess Shale: An ancient sea in the sky? Accessible only by guided hike, the Burgess Shale is known world-wide as one of the most significant fossil beds in the world.

    Fossil Found at Walcott Quarry, Yoho National Park. Photo: Aaron Purdy

    Fossil Found at Walcott Quarry, Yoho National Park. Photo: Aaron Purdy

In the Area

While you are visiting Yoho National Park, consider taking a day-trip to Golden where you can walk across Canada’s longest freestanding timber frame pedestrian bridge, take a gondola ride to 7,700 feet at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, and hit the links at the Golden Golf Club. There are many more things to do in and around Yoho National Park.

Closest Community

Field, located within Yoho National Park, is the closest place offering any sort of services. This vacation town has numerous restaurants and shops, but if you are looking to do any major resupplying you may need to consider going further afield – no pun intended! Golden is about half an hour west, while Lake Louise is half an hour east.

Natural Bridge, Yoho National Park

Natural Bridge, Yoho National Park

Where to Stay

Yoho has four first-come-first served “front country” campsites. The largest of these is Kicking Horse, which offers showers, flush toilets, and a sani-dump. For a more unique experience, consider staying at the walk-in Takakkaw Falls campground. Don’t let the campground’s walk-in name deter you – Parks Canada provides wheelbarrows to transport your belongings the short distance to the campground and bear boxes to store your food and other scented belongings.

Yoho National Park is one of my favourite places to visit. The combination of alpine scenery and easy accessibility makes it a great option for people of all levels of physical fitness and offers endless opportunities for exploration. Whether you are young or young at heart, Yoho has something up its sleeve to keep you entertained for a day, a week, or beyond.

For more campgrounds in and around British Columbia check out the Camping Map at Camping & RVing BC.

Check out more blogs in the National Parks & Historic Sites series:

A Primer to Canada’s National Parks in BC.

Explore Fort Langley & Gulf of Georgia Cannery Historic Sites and Check Out Some of BC’s Fascinating History

BC’s Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Offers Rich Opportunities for Exploring

BC’s National Historic Sites Offer a Glimpse into the Past – Here are 3 to Explore

Kootenay National Park, BC Offers Great Vistas, Hiking & History

Visit Mount Revelstoke National Park in August for its Stunning Vistas & Wildflowers

Yoho National Park, BC – A Jewel in the Canadian Rockies

Glacier National Park: A Special BC Destination

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve – A Great Place to Visit in the Off Season

Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc

Published: April 13th, 2017

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