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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

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

Overlooking Loopbrook Trail in Glacier National Park. Photo: J. Bolingbroke.jpg

On Loop Brook Trail in Glacier National Park. Photo: J. Bolingbroke

British Columbia has a rich and fascinating history and Parks Canada National Historic Sites highlight pieces of this history. BC’s National Historic Sites are spread throughout the province, from East to West and from North to South. Several of the sites are within an easy day trip of the Fraser Valley. Others will require more planning and commitment. All are worth visiting.

Previously, we published a blog that highlighted two National Historic Sites that are easy day trips from Metro Vancouver. Today, we are talking about three National Historic Sites, Ford Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse, Rogers Pass, and Fort St. James, that are spread throughout the province and would make a great part of any summer vacation.

A common thread through many of Canada’s National Historic Sites is the Xplorers Program for the young and young at heart. This program includes a booklet highlighting activities at each site. As children complete the activities, they work their way toward earning a certificate and souvenir. The program is a great way to keep kids engaged and learning, and offers a lot of fun opportunities.

Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites

Hiking-Fisgard-Lighthouse-National-Historic Site Victoria Photo: destination BC/Reuben Krabbe

Hiking Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site, Victoria. Photo: DBC/Reuben Krabbe

As the lone National Historic Site on Vancouver Island, Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse does not disappoint. Fort Rodd Hill is an artillery fort complete with underground bunkers, guardhouses, and gun batteries. Fisgard Lighthouse makes history as the first permanent lighthouse on the west coast of Canada.

Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse offer a variety of activities to keep the whole family entertained – from wildlife and bird watching to camping in one of Parks Canada’s oTENTik tents. There are also special events happening all summer, including a two-day event all about women on the home front and Victoria’s largest squirt gun battle!

Victoria has tons of other things to see while you are in the area. Consider stopping for a delicious fish and chips lunch at Red Fish Blue Fish in the Inner Harbour or taking a tour of the BC Parliament Buildings. If you head further west, stop for a walk at Witty’s Lagoon in Metchosin or a swim at the Sooke Potholes.

Rogers Pass National Historic Site

On the Trans Canada Highway in Glacier National Park. Photo: B. Pavey

On the Trans Canada Highway in Glacier National Park. Photo: B. Pavey

Rogers Pass National Historic Site can be found within Glacier National Park, making it the perfect weekend getaway. The Rogers Pass Discovery Centre is a replica railway showshed that tells the history of the immense difficulties in navigating Rogers Pass. This is the centrepiece of the National Historic Site, and the only portion of Glacier National Park that is open year-round.

Rogers Pass is crucial in Canadian history. It was through this area that the Canadian Pacific Railway linked British Columbia with the rest of Canada, bringing Sir John A. Macdonald’s promise of a railway from coast to coast to fruition. Running a railway through such rugged terrain was extremely difficult – especially due to the enormous amounts of snow Rogers Pass receives each year and the extreme avalanche danger. After only 30 years of operation, the Canadian Pacific Railway abandoned the Rogers Pass route and opted to build a 9-kilometre long tunnel through Mount Macdonald, alleviating some of the dangers associated with the railway. Today you can step back in time at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre and see just how difficult early navigation was in British Columbia.

Plan your visit for the summer to make the most of Glacier National Park. In the winter, the park is inaccessible to all but the most experienced backcountry travellers. In the summer, however, Glacier National Park offers excellent hiking. Check out the Loop Brook trail for an easy walk along the old railway route. The trail passes by huge stone pillars that in a previous life suspended the railway above the valley floor.

Fort St. James National Historic Site

Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC

Fort St. James National Historic Site, BC

For a more northern experience, Fort St. James National Historic Site takes you back to the fur trade days of 1896. Each of the fort’s restored wooden buildings houses a unique display. At the Fur Warehouse, you can see and feel the pelts that made the fur trade profitable. At the Trade Store, you can trade one of your pelts in for the goods you need to survive. Personally, my favourite experience was the Officers’ House, where you can pop into the yard to take part in the Chicken Races!

One of the experiences unique to Fort St. James is the ability to stay overnight in the fort. Spending the night at the Murray House gives you the opportunity to live like it was 1896. From dinner at the Old Fort Café to a moonlight exploration of the fort, spending the night in this restored heritage building is an experience like none other.

In the area, consider stretching both your lungs and your legs on the Mt. Pope hiking trail located within the Mount Pope Provincial Park to get unbeatable views of Stuart Lake. When you get back, stop for a well-deserved ice cream cone at Little Jimmy Fry’s.

BC has some of the best National Historic Sites in the country. Our diversity of mountain and ocean sites guarantees that you will find something to suit your interests – all while learning about BC’s fascinating history.

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: June 22nd, 2017

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