Explore Jasper // Whistlers Mountain + Jasper Skytram
One of the favourite things we enjoyed about our trips to the Canadian Rockies were the long morning drives to our hiking destinations. However, on our second full day and hike in Jasper, our chosen trail was only about a 10 minute drive from the little town of Jasper. Known as Whistlers Mountain, this peak can be summited easily through the Jasper Skytram; however, if you want to do things the hard way, you can embark on the 10 km trek, with a staggering elevation gain of 1200 m, to the summit. After finishing the trail, we all agreed that the tourists who used the tram missed the most beautiful parts of the mountain that are not visible from the top.
We began our journey on yet another gorgeous morning, full of sunshine and just a few clouds. Despite the warmth, always be sure to pack windbreakers for hiking in Jasper as the mountaintops inevitably encounter strong winds and you must endure the chill that ensues. As it was early July, it was unfortunately also the height of bug season and we would receive a multitude of bug bites that would be the bane of our existences for the next little while.
Never start a trail until you are sure that you have found the correct trailhead. Luckily for us, Canadian National Parks are well-funded enough to provide large, lovely signboards such as this to ensure that tourists do not get lost. The first and longest section of the trail consisted of a path winding upwards through a quiet forest. Although we were prepared for very steep inclines due to the large elevation gain, we found the path was much easier than we had expected. As well, the trail was incredibly quiet and we only saw about three other individuals hiking up to the top-- two of whom would become a lovely part of our story for that hike.
During our hikes in Jasper, we became obsessed over the beauty of the alpine wildflowers that we frequently saw growing on the side of the trails. The quality of this pictures does not do the flower justice at all.
While a large portion of the trail was enshrouded by tall trees (which resulted in more bugs), we would occasionally cross boulder fields that would break up the monotony of the forested trail.
As we neared the top, the trail opened up into a rocky, mountainous alpine meadow, which was to be our favourite section of the hike. In this area, one of our particularly bear-obsessed companions decided to "make our presence known to the bears" by yodelling-- a practice that is meant to scare bears away (and hopefully not attract them). Luckily, we would encounter our first grizzlies in the safety of our car on the last day of our trip.
While the beauty of this area was unmistakable, we could not help but feel twinges of sadness when we realized that huge sections of trees had gone red. These red sections of forest were infected and being killed (if they were not already dead) by a large pine-beetle infestation. Later, a guide on the tram ride down mentioned that several measures were being taken to protect the remaining healthy trees; however, it was a pure waste that the infected trees would most likely be burned or cut down.
This was perfect "bear-country" according to our bear-crazed pal.
After reaching the summit in just under 4 hours (we took about thirty minutes of breaks for lunch and snacks), we began to feel the extreme cold and strong winds that were a normal experience on Jasper mountaintops. It was here that we would also witness a very sweet proposal between two German tourists who had accompanied us, off and on, up the mountain. We ended up chatting with them quite a bit and taking pictures for each other. Another thing I love about travelling is how easy it is to make friends and talk to people from different cultures-- all based on our shared experiences of hiking in the Jasper mountains, seeing the incredible wildlife on the roadsides, and travelling in general.
While we had reached the end of the Whistlers Mountain trail (approximately 8 km), we still had to hike another 2 km (roundtrip) to reach the actual summit of the mountain. This section was actually quite unpleasant as it was extremely cold and full of unprepared tourists walking up the trail in shorts and sandals. However, we trekked up the trail with our newfound German friends and proceeded to take as many panoramic photos as possible before we succumbed to our hunger.
We always make sure to take a few selfies at the summit of our hikes-- I couldn't ask for more wonderful, easygoing, and supportive friends. While we have certainly experienced minor hardships during our trips (ex. health, navigation, etc.), we always are kind and patient with one another. Thank you both for being my friends.
Tia took this photo of me saying, "Debbie looks like she's in the sky!"
Eating our cold meals while hiding from the crazy winds. Something about a hard hike makes any kind of food, even cold fish and veggies, taste incredibly delicious.
After we had our fill of the summit, we headed back down to the tram and bought our one-way tickets for the trip down. However, the tram ride ended taking us much longer than we would have taken if we had hiked down the trail! Due to exposed nature of the summit, the tram was often forced to halt operations until the strong winds had died down to a safer level. As a result, we were forced to sit down at the tram cafe until we could safely board the tram. Nevertheless, we enjoyed hot beverages of tea and chocolate, drawing, reading, and good conversation until it was time to leave.
As well, the slightly stormy weather resulted in us witnessing this gorgeous double rainbow! Yet another reason to delight in the unpredictable beauty of nature.
We actually had been anticipating that the Whistlers Mountain hike would not be as enjoyable or as beautiful as the other trails we had chosen. However, we found ourselves very pleasantly surprised that the trail was beautiful, varied, and not even that difficult (given the tough elevation gain). Therefore, if you are capable, I would highly recommend hiking up the trail rather than taking the expensive tram ride up.
Looking through these photos and dredging up these details has really made me wish that we could return to that beautiful park. Sadly, I will most likely have to wait until spring next year before we can once again explore the Canadian Rockies. Nevertheless, I would highly suggest that you, if given the opportunity, go visit a Canadian National Park this year while they remain free for Canada's 150th anniversary.