The trail head is located just off the Icefields Parkway near the border of Banff & Jasper National Parks. There is a reasonably large car park and very basic toilets.
When we passed through en route to Jasper it was raining and with visibility down to a few hundred yards there was no prospect of us doing the Trail. When we returned a few days later, heading South, there was light rain and the clouds and mist were shrouding the mountains. The car park was empty however as we wouldn’t be along here again for some time we just decided to give it a try. Worst case scenario was that we wouldn’t get a view - or get eaten by a bear!
Although I’m being light-hearted about the bear, in all honesty when we started the trail through woodland I was speaking to my wife louder than necessary to hopefully herald our presence since there was no one else walking the route. (Fresh in our mind was that Barry Blanchard, a mountain guide and his client had been chased up a tree by a grizzly at Mount Fairview Trail, Lake Louise a few days earlier - they were unharmed and the bear was subsequently destroyed).
Quite quickly the trail forms into a series of switchbacks to ease the workload and the landscape opens out into meadows. These are apparently covered in wildflowers at certain times of the year but not when we visited in early October. A distraction as we progressed was the number of fossils we spotted - they were all over the path highlighted on the wet stones. (The ridge was apparently a seabed millions of years ago and these are fossilised sponge and coral). There are lots of warnings to keep to the trail to avoid damaging the fragile tundra - some are presumably tempted to take shortcuts and a steeper route to boast about their quick ascent/decent - however we were breathing heavily and happy to follow the path! Despite this, at some stages it was not clear where the path actually was as it was covered by banks of snow and we needed to look out for the occasional wooden post as a guide. By the time we reached the top of the ridge it had stopped raining, the clouds were lifting and we could get a view. It wasn’t even windy.
Bearing in mind our low expectations when we set off, we were delighted to look back down on the highway and the surrounding mountains… but nothing had prepared us for the view ahead. We wandered off to the left of the ridge summit to look along the other side and as if a curtain was lifting, the clouds drifted and there was the Saskatchewan Glacier in all it’s splendour! What a view! The added bonus was that we were the only ones there.
We weren’t too sure if there was more to the trail and carried along further East to find a rocky promontory which was a good spot to take photographs. In the distance below there was a small emerald coloured pool with a backdrop of spectacular mountains. All around, in patches, the ground was covered in red and yellow plant life. We followed the path until it became a feint track across a steep scree slope and after venturing along this briefly we decided that it was too risky to go further. A slip here would possibly mean an uncontrollable slide for some distance and we didn’t want to test how long it would take to stop! On our walk back the sky was clearing further and some distant peaks came into view. By the time we started back down the slope we could see the car park below had gained about a dozen vehicles and we started to meet a few other hikers who had come to share the experience - we had been lucky to have it to ourselves for an hour or two. Sitting in the car having our sandwiches and looking through binoculars it was disappointing to see some people decending straight down the slopes oblivious of the signs - too busy looking at their stopwatches I guess.
Take your walking/hiking boots, a camera, allow a few hours and make sure you see the full ridge - it’s one of the most rewarding short hikes I’ve experienced in my travels.
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