Nothing much beats setting off for a day spent hiking with five friends, a dog and the sun peeking through the clouds after a night of rain.
And that’s exactly how our day started on the Monday of the May long weekend. The free day off. The best day of the long weekend, in my opinion.
With two beginner hikers, two moderately experienced but out of shape hikers and two fairly fit and experienced hikers, we covered all the bases as we headed off to Jasper and the Valley of the Five Lakes.
We picked this as our second hike of the season for a number of reasons.
Spring is bear season, no doubt, but this trail is a popular trail and on a weekend day you are never far from other human beings.
It is known as an early-season hike in Jasper – meaning the trail dries out fairly quickly.
At nine kilometres but with minimal elevation gain (according to trailpeak.com) it was a good push on distance for all of us but completely within our capabilities.
The trail head is 9km south on Hwy 93 (turn left at the lights on Hwy 16 in Jasper), it is signed and there is a parking lot, outhouse and pay phone.
|Yes, a pay phone. Did you know it’s $.50 a call now?|
The trail is well marked and starts out quite wide before it opens out into a valley bottom with a well maintained boardwalk that takes you over Wabasso Creek.
We followed the signs and markers for trail 9a, the long loop, in a counterclockwise direction that promised views of the lakes early on, starting with a glimpse of The Fourth Lake through the trees before arriving at the shores of The Fifth Lake.
|The trails are well marked but there are a lot of options, so make sure you know which one you’re following.|
The trail wound around thick-trunked trees and past large moss-covered boulders that reminded us that we were, indeed, still in the Rockies, even if those trees blocked their view.
|This was our first glimpse of the Fourth Lake and we thought this was awesome, we had no idea what was coming.|
I could type all day and I wouldn’t come close to explaining the colour of the lakes. Seeing it in real life is the only way to go. They are a blue-green that seems all at once to be completely unnatural and yet, you realize, is completely all-the-way natural.
The water is so crystal clear that you can watch from the trails above as fish skim along the bottom and ducks dive below the surface to grab them.
|Fishing is allowed on both the Forth and Fifth Lakes with a National Park permit.|
There are more hills on this trail than I expected from reading the books, but they were moderate and none of them were an extended length – just a couple had me stopping on the way up to catch my breath.
The wildflowers were just starting to show themselves and I can’t wait to do this hike again in a month when they are in full bloom.
|Photo courtesy of Clove Photography|
There does seem to be some discrepancy about the length of the hike, depending on which sign, book, and website you read.
I have included the info from trailpeak.com above because it seems to be the most accurate, but my FitBit said I went 11km. We did take small detours down to the lakes and popped on over here and there for photos – I think you should expect to do the same. It took us 3.5 hours to complete the hike.
There are numerous places to pull up a rock and have lunch by a lake, we chose The Fourth Lake and didn’t regret it. We even cheered a fisherwoman in a belly-boat as she reeled one in.
Besides the ducks and fish, the only other significant wildlife we saw was an extremely territorial grouse. No kidding, the little guy ran us down and showed us who’s boss as we shoved cameras in his face.
|This is Courtney of Clove Photography and shortly after this she was run down by the killer grouse.|
We heard about a bear up ahead from others, but with a large group like ours we were less worried and we never did see it.
I will do this hike again and soon.
|Map from the book Hiking Jasper and Mount Robson by Rob Bryce|
Now head on over to Jacqueline’s blog Jacquelinerose.ca for her perspective on the hike.
You can also pick up a copy of the May 22, 2014 edition of The Hinton Voice for a write up about the hike.