Submitted by: Kecia
Since my husband and I moved to Alberta in December 2012, it has become a tradition to meet up with two close friends from Calgary at the Wilcox Creek campground near the border of Banff and Jasper National Parks in August. Each year we hike different trails for a couple of days, but one of our favourites is the Parker Ridge hike. The hike provides a wonderful payoff at the top with a spectacular view of the Saskatchewan glacier, part of the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River. The hike is short, but a little bit steep, so the abundance of wildflowers to stop and look at along the way are welcome for more than their beauty. At the top, we enjoy the view, have a snack, and wander along the ridge for different views of the glacier and the valley that the glacier drains into. As we wandered along a couple of years ago, we thought that getting into the valley below would be a nice hike for the future.
Last year we decided to get a view of the glacier from below. The hike is longer than the short walk but Parker Ridge, but it is mostly flat, and includes some meandering trail in the forest before opening up into the bottom of the river valley. The walk along the valley bottom is quite long, most of it over cobble rocks. We didn’t get all the way to the base of the glacier, but we did get to see it! The huge expanse of the valley bottom gives you a much better sense of the scale of the glacier and the valley than seeing it from above! I loved seeing the beginning of the river spread out over the valley floor.
After our hikes we return to our side-by-side campsites to cook a big feast and enjoy the stars around the campfire. When we time our trip right, we are there for the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, which is always a fabulous show.
Alberta is full of beautiful wild spaces, but the Icefields Parkway, the connection of Banff and Jasper National Parks, is certainly a crown jewel of Canada’s National Park system. We hope to continue our new tradition for many years to come!