Destinations

The destinations we plan to visit on our Alaska RV adventure are shown as markers on the Google map displayed on our home page. The markers show our planned overnight stops along our planned travel route. Some of the stops are one-night stands to rest between faraway destinations. Most stops are primary destinations where we will stay for two to four nights to explore the surrounding area.

We will write about the things we see and do at each destination chronologically in a timely manner. Here you can follow us along our journey in our great Alaska RV adventure!

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Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Today is our last day staying at Jasper National Park. The park is as interesting and beautiful as Banff National Park was for us. The two parks border each other. Today is our second full day in the park. Tomorrow, we head to Dawson Creek and the start of the AlCan Highway.

Driving the Icefields Parkway

Between the town of Banff and the town of Jasper, we drove on the Icefields Parkway. The drive offers some of the most beautiful and dramatic views we have ever seen on our travels in North America. Steep, rugged mountains tower over you on both sides of the road. You can see many large ice fields and glaciers on this drive.

Athabasca Glacier View from the Icefields Parkway

Hiking the Edith Cavell Meadows Trail

Yesterday was our first full day at our Jasper stop. We camped at the Wabasso Campground. The sites are roomy, and the views are great. There is no electric or water connection on site. We filled up with water at the campground water/dump station. We have an 800-watt solar panel system and 400-amp-hour lithium battery power storage, so electricity isn’t a problem.

The forecast for the day was for sunny skies and a high of 80 in the lower valleys. We decided to hike the Edith Cavell Meadows Trail. The road to the trailhead off 93A is very windy and narrow with no shoulder to speak of. Trailers of any kind are not allowed on the road and for good reasons! There is a parking lot at the junction where you can disconnect your RV or trailer and leave it in the parking area to head up to the trail. We were driving our Ford F350, without our RV, of course. At the start of the road, we saw four people hitchhiking for a ride up to the trail. Their RV was in the parking lot. We stopped and picked them up, and they crowded into the back seat.

Our hitchhikers were married couples from Israel who were near the end of their vacation in the Banff/Jasper area. We ended up hiking with them and getting to know them along the way. They are young, in their early 30s, and athletic people. During our talks with them, we discovered that they are all professional programmers, which gave us a lot of things in common to talk about.

The trail is a 5.1-mile loop and has a 1,900-foot elevation gain and is generally considered a challenging route. The first part of the trail is paved and easy taking you towards Mount Edith Cavell terminating at a viewpoint across from Angel Glacier and Cavell Pond. After the viewpoint, the pavement ends, and the trail winds steeply up to where the trail officially ends at approximately 7,600 feet elevation.

A rough trail continues from the end of the “official” end of the trail to a steep rocky summit. We were all tired from the climb up and no one was enthusiastic about an even steeper climb through sharp rocky rubble. However, someone returning from that climb told us there was a fantastic 360-degree view at the top that was more than worth the effort. I, Rich, couldn’t resist the photo opportunity, so the two young guys, Daniel and Tal, and I hiked to the top. This added about another mile and a half and 800+ elevation gain to the hike. Kathy and the Israeli women decided to hang out and wait for us.



The view at the summit was amazing and worth the effort.

Crazy Israelis

On the hike down, Daniel and Tal told us they were going to swim in Cavell Pond at the bottom of Angel Glacier. We thought that they were crazy to swim in water that had ice floating in it and was only a couple of degrees above freezing, but later that day we received and email from our new friends with photographic proof of them swimming in the pond!

Maligne Lake

Today, we left camp early to take a boat cruise on Maligne Lake (pronounced mah-leen) to Spirit Island. We are told it is the longest lake in the Rockies. The morning was cool and mostly sunny.

On the way to Maligne Lake, we stopped briefly for a short hike to view Maligne Canyon. Is very narrow and the Maligne River cuts deep into limestone rock.

The boat cruise was only a little over 90 minutes. The views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers are spectacular.

It was good that we started the day early; by midday the clouds overdeveloped and there were intermittent showers. We decided not to hike anymore and went into the town of Jasper for lunch. We ate at a Korean restaurant. The food was great.

On our way back to camp we encountered a large group of elk feeding on the grass alongside the road and a large black bear also foraging on something near the road.

We are now back at camp in our RV and it has been raining hard off and on. Tomorrow is a travel day …  

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Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

We are in our RV on our fourth night. Tomorrow, June 29, we pack up and move farther north to our next stop at Jasper National Park.

Banff, both the town and the park, are great places to visit and stay. We only had three full days to explore the area. You could easily stay here for three weeks and not run out of places to see and things to do.

Getting to Banff

On Sunday, June 25, we arrived at our campsite at the Tunnel Mountain Trailer Court in the town of Banff after a 300-mile 7-hour drive from our campsite at Columbia Falls, Montana. It was raining when we got to our campsite in the afternoon. This has been a common weather pattern for the first 10 days of our trip. Most days start off with clear skies in the early morning with the first puffy cumulus clouds appearing mid-morning. By 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., thunderstorms develop producing showers and sometimes heavy rain. It rained hard Sunday night.

Lake Minnewanka

We woke up to clear skies on Monday morning, and we decided to check out a hike near town.  After reading about the trails in the area we decided to take the shuttle bus in town to Lake Minnewanka and find the trailhead to the C-Level Cirque trail. When we got off the shuttle, we found out that the trailhead we wanted was about a kilometer away from where we got off the shuttle. We decided to hike three miles out and return up the Stewart Canyon Trail that starts at the lake and has a 1,400-foot elevation gain.

When we got back to the shuttle stop Kathy decided to take the shuttle back to town and drive our truck to the next town, Canmore, fill it up with diesel, and shop for some supplies. I, Rich, wanted to hike the C-Level Cirque trail to do some photography. I hiked back down the road we came up to the trailhead. It turned out to be closer to a mile than a kilometer to get there. I had already hiked about four miles, so I wasn’t starting out fresh.

The C-Level Cirque trail is a 5.8-mile out-and-back trail with a 2,500-foot elevation gain. It is generally considered to be a challenging route. I was getting a late start and the sky was already starting to turn grey and threatening. The hike was quite tough, and I was exhausted when I got to the highest point. Most of the hike is through a thick lodgepole pine forest with only a couple of open views before you get almost all the way to the top point. Shortly after starting back down the trail, it started to rain. I didn’t want to walk a mile uphill back to the shuttle. I walked about a mile or so downhill on the road until I got cell coverage and called Kathy to pick me up. Altogether, I walked more than a dozen miles and thousands of feet of elevation. It was brutal.

Lake Louise and Nearby Lakes

Tuesday, we got up early and headed to Lake Louise for some sightseeing and hiking. Parking near Lake Louise is very limited and all the lots were full. We headed to the ski area, which has a huge parking area, and got on a shuttle tour bus that has several stops where you can catch a bus once every hour. Our first stop was Lake Louise. It is one of the most popular spots for visitors to the park. The view of the lake is quite striking. It is surrounded by towering mountains with large ice fields. The water in the lake is a deep aquamarine color caused by very fine particles suspended in the water from glacier ice melt.

We hiked the Lake Agnes Trail to Lake Agnes and the Lake Agnes Tea House. It is a 4.6-mile hike with a 1,500-foot elevation gain. On the way to Lake Louise, we also hiked by Mirror Lake. The hike is considered moderately challenging. Even so, there were many people on the trail.

The shuttle bus also provides a stop at Moraine Lake. Private cars are not allowed to drive on the road to the lake. It was mid-afternoon by the time the bus dropped us off at Moraine Lake. It started to shower shortly after we got there. The showers only lasted a short time, but the skies remained overcast. We hiked along the shore of the lake, which also has an aquamarine color similar to Lake Louise. It rained that night at camp.

Kayaking on the Bow River

The Bow River runs through the town of Banff. It too has an aquamarine color for the same reason as the lakes, and it is cold with a temperature of only about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The stretch of the river we paddled in with our tandem kayak is wide and relatively slow-moving. We paddled for a few miles surrounded by dramatic scenery.

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Glacier National Park

We are staying at an RV park in Columbia Falls. Montana, close to the west entrance to Glacier National Park. Today, we drove the main route through the park called “Going-to-the-Sun Road”. It is very narrow and intimidating to drive. The scenery is spectacular. It reminded us of places we’ve been to in Switzerland.

We stopped at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and hiked three miles on the Hidden Lake Nature Trail. Part of the trail was covered with snow that was melting and slippery. The views along the trail are breathtakingly beautiful.  The ground plants were under snow only weeks or days ago. There was lots of fresh grass and new wildflowers for animals to eat. And we saw lots of animals taking advantage of the windfall of food.

The park is known for its numerous Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep. We encountered a herd of Bighorn Sheep and a small group of Mountain Goats including a cute newborn goat. We also saw several Marmots. At one point, we watched two Marmots wrestling for dominance. Check out the video of dueling marmots at the end of the post.

Animals in the Park

Park Scenery

Video

Check out this video of two marmots wrestling for dominance. It’s a little shaky but fun to watch.

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Yellowstone National Park

Our original plan when we left home was to stop at Buster’s RV Park near Twin Falls, Idaho on our way to Yellowstone National Park. When we got there, we decided to go farther to decrease our travel time the next day. We stopped at Massacre Rocks State Park. The park is next to the Snake River in Idaho. We stopped here before on a previous RV trip.

We arrived at the Bridge Bay Campsite in Yellowstone on Monday, June 19 in the afternoon. The campsite is located next to Yellowstone Lake 8,000 feet above sea level. The weather was cold and rainy. It rained hard that night. Kathy’s sister Beth Fox and her husband Dan Sooter met us in Yellowstone later in the afternoon and camped next to us. We played cribbage that night in our RV with the sound of heavy rain pouring down.

Bison munching on dandelions at our campsite
Beth and Kathy
Dan and Beth

The next day started off cloudy with intermittent showers. By midday, the weather became partly cloudy and cool. The four of us spent the day driving around the park visiting many of the amazing highlights of the park. The park was crowded with visitors from around the world. The roads have little or no shoulders and few turnouts. This caused bad backups on the road where people stopped in the road to view bison, elk, and grizzly bears near the roadside. Also, there was a lot of road construction ongoing that caused delays in some places. The number of people driving on the roads in the park and the congestion it causes will only get worse in the future. This isn’t sustainable. It seems that some type of reservation system will be needed to mitigate and control the traffic flow in the park.

On our last full day at Yellowstone, we went on a tour we booked almost a year ago. Beth and Dan could not get a reservation, so they headed out on their own to explore for the day. The yellow tour bus was made in 1937. It had a canvas roof, and the inside of the doors was made of a wood frame. We met at the lodge at 5:45 a.m. and the bus headed out at 6:00 a.m. Heading out early mostly gave us the road to ourselves for the first couple of hours. We saw 11 grizzlies and lots of bison and elk as well as many bird species and a few marmots.

On Thursday, June 22, we broke camp and said goodbye to Beth and Dan, who were heading back home, and we headed to our next camping spot outside of Glacier National Park near the Canada border. That’s where we are now. Check back for the next blog about our experience here!

The American Serengeti

No other place in the lower 48 states enables you to get close to so many large mammals. There are over 1,000 grizzly bears in the park, and bison and elk are common. A bison came by our campsite to graze on the dandelions growing in the grass and a herd of elk also grazed in the campground. They were unafraid and acclimated to being near people. Even so, you must be careful near them; they are massive animals that can be dangerous or lethal if they feel threatened or provoked.

We saw a couple dozen grizzly bears in the park. Most of the grizzlies we saw were females with cubs. Every female had two cubs with her. The larger male grizzly bears did not come close to the roads, and we saw only one at a distance.

The Geysers

Yellowstone sits on top of a massive supervolcano that last erupted more than 600,000 years ago. A plume of magma from the mantle is close to the surface. The park gets a lot of rain and snowmelt during the year. The groundwater percolates down until it becomes super-heated causing steam and boiling water to come out of the ground – sometimes explosively.

Every section of the park has steaming geysers and hot springs. No other place on Earth has as many geysers as Yellowstone.


Yellowstone Videos

Some things like geysers and waterfalls are best viewed as videos to see them dynamically. Here are some short videos we took.