Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: June 2022
There are actually two Glacier National Parks in North America. One is located in Montana and the other in British Columbia. The Glacier National Park in Canada is situated in the Columbia Mountains and contains steep peaks, mossy old growth forests, and many glaciers. It is also known for its deep snow and avalanches, so the snow-free season for hiking and camping is typically short.
We set our alarm for 6:30a.m so we could get an early start to the day. It was the day before the Canada Day long weekend and we figured traffic later on would be brutal. And it was. It rained a bit overnight, so we tried to let our tent dry off while we made tea and coffee. We then packed up and headed out from the Lake Louise campground in Banff.
We drove back through Yoho National Park, but this time we made no stops along the way. Instead we admired the scenery and rugged mountainous landscape from the car. It was another beautiful day of blue skies and sun and the scenery looked gorgeous. As we neared the park entrance, we drove through a few snow sheds, a structure with a sloped roof to help deflect the snow over the top. I guess they weren’t kidding when they said this region gets a lot of snow.
We arrived at the Rogers Pass Information Centre at 9:30a.m, except Glacier is in a different time zone and is actually one hour behind Mountain Standard Time. Since we had 30 minutes to kill before the Information Centre opened, we turned around to hike along Bear Creek Falls.
There were a few picnic tables at the trailhead, including one in the shade, so we figured this was a great spot to make breakfast. Afterwards we hiked to Bear Creek Falls (1km round trip, rated easy). The trail is short, but steep and declines down through the forest to a rushing river that leads to a very lively waterfall. The spray was intense, so we didn’t stay long.
We then returned to Rogers Pass to get more information on the trail conditions. The park has been slower than usual to open because of all the snow and many of the trails at higher elevations were still hazardous. No worries, we’d stick to the easier ones.
We were back on the road for a minute before turning off to visit the Summit of Rogers Pass, which contains a picnic area, a nice overlook of the snow-capped mountains, and a monument and memory garden that provides more information about the history of the first transcontinental railway in Canada.
We then drove to the Illecillewaet Trailhead which marks the start for a few trails in the area. The parking lot is located just past the Illecillewaet Campground, except there’s no way to turn into it from the direction we were driving on the highway. So we instead had to pass the parking area and use the special Illecillewaet U-turn Route to turn around and access the parking area from the other direction.
To get to the trail system, we first hiked a small portion of the 1885 Trail which follows the original Canadian Pacific rail grade and connects the Illecillewaet and Loop Brook campgrounds. The trail passes by the remains of Glacier House, a hotel that was once operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway from 1887 to 1925. When the railway was diverted from Rogers Pass, Glacier House was closed and torn down due to a lack of visitors.
From the ruins, we found a sign of the trails in the area. We first hiked to Meeting of the Waters, which leads to the confluence of Asulkan Brook and the Illecillewaet River. There’s a bridge that crosses the river for a nice viewpoint, along with a pair of Parks Canada Red Chairs which were in rough shape. There were still some snow patches on the trail, but it wasn’t too bad.
We then made an attempt to hike the Great Glacier Trail, but there was still a lot of snow on the path. We figured it would likely get worse the further we hiked up the mountain, so that was short-lived. We turned around and hiked along the rest of the Meeting of the Waters Trail, which forms a loop back to the ruins of Glacier House. From there we followed the 1885 Trail back to the parking lot.
By the time we wrapped up our hike, it was just before noon and the traffic was really starting to pick up. After waiting several minutes to find an opening, we were back on the highway for a short stretch before we turned off again to hike the Loop Brook Trail (1.7km loop, rated easy). The trail passes a few of the giant stone pillars that once supported two railway bridges over the river and across the valley. Along the way there were interpretive signs that provided more information about the history of the railway through the park. Long story short, it’s not pretty since this area is prone to avalanches.
It was real tough to get back onto the highway again, so it was probably for the best when we missed the turnoff for the Rockgarden Trail. We didn’t feel like battling traffic to turn around, then turn into the parking lot and back out onto the highway afterwards. So we continued driving to Mount Revelstoke National Park where we planned to spend the night. We figured we could hit up this trail on our drive to Kootenay National Park the next day. And that’s exactly what we did.
After a failed attempt of making it to the trailhead the day before, we visited early the next morning. The Rockgarden Trail (430 metre loop, rated easy) leads through an evergreen forest and pile of boulders. Even though it’s a super short trail, I’m glad we were able to return to hike it.
And just like that we were back on the road again.