Glacier National Park (Canada)

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.


83 thoughts on “Glacier National Park (Canada)

  1. John says:

    The scenery is incredibly beautiful! The modern bridges are very well built, wow. It’s amazing that those people were able to build a railway through such difficult terrain, amazing. I think it’s unfortunate that there are so many people making the visit a little less fun I suppose. 🇨🇦❤️

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s pretty incredible how they were able to construct a railway through such mountainous terrain. It really is an engineering marvel. The snow sheds were also pretty cool. I’ve never actually seen one of them before. The traffic situation wasn’t the greatest. The trails themselves weren’t very busy, but because most of the trailheads are located off the highway, if we were going against traffic, it was challenging to turn off to access them. It was worth the wait though as the scenery was beautiful.

  2. Rose says:

    The snow-covered mountain photo is so gorgeous! Your posts are so ‘refreshing’ to read and view. I enjoy learning the history of these areas, and I like how you add bits of current information – rain overnight, brutal traffic…

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Even though most of the trails were closed because of the snow, I’m glad we were able to still visit and hike some of the easier trails at a lower elevation. The snow covered mountains looked so majestic. It was also neat to learn about the history of the park, which was established largely because of the railway.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! There’s always something so peaceful about the sound of rushing water too. The funny thing is that even though there was still some snow on the trail, it was actually very warm outside. We were hiking in t-shirts and shorts!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We’ve been to both Glaciers NPs now and agreed, you should definitely visit them both! The one in BC is much smaller, but the scenery is still incredible. We weren’t able to do much hiking because of all the snow, but we still had a wonderful time (even if it was challenging to turn back onto the highway every time we went for a hike because of all the traffic for the long weekend).

  3. NortheastAllie says:

    The Canadian Glacier National Park looks so gorgeous. The Bear Creek Falls look so beautiful, and I love your photos with the mist. The 1885 trail seems like a really cool area to take in both historical and nature views! Also the Rockgarden trail has some pretty impressive vantage points.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The Glacier National Park in Canada is much smaller than the one in the United States, but is equally as beautiful. I couldn’t get over how much snow there was when we visited at the end of June. This limited our options in terms of what trails we could hike, but we still managed to cover a lot of ground. I’m also glad we got a second chance to hike the Rockgarden Trail.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The Glacier NP in Canada is much smaller and not as well known as the one in Montana. It also gets an incredible amount of snow, which means that the trails and campgrounds are only open for 2-3 months of the year. I’m glad we made the most of the nice weather and were able to explore some of the shorter trails at a lower elevation.

  4. kagould17 says:

    Some interesting hikes in this area Linda. Will have to give them a look if we ever take the South route again. I can only imagine how bad the traffic was in this area on the long weekend. Good on you for persisting. Happy Wednesday. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Many of the trailheads are located directly off of the highway. Normally this isn’t an issue, but over a long weekend, good luck with trying to turn into and out of the parking lots. Most people were just driving through Glacier though as we found the trails themselves pretty quiet. Have a wonderful weekend. Take care. Linda

  5. Ab says:

    What a beautiful and scenic day you two had. Waking up at 3:30 am Toronto time no less. Definitely worth it for those mountain views, falls and scenic trails.

    I noticed this in Bruce Peninsula too, but the National parks seem to have that added zest in terms of amenities like monuments and memorial gardens and even the bridges look more architecturally pleasing.

    Thanks for sharing this lovely day with us.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s always good to take advantage of the nice weather and get an early start to the day. It’s funny because Glacier itself wasn’t very busy, likely because the campgrounds and many of the trails weren’t open yet, but there were a lot of cars on the road. This made turning off to access the trails a bit challenging.

      I noticed the same thing in Bruce Peninsula about how they’ve updated (and added) a lot more signage and other amenities. It’s great that they continue to make improvements and are trying new stuff, like the pilot program to test camping in the yurts in the fall and winter which we were able to do back in March.

      And speaking of nice weather, have a wonderful weekend. I can’t believe this is our last weekend in August!! T will be going back to school before we know it!

      • Ab says:

        Thanks Linda. It’s nice that governments invest in these amenities. So appreciated.

        Funny you mentioned fall and winter yurts, we really want to try them this year. Fingers crossed we can get one.

        We’re gonna try stand up paddle boarding for the first time tomorrow and then camping next weekend. Milking the rest of school summer break while we can! 🙏 Enjoy yours as well!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        We have actually done zero camping in Ontario this summer. Instead we’ve been trying to visit during the off-season and stay in a roofed accommodation. It’s a bit more pricey than a campsite, but it’s so much more comfortable. Plus the parks are typically quieter then, which is just what we like. We have a yurt booked in Algonquin and a cabin in Killarney for November. And I just booked a cabin in Windy Lake for January yesterday.

        Have fun paddle boarding. I’ve always wanted to try it. And that’s awesome that you’re able to squeeze in one last camping trip before the start of the school year. Which park are you going to?

      • Ab says:

        Sounds like a wonderful Fall planned, Linda!

        Stand Up Paddle Board was amazing. I highly recommend it! Cherry Beach was a nice part of town worth exploring too. if you’re interested.

        We’re heading to Presquile. Can’t wait! Hope you have a nice long weekend planned to.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Glad to hear that you had a wonderful experience paddle boarding. And we had such nice weather yesterday for being by the water. Enjoy your time in Presqu’ile!! We’ll be busy packing for our trip out east. We’re heading out on Sept 9th.

  6. Linda K says:

    Wow! Didn’t you have fantastic weather for you trip through that part of the Rockies. I know often times it can get really socked in with clouds. Love the waterfall at the start of the blog…so pretty! I need to explore more areas of my own province!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Oh I know. We mostly had fabulous weather during our road trip out west. It was such a contrast from when we were here a few years ago when it was mainly overcast, rainy and and cold. Having nice weather can make such a huge difference when camping and spending time outdoors.

  7. thegenxtravels says:

    Very beautiful! I was at Glacier National Park when I was quite little. I’m not 100% sure which Park though but I am pretty sure it was the Canadian one. I just remember my mother told me to take my hands out of my pocket and not run because I could slip and fall on the ice. I didn’t listen and I slipped and fell on the ice. I had a small cut to my face! It showed as a scar for years but now it blends with the wrinkles! Such lovely photos, I wish I could remember more from being there!!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      If you slipped and fell on the ice, it was probably the Glacier in Canada that you visited. It’s hard to believe that the window for hiking is so short here and that this area is covered in snow for 9-10 months of the year. And hey, if you wish you could remember more, it’s all the more reason to return. I’m sure you’ve learned your lesson about not running on the ice!

      • thegenxtravels says:

        It is a good reason to return! It must have been Canada as I think more on it. We took large snowmobile type buses out to what was referred to as Ice Fields and walked around there. It was cold and it would have been August because my folks always vacationed in August! Thanks for the reply! Lori

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        That definitely sounds like the Glacier in Canada! That’s awesome that your parents always travelled in August. Seems like a great way to enjoy the remaining days of summer.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! Most of the trails were still snowbound when we visited at the end of June, but I’m glad we were able to at least hike a few of the shorter and easier trails to get a taste of the landscape. I would love to return to hike them all.

  8. leightontravels says:

    Gorgeous photographs, Linda. The water shots are my favourite. Love the first one with the rushing, misty river. I can almost feel the chilly, fresh air oozing through the photos.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. The water out west looks so beautiful and fresh from all the glaciers. I couldn’t get over how much snow was still on the trails at the end of June. And we were hiking in our shorts and t-shirts. I never thought I’d see the day.

  9. Bama says:

    Stunning landscape, as always. I’m wondering, have you ever gone to a place abroad where a lot of people raved about it but when you saw it in person you thought it was underwhelming? Canada has some of the most beautiful landscapes anywhere on earth I imagine your standard must be really high when it comes to mountains, rivers, and lakes.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were so lucky and had fabulous weather for our road trip through the Canadian Rockies. This made the hiking so much more enjoyable as we were able to appreciate the scenery.

      I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to travelling. I’m just so grateful and appreciative to be able to go on all the adventures that we do. So I don’t think I’ve ever been underwhelmed or disappointed, except for a few times when we’ve had to camp by noisy neighbours or had a really crummy campsite, but that’s not so much about the place itself. Life (and travelling) is what you make it 🙂

  10. Diana says:

    Beautiful! I’ve heard of this park but never researched it. Looks well worth a visit. Your posts make me long to return to the Canadian Rockies.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s a relatively small park that has a super short season for hiking, but the scenery is gorgeous. Most of the trails were still snowbound when we visited, but we were able to at least hike a few of the shorter trails at lower elevations.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s crazy how much snow this area gets and that the hiking season is so short. Even though many of the trails were still snowbound when we visited, I’m glad we were able to hike a few of the shorter trails at a lower elevation. The only downside was turning off and getting back on the highway for each hike and dealing with the long weekend traffic.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We are lucky to have so many parks and green spaces in North America to enjoy the great outdoors. There are lots of great hiking options. I would love to visit Alaska someday. It’s high up there on my travel bucket list.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had such fabulous weather for being out on the trail and soaking in the mountain scenery. It definitely was a great adventure and road trip out west. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. The scenery in Glacier is so beautiful with all those snow capped mountains. We couldn’t have asked for better weather to enjoy the views.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s wild how the hiking season is so short in Glacier because of all the snow. Even though many of the trails were still closed when we visited at the end of June, I’m glad we were able to hike a few of the shorter and easier trails at a lower elevation to more fully appreciate the scenery.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      One of the benefits about visiting Glacier early in the summer was that the waterfalls and rivers were at their peak from all the melting snow. A visit to Bear Creek Falls was a great way to wake us up in the morning with all the spray.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I can see why you love Glacier as the mountain scenery is so beautiful. Even though many of the trails were still covered in snow, we had a fabulous day enjoying the nice weather and spectacular views.

  11. usfman says:

    You frame your photos with a nice balance between the near and far. It seems tome that for novice hikers like ourselves, June might be a little early to conquer the Canadian Glacier side.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. Most of the trails were still snowbound when we visited at the end of June. Apparently they had a pretty bad winter and had more snow than usual. It’s too bad that we weren’t able to hike all the trails that we wanted to, but I guess this means that we’ll just have to return later in the summer sometime!

  12. Josy A says:

    Love it! It’s so good when you can stop and explore during a travel day!

    This year there was so much snow wasn’t there!!? We also loved that trail to the great glacier (although we visited later in the summer when it was snow free…) I have never stopped at the summit of Rogers Pass though. I had no idea there is another good viewpoint there. I’ll totally stop and take a peek next time. 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s always great to break up the drive and to stretch our legs. The folks at the Discovery Centre said they’ve been slow to open this year because of the snow and that they haven’t had this much snow in the past 40 years. We were only able to hike along the trails at lower elevation, which gave us a glimpse into how awesome this area is.

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