| Three national
parks, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, and Yoho, present themselves in
succession beside Hwy 1 in the eastern reaches of the Southern Interior.
Being national parks, they are big, and you’ll find much to do in
each. Few places on earth offer such geographically diverse and naturally
preserved outdoor experiences all within the borders of one great
Park offers wilderness camping, hiking, mountaineering, and Nordic
and alpine skiing. Experience a hike through the valleys below the
Illecillewaet and Asulkan glaciers. It’s rugged and challenging for
the intrepid visitor with a sense of adventure. It is a world of primitive
wilderness, where it is easy to forget the intrusions of modern culture.
More than 400 glaciers continue to sculpt the landscape, carving the
Columbia Mountains and feeding crystal-clear rivers. Explorations
range from a simple wooden boardwalk to a multi-day glacier crossing
program of Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks, located
in the Rogers Pass Visitors Centre at the summit of Rogers Pass
on Hwy 1, depicts the human history of the region through fascinating
accounts of first climbs, last spikes, lives lost, and railway lines
laid. Hwy 1 winds for more than 27 miles (44 km) through Glacier
National Park. The park’s west gate is about 30 miles (48 km) east
of Revelstoke, while its east gate is 24 miles (40 km) west of Golden.
Camping - Illecillewaet Campground is located 3 km west
of the summit of Rogers Pass. It is open from late June to Thanksgiving
Day, and offers 60 campsites. Loop Brook Campground (5 km
west of the summit) offers 20 campsites and is open from Canada
Day to Labour Day. Mount Sir Donald Campground (one km west
of Loop Brook) offers 15 primitive campsites during July and August.
and Loop Brook have flush toilet washroom buildings, log kitchen
shelters, food lockers, firewood and drinking water supplies. Mount
Sir Donald offers a lower cost alternative to the other two campgrounds
and a “smoke-free” experience - campfires are not allowed. Illecillewaet
Campground has a staffed Welcome Station at the centre of the campground.
Staff visit Loop Brook and Mount Sir Donald in the early evening
to register campers.
offer a rustic, wilderness-oriented frontcountry camping experience.
They do not have RV hookups, showers or laundry facilities. Fewer
than a dozen campsites will accommodate the largest of motorhomes
and fifth wheel trailers. Generator use is only allowed between
10:00 am and 8:00 pm. Camping at all three campgrounds is available
on a first come, first served basis.
The ten backcountry
trails that lead out of the campgrounds date from the early days
of railway tourism, and still follow the routes laid out by the
original Swiss Guides of Glacier House. Families will also love
the short Hemlock Grove and Rockgarden trails in Glacier, and Giant
Cedars Boardwalk, Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk and the trails of the
Meadows in the Sky Parkway in Mount Revelstoke National Park. (Hemlock
Grove and Rockgarden Trails are less than 10 minutes drive and Giant
Cedars is only 20 minutes from the campgrounds.)
Camping - Backcountry campsites are available on the Hermit,
Sir Donald, Beaver River, Copperstain and Bald Mountain/Caribou
Pass trails. Each has tent pads and food storage poles or lockers
to place food out of reach of bears. Open fires are not permitted
in the backcountry. Backcountry campers require a Wilderness Pass
along with their Park Pass.
There is no
formally maintained winter campsite in Glacier National Park.
Road access to the summer campgrounds is unploughed and unmaintained
during winter. Anyone wishing to camp in winter should check at
the Rogers Pass Centre.
Cabins - Glacier National Park has four backcountry huts available.
A wilderness pass is considered to be part of the hut fee. Access
to three of these huts is arduous, and in the cases of Sapphire
Col and Glacier Circle huts, requires mountaineering expertise.
Visit the Parks Canada Administration Office in Revelstoke (250-837-7500)
or the Rogers Pass Centre (250-814-5232).
For hut registration
contact the Alpine Club of Canada. Reservations are required at all
ACC facilities, and are made through the national office at the Canmore
Cabin: Located 6.5km up the Asulkan Brook, 300 metres beyond
the end of the Asulkan Trail at an elevation of 2,100 metres. Accommodates
up to 12 people. Equipped with propane stove and heater, lights,
loft and foam sleeping pads, basic cooking and eating utensils,
cleaning supplies, toilet and grey water systems. The route to Asulkan
Cabin during the winter crosses numerous avalanche paths. Winter
travellers should be equipped with avalanche beacons and be knowledgeable
in their use. Winter travellers should check the daily avalanche
forecast for Rogers Pass, or by calling (250) 837-MTNS or checking
at the Rogers Pass Centre.
Cabin: Located west of the Beaver River Valley and southwest
of Mt. Macoun, this historic one-room hut accommodates 8 people.
There are basic cooking and eating utensils, a white gas stove,
sleeping loft and toilet system. Water supply is nearby. Reserved
through the ACC. There are two approaches to Glacier Circle, where
the cabin is located. The classic approach is to go over the Illecillewaet
Glacier from the campground. This approach requires mountaineering
equipment and skills. The second approach is via a 2 to 3-day hike
up the Beaver Valley and into Glacier Circle. This approach is mostly
forested and leads through excellent bear habitat as the trail climbs
into Glacier Circle.
Col Hut: Located at Sapphire Col, between The Dome and Castor
Peaks. A basic mountaineering shelter, this metal bivouac shelter
sleeps 4 people. Apart from a few utensils and a toilet system,
it is unequipped. Water is obtained from a nearby melt pond or by
melting snow. Attaining the Sapphire Col Hut requires mountaineering
equipment and skills. Reserved through the ACC.
Hut: This cabin is owned and operated by the Alpine Club of
Canada. It is located near the south end of the Illecillewaet Campground
just off the Trans-Canada Highway. This comfortable and commodious
shelter is capable of sleeping 35-40 persons in its loft. It is
well furnished and completely equipped with cooking and eating utensils,
foam sleeping pads, Coleman stoves, lanterns and firewood.
Hiking in Glacier National Park is far more extensive and at higher
elevation than in Revelstoke National Park. Glaciers cover much
of the challenging terrain in the park, which is dominated by 10
peaks ranging from 8,530 to 11,120 feet (2600 to 3390 m) in height.
By comparison, the highest peak in Mount Revelstoke National Park,
Mount Coursier (elevation 8,681 feet/2646 m), is hard pressed to
compete. Illecillewaet Glacier on the Great Glacier Trail
(moderate; 6 miles/9.5 km return) has been a ‘must-see’ destination
for over a century. The trailhead is located behind the Illecillewaet
campground on the east side of the Illecillewaet River. Cross the
bridge next to the campground to reach the trailhead, which is located
a short distance farther on the left. Over a half-dozen other hiking
routes lead through the park from the Illecillewaet campground,
including the Avalanche Crest Trail (moderate; 5 miles/8
km return), which offers some of the most dramatic views in this
region of the park overlooking Rogers Pass. Icefields forever is
the scenic byword here.
Sir Donald Trail (strenuous; 5 miles/8 km return) and the Perley
Rock Trail (strenuous; 7 miles/11 km return) begin from the
same trailhead but diverge after 1.5 miles (2.5 km). The Sir Donald
Trail brings hikers close to Vaux Glacier, while the Perley Rock
Trail leads to the summit of Perley Rock from where hikers look
out in awe at the crevassed expanse of the Illecillewaet Neve. Other
trails in this area include the Asulkan Valley Trail (strenuous;
8 miles/13 km return), the Glacier Crest Trail (strenuous;
6 miles/9.5 km return), Meeting of the Waters Trail (easy;
1.2 miles/2 km return), and the Marion Lake Trail (easy;
2.7 miles/4.5 km return). The Abbot Ridge Trail (strenuous;
6 miles/10 km return) is an extension of the Marion Lake Trail and
provides experienced hikers with some of the most challenging alpine
trekking in the park short of donning crampons.
Park is the acknowledged birthplace of mountaineering in
North America. In 1888, two British mountaineers, Rev. William Spotswood
Green and Rev. Henry Swanzy, completed the first recreational technical
climbs in the Selkirks. Eleven years later, the services of Swiss
guides were provided for guests at the Glacier House hotel in Rogers
Pass. Those guides created the network of trails, providing access
to local peaks, that has remained to this day.
Prior to the
completion of the Trans-Canada Highway through Rogers Pass in 1962,
climbers accessed Glacier National Park by train. Tied to the railway
as it was, mountaineering became an integral part of the history
of the park, and continues to be a major attraction for backcountry
recreationalists, whose numbers have quadrupled in the past ten
Peaks of the
Hermit Range, the Bonney and Bostock Groups, the Van Horne Range,
Purity Range, Dawson Range, and the especially challenging Sir Donald
Range all lie wholly or in part within Glacier National Park.
entry into caves is not permitted. Cavers must apply to the Superintendent
for entry into any cave. The Nakimu Caves lie between upper
and lower Cougar Valley in the Selkirk Mountains, just west of Rogers
Pass on the Trans-Canada Highway. The Caves are reached by hiking
three to four hours up and over a mountain pass from the highway,
an elevation gain of over 800 metres. Visitors’ efforts will be
rewarded by the unique experience of descending, by the light of
headlamps, into the dark labyrinth of the caves. Numerous passageways
and grottos, totalling 5.9km in length, contain intriguing natural
features such as soda straws, rock fluting and moon milk. Short
steep scrambles and uncertain footing are characteristic of the
cave experience. Park visitors can access the caves by either joining
a commercially led trip, or apply to the Park Superintendent.
The Loop Brook,
Hemlock Grove, Abandoned Rails and Bear Falls trails located along
the Trans Canada Highway section of Glacier National Park, are opened
as early in the year as the snowpack allows. Delays in trail openings
may occur when bears are present in the area or when snow has caused
damage to trail structures. Generally these trails are open by mid-June
and remain open until the autumn snowfall.
Pass Centre is open year-round except for Christmas Day, and the
month of November. The Centre is the only frontcountry facility
open during the spring and winter, while the campgrounds, picnic
areas and trails lie under a two metre blanket of snow. Located
near the summit of Rogers Pass, the Centre includes a theatre, an
exhibit hall with railway models, natural history displays and wildlife
specimens, and the Glacier Circle Bookstore.
The Parks Canada
office in Revelstoke is open year-round from Monday to Friday, 8:30
till noon and 1 p.m. until 4:30. It is located in the Post Office
building at 300 - 3rd Street West in Revelstoke.
A final note
about national park permits: a park pass is required for all visitors
to national parks. This pass is available at the park gates or,
for the credit-card endowed, by calling (800) 748-7275. You can
choose between an annual permit to all 28 National Parks in Canada,
a Discovery Package, which includes entry to 28 participating National
Parks and 74 National Historic Site; or a daily-entry permit in
any of the four contiguous mountain national parks (Banff, Jasper,
Yoho and/or Kootenay). In addition, there is a daily camping fee
in summer and a weekly or annual charge for a fishing permit. Children
under 16 may fish without a permit when accompanied by a licenced
For more information
on Glacier National Park, contact Parks Canada’s office: (250) 837-7500,
or visit the Rogers Pass Information Centre, located at the park’s