Carnarvon Lake Hike

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hiking one of Alberta’s premier hikes, if not one of the top hikes in Canada. Carnarvon Lake, located in the Kananaskis area, is a difficult 20.4 km hike with an elevation gain of 857 metres. The hike starts off flat, going through a pasture area, where I saw a bunch of cows grazing.

About 2 kilometres later you’ll come across one of two river crossings. You’ll want a pair of water shoes here so you don’t soak your hiking boots. Even in mid-July the water was up to my waist, and somewhat strong so make sure to follow proper river crossing techniques. If you’re travelling with a partner, put the stronger person upstream, unclip your backpack, and gently cross the river. Hiking poles may also be useful here, however I don’t hike with them.

After the first river crossing you’ll walk about another 0.5 kilometers to the second river crossing, which is only about 1 foot deep, but you’ll still want water shoes for that one.

After crossing the second river you’ll enter a forested area that has a somewhat gentle incline for the next 2/3rd’s of the hike. After the forested area you’ll emerge to a steep scree (loose shale over a slope), with a bunch of switchbacks containing a few chains, and even a ladder, before emerging at the freezing cold turquoise blue lake.

I soaked in the freezing cold lake for a while to cool off, as it was 32°C out the day I went hiking. After cooling off it was time to head back to the car. The descent is a bit more difficult than the ascent, so make sure to just take your time and be careful. The hike took me about 7.5 hours return, but I was taking my time.

Iceland 2021 – Landmannalaugar Trail Hike

Landmannalaugar Trail has been a dream of mine for years, and was the main reason for my 2021 trip to Iceland. The trail is 55km long and starts in Landmannalaugar and ending in Thorsmork. The trail typically is completed in 4 days, however I completed it in 2 days. I was actually going to tack on the Thorsmork to Skogar hike called the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, however the weather deteriorated to the point where my safety was compromised so I pulled the plug early, more on that later.

My first day started early at 530am, as I had to catch a 630am bus to Landmannalaugar. I woke up, had a quick sandwich that I had bought the previous day and stored in my fridge, grabbed some coffee from the downstairs lobby, and caught a scooter to the Reykjavik Bus Terminal. At the terminal I grabbed my hiking bag and waited for the bus that I had pre-booked. It’s important to note that you should book the Highland Bus (Reykjavik Excursions) well in advance, as these seats can fill up days or weeks in advance since this hike is so popular. I paid about $60 CDN for a return trip.

The bus was on time and took about 4 hours, with a 45 minute break halfway along the journey at Hella (Kjarval Verslun) for a bathroom break, where you could also buy coffee and baked goods. I picked up a coffee and used the bathroom. The bus arrived in Landmannalaugar early at about 10:45am (scheduled time was 11:15am). Upon arrival I cooked one of my dehydrated meals for lunch with my JetBoil stove and talked with this lovely couple from Toulouse, France.

The hike starts off with a moderately steep bunch of switchbacks. Don’t forget to look back at the Landmannalaugar hut and campsite! After the switchback you head straight through a lava field from an eruption that occurred in 1477 from the Brennisteinsalda volcano. This area is one of the most unique areas I’ve seen because there’s a combination of regular basalt lava blended with numerous shining black obsidian rocks.

After passing through the lava field you’re presented with a breathtaking view of a field and the magnificent Vondugil (Bad Ravines) valley. The surrounding colourful rhyolite mountains are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and look like something out of a painting.

The trail continues climbing elevation towards the Brennisteinsalda volcano. You can see all sorts of steam coming from the mountainside, and tons of small sulfur rocks and hot springs. This part of the hike is a bit strenuous so make sure to take your time while enjoying the views.

The hike continues in a general upwards direction towards Hrafntinnusker Hut, with ever changing geography, most of which looks like its something from an imaginary painting.

Below you’ll see a picture of me at the highest point of the hike. From here on in the geography changes significantly and I start to run into some snow. Yes that’s right… snow in August!

The snow continues for quite some time, until I emerge on another geothermally active area, before continuing onto another snowy area. In this snowy area there was a memorial for a young person named Ido Keinan, who passed away in a blizzard in June 27th 2004. It’s a somber reminder that no matter what time of the year you’re in that you should be prepared for anything. This hit home later on in this hike when the weather deteriorated significantly to the point where I wasn’t able to maintain my body heat. I decided to pull the plug, but more on that later on.

This is probably a good time to mention that there is generally cellphone coverage on more than 50% of the hike with atleast 3G coverage, and sometimes LTE. There’s a few cellphone towers along the way, and some unique solutions at some of the remote huts, which include CB radio’s and repeaters.

I eventually descended towards Hrafntinnusker Hut, the first hut of the hike after Landmannalaugar. I filled up my water bottles with fresh water here, and was able to use the washroom. Something to note on the hiking trail is that most huts have an outhouse which you can use for free, or you can use proper toilets for about $4 CDN. The outhouses were generally acceptable, so I had no issue using them, however there was not hut warden to check the usage of the toilets at Hrafntinnusker Hut, so you might be able to use the nice toilets for free there.

The trail starts to lose some significant elevation after Hrafntinnusker Hut, and the geography changes again to rolling hills with even more snow, before turning back into mountains with some more elevation gain. Make sure to take tons of photos, as this was again another amazing part of the hike.

As the trail continues towards Alfavatn hut the geography changes again, but this time becomes much greener. The green mossy areas show up wherever there is water runoff from geothermally active areas. Apparently the sulfur and other minerals is very desired by the moss.

The descent towards Alfavatn hut is very steep, and while I’m not a huge proponent of poles, I would recommend them in this scenario.

Eventually you’ll come across your first river crossing, which conveniently has a rope in place, which I suspect is required earlier on in the season, however I didn’t really need to use it in late August. I always recommend water shoes as it make river crossings much more enjoyable than stepping on sharp rocks.

Finally you can see Alfavatn hut in the distance. This is usually where most people stop for the night, howver I opted to go a bit further to Hvangill, a much small hut, just a few kilometres away. The reason for my choice, was to make a 4 kilometer shorter day on the second day. It’ll turn out that I was very glad I made that decision the following morning, but more on that later. I stopped for dinner in Alfavatn to have a dehydrated meal for dinner, and I purchased a beer at the “bar” there for about $10 CDN. I felt it was a worthy reward for a days hard work.

Continuing on from Alfavatn there’s a few river crossings, luckily the first few are small enough that there are some wooden bridges to cross, so you don’t have to take off your boots.

About 4 kilometers of minor elevation gain and descent you’ll emerge on Hvangill hut and campsite. The campsites all have stacked rocks around them to block wind. I was thankful for this as the following morning I was woken up around 5am by howling wind. When I arrived at Hvangill I paid the warden $5 CDN to use the shower, and $20 CDN for the camping fee, setup my tent, had a shower, and went to bed.

I struggled throughout the evening to maintain warmth, as I wasn’t prepared for 0° C weather. The weather should have been 8-17° C however a weather front rolled in and caught me by surprised. I wore 4 shirts, and two pairs of pants, and still wasn’t warm enough. I eventually fell asleep and was woken up at 5am by an intense wind. I peered out of my tent and was greeted by some heavy fog. Visibility was probably about 300 metres.

I got ready, packed up my tent and started my journey towards Thorsmork. At this point in time I had decided that I will terminate my hike in Thorsmork, rather than continuing along to Skogar, as the weather was forecasted to get worse throughout the day. The day started out with a large river crossing over a bridge, followed shortly by a significant river crossing without a bridge. The current was fairly strong, so I can’t even imagine what it would have been a month or two prior.

Following the river crossing I walked plenty kilometers over a lava field, before descending into the next camp called Emstrur, where I ate lunch quickly before continuing on. The visibility at Emstrur was less than 100 metres.

The hike after Emstrur started to get geographically interesting with much more green being present as I descended towards Thorsmork. At times the visibility improved, but in general it was quite poor, and quite cold. There were quite a few river crossings that had to be navigated, but most didn’t require me to take my shoes off.

About 4 kilometres away the geography changed again significantly to what resembled farmland, and I saw the occasional sheep. In fact I even scared a sheep that was grazing.

Finally I arrived in Thorsmork, where I caught a 3:15pm bus back to Reykjavik. On the bus ride I met a really nice guy Kyle, his sister named Kaitlynn, and their friend Courtney, who are all from the Boston area. It made for a very enjoyable bus ride back. The buses have to drive through rivers up to 1 metre deep, so they’re specially equipped Mercedes Benz high clearance vehicles, with locking differentials. You can checkout my YouTube video of a river crossing here.

After arriving back in Reykjavik I checked into “Room With a View” hotel, a self service hotel. It’s kind of like an Airbnb place. It was very well appointed for about $200/night. I’ll be here the next two nights.

After checking in I went and picked up my other bag from the Reykjavik Bus Terminal storage lockers, dropped it off at my hotel, and went for dinner at Lebourski Bar next door. I had a Donni Burger and a beer. While I was there a guy spun the wheel on the wall and won ten free beers, which he shared with his friends at the bar.

After dinner I had a shower and got ready for bed. Be sure to check back shortly for the next installment in my Iceland series.

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Iceland 2021 – Krysuivik Geothermal Loop & Fagradalsfjall Volcano Eruption

Today marks the second day of my trip. I slept pretty well and wasn’t really suffering from too much jet lag. I did wakeup at about 2am for a brief period of time before going back to bed.

For breakfast I attempted to go to a few bakeries however it was too early and they didn’t have anything besides donuts available, so I went to Subway. First stop of the day was Krysuivik Geothermal Loop, about an hours drive away. Along the way I decided to stop by the side of the road to take some drone shots of the volcanic scenery around me to realize that my memory card had failed… but don’t worry I had a second one… sitting in my work laptop back at the hotel. I drove all the way back to the hotel, picked up the second card and tried again. By now it was already nearly noon! In the distance on this drone shot you can see Fagradalsfjall Volcano’s smoke from it’s ongoing eruption. I’ll be hiking that later today.

Krysuivik Geothermal Loop is a 7.7 kilometer loop in Southwest Iceland the features a lake, and a geothermally active area. It is situated above Seltun, a very colourful Geothermal area below that I had a chance to visit with my father in 2014 when we went to Iceland. The hike starts off right away up a fairly steep hill, gaining 314 metres. Make sure to look backwards so you can see Seltun.

After the large climb you slightly descend to Amarvatn Lake, a very colourful lake, which I suspect is a volcanic crater lake due to the way it looks, however I can’t mind much information on it. A volcanic crate lake is a lake in a crater that was formed from explosive activity or collapse during a volcanic eruption. Dad an I visited one such lake in 2014, called Kerið.

The trail continues around in a big loop, as you can see from above. It offers beautiful views of the mountainous area surrounding it. Along the way I came to the geothermal area, before continuing the loop around the lake.

After completing the hike it was time to grab some lunch. I remember from my 2014 trip with my dad that there was a restaurant called Papa’s that serves delicious pizza in the nearby town of Grindavik. I drove about half an hour to Papa’s, and wow it didn’t disappoint. I had a pizza called Papa’s Surprise, which consisted of pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, jalapenos, garlic, cream cheese, and black pepper. You could even see the volcano erupting from Grindavik!

After having lunch it was time to visit the Fagradalsfjall Volcano eruption (also known as Geldingadalsgos), which has been ongoing since March 19th 2021 at about 9:40pm. This was one of two primary reasons for me to visit Iceland, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. There’s a few dedicated places to park your car for 1000 ISK ($10 CDN). The 3km one-way hike to the volcano takes about 45 minutes and is flat for 2/3 of the way, before entering a series of switchbacks. The view was certainly overwhelming, and was nothing like what I had imagined in my head. You can also view a video I took of the volcano on my YouTube channel here. You’ll also notice that there was a helicopter there, because you can pay some companies to drop you right off at the base of the volcano!

After visiting the volcano I was going to visit the Blue Lagoon, however when I arrived I found out that the tickets were sold out for the day. I booked a 9am ticket for the next day. It was time to drive back to Reykjavik for dinner, about an hour away. I had some beef soup at 101 Reykjavik Street Food, which was recommended to me on one of the travel series I watched a while back. While the presentation wasn’t the best, the soup was delicious, and the beef was so tender.

After dinner I walked around for a bit and took some pictures of one of my favourite churches in the entire world, Hallgrimskirkja. The church is one of Reykjavik’s best-known landmarks, and is the tallest church in Iceland, standing 74.5 metres (244 feet) tall. The church took 41 years to build; starting in 1945, and completed in 1986. The church is a mixture of different architectural styles but is predominantly that of expressionist neo-gothic. I can definitely see some brutalism and art deco mixed in there as well. During it’s construction it was criticized for being too old-fashioned and a blend of too many different architecture types. Inside the church there is a large pipe organ built by German organ builder Johannes Klais from Bonn. There are 5275 pipes arranged in 102 ranks and 72 stop, and they weight approximately 25 tons!

I continued exploring around downtown Reykjavik for a bit before heading back to my hotel to go to bed. Be sure to check back soon for the next installment in my Iceland series. In the next installment I explore the Blue Lagoon, see some waterfalls, see Iceland’s fourth largest glacier, the town of Vik, the basalt formations at Reynisfjara Beach, and hike to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck.

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Helen Lake & Katherine Lake Hike

Recently I hiked to Helen Lake and Katherine Lake with Mariah. The hike is considered a moderate hike, and is 16.6 kilometres return, with about 840 metres of elevation gain. The hike starts off in a forested area for for few steep kilometres, before emerging in a beautiful alpine meadow. The meadow continues steadily upwards until you emerge at Helen Lake, and are also presented with the beautiful Dolomite Mountains creatively named Dolomite Peak.

Upon arriving at Helen Lake we were presented with a plethora of bugs which incessantly tried to eat us while we had our lunch.

After having our lunch there was some grueling switchbacks and some minor scrambling before arriving in a flat area overlooking Cirque Peak and Katherine Lake. The views were stunning and we took it all in before heading back to the trailhead.

Dinner was had at 514 Poutine in Canmore. We both had a small Montreal smoked meat poutine, which was exactly what I was craving. This place has been closed the entirety of COVID-19, and is one of my favourite places for poutine. I was missing the delicious flavours!

Be sure to stay tuned for more hiking adventures!

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Picklejar Lakes Hike

A few weeks ago I completed a solo hike to Picklejar Lakes. The hike is 11.6km long, and has 706 metres of elevation gain. The trailhead starts across the Highway 40 and there is only a small sign, so sometimes it can be easy to miss. The trail starts out in the trees, and then eventually opens up a bit, giving a great view of the mountains across from highway 40.

The tough part then begins as you enter through some more trees, and take some switchbacks to the top of a hill, where you emerge looking at the first of four lakes, which was my favorite of the four.

After stopping for a quick bite to eat I continued through some trees, briefly passing a small waterfall to emerge at the second lake, which was my least favourite. There was also a tremendous amount of bugs there. A few people had camped overnight there from the previous day.

Continuing onto the third lake you’re presented with the most vivid blue colour, and the edge of Lineham Ridge. This lake was absolutely stunning. There were people at the far end jumping in from a rock ledge and swimming in the icy cold water.

After relaxing by the lake for a bit I completed the return journey to my car. The hike took me about 2.75 hours to complete and I would rate it as moderate.

Be sure to check back soon as I explore Helen Lake & Katherine Lake in my next adventure. Following that I’ll have a writeup on must eat food in Kelowna!

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Floe Lake Hike

Last weekend I went and hiked Floe Lake trail with my friend Matt. The 22 kilometre return hike starts out with bushwhacking through fallen trees, leading to a steady incline for 2/3 of the hike until you reach a bunch of switchbacks. The first 2/3 of the hike is through the burned out remains of the 2013 fire that devastated the area. The switchbacks are slow and steady and are on paper not too difficult; however were somewhat difficult because the snow towards the top was 4-6 feet deep. Along the way we saw a caterpillar and a frog!

After the switchbacks and dredging through the snow for 45 minutes you’re presented with a beautiful mirror reflection of Floe Lake and Floe Peak. Matt and I hangout here for about an hour, enjoying some beer and Red Bull.

On the way back we collected some water from the various waterfalls. I recently purchased a LARQ water bottle and trust the UV-C technology. So far I have not become sick, and trust it’ll keep me safe in my adventures this summer; including Lake O’Hara in July, and Berg Lake in August. On the crossing back I captured a beautiful photo of the first river crossing.

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Spring Update – Hiking, Yurt Camping, a New Puppy, and a Wedding

It’s been a while since I last posted here so I figured it was time to give an update as to what I’ve been up to.

Maligne Canyon Hike

Julie and I took a trip up to Jasper at the end of January to hike along the bottom of Maligne Canyon. This has been a bucket list item for me for many year, and I’m glad that I finally got to do it. The hike is only 15 minutes outside of Jasper and starts at the parking lot that you access the “Fifth Bridge”. From there you cross the bridge, follow the trail east, until you see a gate in the fence beside “Bridal Veil” waterfall. The waterfall is stunning to view, and a fun fact is that it never freezes, even in the middle of winter, as the temperature of the water never drops below 0°C. After viewing the beautiful waterfall you have two choices; you can either walk along the riverbed, and go up the little rock slide, or you can continue on the path and enter 200 metres further along the path. We chose to enter the difficult way, up the slide. From there you continue walking along the frozen riverbed and take in the amazing views.

During that weekend we also drove up to Pyramid Lake during the evenings in hope of trying to view the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights were unfortunately not active, however I was able to take some beautiful long-exposure pictures.

On the way back we also stopped at Abraham Lake, a place we visited for the first time last year. This year was much better, as there were even more trapped methane bubbles!

Work

In February and March I had to take two trips up to Red Deer for work to do some photography, which was fun. Our company was involved in the detailed design of a pharmaceutical grade ethanol production facility, and I went up to take pictures and video of the installation of the large distillation towers.

A New Puppy

In February we picked up a new dog named Ruby. She’s the same breed as our previous dog Grady; a wheaten terrier / poodle cross. She’s been an incredible delight to have in my life, despite being a terrorist at times. She recently just turned 6 months old.

Inner City Walks

In the spring we ended up going on quite a few inner-city walks with my dad, and occasionally Julie on the weekends.

Radius Yurts – Radium, British Columbia

At the end of March we drove out to Radium and stayed at the Radius Yurts for the weekend. That was incredibly fun, and I’d definitely do it again. I’ve always wanted to stay in a yurt, and this was a lot more convenient that going all the way to Mongolia to stay in one. One thing we learned was to travel substantially light than we did, because it was quite the walk to our yurt. While we were there we went on a nice long hike around the property, which lasted about 3 hours. There was some incredible views of the Bugaboo’s at the top of the property.

Hiking – Tunnel Mountain Hoodoo’s Trail, Chester Lake, Blackshale Suspension Bridge

At the end of April my father and I did a father-son trip out to Canmore for the weekend. We completed three hikes during the weekend; Tunnel Mountain Hoodoo’s Trail, Chester Lake, and Blackshale Suspension Bridge.

Tunnel Mountain Hoodoo’s Trail is a 7.7 kilometer trail located just outside of Banff, which provides beautiful views of the mountains, and a waterfall, however dad nor I saw the waterfall.

Chester Lake in the winter is simply stunning! This is my third time completing Chester Lake in the last 12 months, and it is significantly different in winter than in the spring, summer, or fall. The trail used in winter is quite a bit steeper than the one used during the other three seasons and is in a more forested area.

Blackshale Suspension Bridge is located high above Blackshale Creek, located along the Smith-Dorrien Trail. The hike takes just over 15 minutes to reach the bridge.

Sara & Tom’s Wedding

On May 1st I got to see my close friend Sara get married to her partner Tom. It was such an incredible experience to be able to photograph their wedding, which was held at Brentview Baptist Church.

Following the wedding we drove out to Banff to take photos at the Banff View Point located on the windy Mt. Norquay Scenic Road. We lucked out with our arrival, as the weather on the drive was extremely rainy, however when we arrived we had a 5-10 minute window of beautiful weather, before it started to snow again. After taking some pictures at the view point we drove down to Cascade Ponds, and again lucked out with the weather, before it started raining.

After taking photos we checked into our hotel, Canalta Lodge, which was graciously provided to us by Sara. The hotel was absolutely stunning, and I really appreciated the rustic feel of the lodging. The beds were super comfortable, the room was spacious, and the decor was cute. For dinner we picked up some burgers from Eddie Burger, and we watched a movie called Without Remorse on Amazon Prime.

The next day we went on a small hike on Canmore’s Hoodoo Trail, before heading home.

Baby Robin’s

At the beginning of May we also had the pleasant surprise of baby Robin’s being born on our balcony.

What’s Next?

What’s in store for me next? Besides a quick trip to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan this weekend I’m not entirely sure as COVID-19’s third wave is here. I’ll still be out hiking, but I don’t see any significant travel plans in the horizon at this point in time.

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Chester Lake Fall 2020

A few weeks ago Julie and I completed the hike to Chester Lake. The hike to Chester Lake is about 10km return, and a moderate climb up 424 metres through a subalpine forest, before you emerge in a clearing where there is an absolutely stunning lake.

About 2/3 of the way up it started to snow, and by the time we got to the lake there was a good 1.5-2 inch’s of snow on the ground. We had lunch while we were at the top and walked partially around the lake. It took us about 3 hours to complete the hike. I previously completed this hike solo on July 9th 2020. You can check out that blog post here.

On the way back down we saw some people ascending a mountain nearby. Considering the conditions presented to us at the time we thought this was dangerous.

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Headwall Lakes Hike

Last weekend I hiked two hikes; Headwall Lakes and Iceberg Lake, which were my 20th and 21st hikes of the year if you count all the walk/hikes I completed with Julie in Wells Gray Provincial Park. The first hike I completed was Headwall Lakes. Headwall Lakes is a moderate difficulty 16km hike that has 652 metres of elevation gain.

The hike starts in the same parking lot as Chester Lake, a hike which I completed a few weeks ago and you can view here. The start of the hike is an easy 3km saunter along an access road, before venturing into the forest. The forest trail was quite tight in some areas so I decided to put on my pantlegs on my Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants (which I highly recommend by the way).

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About 5.5 km into the hike I was about to emerge onto the rock scree when I heard the roar of a bear!!! It made all the hair on the back of neck stand up, and I cautiously turned back to head towards the parking lot, while announcing my presence loudly.

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About 10 minutes on my journey back I ran into a group of 7 male geologists and told them about my experience. They said that with a group of 8 the bear wouldn’t be scared of us and asked if I wanted to tag along. In the group there were 2 Rob’s, 3 Ian’s, and a cool old Romanian guy who I chatted with for a bit. I learned a bit about the different rock formations and had a great time with them. After about an hour I split apart from the group and blazed my own trail towards the first lake.

The wind started to pickup towards the first lake, and at times I was actually starting to get a bit cold, so I decided to put on my hoodie. Emerging at the first lake I was completely awe-struck at the sheer beauty of the scenery around me!

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At the first lake I took a break for some water and a sandwich before venturing up towards the second lake. The climb up towards the second lake was beside a beautiful waterfall with alpine flowers growing up alongside the waterfall edge.

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Gazing backwards towards the first lake I was presented with such an astounding view that I couldn’t help myself from continuously looking back at.

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Finally, I arrived at the second lake, which was quite the different perspective. It wasn’t as beautiful as the first lake, but was still pretty in its own accord.

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After taking a rest at the top I ventured back towards the car, without any more bear drama! The total time on the hike was 4.25 hours, but if it were not for my encounter with the bear it probably would have been closer to 3.5 hours.

Stay tuned for the next installment in my hiking series; Iceberg Lake!

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Taylor Lake Hike

Last weekend I hiked to Taylor Lake in Banff National Park before picking up Julie for a long-weekend trip to Jasper and Wells Gray Provincial Park!

I completed the 14 km return hike, 924 metre of elevation gain, in just under 3 hours. The hike honestly isn’t too strenuous as the elevation gain is fairly consistent throughout the hike. Most of the hike takes place within a forest before emerging in a sub-alpine meadow, which leads to the beautiful Taylor Lake. This was an easy to moderate hike with beautiful views!

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Be sure to check back tomorrow on my blog post for our wonderful weekend getaway to Jasper and Wells Gray Provincial Park.

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