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 – Glymur Falls and Reykjadalur Hot Springs Thermal River

Today started off with Dominos Pizza for breakfast, a strong start for the fuel I needed to hike to Glymur Falls, Iceland’s second highest waterfall, which cascades 198 metres to valley below.

After scarfing down my pizza, which I have to note tastes significantly better than Dominos Pizza back in Canada, I grabbed a coffee from the lobby area in my hotel and proceeded to drive about 75 minutes to Glymur Falls. The trail starts off walking relatively flat for about 1.5km through some shale and shrubs until you get to a cave. You descend some stairs through the cave before shortly arriving at the first of two rivers crossings. This is where I ran into Kim and Sander, a travelling couple from Chicago. We ended up taking pictures of each other crossing the river, and stayed with each other for the remainder of the hike. The river crossing has a log and a hand line to assist you in getting across.

After crossing the river the trail starts to get very steep, with some areas where you have to scramble. luckily there are ropes to assist you if required. You can start to see the sheer magnificence of the waterfall cascading to the valley below. There was also quite a few birds perched on ledges and flying down into the valley.

You continue climbing until you get to the top of the waterfall where you cross the Botnsa River for a second time. This time the river was much wider, but was quite shallow. I had to stop and take my shoes off, and put on my water shoes to cross the freezing cold river.

After crossing the river you continue to loop back towards the car, with a fairly steep descent in some areas. I said bye to Kim and Sander and wished them well on the rest of their trip.

I was starting to get hungry so it was time to source some lunch. I drove back to Reykjavik and stopped at a Vietnamese restaurant called Viethouse for some nice hot beef pho.

After lunch I drove about an hour south to Reykjadalur Hot Springs Thermal River, a famous hot spring river where you can soak in the hot water and take in the beautiful views. There’s a parking lot and a restaurant at the base of the hike, where you have to pay a nominal parking fee of about $2 CDN/hour. The 4km hike to the thermal river takes about 1 hour, as you have to ascend 347 metres. Along the hike to the geothermally active portion of the river you are presented with a beautiful view of a fairly significant waterfall.

Upon arriving at the geothermally active portion of the river you’ll notice that there are some wall partitions for you to have a bit of privacy to change into your bathing suit before you jump into the hot water. I’m unsure of the exact temperature but I’d probably place it closer to 40-42°C, as I found it hotter than the Blue Lagoon. I soaked in the river for about 40 minutes before getting changed and headed back to my car to drive back to my hotel.

Tomorrow I’m heading on a three day hike on Landmannalaugar Trail so it was time to pack my bags and drop them off at some rental lockers At the hotel I packed my bags and dropped them off at some rental lockers at Reykjavik Bus Terminal. It was also time to drop off my rental car, so I dropped that off as well. I was getting fairly hungry so I decided to try out a local hot dog stand called Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. This is apparently the best place to go for some late night hot dogs if you’ve had too much too drink.

After having a hot dog I figured it was time to try one of the local scooters, since I was so far away from my hotel. I rode back to my hotel and get ready for bed as I have to wake up very early tomorrow morning for a 630am bus to Landmannalaugar. Be sure to check back soon to continue on with my Iceland adventures.

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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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Iceberg Lake

Two weeks ago I completed my favourite hike of the year to Iceberg Lake in Banff National Park.

The 12.1km hike / scramble starts out at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge parking lot. You head towards Bow Glacier Falls and turn off towards the ACC Bow Hut. You’ll know you’ve arrived at the turn-off for the ACC Bow Hut because you’ll see a huge chock rock that bridges the bow river. Hop on top of it, being careful, and cross the rock.

Follow the trail up and over, and then you’ll head down to a stream that flows into the Bow River. In fact you’ll also be able to see Bow Glacier Falls in the distance. When you get to the stream you’ll have to take your boots off. The water is extremely cold, but don’t go too fast as it’s extremely uneven and you don’t want to hurt yourself.

You”ll then follow a winding path on the left and will eventually come to a reasonably wide ledge on a cliff face. It’s honestly not that scary as long as you just keep away from the cliff.

Continue following the well established trail until you come out of the mini sub-alpine forest.

You can then either climb the loose rock ahead of you to the prominent cairn at the summit, or follow the moraine edge up. The moraine edge looked really sketchy to me so I choose to just go up the loose rock. It’s easier coming down than it is going up, so don’t be too concerned.

Once on top you’ll be presented with the astounding beauty of Iceberg Lake. I spent some time taking some videos and photos of the lake, before carefully going close to the top of the waterfall. Be extremely careful here as one slip and you’ll fall 125 metres to your death.

I completed the Bow Glacier Falls hike back in 2015 with my friend Carissa before I started blogging. Here’s a picture of what it looks like below.

The hike took me a total of 3.75 hours, but I’m sure I could’ve completed it in 3.25 hours as I was taking my time.

The next post will be part of my multi-part Kelowna series which starts this weekend.

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Twin Falls Hike

On July 19th 2020 I completed the Twin Falls hike in Yoho National Park. The 18km hike took me just over 4 hours to complete. The start of the hike begins at the Takakkaw Falls parking lot. The hike is very gradual and isn’t strenuous until about 5km mark. After that it’s a slow climb to the top. The total elevation gain is 846 metres.

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The trail passes through the Takakkaw Falls Campground, where it exits to the open stony plain of the Yoho Valley.

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A few kilometres along the trail you come to a T intersection. If you turn right and walk about 150 metres you are presented with a beautiful view of Angel’s Staircase Falls merging with the Yoho River.

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Another few kilometres along you come across another side trail to a quiet beautiful lake called Duchesnay Lake.

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Continuing further along to the trail you cross a bridge and come to Laughing Falls where you’re presented with two options to get to the Twin Falls. You can go left (the steep route) or right (the gradual route). I prefer a gradual climb, and a steep decent over the inverse so I chose to go right.

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Continuing along the gradual climb up to Twin Falls you follow along the river that Twin Falls Dump into. So far the entire hike has been in a covered forest, which provided shelter against the sun.

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Finally I arrived at Twin Falls. The view was absolutely stunning. I managed to grab a few photos before it started to rain.

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I continued along the trail to where I’m presented with the beautiful but aging Twin Falls Chalet. The tea house currently isn’t open because it was controversially closed last year. A woman named Fran Drummond had been operating the chalet for the last 57 years when Parks Canada decided to lock her out of the chalet and cancel her lease in 2019. You can read more on the controversial topic here.

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Continuing further along the hike you come to a beautiful sub-alpine lake called Marpole Lake, where you emerge from the forest and continue along a very rocky pathway for a few kilometres, before a steep decent alongside Laughing Falls and meet up with the original trail split to head back towards the trailhead.

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This was one of the most unique and enjoyable hikes that I have been on in Canada. I was presented with such a wide variety of views, and the trail difficulty was varied, which I appreciated. The views of Twin Falls was absolutely stunning and is a great place to have lunch, as long as it isn’t pouring rain.

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Bragg Creek Getaway & Black Prince Cirque Hike

It’s been quite some time since both of us have taken a vacation so last weekend Julie & I decided to getaway from the city. Julie found a beautiful place to stay on Airbnb located near Bragg Creek. Our lovely hosts Lise and Alex were waiting for us on their large wrap-around balcony that included a large firepit. Lise, is an construction lawyer, and Alex is a retired tour guide who used to live in Ontario.

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Located at the top of their home is a massive penthouse suite, which is where we were staying, but more on that later.  Lise and Alex showed us around the house before showing us to our penthouse suite. The house is adorned in lovely artwork, as well as beautiful antique and modern wood and leather furniture. I’m a huge fan of mid-century modern and modern, and the house was a beautiful mix of mid-century modern and modern. The main centerpiece in the house is the fireplace, which was constructed from over 8500 hand laid bricks that came from an old warehouse in Chicago.

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Inside the suite was a comfortable king-sized bed, a large deep soaker tub, a rainfall shower, his-and-hers sinks, a minibar fridge, and a French press to make tea or coffee. Inside the mini-bar fridge were some drinks, some fresh fruit, yoghurt, and a lovely bottle of champagne, which was a wonderful surprise. The suite gives a 270 degree view of the luscious trees below. Close to the penthouse suite, down just a few steps, is a large balcony with a table and two chairs, where we spent the evenings watching the beautiful sunsets.

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After getting settled in Julie made us a beautiful Charcuterie board with a bunch of cheese, meats, crackers, fruits, and vegetables. We sat on the balcony and ate it while enjoying the beautiful view.

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Later on in the evening we watched a hilarious show on Netflix called Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father. It is a travel documentary where Jack Whitehall travels with his father, Michael Whitehall. His father, is a grumpy old British guy, and is always complaining about things, but in a hilarious fashion.

The next day we woke up at around 7am. I made some coffee for us and we enjoyed it in bed while talking until it was time to go downstairs for breakfast. Lise and Alex are amazing cooks and they had prepared us some stuffed tomatoes filled with tiny wild mushrooms, alongside some toast, bacon and seasoned potatoes.

After enjoying our delicious breakfast we drove into Kananaskis to hike Black Prince Cirque, which is a 4.8 km roundtrip hike to the beautiful Warspite Lake with a backdrop of the towering Mount Black Prince and Hermione Peak. The hike has a total of 178 metres of elevation gain and can be done in as little as an hour. We took our time because of Julie’s knee, taking approximately 1.75 hours.

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On the way back we decided to stop at Foothills Creamery in Bragg Creek to get some ice cream. Julie got black licorice and root beer float flavoured ice cream in a cup, while I got a waffle cone filled with tiger flavour. We then drove back to the house to relax for a bit before heading out to dinner at The Italian Farmhouse in Bragg Creek. Julie had gluten free seafood linguine with white wine sauce, served with a glass of red wine. I had spaghetti carbonara, served with a few pints of lager. We also shared so wild boar meatballs.

After dinner we drove back to the house and relaxed in our room for a bit. When Lise and Alex came home we went downstairs to great them and meet their beautiful Weimaraner dogs named Otto and Ester. Otto is a huge flirt and is quick to open up, while Ester is a bit more shy but she eventually opens up.

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We spent the evening watching the sunset before enjoying the relaxing deep soaker tub and watching more of Jack Whitehall show. The next morning we woke up at 8am and enjoyed coffee in bed before venturing downstairs to yet another amazing meal. This time it was smoked salmon and cheese on toast; it was to die for!

After breakfast we played some board games and card games before it was time to checkout. We would both gladly stay here again in a heartbeat and have already recommended this place to family and friends. You can book it on Airbnb here.

After checking out we drove to Elbow Falls, which we both hadn’t been to in probably over ten years. It has changed a lot since the flood of 2013. I’ve enclosed a photo of what it used to look like before the flood.

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Consolation Lakes Hike & Moraine Lake

This weekend I completed the short but sweet hike to Consolation Lakes. Sadly I forgot the memory card for my Canon EOS R at home, so I was stuck with my trusty iPhone XS. Luckily I have an app called ProCam, which allows you take take photos in RAW format, so that you can edit them later on in Adobe Photoshop.

The hike starts from the Moraine Lake parking lot and heads east, over Moraine Creek on a fairly new bridge. Off to the right there is a 300 metre long path up some steps to have  a beautiful view of the lake. I don’t actually ever recall seeing this vantage point in the past, but my parents may have taken me there as a child.

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After viewing the lake. I continued along the 6 kilometre trail towards Consolation Lakes. Near the Tower of Babel I had to cross the river again, but this time there wasn’t a bridge, so I had to hop along the rocks.

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Continuing further towards the lakes there is the fast moving Babel Creek off on the left hand side.

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The path towards the lakes was very well kept until the last few minutes, where it was a bit muddy. Parks Canada even did a very nice job in the areas that tend to get washed out by building a raised-up pathway area.

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When I arrived at the lake I was awe struck at the beauty of the lake. There was a few ducks Wood Ducks swimming in the lake, as well as a few Marmots. I wasn’t able to take great pictures of these with my phone. While sitting and admiring the view I could hear and see the glaciers in the background cracking and falling.

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After taking in the views it was time to head back, as there was a storm about to roll in. The hike took me just over an hour and a half to complete.

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Boom Lake Hike

On May 29th 2020 my friend Sara and I completed the hike to Boom Lake. The 10.3 km long and 543 metre of elevation gain hike to boom lake is on a well maintained trail through a luscious forest. It took us about four hours return, but I imagine you could easily shave off 30-45 minutes in the summer when you don’t have the snow to deal with. The first 45 minutes into the hike there was no snow and it was pretty smooth sailing. The next 30-45 minutes was ankle deep snow, for which we put our crampons on. The last 30-45 minutes to the lake had knee deep snow. We decided to wear our gaiters for this, but my feet still ended up getting soaked.

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We saw some canine or cat footprints that were larger than a dog, but smaller than a bear. I am very glad that we had our bear spray with us. The views at the still lake were absolutely amazing! We had lunch at the lake, before returning back to our car.

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Glacier Lake Hike

On June 5th 2020 I completed my fifth hike of the year. This hike was to Glacier Lake. The 16.9 km long and 870 metre of elevation gain hike to boom lake is on a well maintained trail mostly through a luscious forest.

About 1 km along the trail there is a bridge that crossed the North Saskatchewan River. The waters are a beautiful turquoise blue. After another 1 km or so you come to a pair of red chairs with a beautiful overlook of the Howse River valley.

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After a quick break at the chairs the trail follows the river flat and then climbs up along a creek. There are numerous rivers crossings on privative log bridges.

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As you begin the descent from the summit watch for signs on the trees and look to your right to see a tree blazed to commemorate the 1928 Topographical Survey, which was completed by Morrison Bridgland.

At the lake there is a campsite with a historic hut, a place for a campfire, and some picnic benches. I had some lunch here before returning to my car. The hike took me a total of 4 hours to do the return trip. This area is prime bear territory between July and August, due to berries along the river, so be sure to bring bear spray, an air horn, and a knife.

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Be sure to check back soon for my next adventure. If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards the upkeep of my site, my travel, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.

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Waterton Lakes National Park & Lundbreck Falls

Last weekend my girlfriend Julie and I visited Lundbreck Falls and Waterton Lakes National Park. It was a fairly chilly day with a lot of wind, so our time outside was limited.

Lundbreck Falls is a waterfall of the Crowsnest River and is located in Southwest Alberta in the Crowsnest Pass. The twin waterfalls were absolutely beautiful! It shocked me because it was a lot smaller in person than the pictures depicted. Being half frozen it was a unique perspective compared to many of the pictures that I had seen online. I would like to come back in the summer to see it completely thawed.

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The next stop was Wateron Lakes National Park, which I had not visited since right after the great fire of 2017, and never in the Winter. Much has changed in the park since the fire with many buildings still completely gone, and many still being rebuilt. The view of Cameron Falls half frozen was also quite spectacular.

Waterton Lakes National Park is located in Southwest Alberta. It borders Glacier National Park in Montana, USA. Waterton was the fourth Canadian National Park that was founded; being former in 1895. The park offers beautiful iconic views of the rocky mountains as well as some premier hikes such as Crypt Lake Trail and Bertha Falls.

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