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A Stunning 6 Day Hike on the Via Alpina in Switzerland

A Stunning 6 Day Hike on the Via Alpina in Switzerland

The Via Alpina in Switzerland is a long distance hiking trail made up of three distinct sections covering different parts of the country. John and I hiked six of the 20 one-day stages that make up the 390 kilometre red trail route.

This part of the Via Alpina starts in Vaduz in eastern Switzerland and ends in Montreux in the west. Over its length, it climbs 23,600 metres (77,400 feet) and crosses 14 alpine passes. John and I hiked some of the prettiest stages of the Via Alpina from Meiringen to Lenz as described in greater detail below. 

More info on the red trail section of the Via Alpina

The Via Alpina hiking trail isn’t just in Switzerland. In total there are actually five routes covering roughly 5,000 kilometres and linking eight alpine countries – France, Italy, Monaco, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Slovenia and Liechenstein. The three sections that wind through Switzerland include the blue, green and red trail.

The red trail is the only one of the five routes that includes all eight alpine countries as you can see in the photo of the map below.

Map of the full Via Alpina in Europe

Map of the full Via Alpina in Europe

Be prepared for a long read. I want to give you a sense of just how stunning the scenery is. To that end I’ve included lots of photos and an accounting of how our days unfolded.

Luggage transfer and other details

On the six day hike, all we had to do was carry our day pack and get to the next hotel. Eurotrek, a tour company, looked after moving our bags every day, and providing us with trip notes and maps. Should we have had an emergency, they were there to help.

Meiringen – our starting point for the Via Alpina

The pretty town of Meiringen was our starting point for the Via Alpina. We made our way directly here by train after landing in Zurich. The plan was to spend a few days exploring the area at a relaxed pace so we could get on the time zone. Meiringen makes a great base for some lovely half and full day outings including the Aare Gorge and the steam train to Brinzer Rothorn.

Meiringen to Grindelwald

We cheated on the first day though in fairness our trip notes told us to start the hike to Grindelwald with a bus ride to Hotel Rosenlau. I’m so glad we did. 

The distance from Meiringen to Grindelwald is 23 kilometres – and with that you climb 1500 metres and descend, 1100 metres – a rough start to a hiking trip. The scenic bus ride up to the hotel knocked off 9 kilometres, 800 metres of elevation gain and 520 metres of descent, turning the day into a very manageable one.

With a shorter day we were able to start with a walk through the truly stunning Rosenlaui Glacier Gorge. The water doesn’t flow through here – it roars. It’s a magnificent spot filled with scary looking whirlpools, waterfalls and wildly eroded rocks. It’s definitely worth the 30 minutes it takes to visit.

We didn’t take a tour of Hotel Rosenlau but our trip notes speak to “romantic halls, creaking bedchambers …. where Tolstoy, Nietzsche and Goethe once trod.”

When we finally got around to hiking it was about 11 AM. Fortunately, it turned out to be an easy, beautiful day with no real steep sections on a well-maintained trail. In no time we were above treeline, admiring cows and their reflections in ponds near the pass at Grosse Scheidegg. We saw loads of cyclists join hikers at the hut for lunch after their tough climb from Meiringen but we continued on to find a quiet spot with a view of Wetterhorn.

The trail turned to road as we got closer to Grindelwald and the views went from beautiful to staggeringly gorgeous. Grindelwald looks over the Eiger – a storied mountain if there ever was one.

We had to refer to our trip notes to find our hotel for the night. What a treat it was to arrive and see the view we got from our room. (For more info on hotels we stayed in scroll to the end of the post.)

Catching the bus in Meiringen to start the Via Alpina

Catching the bus in Meiringen to start the Via Alpina

The Rosenlaui Glacier Gorge

Before we started hiking we visited the Rosenlaui Glacier Gorge

Easy hiking on the way to Grosse Scheidegg on the Via Alpina

Easy hiking on the way to Grosse Scheidegg

Look out for the electric fences seen every day on the Via Alpina

Look out for the electric fences seen every day on the Via Alpina

Cow stopped for a drink at a pond along the Via Alpina

Cow stopping for a scenic drink along the Via Alpina

Gorgeous mountain scenery on the way to Grindelwald

Gorgeous mountain scenery on the way to Grindelwald

Swiss alps in view on route to Grindelwald

You may want to try yodeling in mountain scenery like this

View of the Eiger from Hotel Kirchbuhl in Grindelwald

View of the Eiger from Hotel Kirchbuhl in Grindelwald

Grindelwald to Wengen

Today’s hike started with a steep descent through the town of Grindelwald – followed by a steep ascent on a road and wide track to Kleine Scheidegg. Over the three hours it took us to climb 1230 metres our attention was riveted on a helicopter carrying cement to a place high up on a mountain. The transfer of cement to a bucket and round-trip by helicopter took only about 5 minutes. It was actually fascinating to watch.

Kleine Scheidegg at the pass is a busy spot, especially with trains coming up from the valley below and some continuing all the way up to a point high on the Eiger. Our trip notes say “after 16 years of construction, The Jungrau Railway was inaugurated on Swiss National Day in 1912 and at 3545 metres remains Europe’s highest railway station to this day.”

The train ride, while largely in tunnels still offers stupendous views of the Sphinx Terrace, the Jura and the Aletsch – Europe’s largest glacier. And there are several places where you can get off to take in the incomparable beauty. I wish we’d had the time to make the trip!

As a major tourist hub, Kleine Scheidegg is filled with restaurants, cafes and small shops. We stopped for lunch here and enjoyed the riveting view of the world-famous Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau towers. When one of the world’s great rock climbers makes an attempt to climb the sheer north face of the Eiger you can be sure all eyes are focused on their every move from here.

From the pass we continued steeply down for 760 metres to Wengen, with one refreshment stop along the way. We made it to the hotel with a few minutes to spare before the skies opened…for hours. 

On the way to Kleine Scheidegg

On the way to Kleine Scheidegg

The pass at Kleine Scheidegg off in the distance

The pass at Kleine Scheidegg off in the distance

Lots of places for food and drink at Kleine Scheidegg

Lots of places for food and drink at Kleine Scheidegg

Mountain scenery on the descent towards Wengen

Superb mountain scenery on the descent towards Wengen

Reflection in the ponds of the Eiger and Monch

Mountain reflections in the ponds

A curious cow on the way to meet us

A curious cow on the way to meet us; it’s a little intimidating

Woman drinking in the view of the Eiger

Me absorbing the view of the world-famous Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau towers

A very steep descent towards Wengen

A very steep descent towards Wengen

The Swiss mountain town of Wengen off in the distance

The Swiss mountain town of Wengen off in the distance

Wengen to Griesalp via Lauterbunnen and Murren 

If we’d focused on the trip notes we might not have even got out of bed. We were in for a long, partially rainy day.

First we had to descend 500 metres to Lauterbrunnen before the day really got going – and that would take us 75 minutes. From there it was to be a 10 hour hiking day covering 20.5 kilometres with 2090 metres of up and 1495 metres of down. Wow!

I think John and I are in reasonable shape but that’s a big day no matter how you cut it. It was an even bigger day for John who chewed his pain killers like they were gummi bears because of a bum hip. (Six weeks after this trip he had a hip replacement!) 

In the trip notes it mentions that you can shorten the walk with a cable car up to Grütschalp and from there you can walk or train it to Mürren. By doing that we’d knock off three plus hours of rainy, not so interesting hiking.

Our Swiss Travel Pass came in handy again – providing free access to the cable car in Lauterbrunnen. At the top we walked off, saw a train and hopped on – because it was right there.

In short order we were in Mürren – normally a very pretty car-free town with superb views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Interestingly Mürren, the highest altitude inhabited village in Canton Bern, became famous along with Schilthorn (another mountain) in the James Bond movie – On her Majesty’s Secret Service

Our next stop on the trail was to be Rotstock Hut – about 2.5 hours ahead. The trail – if it had been sunny, would have been positively glorious. Even in the mist and the rain it was beautiful though there were several long sections where the trail narrowed and we had to be careful to avoid the white wires of an electric fence. 

The hut was a beauty though a tad unwelcoming. We had hoped to get something warm to drink but it appeared that you had to have lunch reservations. We ended up eating in the entrance way surrounded by dripping coats.

From the hut it was to be another couple of hours and 600 metres or so of climbing to get to Sefinenfurgge – otherwise known as the pass. The rain had let up and visibility improved after lunch enough that we both enjoyed the lush, green landscape reminiscent of Ireland.

Plodding on, I did take time to admire the wildflowers as we climbed ever higher. The last bit switch-backed through black scree to arrive at a small pass with a very steep set of stairs on the other side. 

Our descent of close to 1400 metres was tough – especially so because you had to pay close attention to your footing. But once down to the main road – with nary a soul around, the hiking turned delightful. We passed well-appointed Swiss homes and waterfalls galore on the hike down a misty, moody valley. 

It was with some relief when we ended up in Griesalp – ready for a hot meal and a glass of wine. In chatting with a couple of Californian fellows we’d met early on the trip at dinner we learned that they avoided the pass because of the poor weather.

Our trip notes provide bad weather alternatives that would have entailed a train back to Interlaken and then onto Spiez, follow by a bus and a 2.5 hour hike. I’m happy we didn’t alter our plans.

The steep descent to Lauterbrunnen

The steep descent to Lauterbrunnen

Flower bedecked Swiss home

Pass lots of flower bedecked Swiss homes

Sticking to the trail between the electrical fences on the Via Alpina

Sticking to the trail between the electrical fences

A rainy day on the way to Griesalp on the Via Alpina

A rainy day on the way to Griesalp but we were dressed for it

Stopped for lunch in Rotstockhutte along the Via Alpina

Stopped for lunch in Rotstockhutte but just ate in the entrance-way

Man pointing in the direction of the Sefinenfurgge Pass on the Via Alpina

John pointing in the direction of the Sefinenfurgge Pass

Climbing to the pass on the Via Alpina

Heading for the rocky scree and the pass

And we meet a cow on the trail

We meet a cow on the trail

Me at the top of the pass

Me at the top of the pass

I feel like we're in Ireland because it's so green

I feel like we’re in Ireland because it’s so green

Cute and colourful Swiss house

Cute and colourful Swiss house

Waterfalls galore

Waterfalls galore

Looking down the valley towards Griesalp

Looking down the valley towards Griesalp

Griesalp to Kandersteg

Day four was to be the hardest of the six days but my favourite. It started with a walk on an educational nature trail as we left Griesalp. Ninety minutes later we emerged from the woods and arrived at a restaurant. We didn’t stop but you should note that it’s your last chance to get another morning jolt of caffeine or just to rest before the climbing begins in earnest. 

From the restaurant the trail climbs 1000 metres to Hohtürli with the final stretch on a set of steep wooden stairs. (Wait till you see the photos!) It’s hard hiking but it sure is spectacular. When you finally top out, you’re at the highest point on the Via Alpina at 2778 metres.

It’s worth continuing another 50 metres up to reach Blümlisalp Hut. You can buy lunch, snacks and drinks here, hang out on the oversized benches just admiring the setting or even hike a little further for super close-up glacier views.

The descent is far more gradual than the ascent. However those with a fear of heights might not like the dropoffs you can see in the photos. It’s not as terrible as it looks but on a poor weather day I’d choose the bad weather alternative route. (A chairlift to Ramslauenen from Grisealp and then a 17 kilometre hike on the route 56 Lötschberg Panorama trail.)

With glaciers so close you feel like you can touch them, you may want to lie down like one man we saw to savour the view from a different angle.

On the way down to stunning Oeschinen Lake – a deep blue mountain lake you pass a mountain restaurant at Oberbärgli – where you can get a drink or something light to eat. We did and it felt good just to sit for a while. We stopped again at the lake, with me wading in to cool my now swollen feet.

We had read that there is a cable car that takes you down to Kanderstag from the lake but we opted to keep walking. It was only another hour down on a road with some beautiful waterfall views. The trail took us right by the front door of our hotel – Belle Eopoque Hotel Victoria.

Looking down at Obere Bundalp

Looking down at Obere Bundalp – the last place to get water before the sometimes hot ascent

Pretty views on the ascent up to Hohturli

Pretty views on the ascent up to Hohturli

Beating the heat on the steep set of stairs to Hohturli

Beating the heat on the steep set of stairs to Hohturli

Dramatic staircase up the mountain on the Via Alpina

Dramatic staircase up the mountain on the Via Alpina

Dramatic view of a steep set of mountain stairs on the Via Alpina

Dramatic view of a steep set of mountain stairs

The Bluemlisalp Hut on the Via Alpina

The Bluemlisalp Hut – another 50 m up from the top of the stairs

Hanging out enjoying the view of the glacier

Hanging out enjoying the view of the glacier from Bluenlisalp Hut

It's a 1700 m descent to Kandersteg

It’s a 1700 m descent to Kandersteg with some exposure

Me enjoying the mountain views on the Via Alpina

Me enjoying the mountain views on the Via Alpina

You feel like you can touch the glaciers on this part of the Via Alpina

Glaciers are very much in view on the descent

Oeschinensee Lake

Heading for Oeschinen Lake

Colourful backdrop of vertical rocks

Colourful backdrop of vertical rocks

Kandersteg off in the distance

Kandersteg off in the distance

Kandersteg to Adelboden

I was tired after a couple of tough days so it didn’t take long for me to find a shortcut. From the charming town of Kandersteg – home to loads of traditional wooden chalets and their beautiful ever-present red geraniums, we walked a short distance to a cable car. It was a small one with room for about six people. It didn’t move quickly but it was faster than my uphill gait. 

We knocked about an hour and 750 metres of uphill walking off the day’s hike – making it a 6.5 hour hiking day instead of a 7.5 hour one.

We did pass a sign – like many we’d seen, warning about getting too close to cows with their nursing calves. If people get close – and many do for the photo op, the cows can become quite nasty. Use common sense and give them their space.

The ascent to Bunderchrinde is via Alp Alpschele – where you’re likely to see red-white Simmental cows. You can get a drink here and on a clear day admire the view of sparkling Oeschinen Lake. Continue on a gradual climb to the pass with its interesting layered rock formation. We stopped for lunch here to take in the view – and to avoid the descent, the steepest and nastiest of them all so far. I don’t know how I would have got down without poles!

Once we were into the scree it was fine but the initial part of the descent on a rainy day would be brutal. Take the bad weather alternative. (Hike the path to Frutigen and then hop a bus to Adelboden.)

I hadn’t looked at the map in enough detail in the morning but it sure became apparent when we got to Adelboden that we hadn’t finished the climbing for the day. It was up and up and then up some more to our hotel – Bellevue Parkhotel & Spa with the best view in town. I admit to whining a bit through here.

Our evening dining experience here was one of the best. The hotel’s outdoor terrace is charming and the views sublime. We were very lucky to score a table outside.

Lots of hiking options from Kandersteg

Lots of hiking options from Kandersteg

Cable car shortened the vertical for the day on the fifth stage of the Via Alpina

We shortened the vertical with a lift up on this small cable car

Sign saying beware of the nursing cows on the Via Alpina

Beware of nursing cows along the whole length of the Via Alpina

Steep climbing towards Alp Alpschele

Steep climbing towards Alp Alpschele

Looking out towards Oeschinensee

Looking out towards the previous day’s hike

An impromptu picnic

An impromptu picnic with a view

You can get snacks at a cowherder's hut on the Via Alpina

You can get snacks at a cowherder’s hut

A hot climb to Bunderchrinde

A hot climb to the pass – Bunderchrinde

It's an incredibly steep descent off of Bunderchrinde

It’s an incredibly steep descent off of Bunderchrinde; that’s Adelboden off in the distance

Negotiate a steep scree slope on the way to Adelboden

Negotiate a steep scree slope on the way to Adelboden

Adelboden to Lenk

The last day of hiking on the Via Alpina was my least favourite. Part of that can be attributed to the weather. But for the better part of the hike we were either in a viewless section of forest and moorland or walking through a ski area. Neither are uplifting. Granted the ski area was lush and green with some nice views but after what we’d experienced, it was something of a letdown.

In total we hiked 14 kilometres, climbed 720 metres and descended 1000 metres. It felt like nothing at all compared to what we’d been doing. It took us all of four hours. We  met our Californian friends just outside the cable car. They’d basically said screw it and took the cable car up to the top. We never saw them again. 

Our trip ended at Hotel Kreuz, about a 10 minute walk from the railway station.

A rainy walk up to a ski resort on the way to Lenk on our last day on the Via Alpina

A rainy walk up to a ski resort on the way to Lenk

Green hills of a ski resort on the way to Lenk

A study in green

Looking down to the valley near Lenk on the Via Alpina

The clouds start to lift after lunch for the home stretch to Lenk

Onwards to Lenk on the Via Alpina

Onward to Lenk

There wasn't a day that we didn't see a cow on the Via Alpina

There wasn’t a day that we didn’t see a cow on the Via Alpina

Lenk comes into view

Lenk comes into view

Me finished hiking the Via Alpina

Me after finishing our 6 day tough hike in Lenk

Where to stay on this 6 day section of the Via Alpina

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We stayed in the following places. Some were excellent (see the notes), while others just lacked character. Book hotels early if you’re doing this trip on your own especially in summer as rooms fill quickly.

In Meiringen I highly recommend Hotel Victoria for the rooms, food, ambiance and location.

In Grindelwald we found our hosts at Hotel Kirchbühl to be generous and friendly. Cold drinks awaited us in the room and a cocktail with a view of the Eiger was offered before dinner, the only place on the trip where this happened. It was pretty darned sweet to throw open our bedroom windows and look upon this beauty of the Eiger.

The Hotel Silberhorn in Wengen has an excellent location on the Via Alpina and it’s beside a grocery store. But the hotel itself is bland, though serviceable for a night.

In Griesalp/Kiental we stayed at Griesalp Hotels on the small town square. Although the rooms are simple we quite liked it and the food was good. Nice atmosphere with lots of trekkers.

The Belle Epoque Hotel Victoria in Kandersteg offers great views, large and very comfortable rooms, along with a nice dining experience. Its location right on the Via Alpina is ideal.

The Bellevue Parkhotel & Spa offers some of the best views in Adelboden. The rooms are modern and comfortable. If it’s a nice night try and have dinner on the terrace. It’s magical.

Our last hotel – Hotel Kreuz in Lenk had decent rooms with lovely views from our private balcony and very friendly check-in service. The food here is bad but the service is excellent. 

Further information

The Via Alpina in Switzerland is one well-marked trail. Do not despair about getting lost – unless you happen to be caught in a thick fog high on a mountain top. Plan ahead so that is unlikely to happen.

It’s easy to pick up lunch supplies at the local grocery store or bakery. Some of the hotels will make a packed lunch for you too. Carry Swiss francs, not Euros on the hike. As a Canadian all things Swiss are expensive but buying lunches in grocery stores saves a bundle over eating at a mountain restaurant.

I just learned about the Via Alpina in the spring of 2019. I can’t believe how the hike flies under the radar. It’s truly world-class and well worth putting on your hiking bucket list as a great choice for a long-distance hike – if you’re looking for something other than the popular Tour du Mont Blanc. However, it is one you want to show up in shape for, as every day there’s a significant ascent and descent and daily mileage is often over 20 kilometres.

For more information about the full Via Alpina through the eight alpine European countries visit this website.

A big thank you to Eurotrek for all the trip notes and moving our bags but especially to Switzerland Tourism for hosting us – and choosing such a wonderful section of trail to hike.

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A 6 day hike on the Via Alpina in Switzerland

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A Scenic Road Trip to East Glacier & St. Mary, Montana

A Scenic Road Trip to East Glacier & St. Mary, Montana

If you’re looking for a scenic road trip in the west, do the drive south from Calgary to East Glacier and St. Mary at the eastern edge of Glacier National Park in Montana. Use either village as a base camp to further explore the Crown of the Continent ecosystem and enjoy the world-class mountain scenery.

The drive from Calgary starts with far-reaching views of the plains and grasslands to the east. But as you travel south from Cardston, the Rocky Mountains pop into view. Look for The Chief, a noteworthy landmark near the Alberta – Montana border.

Once in Montana you’ll find the mountains to be at their most magnificent from just before you reach St. Mary through to East Glacier. 

St. Mary, Montana – a base camp for exploring East Glacier

Did you know the driving time from Calgary to St. Mary, Montana, the eastern entrance to stunning Glacier National Park, is just shy of three hours? And that includes the time needed to cross an international border? My husband was in complete disbelief that we knocked it off so quickly.

St. Mary is just a little bit of a village and a seasonal one at that. It’s got a gas station, a grocery store – though with a rather uninspiring section of food and a handful of accommodation options. St. Mary owes its existence to the park and the fact that it’s the easternmost entrance to one of the most stunning drives on the planet – The Going-to-the-Sun Road

St. Mary is a perfect base camp for exploring the Many Glacier and Two Medicine sections of Glacier National Park along with East Glacier Village. It’s also a great base to drive (or bike) the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Accommodation in St. Mary

St. Mary Village sits at the junction of US Highway 89 and the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Its home to a motel, cabins, Great Bear Lodge and 10 Tiny Homes, the most recent addition to the Pursuit Glacier Park collection, launched in 2018.

John and I enjoyed one night in the yellow Tiny Home pictured below. It’s surprisingly roomy and not for a second did it feel cramped. A family of four could easily spend the night in here.

The Tiny Home features a bedroom with a queen bed and plenty of storage space along with a kitchen-dining-sitting room. I loved the cheerfulness of the accessories, the retro-looking microwave and mini-fridge and the fact you could do a bit of cooking if you were so inclined. (We weren’t.)

Not pictured is the oversized bathroom that comes with each Tiny Home. It’s not actually attached to the Tiny Home but it’s all of a 3 second walk away. In it is a fast-acting heater (we needed it in September), a toilet, two sinks with lots of counter space and a large tub-shower. The washroom buildings are the same colour as your Tiny Home, so you don’t have to worry about going into the wrong one – and besides they’re locked.

Where to eat in St. Mary

Originally I thought I’d buy a bottle of wine and pick up some food for a meal in St. Mary. But once we got there we nixed the idea of cooking – though not the idea of drinking wine.

Across the street from the Tiny Home Village is the Snowgoose Grille and Curly Bear Café. You can also eat in the Mountain Bar off the same menu that’s offered at the Snowgoose – so that’s exactly what we did. Mountain views from the bar are terrific – as are the portion sizes!

In the morning there’s a coffee shop on the premises of the St. Mary Lodge serving excellent espressos. Load up on sandwiches or baked goods here for any hikes you plan to do. If you’re more of a sit-down-to -a-plate-of-eggs kind of person, the Snowgoose Grille should fit the bill quite nicely.

A collection of 10 Tiny Homes at St. Mary Village

A collection of 10 Tiny Homes at St. Mary Village (we have the yellow one with the yellow bathroom on the left)

Our Tiny Home in St. Mary Village

Our Tiny Home in St. Mary Village

Our cute room in the Tiny Home

Our cute bedroom in the Tiny Home

The Tiny Home has everything you need

The Tiny Home has everything you need for a comfortable stay

Things to do near St. Mary in the East Glacier area of Montana

Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road

The obvious thing to do if you’re in St. Mary is to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road. You need a minimum of two hours to drive the 50 miles. But there are so many places to explore and hike that ideally you should allow a full day. There’s no point being frustrated with the slowpokes in front of you. Sit back and enjoy the world-class mountain scenery unfold before your eyes. 

Beautiful scenery around Logan Pass

Beautiful scenery around Logan Pass – the high point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Sweeping views from the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Sweeping views from the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Looking down the length of Saint Mary Lake

Looking down the length of Saint Mary Lake

Do a short, easy hike in Glacier National Park

If you want a short hike – 90 minutes to two hours max, pick the 3.0 mile Beaver Pond Loop – with a total elevation gain of only 150 feet. The trailhead was all of a five minute drive from our Tiny Home in St. Mary. The hike takes you pass a century old ranger station, a beaver pond and along a short section of St. Mary Lake. 

The Beaver Pond Loop hike

The Beaver Pond seen on the Beaver Pond Loop hike

Beautiful fall colours

Fall colours in full force in mid-September

Foliage is almost waist high in places

Walking through foliage that is almost waist-high in places

Very pretty scene looking down Saint Mary Lake

Very pretty scene looking down Saint Mary Lake

Check out the Many Glacier Trails

The Many Glacier section of Glacier National Park is accessed via the village of Babb to the north of St. Mary. From there it’s a fairly bumpy drive into the hiking trailheads – though that will change in 2020 when the road finally gets repaired.

John and I chose the 9.0 mile return hike to beautiful Iceberg Lake. We started from the Iceberg Ptarmigan trailhead, climbing 1200 feet VERY gradually to reach the lake in about two hours including plenty of stops. It’s a popular trail and extremely well-marked. 

In September the combination of golden leaves and turquoise lake make for a particularly stunning landscape. Be bear aware and don’t forget the bear spray on this hike.

Beautiful views in the direction of Iceberg Lake

Beautiful views in the direction of Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park

Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park

Drama on the descent from Iceberg Lake

Drama on the descent from Iceberg Lake

The drive between St. Mary and East Glacier, Montana

You’re in for a treat on the one hour drive between St. Mary and East Glacier. Wiggle your way along Highway 89 enjoying superlative views to the west of Glacier National Park. I never cease to be amazed at the beauty of the Rocky Mountains ….or the sheer number of curves on this road. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife too, especially at dawn and dusk.

There aren’t many places to pull over on this narrow highway but one I would recommend as a photography/history stop is immediately south of St. Mary – and pictured below. There’s a pull-off with lots of parking.

St. Mary overlook

Looking out to Lower Saint Mary Lake

Looking into Glacier National Park

Looking into Glacier National Park

Moody skies over Glacier National Park

Moody skies over Glacier National Park

Early morning scene along Highway 89

Early morning scene along Highway 89

East Glacier Park

East Glacier Park Village lies immediately to the east of Glacier National Park. It’s served by Amtrak so if a road trip isn’t in the plans and you like to travel by train, you’re in luck.

John and I stayed for the night in the historic, 102 year old Glacier Park Lodge. Guests here can easily organize excursions into Glacier National Park with the help of the concierge. Shuttles are available to Two Medicine and Many Glacier – and from there you can take boat rides or hike. There is also a golf course.

What I would suggest to all the non-golfers is this. Either do a boat cruise on Two Medicine Lake or choose one of the nearby hikes. The one to Twin Falls via a trail along the lakeshore would be a good choice. 

The entrance to Glacier Park Lodge

The entrance to Glacier Park Lodge

The historic Glacier Park Lodge

The historic Glacier Park Lodge is over 100 years old

Sunrise view from the front of Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Village

Sunrise view from the front of Glacier Park Lodge

Our room in Glacier Park Lodge

Our room at the lodge came with a deck and a view along with a couple of rocking chairs. I can’t remember the last time I relaxed in a rocking chair. Once again I missed my opportunity with my focus on eating not relaxing after our hike to Iceberg Lake.

Painted in cheerful, warm tones, our bedroom was comfortable though not luxurious. I got a great night’s sleep though I would have liked a bigger pillow. If you want to work there’s a desk along with plenty of closet space for those traveling with more than a carry-on.

What there isn’t in this room is an updated bathroom. Ours hearkened back to another era when bathrooms were small and functional. But I can cut this old building (100+ years) some slack and live for a night or two without a designer bathroom.

Our comfortable bedroom with a shared balcony in east glacier

Our comfortable bedroom with a shared balcony and a great view

Pull up a rocking chair and enjoy the view in East Glacier

Pull up a rocking chair and enjoy the view

The public spaces at Glacier Park Lodge

Massive fir tree beams, a grand old fireplace and lots of seating make for a fantastic Great Room experience at Glacier Park Lodge. And the breezeway between buildings, filled with comfy chairs – all with a view, certainly beckon you to linger.

In the evening people sat with a book and a glass of wine. The same scene was repeated in the morning – but with coffee and computers. There is WiFi throughout the lodge so never fear that you’ll be disconnected.

Both of these public spaces are very well used – and to me the highlight of the lodge. Enjoying conversations with people from around the world is truly one of the great pleasures of travel.

There are also a couple of dining rooms – the less formal Empire Lounge and the Great Northern Dining Room, a full service restaurant for all three meals.

We opted for the lounge, a glass of wine, and an informal dinner. If you visit, be sure to have the memorable roasted red pepper soup. 

The fireplace is a popular spot to hang out in the fall

Pull up a chair and enjoy the warmth of the fire

The breezeway is a great place to pull up a chair and curl up with a book

The breezeway is a great place to pull up a chair and curl up with a book and a glass of wine

Inside the main entrance of Glacier Park Lodge

Inside the main entrance of Glacier Park Lodge

When should you do the drive to St. Mary and East Glacier?

There is a seasonality to Glacier National Park. The park is never closed but access between the eastern and western sections of it via the Going-to-the-Sun Road is typically only between mid to late June and mid to late October – depending on the year. My recommendation is to go either in late June or in early fall to beat the crowds.

How do you book the accommodation?

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

Get out that credit card and click on one of the links. If you like what you see, book away knowing that you can easily cancel. Choose from the Glacier Park Lodge or Tiny Homes in St. Mary Village and then start dreaming about your road trip.

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Road trip to St. Mary & East Glacier Montana

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The Brienzer Rothorn via a Scenic Trip by Steam Train

The Brienzer Rothorn via a Scenic Trip by Steam Train

Visit Brienzer Rothorn, the highest mountain of the Emmental Alps in Switzerland via an outrageously scenic ride on the Brienz Rothorn steam train. You can of course hike up if you’re feeling energetic – or down, but the train is a fun experience and a great way to enjoy the landscape.

Sitting at an elevation of 2,350 metres, the Brienzer Rothorn enjoys superb views of Lake Brienz – the lake that lies directly east of Interlaken. On a clear day it’s also possible to see an incredible 693 peaks – at least according to the Interlaken website, though I can’t say that I tried to count them. Without a doubt, this is a quintessential mountain experience in Switzerland.

Grand scenery from the summit

Grand scenery from the summit

Meiringen to Brienz using our Swiss Travel Pass

On our 10 day trip to Switzerland we had a first class Swiss Travel Pass. It allowed us to hop on and off any train in Switzerland. Once you figure out how it works (and that doesn’t take long) and what to look for on the schedule posted in the train station, it’s a breeze. And of course the trains runs like clockwork. 

John and I had to travel on the local train to the town of Brienz from Meiringen – our base for several days, to get on the Brienz Rothorn Railway. We were there in 11 minutes.

As a side note the Swiss Travel Pass also includes a 50% discount on scenic trains like the Brienz Rothorn Railway, discounts on cable cars and free admission to over 500 museums around the country.

The trip up to Brienzer Rothorn

The journey to Brienzer Rothorn starts in the beautiful town of Brienz on the shores of Lake Brienz, not far from Interlaken. The station for the steam train is located across the road from the main train station. 

We missed our hoped for departure time on the train because of the summer crowds. Fortunately in Brienz that isn’t a hardship. Across from the railway station there’s a lakeside path that seems to go on for kilometres. I explored a short section of it before heading back to catch the train while John went looking for birds.

Hiking sculpture on the shores of Lake Brienz

Hiking sculpture on the shores of Lake Brienz

What's a walk in Switzerland without a cow sighting

What’s a walk in Switzerland without a cow sighting

The Brienz Rothorn Railway

The spectacular 7.6 kilometre train journey takes one hour to climb on a cog railway from Brienz (elevation 566 m) to the summit of Brienzer Rothorn (elevation 2,244 m). The steam train has been doing this scenic journey since 1892 – though it’s been through three generations of steam engines. The  maximum grade encountered is an astonishing 25%.

Hop on board open-air, bright red cars. Try to score a seat at the side of the car rather than the middle to enjoy better views. As the train pulls away, enter the forest with peek-a-boo views of the lake. Pass a few fine looking Swiss homes, bedecked with red geraniums and enjoy the ride as you continue to chug your way up. All told you go through five tunnels and make one brief stop above treeline at Planalp. The engine’s tank needs to be refilled here for the final stretch to the summit. 

At the summit on a clear day the panoramic views are take-your-breath away beautiful. Reportedly you can see the 4,000 metre plus peaks of the Bernese Alps including the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau – peaks we’d see a few days later from a very different perspective while hiking the Via Alpina.

Enjoy peek a boo views in the forest section

Enjoy peek a boo views in the forest section

View of Lake Brienz

View of Lake Brienz

Beautiful views once you get above treeline from the Brienz Rothorn Railway

Beautiful views once you get above treeline from the Brienz Rothorn Railway

Getting off the steam train the summit

Getting off the steam train just shy of the summit

Hiking from Brienzer Rothorn 

Enjoy fabulous hiking trails off the top of the Brienzer Rothorn. There’s lots of choice no matter what your hiking ability. Choose from easy 15 minute strolls to full day hikes. 

When we visited we had time for about a 75 minute hike. That was enough to get our heart rate up and our legs moving after a solid day of travel. I think the exercise helped us get on the time zone too. Though it wasn’t a tough hike that we did off the summit, we thoroughly enjoyed the views and the wildflower displays that were at their peak in the beginning of August.

Plan your hiking trip ahead of time by visiting the Brienz Rothorn Bahn website. They have route suggestions along with a trail map. The Swiss have done an incredible job signing the trails but note that its time not distance that is provided. I have found that their posted hiking times match my pace. 

Superb hiking - much of it family-friendly off the Brienzer Rothorn

Superb hiking – much of it family-friendly off the Brienzer Rothorn

Mountain views from hiking off of the Brienzer Rothorn

One of the views you can enjoy from a hike off of the Brienzer Rothorn

The alpine ibex

It was a treat to see the alpine ibex

Views of Lake Brienz

Views of Lake Brienz 

Where to eat…and sleep

Of course you can bring a packed lunch with you to enjoy on a hike from Brienzer Rothorn but there’s a lovely restaurant near the summit where you can also enjoy the views. If you want to appreciate the landscape with far fewer people around, book in for a night at the Berghaus Alpine Lodge.The sunsets from up here would be glorious.

Scenic dining near the summit of Brienzer Rothorn

Scenic dining near the summit of Brienzer Rothorn

When is the Brienz Rothorn Railway open?

The steam train runs from May 1st until the third week of October. Be sure to check the Brienz Rothorn Bahn website for exact dates. Departures are frequent – up to eight times a day beginning at around 8:30 AM. The train only goes as far as Planalp, well below the summit, during the month of May.

The Brienz Rothorn Railway in Brienz

The Brienz Rothorn Railway at the starting point in Brienz

How much does it cost to ride the steam train?

There are all sorts of variations and permutations when it comes to pricing for the train ride. Are you doing a one way trip, a round-trip or traveling with your dog? Perhaps you’d want to catch the first train in the morning for the best prices. The bottom line – check out the website for detailed pricing. But count on about 92 Swiss francs per person without the discount with a Swiss Travel card.

Further reading on travel in Europe

A huge thank you to Switzerland Tourism for hosting my stay and developing the fantastic itinerary. All opinions are mine.

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The Brienzer Rothorn via a scenic ride on a steam train

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Test Your Mettle on the EEOR Hike near Canmore

Test Your Mettle on the EEOR Hike near Canmore

The EEOR hike (short for east end of Rundle) near Canmore is an out and back scramble that will test your mettle. It’s steep from the get-go with an elevation gain of 875 metres over just 2.9 kilometres.

For many people the EEOR hike will be a challenge. It’s got lots of loose rock which is unsettling for some – and a cliff band with rock ledges along with some exposure near the top to negotiate. The good news is that there are occasional breaks in the steepness of the hike. And superb views for most of its length.

Superb views of Ha Ling on the way up

Superb views of Ha Ling on the way up; you can see people on top

Why do the EEOR Hike

The east end of Rundle hike (EEOR hike) – while tough rewards with superb views of Ha Ling Peak, the Spray Valley and Canmore. You top out at an elevation of 2545 metres (8,350 feet) and will actually be looking down to Ha Ling.

The EEOR hike is also part of the Triple Crown of Canmore hikes which in theory are to be completed in a day. Lots of people though, are happy to knock the three hikes off over the course of a summer. The other two hikes are Ha Ling Peak and Mount Lady MacDonald. Do them all in a day and you will ascend and descend 2400 metres!

If you do the hikes and post summit pictures of each peak on the Georgetown Inn’s Facebook page then you can claim your prize – a beer mug and discounts on refills. All details are on the Inn’s website

A long section of scree on the hike

The EEOR can get busy on a sunny weekend

The route up EEOR

There are loads of unmarked trails winding through both the woods and the scree to the rock ledges at the base of the cliff face on EEOR. There is generally no right or wrong way – but there is easier and less steep as I found out on the descent. Many of the trails are climber’s trails so if something doesn’t feel right, retrace your steps.

The hike starts by the Smith-Dorrien Road (described at the bottom of the post) and climbs steeply on a trail along the southeast ridge of Mount Rundle. Note that there is one very short section of ledges early on in the hike. Always be sure to keep left of the exposed cliff edge.

Once you’re above the first scree section you can see the trail as it winds up through even more scree towards the rock bands.

Because it’s a popular trail you’ll probably see lots of hikers unless it’s very early or late in the day.

We did see one blue marking painted on a rock near the end of the tree section and a “No Rock Throwing Sign.” That was it for signage. Be extremely careful with your foot placement. You absolutely do not want to send a boulder flying down the mountain. If you ever do, scream ROCK. 

Stellar views of Ha Ling Peak from EEOR

Stellar views of Ha Ling Peak from EEOR

Treeline to the cliffbands

Once you’re through the trees there’s a long scree section with multiple trails running through it. Find a trail that works for you. Emerge at a lovely large meadow where the grade moderates for a very short while. Reportedly you may see mountain goats around here. Head for the next scree slope which ends at the rock ledges at the bottom of the summit’s cliff face. 

A flatter section after the steep scree

A flatter section after the steep scree

On route to the crux of the EEOR hike

On route to the crux of the EEOR hike – the rocky bands ahead

Looking down to the Smith Dorrien Road

A flatter section after the steep scree

The crux of the EEOR hike

Not everyone who starts out to hike to the top of EEOR makes its. Many turn back in the steep scree or before the rock ledges. Do what feels right for you.

When you reach the rock ledges turn RIGHT and follow them for approximately 50 metres to a trail that leads to the summit. Some of the rock ledges are narrow, which can be unnerving. Take your time and don’t be rushed. Go through them at a pace that is comfortable for you. There are lots of good handholds on the way up. The final trail to the top after the ledges is a piece of cake. 

The uncomfortable part fro some through an exposed section of rock

The uncomfortable part for some through an exposed section of rock

Man descending on exposed scree slopes

Pick your way down carefully on these slightly exposed slopes

The summit of EEOR

What a treat to be on the summit of EEOR. The views are sublime in all directions. If it’s a clear day, you may even be able to see Mt Assiniboine to the southwest. Join the throngs on the top, carve out some space, as it can get crowded and enjoy a well-earned lunch. But keep an eye on the weather. This is no place to get caught in a storm.

John at the start of the descent on EEOR

John at the start of the descent on EEOR

More peaks to bag

It’s not a difficult bag this peak too

View towards Canmore from EEOR

View towards Canmore from EEOR

You appreciate the size of Mt Rundle when you're at the top of EEOR

You appreciate the size of Mt Rundle when you’re at the top of EEOR

Superb views of the Spray Valley & Ha Ling Peak

Superb views of the Spray Valley & Ha Ling Peak

The descent

I found the descent to be tricky in several places – partially because I was so focused on my feet I didn’t pay enough attention to the trail. You should descend exactly the same way you came up.

I found descending the rock bands easier than the ascent. Be careful with your foot placement so you don’t dislodge any rocks from here. You’ll be through it in five minutes. 

Be sure to look up occasionally to get your bearings so you don’t head too far west (right as you’re looking down). We ended up following a couple of ladies into a deep gully and had to carefully work our way east, sometimes sliding on our butts, to get back to the main trail.

The EEOR hike is no place for shoes without a good tread

The EEOR hike is no place for shoes without a good tread

Finding the trailhead for the EEOR hike

The trailhead is easy to find once you know what you’re looking for. From the turnoff to the Canmore Nordic Centre drive south on dusty Highway 742 (also called the Smith Dorrien – Spray Lakes Road) for approximately 4.8 kilometres. Look for vehicles pulled off on your left by Whitemans Pond BEFORE you reach Goat Creek Trailhead. Park here if there’s room.

Otherwise continue down to the Goat Creek Parking Lot – or on the road if it’s a busy weekend. For the trailhead itself, look for a piece of pink flagging tape on the west side of the highway across from Whitemans Pond near two large hydro poles. That’s your starting point.

The trailhead across from the reservoir

The trailhead across from Whitemans Pond

The trailhead by the dusty Smith Dorrien Road

The trailhead by the dusty Smith Dorrien Road

The best time to hike EEOR

Plan to do this hike after the snow has left, usually by early May. The hike should be doable into early October. Once the snow starts to fly give it a pass unless you’ve got experience on snow and ice. Then you’d need to go prepared with crampons and an ice axe. 

How long does it take to hike?

Allow anywhere from three to six hours depending on your speed. We did it in four hours. 

More reading on hikes near Canmore

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EEOR hike near Canmore

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The Best Hotel in Rossland BC to Sleep, Eat & Play

The Best Hotel in Rossland BC to Sleep, Eat & Play

A visit to Rossland BC has been on my radar for years. While I didn’t appreciate what a cute mountain town Rossland is until my summer visit, I did know that the town is a dream destination – albeit an out of the way one – for skiers.

In fact it was at RED Mountain Resort where Nancy Greene, Canada’s female athlete of the 20th century, cut her teeth skiing. The ski hill is well-known for its massive dumps of snow in winter and hiking and mountain biking trails in summer. 

It took less than two days for me to fall in love with Rossland. My fabulous slope-side stay at the new Josie Hotel certainly helped but the town too stole my heart. Rossland (population 3,537) seems to attract passionate, outdoorsy people who live the life they dream of.

The former gold mining town is now an arty one – with galleries, boutique shops, excellent restaurants, coffee roasters and even a mini Whole foods like supermarket – so you don’t lack for anything but quick access to large centres!

The pretty main street in downtown Rossland BC

The pretty main street in downtown Rossland BC

How do you get to Rossland BC?

Rossland is not the easiest place to get to, especially in a winter snowstorm. And this place gets on average 750 cm of snow, so that can be a problem.

The town is located in British Columbia’s West Kootenay region in the Monashee Mountains at an elevation of 1023 metres. It’s almost an 8 hour drive from Vancouver and a 7 hour drive from Calgary. The nearest town is Trail though Nelson is only an hour away. Driving access is via Highway 3. 

In summer a road-trip that includes Rossland is a great option. But in winter I’d recommend flying into either the Spokane Airport in Washington, a two hour drive away or Castlegar, 35 minutes away. The downside to Castlegar is the frequency of flight cancellations because of poor weather.

The highway to Rossland

It’s a beautiful drive to Rossland in summer

The Josie Hotel

As part of a nine day tour of the Kootenay region (other stops included Island Lake Lodge, Valhalla Provincial Park, Revelstoke, Nakusp, Halfway Hot Springs and Glacier National Park) John and I had two days to spend in Rossland with the Josie Hotel as our base. And what a base it was!

Wowsers is how I felt when we walked into the beautifully appointed hotel lobby. High ceilings with giant chandeliers, cozy leather couches, games, books and even a chair lift greeted us. Throw pillows and area rugs in warm tones softened the contemporary theme, inviting you to linger. 

The boutique hotel opened at the end of November in 2018. Its location, literally steps from the chairlift and hiking trails, is a game changer for Rossland. It’s the most luxurious hotel in town (and only a six minute drive to the town proper) with a great onsite restaurant to boot.

Welcoming lobby of the Josie Hotel

Welcoming lobby of the Josie Hotel

The ski theme greets you in the lobby of the Josie Hotel

The ski theme greets you in the lobby of the Josie Hotel

The rooms at the Josie Hotel in Rossland BC

What a treat to walk into an extra-large suite with a view out to the mountains. I loved the aesthetic of our room from the moment I laid eyes on it. (Who is that interior designer?) The dining room area with its round table and chairs, fridge and coffee maker was perfect for working.

The living room which featured couches, bright red Barcelona chairs and beautiful area rugs invited reading and lounging while the outdoor balcony was ideal for sipping wine and watching the world go by. 

The living room in our suite at the Josie Hotel

The living room in our suite at the Josie Hotel

The view to the ski hill from the Josie Hotel

The view to the ski hill from our suite

Our bedroom was lovely. It boasted a very comfortable mattress, lots of room to spread out and plenty of places to hang clothes, all with a view from our bed. The over-sized bathroom ensured there was never a fight over space. We both marveled at the size of the shower and the fact that some of the tiles never even got wet. While we had no time for the soaker tub on this trip, it would be stop number one after a day of skiing.

Note this is a pet-friendly hotel. Wish we’d had our mutt with us but her hiking days were over.

Well-appointed modern bedrooms at the Josie

Well-appointed modern bedrooms at the Josie

A giant bathroom in our room at the Josie

Our shower is bigger than our powder room at home

What can you do in Rossland BC?

Go for a hike 

John and I enjoyed a late afternoon wildflower-filled hike to the top of one of the ski hills. What a treat it was to lace up a pair of runners and minutes later be on a trail. What we hadn’t bargained for was the workout we’d get – good training for our hike to Gwillm Lakes in Valhalla Provincial Park. We’d been given directions but really how hard can it be to walk up a ski hill?

Very hard as it turns out. It was a scramble in places as we pulled ourselves up and over massive roots, and tried to gain purchase on vegetation-free slopes. Throw in those nasty ball-bearing sized rocks that can turn an ankle in a heartbeat and there were times I wondered what we were doing.

But the far-reaching views from the summit and walking through waist-high wildflowers, some back lit along with mountains and blue skies, made every difficult step worthwhile. I understand that the ski area is also a hit with trail runners.

Very pretty hiking on the trails around Rossland BC

Very pretty hiking on the trails around Rossland

View from the summit of one of the ski hills in Rossland BC

View from the summit of one of the ski hills

Wildflowers are waist high on the ski slopes in Rossland BC

Wildflowers are waist high on the ski slopes

Raft the Lower Slocan River

One afternoon was spent lazily rafting a pretty section of the Lower Slocan River with Endless Adventure out of Crescent Valley. Over a couple of hours beginning from Crescent Valley Beach we rafted through Class II and III waves. It’s the ideal rafting trip for families as nothing is overly scary – except for the optional swim through the rapids.

John and I thought the swim sounded like fun so we along with the majority of the guests walked up the river some distance from where we left the rafts. Then with the help of the guide we waded into the river, three at a time, and on cue swam for all we were worth to end up in the middle of the river. The current grabbed us and threw us into the big waves of the rapids in short order. It was all I could do to keep my mouth closed so I wouldn’t choke on the water. I’d describe it as a “rush” and the highlight of the afternoon for me!

Rafting the Lower Slocan River

Rafting the Lower Slocan River

Great fun floating the rapids on the Lower Slocan river

Heaps of fun floating the rapids on the Lower Slocan river

Scary face before rafting rapids

John making it look scarier than it is

Explore Rossland BC

Take a walk down the main street at some point on your visit to Rossland. You’ll probably come away surprised by the quality and variety of stores and businesses, the artwork and the nod to its skiing history. 

Stop in at Seven Summits Coffee Company if you need some fair-trade locally roasted beans. And if you’ve got a hankering for chocolate, check out the Mountain Nugget Chocolate Company for their hand-crafted chocolates, ice cream and pastries.

Handsome buildings on the main street in Rossland BC

Handsome buildings on the main street in Rossland

Art made up of old bicycle tire rims

I love any art with bicycle bits

Mountain biking in Rossland

John and I ran out of time to give mountain biking a go. But this town is famous for the grueling 35 kilometre long Seven Summits Trail. It’s even recognized by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) as an epic trail. Interestingly, a few weeks after this trip, when we were hiking in Switzerland, we met locals who had traveled all the way to to Rossland specifically to bike the Seven Summits. Guess we missed something really good.

Eating at the Josie Hotel

We were lucky to eat twice at the Velvet Restaurant in the hotel – breakfast on one day, dinner on another. Take your appetite (well-earned after all the adventures) as you’re for a treat.

Chef Marc-Andre Choquette, a Vancouver transplant who once worked as a sous chef at Lumiere with Rob Feenie, heads up the restaurant. The menu is a French-influenced seasonal menu. John enjoyed a tender duck breast one night while I swooned over homemade tagliatelle. Breakfast is as a beautiful as it is tasty. Check out my bowl of hot steel cut oats in one of the photos below.

And if you’re hungry before dinner, I highly recommend that you order a bottle of wine and a charcuterie board for your room. Heaven.

The Velvet Restaurant & Lounge at the Josie Hotel

The Velvet Restaurant & Lounge at the Josie Hotel

Delicious homemade pappardelle pasta

Delicious homemade pappardelle pasta

Breakfast at the Josie Hotel

Hot steel cut oatmeal with whipped bitter almond and blueberry compote

Charcuterie plate at the Josie Hotel

Charcuterie plate at the Josie Hotel

For more information or to book rooms at the Josie Hotel visit their website here.

John and I were guests of the Josie Hotel – but they have no influence on my opinion or the article itself. We both truly loved this place and would happily come back in winter.

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The best hotel in Rossland BC

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The Pickle Jar Lakes Hike in Kananaskis Country

The Pickle Jar Lakes Hike in Kananaskis Country

The Pickle Jar Lakes hike is a standout if you’re a fan of mountain lakes. And judging by the popularity of this Kananaskis hike, people love a lake as a destination.

Four lakes. Even better – though not all are equally beautiful.

Heading for the third of the Pickle Jar Lakes

Heading for the third of the Pickle Jar Lakes

Route description for the Pickle Jar Lakes hike 

From the parking lot walk north beside the highway for about 100 metres. Cross the road and pick up the obvious, though unsigned trail that curves northeast into woods of aspen and conifers. Start climbing.

Approximately 20 minutes into the hike you’ll get a good view of the trail heading up. For a while you can hear road traffic. Eventually it gets drowned out by the sound of the creek you can see in places below you.

The ascent is steady though very doable, even for kids if you take your time. In a few of the steep places there isn’t much underfoot for traction. Some people may find poles handy in this section.

The trail drops into the forest after cresting the first pass. Then it’s up again but the views show up. Mist Mountain appears off to the west-northwest. Reach the high point of the entire hike at a 2137 metre pass.

The Pickle Jar Lakes come into view

From the pass descend a short section on shale – with tantalizing views of the first lake. This part of the hike can be a challenge for some. It’s steep and hard to get a good grip. Again poles may help.

The first of the Pickle Jar Lakes is at the 4.2 kilometre mark. To continue to the second lake, walk along the south shore to an obvious inlet stream. Boulder hop and then hike up and over a small scree slope to reach the lake number two. If you’re thinking about a lunch stop, keep going to the third lake, the prettiest one of them all. It’s a short hike between each lake.

When you arrive at the third lake you can see trails going either way around it. We went right, crossed a scree slope, continued through a short section of  beautiful alpine wildflowers to gain a ridge overlooking the shallow fourth lake. It’s easy to hike down to the lake. From there pick up the trail to loop back to the start of the third lake.

Retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Nice views once the trail breaks out of the woods

Nice views once the trail breaks out of the woods

Catching our breath and admiring the view

Catching our breath and admiring the view

A scree section on the way to the first of the Pickle Jar lakes

A scree section on the way to the first of the Pickle Jar Lakes

The hike is a popular one with families and fisherman

The hike is a popular one with families and fisherman

Walking towards the second lake

Walking towards the second lake

The second of the Pickle Jar Lakes is the least pretty

The second of the Pickle Jar Lakes is the least pretty

It’s a desolate scene on the way to the third lake

On a sunny day the water in the third lake is a gorgeous Caribbean blue and teal colour though the backdrop of banded cliffs and talus bowls is a tad desolate. Still this is the lake everyone is drawn to. The fishing is good, picnic spots out of the wind are plentiful and you may see or hear a marmot or pika.

It's a short climb to reach the third lake

It’s a short climb to reach the third and nicest of the Pickle Jar Lakes

The third Pickle Jar lake

The third Pickle Jar lake

Our lunch spot beside a big rock at the third Pickle Jar Lake

Our lunch spot beside a big rock at the third lake

Looking down the length of the third lake

Looking down the length of the third lake

Hiking up to the fourth of the Pickle Jar lakes through alpine flowers

Hiking up to the fourth lake through alpine flowers

The fourth lake is very shallow

The fourth lake is very shallow

A pika at the first lake

A pika at the first lake

Beautiful views on the descent

Beautiful views on the descent

Camping at Pickle Jar Lakes

Camping is happening at Pickle Jar Lakes – as I saw many groups going in and lots of campsites. However, it’s not actually permitted according to a woman I spoke with at the Barrier Lake Information Centre. I wouldn’t recommend it or I’d double check and ask for a second opinion. But the Alberta Parks website shows no camping too. 

Useful information

It’s approximately 9.0 kilometres round-trip if you visit all four of the Pickle Jar Lakes. The elevation gain is a very manageable 450 metres. Distance and vertical vary a bit depending on the routes you take. 

Allow three to five hours, depending on how much time you spend exploring and hanging out around the lakes.

You’ll see lots of people fly fishing as the lakes are stocked with Westslope Cutthroat trout. It’s catch and release only and you need a permit.

This is grizzly bear country so be sure to carry bear spray along with the 10 hiking essentials.

The hike is dog-friendly but keep them on a leash at all times. There are a couple of streams on the hike up to the lakes where dogs can drink some water.

Back into the woods for the last stretch of the hike

Back into the woods for the last stretch of the hike

Finding the trailhead for Pickle Jar Lakes

The shortest route to the trailhead if you’re coming from Calgary is via Highway 40. From Black Diamond take Highway 22 south to Longview. Turn west onto Highway 541. It becomes Highway 40 when you reach Kananaskis Country. From Longview it’s 61 kilometres to reach the large Lantern Creek Recreation parking lot on the west side of the highway.

From Highwood Pass it’s 20.6 kilometres south on Highway 40 to get to the Lantern Creek parking lot. 

Walk north beside the highway for a few hundred feet, cross the road and you’ll see the start of the trail to Pickle Jar Lakes.

The Lantern Creek Recreation parking lot

Park in the Lantern Creek Recreation parking lot off Highway 40

The trailhead is on the east side of Highway 40

Walk along Highway 40 and cross the road to get to the Pickle Jar Lakes trailhead

Further reading on hikes from nearby Highwood Pass

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The hike to Pickle Jar Lakes in Kananaskis

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6 Ways to Reconnect with Nature in Riviera Nayarit

6 Ways to Reconnect with Nature in Riviera Nayarit

With lush rainforests and steep mountain backdrops greeting you in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, you might feel you’ve landed in Costa Rica but this destination is considerably closer and has much to offer the nature lover.

Verdant forests and quiet beaches in the Riviera Nayarit

Riviera Nayarit offers nature lovers verdant forests and quiet beaches

A 300-kilometre coastline sweeping north of Puerto Vallarta along Banderas Bay is the centerpiece of Riviera Nayarit. There are several luxury resorts so you don’t need to suffer but the slower pace offers more chance for discovery and chances to reconnect with nature including the following experiences.

Swim at Isla Del Coral 

Although most beaches in this part of Mexico aren’t crowded, if you’d like aqua-blue water and some island time, take a boat tour with Xplore Mexico to Isla Del Coral. This rocky outcrop is home to brown pelicans and black vultures; you can watch them soar over the beach while lizards streak across the rock cliffs and vendors sell cold drinks.

There’s a bit of surf on the crescent white-sand beach but most swimmers will find it easy to enter the water. You can also snorkel or paddleboard although you need to be an experienced boarder to deal with the wind and waves. Take an early morning tour as boatloads of water lovers arrive mid-day. You can rent a table and chairs in the shade to avoid too much sun between dips.

Bird Watch at San Blas

A three-hour drive north of Puerto Vallarta airport is the small village of San Blas known for colonial architecture and birds. This relatively undiscovered Riviera Nayarit destination offers a variety of habitats close to town so if birds are your thing, you can see a lot of them here in a short time. Each January there is a migratory bird festival where nature lovers gather to see the avian visitors.

Pelican in San Blas on the Riviera Nayarit

Birdwatchers will find many species in San Blas

Frolic on the Beach at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Resort

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Resort is a very comfortable place to base your explorations and sits on a long beach for early morning walking or running. From June to November you can discover sea turtle tracks if you’re up early.

Each night turtles crawl up the beach to lay eggs before covering their nest with sand and slipping back into the ocean. You can tell which nests birds and other egg lovers have discovered by the broken shells laying on the sand.  

You can also parasail or boogie board, and the resort has several pools (one just for adults) for water lovers.

To keep up your fitness for nature explorations consider booking a wellness suite for your stay. You’ll find a stationary bike next to your bed (no excuses not to exercise here), a vitamin-C shower, in-suite personal training sessions, breakfast smoothies, aromatherapy, and a wellness concierge to help you organize it all.

Strolling the beach near Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Resort

Strolling the beach near Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Resort shows turtle activity in summer months

Walk Through a Magic Town 

It sounds like a song lyric but a magic town is a real thing in Mexico. The designation is given to small towns with unique history, culture or aesthetics. There are currently 111 magic towns in the country but it’s a difficult accreditation to get. Only 28 of 180 applicants were added to the list in 2015.

Sayulita is a magic town popular with surfers but also great for land lovers and walking. The bright crayon-coloured buildings and cobblestone streets mean your camera is never turned off and you’ll probably walk longer than you planned. Take time to sit in the town plaza under the trees and soak in the rhythms of this ocean-side community.

Colourful storefront in Sayulita

Sayulita is officially magic town and there’s much to keep you strolling the cobblestone streets

Sample the Day’s Catch

Dining in Sayulita offers plenty of seafood fresh from the ocean. You can wiggle your toes in the beach sand at Don Pedro‘s Restaurant and Bar. At Barracuda Sayulita you’ll find five-star presentation in a casual surfer setting. Thinking of the ocean, restaurant owners eschew plastics and serve drinks on re-usable cloth coasters.

In the south region of Riviera Nayarit at Hector’s Kitchen in Punta Mita the former Four Season’s chef uses local ingredients in his cuisine, changing the menu to reflect the seasons and offering unexpected flavours (hello, root beer root).

bartenders serve up drinks on cloth coasters at Barracuda Sayulita

At Barracuda Sayulita bartenders serve up drinks on cloth coasters. No plastic straws here.

Play at eco-lodge Maraica San Pancho

This eco-lodge in San Francisco (known by locals as San Pancho) offers day passes for a budget-friendly $25US that includes use of the pool and grounds, and a $15US meal credit in the restaurant. Solar panels generate electricity, the resort aims for zero waste, and staff do beach clean-ups regularly. Owner Fernanda Castro, explained her desire to help people connect with nature, “We remind visitors of where they come from. At some point, we won’t be able to go back to nature where we used to.”

Maraica San Pancho staff clean the beach near their resort and focus on sustainability

Maraica San Pancho staff clean the beach near their resort and focus on sustainability

It’s a good reminder that our time in nature is precious. Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to nurture our connection to outdoor landscapes in Riviera Nayarit.

To learn more about how you can get closer to nature in Riviera Nayarit click here.

Riviera Nayarit hosted Carol Patterson but the opinions are her own.

More reading on holidays in Mexico

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

6 Ways to Reconnect with Nature in Riviera Nayarit

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A Trip to Mingan Archipelago National Park in Quebec

A Trip to Mingan Archipelago National Park in Quebec

For years the Mingan Archipelago National Park has been on my bucket list. I first heard about the park when I started researching places to include in my book on 100 adventures across Canada back in 2013. Kayaking through an archipelago of over 1000 islands that make up the park sounded like a magical adventure to me. Unfortunately the kayaking company I’d looked at shuttered its doors, and there was no replacement for years. So I nixed any plans to go. 

Kayaks on the dock at Ile aux Perroquets

Kayaks on the dock on Ile aux Perroquets

Summer 2019 Mingan dreams come true

Fast forward to July 2019. I along with two other travel writers/photographers visited the islands at the invitation of Parks Canada over a three day period. It was enough time to give me a taste of what they offered – and it was way more time than many of the 30,000 annual visitors spend. Still the visit has just whetted my appetite for more, in particular hiking, kayaking and birding.

Mingan Archipelago National Park video

Click on this video to get an idea of the treat you’re in for.

Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve

Established as a park in 1984, the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve encompasses almost a 1,000 islands and islets scattered off the coast of eastern Quebec. It’s a unique destination with its abundance of large limestone monoliths that date back some 450 million years. Carved by nature, these fantastically shaped rocks are one of the big reasons to visit the park. Nowhere else in Canada will you see such an abundance of these rocky sentinels. 

The islands are equally famous for their seabird population. The common eider is the most abundant species in the park but the one that people come specifically to see is the Atlantic puffin. The birds arrive sometime in April and are gone by September. An overnight stay in the lightkeeper’s cottage on Île aux Perroquets will allow you to watch their comings and goings for hours.

View from the lighthouse of Ile aux Perroquets

View from the lighthouse of Ile aux Perroquets

The marine life is also excellent. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is the home of numerous whale species including the endangered blue whale. You can learn a lot more about the whales with a stop at the Mingan Island Creatacean Study in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan.

We were lucky enough to see minke whales on several occasions – and though I have no photos I did catch a few seconds you can see on the video.

The site of the Mingan Island Cretaceous study

The site of the Mingan Island Cretaceous study

Where is the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve?

The park stretches along the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in eastern Quebec – near the end of Highway 138. The closest big centre is Sept-Îles, a 2.5 hour drive away while Quebec City is a whopping 860 kilometres away. Two towns that provide boat access to the park include Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan and Havre-Saint-Pierre.

Admiring an erosion monolith in the Mingan Archipelago

Admiring an erosion monolith in the Mingan Archipelago on Petite Ile au Marteau

How do spend three days in the Mingan Archipelago National Park 

Our group was fortunate to visit five islands over the three days. On three of the islands we only had an hour or two but that was enough time to wander around, take pictures, poke our noses in tide pools and visit lighthouses. We spent a night on two islands – in an oTENTik on Quarry Island and in a wonderful lightkeeper’s cottage – with hot showers and delicious food on Île aux Perroquets.

Île Niapiskau

Visit Île Niapiskau to see numerous monliths including once called Bonne Femme. If you’ve got time there are two trails to hike, one a short 0.3 km loop on Poète Jomphe Trail and the other a 4.4 km hike on the Samuel Trail. There is also camping on this island.

We had less than an hour to wander around, thinking that we’d be coming back again. But plans changed so I’m glad we were able to see these fantastic monoliths.

A collection of monoliths on Ile Niapiskau

A collection of monoliths on Ile Niapiskau

Man admiring a monolith on Ile Niapiskau in Mingan Archipelago National Park

My friend James admiring the monolith

Monoliths on the beach on Ile Niapiskau, Mingan Archipelago National Park

Monoliths on the beach on Ile Niapiskau

Île Nue de Mingan 

In English this island is called Naked Island. While it does look bare, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t brimming with life – especially seabirds. It’s also home to many lovely monoliths including the highest one in all of the islands – La Montagnaise standing a little over 10 metres high. If you visit at low tide there are fabulous tide pools to explore. 

Îlot next door to Île Nue de Mingan is filled with limestone caves – many of which we could see from the boat. The area is literally filled with seabirds – flying every which way, squawking, swimming and making their presence known. 

Monoliths on Naked Island in the Mingan

Monoliths on Île Nue de Mingan or Naked Island in the Mingan

Photographers will love all the different shapes the monoliths come in

Monoliths on Naked Island

Looking at the caves on Ilot

Looking at the caves on Ilot beside Ile Nue de Mingan

Petite Ile au Marteau

You can see Petite Île au Marteau from Havre-Saint-Pierre. It’s quick and easy to get to and one of the few islands that is accessible for disabled people. 

Catch your red chair moment. Walk the trails to the lighthouse. Step back in time as you enter the lightkeeper’s cottage. Explore the multitude of tidal pools. And look for numerous common eiders and herring gulls that nest on the island but don’t disturb them.

Pancake like rocks on Petite Ile au Marteau

Pancake like rocks on Petite Ile au Marteau

The lighthouse on Petite Ile au Marteau in Mingan Archipelago National Park

The lighthouse on Petite Ile au Marteau

Exploring tide pools on Petite Ile au Marteau

One of our group off exploring tide pools on Petite Ile au Marteau

Île Quarry

Try to spend a night on Quarry Island. It’s home to six oTENTik tents and eight campsites, lovely stretches of beach, beautiful forest and a fabulous network of hiking trails covering about 15 kilometres of the island. There’s enough to keep you busy for several days!!

Be sure to hike the shore trail as a loop via Les Falaises trail. That way you get a great combo of the boreal forest and spectacular monoliths. Don’t wimp out on the climb up to the viewpoint in the forest because on a clear day you may even see Anitcosti Island. 

Good signage for the hiking trails on Quarry Island

Good signage for the hiking trails on Quarry Island

Superb hiking on the coastal trail on Quarry Island

Superb hiking on the coastal trail on Quarry Island

Beautiful backdrop for a red chair moment on Quarry Island

Beautiful backdrop for a red chair moment on Quarry Island

Superb hiking on Quarry Island beside the ocean in Mingan Archipelago National Park

Couldn’t get enough of hiking beside the ocean on Quarry Island

Evening light on Quarry Island

Evening light on Quarry Island

Enjoying the sunset on Quarry Island in the Mingan Archipelago National Park

Enjoying the sunset on Quarry Island in the Mingan Archipelago

oTENTik on Quarry Island in the Mingan

My oTENTik on Quarry Island

Barbecuing on Quarry Island

Barbecuing on Quarry Island

Île aux Perroquets

If you want to spend hours watching puffins, then plan a visit to Île aux Perroquets. This island is one of the best for viewing them, especially in July when their numbers are highest.

Île aux Perroquets is a small island crammed with history from the years of people tending to the lighthouse. And it’s got wonderful rooms you can book in the Lightkeeper’s Cottage. Throw in drinks and appetizers in the former hen house, old fashioned rockers, the chance to climb to the top of the lighthouse, superb food and you have one heck of a place to spend a night or two. 

Read: A Lighthouse Stay in Quebec’s Mingan Archipelago 

Walking to the Lightkeepers Cottage on Ile aux Perroquets

Walking to the Lightkeepers Cottage on Ile aux Perroquets

One of the small cottages people can stay in on Ile aux Perroquets, Mingan Archipelago National Park

One of the small cottages people can stay in on Ile aux Perroquets

The best time to visit the Mingan

Plan to visit the Mingan in the summer between June and early September. It’s a short season with the boats only operating during the summer. August would be a great month from the perspective of fewer bugs. But July is better for puffins. 

Puffins and razorbills on Ile aux Perroquets, Mingan Archipelago National Park

Puffins and razorbills on Ile aux Perroquets

Getting around the Mingan Archipalago

You need a boat to get to the islands in the Mingan. While some people show up in the islands having paddled over in their own kayaks, the majority of people book a boat tour or a boat taxi. Out of Havre-Saint-Pierre you can book an excursion to various islands with Services Maritimes-Boréale. They also offer a taxi boat for campers and hikers.

If it’s a tailor-made excursion you’re after call Mr. Louis Richard – with Croisières du Capitaine Richard at 1-418-538-3375.

You can also leave for the western most islands out of Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan. There are two companies, both offering sea excursions with stopovers and taxi boats to the islands for hikers and campers. Check out Enterprises touristiques Loiselle or Excursions du Phare.

Note: If you’re doing your own kayaking trip you should be competent at reading charts, understand the currents and the risks of what you’re doing. As one Parks Canada person said to me “the weather is either outstanding or horrible. There is no in between.” Go very prepared.

Kayaks on a beach in the Mingan Archipealgo

Kayaks are a great way to explore the Mingan Archipelago if you have the skills

One of the boats used for getting around the Mingan Archipelago National Park

One of the boats used for getting around the Mingan Archipelago

Camping in Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve

It’s possible to stay overnight on a total of six islands. Île Quarry is the only one that offers the oTENTik experience and those should be booked through Parks Canada. If you really want to make your life easy book an oTENTik kit rental. That way you won’t need to bring much more than food and water.

You can also book 36 regular campsites online – though search “frontcountry” to get the options in the Mingan. The other islands that offer camping include Grand Île, Île à la Chasse, Île du Havre, Île Nue de Mingan, Île Quarry and Île Niapiskau. 

Kayaking companies working in the Mingan Archipelago

Should you prefer to see the Mingan via kayak there are now a couple of choices. For a local company check out Noryak Adventures based in Havre-Saint-Pierre. Montreal based Chinook Adventure and Quebec City based Quatres Nature are your other two options. 

***A giant thank you to Guy, Suzie, Parks Canada and Quebec Maritime for hosting my stay. I fell in love with this park, just like I thought I would.***

More reading on places to visit in Quebec 

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A trip to Mingan Archipelago National Park Preserve

 

 

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Island Lake Lodge: A Base for Hiking Adventures

Island Lake Lodge: A Base for Hiking Adventures

Island Lake Lodge serves as a great base for hiking adventures. It sits on 7,000 acres of private land just minutes from Fernie, British Columbia. The lodge is surrounded by towering trees in old growth forest – with the Lizard Range of the Rocky Mountains serving up a spectacular backdrop. That translates to wonderful hiking opportunities both above tree line and in the forest. And you don’t have to be a guest at Island Lake Lodge to enjoy the trails.

Drink with a view at the Bear Lodge Bistro patio, Island Lake Lodge

Drink with a view at the Bear Lodge Bistro patio

Hiking or cat skiing at Island Lake Lodge?

Hiking however isn’t what Island Lake Lodge is best known for. It’s cat skiing in winter. But word is getting out about the variety of hiking trails, their beauty and how well signed and cared for they are. As a bonus, when you’re finished hiking here, a cold drink and something delicious to eat is available at Bear Lodge Bistro – before you even get back to the parking lot.

Beer with the words Take a Hike on the glass

Island Lake Lodge – Take a Hike and #hikemore

Island Lake Lodge as a base for hiking adventures

Over two days at Island Lake Lodge, John and I were able to hike four of the 15 trails that start at the lodge. We cheated a bit as one trail – Goldilocks – can’t be hiked without doing Spineback Trail – but the bottom line is that we covered a lot of ground in a short time frame. There are at least five more trails I would like to come back and hike. They include Heiko’s Trail, Tamarack Trail Summit, Big White Peak, Goat Pass and Lizard Lake.

If you’re either new to hiking or a nervous hiker – always fretting about what’s around the next corner, then I think you’ll really enjoy hiking from the lodge. You’d have to work on getting lost as the trails are particularly well-signed. And while you may run into wildlife including moose, grizzly bears, black bears, elk, deer, wolves, cougar and lynx – consider it a privilege if you see something. I almost never do. 

Just because you’re starting at a lodge doesn’t mean that you don’t have to go prepared. Take the 10 hiking essentials and for heaven’s sake carry a can of bear spray – and know how to use it.

Read: Bear Safety Tips: What You Need to Know

Lots of trail signage at Island Lake Lodge

Lots of trail signage at Island Lake Lodge

Hiking trails at Island Lake Lodge we did

Lake Trail

On the day that we arrived at the lodge it was almost 5 PM. We decided a before dinner hike was in order so we chose the 2 kilometre Lake Trail. It’s an easy loop hike through old growth forest with lots of towering western red cedar and Douglas fir. John particularly loved it for the birds that hung out by an open area with a stream. In short order he amassed 20 birds including the alder flycatcher.

Alder flycatcher at Island Lake Lodge

Alder flycatcher at Island Lake Lodge

You can knock the Lake Trail off quickly – in 30 to 45 minutes if you’re moving. But there are a couple of iconic photo spots where you might want to linger. Down by Island Lake, you can either rent a canoe or catch someone canoeing – perhaps in the early morning as the sun comes up.

Canoeing at Island Lake Lodge

You might see someone out canoeing if you hike the Lake Trail

Note: There are Island Lake Lodge photo spots numbered and documented on all the trails. They refer to the best views! Pick up a map ahead of time so you know where to go.  

Spineback Trail

The Spineback trail offers a good workout and some truly fantastic views. The trail climbs 430 metres from Island Lake through sub-alpine meadows that are dotted with wildflowers come late July. Hike to the end of Spineback Ridge for a great photo opportunity by a gnarly old tree. It’s called the Scott Schmidt tree, named for the first extreme skier.

To do the return 7 kilometre hike, allow three to four hours. If you want another superb view hike half a kilometre more to the bench above the ridge – between the 3 Bears Peaks. Retrace your steps or continue to do the Goldilocks Trail. (See below.)

Steep hiking on the Spineback Trail - Island Lake Lodge

Steep hiking on the Spineback Trail

A couple making their way along Spineback Ridge

A couple making their way along Spineback Ridge

John enjoying an airy view at the end of Spineback Ridge

John enjoying an airy view at the end of Spineback Ridge

Looking down to Island Lake Lodge

Looking down to Island Lake Lodge from the second bench above Spineback

Goldilocks Trail

The 2.5 kilometre Goldilocks trail is the newest trail you can access from Island Lake Lodge. Completed in 2018, it was named for the three women who built the trail. 

The trail begins where Spineback leaves off – at the top of the bench above the ridge. As it’s a loop trail – you can do it in either direction. We hiked it counter-clockwise and I personally think that’s the best way to go.

Climb 210 metres on a trail through scree, past rocks filled with fossils attesting to the time when these rocks were at the bottom of the sea. The trail curves around Baby Bear Mountain as you climb to Upper Nonstop saddle. Savour the views through here. On the backside look for lingering snow into late July. Continue by descending on switchbacks between Baby Bear and Mama Bear peaks. That’s followed by a brief climb up to another vantage point of the valley below. Then it’s one more steep descent, perhaps on snow, to reach a flatter section and the intersection with the Spineback trail. Allow 1.5 hours to do the loop.

Humans look ants on the Goldilocks Trail

Humans look like ants on the Goldilocks Trail

Working our way to the high point on the Goldilocks Trail

Working our way to the high point on the Goldilocks Trail

The backside of the Goldilocks trail looking west

The backside of the Goldilocks trail looking east

Views coming down on the Goldilocks Trail

Views coming down on the Goldilocks Trail

Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

If you only have a couple of hours but you want a trail that delivers a workout with a view, choose the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint. It will take you between 2 – 3 hours to cover the 4 kilometres with an elevation gain of 300 metres.

The beginning of the Tamarack Trail is shared with the Lazy Lizard trail. It starts off flat and easy as it travels through beautiful old-growth forest. Then it begins climbing – reaching a steep section near the viewpoint where a set of steep wooden steps have been added. We startled a grouse through here – and it in turn startled us, causing us to jump.

From the top of the stairs, it’s a short walk to the viewpoint. Park yourself on the bench and enjoy the views to the lodge below and the Spineback and Goldilocks Trail across the way.

Pretty pond on the Lazy Lizard Trail

Pretty pond on the Lazy Lizard Trail

Stairs that lead to the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

Stairs that lead to the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

The view down to Island lake Lodge from the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

The view down to Island Lake Lodge from the Tamarack Trail Viewpoint

Massive old growth western red cedar tree

Massive old growth western red cedar tree

Look up to the tops of massive old growth trees

Don’t forget to look up

After hiking if you’re a guest at the lodge

Forget that closed in sauna feeling. You won’t find it at Island Lake Lodge. Instead, every sauna – and there’s one in every lodge, offers a fantastic view out the window. It’s a great way to relax and soothe those tired muscles. Just be sure to ask the front desk to fire one up for you ahead of time.

View from the sauna at Island Lake Lodge

View from the sauna at Island Lake Lodge

The rooms at Island Lake Lodge

We stayed in one of the newer lodges and enjoyed a large room with a superb mountain view. We didn’t end up spending much time in the room but I could easily picture myself enjoying a glass of wine on the deck just admiring the landscape. I loved our big bathroom with a slate shower and heated floors, along with a large soaker tub. And yes there is WiFi here.

Spacious bedroom in the Cedar Lodge at Island Lake Lodge

Our spacious bedroom with a mountain view in the Cedar Lodge

Morning view of the mountains from our bedroom at Island Lake Lodge

Morning view of the mountains from our bedroom at Island Lake Lodge

Eating at the lodge

Meals are beautiful to look at, creative and delicious at Island Lake Lodge. The summer salad is one I could eat daily and the beet risotto with mascarpone (not pictured) was also a treat for the eyes and the stomach. Some of the main dishes include Arctic char, bison shortribs (a long time guest favourite), duck breast and free range chicken.

If you had a big hiking day and expended a lot of calories I would suggest choosing a large plate. Sometimes I like to pick two appetizers as my meal but here they are on the small size and I don’t think two would be filling enough for most people. Or pick two appetizers and a dessert!

Asparagus & Ricotta Ravioli

Asparagus & Ricotta Ravioli

Delicious summer salad with flower petals

Delicious summer salad with flower petals that I would happily eat everyday

Homemade granola, berries and yogurt

Homemade granola, berries and yogurt – one of my favourite breakfasts

Booking a holiday at Island Lake Lodge

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for a hiking holiday out of Island Lake Lodge. You can contact them directly if you’re interested in booking by visiting their website.

Further reading

Thank you to Island Lake Lodge for hosting my stay. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Island Lake Lodge as a base for hiking adventures

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11 Things to do in Revelstoke in Summer

11 Things to do in Revelstoke in Summer

Looking for things to do in Revelstoke in summer? You won’t have a problem filling your day(s). But what you may find is that you haven’t allowed enough time to do everything you want to do. 

I personally would recommend these 11 things to do – based on a couple of trips to Revelstoke, nearby hot springs and national parks. There are also several adventurous activities I wish I’d done (see below) that will have to wait for the next visit.

Mountain backdrop with cool lighting in Revelstoke

Mountain backdrop with cool light in Revelstoke

Go hiking in Mount Revelstoke National Park

There’s lots of choice when it comes to hiking in nearby Mount Revelstoke National Park. Of the 20 plus hikes, one I’d suggest if you’ve got 4 – 6 hours, is the 14.2 kilometre return hike to Eva Lake. It’s only got 179 metres of elevation gain!

The trail takes you through a forest of subalpine fir, Englemann spruce and mountain hemlock with periodic views of the Columbia River – literally thousands of feet below. If you hike in August you’ll be treated to wildflower-filled meadows. Eva Lake itself is lovely and worth the walk around. It makes a great lunch spot – or backcountry camping destination.

Read: A Hike to Eva Lake, Mount Revelstoke National Park

The Eva Lake hike is one of the things to do in Revelstoke

Wildflowers galore at the start of the Eva Lake hike

Reflection in Eva Lake

Reflection in Eva Lake, Mount Revelstoke National Park

Take a hike in Glacier National Park

Continue past Mount Revelstoke National Park to reach Glacier National Park. Choose an easy hike like the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk Trail – put in place as a legacy to Rick Hansen’s 1987 Man in Motion tour.

Or pick one of the many steep hiking trails like the Hermit Trail that takes you into the alpine. Two other superb hikes include the moderate Asulkan Valley Trail. It takes you to an overlook of the Asulkan Glacier. The more difficult Abbott Ridge Trail gets you up high in the alpine tundra via a narrow ridge.

Read: The Hermit Trail Hike in Glacier National Park

Enjoying the big in your face glacier views from the Hermit Trail, Glacier National Park

Enjoying the big in your face glacier views from the Hermit Trail

Go paddleboarding on the Lake Revelstoke Reservoir

If you didn’t arrive in Revelstoke with a paddleboard you can rent a blow-up one from Fine Line SUP. The boards take about 10 minutes to fill with air (a good warm-up to SUP) and then voilá, you’re ready to go.

We drove to an obvious launch spot a short distance north of the Revelstoke Dam. There’s lots of parking and water access is easy with the paddleboard. On a peaceful, calm weekend morning we had the Lake Revelstoke Reservoir to ourselves. Our goal was to paddle north to Silvertip Falls, located on the east (right) side of the reservoir. 

We arrived sooner that we figured and I’m sorry now that we didn’t have time to continue up to Martha Creek Provincial Park – a popular destination for paddleboarders. With conditions like you see in the photo below, you can cover a lot of ground in short order.

Paddleboarding on the Columbia River north of the dam

Paddleboarding on the Columbia River north of the dam

Paddleboarding to a set of waterfalls on the Columbia River

Paddleboarding to Silvertip Falls on the Lake Revelstoke Reservoir south of Martha Creek Provincial Park

The blow-up paddleboard packs up nicely into this carrying bag

The blow-up paddleboard packs up nicely into this carrying bag

Soak in the Nakusp Hot Springs 

As a side trip from Revelstoke head to one or more of the Nakusp hot springs for a soak. There are three I tried. You could visit all the hot springs in a day if that was your goal.

The Halcyon Hot Springs are the most developed of the three Nakusp hot springs. Not only are there hot, warm and cold pools on the upper deck, they’ve got a large swimming pool with a killer view over Upper Arrow Lake. You can stay and eat here too. These springs are the closest to the ferry.

For a visit to an undeveloped hot springs visit Halfway Hot Springs – south of Halcyon. While there is a change room and an outhouse, the rest of the hot springs is a series of pools of varying temperature from steaming hot to extremely cold. In winter, access would be an issue unless you’re traveling with a snowmobile or skis.

The Nakusp Hot Springs are closest to the village of Nakusp itself. Look for two side by side pools – one warm and one a bit hotter, along with full change facilities, showers and a snack bar with espresso drinks.

Read: 3 Nakusp Hot Springs in BC that are Worth a Visit

Halcyon Hot Springs near Nakusp

Halcyon Hot Springs near Nakusp

The largest pool at Halfway Hot Springs

The largest pool is near the change room

Raft the Illecillewaet River 

Book a tour with Apex Rafting if you love the thrill of rafting Class I – Class III rapids. With Apex you journey for 26 kilometres down the Illecillewaet River through 20 rapids, broken by scenic sections where you can sit back and watch the mountain scenery slide by. 

The rafting tour starts in Revelstoke. After you get your gear and wiggle into wetsuits, it’s about a 30 minute drive to the launch site near Glacier National Park. We spent 2.5 hours actually on the river. By the time 5 PM rolled around, we both felt like we’d had a good upper body workout – though we never had to swim!

About to get wet rafting the Illecillewaet River

About to get wet rafting the Illecillewaet River – Photo credit: Apex Rafting

Rafting an easy section of the Illecillewaet River near Revelstoke

Rafting an easy section of the Illecillewaet River near Revelstoke

Catch the Revelstoke Summer Street Fest

For two months every summer the Revelstoke Summer Street Fest takes place. It’s billed as one of the longest running music festivals – with a lineup of diverse musicians playing for just shy of 60 days straight. Best of all, it’s free. Pull up a chair, lean on your bike, dance, sit on the ground – whatever works for you. But enjoy the music.

The street fest takes place downtown on a closed-to-cars street beginning at 6:30 PM. Bands play three sets and finish by 9 PM. Some names you might have heard over the last few years include Maritime Kitchen Party, Sister Speak, The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra and The Derina Harvey Band.

Band playing at the Revelstoke summer street fest

Band playing at the Revelstoke summer street fest

Enjoy the Revelstoke food scene

Revelstoke is home to some excellent restaurants, especially considering the size of the town.

John and I enjoyed a truly exceptional meal – a piece of salmon with wild rice pilaf and an exquisite green chimichurri emulsion from the laidback Woolsey Creek Bistro. Their focus is BC – and it shows both in the food and in the wine list. As our B&B hosts said, this place is a real treat to visit.

On another evening we dined at 112 Restaurant & Lounge, just around the corner from the street fest. In the second food photo you’ll see the mouthwatering plate of scallops I enjoyed. The meal left me in a state of bliss. We also enjoyed exceptionally friendly service.

For breakfast, lunch or brunch check out the Main Street Cafe on Mackenzie Avenue. It’s something of an institution in Revelstoke so if it’s a sunny weekend be prepared to wait for a table. With luck you could sit outside. Their espresso drinks are excellent – as was the bagel with smoked salmon pictured below.

Should you be heading to the mountains for a hike or bike ride pick up a sandwich and baked good from Mountain Meals on 1st Street West. You can order ahead of time too and they’ll have your packed lunch waiting for you. I highly recommend their chicken and brie sandwich. 

Salmon meal at Woolsey Creek Bistro

Fabulous salmon meal at Woolsey Creek Bistro in Revelstoke

Melt in your mouth scallops

Melt in your mouth scallops at 112 Restaurant

Smoked salmon on a bagel from Main Street Cafe

Smoked salmon on a bagel from the Main Street Cafe

More things to do in Revelstoke if you have time

You could quite easily spend a full week in Revelstoke with all the things to do. Here’s what I’d add to a visit next time.

Climb a big hill on your bike

I’d take a road bike and grunt my way up the Meadows in the Sky Parkway in Mount Revelstoke National Park. The road switchbacks over 10 times as it climbs 26 kilometres up the side of the mountain, gaining 1,600 m (5,249 ft). And then I’d have a heck of a great time roaring back down the road. What a workout and what a reward.

Try the Pipe Mountain Coaster

The Pipe Mountain Coaster is reportedly a game changer when it comes to tourism in Revelstoke. It’s now the number one attraction in town bringing in people from all over looking for an adrenaline rush. Sit in a small coaster that gets to speeds of 42 km/hour over its 1.4 kilometre length.

The Coaster operates from the third week of June until mid-October, though its weekends only later in the season. The ride includes a trip up the gondola. You must be 8 years or older and be 4’1″ or taller to ride alone. Save 10% if you pre-purchase your tickets online.

Go tandem paragliding

I have never tried paragliding but a recent trip to Switzerland opened my eyes to the sport. John and I watched dozens of people launch solo from the mountains there. While I have no interest in learning how to paraglide by myself, I would like the thrill of being a passenger. Check out Revelstoke Paragliding for more information.

Go shopping

I got no further than window shopping on this trip though I do have to say I was impressed with what I saw, especially when it came to outdoor stores. And that’s my favourite type of shopping. If you’ve forgotten anything for an outdoor adventure, you’ll have no trouble restocking your wardrobe or gear box. 

Revelstoke Accommodation

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We stayed at the Holten Heritage House Bed & Breakfast. You can look forward to multi-course breakfasts with home-grown fruits and vegetables, lots of good conversation around the breakfast table and cozy rooms.

The Explorers Society Hotel just blocks from downtown Revelstoke is the first boutique hotel in town. The hotel’s location is in a renovated 1911 building. It also boasts a private rooftop lounge and reportedly an excellent restaurant.

If you want to be up on Revelstoke Mountain be sure to check out the Sutton Place Hotel Revelstoke Mountain Resort. It offers condominium style accommodation.

Another option if you’re not in a rush, is to spend a full night at the Halcyon Hot Springs Village & Spa. Why rush a relaxing soak in a hot spring?

The colourful Holten Heritage House B&B

The colourful Holten Heritage House B&B

Where is Revelstoke?

Revelstoke, or Revy as it’s called by locals is a town of approximately 14,000 people (according to Telus Insights), situated on the Colombia River in south central British Columbia. The Trans-Canada Highway runs through the town.

From Calgary it’s approximately 400 kilometres west, or a 4.5 hour drive. Its 565 kilometres and a six hour drive from  Vancouver. Other nearby cities include Golden, BC (150 kilometres east), Vernon, BC in the Okanagan (150 kilometres southwest) and Salmon Arm (103 kilometres west). There is also the possibility of driving north 100 kilometres from Nakusp. If you do that you’ll need to take the free ferry to Shelter Bay from Galena Bay.

On the ferry to Shelter Bay

On the ferry to Shelter Bay

In winter it can sometimes be a challenge to get to Revelstoke as you must drive over Rogers Pass (a high mountain pass) if you’re coming from the east or the Coachella Highway if you’re driving from Vancouver. Fortunately in summer, save for the rare freak snow storm, the driving is excellent. And scenic – from all directions.

A big thank you to Tourism Revelstoke for hosting my recent stay. All thoughts – as always are my own. I think this is a mountain town worthy of your time!

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11 things to do in Revelstoke, BC in summer

 

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