Explore Jasper // Bald Hills Hike + Maligne Lake
Nevertheless, for the sake of posterity, I will try my very best to describe our experiences while they are fresh in my mind.
For Canada's 150th birthday, the entire nation is fortunate enough to have free access to every national park with the Discovery Pass. Jasper National Park was at the top of our list as we had originally planned to visit it during the spring; however, dangerous weather conditions resulted in us foregoing the Rockies for Mount Hood in Oregon. In the weeks prior to our trip, I would constantly daydream about the hikes we would soon explore-- Edith Cavell Meadows, Whistlers Mountain, and the Sulphur Skyline Trail.
Finally, Canada Day arrived and we set off on a nine hour drive full of laughs, delicious snacks, and quality conversation with my best friends. After arriving in the town and visiting the Visitor's Centre, we soon discovered that our first hike known as Edith Cavell Meadows, which would have contained views of alpine meadows and Angel Glacier, was closed due to an aggressive female grizzly bear protecting her cubs. As a result, a friendly guest services representative recommended that we try the Bald Hills hike instead.
While this hike was a last minute choice, the Bald Hills trail turned out to be the most stunningly beautiful hike of the three trails we completed (and every one was absolutely gorgeous in its own way). It possessed a surreal beauty stemming from its incredible mix of glacier lakes, alpine meadows, snow-lined ridges, and deeply forested river valleys.
The hike is about 10.4 km long, gains about 495 m in elevation, and takes about 4-6 hours to complete. As our first hike of the trip, we were happy to start with the lowest amount of elevation before tackling much steeper terrain the next day-- in higher elevations such as the Rockies, it is always a good idea to take a little time to acclimate.
On our first morning in Jasper, we rolled out of bed at 7:00 am (Mountain Daylight Time), which is 6:00 am PST, and slowly prepared ourselves for our first hike. The morning drive to Maligne Lake and the trailhead of Bald Hills was an overwhelmingly gorgeous experience that filled us with awe and reverence. There is something about the morning light that makes an already beautiful place seem even more magical. We also saw our first few batches of mountain wildlife-- a large herd of elk crossing the road and two black bears enjoying their daily walks.
Upon our arrival at Maligne Lake, we were greeted with this gorgeous glacial body of water-- we were fortunate enough to spend some time at its shores following our hike.
My two very lovely hiking companions.
After navigating some of the more difficult trails in B.C. that are poorly-maintained, it was a nice change to follow the well-marked hikes in Jasper. The Bald Hills hike follows, for the most part, a very worn and wide fire road. However, you are given a choice about midway to follow a more trail-like section (ie. roots and rocks) that cuts off some of the switchbacks along the way. Every time we decided to look back, we would be treated with amazing views of snow-covered mountaintops and pristine forests.
We obtained an acute interest in both the flora and fauna of the Rockies during this trip-- we often stopped to take closeups of various lichen, plants, and flowers throughout our hikes. Speaking of fauna, the only major downside of our Jasper trip was that it was the dreaded bug season. As a result, we were literally eaten alive by the very aggressive hordes of mosquitoes, gnats, and who-knows-what-else in the area. If you wish to hike during this season, I would recommend very strong bug spray (our sprays were too weak and ineffective on clothing), thicker pants, and head nets.
On our last stop before hitting the final summit areas-- here we were afforded lovely views of Maligne Lake and surrounding mountain ranges. However, it would be nothing compared to the views from the top!
Heading towards the aptly-named Bald Hills.
After making our way up a particularly steep section, we realized that we still had a little further to go to the summit. It was here that the winds began to become so strong that we had trouble standing straight or hearing each other talk. Following a quick break, we continued down a beautiful stretch of alpine meadows that reminded me so strongly of the Sound of Music that I burst into song. Finally, we ascended up the last steep section to the actual summit of the Bald Hills hike and were stunned by the views we saw from there.
From the summit, we were blown away by the panoramic views of the glacier-blue Maligne Lake, distant river valleys, and other snowy mountains.
For a good hour, we munched on our lunches, took photos, and sat in general contentment while enjoying the incredible views. Reluctantly, we packed away our food and started to make our way down the mountaintop following an interesting trail that looped down a different way from the direction we had ascended. As well, the wind was so strong at this point that I was nearly knocked off my feet a few times while descending down from the summit.
When we finally returned to the trailhead, we decided to take in more of the sights in a more relaxing manner. We took a leisurely walk over to the shores of Maligne Lake to refresh our tired feet in the glacier water, read our books, and draw. Other than the kids loudly playing in the water a few feet away, we felt at total peace sitting in front of that beautiful lake.
On our way back to the town of Jasper, we drove about 38 km before visiting Maligne Canyon, which is located at the very end of the lengthy Maligne Lake. Since the canyon is a very popular tourist spot, we felt too tired and overwhelmed to walk more than 15 minutes around the area before heading back to our hotel.
Overall, our first full day in Jasper National Park far exceeded our every expectation. It was one of those trips during which you wanted to drink in every moment and savour it for later-- to be able to remember those bright moments in the sun while standing on a mountaintop and use them to remedy a long, dreary day at work.
If we were given the opportunity, we honestly would head back there this instant and stay there for as long as possible!