|Hiking along Parker Ridge, Banff National Park|
This is one of my favourite photos above from a recent backcountry hiking trip along one of Canada's most beautiful highways, the Icefields Parkway. The Parkway connects the Village of Lake Louise in Banff National Park with neighboring Jasper National Park, and you don't need to worry about choosing the best hike in the area - because they're all amazing!
|Incredible Scenery in Backcountry Banff National Park|
When I look at the photo above I feel like we're in the Himalayas of Nepal. And I've been to Nepal so I'm not just basing this on photographs or movies I've seen. We honestly could be on some remote pass in the Himalayas in this photo. And we only had to drive a couple hours to get here!
|Noah usually gets to bring a friend on his big adventures|
Noah almost always gets to bring a friend along on his big adventures (hence the mention of kids plural in the title of this story) and most of the time they come with happy spirits like the sweet girl in the photo above.
|Mountain Buddies - for life I hope|
Hiking Parker Ridge
Want to get the views above with your own family? Good news! It's super easy. And the hike is really very short if you just hit the ridge and go back down. Park at the trailhead for Parker Ridge on the Icefields Parkway, just before the Icefields Centre where they do snow coach tours on the Athabasca Glacier (which you should totally do if in the area.) The route description and trailhead is found here at the following link for the Parks Canada website.
|Easy Hike up the Parker Ridge Trail|
The ridge trail is super short at only 2.7 km one way and with only 250 metres of elevation gain. My son did the hike by himself when he was 3 so it was easy peasy as a 5 year old. The trail is also well switch-backed so you aren't slogging up a steep hill or anything.
|Early winter snow on the hiking trail to Parker Ridge|
Once you get to the top of the ridge, you will get views down to the Saskatchewan Glacier and over to the Hilda Horn and Mount Athabasca. The best views of the glacier are down the ridge to the left. Meanwhile, we went right and headed off trail in the direction of the Hilda Glacier.
|The kids heading off to the right along the ridge top|
|Mount Athabasca is seen to the right of us in this photo|
Hiking Parker Ridge to the Hilda Glacier
I love hiking up the Parker Ridge trail but the scenery really gets spectacular as you go further towards Mount Athabasca in the Jasper direction (to the right along the ridge top.) From here, it is wide open backcountry hiking with no real trail. Ramble anywhere you want and enjoy the solitude.
|Mount Athabasca looms over us in the background (and I climbed that back in the day!)|
|Parker Ridge stretching out behind us as we hike|
If you hike far enough (I'd say approximately 2-3 km), you'll reach great viewing of the Hilda Glacier and you'll be in the high alpine well above tree line the whole time. AND this hike seriously isn't described anywhere that I've ever seen! Really!
|Mount Athabasca (left) and the Hilda Horn (right) in the background|
|The Hilda Glacier starting to show up at far left below Mt. Athabasca|
|My Backcountry Explorers heading towards the Hilda Glacier|
We stopped often for candy, breaks, and to take photos. Eventually we got close to the moraines surrounding the Hilda Glacier and the kids had fun climbing them. We considered going to the toe of the glacier to touch it but as you can see from the photo above, it's a loooong way away. And the kids were getting tired.
|Climbing the Moraines below the Hilda Glacier|
|Walking on the Glacier Moraines|
|Tired but happy|
|Our Happy Family|
|The view we hiked to get of the Hilda Glacier|
|I am Strong, I am Mighty!|
Hiking from the Hilda Glacier to the Hilda Creek Hostel
At this point you're probably wondering where to now? And we certainly weren't going back the whole way we just came from. This was a traverse from A to B, and now it was time to finish up the hike and get back to our end point, the Hilda Creek Hostel (and lodging for the weekend.)
|Creek crossing on the way back out|
|Back at our Hostel to rest (or play)|
I didn't really take many photos of the final section as you can see above. We pretty much just descended the moraines, found a trail along the creek, and followed it right down to the hostel pictured above. For a description of the hike from the hostel to the glacier, check out this one that I found on the Alberta Wow website. It doesn't mention going further to Parker Ridge but it's all open country once you get up there so it's pretty hard to get lost.
|Paradise at the Hilda Creek Hostel|
Putting the Shuttle Together
The easiest way to do this shuttle and whole traverse is to stay at the Hilda Creek Hostel. From the hostel you have a cozy base camp for your adventure and you end the hike right at your door. From the hostel, just drive or walk up the road to the Parker Ridge trailhead (a 10 minute walk) and then go get your car later on if you chose to drive as we did. And we figure the whole traverse plus hike up Parker Ridge was about 7km one way.
|Parker Ridge as seen from the Icefields Parkway|
|Mount Athabasca, the Hilda Glacier, and the Hilda Horn as seen from the highway|
Want to stay at the Hilda Creek Hostel?
Your response here should be "heck ya" because it's truly our favourite hostel in the collection of wilderness hostels run by Hostelling International. We stay here at least a couple of times a year and it's awesome in every season!
|The view from the hostel deck at sunrise|
For more information on the Hilda Creek Hostel and to make a reservation, visit the Hostelling International Website. (link goes straight to HI Hilda Creek.) The hostel sleeps 6 so we usually just book the whole hostel and go with another family. One of the bunks is a double bed as well so you could fit 7 people if an adult and small child shared a bed.
To read a couple stories on our past winter stays at Hilda Creek (and to see photos of the hostel covered in snow,) follow the links below to these stories:
Raising Tough Kids - Hilda Creek Wilderness Trip
Spring Adventures on Alberta's Icefields Parkway
|This is what Hilda Creek will look like next time we visit!|