I love hiking. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’ve posted quite a few articles about my various hiking adventures and I have another gem to add to this list. I recently spent a few days exploring Jasper National Park (Alberta, Canada) and due to various acts of fate (or god, or mother nature), I ended up with an extra day in this pristine wilderness park. This simple change in plans allowed me to hike what is now one of my favorite places in the Canadian Rockies: the Edith Cavell Meadows.
Escaping The Smoke
I arrived in my parents new home town of Revelstoke, BC just a few days earlier with the intention of doing a few days of hiking with them. After that my dad and I planned to drive across Canada, from Revelstoke, BC to my home in Ottawa, Ontario.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as as we had hoped. After arriving in Revelstoke, I found the town and the mountains completely suffocated in thick smoke, brought up by winds from wildfires burning in Washington state, USA.
Any hopes of hiking the mountainous here were dashed as there were no views to be had and it was unhealthy to physically exert yourself in such conditions. As a result, my dad and I left a day early and headed north to the town of Jasper, in the hopes of leaving the smoke behind.
Since we left Revelstoke a day early, my dad and I found ourselves with a bit of extra time in Jasper. A last minute google search had mentioned the Edith Cavell Meadows hike so we set out sights on this one.
After a day of driving in the pouring rain, we made it to Jasper to find that we had outrun the smoke, but driven right into rain clouds and think layers of fog. But still, we had hope as bad weather clears up much faster than smoke from burning wildfires.
On our first morning in Jasper we woke to clouds rolling in and over the mountains. We got dressed in our rain gear, layering our clothing underneath and did the long winding drive up to the Edith Cavell Meadows trail head. When we arrived, it was raining pretty steadily but we were here to hike regardless the conditions. Mother nature had already driven us from Revelstoke, it wasn’t going to chase us out of Jasper too!
It was 9 am and there were just 3 other vehicles in the parking lot when we arrived. Wrapped up in Gore Tex, we set off to the first lookout point located 800 m down a paved pathway. It lead us to a beautiful glacial moraine lake (Cavell pond) located at the bottom of Mount Edith Cavell’s stunning Angel Glacier.
This lookout at Cavell Pond follows the trail called Path of the Glacier and is popular for tourists who want to get right into the mountains without much hiking.
After the 10 min walk we arrived to find that the hike was cut short. In the past you could walk right up to the lake and even put your hand into the frigid waters. But as we read the information boards we discovered that a portion of Ghost Glacier (one of Mount Edith Cavell’s 3 glaciers) had collapsed into Cavell Pond back in 2012, causing a flash flood. This sudden surge of water carried ice, rocks and debris down stream, washing out part of the trail and road. Evidence of this was still visible as we had noticed huge piles of rock and sand right beside the road on our arrival. Although this natural disaster happened over 3 yrs ago, park officials still consider this area unstable and so they blocked access to the old trail going down to the pond.
After taking a few pictures of the glacier, its waterfall and the Cavell Pond, we turned to find the main trail leading up to the meadows. To complete the circuit and see all three look out points, the hike is approx 8.5 km, round trip.
We followed the trail as it wound its way past Cavell Pond. That’s when the workout really started as we followed a series of switchbacks up to the meadows.
About half way up to the meadows we came across the impressive Lookout #1. The small clearing in the trees put us in direct line of sight to the the massive Angel Glacier, hanging precariously off the side of Mt Edith Cavell.
We continued onward and upwards as the rain began to slow and altogether stop. As we emerged from the forest into the open meadows near the summit, wouldn’t you know it, the sun came out! Feeling very happy that we could finally see the mountains (and a certain bit of triumph for having persevered through the rain) we made our way to the first summit where Lookout #2 was located.
Though the sun did come out for the rest of our hike, in true mountain fashion we experienced both snow and rain while the sun was out. Lesson in mountain weather: If you don’t like it, wait 5 mins!
After taking a few pictures and catching our breath we continued on to the second and higher summit of Lookout #3, hiking across bare open rock lined by the Edith Cavell meadows.
The last bit was pretty steep and took our breath away but it was short lived. The satisfaction of making it to the summit was definitely worth it, as were the incredible views.
The Hike Down
On the way down the mountain we stopped to have some lunch out of the wind but with direct views of Mt Edith Cavell and her hanging glacier. This was one of the most scenic lunch spots I’ve ever enjoyed!
As we made our way back to the trail-head, the clouds started to move in again and the occasional rain would start to fall. By the time we made it back to Cavell Pond, the top of Mt Edith Cavell was under a thick layer of fog with just the bottom of Angel Glacier showing. We past many other hikers who were just beginning their hike and felt lucky to have had the trail and summit almost to ourselves (and cloud free).
Arriving back at our car, we found the once empty parking lot now packed with cars and camper vans, the place crawly with tourists. We bit farewell to Mt Edith Cavell and its visitors, making the winding drive back down the mountain in beautiful sunshine in the valley.
Things To Know About This Hike
Trail-head: Follow the Columbia Icefields Parkway South out of Jasper and watch for signs pointing to Edith Cavell Meadows and HI Mt Edith Cavell (Hostel) which is located right before the parking lot. The road is freshly paved but long and windy with no shoulder. Drive time is approx 45 min from Jasper.
Trail Length: 8.5 km to do the entire loop and see all 3 lookouts. Should take between 3-5 hrs depending on how long to you take at the lookouts and your physical fitness level. We started at 9 am and arrived back in the parking lot at 1:30 pm, but stopped a lot for pictures and had a lunch break.
Trail Map: You don’t need to bring your own as there is a large information board posted in the parking lot with a map. You’ll also find trail maps permanently placed along the trail at all intersections and the trails are well marked.
What to Bring: You’re in the mountains! Weather can change in an instant so be sure to bring lots of layers (depending on the time of year) and rain gear. At the top there are no trees so you’re very exposed to the elements. We had literally every type of weather from sunshine to snow, rain and wind. I recommend wearing good hiking boots. Bring some snacks (or lunch) and lots of water as this is a physically demanding hike at times. There is no where to fill your water bottle or purchase snacks so be sure to get your supplies in Jasper before driving up. There are basic outhouses in the parking lot.