Canada’s Glacier National Park: Rogers Pass


On Day 6, the clouds parted, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.  As I left Golden, headed west on Trans Canada Highway 1, I was in a pea-soup fog, but when I looked straight up, I saw blue sky.  So it only made sense that when I started gaining elevation, headed into Glacier National Park, I rose above the clouds (which were quickly burning off anyhow), and suddenly blue skies and awesome peaks appeared.

Canada’s Glacier National Park is nowhere near the U.S. Glacier National Park.  America’s Glacier is in northwestern Montana, and connects with Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada, nearly 600 kilometers away from Canada’s Glacier National Park.

On the way up to Rogers Pass, it seemed like I was stopping every minute or two.  Around every corner was another view of the surrounding mountains…

… which at times towered directly over Highway 1.

Watch out for drunk mountain goats.  You can tell by their red reflective noses.

There’s a grass-roofed visitor center just below Rogers Pass, which had already closed for the season.  Two neighboring businesses (Glacier Park Lodge and a gas station) were disappointingly low on souvenirs.  I guess by mid-September, the tourist season is nearly over.

Just up the road, I stopped once again, to mark the exact location of Rogers Pass.  The Memorial Arch commemorates the completion of the highway over the pass in 1962.

Before Trans Canada 1 was complete over Rogers Pass, a section of road known as the Big Bend Highway followed the Columbia River north to present-day Kinbasket Lake, then south, to Revelstoke.  The construction of Revelstoke Dam flooded parts of the old highway, but you can still follow part of the old route (now BC Hwy. 23) from Revelstoke north to Mica Dam.

50% of Glacier National Park is above the treeline, and 12% of the park is covered by permanent ice and snow.

It seems that the opportunities to hike in Glacier National Park are limited to very long, challenging trails, or very easy ones.  I’ve described a couple of the easy ones below.  I had also considered tackling one of the several challenging trails that begin in the Illecillewaet Valley, south (west) of Rogers Pass.  Hikes to Abbott Ridge, Glacier Crest, Asulkan Valley, and up the side of Sir Donald would all be worth every step, but I decided I wasn’t up to the challenge.  For example, the trail to Abbott Ridge takes 3.5 hours (one way), and gains more than a kilometer of altitude, according to the helpful site,

Hemlock Grove

The boardwalk through Hemlock Grove takes only a few minutes, but it’s a nice place to stretch your legs and breathe some fresh air.  It was especially enjoyable on this day, after the clouds and fog had just cleared, leaving everything soggy and cool.

The short boardwalk trail passes through an old-growth forest.  Untouched groves like this one are rare, since most of Glacier National Park’s valley burned at one time or another, after the railroad came through.

Take a few moments to enjoy the sun bursting through the dense forest, then get back in the car and keep heading west.

Skunk Cabbage Trail

Skunk Cabbage Trail is actually in Revelstoke National Park, not Glacier National Park, but it’s so far away from Revelstoke’s other attractions, I decided to include it here.  Headed west, after you pass Hemlock Grove, you’ll exit Glacier National Park, travel 16 kilometers, then enter Revelstoke National Park (Highway 1 skirts the southern edge of the park).  The only thing to see in this part of Revelstoke National Park is the Giant Cedars Trail (which I skipped), and the Skunk Cabbage Trail.

The boardwalk passes over the wetlands that border the Illecillewaet River.  In the springtime, before the snow melts, the leafy vegetation known as Skunk Cabbage blooms, with “fragrant” blossoms.

Bears eat the roots of Skunk Cabbage after they’ve been hibernating, because it acts as a laxative.

While Golden, BC is on Mountain Time (the same as Banff and Calgary), Glacier and Revelstoke National Parks, as well as the city of Revelstoke, is on Pacific Time (roll your clock back one hour).

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive from Golden to Hemlock Grove…

… and from Hemlock Grove to the entrance to the road up Revelstoke Mountain:

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