Mount Revelstoke National Park
Just west of Glacier National Park is Mount Revelstoke National Park, a glacier-clad collection of craggy peaks in the Selkirk Range. Comprising only 417 sq. km (161 sq. miles), Mount Revelstoke can't produce the kind of awe that its larger neighbor, Glacier National Park, can in good weather; it does, however, offer easier access to the high country and alpine meadows.
The park is flanked on the south by Hwy. 1, the Trans-Canada Highway. It has no services or campgrounds, but all tourist services are available in the neighboring town of Revelstoke .
For information, contact Mount Revelstoke National Park (tel. 250/837-7500; www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/bc/revelstoke/index.aspx). Entry per day to the park costs C$7.80 for adults, C$6.80 for seniors, C$3.90 for children 6 to 16, and C$20 per family.
Exploring the Park -- The most popular activity in the park is the drive up to the top of 1,829m (6,001-ft.) Mount Revelstoke, with great views of the Columbia River and the peaks of Glacier Park. To reach Mount Revelstoke, take the paved Meadows in the Sky Parkway north from the town of Revelstoke and follow it 23km (14 miles) to Balsam Lake. The parkway is closed to trailers and motorcoaches, as it is a very narrow mountain road with 16 steep switchbacks.
At Balsam Lake, at the Meadows in the Sky area, free shuttles operated by the parks department make the final ascent up to the top of Mount Revelstoke, but only after the road is clear of snow, usually from early July to late September. If the shuttle isn't running, you have a choice of several easy hiking trails around Balsam Lake that lead past rushing brooks through wildflower meadows. The Eagle Knoll Trail and the Parapets are two options that take under an hour. At the summit are longer trails, including the 6km (3.7-mile) Eva Lake Trail.
If you don't make the trip up to the Meadows in the Sky area, you can enjoy a short hike in the park from along Hwy. 1. The Skunk Cabbage Trail winds through a marsh that explodes with bright yellow and odoriferous flowers in early summer. Another popular hike is the Giant Cedars Trail, a short boardwalk out into a grove of old-growth cedars that are more than 1,000 years old.
Glacier National Park
72km (45 miles) E of Revelstoke; 80km (50 miles) W of Golden
Located amid the highest peaks of the Selkirk Mountains, Canada's Glacier National Park amply lives up to its name. More than 400 glaciers repose here, with 14% of the park's 2,168 sq. km (837 sq. miles) lying under permanent snowpack. The reason that this high country is so covered with ice is the same reason that this is one of the more unpopulated places to visit in the mountain West: It snows and rains a lot here.
For information, contact Glacier National Park (tel. 250/837-7500; www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/bc/glacier/index.aspx). The visitor center is at Rogers Pass. There's no charge if you pass through the park on Hwy. 1 without stopping, but if you do stop to hike or picnic, the entry fee is C$7.80 for adults, C$6.80 for seniors, C$3.90 for children 6 to 16, and C$20 per family.
Exploring the Park -- The primary attractions in the park are viewpoints onto craggy peaks and hiking trails leading to wildflower meadows and old-growth groves; heavy snow and rainfall lend a near-rainforest feel to the hikes. Spring hikers and cross-country skiers should beware of avalanche conditions, a serious problem in areas with high snowfall and steep slopes. Call the park information number (tel. 250/837-7500) for weather updates.
Glacier Park is crossed by the Trans-Canada Highway and the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks. Each has had to build snowsheds to protect its transportation system from the effects of heavy snows and avalanches. Park headquarters are just east of 1,250m (4,101-ft.) Rogers Pass; stop here to watch videos and see the displays on natural and human history in the park. New exhibits focus on the role of the railroads in opening up this rugged area of Canada. You can sign up for ranger-led interpretive hikes here as well. On a typically gray and wet day, the visitor center may be the driest place to enjoy the park.
Hiking -- Several easy trails leave from the park's Rogers Pass visitor center. Abandoned Rails Trail follows a rails-to-trails section of the old CPR track for a 1-hour round-trip journey along a gentle grade through a wildflower-studded basin. The Balu Pass Trail is a more strenuous 5km (3.1-mile) hike up to the base of the glaciers on 2,728m (8,950-ft.) Ursus Major.
The other important trail head is at Illecillewaet Campground, west of Rogers Pass along Hwy. 1. Seven major trails head up into the peaks from here, including the Asulkan Valley Trail, which follows a stream up a narrow valley to a hikers' hut. These trails require more exertion than the trails at Rogers Pass, and will take most of a day to complete.
Farther down the Illecillewaet Valley are two other popular routes. Loop Brook Trail is a 1-hour saunter through a riparian wetland. The .5km (.3-mile) Rockgarden Trail climbs up a valley wall of moss-and-lichen-covered boulders to a vista point onto 2,880m (9,449-ft.) Smart Peak. Stop at the Hemlock Grove Picnic Area and follow the boardwalk through the old-growth hemlock forest.
The longest hike in the park is the 42km (26-mile) Beaver Valley Trail, which follows the Beaver River on the eastern edge of the park. This trail takes 3 days, one-way, to complete. If you plan on backcountry camping, you'll need to register at the visitor center and purchase a C$9.80 wilderness pass.