Nigel Pass Hike

Icefields Parkway Camping – Day 3

Nigel Pass Hike

This is the 3rd in a series of posts featuring photos from a recent camping trip we took to the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park. We stayed at Waterfowl Lakes Campground (about halfway between Lake Louise and the border between Banff and Jasper National Parks. We stayed for 5 nights and spent the days hiking and exploring in the nearby region…. The first few days (Tuesday through Thursday) it was just our immediate family but we were joined by my sister Heidi and her family from Friday afternoon through Sunday.

Day 1 – Glaciers, Rainbows, and Bears
Day 2 – Parker Ridge Hike, Swimming in the Mistaya
Day 3 – Nigel Pass Hike
Day 4 – Rained Out, No Pictures
Day 5 – Wilcox Pass Hike
Day 6 – Sunrise at Upper Waterfowl Lake

Day 3 – Nigel Pass Hike

On the third day of the trip we headed out to hike the Nigel Pass trail also near the Columbia Icefields (the trend continues). Although this trip was much longer, it was billed as being much lower, having less elevation gain, and being far easier than the Parker Ridge hike we did on day 2. In fact the hiking book claimed that “even wobbly hikers with blown knees find comfort and joy on this gentle, merciful trail. The word steep does not apply here”.

They are wrong. Based on that description I would argue that almost anyone I know would be able to complete this hike, which is simply not true. While it was definitely one of the easier hikes we’ve done in recent memory, it had plenty of rough stretches of the trail, plenty of steep sections, and it was much longer than expected. In fact, in my mind anyway, any hike of 14+ km is automatically out of the gentle, comfortable, and joyous categories.

Unfortunately the floods from a couple of years ago destroyed an access bridge and a large section of trail at the start of the hike and so we had to detour down an old fire road for 2 km (each way). As a result the total length of hike was more than 17km, not the 14km it was listed as. The road wasn’t exactly beautiful, but at least there were wild strawberry plants in full ripe mode all along the road. This partially made up for the boringness of the road itself. We ate many many beautiful sweet berries that day!

Nigel Pass Hike

After we got off the road the trail was really very beautiful. There was an amazing diversity of plant life including a huge variety of strange and wonderful mushrooms. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different kinds of mushrooms in one place before….

Nigel Pass HikeMushroom on the Nigel Creek Trail

There were also plenty of stream crossings, meadows, forests, and more. We briefly climbed up above the treeline for a few minutes at the very end of the trip, but didn’t stay long as it was starting to get really cloudy and it looked like a big storm was rolling in, so we turned around pretty quickly. We still had almost 9 km of hiking to do to get back to the car!

Nigel Pass Hike

The return trip was still beautiful, and relatively uneventful. The last 2km down a gravel road were a real slog, but once again we snacked on fresh berries all the way back!

Nigel Pass Hike

Day 4 – Rain and Snow

Fortunately the storm never really developed on Thursday while we were hiking, but it did roll in overnight. Our tent was pummelled all night long. The good news was that Waterfowl Lakes campground is at one of the lowest points on the Icefields Parkway and the we were spared the snow that dumped at higher elevations. We didn’t do a whole lot on the Friday; we slept in late, cooked breakfast at a covered picnic shelter, and did some work to shore up camp and keep some of the rain off our tent by covering it with tarps. Eventually we were cold enough that we got in the car and drove to Lake Louise for lunch! It was a nice break. By the time we got back to camp in the late afternoon the rain had stopped and my sister Heidi and her family had arrived. We basically hung out and chatted around a hot fire for the rest of the day. Sorry, no pictures…

Here are a few more pictures from Day 3…

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