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TRAVEL GUIDE

Tonquin Valley Mountain climbing Information – What You Must Know

For a take-your-breath-away lovely multi-day mountain climbing journey within the Canadian Rockies, you could put the Tonquin Valley path in Jasper Nationwide Park in your mountain climbing want checklist. You’ve in all probability seen postcards with the well-known Ramparts in touristy outlets in Banff or Jasper. They’re a mountain vary with 10 named summits like Drawbridge, Bastion, Dungeon and Turret Peak – towering over lovely Amethyst Lakes and the principle motive you need to do that hike. However there are others – like the prospect to see woodland caribou and meadows full of wildflowers. And there’s at all times one thing concerning the camaraderie you expertise on a multi-day hike. 

Due to COVID-19, I used to be in a position to do the Tonquin Valley hike this previous September. John and I ought to have been on a 2.5-week mountain climbing journey in Norway’s Lofoten Islands and on Sweden’s Kungsleden Path. You recognize the remainder of the story. As a substitute – and with the assistance of my pal’s son, we nabbed campsites within the Tonquin Valley the day Parks Canada reopened for reservations in June.

I’ve needed to do that path for a really very long time – however solely in September when the bugs are lifeless. Most years I’m excessive busy however not this 12 months. It was such a deal with to have one thing of this magnitude to look ahead to all summer time and to have the time to do it. We additionally obtained fortunate with the climate – a partial day of rain sooner or later and a little bit of smoke on a few days – and that was with a September twelfth begin. The Tonquin Valley hike in September is thought to be snowy, wet, and chilly so go mentally ready once you do it!

The Tonquin Valley path on the best way to Shock Level Campground

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How exhausting is the hike?

So far as multi-day backpacking journeys are involved, this is without doubt one of the simpler ones within the Canadian Rockies. The entire circuit is simply 43 km lengthy with a really cheap 905 metres of elevation acquire – as a lot as one does on many day hikes within the Rockies. The trouble – reward ration on the Tonquin Valley hike is especially good!

There's a lot of easy hiking on the Tonquin Valley Trail
There’s a number of straightforward mountain climbing on the Tonquin Valley Path

What number of campgrounds are there?

There are seven campgrounds on the Tonquin Valley circuit. If you happen to begin on the Portal trailhead the campground choices are as follows – with all distances from the Portal trailhead. Bear in mind that distances on indicators don’t at all times match up with guidebooks. 

  • Portal Creek Campground – 9.0 km 
  • Maccarib Campground – 18.3 km
  • Amethyst Lakes Campground – 21.6 km
  • Shock Level Campground – 29.2 km 
  • Clitheroe Campground – 27.0 km 
  • Switchback Campground – 28.8 km
  • Astoria Campground – 34.8 km

If I had a alternative (and also you usually don’t in the event you’re agency together with your dates) then I’d attempt to spend an evening on the Shock Level Campground – offering it was within the fall and/or the Amethyst Lakes Campground. My least favorite of the 4 we stayed in was Clitheroe Campground because it was within the woods – with no views and it was a little bit of a haul to get water.

You won't find tent platforms on the Tonquin Valley hike
You received’t discover tent platforms on the Tonquin Valley hike; that is the Portal Creek Campground which I fairly appreciated
One of the campsites at Amethyst Lakes Campground on the Tonquin Valley Trail
One of many campsites at Amethyst Lakes Campground
Some campgrounds have location maps of all the campsites
Some campgrounds have location maps of all of the campsites

What’s the greatest itinerary on the Tonquin Valley hike?

There is no such thing as a greatest itinerary on the Tonquin Valley hike, however you’d be doing your self an enormous disservice in the event you whipped into the Maccarib Campground for example and by no means made it to the Amethyst Lakes. You’re going to need to see the Ramparts – the enduring mountain vary lording over Amethyst Lakes, so do what it takes to get there.

Ideally this hike needs to be performed as a one-way journey – however that requires a shuttle. We have been fortunate as we had two vehicles in our group, so we left one on the Astoria River trailhead and the opposite on the Portal trailhead. 

You need to use one of many Jasper taxi firms like Mountain Categorical Taxi and Limousine (780-852-4555) and they’ll assist with a shuttle for roughly $100 cut up amongst nevertheless lots of you there are. I perceive that there’s cell service to on the Portal trailhead. 

Itinerary solutions with a shuttle

Itinerary 1 (3 nights/4 days): Begin on the Portal trailhead and hike to Portal Creek Campground. On day 2 proceed over Maccarib Move and onto Amethyst Lakes Campground or Shock Level Campground relying on what’s accessible. On day 3 hike to Astoria Campground and out on day 4.

Itinerary 2 (3 nights/4 days): Begin on the Portal trailhead and hike to Maccarib Campground. On day 2 head for Shock Level Campground – and do the out and again facet journey to Outpost Lake and the Wates – Gibson Hut. Or simply grasp round camp and revel in superlative views of the Ramparts. On day 3 hike to Astoria Campground and hike out on day 4.

Itinerary solutions with no shuttle

Itinerary 1 (2 nights, 3 days): Hike from the Portal trailhead to Portal Creek Campground on day one. On day 2, hike to the Maccarib Campground, drop your gear and arrange camp. Then do and out and again straightforward hike with no pack to the Amethyst Lakes Campground for some nice views of the Ramparts. On the third day, hike out to the Portal trailhead.

Itinerary 2 (2 nights, 3 days): Begin on the Astoria trailhead and hike to both Switchback or Clitheroe Campground. On the second day, hike to Shock Level or Amethyst Lakes Campground. On day 3, hike again to the Astoria trailhead. 

Itinerary 3 (3 nights, 4 days): Begin on the Astoria trailhead and hike to Clitheroe Campground. On day 2, hike to Amethyst Lake Campground with an optionally available facet journey to Shock Level Campground. On day 3, hike out and again to Maccarib Move from the Amethyst Lakes Campground. On day 4, hike again to the Astoria trailhead.

There are such a lot of combos and permutations of this hike. We did none of what I’ve simply instructed due to availability of campsites – however due to that, we took benefit of a few facet journeys. One we didn’t do, that I’d if I returned, is the hike up the Eremite Valley from the Chrome Lake junction. John and I met our information from the Burgess Shale hike by probability on the Clitheroe Campground and he or she had performed this hike by herself – and raved about it. We additionally missed the 5 – 6 hour return hike to Tonquin Hill from the Maccarib campground.

Any itinerary needs to include a visit to Amethyst Lakes so you can see the Ramparts
Any itinerary wants to incorporate a go to to Amethyst Lakes so you possibly can see the Ramparts

Are there choices in the event you hate tenting?

There are two lodges within the Tonquin Valley – geared to the horseback using crowd in the summertime, although they see loads of hikers as effectively. Go to the Tonquin Valley Backcountry Lodge or Tonquin Valley Adventures for extra info. 

Tonquin Valley Adventures set-up seen from a distance
Tonquin Valley Adventures set-up seen from a distance

What’s the greatest time of 12 months to do the Tonquin Valley hike?

I’d extremely suggest that you simply go late in the summertime when the mosquitoes and blackflies have died. September is good if the climate holds out. Then you definitely’re handled to fall colors. Simply be ready for chilly nights and snow. 

Fall is a great time to do the Tonquin Valley hike
Fall is a superb time to do the Tonquin Valley hike particularly with all the autumn colors

How do you guide the Tonquin Valley hike?

You’ll must get a backcountry tenting allow. You’ll be able to guide on-line – or you possibly can name 1-877-737-3783. 

On-line reservations often open someday through the third week of January. Test the Parks Canada web site in early January yearly to seek out out the precise opening date. If you happen to’re set on a sure time interval, be ready to hop on-line as quickly as reservations open. I’d suggest flexibility in each your dates and campsites. Plan a few itineraries ranging from every trailhead earlier than reservations open.

Must you miss out on the time you need, don’t surrender hope. There are at all times cancellations so test the web site repeatedly or name the quantity famous above.

We definitely didn’t must spend 4 nights on the path but it surely did permit for side-trips and a leisurely expertise. I’d suggest a three-night, 4 day journey if I used to be doing it once more. Notice the itinerary choices above.

The Tonquin Valley hike had been on my wish list for years
The Tonquin Valley hike had been on my want checklist for years – however provided that we might do it in September

Are there any tour operators?

There are a number of tour firms who provide backpacking journeys. Take a look at the itineraries from the next firms – Canadian Skyline Adventures providing 3, 4 and 5 day excursions, a 4 day journey with Aster Mountain Adventures and Yamnuska – providing a 4 day journey.

What do you have to tackle the Tonquin Valley hike?

If you happen to’re loopy sufficient to aim this hike within the peak of the summer time, crucial gear in your sanity is bug repellent and a bug jacket together with after-bite cream.

Assuming you need to benefit from the expertise and have booked for late summer time and into September the next are all necessary gadgets to have with you:

  • lengthy underwear – tops and bottoms
  • rain gear together with pants, a jacket and a ballcap to maintain the rain off your face
  • gaiters
  • hat, gloves and mittens
  • a down vest and/or fleece jacket
  • mountain climbing pants maybe with a zipper if it warms up
  • short-sleeved fast drying shirt
  • tent with a water-proof fly
  • heat sleeping bag and sleeping pad
  • backpack with a water-proof cowl
  • light-weight range and gas, mug, bowl, cutlery
  • excessive power, light-weight meals; take an additional day’s price
  • bathroom paper
  • water purification tablets or a water filter particularly with all of the horses on the path
  • waterproof luggage (even inexperienced rubbish luggage will work) for all of your gear
  • damaged in mountain climbing boots with ankle assist
  • camp footwear or sandals
  • bear spray in a simple to entry holster
  • all of the gadgets listed within the 10 mountain climbing necessities
  • a map of the route 
You'll need a 60L - 70L pack to carry all your gear on the Tonquin Valley hike
You’ll want a 60L – 70L pack to hold all of your gear

Do you see any animals?

We noticed contemporary grizzly bear tracks however no scat, one woodland caribou and a few spruce grouse – not a lot for a five-day mountain climbing journey. However the Tonquin Valley path is in the midst of bear nation, so go ready. I’d suggest that you simply learn Suggestions for Staying Protected in Bear Nation earlier than you start your journey.

Fresh bear prints seen after leaving the Maccarib Campground
Contemporary bear prints seen after leaving the Maccarib Campground
We were lucky to see one woodland caribou on the way to Clitheroe Campground
We have been fortunate to see one woodland caribou on the best way to Clitheroe Campground

Amenities on the Tonquin Valley hike

Amenities are fundamental on the path. Each campsite has picnic tables, some greater than others. All campsites include bear-proof containers, so that you by no means have to hold your meals. (Really, I can’t say that about Switchback Campsite as I didn’t go to it.)

Privies are fundamental as you possibly can see beneath. We put a mountain climbing pole throughout the path if somebody was utilizing it, so there was a little bit of privateness. Astoria Campground had a daily outhouse – and a brand new one at that. Don’t overlook bathroom paper and hand sanitizer.

Tonquin Valley hike
Most campsites had this sort of privy set-up

Our expertise on the Tonquin Valley Path

Right here’s a day-to-day account of our expertise on the Tonquin Valley path.

Day 1 – Portal Creek Trailhead to Portal Creek Campground

We didn’t begin mountain climbing till early afternoon as we needed to drive up from Banff after which do the automobile shuttle. The Portal Creek campground was an awesome alternative for the primary night time because it’s solely a couple of 9 km hike in. It took us roughly three hours.

The path begins by heading by dense forest alongside a fairly creek. About midway into the hike, you begin getting valley views. When you cross the rockslide beneath Peveril Peak, the vistas actually open up. The path ultimately descends to the creek – so it’s a bit muddy in locations however nowhere close to as unhealthy as I anticipated. The campground is a stone’s throw away from Portal Creek so water is straightforward to get.  I fairly appreciated this campground. 

Heading towards the Portal Creek Campground
Heading in the direction of the Portal Creek Campground
On the Tonquin Valley trail great views out of Portal trailhead in short order
Nice views earlier than you attain the rock slide – with the Ramparts beginning to present
Breaking out of the trees on the Tonquin Valley hike
Breaking out of the timber on the primary day of the Tonquin Valley hike

Day 2 on the Tonquin Valley hike – Portal Creek Campground to Maccarib Campground

The 9 km hike to Maccarib Campground is surprisingly straightforward.  It was particularly lovely as soon as the fog lifted. The path climbs steadily by sub-alpine meadows – the place we loved the final of the summer time wildflowers in bloom. Then it steepens on the best way as much as Maccarib Move but it surely’s by no means onerous. Attain the move 3.4 km after leaving the campground. 

From the move descend to Maccarib Creek and comply with it by meadows, crossing quite a few bridges as you get nearer to the campground. This part is marshy and muddy, however luckily bug free once we went by. The Maccarib campground is throughout a bridge and on the north financial institution of the creek, up a brief distance on a knoll within the timber. This was a simple day of mountain climbing, taking us maybe 4 hours with a lunch break.

From the campground we did an hour’s hike on a path that leaves the north finish of the campsite. We went far sufficient to get some pretty views of the Amethyst Lakes and the Ramparts after which returned to drink wine and loosen up. 

Even the hike up to Maccarib Pass is pretty easy
Even the hike as much as Maccarib Move is fairly straightforward
Moody landscape with smoke and haze on the Tonquin Valley hike
Moody panorama with smoke and haze
We are all thoroughly enjoying this section of the Tonquin Valley hike
We’re all completely having fun with this part of the hike, particularly after the clouds lifted
Cresting Maccarib Pass
Cresting Maccarib Move
Playing Yahtzee at Maccarib Campground
It’s wine o’clock at Maccarib Campground
The grave of park warden Percy Goodair is just north of the Maccarib Campground
The grave of park warden Percy Goodair is simply north of the Maccarib Campground; he was mauled and killed by a grizzly on Sept 12, 1929

Day 3 – Maccarib Campground to Clitheroe Campground and a side-trip to Chrome Lake and Wates-Gibson Hut

On the third day we woke to smoky skies however no less than it wasn’t raining. From the Maccarib campground it was a simple hike to achieve the Amethyst Campground. Early on within the hike we loved some views of the Amethyst Lakes. It took us solely about an hour to journey between the 2 campgrounds.

After testing the Amethyst Campground and admiring the views in all instructions from it – we continued on a principally degree path previous stunted timber and nice swaths of mop-head flowers to achieve a protracted boardwalk over a lavatory. The one actual climbing of the day occurs on the finish of the boardwalk on the best way as much as Clitheroe Campground. Actually, we have been all a bit of shocked at how shortly we obtained there.

Clitheroe Campground is situated in dense timber and is extra unfold out than most. Though it wasn’t my favorite it does provide the comfort of easy accessibility to the Chrome Lake – Shock Level Campground – Wates-Gibson Hut and Eremite Valley facet journeys. 

Lots of signage with distances provided on the trail
A number of signage with distances supplied on the path
Lovely hiking on the way to the Amethyst Lakes Campground
Beautiful mountain climbing on the best way to the Amethyst Lakes Campground
A section of boardwalk on the way to Amethyst Lake Campground
A piece of boardwalk on the best way to Amethyst Lake Campground
Hard to get lost on the Tonquin Valley Trail with so much signage
Arduous to get misplaced on the Tonquin Valley Path with a lot signage
Really lovely hiking - even with smoke towards Clitheroe Campground
Actually pretty mountain climbing – even with smoke in the direction of Clitheroe Campground
Looking back towards the Amethyst Lakes Campground
Trying again in the direction of the Amethyst Lakes Campground
We are perhaps 15 minutes from the Clitheroe Campground here
We’re maybe quarter-hour from the Clitheroe Campground right here
Useful mileages from the Clitheroe Campground
Helpful mileages from the Clitheroe Campground

Afternoon facet journey to Shock Level Campground, Chrome Lake, Wates-Gibson Hut and Outpost Lake 

We had a lot of time on our fingers, so we determined to take a look at Shock Level Campground. It’s accessed by way of a path that descends to the Amethyst Lakes Basin, passing an outdated warden’s cabin on route. Whenever you attain the low level keep left and make your method by boggy floor, following a well-trodden path to a bridged outlet stream. This can be a beautiful space and effectively price a go to. 

After crossing the bridge proceed for about 300 m to achieve the Shock Level Campground. This was my favorite campground although it could be a problem to get water except you took it from the “lakelet” on the western fringe of the camp. The views of Dungeon and Redoubt Peak make up for a stroll to get contemporary water.

Subsequent, we continued on a tough, slender path for about 1.6 km. This path is nothing particular, but it surely does take you to an intersection. If you happen to go left, you possibly can go to Chrome Lake. Go south to discover the Eremite Valley or flip proper (west) to go for the Wates-Gibson Hut and Outpost Lake.

We paid a fast go to to Chrome Lake – a mucky spot and a fairly sufficient lake however nothing you could see. Nevertheless, the hike throughout meadows, alongside streams and eventually as much as attain the Wates-Gibson Hut is totally worthwhile. And Outpost Lake only a minute’s stroll from there’s pretty, although no swimming is allowed.

Pass the old warden's cabin on the way to Surprise Point Campground
Move the outdated warden’s cabin on the best way to Shock Level Campground
Forest hiking on the way to Surprise Point Campground
Forest mountain climbing on the best way to Shock Level Campground
Beautiful views of the Ramparts near the Surprise Campground
Lovely views of the Ramparts close to the Shock Level Campground
Pretty hiking on the way to the Wates-Gibson Hut
Fairly mountain climbing on the best way to the Wates-Gibson Hut
The Wates-Gibson Hut is close to beautiful Outpost Lake
The Wates-Gibson Hut is near lovely Outpost Lake
You can admire Outpost Lake but you can't swim in it
You’ll be able to admire Outpost Lake however you possibly can’t swim in it

Day 4 – Clitheroe Campground to Astoria Campground

I loved this part of the hike way over I believed I’d. After a brief climb, the path descends at a reasonable gradient by subalpine meadows with some respectable views throughout to Dungeon and Parapet Peaks. Move the turnoff to Switchback Campground about 4 km into the hike. 

Proceed switch-backing down by the forest – passing a junction to a well-used and infrequently very moist path that takes you to Chrome Lake and the Alpine Membership of Canada hut. Proceed throughout a rockslide beneath Oldhorn Mountain. Heed the indicators and transfer by the world shortly. 

Comply with the Astoria River on a delicate gradient by the forest, sticking to the north financial institution of the river. We stopped to take pleasure in lunch alongside the river with a view – three photographs beneath. From there it’s a brief hike adopted by a steep climb as much as the Astoria Campground. Lots of people who aren’t planning to remain in a single day hike up for the fantastic view up and down the Astoria River. Campsites are well-spaced and flat. 

Don't dally through the rockslide area on the Tonquin Valley Trail
Don’t dally by the rockslide space
Impressive boulders around the rock slide
Spectacular boulders across the rock slide
Our lunch stop with a view on the Tonquin Valley Trail along the way to the Astoria Campground
Our lunch cease with a view alongside the best way to the Astoria Campground
Beautiful views from the Astoria Campground
Lovely views from the Astoria Campground

Day 5 – Astoria Campground to Astoria River Trailhead

This final day of mountain climbing is brief and simple. We knocked off the 7 km in about 1.5 hours.

Comply with the beautiful Astoria River, stopping to admire lovely wildflowers and mushrooms alongside the best way. The ultimate 5 minutes of the hike have been essentially the most scenic – with fantastic views of Mt Edith Cavell by the Cavell Lake outlet stream, simply earlier than the final 15 m climb as much as the Astoria parking zone.

Beautiful easy hiking on the Tonquin Valley Trail to the Astoria River trailhead
Lovely straightforward mountain climbing to the Astoria River trailhead
Views of Mt Edith Cavell 5 minutes from the parking lot on the Tonquin Valley trail
Views of Mt Edith Cavell 5 minutes from the parking zone

The place to remain earlier than the hike

We stayed in Banff the night time earlier than so we might shorten the driving time on the primary day of mountain climbing. Some tried and true solutions embody the Moose Lodge, the Mont Royal Lodge, Canalta Lodge and the Elk + Avenue Lodge.

Alternatively keep in Jasper – and that method you can make it so far as the Maccarib Campground on the primary day trip mountain climbing. There’s a lodge at Marmot Basin, only a quick drive from the Portal trailhead referred to as Filia Inn. There are a few hostels together with Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel or the Jasper Downtown Hostel.  Or select one of many inns on the town like The Crimson Jasper or Whistler’s Inn.

How do you get to the trailheads?

To the Astoria Creek Trailhead

If you happen to’re coming from Jasper, drive the Icefields Parkway in the direction of Banff. Instantly after the park gate flip proper onto freeway 93A. Proceed for five.2 km. Then flip proper onto the Edith Cavell Highway. The trailhead is throughout from the Edith Cavell Hostel, at km 12 on the highway. Parking will be at a premium and also you may need to attend for somebody to go away.

From Banff and Lake Louise get on the Icefields Parkway and comply with it north in the direction of Jasper. Take a left on the signed junction to Freeway 93A and Athabasca Falls, 200 km north of Lake Louise. Proceed for 18.8 km. Flip left onto the Edith Cavell Highway. Search for the trailhead throughout from the Edith Cavell Hostel, at km 12.

To the Portal Trailhead

The Portal Creek trailhead is on Marmot Highway – and is accessible year-round.

From Jasper take the Icefields Parkway and head south in the direction of Banff. Flip proper onto Freeway 93A, proper after the park gate. Proceed for two.4 km. Then flip proper onto Marmot Highway. Search for the trailhead in your left at km 12. It’s marked by a hiker signal.

From Banff and Lake Louise take the Icefields Parkway north in the direction of Jasper. Take a left on the junction to freeway 93A and Athabasca Falls, 200 km north of Lake Louise. Keep on 93A for 21.5 km. Flip left onto Marmot Highway and comply with it for 12 km. 

We started the Tonquin Valley Trail at the Portal Creek Trailhead - located on the road up to Marmot Basin
We began on the Portal Creek Trailhead – situated on the highway as much as Marmot Basin

I’m very joyful we did the Tonquin Valley hike this previous 12 months. It was a beautiful break from the unending US election protection and all that was occurring on this planet of COVID-19. Of observe, this is without doubt one of the higher family-friendly multi-day journeys you would possibly need to attempt together with your children, in the event that they’re into mountain climbing.

Extra backpacking journeys within the Canadian Rockies you would possibly take pleasure in

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A complete guide to planning & hiking the Tonquin Valley trail in Jasper National Park

 

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