Great Glacier Trail – Rogers Pass – Hiking British Columbia

 

Great Glacier is an offshoot of Asulkan Valley Trail into a valley where the glacier has retreated.

 

Great Glacier Trail, Glacier National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

The Great Glacier Trail in Glacier National Park, British Columbia, Canada is a short, easy hike of 4.8 KM (3.0 miles) one-way with an elevation gain of 330 meters (1,083 ft).  On this day, it is important to save strength for Saturday’s upcoming marathon mission. 

Following the 5 KM (3⅛ mile) drive from accommodation at Glacier Park Lodge to parking at the Illecillewaet (pronounced illy-silly-watt) Campground, hiking begins at  9:30 AM with the traditional trail across the Illecillewaet River Bridge at Meeting of the Waters where Asulkan Brook flows into the Illecillewaet River.  It is a very beautiful place of roaring, contrasted, milky-blue glacial water.

Update: October 2012 – Glacier Park Lodge at Rogers Pass is permanently closed.

 

Great Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada

 

An immediate left turn onto the Asulkan Valley Trail heading south leads to an incredibly spectacular trail bordered with moss and fern through old and new growth forest.  The humidity is high and the musty-sweet, forest aroma, combined with the sound of nearby roaring water are constant and welcome companions.

 

Great Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada Great Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada

 

Another left onto the Great Glacier Trail soon reveals an old wooden duct across the trail which looks like it has been held together by wire resembling a large slinky.  It is likely a feature of the original trail development more than 120 years earlier.  Perhaps the wooden pipe was part of the water supply for Glacier House.

 

 

A wooden bridge over Asulkan Brook heads east onto more rustic but still good trail.  Leaving the dense forest into more open ground, the trail winds it's way through a massive rock fall.

 

Great Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada

 

A series of switchbacks leads to the top of a ridge with amazing views across the valley to cloud-enshrouded Mount Sir Donald and the Vaux Glacier tucked against the mountain’s flank.  For awhile the powerful Illecillewaet River waterfalls surround the route.  On the other side of the Asulkan Valley, to the east, there are traces of the Mount Sir Donald and Perley Rock trails.

 

Great Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada Great Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada Great Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, CanadaGreat Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada

 

On the approach to the end of the trail there is a huge, rusty band of rock to the left and a scree moraine to the right.  Soon after, the trail ends abruptly in the middle of nowhere at the rusty rock band and running water from the long-ago, receded ‘Great Glacier’.

 


 

Click here to enjoy a brief video of surrounding scenery on the Great Glacier Trail in Glacier National Park at Rogers Pass in BC, Canada.

 


 

On the return it appears an off-trail scramble up the scree slope and along the top of the moraine might provide an approach up to the glacier but it is not an easy route and the Glacier Crest Trail, which branches off the Asulkan Valley trail a bit further along, is probably a better option.

In the 1880s, what is known today as the Illecillewaet Glacier was called the Great Glacier.  Guests at the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Glacier House could take a relatively short hike to the toe of the Great Glacier.  In current times, the glacier has receded more than one and a half kilometers over and above the bedrock and very little of it is visible over the rock shelf above.

The day is alternatively overcast and sunny.  Vistas are powerful even though low ceilings are clipping the peaks off tall mountains.  On the return hike by the same route, a family of four is hiking towards me.  A poignant moment occurs.  The parents have temporarily stopped to rearrange gear and to help their young son.

Their little girl, maybe 3-years-old, is proudly hiking towards me in her little pink running shoes and shorts.  Close to my position she stumbles on the rocky trail and falls onto her hands and knees.  She looks up, directly at me, with a quivering lower lip.  There is only a second to decide the best response.  Sympathy or praise.

Looking her straight in the eyes, I quickly clap my hands and say, ’Good job’.  Our eyes are locked.  The lower lip stops quivering and her unblinking eyes widen.  I say, ‘That was an excellent fall.  It is one of the best falls I have ever seen’.  The little girl stands up, looks at her hands, and brushes off a bit of dirt.  She looks up at me and breaks out into a huge smile before an attack of shy forces her back to smile at me from behind her father’s leg. 

My heart is warmed.  Trail intelligence is exchanged with her cordial parents before continuing along the trail.  The encounter makes the day.

 

Great Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada Great Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada Great Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, CanadaGreat Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park - Rogers Pass, British Columbia, Canada

 

Water volume in the rivers has increased substantially on the return trip as the warm day increases glacial melt.  The flow is a striking milky, blue-jade. 

Hiking off the Asulkan Valley Trail continues through Glacier House ruins and the walk back to the parking area at Illecillewaet Campground occurs on a short section of the long-ago, abandoned, original rail route known now as the 1885 Rails Trail

Update: October 2012 – Glacier Park Lodge at Rogers Pass is permanently closed.

On the short return drive to Glacier Park Lodge, the plan to soak in the outdoor hot tub is unhinged when a thunderstorm begins.  Jack Daniels and Coke in the lounge, combined with good conversation serves as a more than adequate alternative prior to an excellent supper in the dining room.  

 

 

 

 

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