Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds - Field - Hiking BC

 

Fossil beds reveal ancient life in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.

 

 

An early start, in the dark from Calgary, Alberta, is required for a morning meeting of eight participants at the muster point in Field, British Columbia.  Sunrise soars behind, progressively painting the mountains orange to pink, on the drive through Banff National Park, and past the Town of Banff , Lake Louise Village, Wapta Lake and the Spiral Tunnels.  Even with contingency, arrival at the Yoho Trading Post in Field leaves little time to spare, given detours and multiple reduced speed zones for flood-damage repair along the TransCanada Highway.  The extent and dimension of flood devastation is difficult to fathom.  Friend and hiking partner has arrived just before me, on this brisk early morning.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada The Yoho Brothers Trading Post along the TransCanada Highway in Yoho National Park at Field in British Columbia, Canada.

 

The hike begins with an uphill walk on streets through historically rich Field where many restored buildings represent its past as a coal mining and railroad town.  Although this hike is short at only 6 KM (3⅝ miles) return, elevation gain of 780 m (2,560 ft.) makes the effort an aggressive aerobic exercise for legs and lungs.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, in Field, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Our very capable guide for the day is Hugh, an affable, young man who sets the perfect guides pace for a diverse group of people.  Additionally, Hugh is a Graduate in Geology which brings a dimension to the animated repertoire that makes the historical component of the experience come alive in an interesting and thought-provoking way.

 

 Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

The initial grade into the restricted zone is consistently moderate and warming through several forest zones.  Stops are frequent for explanations of surrounding terrain.  Some sections of trail are occasionally modified as slopes slide periodically towards the valley to the left.  The interpretive talks are an entertaining and interesting prelude into the formation of the mountains in this region and the reasons why the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds exist.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Occasionally, narrow breaks in the forest provide framed views of mountains surrounding Field.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Mount Field looms large at 2,635 m (8,645 ft.) on the other side of the valley in Field, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada The summit of Mount Stephen rises above the Fossil Beds in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada The lower section of the trail to the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds is good through forest. Here the forest is predominantly lodge-pole pine.

 

As altitude is gained aggressively, the trail to the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds provides the occasional glimpse to the objective.  The elevation gain is also providing spectacular views, to the northwest, of 2,599 m (8,527 ft) Mount Burgess and 2,635 m (8,645 ft) Mount Field on the opposite side of the valley above the Town of Field

At the demarcation point between moderate and steep trail, a stop to enjoy lunch includes a fascinating presentation given by Hugh about the specific stages of the planet's development.  Apparently, the non-concentric orbit of the Earth around the Sun has a profound, slow motion effect on the climate of our planet.  Additionally, there are outstanding examples of trilobite fossils to observe in preparation for subsequent arrival at the rich fossil bed.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada The Mount Stephen Fossil Beds rest below the summit of 3,199m (10,495 ft.) Mount Stephen above the Town of Field in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Mount Burgess and Mount Field consume the north horizon on the other side of the valley in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Lunch and a detailed historical seminar is hosted by Hugh from a panoramic viewpoint high above Field in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada The majority of the remaining short distance is on steep trail which has legs and lungs working hard.

 

The final segment of trail is steep.  Hugh schedules frequent breaks to gather hikers and to allow time to catch the breath.  A portion of this section is along the narrow top of a lateral moraine.  Height is an issue for a few.  The sequence, as always, is watching where to step and stopping to look around.  Another advantage, as elevation is gained aggressively, is the amazing view between Mount Burgess and Mount Field of the Emerald Glacier to the northwest on the flank of 2,696 m (8,845 ft) Michael Peak which rises above internationally famous Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada.  As forest thins on the approach to treeline, scree increases and amazing numbers of fossils appear at trail side.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada The mass of Emerald Glacier in the President Range increases over Burgess Pass as altitude increases on Mount Stephen in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Examining a partial trilobite fossil at trailside on the approach to the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada A view of the President Range in Yoho National Park on the final approach to the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds.

 

Clear signage identifies the trail junction where scramblers doing a Mount Stephen summit bid hang right and the guided-only trail to the Fossil Beds proceeds left.

Note:  Hiking the trail for any objective on Mount Stephen requires prior National Park approval.  All activity is remotely monitored.  It is illegal to remove any fossils from this World Heritage Site.

The tour begins in the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds on a clear, sunny day with breathtaking long vistas in this incredibly interesting and beautiful place.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Mount Stephen Fossil Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Searching for fossils near the shale helicopter pad at the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada The Town of Field rests below us adjacent to the Kicking Horse River at the bottom of the Upper Kicking Horse Valley with Mount Burgess behind in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Another view tending west from the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds above Field in Yoho National park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada The view from Mount Stephen across Burgess Pass in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

There is a presentation which, although initially fascinating, degenerates into theoretical babble between geologists and disconnect occurs when conversation drifts to heated discussion about hypothetically, theoretical possibilities which could have occurred hundreds of millions of years ago.  When the rubber meets the sky, time is better occupied by absorbing the spectacular views, fresh air and sunshine while touring the plain of shale in search of fossils.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Hugh hosts an animated discussion with other geologists on the tour at the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Beautiful flowers on the sparse, mainly shale terrain at the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Fossils are easy to find. Scientists from around the world visit the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Occasionally a  gentle breeze moderates the warmth of sun on rock.  The vistas are amazing.  The long lens brings the detail of the Town of Field closer.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada Telephoto view of the Town of Field at the Kicking Horse River. The blue roof is the Yoho National Park Visitor Centre along the TransCanada Highway in British Columbia, Canada.

 

Relaxation time is taken to enjoy the time here in this special place on a different and unique day.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada  

 

Near the end of the tour, permission is received from the tour guide to make a rapid descent to Field ahead of the group for the return drive to Calgary and other commitments.

 

Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada The circa 1931 Canadian Pacific Railway Telegraph Building in Field, British Columbia, Canada.

 

This very interesting and educational day is recommended for hikers who can do the elevation.  Well-in-advance reservations are required.

 

This guided hike was done on July 21, 2013 with the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

When you summited Ha Ling to enjoy the incredible panoramic view of Three Sisters and across Canmore in the Bow Valley to Mount Lady MacDonald, Grotto Mountain plus a host of others, your hike to the top was similar effort required to achieve the Mount Stephen Fossil Beds above Field, British Columbia a short distance further west. Ha Ling (Chinaman's Peak) above Canmore is a 1.6 KM ( 1.0 mile) one-way effort which gains 732 m (2,402 ft.) of elevation to a maximum elevation of 2,408 m (7,900 ft.). Mount Stephen Fossil Beds require a 2.9 KM (1.8 mile) hike one-way with elevation gain of 780 m (2,560 ft.) So, Mount Stephen Fossil Beds is similar compared to Hal Ling. You can get permission to hike to near the summit of Mount Stephen on trail without a guide. The final approach to the 3,199 m (10,495 ft.) summit of Mount Stephen is a difficult scramble (i.e. risk of serious injury or death). That would be a significantly more aggressive day with incredible vistas leaving indelible memories. Good luck on your future mission.

Another great post, Barry! A question, though: how would you compare this hike to Ha Ling? My husband and I come from Ohio each summer to hike, and we've taken the wonderful, guided Burgess Shale expedition. As far as short but very steep hikes, we use Ha Ling as a benchmark (did it for the first time this past summer). How does Mt. Stephen compare? We can't fit the guided dates in our schedule in '14, but maybe the following year . . .

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