Hiking to the infamous Mount Assiniboine was as if walking in a postcard.
Introduction to the Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park
From the very moment I found an image of Mount Assiniboine, I was in awe and had to see it with my own eyes. Whereas many sights along the traveler’s way do not live up to expectations, this one truly did. As Philippe summed it up: it is as if you are in a postcard.
After having hiked the West Coast Trail with Phil, we met Robert in Vancouver, rented a car and drove to Banff. On the way, we stopped at some hot pools and some other sights along the way. We actually did not book anything in advance, so I was pessimistic whether we were even able to find any vacancies on the campgrounds. However, the kind employees at the Parks Canada info center in Banff provided all necessary information.
The camp at lake Magog was fully booked, but there is another free camp spot about 8 kilometers away from the Lodge. It lacks the views of Mount Assiniboine but it is free and allows us to stay there near the park. Our plan was to start from Mount Shark Trailhead, to Allenby Junction, then visit the park with a stay at Mitchell Meadow, and back over Wonder pass to Bryant Creek and the following morning to our departure point.
Bear in mind that regulations change and booking well in advance (4 months) is recommended. Since 2018, reservations will be required during peak season (June 26 – September 30) for all overnight stays in the core area of Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park – at Magog Lake and Og Lake campgrounds. Here is the link for reservations.
We packed our bags and bought food for 4 days and headed to the trail head on the following morning.
Day 1 Hike-in
The first day was a pleasant hike on a gravel road, which eventually became a narrow path. There was not any considerable elevation, but signs warned from the recent grizzly incidents. This was also the reason that certain parts of the area were closed. On the way, we crossed a bridge over a wonderful river that lead the eye to the magnificent cone peak. I suppose you can guess how it got that name. Eventually, we reached Bryant creek, where we planned to stay our last night on the hike out. It was a wonderful place. The pebbles were covered with thick lush green moss and the bubbly creek made an enchanting scenery with the massive mountain face in the backdrop.
After a short break, we headed towards an open meadow, where a ranger station is located. We left our bags near the trail and headed down to the meandering stream. As soon as the wind dropped, the peaks’ reflection appeared in the slow bend of the creek. Enticed to take a time lapse, I listened carefully to the sounds of nature: There were cicadas, birds, the grass gently waving and the sporadic wind, apart from the bees huming and the ripple of the stream. The Canadian rockies truly live up to their reputation.
We met a couple from Arizona with whom we chatted about bears and stuff, before we left for our camp. Arriving early at Allenby Junction we made an early dinner, put up our tents (MSR Freelite 2 and Hubba hubba), before falling asleep even before the sun had fully set. Well, it disappeared behind the mountain.
Day 2 Bear country
The following morning, Robert and I woke up early with high spirits to see the sunrise. However, out hopes were shattered by the massive mountain between us and the sun. We scouted the area and slept a few more minutes. It had been a bloody cold night. Later we prepared breakfast and hit the trail soon. Today, we had to hike over a pass into the Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Yet, it was not that bad. A few hours later we finally managed to catch the first glimpse of Mount Assiniboine – what a wonderful gaze!
Arriving at the lodge, we asked if there were any spaces left at Lake Magog which was negated. The woman from the lodge told us that we had to leave the park the following morning by 6am, if we had no reservation. I told her that our plan was to go to Mitchell Meadow anyway. Nonetheless, we went down to the lake and had lunch. Discussing our options looking at the forecast, we immediately knew that the hike to the famous view from Nublet and Nub peak would be now – or never.
Although someone preferred to stay at Camp Magog and leave by 6 am, the information of bears in the camp convinced everyone to go to Mitchell Meadows. We received the information about the bear from Liz and Darren, the couple we had met the day before. Serendipitously we met again at the lake front and they told us that Nublet was not that far away.
After having some dessert at the lodge (4pm), we set off to the Nublet, which was on the way to Mitchell Meadow. There was some elevation to overcome, but the views rewarded for our efforts. It was mind boggling.
Eventually, we left Nublet and hiked to Mitchell Meadow – a lovely camping spot.
Day 3 Deteriorating Conditions
The following day, we were woken up by heavy raindrops on our tents. We quickly packed our gear and headed back to the lodge even before breakfast. The forecast remained solidly bad and there were no views of Mount Assiniboine to be had. After a hearty breakfast with chocolate muesli and flatulent-inducing sausages, we left to Wonder Pass. Though the weather was truly awful with low-hanging clouds and continuous precipitation, the yellowish color of the fall-turning needles of the larches looked amazing. Reaching the top of the pass, we gazed at the wildness of the Canadian Rockies down to Lake Gloria and Marvel Lake.
What followed was a steep descent and a hairpin pathway. This was an area I felt uncomfortable with knowing there are bears in the area, because there was no way to go out of its path. Fresh (bear) poop did not calm me either. However, we did not see any bears luckily. Here is a shot taken out of the car.
The hike along Marvel Lake to Bryant creek drags on and on. It appeared as if the end of the lake did not come any closer for a long time. Eventually, we reached the end, crossed over the golden meadow from day 1 and reached Bryant creek. Luckily as we were, the sun made a final appearance, right on time to dry some gear.
After a quick breaky, we packed all our dry stuff. We left early, because everyone was looking forward to some fast food at Wendy’s. At about 10 am we reached our car at Mount Shark Trail Head. However, the guys did not appreciate the joke about me losing the keys for the car. It felt good finishing 2 trails within less than 2 weeks and covering almost 100k. It just eases one’s soul when you spend more time outdoors.
Summary Mount Assiniboine
The Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is on of a kind. It is just spectacular wherever you go. Around every bend there is a new view that surprises yet again. Be sure to take bear spray with you, plenty of food in case you would like to stay longer and book well in advance. From now on, reservations are mandatory to stay in the Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. Check with Parks Canada whether Mitchell Meadow is still open. This Information is from 2018.
“As if we are walking in a postcard”