One of my best friends, Ellen moved to a teeny town outside Edmonton a little over a year ago. I’ve seen her a few times when she’s made the trip back to Ontario, but it was high time for me to make my way west. So, when an awesome flight deal from Hamilton to Edmonton presented itself, I couldn’t say no!

Prairie Views | A Taste of Trace

We had five splendid days together where we totally embraced winter! We spent half a day in Ellen’s new town before heading to Jasper National Park where we enjoyed the rest of our days. Get ready for a jam-packed blog post with heaps of pictures!

Edmonton and Area, AB

Elk Island National Park

One of Canada’s National Parks is located just outside Edmonton. Elk Island is 194 sq.km and helped to conserve the population of American Bison. It’s home to many trails, lakes, and wildlife. Ellen and I – along with a friend of hers – hiked the Amisk Wuche Trail (2.9km) which took us through the snow-covered forest, and across a small lake with a beaver lodge!

Elk Island | A Taste of Trace

Elk Island | A Taste of Trace

Afterwards, we walked on the frozen Astotin Lake while the snow came down. I know that the lake had at least 30 cm of ice, but it was still terrifying to me to walk above the cracks and frozen bubbles!! This was totally irrational considering the path we were walking on was ploughed by a snowmobile!!

Elk Island | A Taste of Trace

Ice Castles

We made the short drive to Edmonton to check out the Ice Castles there. The Ice Castle is a 250 million lb castle made entirely of ice. It’s also complete with slides, a fountain, a wood-burning fire, and so much more! I had such a good time here – there was something new and interesting to see around every corner icicle!

Ice Castles | A Taste of Trace


Ice Castles | A Taste of Trace

Ice Castles | A Taste of Trace
Ice Castles | A Taste of Trace
Ice Castles | A Taste of Trace
Ice Castles | A Taste of Trace
Ice Castles | A Taste of Trace
Ice Castles | A Taste of Trace
Jasper National Park, AB

Jasper National Park is 11,000 sq.km and is about a four-hour drive from Edmonton. We spent three nights at the Jasper Downtown Hostel which ended up being SUCH a great place! When Mac and I were travelling we kept an ongoing list of little things that made a hostel awesome. This hostel ticked nearly every one of our boxes! It’s located northeast of the ‘main downtown’, but the town of Jasper isn’t all that big, so the extra block or two we had to walk was really no issue. Aside from one clear day (which you’ll hear about later), the skies remained foggy and overcast for the remainder of our time in Jasper. Though not ideal for photographs, I’m warming up to the cooler, moodier tones that my camera caught. I hope you enjoy!

Sunwapta Falls & Athabasca Falls

Sunwapta Falls are located about 60km south of Jasper. We spent some time exploring the upper falls area before trekking out to see the lower falls. Both were incredible & completely covered in ice! I can’t even imagine how utterly cold the water must be.

Sunwapta Falls | A Taste of Trace
Sunwapta Falls | A Taste of Trace
About halfway between Sunwapta Falls and Jasper is Athabasca Falls. The falls here were similar to Sunwapta, but on a much grander scale. More water, more height, more icicles, and more hiking trails!

 

Athabasca Falls | A Taste of Trace
Athabasca Falls | A Taste of Trace
After gawking at the falls from above, Ellen and I trekked down to the bottom of the canyon where we got a totally different (and much more impressive) view of the falls! Ellen even tempted fate by walking on the ice slab to get a close-up view!

Athabasca Falls | A Taste of Trace
Athabasca Falls | A Taste of Trace

We also hiked beside the Athabasca River which gave way to spectacular moody mountain views.

Athabasca Falls | A Taste of Trace

Highway 93 & 16

There were only so many gaped-mouth, wide-eyed looks at the scenery that we passed by before we just had to stop & pull over. Unfortunately the weather didn’t quite co-operate on this day, so our mountain-views were a bit less stellar (and more foggy) than they normally would be. They were impressive and jaw-dropping nonetheless.

Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace
Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace
Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace
Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace

With a sudden turn in the weather, we decided to cancel any further hiking plans for the day. So, what does one do in a quasi-snow storm in the middle of the afternoon? Drive to the British Colombia Border, of course! This short 20-minute drive passed alongside sheer rock walls, and snow-covered trees. Before long we were at the gateway to ‘The Best Place in the World!’ (What a super humble and modest province!!) We took some pictures and promptly turned the car around to head back into Jasper. #worthit

Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace

Pyramid Lake

On Sunday, our last morning in Jasper, Ellen took us up to Pyramid Lake. The weather gods were not on our side once again, but the slowly falling snow made for a dreamy setting as we walked onto the island in the lake, and then on and around the lake itself. By the time we returned to the car, you couldn’t even see the mountain!!

Pyramid Lake | A Taste of Trace

It was slightly eerie knowing that the whole area is surrounded by mountains but that we weren’t able to see them at all. I’ll just have to come back in the warmer months!

Pyramid Lake | A Taste of Trace

Wildlife

We had an awesome welcome into Jasper National Park by a few elk that we drove by en route to our hostel. These were pretty docile elk with one even passing within inches of the car!!

Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace
Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace
Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace
Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace

At the parking lot for Athabasca Falls, there was a HUGE raven just casually perched on a nearby car. I couldn’t believe how big it was!

Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace

And finally, on our way out of the park, we saw not one, but TWO packs of bighorn sheep! Most of the members of each pack were young, with small horns, but we were lucky to see two rams with the full wrap-around horns! Quite the sight!

Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace
Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace


I had SUCH an amazing & awesome time exploring Jasper with Ellen. There’s no shortage of things to do there and I can guarantee that I’ll be making my way west again sometime.

Jasper National Park | A Taste of Trace

Surprisingly, this post doesn’t even cover all of what we did in Jasper. I saved the best part for another post! Stay tuned for one of the coolest, most bad-ass things I’ve ever done!