Backpacking the Iceline Trail, Whaleback, and Little yoho Valley

The Iceline Trail, Whaleback, and Yoho Valley trails make for a great two-four day backpacking circuit in Yoho National Park. Beginning at Takakkaw Falls, we headed up  Yoho Valley. The first of many sights along the trail is Laughing Falls. There’s a backcountry campground here if you wish to explore the area more before you continue. Seeing as it’s only about 3.5 kilometres from the trail head, we continued on.

We trekked up towards Whaleback after stopping at a few more waterfalls. Once we gained more elevation and climbed up the Whaleback, we enjoyed the view of Yoho Valley where we came from, as well as the view to where we would be going the following day, Little Yoho Valley and the Iceline trail. The Whaleback trail descends into the neighbouring valley where we would camp until the next morning. 

With an early start, we left camp at Little Yoho Campground just before sunrise in hopes of having a nice sunrise from the top of the Iceline trail. 

The hike from Little Yoho campground ascends fairly quickly out of the trees and into the rugged alpine. The alpine reveals a number of nearby glaciers and glacial lagoons immediately next to the trail. The trail continues alongside these ancient glaciers for about 7 kilometres before descending down into the valley below. The valley eventually spits you out just east of Takakkaw falls.

Photos and words by Ryan Richardson    

                                       

Backpacking Limestone Lakes in Height of the Rockies

Limestone lakes in Height of the Rockies Provincial park is without a doubt one of the most incredible backcountry venues I have ever had the privilege of experiencing.

Limestone lakes in Height of the Rockies Provincial park is without a doubt one of the most incredible backcountry venues I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. It’s remote and difficult to get to location also keeps the flocks of tourist and backcountry users at bay. For good reason, route finding and proficient gps experience is required. Moreover, it’s prime grizzly country. I experienced my worst bear encounter on this trip.

On day one we followed a trail about 10km to our first cowboy camp. The trail runs parallel along the adjacent river most of the way up the valley. Then second day we ascended above the tree line. There’s an option to navigate around a large ridge line, but w-e opted to gain the ridge and then loose elevation on the other side. We thought the views might be worth it, and we were rewarded for our optimism.

After a full second day of bushwhacking and navigating limestone cliffs, we finally arrived at the stunning lookout above Limestone Lakes.

We spent another two nights at Limestone Lakes. The extra time and lighter packs afforded us the opportunity to explore the area a little more. We spend much of the third day swimming in the lake and enjoying the sun. We lucked out with weather, there was hardly a cloud in the sky the entire trip. The fourth day we hiked back out of the alpine lakes area and descended back into the valley below. We opted to go around the ridge climb, saving our legs for the 25km trek back to our vehicle.

Photos and words by Ryan Richardson.

Michelle Lakes via Owen Creek to Pinto lake Backpacking adventure

There are few hidden gems in the Canadian Rockies yet to be discovered by many. Michelle Lakes is one of those gems.

There are few hidden gems in the Canadian Rockies yet to be discovered by many. Michelle Lakes is one of those gems. Upper Michelle lakes is only 11 or so km from the trailhead on the David Thompson highway in Clearwater County. The Michelle Lakes trail via Owen Creek is also part of the Great Divide Trail (GDT) which is a 1,130 km trail that essentially runs the length of the Canadian Rockies north to south, following roughly the continental divide.

The 50 km section of trail we tackled on this trip began at the Owen Creak trail head through Michelle Lakes, Pinto Lake, and ending at Norman creek Trailhead along the Icefields Parkway (highway 93n).

The elevation gained climbing towards Michelle Lakes is the highest point of the entire 1,130 km GDT. The altitude and it’s proximity to neighbouring icefields along the Icefields Parkway – not to mention Wilson glacier – makes for a really small hiking season here. Our camp fell to nearly -10 degrees the first night. We woke up to frozen puddles around our tents.

Michelle Lakes boats one of the most magnificent backcountry venues I’ve ever had the privilege of visiting. Our small group of five were the only hikers there that night. We climbed over the unnamed pass the next morning and headed into the next valley before ascending and descending the next pass leading to Pinto Lake.

The hiking from Michelle Lakes to Pinto lake is all world class. Climbing up unnamed passes and in the shadow of some of the biggest mountains in the Canadian Rockies. We set camp at Pinto Lake for the night before eventually making our way out towards the Icefields Parkway where we had arranged a pickup.

There is another way to approach Michelle Lakes. The alternative route is a more gradual climb and apparently just as scenic. I’ll definitely be returning to Michelle Lakes again next summer and when I do, I’ll try it from the other valley over.

– Photos and words by Ryan Richardson

Photo Guide: Chester Lake Larches

Everything you need to know about viewing and photographing the stunning larches at Chester Lake.

Kananaskis Country is home to a handful of family friendly and approachable hikes to view and photograph the larches each fall. The larches only grow 1800m above sea level though, so you need to find hikes where you you can gain a lot of elevation. Luckily, Chester Lake hike trailhead starts at a fairly high elevation along the Smith-Dorrien “highway”.

Distance from Calgary: 2 hours 3 minutes
Hiking time (roundtrip): 2.5-4.5 hours
Elevation gain: 420m
Trail Distance (roundtrip): 9.3

Photographing the larches at Chester Lake is really quite beautiful. I would recommend avoiding the area on the weekends if you can. It’s a very busy destination for a lot of families. You should have the place mostly to yourself during the week.

If you’re limited to the weekends only, you might have clone-stamp a few people out of your photos along Chester Lake. I was limited to visiting during the weekend and had to get a little creative to select compositions that didn’t have too many people in the background.

The weather can be a little “touch-and-go” during autumn in the mountains. Be prepared to get rained on without notice. If you’re bringing all your camera equipment, be sure to bring some weather protection for your kit as-well.

From the trailhead, the heavily trafficked path gains a gradual elevation before eventually flattening out once you gain the plateau leading to Chester Lake. The path is very wide and obvious, there is no reason you should lose your way at any point. Once you get to a clearing in the plateau before the lake, you’ll begin to see the larches.

There will be more larches along Chester Lake once you arrive to the lakeside. Once you get to the lakeside you can choose to continue along the path to the left of the lake. This path will circle around the entire lake and affords a bunch of nice photo opportunities.

The detour is well worth the extra time on your feet and it won’t take you long to get around the entire lake. On the far side of the lake, there is an opportunity to gain a little bit of extra elevation. The view of the backdrop looking back towards Chester Lake is stunning. You don’t need to climb very high to see what I’m talking about.

Take the same way back to the parking lot. There is apparently another trail that runs parallel which is less trafficked. However, I was looking out for it and I didn’t end up seeing it.

My shots were all taken during the middle of the day. I had pretty spotty weather where I lucked out with nice light for some photos and had pretty flat light for others. It would definitely be worth going for sunrise or sunset. There are many bears in the area so be loud, groups are always encouraged, bear spray is not a luxury, bring it.

Thru Hiking the East Coast Trail

A photo essay of my thru hike along the (ECT) East Coast Trail (220km) in Newfoundland.

A photo essay of my thru hike along the (ECT) East Coast Trail (220km) in Newfoundland. I hope these photos transport you to the east coast where myself, my partner, my Mom, and my mom’s best friend Anna attempted to thru hike the length of the ECT.

Three hikers walking past iceberg.

We began our thru hike from the south, starting in Cappahayden. As soon as we arrived to the trailhead we almost immediately spotted Icebergs off in the distance.

Hiker setting up tents near ocean.

We pitched our tents near Cappahayden where we would get a full night’s rest before beginning the our thru hike the next day.

Hiker traveling on trail.

We lucked out on weather the first day. It was reported to be the warmest day of the season so far. We had heard horror stories of how wet and technical this section of trail was. We were happy to be travelling this section with favourable conditions.

Three hikers walk alongside ocean.

The next day a thick fog rolled in off the Atlantic. The fog acted as air conditioning, the temperatures dropped considerably. Most of the views along the coast were left to our imagination. The fog was so thick we could rarely see the ocean.

Two hikers walk through fog.

The following day the cold fog had turned into a cold rain. Much of the trail was exposed to the open ocean making the wind another challenging element.

Three hikers walking in rain.

It was never the wind that slowed us down though, just the trail itself. The trail was a small single track hardly wide enough to fit our packs through in places. The trail was almost always slightly slanted towards to ocean, and it was never straight or level. It was some of the most challenging terrain I had ever walked on.

We were never given any trail names. I suppose because we never saw any hikers on the trails.

Hikers in cabin eating food.

A local introduced himself as we walked through his town and invited us to stay at his cabin along the trail. East coast hospitality is unlike anywhere else. You can expect most locals to invite you into their home for tea, water, and even dinner. As if that isn’t kind enough, we had locals offer up their home, and even buy us a case of beer.

Hiker next to dirty trail shoes.

Our gear finally had the opportunity to dry out before we hit the trail again.

Hikers walking up muddy trail.

I wish I could say the sun made an appearance again so soon. However, the rain continued and the trails became more and more difficult to navigate.

Hikers walking through bushes.

Finally, the fog burnt up in the sun’s rays. It was never as beautiful as our first day on the trail again. However, after almost four days of rain we felt as if we were on a beach in Mexico.

Hikers alongside ocean.

The ECT traveled out into the ocean along capes that would poke out into the ocean. We would walk along these capes until they eventually led back into little inlets where towns and villages were located. Nearly 75% of the trail was entirely wilderness.

Hiker walking near small village.

The villages were home to as few as a dozen people. I couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful these little inlets would look under a fresh dusting of snow in the winter.

Two hikers walking away from small village.

Hailey and I were leaving directly to Iceland from Newfoundland. Our legs began giving out, our back and shoulders were in agony. The anticipation of hopping on a plane to thru hike across the entire country of Iceland was beginning to worry us.

Hiker walking at sunset near ocean.

After thru hiking 170 km, all four of us decided to end our hike. With 50 km to go before reach St. Johns. We felt as though we could physically finish the ECT thru hike. However, we knew the cost be too high, there’s no way we could begin our thru hike in Iceland in such rough shape only a few days later.

Hiker walks alongside ocean and island.

Thru hiking the ECT is truly one of the greatest experiences of my life. Like so many places, it’s the adventure that draws us, but it’s the people and the culture that brings as back again and again. I can’t wait until I’m back in Newfoundland.

Vlogging While Hiking Has Its’ Hazards (VIDEO)

Vlogging a “quick” jaunt up Emerald Peak in Yoho National Park. It doesn’t take long for me to figure out that vlogging while hiking can be hazardous!

Scrambling Mount Edith in Banff National Park

Vlogging a “quick” jaunt up Emerald Peak in Yoho National Park. It doesn’t take long for me to figure out that vlogging while hiking can be hazardous!

Subscribe to my personal Youtube channel for more videos like this!

Crossing Iceland: A Photo Essay

In total, we carried around 7kg of camera equipment, portable chargers, and accessories to capture these images. Capturing these images while exerting maximum physical effort was incredibly challenging. We hope the effort was worth it.

It’s been just six short weeks since we had the pleasure of crossing Iceland. The 420 km journey took us 14 days. Trekking a distance of average of a marathon a day including 3 days of rest for injury prevention. As we continue to sort through our media we captured along our journey, I thought I might share some of my favourite moments in this photo essay.

In total, we carried around 7kg of camera equipment, portable chargers, and accessories to capture these images. Capturing these images while exerting maximum physical effort was incredibly challenging. We hope the effort was worth it.

Female hiker walks along country road.
The journey from the coast to the highlands was a long one. We trekked nearly 60 km over the course of a day and a half on paved and gravel roads to eventually ascend out of farm land and into the highlands.
Hiking couple prepares camp next to river.
Just like that, we left the security of civilization and found ourselves in inhospitable, and elevated terrain. We would now be in the highlands for the next 11 days.
Crossing Iceland’s Highlands: Two Filmmakers Try Breaking the Silence
The highlands of Iceland as seen by air.
To paint a picture of how inhospitable these lands were, here’s an image of an aerial we took while flying over the highlands on the way to our starting point in Akureyri. We would later walk alongside the glacier for nearly 150 km of our trek.
A tent in the highlands of Iceland.
Alone and isolated. Hundreds of km from the nearest shelter or man-made structure.
Hiker crossing a glacial river.
Our journey had many obstacles, one of the most common was wading through sometimes waist deep glacial rivers. The river crossings were time consuming and sometimes demoralizing when it was also cold and raining. In the heat though, occasionally refreshing.
Crossing Iceland: Previsions, Revisions, and Decisions
Hiker walking away from a mountain hut.
We would eventually make it to the most remote and isolated mountain hut in the entire country. Nyidalur sits nearby Vatnajökull glacier where its’ glacial rivers form this mossy oasis in the middle of a otherwise desert-like landscape.
A hiker in a large beautiful landscape.
Hailey and I both enjoyed some of the most remarkable scenes we had ever experienced. Earning them under such strenuous conditions helped us enjoy the beauty of these places more than we otherwise could have.
Hiker in rain jacket enduring storm.
The deadliest wilderness conditions aren’t what you might think they are. Cold rain is far deadlier than any other natural element found in the wild. Being exposed to freezing temperatures and precipitation is the most infamous killer in the outdoors.
Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail Hiking Guide
Hiker trekking along gravel road in desert.
When it wasn’t raining though, it was brutally hot. We suffered from sun burns and blisters from sun exposure. The extremes in Iceland are enough to drive somebody to insanity.
Hiker on glacier.
After days of suffering from increased sun exposure we eventually found ourselves trekking on glaciers in whiteout conditions. There would be no easy days on this expedition.
Hiker walking in desert.
It felt as though we were walking alongside this glacier for ever. The scale of our surroundings was impossible to grasp.
Hiker in Iceland.
Once in a while the beauty and the fragility of the highlands would expose itself to us. Hailey, pictured here walking among hot steam spouts in an orange mountain-scape.
Hiker next to hydro pylons on paved road.
At last, we would walk into a scene I’ll never forget. After so much untouched wilderness, a scarred landscape full of paved roads and hundred foot hydro pylons as far as the eye can see. This is Iceland’s future if the country fails to protect it.
This Hidden Gem in Iceland is so Remote that You Could be the First to Bag some of its’ Peaks
Hydro dam and hydro plant.
We would eventually see more hydro dams and electrical outposts like this on along our journey. The unfortunate fate of the world’s few remaining wilderness areas.
An aerial of the highlands.
Most people believe that wilderness can always be found somewhere out there. Unfortunately, there are very few places still left untouched by human development.
Hiker suffering on trail.
The scarred landscapes littered with the gigantic footprint of industry and development did little to motivate us on the rest of our journey to the coast. Feeling defeated and completely drained, we pressed on. Hoping out stories, images, and videos might shine a light on what’s at risk of being lost, and motivate those who might be better equipped to affect change, do so.
Hiker in tent.
After over 10 days of solitary walks, we joined other backpackers who would enjoy the southern highlands and its’ remarkable landscapes.
Hiker walking into beautiful valley.
After our most difficult trials and tribulations ever, we would finally begin our descent into the valleys leading us to the south coast where we would finally finish our 14 day, 420 km trek.
Two people discussing at cafe table.
I sat down with the Arni Finnsson, co-founder of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association and the founder of the Highlands National Park Initiative aiming to protect all 40.000 sq. km. of the highlands from hydro development and all other forms of land exploitation. If Arni and his support team is successful, they will create Europes largest ever national park. If they fail, even fewer wilderness areas will exist on our planet.

for more information please visit http://halendid.is/#thjodgardur-1 and subscribe to our newsletter for updates on this effort, as well as our upcoming film, North of Boundaries.

5 Breathtaking Hiking Trails Near Toronto

Explore your backyard and discover these breathtaking hiking trails. Here’s a list of 5 breathtaking hiking trails near Toronto.

There’s a reason most outdoor inclined individuals move from Toronto to cities like Calgary or Vancouver. We’re all bombarded with imagery of breathtaking hiking trails out west in our news feeds. However, Is it possible we’re just not looking hard enough in our own backyard? Here’s a list of 5 breathtaking hiking trails near Toronto.

Niagara Glen Trails.

Woman stands at lookout near Niagara Glen hiking trails.

Where: Niagara Glen Conservation Area.
Distance from Toronto: 1 hour 20 minutes.
Trail length:
Intersecting trails, 0-1.5 km with the option to hop on other trails.
Optional activities nearby:
Checkout the Niagara Falls. Stay overnight and enjoy the night life in Niagara after a long day of hiking.

Niagara Glen is located 1 hour 20 minutes south of Toronto and boasts some of the most scenic trails in the entire province! There are tons of short yet incredible hikes in the area. River trail, cliffside trail, and terrace trail are our favourites.

The Bruce Trail – Peninsula Section

Two hikers on the Bruce Trail hiking trail.

Where: Bruce Peninsula National Park.
Distance from Toronto: 3 hours 30 minutes.
Trail length: Up to 160 km.
Optional activities nearby: Make it a multi-day hike and camp on the trail overnight. Checkout the Grotto trail while you’re in the area.

The entire Bruce Trail is a massive trail starting at the northern tip of the Niagara escarpment in the Bruce Peninsula running all the way south eventually ending in Niagara. The 160 km section in the peninsula is by far the most breathtaking. We recommend starting at Tobermory and hiking south to Crane Lake. Break it up into two or three days and stay at one of the three wilderness camping sites along the way.

The Bruce Trail Training for Coming Up ECT.

The Grotto Trail.

The Grotto hiking trail.

Where: Bruce Peninsula National Park
Distance from Toronto: 3 hours 30 minutes.
Trail length:
1 km one way.
Optional activities nearby:
Visit more breathtaking trails in the area.

This one is almost cheating because it’s only a short detour off of the Bruce Trail listed above. However, we think it deserves it’s own recognition on this list because of how breathtaking it is. It’s worth the drive from Toronto just for this one short day hike if you ask us.

Sedona’s Best Running Trails.

Nassagaweya Trail.

Hiker stands at lookout near hiking trails.

Where: Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area.
Distance from Toronto: 50 minutes.
Trail length:
4.7 km one way.
Optional activities nearby:
Overnight camping with beautiful campsites and a generally quiet location.

Rattlesnake point has an absolutely breathing lookout. On a clear day you can see all the way to Niagara. The Nassagaweya trail walks along the niagara escarpment with great views and fantastic trails. The Bruce Trail actually intersects this trail as well. Hundreds of kilometres from where it first started in the peninsula.

Headwaters Trail.

Man running on hiking trails.

Where: Dundas Valley Conservation Area.
Distance from Toronto: 55 minutes.
Trail length:
10.5 km loop.
Optional activities nearby:
Visit downtown Hamilton for the best coffee in Ontario at Phin Coffee Bar.

The Dundas valley conservation area is home to 40 km of trails! It’s hard to pick a favourite trail. Try them all over the course of a few days. Or leave the heavy backpack at home and try running some of them to cover some extra distance!

What’s your favourite breathtaking hiking trail? Is it on our list? If not, comment below so we can check it out!

Photos by Ryan Richardson.