Oh, Canada: Jasper National Park and Dry Camping Through British Columbia

Next on our journey through southwest Canada, we headed north towards Jasper National park via Canada’s Icefields Parkway. As the name would suggest, Icefields Parkway travels through the Canadian Rockies alongside several magnificent, icy glaciers (Crowfoot, Athabasca, and Dome) which can be viewed from the road or accessed via a short hike. There are several parking lots and scenic overlooks where visitors can get out of their cars, explore the scenery, and take pictures. Since we were pulling the RV, we skipped most of the congested parking areas along the way and I took pictures from the truck.

The drive was gorgeous though the skies were still looking pretty smoky. When we arrived at our campground I was so relived to see spacious campsites nestled in the trees. All of Jasper National Park’s four reservable campgrounds (and three of its seven first-come-first-serve campgrounds) have accessible campsites available, with paved parking pads and accessible restrooms and picnic tables. The accessible picnic tables are longer on one end, which allows someone who uses a wheelchair the ability to sit at the table without the bench seat or table legs getting in the way.

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We loved the view from our campsite so much that we didn’t feel much like leaving to go hiking or sightseeing. We ventured out once to get some shopping done in the town of Jasper and to refuel. Another day we made a quick trip to see Athabasca Falls.

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The trailhead for the falls is located right off of Icefields Parkway and a short paved trail leads directly to the river and falls. There is also access via Highway 93A, however this route was closed for construction during our visit. The trailhead parking area has RV parking and accessible parking and restrooms. There are several overlooks for the falls, river, and canyon, but only a few are accessible. Beyond the first few overlooks for the river and the head of the falls, the trail continues to several short staircases with handrails.

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Back at camp we met up with another young couple who is traveling the U.S. and Canada in an RV. Months ago I met Kim, Mike, and their dogs Pacey and Sierra through social media and we have been following each other’s travel journey ever since. We discovered we would be staying at the same campground in Jasper National Park during the same time and decided to meet for dinner. We had a great time chatting about our experiences and enjoying each other’s company.

img_6150.jpgWe didn’t feel ready to leave Jasper but with the smoke becoming worse each day we hoped we would find clearer skies at our next stop, Mount Robson. For the next seven nights we would be dry camping (meaning no electricity, water, or sewer hookups) in the Mount Robson and North Thompson area as we made our way southwest towards Vancouver. Up until this point in our trip, the longest we’ve dry camped was 2 nights. In dry camping situations, many RVers use generators to supply their rigs with electrical power. Though convenient, generators guzzle gas and are expensive, heavy, and noisy. We deiced against purchasing a generator until we knew whether or not we would really need one. After spending a full week without any hookups, we found our RV is well-equipped and can handle most dry camping situations like a champ. We have solar power that supplies us with enough energy to run our water pump, lights, entertainment center, thermostat, USB power outlets, and fans. Propane fuel powers our stove and oven for cooking, keeps our refrigerator and freezer cool, and supplies us with hot water and heat. The only appliances or features we cannot use without electrical hookups or a generator is the microwave oven, air conditioning, and 12-volt electrical outlets. Unless we dry camp someplace with high enough temperatures to need air conditioning, I can’t see us ever using a generator. 

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In the Mount Robson area we took a trip to watch the chinook salmon jumping up Rearguard Falls. The salmon travel 800 miles upstream from the Pacific Ocean back to their home river where they will spawn and then die. They can only be seen at Rearguard Falls during the month of August, so our timing was just perfect. We kept our eyes on the falls and watched as a salmon leapt out of the water every minute or so. Though the salmon are most active during the early mornings or late evenings, we had luck seeing them around 3:00 p.m.

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The upper viewing area is accessible, and though the packed gravel trail down from the parking area is somewhat steep there are no major obstructions. The falls can be viewed from an upper deck however the lower viewing area is not accessible and includes a long wooden boardwalk with a few stairs and handrails. The parking area does not have reserved accessible parking, however several stalls are large enough to accommodate smaller RVs and the parallel stalls can accommodate vehicles with wheelchair ramps and lifts.

The Mount Robson and North Thompson area is home to several other spectacular waterfalls. We visited only a handful— Overlander Falls, Spahats Falls, Helmcken Falls, and Clearwater Falls.

Out of these locations, only Spahats and Helmcken were partly accessible with accessible parking and restrooms and dirt or gravel trails leading to openings where the falls could be viewed from a distance. However, some of the designated overlooks at these locations, which provided closer views of the falls, included stairs with handrails. There was a nifty map posted at the trailhead with a chart that showed parks and attractions in the area, including accessibility details.  

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The campsites we stayed at were all beautiful, quiet, and several were waterfront, overlooking blue rivers or lakes. Most of the campgrounds we stayed in were very remote and we had no cell service, which meant we spent less time on our phones and more time lounging in our hammock and enjoying the views.

We did a little bit of mountain biking and swimming as well. Gaius had a lot of fun playing outside and sniffing his way through the trees, but I’m not sure how much he enjoyed wading through the water.

Next we’re headed back to the city as we explore the last stop on our adventure through Canada— Vancouver. Thanks for reading!

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