• 50 Walks Banff

    50 Walks and Hikes in Banff National Park

    By : Brian Patton and Bart Robinson

    1st edition

    ISBN: 9780978237530

    160 pages
    6.5 x 4.5 inches
    April 2008


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    Parker Ridge Trail

    LENGTH: 2.7 km (1.7 mi) one way
    ELEVATION GAIN: 250 m (820 ft)
    WALKING TIME: 1 hour one way
    STARTING POINT: 41 km (25 mi) north along the Icefields Parkway from Saskatchewan River Crossing and 4 km (2.5 mi) south of park boundary
    ORIGIN OF THE NAME: Mr. Herschel C. Parker, whose role in local history is unknown

    One of the finest short trails in Banff National Park switchbacks up to a treeless 2,250-metre-high (7,380-foot) ridge where views stretch to the longest glacier extending from the Columbia Icefield. The hike up should take an hour or less, and along the way you will discover many of the plants and wildlife of the alpine world.

    Parker Ridge in Banff National Park
    Looking down to Saskatchewan Glacier from Parker Ridge

    For the first one kilometre (0.6 miles), the trail climbs across avalanche paths and past stands of stunted alpine fir. Wildflowers are particularly lush and showy here, well-watered by a melting snowpack that lingers well into July. At an elevation of around 2,100 metres (6,800 feet), the trail switchbacks above the last stunted trees and emerges into the alpine zone, where ground-hugging wildflowers like moss campion, mountain avens, rock jasmine and forget-me-nots survive in a desert-like, wind-blasted landscape. Nearing the crest of the ridge, you pass through rocky terrain inhabited by pikas (tiny members of the hare family). Also watch for birdlife, including white-tailed ptarmigan and golden eagles. The steady uphill slog ends after 2.1 kilometres (1.3 miles), as the trail crosses the summit and angles left to viewpoints for the Saskatchewan Glacier. This nine-kilometre-long (5.6-mile) tongue of ice, which is the headwaters of the Saskatchewan River, dwarfs in size the nearby, tourist-swarmed Athabasca Glacier, and the peaks and waterfalls rising from the valley are wild and impressive. Scan the meadows and openings in the scattered forest beneath the viewpoint since the area is frequently visited by mountain goats and, sometimes, grizzly bear.

    NOTE: To help preserve the fragile meadows, Parks Canada usually keeps Parker Ridge closed until the trail is snow-free. Therefore, you should check on the status at a local park visitor centre if you plan on hiking it before mid-July.

    This text is from 50 Walks and Hikes in Banff National Park.