Over the Victoria Day long weekend, we drove around in the mountains with our kitten and our 1980 Triple E Comfort Camper. We left our small town north of Edmonton and drove west to Jasper National Park. Instead of stopping in the town of Jasper, we sped on through and headed down Highway 93, better known as the Icefields Parkway, for the very first time. The views were as breathtaking as they are driving from Hinton to Jasper– snow-capped mountains, sweeping valleys, and the rushing Athabasca River. Since moving to Alberta, Jasper National Park has become one of our favourite places to explore.
Because May-Long is one of the biggest camping weekends of the year, reservations were blocked solid. We couldn’t reserve a site anywhere. We had a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C: first, we’d check out Mount Kerkeslin Campground, which is first-come-first-serve; if that was full, we’d try Honeymoon Lake Campground, which is also FCFS; if both of those were full, we’d drive the extra 50 km down the parkway and set up in the Icefields Centre Parking Lot, which allows RVs.
Plan A didn’t work out. The campground was packed full. It’s such a beautiful place, right along the Athabasca River, so I’d love to try for it again sometime. I started to lose hope at this point as Kerkeslin was the larger campground of the two. However, if you’ve read the title of this post, you already know that we found a site at Honeymoon Lake. Not just any site though… the last site. We were so lucky.
Parks Canada’s FCFS campsites require a self-check-in process. You claim your site, go to the kiosk, complete a form on an envelope, slide in some cash or fill out a credit card slip, and pop it in the lock box. You clip your stub to the post with your site number and that’s how staff can confirm that you’ve paid. The stub also indicates the dates the sites are paid for, so if you leave for the day and take all your gear, folks would know the site is still reserved. This is really beneficial for campers in vans or RVs. For us, we leave our trailer behind so nobody could snag our site anyway. We got site #26, which is in the middle of the loop that is closer to the lake. It’s a good site but not much privacy– but that didn’t bother us because we had some interesting and friendly neighbours.
The lake itself is stunning. It sits at the base of some snowy mountains and was super calm when we were there. It’d be the perfect place for kayaking, paddleboarding, or canoeing.
We used Honeymoon Lake as our home base for a few solid days of exploring the sights along the Icefields Parkway. After a relaxing night around the campfire, a few drinks, and chatting with our neighbours on Friday evening, we were up early Saturday morning to check out Athabasca Falls. If you search Jasper National Park on Instagram, you’re bound to see a breathtaking photograph of Athabasca Falls– it’s a true landmark and a tourist hotspot. This is for good reason. Parks Canada has done an excellent job of making views of the falls accessible and safe. The walking trails and boardwalks are easy and very enjoyable (don’t miss the super cool stairs carved out of the rocks).
The falls are absolutely spectacular. The way the rushing water has carved out the rocks over time is unbelievable. I couldn’t stop staring and I was grateful that we arrived early, before the crowds, so we could soak in the view and the spray for as long as we wanted. After we had taken in the falls, we made our way to the rocky beaches along the river at the top and bottom of the falls. We laid back in the sun for a bit and listened to the rushing water. It was one of the best mornings I’ve had in a long time.
On our way back from Athabasca Falls, we stopped at a viewpoint called Glaciers and Goats. We only pulled in because of the funny name, but we are so glad we did because the view was better than any postcard could capture. If you want a great photo-op on your road trip, definitely stop at Glaciers and Goats– I really don’t think it can get much better than this. Plus, we got lucky and saw a mountain goat! The viewpoint is named quite accurately I guess!
Speaking of mountain goats, we were lucky enough to spot an array of wildlife over the weekend we spent in Jasper. We saw two of these goats, a bunch of bighorn mountain sheep, a moose, some elk, what we think was a young grizzly, a black bear, and plenty of hawks. Remember not to bug the wildlife, do not leave food around, and be careful when pulling over on the highway to look at the animals.
We stopped for lunch at a pull-off along the highway near the river. The best lunches are those eaten on the road, especially when you can stop to really enjoy the view. We set up our folding chairs in the box of the truck and took our time with some sandwiches and salads and sparkling water.
In the afternoon, after fixing a sudden water leak in our camper that could have been catastrophic, we headed out to Sunwapta Falls. Like Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls has a great accessible boardwalk system that allows many people to safely soak up the beauty of the falls. However, the first falls aren’t the best, in my opinion. If you follow the trail signs for the Lower Falls, you can see three more spectacular waterfalls. The trail is about 1.5 km one-way and is a steady descent on the way in, which means a steady ascent on the way back, so while I’d describe it as a mild-to-moderate trail, you’ll definitely get a little cardio pump.
Sunwapta Falls has a really neat resort right off the main highway with what appears to be a fun restaurant and gift shop. Because of covid, the restaurant and shop weren’t open, but I’m thinking it might be worth checking out sometime!
Another nice viewpoint that is worth stopping at for a photo-op or a picnic is the Stutfield Glacier, which was about 44 km from Honeymoon Lake. It was the first time we’ve seen an actual glacier and the massive ice block really made our jaws drop.
We really enjoyed our time at Honeymoon Lake. The campsite was fun with gorgeous views and it was within range of so many incredible viewpoints, trails, and landmarks. It’s a great home base for adventure and we’re so fortunate to have gotten the very last site for the weekend. While there, we also ventured down the Parkway to the Columbia Icefield Skywalk… but that’s another story for another time 🙂
Have you stayed at Honeymoon Lake or been to any of the sights that we went to on this trip? Have you gotten lucky with FCFS camping before? Where should we go next? Let us know in the comments!