Hike #1 this summer: Carthew-Alderson – Waterton, Alberta

It was a tough decision making this hike my #1 experience this summer while away camping and doing photography for 2 months.

My previous three: Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone, Sulphur Springs in Jasper, and Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone were all spectacular hikes.

But, after I looked over the photographs that were taken on this hike, I figured out that it was not such a hard decision after all.

Here are the dets from the Waterton Park site.

Distance: 18.0 km / 11.1 mi (one-way, transportation needed to or from trailhead)
Time: 6 – 8 hours (plan a full day)
Elevation Gain: 650 m / 2132′

Carthew-Alderson is one of the most beautiful hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park. Enjoy some of the most breathtaking scenery the Canadian Rockies has to offer! This trail winds through the montane, sub-alpine, and alpine zones! From Carthew Summit look east over the peaks to the prairies, and south into Glacier National Park, Montana.

Highlights include a misty walk through one of Waterton Park’s oldest forests, and the pyramidal grandeur of Mt. Alderson. You can take the hike from Cameron Falls in the Townsite to Cameron Lake, or from Cameron Lake to the Falls.

Follow the thick red line!

So come 7:45 am on this beautiful August morning, with coffee in hand (necessity!), we set out with a group of about 10 others in a mini bus from The Tamarak and headed to Cameron Lake to begin this adventure.

As per usual, we began our little competition of making sure we stayed in first place, ahead of the bus load of people that were dropped off with us. A few quick pictures were snapped of the two glacial lakes along the way.

It seemed that everywhere we turned, an amazing, jaw-dropping scene awaited us. So for once, we decided to sacrifice a record time on the hike and take it slowly. We stopped to appreciate all of the various scenes in front of us.

Wowee – look at that!

One of my favorite spots on the hike was an optional side trail to the peak up Carthew Ridge. It had one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. You could see into Montana, and Glacier National Park. You could see all the glacial lakes dotting the landscape and mountain peaks rising from the ground and surrounding you in a awe-inspiring 360 degree view. As my boyfriend was off on one of his frantic searches for wildlife to photograph, I sat atop a rock and enjoyed a peaceful view of the rugged landscape.

Another fav (it was so hard to pick a fav moment) was walking over a ridge of snow that emptied out into a lake. I could actually see the belly of the snowpack from the base of the lake. Ohhh what fun it would be to take my geography students to this area!

Overall, I had to designate this hike as my favorite, over Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone because there were just so many unique, diverse and spectacular views awaiting me with every 10 steps I took.

Almost there! We can see the townsite peaking out from the trees.

Hike #4 Specimen Ridge: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Hike #3 – Sulphur Skyline: Jasper, Alberta

Hike #2 – Avalanche Peak: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Top 4 hikes a la summer- #4 Specimen Ridge, Yellowstone

Welcome to Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. One of my favorite areas in this vast park.

I know I mentioned earlier that I would talk about my top 3 hikes this summer, but I just had to include my #4 pick.

At a starting elevation of 8864 feet (end 9600 feet), it’s very surprising if you happen to see anyone else on the trail (aside from a herd of pronghorn).

As the name states, it is one of the ridges of Amethyst Mountain, starting just past the Yellowstone River.  And you basically have this place to yourself. Not many people set out to hike this trail, that, as we discovered, had many paths.

And, as the name also states, you may see some fine specimen on this trail, including: pronghorn, grizzly bear, elk, bison, and rarely, moose.

Which path to take? Umm, we decided uphill was the way to go – the steeper, the better.

What my boyfriend and I found amazing about this hike, aside from the lack of people on the trail, was the glimpse we got of Yellowstone ‘behind the scenes’.

We could see, to our right, the Tower Falls area. A place where we spent countless hours watching two sets of black bears with cubs. We had no idea how enormous the area was behind the ridge. Imagine all the wildlife we would be able to spot if we could have seen into this area!! It just blew my mind.

To our left, we could see the entrance to the Lamar Valley, and again, our mouths were dropped at the areas we would never have be able to see from the road.

Difficulty? I would say moderate. It’s a high elevation hike, little shade, and steep hills. Make sure you have good hiking boots, or you might end up downhill skiing as I did on the way back.

Hike #4 this summer

What a fine specimen this hiking trail sounds like, and a great possibility for adventure this summer in Yellowstone:

Specimen Ridge Trail

Specimen Ridge (fossil forest) 3.2 miles, one way.
Amethyst Mountain 10.0 miles, one way.
Lamar Valley Trail junction 14.7 miles, one way.
Soda Butte Trailhead 17.1 miles, one way.

Elevation change: Trailhead at 6,250 feet (350-foot gain, but overall, a 3,364-foot gain to Amethyst Mountain).
Trailhead: The trailhead is 2.2 miles north, then east, of Tower Junction on the Northeast Entrance Road, at the glacier exhibit.

The Specimen Ridge Trail is a long, hot and grueling trail during summer. But it does provide access to unusual features, terrain and valley vistas. A good portion of this trail, however, shows signs of the 1988 fires. Winds pushed the fire here and it burned the ridge extensively on most sides.

From the trailhead, the trail heads south toward the Yellowstone River, where it arrives at the four-way junction. The west trail leads to the Yellowstone River picnic area (see Yellowstone River picnic area trail for description), and the south trail leads to the old Bannock Indian Ford.

The east trail continues on the Specimen Ridge Trail and begins a steep ascent of the ridge. Atop Specimen Ridge is a spur trail to the Specimen Fossil Forest. This trail accesses the Specimen Fossil Forest Trail (see Specimen Fossil Forest Trail for description) and the petrified fossil trees on the north aspect of Specimen Ridge.

From the summit of Specimen Ridge, the trail continues east through high, rolling hills. It is not an interesting trail, but there are good views of Yellowstone-especially of the Grand Canyon-from the high points.

Amethyst Mountain (9,614 feet) is the highest point along the trail; from there is a good view of Mount Washburn to the west and the Mirror Plateau to the southeast. From Amethyst Mountain, the trail begins its 2,854-foot descent over 4.2 miles into the Lamar Valley and the junction with the Lamar Valley Trail (see Lamar Valley Trail for description). From the Lamar Valley Trail, choose from two directions to approach the Northeast Entrance Road. The longest route heads northwest down valley and ends at the Lamar picnic area near the Lamar Ranger Station, but the Lamar River must be forded just before the picnic area. The other route, the shortest and most direct one, fords the Lamar River just after the Lamar Valley Trail junction and continues northeast. The trail then crosses Soda Butte Creek via a footbridge before exiting at Soda Butte Trailhead.

I completed part of this hike last year, but I really crave MORE! It was gorgeous, peaceful and unique!