Family Fun in Glacier of the North

by - Saturday, August 23, 2014

When we stayed in Glacier National Park, it was love at first sight. Glacier of the North, I mean, just east of Revelstoke, British Columbia. We had passed through dozens of times on our way to the Okanagan, done some of the interpretive trails over the years, and popped in to the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre, but had never stayed the night. Since the scenery is beautiful and our kids can't handle more than a few hours in the car, we set up camp in Glacier on our way to and from Shuswap Lake Provincial Park and are so happy we did. Rich in beauty and history, Glacier offers a rare opportunity to camp in a national historic site as well as several kid-friendly trails!

Why hug a tree when you can hug your sister and BFF?
A hugging spot in Loop Brook Campground
As you drive in to Loop Brook Campground (one of three campgrounds in Glacier with 20 first come-first serve campsites), you are greeted by stone pillars that supported railway tracks in days gone by, and towering hemlocks and cedars. Take in the cool, moist air; the music of rushing water; and golden, dappled sunlight filtering through the trees. It is easy to find a perfect campsite at Loop Brook: all are shaded and level, and washrooms and firewood are close by. Although there are no showers at Loop Brook, there are flush toilets, a dishwashing sink, beautiful cook shelter, and firewood (available with purchase of a Fire Permit). We expected a lot of road noise at night being close to the highway, but the creek drowned it out, so everyone had a pleasant sleep. 

Loop Brook Campground Cook Shelter
If you stay at Loop Brook, the self-guided Loop Brook Trail, departing from the campground, is a must! As you climb up and away from the brook, you pass by tall stone pillars - some of the oldest manmade structures in western Canada - and can read the interpretive signs. Where the trail flattens out, you tread on the old railway surface. The wooden ties are still there peeking through the dirt! Typically, the trail is a 1.6 km loop, but as of July 2014, when we were there, the last section of the trail was covered by a mudslide and closed, so we had to go back the way we came. Although Parks Canada describes the trail as having "short, steep sections", our 3 year old and 5 year old had no trouble completing the hike on foot.

The next day we headed to Hemlock Grove Boardwalk Trail for a "hike". I had been to Hemlock Grove before, but the huge trees - up to 350 years old - never fail to amaze me. This trail is barrier-free and suitable for strollers and wheelchairs, but if your kids are like mine, they'll run the whole 400 metres. Since they were done in minutes, we went through a second time to take some photos, then had a little snack near the parking lot and watched the ground squirrels. Some people must feed them, for the cheeky little critters were so bold as to dash under our table for crumbs!

Racing on the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk
Still Running!
Five days later, we returned to Glacier and stayed at Illecillewaet Campground. Illecillewaet is larger than Loop Brook with 60 sites, so it's a good option if you pull in late in the evening since all of the campgrounds in Glacier are first come, first served. If you have time to do some real hiking in Glacier, Illecillewaet is the best place to camp as eight trails start from there. The amenities were identical to Loop Brook, with the addition of a staffed Welcome Station at the centre of the campground. Again, it was quiet considering the location, the sites were shaded, and it was comfortable since there were hardly any mosquitoes.

To learn more about local rail history, be sure to stop at the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre. While you're there, you can hike to Balu Pass (6.4 km one way)! Enjoy lush vegetation and mountain views. Be sure to bring lots of water as there isn't much tree cover after the first 1.5 kilometres.

Balu Pass Trail
Glacier offers beautiful scenery, well appointed campgrounds, and a variety of trails to suit different ages and abilities, but without the crowds of other areas in the Rockies. The glaciers against blue skies are stunning! It's a great destination on its own, or stopping spot en route to the Okanagan or Vancouver.

Important Note: A National Park Pass is required to stay in Glacier National Park. 

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