Don't be fooled by the short "trail" up the Geraldine Valley in Jasper National Park. It is very difficult in places and requires solid route finding skills.
HIKERS BEWARE: With kilometres of rock hopping across talus field after talus field combined with scrambles up steep headwalls, this route is not for those with weak ankles, poor balance or a fear of heights. To make matters worse, the lichen that grows on the rocks is slippery when wet.
For those who do have the required skills the Geraldine Valley is a challenging and rewarding trip up a narrow valley. The route passes tranquil lakes connected by deafening waterfalls as it climbs 400m in short steep spurts to the campground. It can be done as a day trip or an over-nighter.
From the parking lot a good dirt path enters the trees to the right of the trailhead kiosk and begins a straight forward ascent up the lower slopes of Whirlpool Peak. At 1.5km, after crossing a small ridge, the trail comes along Geraldine Creek for the first time and 300m later to the shore of the First Geraldine Lake. The trail next to the lake is almost always muddy and will introduce hikers with a taste of the rocky challenge to come. The waterfall at the far end of the lake is best viewed from the trail and rocky points along the lake. The first lake is home to a porcupine that always waits for the last minute to run away, leaving many a hiker's heart pounding, thinking they have spooked a bear.
The end of the 1st Lake is also the end of the trail. From this point it's more of a route than a trail. Cross the obvious path through the rocks and begin the steep climb up the climbers right of the waterfall. This headwall climb has many trees and rocks to hold on to as you gain 90m of elevation in less than 300m of distance. At the top you are left standing at the edge of a small talus field and no sign of a trail.
While they can not always be relied upon small rock piles call cairns, built by hikers who have gone ahead of you, sometimes mark the route. These cairns are not always easy to see but if the way isn't obvious look for one to guide you on your way.
So once again, you're at the top of the waterfall and there is a talus field ahead of you. Cross to the other side, relocate the path and continue on your way. A short distance later the path disappears once again on the edge of a talus field. Look for a yellow maker across the valley, this is the one and only time the route crosses the valley before the 2nd Lake. There is no ford as the creek is conveniently buried under the talus so rock hop your way across the valley, past a crystal clear pond and into the woods. In the trees the path rematerializes.
Exiting the trees the path crosses rocky but relatively level terrain as it approaches within 100m of the second and most beautiful waterfall in the valley. Picture Time. At this point the path turns left and begins a very steep climb up the second headwall. Unlike the first, this headwall has nothing to hold on to as you make you way up 60m of vertical over next 100m. There is nothing to do but trust in the traction of your boot sole as your legs scream for mercy. The grade improves at the top of the headwall but the path continues to climb another 80m through talus and steep slopes to the viewpoint over the Second Geraldine Lake 400m away.
At 5km, the viewpoint or the shore of the lake is the turn around point for day hikers, while backpackers have one final challenge ahead of them. The campground which is at the far end of the lake is over a kilometre away, and it's a rock hop almost every step of the way. When you do reach the far end of the 2nd Lake, look for a double log bridge 30m up the creek that will lead you to the campground, 6.2km from the trailhead.
The Second Geraldine Lake c/g is equipped with four tent pads, two picnic table, a bear pole with cables and a privy out back. Camp fires are not permitted in the Geraldine Valley so be sure to bring a camp stove. Porcupines are regular visitors in the campground so don't leave your boots lying around, to a porcupine they are a salty treat.
While the route continues up valley to a 3rd and 4th lake it is far from obvious and all but impossible to explain. Here are some general pointers: From the campground cross over the bridge and follow the climbers left of the creek over talus field after talus field laced together by snippets of crude path. At the Third Geraldine Lake make the choice of bushwhacking all the way around the east shore or of crossing the creek to the west shore. The Fourth Geraldine Lake easily gained by following the creek and the route to the pass beyond is obvious, if not easy.
Again, a trip in the Geraldine Valley is not for everyone. Wardens have to rescue hikers with badly sprained ankles and broken legs every year. Don't get in over your head. Don't become a statistic!
From Jasper drive south on the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93) for 30km to the turn off at Athabasca Falls. Turn right and follow Hwy 93a for just over a kilometre and turn left on the Geraldine Fire Road. Follow this narrow bumpy road for 5.5km up tight switchbacks to the parking lot. The Geraldine Fire Road is not for vehicles with low suspension, leave the sports car at home.
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Posted By: RachelLynne
- Wed Aug 10 19:57:40 UTC 2016
UpsideRemote, if you start early, won't see many hikers out. Wild scenery and variety of terrain. DownsideOnly about 1.5 km is "easy". The rest takes concentration. Easy to get lost if you miss cairns on the way back. CommentIf you don't want to go right to the second lake, instead of taking the cairn to the left at the top of the second climb (parallel to the second set of falls) take the turn (marked by a cairn on the right) and a faint trail. It will take you right to the falls for a fantastic lunch break spot. Realistically, look at 6+ hours return (including any rest stops).
Posted By: score716
- Wed Aug 07 05:17:17 UTC 2013
QuestionHi, Im just wondering if the campground is accessible by vehicle or if it is hike only?. Thnx for your help!ANSWERS are in this forum: Camp Ground
Posted By: Seanith
- Tue Jul 23 18:40:57 UTC 2013
UpsideGreat challenge, epic waterfalls and nice views. DownsideToo much rock hopping, trail is hard to find, the worry that you may hurt yourself. Not really recommended for dogs. CommentWe did this yesterday. Decided to call it quits in view of the 2nd waterfall. I could have gone further but the dog had enough and my girlfriend injured her ankle a month earlier. It was late afternoon on a Sunday night, so decided not to risk keeping on on day 3 of a hiking weekend. I wish I made it to the 2nd lake...
Posted By: Tyler17
- Fri Mar 05 04:22:33 UTC 2010
UpsideGreat Hike very rewarding for a 9km hike. Great views and scenery DownsideThe rocks were a challenge and. alot of scrambling but don't let it deter you.
Posted By: denejean
- Sun Feb 08 18:47:45 UTC 2009
UpsideBeautiful views and waterfalls. Nice private campsites. Private-ish potty which the kids thought was quite a novelty! DownsideBoulders, boulders and more boulders! CommentWe did this hike in August with our 7 and 9 year old children. We had done this hike 15+ years ago, and time had mellowed our memory of the difficulty! Our kids were AMAZING, but I would not recommend this hike for children under 12. It takes a lot of stamina!
Posted By: marvin
- Wed Oct 15 07:46:30 UTC 2008
CommentHard work for the eyes and knees! But a wonderfull trail for a short day (up to the fall behind the 2nd lake) Saw mountain goats on the rocks! Also the sun was shining the air was cooler than expected and at the 2nd lake it was very windy! You will have no great overview just the valley but there are not much hikers.
Posted By: knadine08
- Tue Jul 08 04:44:42 UTC 2008
Upsidebeautiful scenery Downsidemuddy early in the season Commentone of my favourites for a nice quick trip
Posted By: jpl
- Mon Mar 24 19:06:44 UTC 2008
UpsideA really nice mix of everything! You see it all on this hike and you do it all as well! Climbing on boulders, hike up along side a waterfall.. you name it. Nice waterfalls, great views as you go up higher in the valley. DownsideLots of mosquitoes near first lake, like swarms! But it only seems to be there. CommentWatch for trail markers, as you can wander off and loose time.
Posted By: gulducati
- Wed Sep 12 05:27:56 UTC 2007
UpsideSmall campground, private pads with beautiful view of second Geraldine Lake from most of them Nicely sheltered eating area at campground, good picnic tables, adjacent to creek Three lakes and two waterfalls along route. Excellent, sweeping views of valley during the two steep climbs after the first Geraldine Lake. DownsideMet hiker who twisted his knee on one of the talus fields. Met another pair who were forced to stay an extra night at camp because previous day's snow made rocks too slippery to traverse safely. CommentChallenging, but not necessarily satisfying as there are few places to make good progress along this trail. Between talus fields the trail is a mix of steep, rooty, rocky and muddy. As a result, there are many places where the trail is not well defined, however there are plenty of markings in the form of cairns and Parks Canada signage. Still a worthwhile trail for the views, waterfalls, and the pleasant campground.
Posted By: cherylm
- Fri Sep 07 02:54:05 UTC 2007
UpsideBeautiful waterfall between 1st and 2nd lakes. DownsideLots of rocks and spotted a bear on the ridge too. CommentIf I had known that the trail was so rough I wouldn't have taken it, but glad I did in the end and will return. Just goes to show you, sometimes ignorance is bliss. Trail was recommended in a guidebook as being easy!! Not so my friends.
Posted By: Sterek
- Tue Jul 26 18:57:31 UTC 2005
Upsidedescription is right on! The wet parts, the talus (I had another few names for it!) is really tough and takes mental concentration to get over. CommentThe bugs are out in force! Also there were some deer traipsing around in the c/g that were really tame, but caused some alarm when we first heard them prior to identifying them.