I've hiked, biked, and skiied portions of this trail. Bikers are advised to stop biking once they reach the swinging bridge; rough go after that point. I've never cross country skiied or snowshoed past Big Bend Campground.
Hiking (what i know best;)):
We started late, nearly 7 pm.
The initial 8 km are a very gradual downhill walk on a very wide open trail (an old road actually). The trail is muddy in some sections and can supply breeding areas for mosquitoes. Still a very good trail.
We stopped at Big Bend for five minutes before heading on to Athabasca Crossing Campground. THIS WAS A MISTAKE. As it was 9 pm we should have stopped and stayed at this beautiful campground. Big Bend is a nice destination in itself, for a short and easy camping trip (or day hike). The view of mount Quincy and Dragon Peak is beautiful (see pic).
We continued to Athabasca Crossing and found the trail to be narrower but not an aweful lot rougher. We reached Athabasca Crossing Campground (14.5 km) by 10:30 pm (an hour after sunset).
Off to a late star we set out to Fortress Lake at 10:30 am. GO EARLIER THAN THIS! After crossing the swinging bridge, the trail becomes very rough and constantly climbs up and down. At 18 km you have to cross the Chabba River, this is why you go early, the water level can be over knee deep and unsafe to cross. The rest of the trail is very vague, until you cross the boarder into B.C. An in the blink of an eye you are at Fortress Lake. Beautiful and apparently good fishing.
We returned an hour later. Before crossing the AB boarder we came across the largest black bear I've ever seen (>400 lbs!). The river ford was tougher as the water levels were higher (think of that -- maybe stay over night at Fortress Lake rather than Athabasca Crossing Camp) We returned to Athabasca Crossing Camp, had a fire as there was little else to do at this uninspiring campground (actually one of the worst I've stayed at). The next morning we were off by 10:30 (again) and on the road by 3:30 pm.
Sunwapta Falls (yes the bridge you stand on to view the falls) Highway 93 Jasper National Park, 53 km south of Jasper Townsite -- aprx 50 km from north of the Columbia Icefields.
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Posted By: kyuen
- Sun May 15 18:20:19 UTC 2016
QuestionHi there!! Hoping to get to Athabasca Crossing or at least stay at Big Bend as a base and do some other exploring. When you were here, were there any roughed out logs to sit on etc? Wondering how much we should pack in in terms of camp chairs etc.
Thanks :)ANSWERS are in this forum: Big Bend Campground
Posted By: Fafoin
- Tue May 26 02:20:02 UTC 2009
UpsideFortress Lake is worth all the borin 14km to the Athabasca crossing DownsideAthabasca crossing campground is one of the worst campgroung I stay, If you have the chance to camp at Fortress Lake go for it CommentThis was the best time of the year to do the trail, however I guess many people think like us because we seen 15 hiking on the trail. We did the trail on May 24th-25th and I think if we would have a warmer spring the Chaba river would been higher. We seen a Swan on the Fortress lake and I never a wild Swan ever in my life. Great first hike of the season and beautiful wheather.
Posted By: micsne
- Tue Apr 14 21:01:27 UTC 2009
UpsideGreat early season Hike. I've done it twice in mid-May with no mud or snow. Big Bend is a windy but beautiful camp site. DownsideBoring hike through black pines until you get to Big Bend. CommentWe hiked to Athabasca Crossing last May long weekend. The next morning we set out for East End at Fortress Lake. The Chaba River crossing was relatively easy (no bridge, bring sandals) and the East End campsite was spectacular. We had the whole place to ourselves! The return trip was perilous because the Chaba gained considerable speed and depth over night! I loved the trip but recommend saving the trip from Athabasca Crossing to Fortress Lake for later in the season or do it as a day trip so that you know the crossing will be OK both ways. If you are looking for an easy overnight trip to introduce people to backpacking, Big Bend is a good choice.