Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: Illecillewaet Campgroud, Glacier National Park

Illecillewaet's rushing
mountain stream
Location: 1 hour east of Revelstoke
Website:  Parks Canada
Map: Parks Canada or Google Maps
Camping Facilities: Strictly car camping
Grade: A-
Stargazing: Tough to find a good clearing, with all the trees and mountains, but they're nice to look at as well.
Summary: Good privacy, beautiful scenery, excellent park resources
Thoughts: There's a bit of an abrupt transition that hits you on the drive between Banff National Park and Glacier National Park.  Sure, you enter a different mountain range but that's not it.  Very suddenly the crowds diminish, the traffic subsides and you find your self in a beautiful place that is completely devoid of kitsch.  There's a genuine feel about the natural environment captured by the boundaries within Glacier that seems to be missing the Epcot-centre feel that you get from roaming the streets of the town of Banff or the tacky tourist shops that find in Jasper.  Sure, there's a visitors centre in Glacier, fully stocked with fridge magnets, t-shirts and knick-knacks.  But its really just a minor part of the visitors centre which functions mostly as an interpretive museum for you to learn as much (or as little) about the patch of our planet protected by the park's boundaries.

Wood shed with wheel barrow and barrow-bike
Due to it's distance from large metropolitan centres, you don't get any daytrippers in Glacier.  You strictly find the folks who are trying to explore this region of Canada, most of them by car, but also plenty of them on foot in the backcountry of this rugged wilderness.  Alpine huts and backcountry campsites are dispersed amongst the mountain scenery.  Ah what a splendid thing it would be to sleep atop the Selkirk mountains, but given the late season and the size of our party (2), we opted to remain on the beautiful Illecillewaet campground instead.  Illecillewaet is nestled next to a mountain stream just before the Trans Canada highway veers west, just south of the Roger's Pass Discovery Centre (visitor's centre).  (It's a treacherous turn; one night, I awoke to what sounded like garbage truck emptying a dumpster.  In fact, it was the sound a transport truck jack-knifing and flipping over while taking the sharp turn at too high of a speed.  I realized this upon our departure the next day, when I saw cab and its eviscerated trailer laying across the highway, with it's contents spilled all over the scene.)
Food storage lockers

This campground has a pleasant, uncrowded lay-out, with loops instead of a grid.  There are plenty of trees that act as physical barriers between sites, further increasing seclusion.  As well, the sound of the mountain stream drowns out much of the noise you might otherwise hear from other occupants, adding that much more privacy to your stay.   The services provided within the park are on par with the best you'll find in the national parks; warming huts, a few nicely maintained washrooms (no hot water, no showers), lockable food storage bins, and a very nice wood shed, equipped with a wheel-barrow-bicycle so that you can transport your load of wood with great ease.  All in all, about the best your can hope for in car camping site - maximum privacy that can be afforded (it's still a popular national park after all), great amenities, and adjacent to close to some very nice hiking trails.

Warming hut
In sum, Illecillewaet is a winner in the National Park system.  A nice balance between comfort and privacy, situated in a genuine wilderness zone in one of the most scenic parts of the country.

Atop the Meadows in the Sky Parkway,
a close drive from Glacier

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