If you find yourself in Jasper in winter, thinking that your options for adventure are limited by the season, you couldn’t be more wrong. Like much of the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park becomes a whole new world when the seasons change. If you’re looking for some inspiration to get you started, snowshoeing Medicine Lake and Watchtower Canyon could make the perfect Winter adventure!
Medicine Lake is located west of the township of Jasper, along Maligne Lake Road. This large lake is the setting for canoeing and watersports in summer, but it drains almost entirely of water in the winter, making it ideal for snowshoeing.
The road that runs around it offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, and when we were there the trees had been stripped of their needles by a forest fire, leaving the blackened trunks starkly outlined by the white snow pack. It was not something I would have called beautiful from description alone, but the effect was pretty in a very ethereal way.
We parked at the main parking lot and snowshoed down and across Medicine lake. The wonderful thing about Jasper in January is that it is all but deserted. It had been two weeks since the last snow, yet there were barely any other tracks of footprints in the lake. We had the whole lake to ourselves, which in my opinion is the best way to see a new place.
It was our first time snowshoeing, but it wasn’t difficult at all. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. We made our way across the lake, staring in wonder at the scale of the mountains rising up around us. While driving past, I could have sworn we were halfway up the mountain, but looking from the lake it was clear that the road was only a fraction of the height of the surrounding ridge line.
Approximately 1 km from the car park, on the western side of Medicine lake, there is a gully which runs away from it. Known as Watchtower canyon, we trekked up this in search of a frozen waterfall we had been informed was waiting at the end of the walk.
The creek that runs from the waterfall was frozen and snowed over, but we could hear it gurgling away under the ice. It was very serene, walking amongst the towering charred pine trees, with nothing but the wind and the sound of the creek for company. This kind of solitude in a park as well-traversed as Jasper is a perfect excuse to visit in the off-season.
The waterfall is located a further 1 km into the canyon, and falls from almost the full height of the surrounding cliffs. Because it was well into the winter season and the solid ice and snow pack provided good purchase, we were able to clamber up the waterfall halfway, to get a better look. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the colour of the water here.
The turquoise of a frozen waterfall is now my favorite colour.
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