Do you want to take a great adventure tourism trip near the Canadian Rockies, but be away from all the commercial tourism, as well keep down your costs and have access to a wide array of wilderness activities? If the answer is yes, then you should take in the area around Hinton, Alberta.
The area is only a short distance from Jasper National Park and the northern beginning of the world famous Icefields Parkway, but still has spectacular views of the mountains. It is also home to the Foothills Model Forest, which also has an impressive interpretive trail, on the west end of the town, and operates interpretive and environmental preservation programs in Jasper National Park, William Switzer Provincial Park and areas around Hinton during the summer months.
Hinton also offers fine accommodations, at a fraction of the costs of Jasper. As well William Switzer Provincial Park has abundant camping facilities. There are also several outdoors lodges, ranches and guiding services.
The area offers quick access to William A. Switzer Provincial Park and, for those seeking more rugged and isolated areas, Willmore Wilderness Area. Both of these areas are accessed from the Yellowhead Trans-Canada Highway, via Highway 40 (The Ram Highway), that runs north, just west of Hinton. Known as the “Scenic Route to Alaska”, the highway goes on to Grande Cache, Grande Prairie and west to British Columbia.
A word of caution…If you take this highway, fill your gas tank at Hinton. It can also be an interesting cycle trip (but be prepared for bears on the road). There are also many guided horse trips through the area, as well as trips for experienced paddlers.
The area is also accessible via bus, as well as rail to the Jasper, where travelers can make their way back to Hinton. For railroad enthusiasts, the original Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Station House, has been re-located, a short distance east, on the south side of the Yellowhead highway.
For those wishing to do some great trekking in the primarily spruce forests, on the eastern slope of the Canadian Rockies, the Hinton area has a great selection of trails provided by Hinton Wood Products, A division of West Fraser Mills Ltd. Go to their website for a listing of their Trails, as well as links to their protected areas and campgrounds. Hinton is also the home of the Alberta Forest Service Museum
Driving up the approximately 40 km on highway 40 and then taking about 35 km of rough gravel, there is also a fabulous campground at Rock Lake, at the beginning of Willmore Wilderness Area Park. A short distance north of the campground there is a main staging area, for backpacking, hiking, back country cycling and horse trail riding.
Travelers into this area must be aware that this is wild country. Back country trails and campgrounds are much more rustic that those in the National Parks. Maps, compass use, proper gear, clothing, food storage/disposal and experience and bear avoidance skills are mandatory! For those that are prepared…a fabulous trip is in order.
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