Taking a break from my travels through the Continental Divide to tell you about my latest camping adventure at Abraham Lake. This particular area of the Alberta Rockies is a hidden gem that most folks aren’t aware of. I didn’t even know it existed until it popped up on my Instagram feed a few years ago – and I’m a born & raised Albertan!
Nick picked me up from work on Friday afternoon. The SUV was packed to the brim with our camping gear and we made a quick stop in Canmore for a few last minute camping essentials: beer, spring water and chips.
We accessed Abraham Lake via the Icefields Parkway. Oddly enough, if you’re traveling from Calgary, it’s quicker to go through Banff, rather than taking the QE2 north and connecting at Rocky Mountain House.
Shortly after passing Peyto Lake, the weather shifted and we were enveloped in thick, smokey haze from nearby wildfires. It seemed to be hovering around the Saskatchewan Crossing and into the Abraham Lake area. Definitely eerie!
There are plenty of Alberta Parks managed campsites available for reservation or first come, but we chose a wilder camping experience on the beach instead. Abraham Lake is entirely public land which means there’s freedom to do almost anything you want! Tents, trailers, bonfires, boats, fireworks etc are welcome on the beach. Heck, you could even canoe to one of the various little islands dotting the beach, pitch a pirate flag and set up camp there. How fun would that be?!
The only necessity is a truck or SUV to access and navigate the beach. I certainly do not attempting any of the side roads in a car as you need high clearance and AWD. You should also know that there are no facilities which means no running water or bathrooms. Most people bring a 5 gallon bucket to do their business in. (I just peed in the bushes, hahaha)
We created our makeshift campsite around 9pm, assembled our tent, then strolled along the beach with some adult beverages in hand. I noticed a huge difference in the longer daylight hours here – it stayed light out for so much longer than it does in Calgary. We took these shots around 10-11pm!
I used to have the worst sleeps in a tent, but we’ve created the perfect set up: individual inflatable mats (the kind you use for backcountry camping) with a memory foam pad, blanket and our sleeping bags. It keeps us toasty warm and unable to feel any rocks. Oh, and we bring our favorite pillows from home.
We were lulled to sleep by the sound of waves lapping at the shore and I slept deeply until 7:30am when nearby songbirds woke me up. Luckily most of the smoke had lifted and we were greeted with sunshine and blue sky! I was excited for Nick to experience Abraham Lake’s stunning ‘Caribbean Blue’ hue once the sun rose. He adores all of Alberta’s blue Kool-Aid lakes.
We ate breakfast on the beach…
Then got ourselves ready for a morning hike/scramble up Vision Quest with Kris! I love/hate this hike. I love it because it only takes a couple hours to complete and has great views. I hate it because it’s so steep and hard on the ol’ glutes (going up) + quads (going down).
When I asked Nick what he thought of the hike he said, “It’s better than most of the shit you force me to hike up”. He’s not a fan of steep climbs – he’d rather stick to flat. Vision Quest is short – 4miles/6km return BUT you gain nearly 3000 feet of elevation. There’s quite a bit of loose scree and I fell at least six times on the way down 😀
Including lunch at the top, we made it up and down within three hours, then headed back to our campsite across the road for a rest. I watched Nick and Kris take a brief dip into the lake, snacked on jerky and beer and spent some time chatting before Kris went home. The photos don’t accurately capture how vibrant the lake is – you’d swear you’re in the tropics!
Nick and I originally planned on staying another night, but we were over tired and ready to go home mid day. I also REALLY missed our toilet, shower and bed – HAHA. I’m glad we packed up and hit the road when we did – as we arrived in Banff, new wildfires nearby suddenly began closing in on the park sending massive smoke plumes and ash into the air. (As of Monday, there’s ash flying around Calgary, too!)
Sunday ended up being a restful day for us. We tidied our condo, put our camping gear away, picked up some new house plants, then spent the afternoon strolling through downtown on our way to Made by Marcus for National Ice Cream Day. They had $5 sundaes on special!
We stopped at National so I could use up some gift cards that I’ve been holding onto for two years. I sipped on a gin & rose adult slurpee + snacked on oysters.
I wasn’t in the mood for anything super indulgent and decided on a scoop of cookies & cream. Nick went all out with their Unicorn sundae. Isn’t it ridiculous?! It’s vanilla soft serve with strawberry white chocolate magic shell, a rainbow sprinkle cone, cotton candy and more sprinkles.
The rest of our evening was spent relaxing at home – I read half a new book and went to bed at 9. 😀
Over to you:
Did you celebrate National Ice Cream Day?!
Do you like camping? Where do you usually go? Tent or trailer?