Valley of the Five Lakes
June 2012. The Valley of the Five Lakes is the first hike done by many people when they come to Jasper. It’s low elevation in montane forest, and is free of snow before any of the high country so it’s the obvious choice for a spring or early summer day hike. It can often be hiked in regular boots all winter. It may lack the excitement and eye-popping views of Skyline, Tonquin, Cavell, Wilcox Pass, Bald or Opal Hills (one gung-ho hiker I once hiked with called it the Valley of the Five Boredoms) but the lakes nicely frame the local peaks like Cavell, Pyramid, Tekarra, Whistlers, Peveril, Hardisty and Kerkeslin.
And it’s a fabulous place for spring flowers (Geum triflorum or old man’s whiskers above, Calypso bulbosa or fairyslipper below).
The main part of the trail runs from Highway 93 south of what used to be called Five Mile Bridge, and climbs over a couple of low ridges with wetland prairie in between before looping around the lakes. Over the years I hiked the long version a number of times, starting from Old Fort Point and working my way to the lakes, then thumbing a lift back or riding back having stashed a bike at the other end. The section between the lakes and Old Fort Point isn’t all that interesting, but the ends make up for it.
Cheryl dropped me off at the trailhead on the highway and we agreed on a time for her to come and meet me at the Old Fort Point end. We were camping at Whistlers for four nights (it’s a bit of a zoo in mid-summer but in June before all the kids and dogs and all arrived it was very pleasant) and it poured rain much of the time we were there, but this day was warm and sunny.
Only a couple of the lakes are true year-round lakes, the first lake being larger than all the others put together, and the second, third and fourth are rather intermittent. This was one of the few times that I’ve seen significant amounts of water in all five of them.
Idaho blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium idahoense):
Near the first lake was a large patch of yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus).
In all the many times I’d hiked here before, I think this was the first time I’d ever started from the highway and hiked all the way back to town. After the first (or in this case last) lake the trail goes for some time through woods and past a couple of wetlands that don’t rate as lakes, then a couple of other open outcrops, until reaching the south end of Old Fort Point.
Old Fort Point looks like one hill from town but is actually a collection of low knobs and ridges, and can take a few hours to explore just on its own.