My friend John Shaw and I hiked into Castleguard Meadows via the Saskatchewan Glacier and out via the Alexandra River on Aug 16-20, 2020.
This may have been the best backpack of my life. The variety of terrain was amazing: walking on a glacier, the expansive meadows, the huge springs in the Castleguard River valley, the broad Alexandra surrounded by rugged peaks and ridges. I could have stayed several more days. I want to do it again, more slowly. An extra day in the meadows, plus one more at Watchman Lake, maybe another night at Terrace Creek to walk the river flat and follow the creek up to its canyons.
The route is not an easy one, but it wasn't as hard as I expected. Some travelers have reported getting lost. The Castleguard and Alexandra rivers have washed out the trail in several places and it can be easy to lose the trail. But we stayed on course with the help of the an excellent gpx track provided by Laurent T.-Blanchet. We bushwhacked where necessary but even then usually could find a faint trail formed by other bushwhacking hikers.
One of the two main difficulties with the route lies at a washout of the forest road trail east of Terrace Creek. Hikers can either bushwhack or walk in the wide river bottom, meeting and fording Terrace Creek to rejoin the trail on the west bank.
The other is the washout along the Castleguard only about 350m from the beginning of the trail that ascends into the meadows. We bushwhacked up and over the several springs including the monster Big Spring that feeds Outram's Shower Bath. With low water, others have forded the Castleguard twice here to rejoin the trail, but I felt the water was much too high and fast.
Thanks, Lobo, for your trip reports about this route and for tips about how to ascend the lateral moraine.
Here's our 60km route in red. Laurent's route from 2018 is in purple.
Here are a few photos:
Departure from trailhead at Big Bend of the Icefields Parkway
Approaching the Saskatchewan Glacier
On the glacier
The lateral moraine. Access to Castleguard Meadows is up one of the chutes in the steep part of the moraine.
Me ascending the chute. I love this shot because it shows the scale of the glacier.
John celebrates his ascent. The Columbia Icefield is up top with Mt Columbia in the background.
Middle Castleguard Meadows
Cascade just downstream from official Castleguard campsite. The only facility was an outhouse (deluxe!), no bear hang, no tent pads. Terrace Mountain in background.
Cascade turns into a waterfall just downstream. Prominent peak at right is Watchman Peak
Outram's Shower Bath. It is not a river. The flow gushes out all at once from Big Spring just at the top.
Fields of Northern Mountain Avens gone to seed. This doesn't look like much in a photo, but it was truly delightful in the afternoon sun.
The broad valley of the Alexandra at Terrace Creek.
Except for the bridge over the North Saskatchewan River at the trailhead, this is the only bridged stream on the route.