Transport between Astoria and Portal trailheads is often discussed topic for those planning through hike. Obviously easiest way is if you are with group that has 2 cars. It will take ~20-25min of driving (1-way). Cavell Road is narrow at spots with several sharp switchbacks in lower part, but Marmot Road is wide open. Problem is if you are solo, or have just 1 vehicle. So here is bit of discussion on that topic & what worked for me.
Biggest, often repeated advice I can give is: Do NOT leave transport problem for the end when you are all tired and beat after several days in back-country, begging for food and shower. Always, always hike towards your vehicle; it might seem like a drag in the beginning when you are aching to get going, but you'll be really thankful at the end.
Three different approaches are possible:
1) Hitch-hiking. Keep in mind that Cavell Road is far busier than Marmot road, and you might need two different rides. This is least viable option in my mind
2) Taxi. Portal trailhead has cell coverage, Astoria doesn't. So if needing a ride from Astoria, you might need to arrange in advance. There is also $$ question; think someone told me it will take ~$100 CAD
3) Cycling. Most self-reliant which is always the best choice, but there are issues, such as:
- Astoria trailhead is higher and cycling Cavell road uphill will be huge grunt
- Cycling for at least an hour before the hike with heavy overnight backpack will require additional energy
- Stashing of bike / backpack. You are likely not to cycle with overnight pack on your back & that means backpack will need to be left unattended at starting trailhead for over an hour. Also bike will have to be left 'out there' for several days. Now Jasper is not BC and thefts are not as common, but there is still a risk
Some people use combination of cycling and hitch-hiking. In Maccarib campground I met French girl; she had bike stashed at Portal where she planned to finish. She was going to cycle Marmot Road downhill, then try to hitch-hike busier Cavell Road where chances for pick-up are higher.
Finally, this is what I did, and including some info I think only few Jasper locals might be aware off:
First, I drove to Portal TH, got ready then left backpack behind the toilet. (It was a risk but nobody saw me doing it, road is almost deserted and you'd have to look quite hard to find it). I took only small water bottle with me, drove to Astoria, parked then mounted a bike. You will need water, and roughly 5 min down Cavell road there is bridge with good water where I stopped and filled up, then strapped bottle on bike frame
[Aquila Peak behind the drainage with water on Cavell Road]
Ride down is great fun! Mind the switchbacks and brakes, as well as cars. Then it's ~3km on Wabasso Road which is mostly flat or even slightly downhill. Then it's up Marmot Road, and that is the problem. It was very hot day, already +30 and I was not sure I'll be able to pull it off. But just as I started up Marmot Road, almost directly opposite road sign ~100m from Wabasso Road I noticed trail entering forest. I was always suspecting hiking trail might exist there, even inquired with lobo, but he hasn't heard of any. Well, there is one and it is quite good; I think it is used by local mountain bikers. So I stashed my bike in the forest and hiked up. Basically trail climbs above south bank of Portal Creek and being with no backpack I was able to run up that trail very fast; it emerges on Marmot Road ~1km from Portal Trailhead !!
[Remainder of Marmot road I walked to Portal Trailhead, ~1km]
In total, cycling + hiking it took just above 1 hour, spending very little energy. Backpack waited for me untouched. I highly recommend this alternative if you are not quite up to cycling Marmot Road uphill
Portal Trailhead, after successful bike&hike from Astoria. It was exactly 2pm at this point and ~20km hike to Maccarib Campground awaited. This is next post.