Fall is one of the sweetest times of the year to visit wilderness destinations, and adventure travelers are starting to figure it out. This year, Yellowstone National Park saw their second highest October visitation on record with 175,000 visitors. While that may sound like a lot of people, it is still a quiet time compared to the peak month of July when nearly a million visitors pass through Yellowstone.
Being a rock climber, Yosemite is one of my favourite National Parks, but the high season is almost unbearable. The campfire smoke and automobile exhaust hangs in the deep valley, giving a muddy hue to the otherwise spectacular views. An air quality website gives Yosemite an air quality score of 1.5 out of a possible 10 - with 10 being the best. Not so pristine. I used to visit the park every year to climb on the big walls and countless smaller cliffs, but the urban flavor of the area eventually cut into my enjoyment of the place and I found myself seeking less popular destinations.
Then a couple of years ago I visited Yosemite in November. We spent a week on a vertical camping trip while climbing the legendary 1000-metre wall of El Capitan. The mist that clung to the valley floor in the morning wasn’t tinted brown, but rather the perfect white of an Ansel Adams photograph. The sounds floating on the breezes weren’t the noise of cars and tour buses, but instead the sounds of birds and waterfalls. The nights were cold, but a big sleeping bag and down jacket felt like a worthwhile trade-off for the experience of savoring Yosemite Valley without the acrid flavor of tourist season.
Even if school, work, or family doesn’t allow you to choose the ideal season for adventure travel, there are a lot of overlooked places where you can travel during the peak travel months, and still experience a wilderness adventure without competing with thousands of other people.
Western Canada is one of those places. Sure, during the summer, the most popular destinations around Lake Louise and Banff can be as crowded as Old Faithful on the 4th of July, but the lesser-known destinations of the Canadian Rockies are as quiet and beautiful during the peak summer months as Yosemite 200 years ago. Take CMH Summer Adventures, for example; thanks to helicopter access and guided expertise, it is possible to explore a valley as spectacular as Yosemite with as many people as you can count on one hand - or less.