This is what awaits you at the end of Pyramid Lake Road ... the lake itself. Of all of the many stunning vistas in Jasper National Park, this surely must be among the most spectacular.
If you’re coming to Jasper National Park to see the rich and varied wildlife, then the Pyramid Lake area is a must-visit.
Elk, deer, beaver, moose, birds of every feather – and, of course, bears – are all there to see, and the area is just outside Jasper township.
In fact, access to the area begins within the townsite. You start on Connaught Drive and turn right onto Cedar Avenue. Once you pass the recreation center, the street becomes Pyramid Lake Road, and you’re on your way.
Almost immediately, you’ll find yourself driving through a Douglas fir forest. Douglas firs can approach a full meter in diameter – the average is around 50 cm – thanks to a thick cork layer that gives the trees a defense against all but the strongest and largest forest fires.
There are also more than 20 small lakes in the area, legacies of retreating glaciers through the Athabasca River valleys. Another legacy: lots of trails you can walk, lots of quiet, tranquil settings, and lots of chances to see elk, deer, and the occasional black bear and grizzly bear.
You might come across a gated road 2 kilometers out on Pyramid Lake Road. The gate blocks access to Cabin Lake, which serves as the town’s main water supply. The road itself gives mountain bikers access to the Saturday Night Loop, 28.9 km of loop trail that skirts several local lakes.
The road also passes the access trail to a cottonwood slough, featuring trembling aspen and balsam poplar trees, both in the same family of true cottonwoods. If you’re into birdwatching, this is a prime location. Barred owl, pied-bill grebe, and Barrow’s goldeneye are just some of the birds you can spot here. Beaver and moose are also in the area, especially around dusk.
Another interesting destination along Pyramid Lake Road is Patricia Lake. It’s a beautiful lake, with bungalows dotting the shoreline and rentals allowing you to row across the surface. But it’s what is under the water that makes Patricia Lake unique.
Lying at the bottom of the lake are the remains of a top-secret World War II project – a 1:50 scale model of a warship made completely out of ice.
The idea, which came straight out of Winston Churchill’s office, was to build an unsinkable battleship. Given the havoc wreaked by German U-boats in the English Channel, it was an understandable goal. And where better to build an ice ship prototype than in the freezing heights of the Canadian Rockies? The model was built on Patricia Lake and kept frozen throughout the summer of 1943.
However, the cost of building a full-size ice ship proved to be too high (by quite a lot, actually), so the idea was abandoned, the refrigeration equipment keeping the ship frozen was turned off, and the prototype sunk to the bottom of the lake. It’s still there today. If you’re a diver, and you want to see something truly unique, you’re welcome to go down and take a look.
The road ends, of course, at Pyramid Lake. Sorry, there aren’t any ice ships sitting at the bottom of this lake. But gas-powered motorboats are allowed; rentals are available at the lake. Cast a line into the water, if you’ve a mind; rainbow and lake trout abound, along with Rocky Mountain whitefish. The fishing is first-rate; the Alberta record white sucker was pulled out of Pyramid Lake.
Come winter, there’s even a lighted skating rink maintained on the lake.