Backpacking Guide for Tour du Mont Blanc

This is a detailed, visual blog for planning Tour du Mont Blanc Trek. Below you’ll find the answers to most common questions people ask when planning their trip. Please feel free to reach out and ask any additional questions in the comments section below.

Top Questions Asked:

Hike Information:

Interactive Map Featuring Most of The Rifugios and Alternative Routes

❖ DAY 1: From Milan Airport to Courmayeur And Hike to Refugio Bonatti | 13.5km (8.4mi)

We flew from New York (JFK) and arrived to Milan (MPX) at 8:15AM. At the airport, we picked up our rental and drove to a grocery store. After buying food for the next two days, we drove straight to our Trailhead Parking in Courmayeur and started our hike around 3:00PM. (Please note, car rental option is not the cheapest method of getting to TMB. We opted for it because we were very short on time and we needed all the flexibility we could get. Please refer to “How do I get to TMB and where do I start?” blog for transportation details)

At 3:00PM, we left the car at the trailhead and started our ascend toward Rifugio Giorgio Bertone. It’s a 640 meters (2100ft) uphill climb. We stopped by Rifugio to fill up enough water until Rifugio Bonatti in about 8km (5mi). The trail wraps around the mountain on the NW side and is pretty straightforward all the way until you reach the next Refugio. ]

We reached the Rifugio Bonatti around 7:00PM and they were fully booked. Once we filled up enough water, we hiked on for another 1.5km (0.9mi) until we found a nice camping spot slightly over the trail 45°51’17.3″N 7°02’21.7″E overlooking the valley and Di Freboudze Glacier. We set up out tent and enjoyed beautiful sunset over the Aosta valley. ]

❖ DAY 2: Hike From Refugio Bonatti to Champex  | 31km (19mi)

We woke up around 6:15AM and were on the trail by 7:00AM. The whole beauty of waking up early and getting a head start, is that you don’t get to see other hikers for at least an hour or so. By 9:00AM we reached the Rifugio Elena, which was a perfect spot to eat our packed breakfast.

The climb from Rifugio Elena to Grand Col Ferret is a grueling 500m (1,640ft) stretched over short 2.3km (1.4mi) distance. Take it slow and don’t burn yourself out so you have enough energy for the rest of the day. Once at the pass, the border views between Italy and Switzerland are simply breathtaking! When you reach the next Rifugio, you can order breakfast or lunch, their food looked pretty delicious. From here you have an option to either Road walk or take a higher route. ]

We opted out for a higher route and reached the town of La Fouly by 2:00PM. Once passed the town, you will cross the Dranse de Ferret river and will hike along for approximately 8km (5mi) until you reach the town of Praz de Fort. From here we hiked on for another 3km (1.8mi). Passing by the town of Issert and until we reached a beautiful campground  by the spring overlooking the valley: 46°00’48.4″N 7°07’08.1″E ]

❖ DAY 3: Hike From Champex Lac to Refugio Les Grands | 18km (11mi)

In the morning we reached the town of Champex around 8:00AM. While waiting for the supermarket to open, we grabbed a breakfast at the bakery that had a high-speed internet and a free wifi. Soon after we were back on the trail following the alternative variant “Variante de la Fenêtre d’Arpette” – which is marked Orange on the interactive map after Campex-Lax. It’s a steep, gradual climb, that gets even steeper during final 400 meters before “Fenetre d’Arpette” pass crossing. You will have to scramble over large boulders and follow TMB red & white markers. For this small part, use your best judgement. ]

Once over the pass, the views are simply unbelievable! As you descend down the trail, you’ll see a clear sight of De Trient glacier and giant peaks towering above 3,500 meters (11,500ft). We noticed a huge storm system moving from the west. It didn’t take to long until it started to rain as we descended down into the valley. When we reached Buvette do Glacier du Trient the hut was completely closed and there was no faucets with running water. Luckily, we had enough water with us. (Please note: You can get water from Trient Glacial Melt river, but you may want the water sit in the bottle, and have the sediment drop to the bottom and then carefully poor the top layer into a volume. I would highly recommend filtering with water filtration system similar to Sawyer Squeeze or boil it. The stream’s water looked milky, so most likely it has silt in it (a very fine grinned rock).  ]

From Buvette do Glacier du Trient we are taking the next variant “Variante des Grands“. Once you cross the river, make a left and follow the the trail through a series of switchbacks for a little over 700 meters (2,300ft) until you reach “Refuge Les Grands“. Luckily, the rain stopped. After filling up some water, we hiked on for another 0.4km until we noticed a single camp spot, hidden nicely between spruce trees, overlooking 270 degree views of the entire valley and surrounding glaciers. 46°01’34.4″N 7°00’25.3″E ]

❖ DAY 4: Hike From Refugio Les Grands to Refugio La Flegere | 21km (13mi)

We woke up to crystal clear morning, packed up our tent and started heading toward “Col de Balme Pass”. On clear, non-windy day, it’s a beautiful spot to have lunch or breakfast. From here, we’ll rejoin the original TMB and cross into France! When you descend down from des Posettes Peak, you can grab some delicious food from Auberge La Boerne that is conveniently located near the trailhead. Once you cross the Des Montets Road you will have a tough, over 800 meter (2,600ft) climb ahead of you. Along the way, there will be a slightly intimidating section with vertical ladders that you would have to climb. Make sure to take your time and stay safe.

When you reach the top, you will slowly begin the descend until reaching Refugio La Flagere. Depending on the season (August/September) watch for wild blueberries, they are all over the place. They are full of antioxidants and extremely delicious!  Refugio La Flagere was completely booked, but we were able to eat dinner inside and request to have the lunch packed for next day. There is also free camping 150 meters down from Refugio near man made water reservoir. 45.961076, 6.888344

❖ DAY 5: Hike From Refugio La Flegere to Refugio du Fioux | 27km (17mi)

Today’s hike is pretty gradual with most of the elevation gained toward the end of the day. We will pass by the town of Les Houches and pick up additional groceries. This is a very large town that has supermarkets, restaurants and outdoor stores.

Once out of Les Hoches, you will begin your climb through paved switchback road that will eventually turn into a dirt road leading up all the way to the top of the Cold de Voza Pass. On the other side, you’ll continue along the dirt road until you reach Refugio du Fioux. We made a mistake for not camping at this place, and ended up hiking for another 3km (1.8mi) until we found a camp spot near the Electric Lines. 45.861805, 6.744513

❖ DAY 6: Hike From Refugio du Fioux to Refugio des Mottets | 28km (18mi)

We woke up to clouds hanging low above us. Based on recent weather forecast, we are due for some heavy rain starting before noon and ending the next morning. During the first 10km (6mi) of our trek, the trail runs through the middle of Les Contamines-Montjoie Valley. Most of the hike is on multiple roads and some mixed trails. We did find it to be very interesting as we got to experience some of the local culture and amazing, wooden architecture.

Around noon, the wind picked up. Low hanging clouds descended from above and filled the valleys with chilling moisture. Very soon it started to downpour. Despite bad weather, the hike felt quiet enjoyable. Occasional views with low clouds hanging in the valleys made it look very special. At about 18km (11mi) into our day, we reached a junction to Variante du Col des Fours, which is a beautiful high route, leading toward Refugio des Mottets where we wanted to dry up and stay for the night. However, the hut was fully booked, but they do have a free camping, which is 5min walk from Refugio
45.736280, 6.780248. We were also able to eat delicious 5 course dinner with a friendly atmosphere and enjoy live, wind-up music box playing many well know national and international songs.

❖ DAY 7: Hike From Refugio des Mottets to Courmayeur Trailhead Parking | 27km (17.6mi)

In the morning the rain has stopped. It was pretty cold and we had a large climb ahead of us 620m (2,000ft), which is nice because it gives you a chance to warm up. As we reached Col de la Seigne Pass, we couldn’t see much and therefore quickly continued down the valley. It cleared up eventually once we got down to the valley. Now we were headed for our final ascend before reaching Courmayeur.

When you reach Refugio Combal, the road continue down into the valley where there is a bus that can take down to Courmayeur. Even though we were very tired, we did not want to skip any single part of the trail and regret not catching that view. This is the last climb of over 460m (1,500ft) which opens up to a beautiful view of Glacier del Miage. Early in the afternoon we’ve reached Refugio Restaurante Maison Vieille, we we grabbed some lunch. Food was “Ok”. From here, it’s a final descend down into the Courmayeur for over 850m (2,800ft).

The Ultimate Two Week Road Trip & Outdoor Adventure In California

Cloudy Morning Over Golden Gates Bridge

A one of a kind two-week itinerary for anyone wishing to get the most out of their California Experience. Drive up the famous RT1 aka Pacific Coast Highway. Explore parks and camping opportunities along the way. Visit San Francisco and local wineries. Hike North of SanFran, visit Yosemite National Parks, Kings Canyon National Parks and Death Valley National Parks.

Trip Information:

  • Miles Driven2,000 km (1,200 mi) roundtrip
  • Trip Duration14 Days
  • Google Maps RouteNeeds to be updated

Trip Summary:

    • California has been on our bucket list since the time when we first visited the Canadian Rockies. We always wondered, what would the parks such as Big Sur, Yosemite, Kings Canyon or Sequoia be like? How does it feel to ride on the Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco on a sporty convertible with the top down and camp along the coastal mountains. How large does the Golden Gates Bridge feels in person or how hot it does it get in Death Valley? These are one of many questions that we are going to find the answers to as we take you on our two week journey through the beautiful sunshine state of California. Below are some of the photos from our two-week adventure

❖ DAY 1: Arriving to Los Angeles And Getting To Our Campground Along hwy 1


We arrived at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) at noon. Picked up our rental and went to visit a friend that lived in downtown. After grabbing some amazing food around Audrey Hepburn Wall Mural, at 4PM we were on our way to Washburn Campground which is about 4 hours drive north from Los Angeles. Since we were slightly behind our schedule, we skipped some of the food places along the way that we really wanted to try. A popular Neptune Net Restaurant with 10$ Seafood plates, Santa Barbara Shellfish Company and famous McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams. Please visit our Custom Interactive Map to see these places along our route.

When we got to our campground, it was already dark. We quickly set up our tent, ate some super delicious Backpackers Pantry and watched moon rise over the horizon.

❖ DAY 2: Hike Rocky Ridge Trail Loop & Watch Elephant Seals Gathering

The next morning we woke up to a beautiful Sunrise. It’s the middle of October and it gets pretty chilly, especially in the morning. Consider bringing a puffy with you. Once we made the breakfast, we were on our way to Garrapata State Park to Hike the Rocky Ridge Trail loop. It’s a moderate 5-mile loop hike to the top of the mountains, overlooking a large area of coastal region. A very detailed information about the hike can be found here: Link

Right before Garrapata State Park, there is a popular location (marked on our interactive map) where you can spot the biggest gathering of Elephant Seals within the area. There were literally hundreds of them. More detailed information, including the best time to see the seals can be found here: Link

Once we got back to our car, we started heading toward Butano State Park Campground located about two hours north from Garrapata State Park, which was our final stop for the day.

❖ DAY 3: Wine Tasting and Arriving To San Francisco’s Treasure Island

After spending a night at an awesome campground in Butano State Park we were on our way to Thomas Fogarty Winery to do some classic California wine tasting with beautiful views overlooking the bay.

Once our tour was completed, we started moving toward Treasure Island to our Airbnb. We were planning on going out that night, but we were also a little tired from two days of camping and an East Coast jet leg. We ordered some pizza and beer and called it a night!

❖ DAY 4: Exploring San Francisco, Breakfast at Mama’s and Cable Car Rides!

Our morning started at Mama’s! If you were in San Franscisco and haven’t tried breakfast at this place, you have definitely missed out on some amazing food! We ate it so quick that we forgot to take pictures of what we ordered 🙂 About 20 minute walk from Mama’s, there is a San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and a Hyde Street Pier. Both places provide have clear views of the Golden Gates Bridge & The Alcatraz. ]

It is also the starting point for Powell-Hyde Line, the San Francisco’s Famous Cable Car  which can take you all around town and are super fun to ride. You can hope on and off all day long. You can visit the official website to get the latest information regarding prices and schedules or download a phone app. Later that day we also visited the area of downtown, which was completed abandoned because of the weekend. We also visited Chinatown and the waterfront near Ferry Marketplace. In the evening we grabbed some food and went to explore the area around Battery East and try to take some photos of Golden Gates bridge during sunset.

❖ DAY 5: Morning Sunrise at Golden Gates Bridge and Hiking Mt. Tamalpais

Today we woke up an hour before dawn in order to catch sunrise at Golden Gates North Viewpoint. It’s been extremely cloudy in the past few days and today’s weather conditions were not much of the improvement.

For our Mt.Tam hike we’ve used a paper map that is unfortunately long gone, so I am not able to recall the exact route, but I would love to suggest some of similar hikes in the area. If you’re in for something simple that overlooks the bay, Plank Walk Trail to Mt. Tamalpais East Peak is a good choice. If you prefer more of the coastal scenary, The Miwok and Coastal Trail Loop Hike would be your best option. If you’re in for a full day of hiking, I would recommend Stinson Beach to Mount Tamalpais Trail. Keep in mind, this is a 15 mile hike, so you would need to start early.

Once we finished hiking, we immediately hit the road. It’s a 4 1/2 hour drive from San Francisco to Yosemite Valley. We will spend this night an hour away from the Park entrance at a cheaper roadside hotels. Accommodation within the valley can be pretty limited and fairly expensive.

❖ Day 6: Arriving to Yosemite, Hiking at Mariposa Grove Along Giant Sequioa Trees

Yosemite Valley

Before entering Yosemite, there are quiet a few good options to get breakfast. I would highly recommend visiting Priest Station Cafe which is owned by Conrad Anker’s Family. Best food all around and great people!

When approaching the valley, the first things that you will see is the El Capitan and Half Dome towering high far in the distance. We could not believe the sheer scale of these massive rocks. It’s a truly unforgettable experience!

The first thing on our agenda was to visit the Mariposa Grove, which is home to Giant Sequoias Trees. I highly recommend spending at-least half of your day here, this place is truly unique and beautiful!

You have few options exploring this area. If you’re short on time, you can take Big Trees Trail (Easy 0.3mi) and explore different kind of trees and read lots of historical facts. You can also choose a Grand Tour which is an eight hour guided tour that will take you from Yosemite Valley, to Mariposa Groove and Glacier Point. Or you can also choose to hike the Mariposa Grove. Please see hikes below:

  • Big Trees Loop Trail (easy): 0.3 mile (0.5 km) toop from trailhead, 30 to 45 minutes (wheelchair accessible).
    Begin at Mariposa Grove Arrival Area. Winding through a forest with many giant sequoias, this trail features the Fallen Monarch and interpretive panels on the life and ecology of giant sequoias. This loop is relatively flat and is wheelchair accessible.
  • Grizzly Giant Loop Trail (moderate): 2 miles (3.2 km) loop from trailhead, 1.5 to 2 hours.
    Begin at Mariposa Grove Arrival Area. Start along the Mariposa Grove Trail at the Big Trees Loop and hike past notable trees such as the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Grizzly Giant, and California Tunnel Tree. Allow two hours to enjoy the full loop that winds along the edge of the grove and includes 300 feet (91 m) of elevation gain. Visitors with a valid disabled placard can drive as far as the Grizzly Giant parking area and enjoy this area of the grove via a section of trail that is wheelchair accessible.
  • Guardians Loop Trail (strenuous) 6.5 miles (10.5 km) round trip from trailhead, 4 to 6 hours.
    Begin at Mariposa Grove Arrival Area. After hiking to the tranquil upper portion of the grove, a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) loop takes hikers past many famous features including the fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree, the Telescope Tree, and the Mariposa Grove Cabin
  • Mariposa Grove Trail (strenuous) 7 miles (11.3 km) round trip from trailhead to Wawona Point, 4 to 6 hours.
    Begin at Mariposa Grove Arrival Area. This wide and relatively smooth trail follows a route that people have used to access the grove for generations. See famous sequoias such as the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Faithful Couple, and the Clothespin Tree along this somewhat strenuous route to the upper reaches of the grove. Continue to historic Wawona Point, an overlook with panoramic views. Total elevation gain is 1,200 feet (366 m). A number of alternative trails may be used to access the upper portion of the grove. These trails are generally steeper and more primitive than the Mariposa Grove Trail.

❖ Day 7 – 8: Overnight Hike from 4 Mile Trailhead, up to Glacier Point and down to Yosemite Tunnel View

After Spending A Night at Backpackers Campground we were up before dawn in order to get to Tunnel View to photograph the valley during sunrise and begin our hike at 4 Mile Trailhead. All of the details for this hike can be found in a separate blog by clicking on this Link

❖ Day 9: Cathedral Lake Hike And Head Down Sequoia National Park

Today we are leaving Yosemite Valley and heading toward Tuolumne Meadows to hike on John Muir Trail (JMT) down to Cathedral Lakes. Along the way, we stopped by Olmsted Point and beautiful Tenaya Lake with it’s crystal clear waters. Cathedral Lakes Trailhead is conveniently located along Tioga Rd near Tuolumne Meadows. Detailed information about the hike can be found in our seperate blog by following this LinkWe finished with our hike around 5:30PM and started to head down to our hotel near the town of Fresno, located west of  Sequoia National Park. Directions from Cathedral Lakes Trailhead

❖ Day 10: The General Grant Tree, Kings Canyon National Park & Sunset At Moro Rock.

After spending a night at Fresno, we were on our way to Kings Canyon National Park. Our first stop was by General Grant Tree that was conveniently located along road 180. It’s definitely worth spending at-least an hour of your time here.

After spending some time between Sequoia Giants, we slowly continued driving inside The Kings Canyon Valley. The scenery was beautiful and unique! We were stopping every 5 minutes to take photos! On our agenda, we planned to do some hikes at Copper Creek Trailhead. But while doing the initial research, I’ve made a novice mistake and didn’t realize that Road 180 does not cross Kings Canyon to the other side… And because of that blunder, we didn’t get to do much hiking that day and had to drive for almost 7 hours in order to get to Kearsarge Pass, where we planned to do an overnight hike next day. Our last stop for the day was at Sequoia Park to watch Sunset at Moro Rock. Three is also a Hanging Rock right next to it if it gets crowded.

❖ Day 11-12: Hiking Kearsarge Pass in Kings Canyon National Park

I must admit, just the drive itself, from the town of Independence to Kearsarge Pass was simply mind blowing! We would stop every few minutes just to simply inhale the constantly changing view! We’ve arrived to trailhead parking lot around noon time. After packing our bags, we were off on our short, two day adventure! Detailed blog for hike can be found by clicking this LinkWe got back to our car around 6PM the next day after hiking to Bullfrog Lake. The next thing on our agenda was to visit Death Valley National Park. That same evening we drove for nearly 3 hours toward our campground at Furnace Creek. It was a drastic change, going from 12,000 feet down to -100 feet in a matter of few hours. We had fears of our heads exploding on the way down! Luckily that didn’t happen! 🙂

❖ Day 13: Death Valley National Park

We spent the night at Furnace Creek Campground and let me tell you, what a contrast it was! Going from negative temperatures the night before, to nearly 85F (+30C) degrees at night. It almost felt like we were on another planet. In the morning, we woke up before dawn and drove to Zabriskie Point to watch sunrise over this magical landscape.

Once the sun was above the horizon, we decided to visit Dantes View, which is a large observation area located on top of the mountain at the elevation of 5,500 feet (1,669m). The place is truly incredible and provides amazing views of the surrounding landscapes. On a clear day, If you look to the west toward Sierras, you might be able to spot Mt.Whitney 14,505′ (4,420m), if not, Telescope Peak standing tall at 11,043′(3,360m) should be fairly visible for most of the time. And yes, watch out for those tarantulas 🙂

Another incredible place that we got to visit was an Artists Pallete. It’s an impressive 9 mile drive that takes you through canyons and mountains that are covered in many pigments. These colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals (iron compounds produce red, pink and yellow, decomposition of tuff-derived mica produces green, and manganese produces purple). About 5 miles down the road, there will be a parking lot that provides an opportunity for a short hike.

A really cool place to visit was a Badwater Basin. It’s the lowest point in North America, with a depth of 282 ft below the sea level. It’s very ironic, because Mt.Whitney, is the highest point in the contiguous 48 States and is only located 85 miles from the basin. It’s a short walk and highly recommend stopping by this place.

❖ Day 14: Death Valley National Park

After spending a night at Stovepipe Wells Campground the first thing we wanted to check out, was the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. These dunes are the best known and easiest to visit in the national park. Easily accessible from Hwy. 190 or from the unpaved Sand Dunes Road. Keep in mind, there are no trails because of the continuously shifting desert sands. Find a point to the highest dune, and go directly toward it. Also, hydrate really well before you go and bring lots of water!

After checking out the dunes, our vacation was coming to an end and we had to drive back to Los Angeles to catch our overnight flight to Philly.

Top Questions Asked When Planning Tour Du Mont Blonc

Tour du Mont Blanc is certainly an adventure of a lifetime. I believe it’s very important to make sure that you get the most out of your time and experience while you’re hiking this trail. That’s why we wanted to make a blog where everyone would be able to find all the necessary information for their upcoming journeys.

List of Top Questions:

How long would it take to hike the entire trek?

  • 14 Days: Very easy and relaxed schedule. You’ll have to walk everyday for approximately 12km (7.5mi). If you have time and money, you should definitely consider submerging into local culture and experience towns, villages and Refugio’s, but most importantly, you will have enough time to reconnect with nature.
  • 12 Days: I would consider this as somewhat relaxed schedule. You’ll have plenty of time to put in daily mileage of 13km (8.5mi) and explore nature, towns and Refugio’s without feeling rushed.
  • 10 Days: This is a very good option if you are in good health and have previous hiking experience. You would have to hike for at-least 10 miles a day with over 1,000m (3,000ft) elevation gain.
  • 8 Days: Ok, so this is very it gets a little crazy. 20km (13mi) a day with over 1,200m (4,000ft) elevation gain is definitely something to think about. If you are an active person in good physical health, you should be able to tackle this and I can guarantee that you’ll sleep like a baby because you will be tired by end of the day
  • 6 Days: Ok, so this is where things becoming a little unnecessary. 29km (18mi) a day with approximately 1,800m (6,000ft) of elevation gain is not easy, nor quite as enjoyable by any means. The only reason we attempted this, is because we did not plan to hike TMB at all, as we were only going to Italy to sail of the coast of Sicily. But luckily, my wife was able to get an extra vacation day, which opened up a possibility of hiking TMB in six days.
  • 4 Days: Ok, so this is pretty hard! You must be in very good athletic condition. 40km (26mi) a day with over (8,500ft) of elevation gain is very hard. If you are attempting to do this, then you must really know what you’re doing.
  • 2 Days: I’d say you would only do this for sport or self motivation purposes, as you won’t have time to get your eyes of the trail and look around and enjoy the views.
  • 19 Hrs 01 minutes: Was the UTMB record set by France’s Francois D’Haene in September of 2017. I still can’t wrap my ahead around how this was possible

Which way? Clockwise or Counterclockwise?

The route is pretty much established as Counter Clockwise hike. Although there are many people who do it Clockwise. I personally believe that this should depend to where your starting point is. If you’re starting at Les Houches and going clockwise, you’ll be faced with steep 1,500m (4900ft) ascent. This can be enough to intimidate many hikers and no one wants that to happen. For instance, we started at Courmayeur and we had over 600 meters (2100ft) uphill climb and that felt “refreshing”. If we had to climb for 1,000m (3,280ft) more, it would be really hard, as it normally takes few days to get into decent hiking shape.

Should I camp or stay at the Refuge?

This will largely depend on your outdoor background, how much money would you like to spend, what kind of gear you own, how much weight would you like to carry and how social of a person you are.

We chose to camp because we really enjoy camping and would like to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Our second reason was to save money. A single night at the refuge will run you on average of $60 euro per person/bunk bad. However, it would typically include dinner and breakfast, which makes it a fair deal. For additional $13-15 euro, they will pack a lunch for you.

On another hand, if you camp only, you would miss out on the greatest opportunity to meet new people. I believe it’s very important, because you never know who you can run into. When Dasha and I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, we made a lot great new friends. Some of these friends who met each other during their thru-hike actually got married. So don’t miss out on great opportunities!

What kind of clothes and accessories should I bring?

This is all of the clothes that I brought with me to hike TMB

The main goal is to have as little of items as possible that are made out of high quality warm, breathable and ultra-light material. Please see below for the list of our suggested outfits that we brought for our hike at the beginning of September:

Men’s Clothing:

1. Pants – KUHL Liberator Convertible Pants – Men’s 34″ Inseam
2. Rain Pants – Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants – Men’s
3. Socks – Darn Tough Micro Crew Cushion Hiking Socks – Men’s
4. Socks – Smartwool Expedition Trekking Socks
5. Shirt – REI Co-op Screeline Shirt – Men’s
6. Shoes – La Sportiva Wildcat Trail-Running Shoes – Men’s
7. Puffy – The North Face Trevail Down Hoodie – Men’s
8. Base Layer – Smartwool Merino 150 Pattern Base Layer T-Shirt – Men’s
9. Underwear – ExOfficio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh Boxer Briefs – Men’s
10. Base Layer – Merino Midweight Base Layer Top – Men’s
11. Gaiters – Dirty Girl Gaiters
12. Pillow and Dry Bag – Zpack’s Pillow Dry Bag
13. Rain Jacket – The Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite Rain Jacket

Gear List:

1. Sleeping Bag – EMS Mountain Light 20 Sleeping Bag, Long – we bought our sleeping bags over 6 years ago. This is a similar model, but our were 800 Fill Down and 15F rating.
2. Sleeping Bag Liner – Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme Sleeping Bag Liner
3. Sleeping Pad – Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad
4. Trekking Poles – Black Diamond Alpine Ergo Cork Trekking Poles – Pair
5. Backpack – Zpack’s Arc Haul Backpack
6. Tent – Zpacks Duplex Ultralight Two Person Tent ]

How heavy should my backpack be?

No matter if you’re doing this trek in 6 or 14 days, you have to carefully choose which items do you really need to bring with you. If you’re hiking TMB from Refuge to Refuge and your base pack weight is over 10kg (22lb – not including any snacks or water) then you must be doing something wrong. If you’re not used to hiking in such difficult terrain, you absolutely have to put all the time and effort into optimizing your base weight. ]

Where can I get water along TMB?

You can get water at every Refugio and most of the towns. There is also plenty of natural streams located along the trail. If you are big water drinker or planning on camping, I would suggest bring a water filter such as Sawyer Squeeze. This way you’ll have more flexibility and don’t have rely on huts and towns or worry about going thirsty. ]

How to resupply food?

If you’re staying at the Refuge, you will have a hot dinner, breakfast and you can ask to pack a lunch for an extra 13-15 euro. By choosing this option, you’re pretty much don’t have to worry about food along the trail. There is also going to be plenty of towns, where you can check out local restaurants, cafe’s, bakeries or grocery stores to stack up.

We opted for a cheaper option and had to resupply 3 times on the trail. First, we stopped by the Supermarket and picked up enough groceries for the next two days… Dasha please finish this…

Two Week’s Winter Itinerary in Iceland

Our Two Week Itinerary in one short 3 minute video from Serge Pikhotskiy on Vimeo.

Trip Summary:

WEATHER: Winter in Iceland is a very unique experience. Although high season are summer months, there are some things you can only see during winter time. Such as aurora borealis, ice caves, soak in natural hot pools when there are negative temperatures outside and beautiful snow caps of the surrounding mountains. You get to also experience the true Icelandic harsh weather and it will make you so appreciative of living in today’s time and age.

NORTHERN LIGHTS AND MOON PHASES: A lot of people will say that 10 days is plenty to do a drive around Iceland. We felt like during winter time, accounting for some bad weather days, shady road conditions, we will take it slowly and indulge in our journey. XX out of 14 days ended up being bad weather days. We saw aurora only 2 times and it was not very prominent, a lot had to do with a glowing full moon in the skies. So if aurora sightings is your main goal, I would highly recommend checking out the lunar calendar to make sure you visit during the time when moon is non-existent.

TOTAL TRIP PRICING BREAKDOWN: Let me just say that Iceland thrives on tourism and is one of the most expensive European countries to travel to. Everything is pretty much imported so it explains the inflated prices of the goods. Accommodation pricing was reasonable. Car rental and gas prices made our eyes bleed. Also remember, if you’re going during off season months like February, car rental, accommodation and sightseeing tours prices are slightly cheaper. That being said, we paid $2,340 per person for this trip, and that is including bringing a full checked bag of food so that we can limit our eating out expenses. What mostly racked up our bill was car rental and gas, for 15 days we paid $1,600. Obviously, the more people you have traveling with you the cheaper that tag will be when it comes to splitting expenses. Another alternative is renting out a camper van which will save you on accommodation. However, in reality, having more than 2 people in a camper van won’t be comfortable, you won’t have access to shower facilities and you won’t have a kitchen to cook your meals. For us, it was worth it getting an SUV and separate accommodations, although we did sleep a few nights in our car, no biggie.

Some of the photos from our two week itinerary

Arriving to Iceland:

HOW TO SAVE ON AIRLINE AND FOOD ITEMS: We opted out for the cheapest flight option and took the local Icelandic airlines – WOW. They are pretty much a direct comparison to Spirit airlines in US. You pay for your carry on and checked bags. On a 5+ hour international flight you must pay for water. By any means there is nothing to complain about as more convenient airlines like Delta and British Airways will gladly accept you as their customer. Of course, it’s up to you whether you’ll be willing to pay that price difference 😉 So anyways, flying prepared we packed all our food like sandwiches, some fruit, filled up water from airport fountain and didn’t have to order anything on the plane. Win!

IMPORTANT CAR RENTAL TIPS: We arrived in Iceland at 5am Icelandic time. Picked up our car rental, declined full liability as our Chase Sapphire credit card provides reimbursable car rental insurance coverage overseas, ensured that we have metal studs on our tires for the rough wintery roads and inspected the car for any additional chips & dents before we left the parking lot of our car rental (How to Get Rental Cars With No Insurance).

Day 1 – Everything in Reykjavik pretty much opens around 9am. We tried taking a short nap in a random parking lot, after all we haven’t slept for almost 24hrs. Once the most abundant grocery store in town, Bonus, opened up we quickly picked up some additional groceries that we will be needing for the next few days: 1/2 dozen eggs, almond milk, block of cheese, bread, apples, oranges, scallions, bananas, carrots and a few bottles of mineral water (to be used later as refillable water bottles) in total came out to be $50.

As part of today’s itinerary, our goal was to cover the first half of the Golden Circle – Best Places to See on Golden Circle in Winter Blog. Golden Circle is a popular tourist route in southern Iceland, covering about 300 km looping from Reykjavík into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. It is the area that contains most tours and travel-related activities in Iceland.

Day 2 – Hike to Reykjadalur hot pools – Reykjadalur Hot Springs Winter Hike Blog. This little gem is located within the Golden Circle, and it was perfect to get some hiking and relaxation in on a chilly winter day. Plan to spend around 5 hours here and make sure to always check the weather before you head out.

After Reykjadalur hot pools, we left the Golden Circle and started making our way further up north traveling counter clockwise on the main ring road – Route 1. Our next stop was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall. It was very beautiful and an easy stop along the ring road. You can see the waterfall from the parking lot so there is not much hiking you have to do to get up close. By the time we got there it was around 6pm and the sun was setting. We immediately noticed that the wind began picking up, soon rocking our car back and forth like a rocking chair. Our initial plan was to end our day at the Seljavelir hot pools, only about a 25min drive further along Route 1 from the Seljalandsfoss. However, due to bwinds which measured at 60 miles per hour per the weather forecast with even stronger gusts, it was impossible to make that short drive without enduring some damage to the car. The ring road passes through flat desserty looking terrain which is covered in small (and sometimes big) volcanic rock, which with strong gale type winds could be easily picked up in the air and blown into your car. Since we were going to be sleeping in the car that night anyways, it didn’t matter to us where to crash in so we tucked our car behind a dumpster and went to bed.

Day 3 – In the morning the winds have calmed down and we were actually able to freely walk around and not get blown off our feet, literally. We have inspected the car which to our disappointment did have few tiny chipped off paint from all the small rock that was hitting our car all night long. Although we have tried finding the most wind protecting spot, that’s is behind a dumpster, it was impossible to survive the night without enduring at least some minor damage (Upon returning the car the damage was found to be to minor and we didn’t get charged any additional fees. Yeay :))

Skogafoss Waterfall – ah-mazing! We got there in the morning right around sun rise = no crowds! We climbed up the stairs leading up to the top of the falls where there is an observation deck. From the top, there are plenty of hiking opportunities. If visiting in winter time, make sure to wear winter gaiters, microspikes and hiking poles in order to pursue any of the hiking trails at the top. Trust me, you will not want to go all the way down to the parking lot just to get any of the missing gear and then go back up.
Sólheimajökull Glacier – this is a very accessible glacier where you can get really up close to the foot of the glacier. There are many glacier walking tours that you can book. We decided to leave our car at the parking lot and take a quick walk (about 30min one way) to the glacier. The view was very nice and we could see groups of people who were taking tours walking on the glacier.
Dyrhólaey Lighthouse – did a quick lunch stop here (by lunch I mean cooked up some Ramen noodles, by no means expect to see a cafe here). This was the first time where we saw the black volcanic sandy beach, and I must say I couldn’t take my eyes away from the foamy white waves crashing against the pitch black smooth sand. It was super windy so we spent 30min tops and pushed on towards our last stop for the day – Black Sand Beach.
Black Sand Beach – Here you get to walk directly on the beach, get close to the powerful waves and just take in the view. It’s super crowded near the hexagon rock formations, but if you walk further along the beach, you will get all alone time you need. You may think it’s annoying that we keep mentioning the crowds, but as Serge said it best “It’s hard to connect with nature in a place filled with tourist crowds”

On our way to Hvoll Guesthouse we’ve stopped by town of Vik to check out their grocery store and ohh emm ghee those prices! I was convinced that this was not where the locals shop as the prices were outrageous. Thankfully we still had enough groceries to get by until next town. Locals later reassured me that this was indeed the only grocery store in town. Crayzey!

Day 4 – the best day of our trip so far. This was a full day of sun on the forecast, perfect for our agenda to visit the Diamond Beach, Jokulsarlon Lagoon and do a guided ice cave tour which was the highlight of our trip – Blue Ice Cave Adventure Blog.

Diamond Beach – This place is famous for icebergs that float into the ocean from Jokulsarlon lagoon being washed up ashore. Some people are not impressed and refer to it as a bunch of ice blocks on the beach. But to us, despite all the crowds (yes, you’ve guessed it, this is one of the tourist hot spots) this was a mesmerizing view and we’ve spent a good hour walking along the beach, studying and photographing these beautiful ice sculptures. Best time of the day to visit is during sunrise/sunset and witness how sun rays are piercing through the ice blocks. If you’re here during winter time then you’re in luck as the sun never really goes too far up into the sky, so you get prolonged hours of sunrise/sunset.
Jokulsarlon Lagoon – we did a very quick stop here as our ice cave tour was scheduled to begin at 12:00pm. This is a worthy stop as you can see a nice panoramic view of the Vatnajökull glacier and floating icebergs.

Day 5 – on the agenda we wanted to do some short hikes around Svartifoss Waterfall and Skaftafekksjukull Scenic Outlook, but due to all day rain we have ended up driving to town of Höfn, doing some grocery shopping and catching WiFi at the local library. In addition, Höfn does have a visitor center with a few exhibitions about history of Iceland in case you need to kill some time.

Day 6 – rain continues on but per the weather forecast we know that it will stop around 1pm. We take our time in the morning and decide to check out Hoffel Hot Tubs. I believe during summer time you have to pay, but when we came in Feb no one was around to collect the fee and there was no money box to leave a donation. There are about 4 round hot tubs, we found the one with the hottest water to our liking and lingered around for about 2 hours enjoying the view and waiting for the rain to stop. Originally on the agenda we were planning to check out Joklasel and Hoffel glaciers, they both are easily accessible by car and you can get very close up to the glacier. By the time the weather has cleared up we only had time for one glacier, and since we were already nearby in Hoffel hot tubs, we decided to go with Hoffel Glacier.

Day 7 – all day rain and strong coastal wind on the forecast. Initially on the agenda we were planning to check out Sveinsstekksfoss Waterfall and another hot tub. But with the stormy forecast we decided to go ahead and head straight to our next town, Egilsstadir which was a 4 hour drive. The drive itself is pretty impressive and we really took our time enjoying the views.

Day 8-9 – the forecast predicted that rain will stop around noon. This day, our plan was to make an overnight trip to Laugerfell, about 8 miles one way from the trail head. We took our time in the morning and slowly packed up to begin our hike as the rain was stopping – Laugerfell Overnight Winter Hike Blog.

Day 10 – Hengifoss hike and Myvatn Nature Baths.

We hit up Hengifoss in the morning, it’s a relatively short 3mi round trip hike. Very beautiful and not as crowded as other popular falls.
For the second half of the day, we’ve visited Myvatn Geothermal area and mainly checked out the main spot with geothermal activity. When we did our research we knew there is a loop trail somewhere, but once we got there it was impossible to see it due to lack of trail markers and we just wondered around on our own. As you approach Myvatn, the terrain drastically changes and now all of the sudden you can see tall black mountains, half of them look like their tops got blown off. Our last stop for the day we’re Myvatn Nature Baths – Myvatn Nature Baths Blog.

Day 11 – Relaxing day visiting Kafla Lava Field, Hverfjall Volcano Crater, and Myvatn Nature Baths for the second time to get some day time photos.

Kafla Lava Field – we got here relatively early in the morning and did a quick 2.5 mile roundtrip hike. Which is the longest trail in Kafla Lava Field. There are many different routes you can take, which are shorter in distance. At the entry, there is a pretty good map outlining the hiking options and all trails are well marked. At the trail head there was a warning sign about icy trail conditions, so we wore our microspikes and were glad we did. There were many people who couldn’t even do any of the shorter trails because it was so icy.
Hverfjall Volcano Crater – The road to the parking lot was impassible, so we left our car on the side of the road and walked to the main parking lot where the trail to ascent the crater begins. From the parking lot, it is a short hike up to the top of the volcano crater, plan for anywhere between 10-20min to get to the top depending on your hiking pace. The circumference of the crater is about 2mi in length. There are 2 entry/exit points. One is from the main parking lot, and another one on the opposite side of the crator. The second entry/exit point is very steep and you have to walk around the volcano to get there. We took the second point to descend the crator as it would bring us closer to where we parked our car.

Day 12-13 – Serge has reserved a night stay at Lambi Hut – Lambi Hut Winter Hike Blog. It is a beautiful hike into the mountains. If you go during winter time, chances are that you will have the hut to yourself. But you would also need snowshoes and some previous experience navigating in winter terrain. When we have arrived, the last logged entry in the registry journal was by the service crew during Christmas time.

Day 14 – In the morning, it took us about 6 hours to hike out and we were back at our car around 1pm. Next on the schedule was to make our 5 hours drive from Akureyri to Grundarfjörður AirBnB. Let me tell you that this was the best AirBnB stay of our trip. In the Snæfellsnes peninsula, there are situated 2 beautiful cabins. Both of the cabins are typically booked for entire season, however Serge kept on refreshing the booking page and saw 2 nights open up for one of the cabins. He grabbed them without hesitation. This AirBnB is situated at the foot of the Kirkufell Mountaint, which is the most picturesque mountain in Iceland. We later learned from the owners that ownership of this land is grandfathered from generations to the current owner, which is the only reason why they could install two cabins.

Day 15 – On this day we relaxed at the cabin with a beautiful view. And also climbed the Kirkufell Mountain which took us about 3 hours roundtrip – Hiking Kirkufell Mountain in Winter Blog. Lastly, we relaxed in the outdoors hot tub and waited for northern lights (which never came, but oh well at least we had our wine LOL).

Day 16 – This was our last full day of travel in Iceland and we began our drive back toward Reykjavik. On our way we have stopped through all possible scenic viewpoints such as….mini volcano crater, beach, light house. We finished our day at Landbrotalaug hot springs and let me tell you…we saw the best sunset there.

Navigation tip for these hot pools: When we first arrived, we only saw a small pool that could fit only 2 people and someone was already in there, bummer! But they told us there was another larger pool to the left. We made our way over, and indeed there was a very shallow but large enough pool to comfortably fit 5+ people. Temperature of the water can be regulated by the lever which is located on the pipe from which the hot water is flowing.

Day 17: Departure Day – since we were departing on Sunday, we made sure to stop at the Kolaportid Flea Market where I picked up some last minute souvenirs. They sell a wide variety of things ranging from Icelandic wool sweaters to local seafood delicatessens. I forgot to mention that the day before, Serge had bought a special spray that takes off volcanic tar from a local appliance store. Since we have rented our car in white, we figured they would slam us with fees if we have returned it in a shade of gray. So Serge gave our rental a good scrub before we successfully returned it to the car rental. In addition, the paint had some tiny but visible volcanic rock damage but the guy at the checkout counter did not seem bothered by it.

Trip Planning Resources:

GUIDEBOOKS – When it came to deciding which guidebook to get for this trip, we quickly realized that we had all of the information we need, and more, is at our finger tips. Since we really wanted to have some unique experiences, there was no single guidebook that would cover our entire itinerary. So yes, we planned our entire trip using Google search and reading numerous blogs and articles. That being said, I will recommend the following 2 books to help you with learning history of Iceland.
The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland by Alda Sigmundsdottir – this is a great book that provides you info on economic background of the country, tourism, ecology, dos and don’ts of being a tourist in Iceland, what will tick off a local and many other interesting facts. Alda’s writing style is very funny and easy to read. If you want to be informed about current state of affairs in Iceland, I highly recommend this book.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – the course of events of this novel are happening in 1400s and based on a true story. Moreover, it tells you a story of how people survived living in Iceland and its harsh weather conditions in 1400s. It really puts things into perspective.
MAPS – since we were planning to make entire drive around the country, it really helped creating a customized map with pins of possible locations and activities of interest. From here, we were able to really narrow down our itenirary and be realistic in terms of what we can cover. In case things go unplanned, it is also helpful having this map as a reference where you can look up what’s to do in the area. Here is a link to our map.
FOOD – Dasha made a 15 day meal plan, so we only ate out in restaurants 2 times. Reach out to us if you want us to email you a full list of meals that we packed for our trip.

Trip Expenses Breakdown


  • Airfare – $470 per person
  • Car Rental – $985 Ford Escape/Kuga for 15 nights
  • Car Rental Gas – $631
  • Accommodations Total: $974

  • Day 1 – Brekkugerdi Guest House $105 (located on the Golden Circle)
  • Day 2 – car camped
  • Day 3 – Hvoll Guest House $113
  • Day 4 – car camped
  • Day 5 – Holmur Guest House $86
  • Day 6 – Höfn Guesthouse $67
  • Day 7 – Laufas Guesthouse $68
  • Day 8 – Laugarfell snow cave
  • Day 9 – Laufas Guesthouse $62
  • Day 10 – car camping
  • Day 11 – Miohvammur Farm Stay
  • Day 12 – Lambi Hut $57
  • Day 13 – Halsabol Sumarhús Cabin $208
  • Day 14 – Halsabol Sumarhús Cabin $208
  • Day 15 – car camping
  • Food Total: $460

  • Groceries – $218
  • Coffee – $70
  • Restaurants – $172 (we ate out only 2 times)
  • Ice Cave Tour Total: $340 per person (you can definitely save here by getting a cheaper tour)

    Lambi Hut Winter Hike Near Akureyri

    Serge is standing in front of Lambi Hut that is visible in the far distance

    A very unique hike that would allow you to escape most of the touristy crowds and enjoy the solitude of Northern Iceland. You will also have an opportunity to visit and stay at one of the Alpine Huts.

    Trip Information:


    • How to Reserve The HutIf you’re planning to spend the night at Lambi Hut, you have to make a reservation with The Touring Club of Akureyri. Make your reservation by simply emailing the Touring Club Office at They were very responsive and immediately responded to our inquiry. Per person cost is $52. Once you have prepaid your accommodation, they will send you a code to the key-box placed outside of the hut. The hut sleeps 16 people so expect other guests when you’re there, unless you’re going during winter, your chances of having the hut to yourself are highly increased!
    • Driving Directions and Trailhead: Trail head is located about a 15min drive from the town of Akureyri. It took us a moment to find the trail head parking lot. At the end of the drive, when you are about to approach the parking lot, the road splits, make sure to keep right and you will arrive at the trail head parking lot. From the parking lot, follow yellow trail markers for Lambi Hut.

    Dasha is hiking toward the Lambi Hut in Glerardalur Valley

    The hike is beautiful as it takes you through a mountain valley along the Glera river. The further you go the more isolated the surroundings become. We wore snow shoes approximately 80% of the way. If you’re going in February, snow shoes or backcountry skis are highly recommended, unless you want to opt for the miserable potholing option.

    The trail itself is not tricky at all, and all of the elevation gain is gradual. We were always able to see the trail markers sticking out above the snow. The only spot that made us a bit nervous was the Fremri-Lambá river crossing. The gully of the river was fully snowed in, but we could see the rails of the bridge which helped us with orientation in terms of how to navigate the deep gully and avoid collapse of any of the formed snow cornices.

    Storm Clouds were quickly approaching and were only few hundred feet away from us

    As we were approaching the hut, we could see heavy clouds rolling into the Glerardalur Valley from Akureyri. Luckily, we were able to reach the hut literally 10 minutes before we got engulfed by the clouds and there was a complete white out. If we were to get caught in such white out before reaching the hut, we would not have been able to see trail markers nor the hut from the distance. That’s why it is very important to have additional GPS, printed maps and compass always on hand. Weather in mountains can be very unpredictable.

    The hut has a fully equipped kitchen and a kerosene burning stove. There is no accessible running water so we had to melt snow which was no issue. However, figuring out how to work the kerosene stove was a bit challenging if you have no previous experience with such stoves. They do have VERY detailed instruction on how to turn on the stove which we were able to follow.

    Safely Hiking the Kirkjufell Mountain

    Please click on the image to view in higher resolution

    Kirkjufell is not only one of the most Photographed mountains in Iceland, but it is also one of the most accessible, fun & thrilling peaks to climb. Although, it’s hard to classify this climb as technical, every year there is a number of people who die while trying to ascend this mountain. Please be careful, trust your common sense and always know when to turn away.

    Trip Information:


    • Before you goIt is extremely important that you have proper shoes and that you check the weather forecast before you head out to climb Kirkjufell Mountain. I would highly recommend wearing a proper hiking boot similar to Lowa GTX’s or a rugged trail runners such as my personal favorite La Sportiva Wild Cat.

    The view of Kirkjufell behind our Hálsaból Sumarhús Cabin

    Since our Grundarfjörður AirBnB was situated right at the foot of the Kirkufell Mountain, we have picked up the trail head right from our cabin. However, the get to the public trail head, please follow the visual map that we’ve created and park your car at the Kirkufellsfoss Parking Lot.

    You should only attempt ascending this mountain if you are in a good physical shape, can scramble on rocks, pull yourself up on a rope and rappel down. I would say 70% of the time, the trail goes very close to the edge so it’s important to have good sense of balance and no shaky knees (although mine were shaky at times haha). Luckily, we were the only people doing this hike so we didn’t have any bypassers, and if we did, it would have been a tight squeeze.

    If you reached this point, please backtrack and look for trail on the west side of the mountain. This trail has a slope, it was wet and it had hail granules. If you are trying to hike through this part of the trail, you would be taking unnecessary risk even when it’s dry.

    There are no trail cairns or markers, so be prepared to look for trail very carefully. There are some trail run offs that lead to a dead end or will simply run you off the mountain if you continue to follow. A few times we had to trace our way back in order to find the trail. There is also a couple of routes you can take. On our visual map, we took a blue route, as it seemed easier to scramble.

    When we did our ascend, the weather started to turn bad and a grey cloud was hanging over us. As we were near the top, temperature has dropped significantly and it began to drop tiny hail. Although we did this hike in February, the mountain had no snow due to recent heatwave and lots of rainfall. So just a lot of slippery rock.

    The View From the Top Overlooking the Town of Grundarfjörður

    In more pleasant weather conditions this is a nice and fun hike up and you get a full 360 degree view at the top. There were a few spacious flat spots along the way where you can stop for a break and enjoy the view. Remember to always follow your senses and turn around if you think trail/weather conditions are getting too dangerous.


    There are 3 parts where you will have to use an attached rope to pull yourself up and then rappel down on the way back. First one is half way through, and the last 2 are closer to the top. First rope is about 16-20 feet, second rope is about 18 feet and the summit rope is the longest, probably around 30 feet of vertical incline. Very basic rock climbing skills are required for this.

    Visiting Myvatn Nature Baths

    Myvatn Nature Baths

    The water supplies for the lagoon run straight from the National Power Company´s bore hole in Bjarnarflag. The water has a temperature of about 130°C when it arrives to the huge basin beside the lagoon itself forming an impressive, man-made hot spring. Altogether, the lagoon and the basin contain around 3.5 million litres of water with a temperature of 36 – 40°C.


    • Web Site: Myvatn Nature Baths
    • Price Per Person: $40 + $8 for single towel (We brought our own)
    • Reservations: No reservations required
    • Wi-Fi: Free Wi-Fi is available for customers
    • Drinks & Beverages: You would have to open a tab at the front desk while checking-in and get a bracelet. At the pool a waiter will come to take your order and deliver the drink to you.


    • Perhaps the most picturesque time to visit is during sunset. Unfortunately we have arrived when the last traces of sunset were disappearing at 8pm. A lot of people were leaving at that time too. You do not have to make a reservation to visit this place. We paid $40 per person and brought our own towels. You can also rent robes and towels for $8. At the front desk you’re also able to pre-purchase your drinks and you will be given appropriate bracelets. At the pool a waiter will come to take your order and deliver the drink to you.
    • Myvatn baths are quite large with plenty of soaking space for everyone. So at no point did it feel overcrowded. The temperature fluctuates depending on where you stand, so if you get too hot you can go into a cooler pool, and then there is a tub with 41°C heated water. It most definitely smells like a proper hot spring filled with sulfur and in my opinion this is as natural as it’s going to get.
    • The two steam baths are built straight on top of a geothermal area and the sulfur-free steam rises up through holes in the floor. Typically the temperature is around 50°C and the humidity is close to 100%.
    • The lagoon itself is a man-made construction, its bottom is covered by sand and gravel. The characteristics of the water are unique in many ways. It contains a large amount of minerals like alkaline and well suited for bathing. Due to its chemical composition, undesired bacteria and vegetation do not thrive in the lagoon making chloride or any other disinfectant redundant.
    • Geothermal water in Iceland usually contains some sulfur. In this area the strength of the chemical is greater than others. Therefore is should be avoided to take jewelry from brass or silver into the water, they become black and can be damaged. Sulphur, however, is considered to have a positive effect on asthma and other respiratory diseases. Many of the trace elements in the water are considered to have a good effect on reducing and preventing the development of skin problems.

    Laugarfell Hot Springs Winter Hike

    This is a very beautiful and unique hike, offering an amazing experience to explore a narrow valley that was once carved out by raging rivers of Vatnajökull glacier. There are three beautiful waterfalls along the way leading up to Laugarfell hot springs at the end of the trek.

    Trip Information:


    • Winter Route InformationIf you’re planning to attempt this trek in Winter, you must have proper gear and experience navigating in winter terrain. You must also have some basic understanding of avalanche conditions. Based on my personal observation, there are few spots in the valley that are prone to an avalanche. Depending on snow forecast and direction of the wind, at certain areas inside the canyon, the wind-blown snow can form cornices that could create avalanche conditions. Please feel free to reach out should you need more information.
    • Driving Directions and Trailhead: Based on Google Maps, the driving direction were a bit unclear. The end point on the road shows a Wilderness Center center, but in reality, it’s a private farmers house. The wilderness center is slightly East of the farm house. Please look at these coordinates: N64 57.874 W15 09.199 Please consider checking out their center, I’ve read online that it’s a very nice place, providing accommodation, dinning and entertainment. They can also take you up to Laugarfell Cabin (On Specialized Winter Vehicles) and you could stay there overnight and enjoy the hot springs (the tour might be pricey!) So check with them prior to your visit: Wilderness Center

    Laugarfell Hiking Map

    Trailhead Locations:
    As we make our drive to the trailhead, we come to a full stop at a farm house parking lot, which kind of has its gates shut on the road preventing us from getting any closer to the trailhead, which seems to be running through a private property.

    Serge is still thinking that this is a Wilderness Center. His original plan was to walk in and ask at the reception if we could leave our car here for a night. We saw a person outside working on the farm, so we kindly asked if it’s ok to leave the car here. The old fella didn’t really spoke any English, but he was very polite and kind to let us park there while we are doing our hike.

    Trail Conditions:
    We head out around noon as the clouds cleared up. It still rained a little from time to time in the afternoon. We have 8 miles ahead of us, and we do have thoughts that we might end up hiking into the night, which is fine because we have our headlamps.

    The trail was beautiful, gradually acceding through a narrow valley. Our expectations were that we would be walking in snowshoes and everything would be covered in snow. However, recent weather melted the snow and made trail conditions very saturated, with water levels running at 150-200%. At times it was difficult to navigate, potholing through snow, slipping on ice and having to cross stream after stream gave us a pretty slow pace. ]

    Taking Unprecedented Detour
    There were few large portions of the trail completely destroyed by a recent mudslide. By the look of things, it was massive! and the most terrifying fact is that it was very recent. Maybe day or two at most.

    We come to a stream crossing where the ford is a bit stronger and deeper than previous ones. Neither Serge nor I want to walk through it and completely soak our feet. The best place to cross is by hopping through some rocks on the edge of a cliff, followed by a tall waterfall. No way in hell Serge is letting me cross there without being tied by a rope. Luckily Serge had a plan “B”.

    So we climb up a bit in hopes that there will be a better crossing somewhere uphill, before we know it, where there was just a small stream, it’s a river and a huge canyon between us and the other side. At this point we are not far from the top of the valley, where endless flatland’s wait for us. We decide to continue going up, still hoping to find a better crossing spot. At the top, it’s a stream land and everything is covered with a sheer layer of snow and melting ice, making it hard to tell which spots have rivers and which spots would be okay to walk on.

    The sun is already setting, and we are about half way through, and we are way off trail. We have a GPS and know which way we need to keep moving. But crossing unfamiliar terrain is killing me, especially after we saw how our smaller stream turned into a deep canyon just before our eyes. I think I see Laugarfell in the far distance, but it is so so far away and I have fears of not knowing what’s between us. A deep canyon? A strong river that we aren’t able to cross? Or is there a river hiding somewhere underneath a sheer sheet of ice that we are walking on, and the thoughts of Randy Morgenson cross my mind. Serge did knew where the river approximately was and that we shouldn’t be walking on top of anything deep.

    After several hours of walking on egg shells in the dark, we finally come to a paved road that leads to Laugarfell. We want to kiss it. The cabin is rarely used in winter and was completely locked, with a subtle light coming from the window that is powered by a generator. We set our sleeping bagspreparing to cowboy camp right next to the cabin at a spot that we felt like was most protected from the wind. We immediately jumped into hot springs, soaking our frozen limbs. The aurora greets us, making all of our worries go away.

    We were very lucky to get a night of cowboy camping in Iceland in February with absolutely no wind, but it dip below -4 or -5C. The next morning, we traced our way back through the flatland’s, getting back to the trail and eventually to the little farm where our car was parked, just the way we came.

    Doing some aftermath and assessing the unpleasant off trail night hiking situation, we knew that we would be safe, and this is why:

    • We had enough food, water, and camping gear to make camp anywhere and spend the night, even if we didn’t make it to Laugarfell.
    • Serge has diligently studied maps and terrain to know that not too far from us there was a paved road which leads to Laugarfell. If worst came to worst, we knew that we could always walk extra miles to the road.
    • Serge had 2 different GPS trackers on his phone which always showed us the way we needed to go even when we were off trail.
    • He also had extra phone battery to keep the GPS live when his phone started to die from cold temps.
    • Lastly, Serge had a printed map and a compass if everything else failed.

    Blue Ice Cave | Private Seven Hour Guided Tour

    The View of The Inside of Jokulsarlon Glacier Ice Cave With Our Small, Private Group

    A very rare opportunity to explore two of the least visited Ice Caves near Jokulsarlon Lagoon. Being the only group in the giant ice cave and have the ability to freely explore these magnificent wonders of nature, felt like the most unique way to experience the best Iceland has to offer.

    Trip Information:

    • DistanceApproximately 4-5mi (6.5 – 8km) roundtrip
    • Elevation Change32 meters (100 ft)
    • Estimated Duration6 hours roundtrip

    How to Book the Tour:

    • You can book the tour at Glacier Adventure web site. Please keep in mind, the closer you are to your dates of travel, the more difficult it will be to find available spots. Everything is Iceland, even during winter, gets sold out really quick! There is 4 to 1 group to guide ratio. You will be provided with all of the necessary equipment, including crampons for walking on the glacier. You must bring your own boots and an extra clothing as it get’s pretty chilly inside the ice cave.

    Inside of the Jokulsarlon Ice Cave

    We booked a 7hr guided tour of a glacier ice cave which included a short hike on the glacier itself. When we were researching ice cave tours there were two types of tours: one where the tour entails of 2-3 hours in large group setting of about 15+ people being taken to a popular cave destination visited simultaneously by many other guided tour companies. What caught our attention is that there were several, not many, tour companies offering a more “private” tour adventure, of course at an extra cost.

    After reading the description of what our $340/pp tour entails: a group of 8 ppl, transportation to the foot of the glacier, hiking on the glacier to a less popular ice cave, spending anywhere up to an hour at the ice cave and then repeating the return trip. It was almost a no brainer for us that we wanted to have this experience versus seeing a more popular cave with larger crowds on a shorter schedule.

    We got so lucky with the weather for this tour as the day before and the day after it poured rain all day and all tours were cancelled. We were provided all of the necessary gear, including crampons for walking on the glacier. And ohh emm ghee was that a mesmerizing experience. Due to mild weather in that region the foot of the glacier had no snow so the entire time it felt like we were walking on a frozen lake where you could see about a meter deep into the ice, the cracks and different formations underneath. I couldn’t take my eyes away from looking underneath my feet for the entire hour of our hike.

    We were carefully guided around any moulins and even were securely roped up at one point where the path was steep and leading too close to the edge of the glacier. The spot that our guides chose to show us included not one but two separate ice caves! It was not mentioned in the description of the tour, so it was a very pleasant surprise. It just so happens that the main ice cave that they were taking us to had another one that formed very near by. In between the ice caves, we were given plenty of opportunities to take photos of the glacier.

    Beautiful Sunset over Jokulsarlon Glacier

    As we were coming back, the sun was setting basking glacier and its surroundings in pink & violet hues. It was beautiful! In moments like these, you come to realize how fortunate and lucky we are. That we have a chance to travel the world and experience these magnificent places.

    Reykjadalur Hot Springs Winter Hike

    Reykjadalur Hot Spring

    Winter is definitely one of the best times to visit Reykjadalur Hot Springs. The benefit of it is obvious, you pretty much get the whole place to yourself. During spring, summer and fall, there would be at-least few dozen of people, but not in Winter! If that’s not convincing? Think of the cool winter temperatures outside while being submerged in a steaming hot river, completely surrounded by snow cornices.

    Trip Information:

    Before You Go:

    • Please make sure to check the weather forecast or download Vedur App for your phone. You don’t want to end up being stuck in a whiteout blizzard and get lost. It’s a popular route that still gets plenty of traffic during winter, so the trail is mostly visible for most of the time along with some trail markers.

    Things to Consider:

    • It was a windy day and we were worried that it would be too windy to enjoy the hot pools. At the trail parking lot, a few returning hikers mentioned that the water was nice & hot and the wind was not a bother since the river is flowing through a mountain valley. We did not need micro spikes or snow shoes for this hike. We judged by the amount of surrounding snow and figured that wearing winter gaiters and using just hiking poles was enough, although it’s typical to have more snow at higher elevations. If you’re nervous, you can wait for some returning hikers and ask them trail conditions just to be sure.

    General Advice:

    • It took us about 1.5 hours one way to get to the hot pools. The trail leads through a series of bends and turns until you get very close to Reykajadalsa river that you will continue along until final destination.
    • When you get to Hot Springs, the further you go up the hotter the water gets so you can easily regulate the temperature to your liking with simply moving up or down the current. Although it was a windy day, it didn’t bother us because we were submerged in the divinely hot water and river banks provided cover from increasing winds. We even jumped in the snow a few times to cool off.
    • The most uncomfortable part was changing out of a wet swimsuit and getting dressed in freezing wind. There are wooden barriers for privacy, that can also serve as wind protection.
    • If you get cold while changing clothing, don’t panic! You will immediately warm up once your blood starts circulating while hiking back to the parking lot.
    • Consider bringing small and large plastic bag for your wet and dry clothes that you can put in your backpack.
    • Don’t forget to bring a towel with you.
    • Flip-Flops is definitely a good idea to have.
    • Don’t store your clothing items to close to the river, otherwise it will get wet and turn to ice.
    • It’s fun experience and very well worth it!

    Best Places to See on Golden Circle In Winter

    If you are in Iceland only for few days, I strongly recommend skipping the Golden Circle and visiting places such Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss, Seljavellir Geothermal Pool, Solheimajokull Glacier, Dyrholaey Light House, Black Sand Beach located South East of Reykjavik. All of them are within 2 hour drive from Reykjavik and are much more spectacular and less crowded places to experience. Please see below for our itinerary:

    First stop – Oxararfoss Waterfall

    • It was barely flowing and all the hassle that we had to go through to maneuver busy parking lots and tourist crowds made visiting this fall not worth it. Be mindful that if you are traveling during winter time like we were, some parking lots were snowed in so we had to find other alternate routes that would give us access to the desired scenic fall. Even frozen up, the fall was beautiful but the building up anxiety of the surrounding crowds was taking over. I cannot even begin to imagine what it’s like during summer months. Prolly a zoo.

    Second stop: Geysir – a very nice geothermal area, but unfortunately it was also extremely crowded with a very limited parking even during winter!

    • We walked up to the first geyser – Strokkur which erupts every 8-10min and watched it erupt a few times. It was cool to see, but overbearing crowds made it difficult to enjoy. While I was standing and patiently waiting for the big eruption, I felt someone literary shove their body near mine pushing and bumping into my elbow. When I looked over, it was a lady, with her camera on tripod, who had a surgical mask over her mouth. I immediately wanted to start coughing in hopes that she would walk away.

    Gullfoss waterfall

    Third stop: Gullfoss waterfall

    • At this point our day was coming to an end (in Feb you get about 9 hours of sunlight), and sunset time was quickly approaching. This waterfall was absolutely beautiful and the golden hour of pink and violet hues in the sky made it so joyful to watch. There were several observation decks making it feel a bit more spaced out.

    Hiking Guide for Virginia’s Triple Crown Loop

    Dasha is standing on top of McAfee Knob during early morning sunrise

    Triple Crown Loop – is one of the most scenic hikes in West Virginia. It is well known for it’s picturesque cliff’s and a sheer solitude that is often rare to find. You will also get a chance to hike a fairly large portion of the Appalachian Trail and luckily get to meet some of the thru-hikers!

    ❖ DAY 1: Hike From Dragon Tooth Trailhead to Catawba Mountain Shelter

    We arrived at Dragons Tooth Trail Head Parking Lot around 11:30AM and were out hiking on the trail by noon. Prior to our arrival, we have staffed a water cache at Mcafee Knob Trail Head Parking Lot with extra 4 liters of water behind the trees. This way we would have enough water during the second stretch of our day and we don’t have to carry extra liters on our backs. We are going to be camping at Catawba Mountain Shelter and there are no water sources before it. Please refer to the map.

    ❖ DAY2: Hike from Catawba Shelter to Campsite at North Mountain Trail

    After spending a night at Catawba Shelter, we hit the trail early in the morning while it was still dark. Our plan was to arrive to McAfee Knob before sunrise. I highly recommend visiting this place during Sunrise or Sunset. After eating breakfast and enjoying the view, we moved on to our next destination Tinker Cliffs. Along the way you will be able to fill up water at Campbell Shelter, watch for signs when you get there.

    After 4 hours of hiking, we’ve arrived at Tinker Cliffs and had a nice, warm lunch with a beautiful view of West Virginia Mountains. We spent  about two hours at the cliffs and moved on to our final destination at the top of Northern Mountains. There will be quiet a few water sources once you get to the bottom of the valley, but we’ve opted out for the last one, as there were cows everywhere and the water didn’t feel to safe to drink. Once you get to the top of the Northern Mountains, look for any flat camp spot. Everything was covered in leaves, so we had to improvise and find first available flat spot. Don’t try to look for our fire-pit, we have dismantled it in the morning so people don’t start adding trash on top of it. Approximate location: 37°27’23.7″N 80°02’19.4″W

    ❖ DAY 3: Hiking to the Top of Dragon’s Tooth and Camping By The Trailhead

    The first half of the day was just a simple hike on top of the Northern Mountain Ridge. Once you get down to the Catawba Valley Dr and cross the road, you will reach the trailhead parking lot where you left the car. We chose not stop by our car and went straight to the campground which is about 5 minute walk on the trail until you cross the stream to the left. We set up our tent and left our packs inside the tent. Our food was tight up to the tree and kept safely in our “Ursack”. For yours and the bears safety, never leave the food unattended in your tent.

    The hike to Dragons Tooth is probably one of the most difficult things that you will have to do during your Triple Crown Loop hike. you will have to scramble on the rocks and take your time. We saw parents with young kids doing this hike. Although, I would highly advise you to have a good hiking shoes with solid grip. Once at the top, feel free to climb the tooth and enjoy the views! After the sun went down, we hiked back to our campsite in the dark. Once we got back, we made a fire and enjoyed our last night in beautiful West Virginia Mountains.

    Hiking The Dragon’s Tooth in West Virginia

    This is one of the most fun hikes in the region, involving some scrambling on steep rocks. If you’re into rock climbing, the top of Dragon’s Tooth provides some opportunities to do some climbing/bouldering.

    Hike Information:

    The trail starts at Dragon’s Tooth Parking Lot and follows along a small stream. Once you cross the stream, you will make a right turn and ascend into the valley along the east side of the stream. After about 1.3 miles, you will reach the junction with Appalachian Trail and will make a right turn going towards the top of the ridge.

    Very soon, the trail will start going over the slippery rocks and you will have to take your time in order to safely scramble to the top. Please wear proper hiking boots that has good grip. Once your reach the top, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the rocks and enjoy the view.

    Hiking McAfee Knob On The Appalachian Trail

    This is a must do hike for anyone visiting West Virginia Mountains. McAfee Knob is considered to be be one of the most scenic points along the entire Appalachian Trail. A rounded cliff standing tall at 3,197ft (975m) offers panoramic views of the Catawba Valley 1600 feet below.

    Hike Information:

    • Distance8.8 mi (14 km) loop
    • Elevation Change1,700 feet (520m)
    • Estimated Duration5 – 7 hours
    • Alltrails MapMcAfee Knob
    • DirectionsTrailhead Location

    The trailhead parking is conveniently located along the Catawba Valley Drive. Once you cross the road, you will see the trail and the white markers on trees stating that you are on the Appalachian Trail Heading North. In about 0.3 miles you will pass the kiosk and continue on the AT passing John Springs Shelter and McAfee’s Knob Trail (Fire Road).

    After crossing the fire road, you will begin the final climb to the top of McAfee Knob through a serious of switchbacks. Once you reach the top, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the cliffs and enjoy the view. On the way back you can make a right turn at the trail junction and take the Fire Road back to the parking lot. It’ s much weirder and slightly easier route.

    Visiting Luray Caverns in Virginia

    Luray Caverns is one of the largest and most popular caverns in Eastern United States. Located deep beneath Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the cave is covering 64 acres and was formed millions of years ago. The temperature inside the cave stays consistent at 54 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. 

    Luray Caverns Information:

    • Open9:00AM – 6:00PM (Arriving earlier or toward the end of the day)
    • RatesAdults $28 | Seniors $25 | Children (6-12)  $15 | Free under age 6
    • DiscountsInfo
    • Tour InformationInfo

    If you have never visited these caverns, you should definitely see it with your own eyes! The caverns comprise a group of chambers, 30 to 140 feet (9 to 43 meters) in height, which are illuminated by indirect lighting and are connected by corridors, stairways, and bridges. In 1956, a “stalacpipe organ” was constructed in the caverns by placing rubber-tipped plungers next to 37 stalactites to produce sound, making it the largest natural musical instrument.

    It’s also a great place to take your kids. Right outside the cavern, there are plenty of activities that you can enjoy with your family. From the Garden Maze to Rope Adventure Park there are more then enough of activities to fill up your entire day. Also, there is a Car and Carriage Caravan Museum featuring a 1982 Mercedez-Benz, one of the oldest cars in the country still in operating condition.

    10-Day Canadian Rockies Itinerary to Banff and Jasper With Family

    Ever since we laid our eyes on Canadian Rockies, it’s been a long time aspiration to show our parents the beauty of these mountains. While Dasha’s mom is always up for an adventure, I’ve tried nearly everything to break the all-inclusive resort vacation habit of my parents. I even came up with detailed, day-by-day itineraries for them to explore the mountains. Yet, they were afraid to leave their comfort zone and always resorted back to booking their all-inclusive vacation in Mexico or Dominican.

    Not leaving us with much of a choice, we had to take matters into our own hands and make things happen. On my Dad’s birthday, I gave him an envelope that contained 5 plane tickets to Calgary, scheduled to depart at the beginning of September. When he looked at the tickets and realized what it was, the first thing I said to him: “Dad, those tickets are not refundable, so we’re going…” and that’s how it all started!

    Detailed Itinerary:

    ❖ DAY 1: Arrival to Calgary Airport, Car Rental Pick Up and Hotel Check-in

    Upon arriving to Calgary International Airport, we were shocked to see how much smoke there was from fires raging both in US and Canada hundreds of miles away. As we stepped outside of the airport, we smelled smoke and it felt like a thick fog engulfed the entire city. Few minutes later we picked up our rental. A brand new Dodge Grand Caravan Minivan that we booked through Ideally, Chevy Suburban or Tahoe would be a more spacious option, but we only paid $377 for a 10 day rental, where a larger SUV would cost us over $1,000. Ain’t nothing wrong with a good-old-new Minivan! Our hotel was also a perfect choice, 5 minutes away from the airport with delicious included breakfast. We rented a one standard room and a suite for a very reasonable rate at Homewood Suites by Hilton Calgary.

    ❖ DAY 2: Visit Upper Kananaskis Lake, Spray Lakes Reservoir, Lake Minnewanka and Camp at Johnston Canyon Campground

    Luckily, when we woke up, most of the smoke was lifted, but we still couldn’t see the mountains far in the horizon. After eating breakfast, we stopped by MEC Outdoor Store (it’s like REI in US) and got some fuel for our backpacking stoves that we brought with us (MSR Whisperlite & Pocket Rocket). We have also pre-planned meals and brought a full suit case of food from US, as we did not want to waste any extra time shopping for groceries in Canada. Thus, we only had to stop a few times at a grocery store to pick up some produce throughout our trip.

    Mom and Dad standing happily in front of Upper Kananaskis Lake. A light smoke is still visible in the background

    It’s a 2 hr drive from the airport through opening landscape of mountains to Upper Kananaskis Lake. My father never seen such large mountains in his life, so he was very excited! I remember the feeling, because six years ago, as my wife recalls, I was jumping up and down like a little boy at the same location.

    I think here it’s important to mention that Dasha’s mom has fractured her foot just weeks before this trip, and had to wear a boot for the entire time. Therefore, we had to find flexible hiking options to make sure she could also enjoy the trip. After parking at Kananaskis Lake Parking Lot we hiked a small trail along the shore (Dasha’s mom was able to hike it too). It’s a very beautiful place and I highly recommend checking it out.  We then continued moving north on Smith Dorrien Road towards Spray Lakes Reservoir where we found some picnic tables and stopped to have lunch.

    Later in the afternoon, we have finally reached Lake Minnewanka, where we stopped to stretch our legs and take some photos. Our final destination for the day was, Johnston Campground where we ended up camping for two nights. This campground is open from May 25 – Sep 25 each season; camping only, no trailers. One night camping fee is around $27 Canadian dollars. To make reservations, go to Parks Canada Reservation Service.

    ❖ DAY 3: Visit to Lake Louise & Lake Moraine. Hike Larch Valley Trail to Sentinel Pass. Lastly, visit Marble Canyon and spot a Grizzly Bear!

    Beautiful Lake Louise

    Lake Louise is a 30min drive from Johnston Canyon Campground. By 8:30AM, there were already tons of people and the closest parking lot was completely full. I recommend getting to Lake Louise around 7:30AM to skip the crowds madness and find reasonable parking. There are a few hiking trails in the nearby area ranging from easy – a simple walk along the lake, to difficult, multi-hour treks. In 2012, Dasha and I hiked the Plain of Six Glaciers hike and it was a blast, check out our Plain of Six Glaciers Hike Blog post for more details.

    From Lake Louise it was only a 15min drive to Lake Moraine, where my parents and I hiked the Sentinel Pass Trail through beautiful larch trees valley. For complete details, see Larch Valley Trail to Sentinel Pass Day Hike blog post. Dasha and her mom decided to hang around the lake and soak up the views. There is a short 15min hike up to a beautiful lookout of Lake Moraine right off the parking lot which is worth doing if you’re not planning on spending too much time here.

    Larch Valley Trail to Sentinel Pass Day Hike is a challenging hike, and I was concerned about my parents’ physical abilities. Although it was a hard trek, they did better than I expected and they loved it! My mom was able get to Minnestimma Lake and my dad was even able to get to the top of Sentinel Pass with me. The key is setting a steady pace without exacerbating all of your energy in the beginning. We took it slow, but at the end we got an enjoyable hike.  I felt super proud  of my parents, considering they are in their mid 50’s and never hiked in their life before. The entire hike took us about 5 hours.

    The View of Kootenay River near Marble Canyon Parking Lot

    After Moraine Lake, we started heading towards Marble Canyon, which was the last stop on today’s agenda before returning to our campground. Marble Canyon is an extremely beautiful place and I highly recommend spending at least an hour of your time here. To our biggest surprise, about a mile before reaching Marble Canyon, my mom spotted a Grizzly Bear along the road. We kept a safe distance in the car and with my foot near the gas pedal, we stopped and took photos of the bear without getting out of the car. Needless to say, it was an amazing experience. Please, never feed or approach closely to take photos of wild animals. They are not your pets, and you are in their home so be respectful.

    ❖ DAY 4: Hiking Johnston Canyon, visiting Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, Canoeing at Emerald Lake and check-in to Num-Ti-Jah Lodge by the Bow Lake

    Hiking above the rive through the Johnston Canyon

    In the morning, we packed up our tents and drove towards Johnston Canyon Trailhead. It’s a relaxing hike though a narrow canyon gradually climbing along the river and passing by lower and higher falls. This hike should not take more then 1-2 hours of your time. Back in our car, we started driving toward Yoho National Park to visit the beautiful Takakkaw Falls. It’s a spectacular sight and only a short walking distance from the parking lot where you can get really close tot he foot of the falls. If you’re a climber, there is a lot of climbing opportunities in this area.

    Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

    The last thing on our agenda was visiting Emerald Lake. We rented two canoes explored beautiful views and waters of this magnificent lake. Once we got sore from paddling the canoes, we started heading towards Num-Ti-Jah Lodge located right on the banks of the Bow Lake. This lodge was build in 1950s and is filled with a lot of history. It has been visited by many famous people, including one of my most favorite writers, Dale Carnegie. This lodge definitely has a rustic feel, with a bit outdated rooms which didn’t bother us too much but don’t expect a 5 star hotel. They also have a restaurant for quests only where you can make a dinner reservation.

    ❖ DAY 5: Hike to Bow Glacier Falls. Visit Mistaya Canyon and Peyto Lake.

    We started our day with doing a quick 2-3 hour hike to Bow Glacier Falls. The trail head is located right off Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. It’s a 5.4mi round-trip hike with minimal elevation gain that takes you all around the Northern side of the Bow Lake and up to Bow Glacier Falls. At certain points you can easily spot the Bow Glacier hanging over the Iceberg Lake.

    Beautiful turquoise colors Peyto Lake

    Once back at the car, we started driving towards Athabasca Glacier. Along the way we stopped and visited Mistaya Canyon and the beautiful Peyto Lake! You should definitely not miss these two places! Peyto Lake scenic viewpoint is pretty much accessible right from the parking lot, where Mistaya Canyon requires a very short 0.2mi hike. The weather hasn’t been cooperating with us, so after Mistaya Canyon we decided to drive straight to Glacier View Inn and call it an early night. This hotel is located right in front of the Athabasca Glacier!

    ❖ DAY 6: Hike Parker Ridge Trail. Athabasca Glacier Tour. Visit to Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls.

    Today, my wife, my dad and I are going to hike Parker Ridge Trail. All of the information for this hike can be found in our separate blog located here: Hiking Parker Ridge Trail To Saskatchewan Glacier Outlook. On the other side, our moms will get to enjoy the iconic glacier adventure on All-terrain Ice Explorer that we pre-booked ahead of time. The tour offers a chance to walk on Athabasca Glacier and visit recently constructed Skywalk. All of the information can be found here: The Iconic Glacier Adventure.

    Rugged cliffs near Athabasca Falls

    Around 2:ooPM we were back at Parker Ridge Trailhead Parking Lot. Few minutes later we picked up our moms and went toward Jasper to Wapiti Campground that we also reserved ahead of time. Along the way, we stopped by the Sunwapta Falls and Athabasca Falls. Both of these places are conveniently located along the The Icefields Parkway with a very short walking distance.

    ❖ DAY 7: Hike The Valley of Five Lakes Near Jasper, visit Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake, soak up in Miette Hot Springs and return back to Wapiti Campground

    In the morning we left our campground and went to hike The Valley of Five Lakes Near Jasper. The detailed blog and all of the information can be found here: Hike The Valley of Five Lakes Near Jasper. It took us under two hours to complete the circuit and return back to the parking lot.

    Medicine Lake

    The next thing on our agenda was to visit Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake. At Maligne lake, you have an option to take a boat ride all the way to the other side to Coronet Creek Back-country Campground and back! Apparently, since the last five years my wife and I were here, the boat rides became very popular and everything was sold out by the time we got there. Make sure to reserve online ahead of time. We will include some of the photos from our previous trip.

    Sunset over the valley at Miette Hot Springs

    After leaving the valley, we drove straight to Miette Hot Springs to watch sunset and enjoy beautiful natural hot springs. In the evening we drove back to Wapiti campground.

    ❖ DAY 8: Explore Mt.Edith Cavell, Hike portion of Cavell Meadows Trail, Visit Athabasca River Lakes and watch Northern Lights Over Wapiti Campground.

    Yesterday, I had to stop by Jasper’s Tourism Office and pick up permits in order to visit Mount Edith Cavell. It’s a beautiful drive through a narrow road that takes you all the way up to Cavell Lake and the lagoon under Angel Glacier. This is one of the must see places in Canadian Rockies. Once you park your car, it’s a very short hike up to a scenic overlook. There is also a lot of hiking opportunities in this area. We only did a short section as my parents were getting a little tired and we didn’t want to push them to hard. All of the hiking trails and information can be found here: LINKLater that day, we drove around some of the lakes to the east of Jasper, trying to find a good place to catch trout. Unfortunately my dad brought all the wrong fishing equipment and caught nothing 🙂 It got pretty cold toward the evening, and my wife and I became a little concerned. We bought -6C (20F) sleeping bags for our parents, but the temperature was supposed to drop below -4C (24F) so I immediately knew that tonight won’t be a comfortable night. We made our parents to put on every single bits of available clothing and tucked them tight in their sleeping bags in their tents. But before we did that, at one point I noticed a lot of light shining behind some of the mountains and automatically thought that the full moon was rising. After careful examination I realized that it was The Northern Lights slowly appearing in the skies! We all felt blessed and joyfully watched one of the most spectacular shows of our lives!

    ❖ DAY 9: Hiking the Whistlers Trail to Jasper Skytram Terminal, than driving back toward Edmonton to catch a flight back to Philly the next morning

    The very last thing on our agenda was to get to the top of SkyTram terminal and show our parents amazing views of Jasper near the Whistlers Peak. Since 2012 the prices for SkyTram has nearly doubled and a single ride per person will cost you $50. Considering that me and Dasha always wanted to hike the trail, we figured, might as well save a $100. It took us about 2 hours to get to the top, but keep in mind, the hike is very strenuous and we felt pretty exhausted by the time we reached the terminal. Detailed blog for hiking this trail can be found here: Hiking Whistlers Trail To Jasper Skytram Terminal. Soon after, we all took the SkyTram down to the parking lot and went on our way to Edmonton, which is about 4hr drive east from Jasper.

    One of the things that I wanted to mention and make visitors aware, are the pine Beetle situation happening in North American and all over the world. The dark red pine trees on the photos are actually dried up dead trees that were killed by an epidemic of Pine Beetles. Over the past few years, the Beatles have been rapidly spreading throughout the region. There is only one way to kill it, is by having a cold winter of -30C for a week or two. But because we keep having the warmest weather on record over the past 15 years, the winters aren’t as cold as they used to be and the Pine Beatles can thrive freely and continue devastating the environment. Take a look at the photos above to see the difference. It only took five years…

    Hiking The Valley of Five Lakes Trail Near Jasper

    A fairly easy, must do hike for anyone visiting Jasper. Valley of the Five Lakes offers a unique opportunity to explore beautiful crystal clear lakes with variety of jade, turquoise and blue colors.

    Trip Information:

    There is a large parking lot right off the Icefields parkway 10 minutes south of Jasper. The trail starts as a very wide path and continues into the forest. Before crossing the stream on a wooden bridge, make sure to stay to the left at the very first trail junction.

    Fourth Lake

    Once you’ve passed the wooden bridge and a little climb, you will get to a second trail junction. It’s up to you to proceed in clockwise or counterclockwise direction (we did in CC). From there, the trail is pretty straightforward. ]

    While hiking the circuit, you will get a chance to see and experience all of the lakes. We were lucky that 2017 was a fairly wet year and the lakes were in their full capacity.