Tonquin Valley- Part 3 (Amethyst Campground to Switchback Campground)
August 7, 2017
Amethyst Campground to Switchback Campground
Distance: 6.8 km
Elevation Gain: 150 m
Time: 3 hours
The next day we woke up bright and early to get a quick start on our journey to Switchback campground. It was our last full day being out in the backcountry and we were once again greeted with a blue sky and no clouds in sight. I know a lot of people have had bad luck in the past when it comes to the weather patterns in the valley so we were very fortunate to get the weather we did.
As we walked out of the campsite, we took the same trail for the first 1.1 km as we had when heading to Tonquin Valley Backcountry Adventures.
Straight out of the camp you go past a few tree thickets and then have nothing but flat ground, a vast alpine meadow, and surrounding mountains surrounding you. I took a few more pictures as the ever expanding scenery truly was a sight all it’s own.
There are a few moments on that section of the trail where a person has to watch their footing as there is a spattering of boulders that cross the path several times.
We reached what seemed like a random Parks Canada sign sitting just south of the pond and close to the fork in the road that takes you up to the cabins.
When we reached the fork, we could see a very lengthy boardwalk across the distance that would carry us over an sprawling wetland and back into the trees.
Once we made it across the boardwalk, we were greeted with a familiar sight. As we had returned to the less sun-dried forest portion of the trail, wildflowers had returned in full force.
The trail weaved itself through the pine trees before turning upwards. Our time of walking on flat ground was over as a slight elevation gain had returned.
For the most part the trail remained in the trees, moving upwards with nary a switchback to elevate our burning legs. The trail became lose with pebbles and rocks which made things a bit more challenging.
Hiking through the trees was a bit dissatisfying considering the views we had seen in the last two days. But there was a beautiful creek with a log crossing and the Ramparts sat in the background as if to remind us of where we had just been.
3.3 km from the Amethyst Campground provides another fork in the road. We continued going straight as turning to the right would take you to Clitheroe and Surprise Point Campground. Going this way can also take you to Wates-Gibson Memorial Hut.
The constant minor elevation gain finally pays off after this point as we continued up a much smoother trail.
As we turned around, we could see the Ramparts through the trees.
The trail began to traverse through a thinning population of pine trees with a spotting of yellow wildflowers to complete the picture.
The trail was still well graded as we continued on, peppered with the occasional stone.
As we hiked, we were able to see the mountains we were heading towards, instead of just the mountains we were walking away from. The trail narrowed and stretched periodically, sometimes heavily shaded by the shrubbery that surrounded it.
We hopped a creek and then found ourselves walking along various boardwalks in order to cross the more sensitive green areas.
The Ramparts towered over the alpine meadow we were travelling through one last time, saying a final good bye.
Then it was on to our next mountain view. The trail widened and began moving slowly downwards as we were faced with our first good glance of Oldhorn Mountain.
We continued losing elevation, gradually sliding back down into the valley bottom.
There was one final creek where we had to do a bit of rock hopping to get across before the trail dipped into a thicker area of forest.
From far off in the distance we could see the effects of a giant rock slide that had occurred on Oldhorn Mountain. We would be getting a much closer look at the slide tomorrow.
For the moment, we had reached our final campsite of the trip, Switchback. A small thread of a trail breaks away from the main one and a sign lets you know that if you walk another 100 m to your right, you’ll be at your campground.
As we moved towards Switchback, I didn’t feel entirely impressed by what I saw. The trail was not well worn and the ground smelled almost swampy. The mosquitos also seemed to be at their worst in this area and I suspected we were very close to another wetland.
To get to the tent pads you have to walk past the bear poles and then up a small hill.
There are 8 tent pads at this campsite and the toilet is to the left, just a little bit down the small hill the tent pads sit on. Continuing past the sleeping area, you go back down the hill and have your choice of three different picnic tables.
We picked our tent spot, unpacked, set up and then decided to do a bit of exploring. We hadn’t found the water source and were curious on where it might be (it turned out a small creek sits just behind the tables).
First we found the wetland, the source of the damp smell, which is to the north of the tables.
After that we decided to go further uphill from our tent pad. It was a quick climb and we found a gorgeous little area that featured wildflowers and a crystal clear creek.
We took our shoes and socks off and allowed our tired feet to feel the icy touch of the water.
Once we had rested up, we had a dinner of ichiban noodles and a delicious Smores desert that I highly recommend. Then Matt decided to start two little projects. The first project involved building a sign for the bathroom as we found that it was a bit exposed. It makes me wonder if the sign is still there.
The second project had Matt gathering fallen branches to create a tiny little cabin. Matt’s cabin was a bit too snug for us to fit inside so afterwards we settled for climbing into our tent for the evening.
It would be our last night in the backcountry and we both fell asleep to the sound of mosquitoes bouncing against our tent, exhausted from the long journey we had already completed.
Click here to read about the final day of the Tonquin Valley trip! Click here to check out Day 2 of our adventure, which covers Maccarib Campground to Amethyst Campground!