Camping, Hikes, Roadtrips

Grizzly Lake- Tombstone overnighter

October 16, 2016
Camping at Yukon’s Grizzly Lake

With the speed of our road trip, we didn’t have much time for backcountry adventures but we did want to do at least one overnight trip in a beautiful location (especially since we had brought our backpacks and gear). Tombstone Territorial Park is one of the most accessible northern parks, and not only are the mountains and tundra jaw-droppingly beautiful, it’s also home to moose, caribou, bear, Dall sheep, marmots, ground squirrels, and loads of falcons and birds. Since it is located at the base of the Dempster road, we would be passing through the park twice and were a bit more flexible on camping dates.  This was necessary because the Tombstone’s Grizzly lake site was almost booked out for a week (max 10 sites), and we were able to secure a spot a week later after on the return from the Dempster.

a really cute marmot
Amazing scenery on the way to the site
The mountains surrounding the campground behind us
some rocky bits to travel through
Carrying her share!
Just really beautiful!

When you overnight at Grizzly lake, you must pick up a pass from the Interpretive Center and also a bear container. Why they don’t just keep the containers in the camp site’s bear lock-ups (as they do in BC) is a bit beyond me as they are large and hard to pack and heavy. We had a little intro to the hike with a very friendly ranger, loaded with lots of warnings and were given estimated hiking times that were really quite extreme (8-12 hours one way). Just as a reference, we asked lots of hikers along the way and campers at the campsite, and got an average one-way time of about 5-7 hours (but we didn’t meet too many older hikers). Without a backpack I would estimate one could do a return trip in about 9-12 hours with lots of breaks and rests. We finished in about 7 hours one way with about 1.5 hours of total rest and photography time.

Starting in the subalpine
the first section is a climb and you get views quickly
up up and up!
saying hi to some rangers at the top of the first incline
having no issues with the “tough” terrain
lots of resting and photos
The highest point of the trail
The terrain is varied and beautiful with lots of changes but is not technical and the path is very easy to find and follow. A hiker from Vancouver wouldn’t have a problem at all, but I can see that anyone not used to mountainous inclines might find the hike difficult with a full pack. We kept Whiskey on a leash most of the time as we passed by lots of marmot territory but did have to let her off where being attached to a leashed dog is actually quite dangerous (jumping over large boulders and areas with exposed sides). In these cases, for us it’s safer to let her find her own path since one wrong pull from a larger dog could bring you tumbling (and also we are used to off leash hiking so Whiskey is also safer as well).

You can see the campground coming up! more than half done
Whiskey pulling her daddy along
You can see the lake clearly now
A tiny bit of snow left in July, with the most amazing views
At this point everyone is tired of me taking pictures
rocky sections separate a couple marmot meadows

The campsite was really muddy and had roped off trails to and from the eating shelters which was really the worst part about this entire trip, but at least the camp spots were raised off the ground (great for squirrels not to eat through your tent). Ground squirrels are famous for eating through everything since they are so salt-deprived and will even eat your shoelaces if left outside of the tent. It was not advised to use the lake water, rather the running water from the streams on the way to the campsite but we saw people using the lake water with filters. For Whiskey’s food we packed her dehydrated dog food which she of course, carried herself.

Walking through some meadows
ground squirrels are really chirpy!
marmots shrill as we walk by (keep dogs on leash!)
They blend in so well here!
Living in paradise 
a pointer doing her thing
lots of breaks to look at the scenery
mom! enough pictures!
watching us set up camp
at the food shelter
waking dad up
the hardest part is getting up when it’s cold and rainy
Overall we were extremely lucky with the weather as we only had a sprinkling of rain on the trail, but once we set up the tent for the night and started cooking under the shelters, the rain started coming down in earnest. It rained the entire night, but in the morning it stopped just long enough for us to hike back (and started again when we got back to the car).

a mini waterfall for collecting water
massage stops along the way, of course
Heading back was much faster
I still couldn’t get enough of the scenery
looking back down at the rest of tombstone
We are tiny in a beautiful Earth
Just missing the proper rain, but we had a few sprinkles
the entire trail has views except for the first km
The trail was easy to follow with no chance of getting lost
Racing to the car before those pregnant clouds let loose!

There were many options for a 3rd and 4th night, unfortunately, we didn’t have time and headed back . Quick doggy cheat: Thierry attached Whiskey’s leash to his pack, and then to his belt so she would power him up the inclines. It’s a bit trickier heading down though! On the return trip we were an hour faster (and took fewer photos) and just arrived in time to drive back to the Interpretive Center to return the bear can before they closed. I’d love to come back again!

Until next time!

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