I had heard about this park while reading a National Geographic Traveler magazine edition that was rating national parks ... and Willmore was one of the top picks of the surveyors for this aricle due to beauty, accessibility, and especially preservation and conservation.
Willmore represents some of the last unexploited habitat for many species of wildlife in Alberta; almost 20% of Alberta's mountain goats & bighorn sheep are found here; other wildlife includes grizzly bear, mountain caribou, cougars & wolves. Resthaven Glacier extends into Willmore from Jasper National Park too! It is rare to see others on the paths here, as motorized vehicles are prohibited in Willmore and therefore has fewer visitors.
There are about 750km of trails within this park - most of them established during the early fur trading days. Minimal trail maintenance occurs, so experience in backcountry exploration is necessary to access most of this park.
There are only 2 official staging areas to reach this park. One is toward the northeast corner at Sulphur Gates, the other is to the southeast at Rock Lake which is located about 30km east of Hwy 40 down a poorly conditioned road.
A great homebase for exploration!
"Hinton - a surprising jewel"
I chose Hinton from a map as a place to stop for the night. It looked like it was near a few locations I thought I might like to explore, and is only 1 hour from Jasper National Park. I was not disappointed in the least! As a matter of fact, I stayed an extra night in order to take time to explore the region a bit more!
"For exploration into the Willmore Wilderness ....."
Though not yet in the VT database, Grande Cache was my goal for my day of exploring the region. I wanted to go to one of the staging areas for the Willmore Wilderness area. I was quite excited to be this close to someplace I'd only read about, and never thought I'd have a chance to see for myself ....
Leaving Hinton on Hwy 16, I took Hwy40 north into Wm Switzer park and wandered about.To check out what I found, just check into my 'off the beaten path' tips :)
"An exceptional resource!"
As I traveled through the Alberta Province, I was pleased and delighted with the help I received at the various visitor centers I took the time to wander into.
This particular center went above and beyond! They not only helped me plan an itinerary for my day of local exploration up into the Willmore, but the next day they helped me plan a detailed itinerary into Jasper and Banff ... including helping me decide which features to pass on, and which ones to explore more fully. Getting this information from locals was a Godsend! They helped me with my timing, and hand drew maps for me to find locations not so well visited by typical travelers .... I can't even begin to express my appreciation and gratitude at their help. Without these folks, my visit to Jasper and Banff would not have been so jam packed and amazing :)