Hiking in Jasper National Park
Long before Jasper was established as a national park, a vast network of trails provided an essential passageway for wildlife, First Nations people, explorers, and fur traders. More than 1,200 km (746 mi) of hiking trails in Jasper provide an opportunity to truly experience wilderness, and hardcore backpackers will find multiday loops of more than 160 km (100 mi).
A few of these trails are restricted to pedestrians, but hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrian users may share most of them. There are several paved trails that are suitable for wheelchairs, while others are rugged backcountry trails designed for backpacking trips. Bathrooms are found along the most used day-use trails. You may see elk, bighorn sheep, moose, and mountain goats along the way. It is never a good idea to surprise a large animal such as an elk or bear, so make plenty of noise as you go along, avoid hiking alone, and stick to designated trails. The trails at Mt. Edith Cavell and Maligne Canyon should not be missed.
Lake Annette Loop. This short loop trail with interpretive signage is paved and mostly level and was designed especially for wheelchair use. Toilets are at two locations, and there is a shelter halfway around. The kid-friendly 2.4-km (1½-mile) loop will take an hour to complete. Easy. Trailhead on the right side of the Lake Annette picnic area's western parking lot, Jasper National Park, AB.
Maligne Canyon. This 2.1-km (1.3-mile), one-way trail 8 km (5 miles) east of Jasper Townsite leads to views of Jasper's famous limestone gorge and will take one to two hours to complete. Six bridges stretch across the canyon, and a winding trail gains about 330 feet in elevation. Signage lines the trail that leads to a waterfall at the head of the canyon. Easy. Trailhead at Fifth Bridge, 8 km (5 mi) east of Jasper via Highway 16 and the Maligne Rd., Jasper National Park, AB.
Old Fort Point Loop. Shaped by glaciers, Old Fort Point is a bedrock knob that provides an excellent view of Jasper. It will take one to two hours to complete the 3½-km (2.2-mile) loop trail. There is a wide, easy path that begins behind the information kiosk and leads to a section of trail that is very steep. It's common to see Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, the provincial mammal of Alberta, from this trail. You pass the oldest rock in Jasper National Park, but the real highlight is the view from the top. Easy. Trailhead 1.6 km (1 mi) from Jasper Townsite, Jasper National Park, AB. Follow Hwy. 93A to the Old Fort Point/Lac Beauvert access road. Turn left, cross the Athabasca River, then park in the lot on the right.
Path of the Glacier Loop. This must-do 1.6-km (1-mile) trail only takes about an hour. The start of the kid-friendly trail is paved and runs across a rocky landscape that was once covered in glacial ice. Eventually you come to Cavell Pond, which is fed by Cavell Glacier. Small icebergs often float in the water. Across the valley, you will have a good view of the Angel Glacier resting her wings between Mt. Edith Cavell and Sorrow Peak. Easy. Trail begins at parking lot at the end of Cavell Rd., Jasper National Park, AB. Heading south on Icefields Pkwy., turn right on Hwy. 93A. Follow 93A for 5.5 km (3.4 mi), turn right on Cavell Rd., and drive 15 km (9.3 mi) to the end.
Valley of the Five Lakes. It takes two to three hours to complete this family-friendly 4.2-km (2.3-mile) hike. Five small lakes are the highlight of the trip, which takes you through a lodgepole pine forest, across the Wabasso Creek wetlands, and through a flowery meadow. Watch for birds, beavers, and other wildlife along the way. Turn this into a moderately difficult hike by continuing another 10 km (6.2 miles) to Old Fort Point. Easy. Trailhead 9 km (5.6 mi) south of Jasper townsite on Hwy. 93, Jasper National Park, AB.
Cavell Meadows Loop. This moderately steep 8-km (5-mile) trail will take four to six hours. Into early summer the upper section is still covered in snow and not recommended, but from mid-July to mid-August you can enjoy the carpet of wildflowers. There's also an excellent view of the Angel Glacier. Moderate. Trail begins at parking lot at the end of Cavell Rd., Jasper National Park, AB. Heading south on Icefields Pkwy., turn right on Hwy. 93A. Follow 93A for 5.5 km (3.4 mi), turn right on Cavell Rd., and drive 15 km (9.3 mi) to the end.
Opal Hills Loop. Near Maligne Lake, this 8.2-km (5.1-mile) hike is very steep and will take four to six hours to complete. There are excellent views of Maligne Valley on this hike and many opportunities to observe wildlife, including moose and bears. Be sure to make noise as you hike and keep your distance from the wildlife. During the summer months, there is often an abundance of wildflowers along the trail. Difficult. Trail begins in the corner of the upper parking lot on Maligne Lake Rd., Jasper National Park, AB. Drive east from Jasper Townsite for 2 km (1.2 mi) on Hwy. 16 and turn right on Maligne Lake Rd. Cross the bridge and follow Maligne Lake Rd. for 46 km (28.5 mi) to the upper parking lot.
Wilcox Pass. Excellent views of the Athabasca Glacier are the highlight of this strenuous, 8-km (5-mile) hike near the Icefield Centre. This pass was originally used by explorers and First Nations people and is fairly steep. Keep an eye out for wildflowers and bighorn sheep. Be sure to dress in warm layers, because this pass can be snowy until late July. Difficult. Trailhead at parking area on left-hand side of the Wilcox Creek Campground entrance road, 3.1 km (1.9 mi) south of Icefield Centre, Jasper National Park, AB.
Jasper's backcountry is some of the wildest and most pristine of any mountain park in the world. For information on overnight camping quotas on the Skyline and Tonquin Valley trails or on any of the hundreds of hiking and mountain-biking trails in the area, contact the park information center. Skyline Trail. The trail meanders for 44 km (27 miles) past some of the park's best scenery, at or above the tree line. Reservations recommended. 780/852–6177.
Tonquin Valley. Near Mt. Edith Cavell, Tonquin Valley is one of Canada's classic backpacking areas. Its high mountain lakes, bounded by a series of steep rocky peaks known as the Ramparts, attract many hikers in high summer.
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