Jasper NP

Key information: Jasper NP

  • This famous park in the Canadian Rockies has some of the world’s most beautiful mountain landscape.
  • World-class walks, including the famous Skyline Trail and Tonquin Valley.

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  • Note: Negs: popularity, crowding on popular routes.

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Your choice
  • Maximum Altitude: 2,320m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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WALK SUMMARY

This National Park in Alberta’s Rockies is home to some of the world's most beautiful mountain landscape. We love Lonely Planet's description: 'filled with the kind of immense scenery that has turns the monosyllabic into romantic poets'. Jasper is quieter than Banff NP to its south, its backcountry even remoter – although you won’t feel alone on its popular trails in high season.

Prepare for majestic peaks, craggy ridges and vast cliffs; glaciers hanging from high valleys and shelves; powerful rivers, gorges and wide bottoms sprinkled with lakes; high meadows and boundless forest below. And pure, pure air. A feature of the south of the park is the vast Columbia Icefield, with its 6 + outlet glaciers, including the Athabasca. Most of the forests are of spruce, with some firs and ground-hugging pines higher up. There is a good variety of shrubs, but the area is famous for its glorious wildflowers, which appear with the snowmelt or shortly thereafter, thus appearing later on the higher slopes.

Wildlife includes black and grizzly bears; moose, elk, deer and Bigham sheep and mountain goats; wolves and coyote; beavers, marmots and little pikas. Birds include golden eagles (which migrate north-south past Jasper), ospreys and owls; and nutcrackers and thieving jays.

There is an excellent network of trails (said to be 1,200km-worth) in the park, so you can find countless walks to suit you, from shortish potters to long explorations deep into true wilderness. 

Multi-day walks

The most famous walk here is the 2-3 day Skyline Trail. This superb high-ground walk is claimed by many to be the finest walk in Canada, enjoying outstanding views (visual heaven) and a good chance to encounter the interesting wildlife.

The other really great walk is the trek in to the marvellously beautiful Tonquin Valley, a long basin sprinkled with beautiful lakes and overlooked by the line of peaks and cliffs known as the Ramparts. 2 days+.

Brazeau Trail: a superb and less-walked trail out into the high back-country, crossing the Jonah and Nigel Passes. Enjoy high alpine landscape as well as lovely forests. Various ways of tackling it, from 3 day (54km) to 5 days (80km).

The North Boundary Trail heads for 192 km north then westwards towards Mt Robson NP and the stunning Berg Lake.  This is a truly remote backcountry hike, crossing view-wealthy high grounds but also thick forest and marshy areas. A demanding walk requiring a lot of preparation. Assume roughly 10 days, give or take two either way. 

The Fiddle River Trail follows its eponymous valley deep into the wilderness south-west from Miette Hot Springs, to cross the Fiddle Pass then descend into the remote Wildhorse Wildland Provincial Park. (You may want to walk this in reverse, so you end at the hot springs, which, as well as giving a rewarding soak, may be easiest transport-wise.) A fabulous 37km/4-day backcountry hike in stunning landscape. For experienced hikers only, wayfinding not easy.

South Boundary Trail: beginning with a gentle climb up the valley from Medicine Lake in the Maligne Valley to Jacques Lake (see below), this utterly remote backcountry hike leads its way southwards (and out of the park) for some 170km. While it explores meadows and crosses passes, much of it is in forested valley bottoms. A serious walk, wayfinding not easy. You can also walk from Nigel Creek up to Brazeau Lake, in 18.3 miles, one way. See more at https://canadianrockiestrailguide.com/jaspers-south-boundary-trail-revisited/

Day Walks

North of the NP: In the north of the park are the  Miette Hot Springs. 

The 700m climb to the Sulphur Skyline and Sulphur Lookout is the best day walk in the area, delivering vast and wonderful views from the high ridge at 2,000m +. Beware unpredictable weather. 8 (9?)km return, 3 hrs or so.

The springs are also the start of the lengthy Fiddle River Trail (see above).

Mid NP – near Jasper town

The shortish (4km circuit) but steep climb (gaining 130m) to Old Fort Point rewards with lavish views of the surrounding mountains. The straightforward 9km circuit from Jasper town to ravishing Mina Lake and Riley Lake makes a lovely 3hr walk. A good leg-stretcher.

Indian Ridge is some people's favourite day hike. From the top of the Jasper SkyTram at Wistlers Summit, this walk climbs to the summit, then descends to a col, then climbs back up to the Indian Ridge.  Huge views include Mt Robson.

Morro Peak is a 600m climb to a peak with views over the Athabasca valley. 8km, 4 hrs+.

South – off Icefields Parkway

Astoria Valley: this lovely valley is mainly used as access to the famously magnificent Tonquin Valley, although it is a good walk in its own right. You climb steadily through forest and beside the river for the first 10km, with some lake and mountain views to whet your appetite. You then climb some 300m of not-too-difficult switchbacks for 3 km or so, emerging into the flower-filled pastures of lower Tonquin for a visual feast of the famous walls of the Ramparts marching ahead. Ie, to make a superb rather than a merely very good day, you need to make a long day of it.

Eremite Valley:  A lovely, forested valley leading to marvellous scenery lake-and-mountain at its upper end. Begins on the Astoria River trail. 16km+ return.

Geraldine Lakes: this is a stunning but (once past the first lake) demanding hike/scramble up a stepped valley to two gorgeous lakes (and, indeed) you could climb further to two further lakes. An easy beginning to the first lake, then a proper scramble up the first two steps, to a waterfall then to the upper lake. 10km/3.5hrs there and back. 400m+ height gain. [Photos, describe. Big mts about?l

Path of the Glacier Trail: walk up the still-desolate recent glacier path to the greeny iceberg lakelet at the foot of the particularly beautiful Angel Glacier.  1.5km to the viewpoint. You can head on down to the lake. A popular walk.

Edith Cavell Meadows: a 440m climb past meadows and viewpoints and through lovely forest to the wonderfully beautiful flowery high Edith Cavell Meadows. Close into the cliffs and ice of Mt Edith Cavell and with views of the Angel Glacier as well. 8km+, 3hrs there and back (more if add on Glacier Trail).

The superb Sunwapta Falls are an easy walk off the Icefields Parkway. 3km/1hr return to the lower falls in their wide, forested valley.

Sunwapta Peak: Climb 1,850m to the bare, rocky 3,315m summit of this glacier-dangling peak. Astounding views. A really demanding 12km walk. Not for the uninitiated.

Wilcox Pass is a generally moderate hike on the slopes above the Athabasca Glacier into ever-wilder (windswept) country, up to this high pass (actually, wide, flattish valley) amidst glaciated peaks for stunning views. 8km/2.5 hrs return.

Parker Ridge: a shortish (6km, 2hrs return) climb to a ridge for incredible views of the vast Saskatchewan Glacier, the biggest of the Columbian Icefield’s outlets, and its surrounding mountains. (Don’t be fooled by the underwhelming-seeming walk up.)

To Athabasca Glacier: an easy walk to the base of this stunning glacier.

South-east – Maligne Valley: the start of these walks is in the Maligne Valley, so you can get here by shuttle. While the Maligne Lake shore (and valley) are crowded in summer, you can get away from most of them pretty quickly.

Opal Peak: a steep 1,200m climb to flowery meadows and then on to this stunning rocky summit. The views are, it barely needs saying, astounding. 12 km.

Mary Schaffer Trail: short and easy (and therefore popular) potter to a famous viewpoint. Not for the serious walker.

Moose Lake: a short (2-5km) and easy circuit to this lovely lake on a surprisingly empty path. Chance of moose sighting.

Bald Hills: from the foot of Maligne Lake, climb 500m to make a couple of loops on rock and alpine meadow on the Bald Hills to the south-west of the lake-head. Huge and stunning views of the mountainous, glacier-speckled wilderness and lake. Up to 11km (5 hrs).

Beaver Lake to Jacques Lake: this is one of Jasper's best lower-level walks, a long but not difficult trek from Medicine Lake up a flattish valley past three fine lakes to Jacques Lake, with dramatic mountains marching each side. 24km round trip, 6hrs+.

Others: While both are short and popular, it is worth having a look at Maligne Canyon and walking to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier.

[See video clip(s) here.

This can be demanding walking in remote mountains with uncertain weather, and where bears are a risk. Come fully prepared.

Our friends and partners Responsible Travel have a selection of walking and other holidays here. Because they have numerous holidays, you should get good ideas, perhaps for something you hadn’t thought of!

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PRACTICAL INFORMATION

We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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