Jasper National Park Overview
Jasper National Park is the largest national park in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Located just north of Banff National Park, Jasper is known for its abundant wildlife and extensive trail network. The park comprises five areas: Around town, Maligne Valley, Jasper East And Miette Hot Springs, Mount Edith Cavell, and Icefields Parkway (HWY 93). The best hikes in Jasper National Park described below offer something for everyone and make a trip to this beautiful area well worth it.
|Nearest Metro Area||Edmonton, AB|
|Area Size||2,774,400 acres|
|Established||September 14, 1907|
|Hiking Trails||775 miles|
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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Jasper National Park
Indian Ridge via Whistlers Summit (Around Town)
Take the Jasper Tramway to access the Whistlers Summit Trail. Hiking up to the SkyTram dropoff is an option but would add over 8 miles roundtrip to get to Indian Ridge. Venture up to Whistlers Summit for a 360-degree view of the Athabasca Valley and surrounding mountains. From here the trail climbs very steeply to the ridgeline but the effort is worth it as this is easily one of the best hikes in Jasper National Park. The trail is well defined but does require a rock scramble to get to the top. Come prepared with extra layers.
- 7.5 miles (12km) out and back
- 3,150’ (960m) elevation gain
Sulphur Skyline Trail (Miette Hot Springs)
Climb switchbacks to the summit on one of the best hikes in Jasper National Park and of the area’s signature trails. The view is spectacular. To the east you can see right over the mountain front and across the foothills. The gravelly valley of the Fiddle River winds to the southeast; Utopia Mountain (2563 m) and other gray limestone peaks of the Miette Range are close by to the south and west, and the great cliffs of Ashlar Ridge line the valley to the north.
- 5.0 miles (8km) out and back
- 2,300’ (700m) elevation gain
Valley of the Five Lakes (Around Town)
The five small lakes are the highlights of this outing, which is a popular family hike and one of the best hikes in Jasper National Park. Begin with an easy walk through a forest of lodgepole pine, reaching a boardwalk across the Wabasso Creek wetlands in the first km. Watch for beavers. Beyond, the trail climbs across a flowery meadow to a junction. Continue on to reach Fifth Lake, with its small island and nesting loons. Watch for markers leading left toward Fourth Lake, Third and Second, each a different depth and thus a different hue of blue green. Between Second and First lakes turn left and follow the trail to close the loop.
- 2.9 mile (4.6km) loop
- 215’ (66m) elevation gain
Maligne Canyon Loop (Maligne Area)
The Maligne Canyon provides the best views of Jasper’s famous limestone gorge. Cross the suspension bridge over the Maligne River and keep right at all intersections as you work your way up the canyon, gaining 100 m. (You can start at the top and walk down the canyon trail, but the views are better if you’re facing up-canyon.) Water gushes from springs along the way; interpretive signs explain how Maligne Canyon is connected to Medicine Lake, 15 km away, by a cave system.
- 2.1 mile (3.4km) loop
- 475’ (145m) elevation gain
Path of the Glacier & Edith Cavell Meadows (Edith Cavell)
Path of the Glacier is a short, well-used trail that takes you toward the great north face of Mt. Edith Cavell, across a rocky landscape recently covered with glacial ice. Follow the trail to the end of the paved portion, turning hard left soon after onto the route to the meadows. Cavell Meadows Trail follows the edge of the bouldery moraine; watch for little gray pikas and chipmunk-like golden-mantled ground squirrels among the rocks. The trail levels out at treeline, angles left and loops back down to rejoin itself at the edge of the forest.
- 4.3 miles (7km) out and back
- 1,640’ (500m) elevation gain
Bald Hills (Maligne Area)
The elevation gain of nearly 500m is well worth the effort as spectacular views await you from the top. The trail climbs steadily through an open forest of lodgepole pine. At the end of the old fire road, you get a panoramic view of Maligne Lake, with triangular Samson Peak (3077 m) obvious partway down the far shore, and (counterclockwise), Leah Peak (2810 m), reddish-brown Opal Peak (2740), the gray Queen Elizabeth Range, the Maligne Valley, the brownish Maligne Range and, close by, the northernmost of the Bald Hills. A path continues southward to the foot of this small, rounded mountain, then ascends steeply to the summit, elevation 2300 m. Extensive alpine meadows to the south are very flowery in late July and early August.
- 6.5 miles (10.4km) out and back
- 1,640’ (500m) elevation gain
Toe of the Athabasca Glacier (Icefields Parkway)
Once across the bridge over a meltwater stream from the glacier, you’re walking at times on glacially smoothed limestone surfaces that were under the ice in the 1950s. Scratches and gouges in the rock are aligned with the ice flow. The trail steepens and reaches the top of a rock bench, where you can see the edge of the glacier just ahead.
- 1.1 miles (1.8km) out and back
- 195’ (60m) elevation gain
Old Fort Point (Around Town)
Old Fort Point is a prominent bedrock hill standing 130 m above the river. Rounded on its south side, cliffy on its north side, Old Fort Point is a classic roche moutonnée: a bedrock knob shaped by glaciers. The loop trail over the top is steep in places, but it provides an excellent view of Jasper and its surroundings. From the top you will view: Mt. Edith Cavell to the south, The Whistlers to the southwest, the valley of the Miette River leading west, the town of Jasper across the Athabasca River, Lac Beauvert and Jasper Park Lodge to the north, Colin Range to the northeast, rounded Signal Mountain and the cliffs of Mt. Tekarra to the east, and to the southeast, Mt. Hardisty, and Mt. Kerkeslin.
- 2.4 mile (3.8km) loop
- 425’ (130m) elevation gain
Wilcox Pass (Icefields Parkway)
To avoid an impassable canyon on the Sunwapta River north of the Athabasca Glacier, aboriginal families and later travelers on horseback used this bypass route, now named for early Rockies climber Walter Wilcox. The first km of the trail is fairly steep, but it gets easier as you cross the treeline and reach the wide-open pass area. Watch for bighorn rams in the flowery meadows. There are grand views all along this stretch of trail. Note: the pass area can be snowy until late July.
- 5.0 miles (8km) out and back
- 1,280’ (390m) elevation gain
Jasper Discovery Trail (Around Town)
This trail will introduce you to the nature and history of Jasper. Look for signs, maps, markers and kiosks to guide your way. There are a few steep inclines on the northwest section of trail.
- 5.1 mile (8.3km) loop
- 395’ (120m) elevation gain
Lower Sunwapta Falls is composed of three major waterfalls. The combination of solitude and open views to the surrounding mountains make this short hike very rewarding. Great family-friendly option.
- 1.6 mile (2.6km) out and back
- 285’ (87m) elevation gain
Athabasca Falls (Icefields Parkway)
Feel the spray of the Athabasca River as it thunders into the canyon below. The paved trail travels a short distance to viewpoints of the falls.
- 0.6 miles (200m) out and back
- No elevation gain
The Skyline (Maligne Area)
The Skyline Trail is Jasper’s most popular backcountry hiking trail and books up quickly. The most popular direction to hike the Skyline is from south (Maligne Lake) to north, since you lose more elevation that you gain. Most hikers travel the Skyline Trail in 2 – 3 days, though it’s nice to have an extra day to explore the alpine areas along the way. Highlights include Little Shovel Pass at km 10.3, Big Shovel Pass at km 17.5, the high col named “The Notch” and the alpine ridge hiking beyond. Snow can persist late into the summer season on this high elevation trail.
- 27.4 miles (44.1km) one-way
- 5,450’ (1,660m) elevation gain
The Tonquin Valley is one of Canada’s premiere backcountry destinations, with impressive peaks, glaciers and scenic lakes. The valley is popular for its stunning views of Amethyst Lake at the base of The Ramparts mountain range. The trail is horseshoe shaped, with access to the valley from two trailheads. You may wish to arrange transportation so that you can hike in from one trailhead and out to the other. Traveling in from the Astoria trailhead has less elevation and quicker access to the campgrounds on the south end of Amethyst Lake. Starting from the Maccarib trailhead is generally considered more scenic.
- 26.8 miles (43.1km) one-way
- 4,750’ (1,450m) elevation gain
Featured Image: Jasper National Park – Canadian Rockies, Photo by G. Lamar
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