Old Farts at Old Fort Point
"I am often asked, via my Instagram page, what hikes I would recommend to visitors to Jasper National Park. So I've created a list to which I can refer you wonderful people! The purpose of the list is to help you narrow down the many options in the area; you will still need to do some research on trail conditions and such to fully inform your trip. Any distances and times I've provided are approximate, and the hikes I've included are less than an hour from the townsite in any direction. Click on the name of the hike to conveniently get the Parks Canada information.
Useful maps and apps:
- AllTrails is very useful for locating trailheads and distances/elevation gains
- National Geographic Maps (available at Tourist Center in town)
- Most of the trail heads have a toilet, so please use it and not the bushes. If you do need to relieve yourself whilst hiking, please step off the trail so that no one can see you and do NOT leave any toilet paper behind. Everybody, including the animals that sometimes drag it onto the trail, thanks you for this courtesy.
- Be prepared! Mountain weather is fickle and can change quickly. Always have a few extra layers of clothes, including a rain layer.
- You will never regret packing sunscreen, bug spray, and a snack into your backpack. And don't forget that extra bottle of water just in case it's longer or hotter than you thought.
- I always hike with Bear Spray attached to my belt, and make lots of noise ('Hey Bear!') especially when travelling through dense bush or before going around bling corners.
- Check with the Jasper Visitor Center to make sure there are no recent trail closures and to grab a trail map.
Love glaciers, wildflowers, and towering peaks? Don't mind lots of tourists and an interestingly windy road with somewhat limited parking? Then Cavell Meadows are for you! You can hike up to the lookout or continue up through the meadows for a 8km loop. Please keep to the main trails to avoid damaging the fragile meadows.
You will have to check with the Jasper Visitor Center as the road has been closed for construction on the parking lot, and there are seasonal closures to protect the caribou in the area. The trailhead is on 93A around 26km south of town.
Want a nice undulating trail that visits five lakes that are different colours of blue? Starting from the sizeable parking lot 10km south of town on the the east side of Icefields Parkway, this trail has a variety of lengths that you can adjust depending upon your timeline or fitness level. I enjoy doing the large loop clockwise to take advantage of a longer hike (around 5km and 75-90min). You will pass by five blue-tiful lakes set in the forest on a easy but undulating trail to follow with many road signs and all junctions signed.
Would you like to get a sweet 360 degree view of the the Jasper townsite area, looking south to the peaks down the Parkway, North to Pyramid Mountain and the townsite, west towards BC, and east down the Yellowhead highway and the Colin Range?
From the parking lot south of town, you have two options.
1. Quickly ascend a steep stair case that is built into the cliff and head up the short but steep trail to the Point (less than 1km). Note, this is very icy in the winter.
2. Take the enjoyable loop through aspens and conifers around to the climax of the top of the knoll over looking the town. The first section of the trail continues to Valley of Five if you want a longer option, and even continues to Wabasso Lake for an enjoyable day hike. The loop is ~4km and takes around an hour to complete.
If you are looking for a nice easy walk , this would be it. The "hike" circumnavigates Lake Annette, affording lovely views of Pyramid Mountain and the Colin Range, and passes by a beach area that makes for a nice place to stop and enjoy the view of Whistlers Mountain and the peaks down the Parkway. Since this is a short walk, ~1h, the day could be extended in the summer by renting a SUP board from the beach at Lake Edith, a short walk away. I've walked the trail in all seasons and enjoyed it each time.
If you enjoy canyons and waterfalls, then head down the Maligne Lake Road to the Maligne Canyon Tea House. This hike can also be done from the Sixth Bridge (3.7km) in order to lengthen the day (two vehicles, or out and back) and to experience the development of the canyon system as it rushes down the valley from Medicine and Maligne Lakes. This can be a busy trail, and please be careful on the slippery sections with the handrails.
Continuing down the Maligne Lake Road (at 27.3km), past the lovely turn out looking down Medicine Lake, there is a parking lot after a tight curve in the road, on the left. The trail to Beaver Lake had been washed out a few times, but new bridges have been put into place. The hike through the forest is lovely and the views at Beaver (at 1.6km) and Summit Lakes (at 3.2km) include the impressively steep Elizabeth Range to the east. If you are feeling energetic the trail does continue to a backcountry campground at Jacques Lake (12.2km), of which I have enjoyed hiking many times in the spring and fall.
At the end of the scenic Maligne Lake Road (44km) is the eponymous Lake. Wrap around the right side of the Lake and park in the lot. The hike up to the Bald Hills starts back across the road and provides some of the best views down the valley to the giants at the head of the lake. It is a decent climb up (610m) over 5km, but it is beautiful. Across the lake is the Opal Hills hike, another lofty viewpoint down the lake. If much energy and time is had by the group, both viewpoints can be hiked in the day.
If you are looking for more of a challenge, the Sulfur Skyline has a lot to offer. Not only is there a hot springs and a restaurant with excellent food and frozen yogurt at the end of this hike, but the view from the top of the ridge is spectacular. The trailhead is at the end of Miette road an hour east of Jasper townsite, and is a beautiful drive itself. The 8km hike takes around 2.5-3h and climbs 670m to the beautiful panorama at the summit. There is no water along this route, so bring an extra bottle.
In contrast with Lake Annette, this would be the most challenging hike on this list. It requires a bit of route finding (there's flagging) and involves 630m of elevation gain, which could be an issue depending upon your fitness and experience level. However, if you are up for it, it has some very nice views down the valleys as it is situated on the end of the Colin Range.