NEW! Backcountry Guide in Jasper National Park 2013
With more than 1000 kilometres of trails and routes to choose from, backcountry camping is a great way to experience the rugged and untamed wilderness of Jasper National Park.
These pages will help you plan a hike that is exciting, safe, and low impact.
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Jasper National Park Backcountry Map
Permits and reservations
Backcountry camping permits
Trails and trip ideas
Trip ideas and itineraries
Backcountry huts and lodges
Guides and outfitters
Travelling with horses
Climbing and mountaineering
Planning your trip
What to expect
When to go
Trip planning checklist
Equipment checklist - summer
Equipment checklist - winter
Maps and guidebooks
Protecting the Park
Managing our use
Leave no trace
Share the trail
Backcountry campground vacancy report (summer only)
Bear update (summer only)
Road report (winter only)
Avalanche bulletin (winter only)
What to expect
Jasper National Park offers a range of backcountry experiences.
Semi-primitive campsite © J. Nadeau
In areas designated as semi-primitive, you will find regularly maintained trails and campsites with amenities like pit toilets, tent pads, food storage cables, rustic picnic tables, and metal fire grates at sites where campfires are allowed. You are very likely to meet others on the trail.
In primitive areas of the park, trails are not as well maintained and campsites will have only a pit privy, fire grate and bear pole. These areas see much less human traffic.
In wildland areas, trails receive no maintenance, and travellers must be prepared for the rigours of remote travel including river fords, basic route finding and random camping.
Note: Weather, rockfall, high water and other natural events can change trail and campsite conditions instantly. Jasper is a big park and it takes time for trail crews to respond. Self-reliance in all backcountry areas is essential.
When to go
Always be prepared for freezing temperatures, even in mid-summer... © J. Nadeau
The summer season usually begins in May, but, from mid-May to late-June, most alpine areas are still snow-bound. At this time of year low elevation trails are the best option. Be prepared for mud in this early summer season.
The best time for an alpine trip is late-June to mid-September, although snow often persists in high passes until the middle of July. Even in summer, mountain weather can turn nasty. Always be prepared for rain. Freezing temperatures and snow are not uncommon above 1500 metres, even in mid-summer. Trails are the busiest at this time of year.
Mid-September though October can be a lovely time of year on the trails, the bugs are dead and the crowds have died down. But temperatures are much colder with a greater chance of snowfall, and the days are much shorter.
November to April is winter in the mountains. Cold temperatures, short days, deep snow, and avalanche danger are conditions that winter travelers need to be prepared to cope with. Winter guidelines are in effect at this time of year.
Backcountry camping permits
A backcountry camping permit is mandatory for all overnight trips and can be obtained by phoning the Trail Office (780) 852-6177. Backcountry trail office hours of operation for 2013
Frequent backcountry travellers can purchase an annual backcountry pass, valid in Jasper, Banff, Kootenay and Yoho national parks for a full year after purchase date. If you have an annual backcountry pass, you also need a backcountry camping permit for each trip. Annual backcountry pass holders pay only the reservation fee for their backcountry camping permit.
Note to Alpine Club of Canada hut users:
- If you are staying at an Alpine Club of Canada hut you must either obtain a backcountry camping permit from the Alpine Club, or bring along your annual backcountry pass.
Backcountry camping fees are used to fund trail maintenance, bridge building, campground maintenance, and trip planning assistance.
Backcountry camping fees, excluding the reservation fee, are entirely refundable up to 48 hours before your proposed date of departure. If your plans change, please take advantage of our refund policy and make your space available to others. Fees
Campsite reservations are strongly recommended. You can make a reservation up to 3 months in advance of your trip by phoning the Trail Office (780) 852-6177 . A non refundable reservation fee applies.
Book early for semi-primitive and primitive campsites.
Managing our use
Stay on the trails, vegetation is fragile. © N. Gaboury
Humans have an impact in the backcountry. Vegetation is fragile, especially at higher elevations, wildlife are not habituated to people, and backcountry users are seeking quiet and solitude.
Park management regulations and guidelines are in place to minimize our impact on the wilderness and each other. They include:
Group size limits
- The group-size maximum is ten people in semi-primitive and primitive areas.
- The group-size maximum is six people in wildland areas.
- One tent per site is permitted in semi-primitive areas.
- Four tents per campground is permitted in primitive areas.
Restrictions on campfires
- Three nights is the maximum length-of-stay at most semi-primitive and primitive areas.
- Two nights is the maximum length-of-stay at Fisherman’s Bay and Coronet Creek campgrounds (Maligne Lake), Snowbowl, Curator and Tekarra campgrounds (Skyline Trail), Jonas Cut-Off and Four-Point campgrounds (Brazeau Loop) and all wildland areas.
- Fires are only permitted in the metal fire grates provided in semi-primitive and primitive areas.
- Fires are not permitted in wildland areas
- Due to lack of wood, fires are not permitted in The Tonquin Valley, on the Skyline Trail, at Jonas Cut-Off and Four-Point campgrounds on the Brazeau Loop and all wildland areas.
- Wild animals see dogs as either prey or predator. They can provoke confrontations with wildlife and affect your safety. This is why dogs must be kept on leash while in a national park.
- Dogs are not permitted in caribou habitat (see map).
Winter use guidelines
Our backcountry permit system helps us to secure our quotas, and enforce our regulations and guidelines.
Share the trail
Hikers, horse parties and mountain bikers often share trails and campsites in certain parts of the park. Respect for others can go a long way toward reducing conflicts. Make noise if you are travelling quickly or silently, move off the trail to allow larger parties to pass, and avoid sudden movement around horses as they may spook.
Mountain biking is permitted on trails designated for bicycle use. Check the back country map for trails designated for long-day or overnight biking trips. Check the mountain biking guide for shorter day-rides. Be sure to bone up on your biking etiquette.
Climbing, Mountaineering and Glacier Travel
Highly specialized equipment and knowledge are necessary for safe mountaineering and glacier travel. If you plan to take part in climbing or mountaineering activities, we recommend reading our Mountain Safety pages. You can also discuss your plans with one of Jasper’s Public Safety Specialists by calling 780-852-6155. A number of excellent guide-books are available for reference at information centres or for sale through the Friends of Jasper. Since climbing and mountaineering activities involve some risk or hazard, a voluntary safety registration is recommended. Mountaineering parties can apply to bivouac in non-vegetated areas. The Alpine Club of Canada of Canada operates four mountaineering huts in Jasper National Park.
To find local transportation services, contact Tourism Jasper
Guides and Outfitters
Numerous guiding companies are licensed by Parks Canada to offer transportation and guiding services within Jasper National Park.
For the highest standards of local knowledge and safety, look for guides who are accredited by either or both the following professional organizations,:
Backcountry Huts and Lodges
Tonquin Valley Adventures
Tonquin Valley Backcountry Lodge
Shovel Pass Backcountry Lodge
Alpine Club of Canada
Please note: If you are staying at an Alpine Club of Canada facility you must either acquire a backcountry camping permit from the Alpine Club, or bring along your annual backcountry pass. See the backcountry camping permit section for more information
Playing it safe
All outdoor activities involve some degree of risk. Rapidly changing weather, steep, rugged or unfamiliar terrain, avalanches (at any time of year), cold, swift-flowing streams, canyons, rapids and waterfalls, glacial crevasses, falling rocks and wild animals are all backcountry hazards visitors may encounter. Caution and self-reliance are essential. You or your trip leader should have a knowledge of natural hazards, experience in avoiding them and a plan to deal with them successfully when required.
Remember - YOU are responsible for your own safety.
Voluntary Safety Registrations
Voluntary Safety Registration © A. Zier-Vogel
If you plan on participating in a backcountry activity and do not have a reliable local contact to leave your detailed travel information with, you can register your trip in person at park information centres. A safety registration ensures that if you do not return by the date and time recorded, a search will be initiated on your behalf. You must report back immediately upon your return to a Park Information Centre.
The most predictable thing about mountain weather is its unpredictability. Rain or snow can fall at any time of the year and freezing temperatures are possible even during the summer. The best way to deal with the weather is to prepare for all conditions.
Parks Canada Trail Office
Jasper Townsite Information Centre
Backcountry reservations and backcountry camping permits, grazing permits, safety registrations (in person only), trail information.
500 Connaught Dr.
P.O. Box 10, Jasper, AB ,T0E 1E0
Ph: (780) 852-6177; Fax: (780) 852-6152
Parks Canada Information, Icefield Centre
(Mid- May to early-September)
Backcountry camping permits, safety registrations (in person only), trail information.
103 km south of Jasper on the Icefields Parkway
Ph: (780) 852-6288; Fax: (780) 852-6287
Public Safety Office
Information on mountaineering, ice climbing, public safety.
Ph: (780) 852-6155; Fax: (780) 852-4775
Maps and Guidebooks
The following maps and guidebooks are available through the Friends of Jasper Friends of Jasper.
Government of Canada NTS topographic maps, 1:50,000
Gemtrek Jasper and Maligne Lake, 1:100,000
Gemtrek Columbia Icefield 1:75,000
Gemtrek Best of Jasper 1:35,000
National Geographic Trails Illustrated series T903, Jasper North, 1:100,000
National Geographic Trails Illustrated series T902, Jasper South, 1:100,000
The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson
Classic Hikes in the Canadian Rockies by Graeme Pole
Jasper-Robson: A Taste of Heaven by Don Beers
Hiking Jasper and Mount Robson by Rob Bryce
Trip ideas and itineraries
Two Day Trips
SATURDAY NIGHT LAKE LOOP - 24 km
This well-marked trail, beginning and ending in the Jasper townsite, is on a plateau all below timberline, making it a good selection for the novice or early season hiker. Elevation gain/loss 786 m. Maximum elevation 1640 m.
Trailheads: Activity Centre parking lot and the junction of Bonhomme and Patricia streets
Maps: NTS Jasper 83D/16, Gemtrek Best of Jasper, National Geographic Jasper South.
JACQUES LAKE - 12 km one way
This unique trail travels through a narrow mountain valley, skirts four lakes and crosses a watershed- all in less than 13km and with little change in elevation. A good choice for novice hikers. Elevation gain 90 m. Maximum elevation 1540 m.
Trailhead: south end of Medicine Lake, 28 km from Jasper townsite
Maps: NTS Medicine Lake 83C/13, Gemtrek Jasper and Maligne Lake, National Geographic Jasper South.
BIG BEND – 7.8 km one-way
Hike or ride along this old fire road to enjoy the spectacular views of the upper Athabasca Valley. Make a day of it, or stay overnight at Big Bend or Athabasca Crossing campgrounds. Elevation loss 37m. Maximum elevation 1400m.
Notes: Due to the relatively easy access,
Trailhead: Sunwapta junction, 54.5 km south of Jasper townsite
Maps: NTS Athabasca Falls 83C/12, Fortress Lake 83C/5. Gemtrek Jasper and Maligne Lake, National Geographic Jasper South.
Three Day Trips
MALIGNE LAKE CANOEING - 22 km
Maligne Lake is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies. Stunningly beautiful, this lake is famed for its surrounding peaks, glaciers and Spirit Island - one of the most photographed locations in the country. Maligne Lake is a unique backcountry experience in Jasper National Park. Canoes,kayaks and electric motors are allowed.
Notes: Due to the relatively easy access, campgrounds fill up very quickly. Advance Reservations are necessary. Group size maximum is 10 people using up to 4 tents. One tent per tent pad.
Trailheads: Maligne Lake (50 km from Jasper townsite).
Maps: NTS Southesk 83C/11, Athabasca Falls 83C/12, Gemtrek Jasper and Maligne Lake, National Geographic Jasper South.
SKYLINE – 44 km
Caribou range –dogs not allowed.
An exceptionally beautiful trail, most of it above treeline. High elevation allows for expansive views that extend over much of the park, encompassing vast meadows, windswept ridges and the chance to spot wildlife in the distance. Elevation gain from Maligne Lake 1410 m and loss 1928m. Maximum elevation 2510 m
Notes: No fires. Snow may remain in higher areas until mid-July.
Trailheads: Maligne Lake (50 km from Jasper townsite) and just before Maligne Canyon (about 8 km from Jasper on the Maligne Road). Recommended direction is from Maligne Lake to Maligne Canyon.
Maps: NTS Medicine Lake 83C/13, Athabasca Falls 83C/12, Gemtrek Jasper and Maligne Lake, National Geographic Jasper South.
TONQUIN VALLEY LOOP - 43 km
Caribou range –dogs not allowed.
The Tonquin Valley's scenery is unrivalled. This is one of Canada's premiere alpine regions, a unique combination of barren peaks, ghostly ice and fertile lakes. There are several excellent day hikes in the area. Elevation gain from Astoria trail 1053m and loss 1293m. Maximum elevation 2210 m.
Notes: No fires. Regular horse use during July and August and rain can make trails muddy and challenging for hikers.
Trailheads: km 12.7 on the Cavell Rd (Astoria trail) and at km 6.3 on the Marmot Basin Rd (Portal Creek trail).
Maps: NTS Amethyst Lakes 83D/9, Jasper 83D/16, Gemtrek Jasper and Maligne Lake, National Geographic Jasper South.
FRYATT VALLEY - 22 km one way
The Fryatt Valley Trail is long, and the final climb up the Headwall to the upper valley is one you won't soon forget. But this tiny hanging valley tucked into one of Jasper's great mountain ranges is a jewel that rewards all your efforts. Elevation gain 690 m. Maximum elevation 2040 m.
Notes: Biking allowed to lower Fryatt campsite. Alpine Club hut must be booked in advance.
Trailhead: km 2.0 of Geraldine fire road, off Hwy 93A just north of Athabasca Falls.
Maps: NTS Athabasca Falls 83C/12 Gemtrek Jasper and Maligne Lake, National Geographic Jasper South.
Four Day Trips
BRAZEAU LOOP– 80 km
Caribou range –dogs not allowed.
The "grand tour" of the southern ranges, this circuit includes one of the park's largest backcountry lakes and an extraordinary alpine traverse with glaciated peaks, lush wildflowers and a variety of wildlife. The trail passes through extensive alpine meadows and three passes. Elevation gain/loss-clockwise loop, 1912 m. Maximum elevation 2475 m.
Notes:. Snow levels may hinder travel until mid-July. No fires at Jonas Cutoff Campground. Horses are not allowed in Jonas Pass.
Trailhead: 112 km south of Jasper townsite on the Icefields Parkway-Nigel Creek.
Maps: Sunwapta Peak 83C/6, Columbia Icefield 83C/3, Gemtrek Columbia Icefield (southern portion only), National Geographic Jasper South.
POBOKTAN-JONAS PASS – 54 km one way
Caribou range – no dogs allowed.
A shorter alternative to the Brazeau loop, This is an impressive hike with over 13 km of travel above treeline. Good views and prime habitat for park wildlife including hoary marmot and woodland caribou. Elevation gain 1686 m and loss 1340m. Maximum elevation 2470 m.See notes for Brazeau loop above.
Trailhead: Sunwapta patrol station, 72km S of Jasper townsite on Icefields Parkway.
Maps: NTS Sunwapta Peak 83C/6, Columbia Icefield 83C/3, National Geographic Jasper South.
FIDDLE RIVER - 50 km return
Follow the Fiddle River to FiddlePass, a beautiful alpine summit straddling the park's eastern boundary. Beyond scenic Fiddle Pass a well-defined trail continues down to a provincial campground near Cadomin. A rugged, primitive trail with few bridged crossings that can be very muddy in places. Elevation gain 1200 m and loss 448m, from Miette Hotsprings one way. Maximum elevation 2135 m.
Trailhead: Miette Hotsprings (60 km NE from Jasper townsite).
Maps: NTS Miette 83F/4, Mountain Park 83 C/14, Cadomin 83 F/3, Gemtrek Jasper and Maligne Lake (to Whitehorse Pass only), National Geographic Jasper North.
Seven to Ten Day Trips
In wildland camping areas, toilets and food storage may not be present in some locations. Bear-resistant containers are required to store food.
ATHABASCA PASS - 98 km return
This remote historic trail follows the Whirlpool River valley, the traditional route of early fur traders crossing the Rocky Mountains. Large gravel flats and glaciers dominate the scenery in sections. Most major crossings are bridged as you climb toward Athabasca Pass National Historic Site. Some horse traffic.
Notes: bikes allowed to Tie Camp Campground. Elevation gain 843 m and loss 311m, from Moab Lake road, one way. Maximum elevation 1755 m.
Trailhead: Moab Lake off Highway 93A.
Maps: NTS Athabasca Falls 83C/12, Amethyst Lakes 83D/9, Athabasca Pass 83D/8, Gemtrek Jasper and Maligne Lake, National Geographic Jasper South.
NORTH BOUNDARY - 179 km
North Boundary country possesses its own unique brand of beauty- a wilderness of broad valleys and distant views that is inhabited by an array of wildlife. The trail is rugged in places although most major river crossings are bridged. Some horse traffic. Elevation gain 2688 m and loss 2922m, from Celestine Road, one-way. Maximum elevation 2019 m.
Notes: Very remote, trail is maintained infrequently.
Trailheads: end of Celestine Road, 53 km from Jasper townsite; Rock Lake, 32km from Hwy 40 to Grande Cache; and at Mount Robson, 88 km west of Jasper townsite on Highway 16.
Maps: NTS Snaring 83E/1, Rock Lake 83E/8, Blue Creek 83E/7, Twintree Lake 83E/6, Mt. Robson 83E/3, National Geographic Jasper North.
SOUTH BOUNDARY - 120 km
This high country trek travels through lowland forest and over two alpine passes. Most major water crossing are bridged but the smaller streams may require fancy footwork. Much of the trail is very remote. Elevation gain1806m and loss 2231m, from Nigel Pass, one-way. Maximum elevation 2255 m.
Notes: Due to a recent landslide and post-fire deadfall, the trail between Jacques Lake and Grizzly Campground is very difficult to navigate. Travel through this area is not recommended. The trail is maintained infrequently between Brazeau Lake and Jacques Lake. The section of trail from Brazeau Lake to Highway 93 overlaps the popular Brazeau Loop. Advance Reservations for this section are a must.
Trailheads: Rocky Pass via Hwy 40, 77 km SE of Hinton. Nigel Pass: 112 km from Jasper townsite on the Icefields Parkway. Jacques Lake: North end of Medicine Lake on the Maligne Lake Road
Maps: NTS Columbia Icefield 83C/3, Sunwapta Peak 83C/6, Job Creek 83C/7, George Creek 83C/10, Southesk 83C/11, Mountain Park 83C/14, Medicine Lake 83C/13.