Summer Trails Guide
Download a printable version of the 2012 guide
"Day Hiking Guide in Jasper National Park"
(Large PDF, 1936 Kb)
Hike, bike and ride in a great national park
Elk, bison, bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goats and caribou must have established their own pathways in Jasper National Park long before humans arrived in the Canadian Rockies about 11,000 years ago. Aboriginal peoples discovered and used these hoofed-animal trails. In the 1800s, non-native explorers, fur-company employees, railway surveyors and settlers followed.
The park was founded in 1907. Since then, its natural trail network has been expanded and maintained for the benefit of everyone wanting to experience Jasper's wildlands. Whether you're strolling the short Mary Schäffer Loop, hiking all day in the Bald Hills, mountain-biking the Wabasso Trail or riding a horse near Pyramid Lake, there is something in this guide for you.
A few of Jasper's trails are restricted to pedestrians, but much of the network is shared by hikers, mountain-bikers, equestrians and wildlife. We'd like to keep it that way. You can help by following the rules of courtesy and wildlife protection found in the colored boxes in this guide.
Note: distances given in the trail descriptions are approximate to a destination and back, around a loop, or from one parking area to another. Except as noted, times given are total on-trail times for hikers.
Trail problems? Please report them to any park employee. Download a printable version of the map - Large PDF 1117 Kb
Close to Jasper
The trail routes described below are on the Pyramid Bench, a lake-dotted terrace adjacent to Jasper.
If you have no transportation, please note that these trails are easily reached on foot from town.
Cottonwood Creek and Pyramid Lake loops
Trails 2 and 2a, 3.8 km return (1-2 hours) or 2 and 2b, 17.4 km return (5-7 hours)
Trailheads : Jasper Activity Centre parking lot (in town, near start of Pyramid Lake Road), Cottonwood Slough parking lot (2 km up Pyramid Lake Road), Pyramid Stables (3.5 km) or Pyramid Lake (end of road).
From town, Trail 2 begins with a steady climb of 60m onto the Pyramid Bench, with a good view of the town along the way. Crossing the gated road to Cabin Lake, Trail 2 continues to the Cottonwood Slough parking lot and crosses the Pyramid Lake Road. Shortly past Cottonwood Creek, you reach a junction with Trail 2a. Turning right onto 2a takes you back to the north end of town along the creek, for a short walk of 1 to 2 hours.
To continue to Pyramid Lake, follow Trail 2 past the junction with Trail 6a and angle right onto Trail 2b. Soon the path climbs across an open hillside, giving you the first of many fine views of the Athabasca Valley.
Trail 2b follows the edge of the Pyramid Bench for 2km. You may see bighorn sheep grazing on the grassy slopes below you. The forest is mostly old-growth Douglas-fir, an evergreen easily identified by its furrowed bark.
After the junction with Trail 2h, Trail 2b begins a steady climb of 120 m along a wooded ridge with openings that offer exceptional views. This scenic section is known as the Pyramid Overlook. The trail descends to the Pyramid Lake parking lot, where it rejoins Trail 2.
For the return leg of the loop, follow Trail 2 beside the Pyramid Lake Road. The path goes behind a motel and through the woods for 1.5 km to the complicated stables area, where you need to follow the markers carefully. Cross the large parking lot there and find the continuation of Trail 2 at the far corner. Half a kilometre later you'll close the loop, 2.5 km from where you started.
Note: the loop section of this hike is heavily used by horses, especially near the stables.
Patricia Lake Circle
Trails 6 and 6c, 4.6 km return (2-3 hours)
Trailhead: riding-stables parking area at km 3.5 on the Pyramid Lake Road, or hike Trail 2 from town.
This is an easy trail with moderate hills. From the trailhead kiosk by the stables, take Trail 6c across the Pyramid Lake Road to the junction with Trail 6. Keep right, uphill through aspen groves. Pass under a powerline and descend to the shore of Patricia Lake, where you may see loons. Patricia Lake was named for Princess Patricia of Connaught, a governor-general's daughter.
Continue past the junction with Trail 6ba shortcut, but uphillto reach Cottonwood Creek and a fine view of Cottonwood Slough. This is a favorite spot for watching ducks and beavers. You may see a moose. From the slough, follow Trail 6 past the junction with 6a, then take 6c back to the stables parking lot.
Mina Lakes - Riley Lake Loop
Trails 8 and 2, 9 km return (3-4 hours)
Trailhead: Jasper Activity Centre lot, near the start of the Pyramid Lake Road. Follow Trail 8 to the left. This trailhead is easily reached on foot from town.
Rewards come early on this popular trail, which takes you to lower Mina Lake in less than 2 km. After the initial steady climb of 160 m, the trail follows the north side of the lakes (locally pronounced MINE-uh, significance unknown), where you may see Barrow's goldeneye ducks and loons. Past upper Mina Lake you can shortcut back to town via Trail 8c. To reach Riley Lake, small but scenic, continue on Trail 8, following it along the south shore of Cottonwood Slough. At the junction with Trail 2, turn right to get back to Jasper.
Share the valley
The area where the Miette, Maligne and Athabasca rivers converge is critical habitat for elk, sheep, moose and deer, and for their predators, including wolves, cougars, grizzly bears and black bears.
Recent research suggests that human use is displacing these large predators from some portions of this three-valley confluence. The areas shaded in grey are less disturbed by people and development, and so are especially important for movement of these wary species. To help us restore lost habitat, please travel only on the designated trails, avoiding unmarked trails, which are used mainly by wildlife. A few designated trails are also shown in grey, because they, too, are heavily used by wildlife. To protect the animals, restore habitat and avoid conflicts, we suggest that you avoid these trails.
Across the river
These trail routes lie on the east side of the Athabasca River, across from town. Reach them by going east on Highway 16 for 1.9 km to the Moberly Bridge, or south on Highway 93A for 0.6 km, then left to cross the river on the Old Fort Point bridge.
Old Fort Point Loop
Trail 1, 3.5 km return (1-2 hours)
Trailhead: From town or from Highway 16, follow Highway 93A to the Old Fort Point/Lac Beauvert access road. Turn left, cross the Athabasca River on the old iron bridge, then park in the lot on the right. Distance to the trailhead from town: 1.6 km.
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.
The name Old Fort probably refers to Henry House, a North West Company cabin built near here in 1811, now gone but commemorated as a National Historic Site.
The quickest route to the big view at the top of the hill is up the stairs that start by the cliff. (The stairs lead to a Canadian Heritage Rivers plaque about the Athabasca.) But it's a steep climb. Instead, we recommend the wide, easy path that begins behind the trail information kiosk. Follow Trail 1 up a short hill and on through the woods.
At 1.3 km you climb a very steep section30 m of elevation gain in a short distancebeside an outcrop of the oldest rock in Jasper National Park. The layer is Precambrian, about 750 million years old. Take a close look at this unusual rock. It's breccia, made of angular chunks of pink limestone.
Here's what you can see from the top of Old Fort Point on a good day, viewing clockwise: Mt. Edith Cavell (always snow-streaked) to the south, The Whistlers (mountain with the tramway terminal near the top) to the southwest, the valley of the Miette River leading west toward Yellowhead Pass and B.C., the town of Jasper across the Athabasca River, the reddish quartzite of the Victoria Cross Range to the northwest beyond the town (the peak with a microwave relay station on top is Pyramid Mountain), Lac Beauvert and Jasper Park Lodge to the north (other lakes visible northward: Annette and Edith), the gray limestone of the Colin Range to the northeast, rounded Signal Mountain and the cliffs of Mt. Tekarra to the east, and to the southeast, Mt. Hardisty (sloping layers) and Mt. Kerkeslin (layers bowed gently down).
Jasper Park Lodge to Maligne Canyon
Trails 7e and 7, 7 km one way (2-3 hours)
Trailhead: Visitor parking at Jasper Park Lodge.
This is a long route, mainly in the woods, with a fair bit of uphill. It's used mostly by cyclists. From the northeast corner of the parking lot, follow the yellow 7e markers to the junction with Trail 7. Three kilometres of easy walking or cycling through a mixed forest of lodgepole pine, spruce and old-growth Douglas-fir brings you to a marsh near a junction with the Lake Edith gated road. Stay on Trail 7 as it swings right and begins the climb to the upper parking lot at Maligne Canyon.
From Maligne Canyon, cyclists can use Trail 7h to bypass the hiker-only section of Trail 7. Horses should take Trail 7f. Both can rejoin 7 and follow it to Sixth Bridge. The route loops back to Jasper Park Lodge along the Athabasca River. Total loop distance: 16 km.
Trails 7g and 7, 2.1 km one way (1-2 hours)
Trailhead: Fifth Bridge, 8 km east of Jasper via Highway 16 and the Maligne Road.
The Maligne Canyon section of Trail 7 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.
Keep right at Second Bridge, leaving Trail 7 to follow the short un-numbered interpretive path past the spectacular waterfall at the head of the canyon to the main parking lot.
Lake Annette Loop
(Clifford E. Lee Wheelchair Trail) Trail 4b, 2.4 km
Trailhead: take Highway 16 east for 1.9 km and turn right onto the Maligne Road. Angle right onto Lodge Road, then turn left at the sign for Lake Annette. Keep right at major intersections to reach the western parking lot for the Lake Annette picnic area. The trail begins on the right side of the lot.
This short loop trail is paved and mostly level, designed especially for wheelchair use. Bicycles are not allowed. There are wheelchair-accessible toilets at two locations, and there's a shelter halfway round the loop. Signs placed at wheelchair height explain the scenery.
All trail users please note
Share the trail. Treat other users with courtesy and respect.
Stay on the trail. Short-cutting and going around mudholes or snow damages trailside vegetation.
Choose a trail that matches your ability. Reading this guide will help, as will asking park staff or outdoor-shop employees.
Some trails are restricted to pedestrians only.
Creating new trails without authorization is not allowed.
Be prepared! Jasper National Park is a wilderness area. Caution and self-reliance are essential.
South of town
To reach these trails, take Highway 93 (the Icefields Parkway) south toward Lake Louise.
Valley of the Five Lakes
Trails 9a and 9b, 4.2 km return (2-3 hours)
Trailhead: 9 km south on Highway 93.
The five small lakes are the highlights of this outing, which is a popular family hike. Trail 9a begins with an easy walk through a forest of lodgepole pine, reaching a boardwalk across the Wabasso Creek wetlands in the first kilometre. Watch for beavers. Beyond, the trail climbs across a flowery meadow to a junction. Continue on Trail 9a to reach Fifth Lake, with its small island and nesting loons. Watch for 9a markers leading left toward Fourth Lake, Third and Second, each a different depth and thus a different hue of bluegreen. Between Second and First lakes turn left onto Trail 9b and follow it to close the loop. Or keep going north to Old Fort Point, 10 km farther via trails 9a, 9 and 1, mostly in the woods. Note: Trail 9 is heavily used by cyclists.
Wabasso Lake or Wabasso - Five Lakes
Trail 9, 6.2 km (half-day) or 11 km (full-day)
Trailhead: 14.6 km south on Highway 93.
This trail crosses several low ridges, with a fine view from the last ridge across the Athabasca Valley to Mt. Edith Cavell and the reddish quartzite peaks north of it. Wabasso Lake was created by beavers. You can see their long, high dam at the northeast corner of the lake.
For a longer walk, follow Trail 9 around the lakeshore and 6 km north along grassy Wabasso Creek to the junction with Trail 9a (Five Lakes). It's less than a kilometre back to the highway from here.
Cyclists: a local favorite ride is to do Trail 9 in its entirety, from Wabasso Lake to Old Fort Point, 21 km.
Please avoid skidding. Locking your brakes causes severe erosion.
When approaching other trail users, slow down. When passing from behind, sound your bike bell or call out well in advance, and ask to pass.
Pedestrians and horses have the right of way. When horses approach, you should stop, move your bike off the lower side of the trail and wait there until they pass by.
West and southwest
West of Jasper, the Miette River borders a continuation of the Pyramid Bench, with more lakes.
Caledonia Lake and Saturday Night Lake Loop
Trail 3, 4.2 km to Caledonia Lake and back (2-3 hours) or 24.6km total (7-9 hours)
Trailhead: along Cabin Creek Road near the west end of Jasper, watch for an unpaved road branching to the right. The trailhead kiosk is a short way up, by the gate.
A gentle uphill walk of 1.8 km brings you to Marjorie Lake, a tree-ringed water body in which the peaks south of the Miette River are often reflected. It's 2km farther to somewhat-larger Caledonia Lake, a good half-day destination and popular with local runners and cyclists. From there the grade steepens somewhat toward Minnow Lake and the rest of the Saturday Night Lake Loop, a long day-hike, a half-day bike ride or an easy overnight backpack (wilderness pass required). It's mostly in the woods, with muddy sections. On the return leg, stay on Trail 3 across the low dam on Cabin Lake.
Virl, Dorothy and Christine lakes
Trails 3e and 3f, 8.4 km return (4-6 hours)
Trailhead: 11.5 km west of Jasper off Highway 16.
Steep in places, with an elevation gain of 250 m, the hike to beautiful Christine Lake is well worth the effort. Start along the railway access road, crossing the tracks (careful!) to reach a bridge over the Miette River. The trail on the far side parallels the hillside for a while, then switchbacks and climbs more steeply. At km 2 the trail descends slightly to Minaga Creek, then climbs again past the junction of the backpacking route to Elysium Pass. At the next junction, Trail 3f leads to Virl Lake. Trail 3e continues 500 m to Dorothy Lake, which frames a view of Mt. Tekarra, and another 300m farther to the rocky shore of Christine Lake.
The Whistlers Trail
Trail 5, 7.9 km one way (3-5 hours up, 2-3 hours down)
Trailhead: 1.8 km south on Highway 93, turn right onto Whistlers Road (sign for campground and tramway) and follow it 2.8 km to an unpaved access road on the left, leading a short distance to the parking lot.
This fairly steep, switch-backing trail gains 1200m of elevation, so you must be fit. The effort is well rewarded by panoramic views of the Miette Valley and Athabasca Valley, and a chance to see all three elevational life-zones in the park: montane (to the upper limit of aspen growth), subalpine (to treeline) and alpine (above treeline). Hiking just the opening kilometre or two will reward you with a rich wildflower display in July.
About one-third of the way up, the grade eases and you pass under the cables of the Jasper Tramway near its mid-point tower. Two hundred metres below the summit you pass the upper tramway terminal. From there to the top you'll have a lot of company, because the trail is used heavily by tramway passengers. In this section, staying on the trail is essential to protect the lovely alpine vegetation from trampling.
Important: the temperature will drop as you gain elevation, so pack an extra layer of clothing and a rain jacket to repel a cold high-country shower. Bring plenty of drinking water; none is available on the trail. Warning: in spring and fall, when the upper part of this trail is snow-covered, there is avalanche danger.
- Motorized vehicles on public roads only
- Pack out litter
- Leash your pet
- Keep food away from wildlife
- No picking or collecting
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