Jasper National Park of Canada
At Maligne Lake you can walk the lakeshore, enjoy a forest trail or hike to the top of an easy peak. From Highway16, turn onto the Maligne Road 1.9 km east of Jasper. The lake is at road's end, 47 km from town. Check your fuel gauge; there are no gas stations on this road.
Opal Hills Loop
8.2 km return (4-6 hours)
Trailhead: turn left into the first parking area at the lake, then left again and uphill to reach the farthest of the three lots. The trail begins at the northeast corner.
Hikers work hard along this trail, gaining 460 m of elevation in only 3 km, but they are rewarded with spectacular views of the Maligne Valley and an abundance of alpine wildflowers.
A short distance from the parking lot the trail crosses a large, wet meadow containing several mounds. Each of these was originally a large limestone boulder, now completely shattered by freezing and thawing of water drawn up into cracks in the rock.
The trail climbs steeply for 1.5 km through a forest of lodgepole pine to a junction. Take the left branch (less steep) through forest and flowery subalpine glades to treeline, where the trail flattens past two hill-size piles of landslide debris from Opal Peak above. Listen for the trilling of Brewer's sparrows, which nest in the willows here. Beyond the second pile the trail loops back to the right and steeply down to reach the junction.
Mary Schäffer Loop (Lake Trail)
3.2 km return (1-2 hours)
Trailhead: turn in at the first parking lot at Maligne Lake. Take any path down to the shore and follow the paved trail left.
This trail is an easy stroll. In its first kilometre it passes Curly Phillips's historic boathouse (interpretive sign) and reaches a viewpoint that features a set of interpretive panels about Mary Schäffer, famous for her explorations in the Canadian Rockies. In 1908 she and her guides arrived at Maligne Lake by following a map drawn for her by Stoney tribesman Samson Beaver. Outside native circles, the lake was unknown.
Leaving the shoreline, the trail passes through lichen-rich stands of pine, spruce and fragrant subalpine fir as it loops back to the parking lot.
10.4 km return (4-6 hours)
Trailhead: pass by the first turnoff to the lake, go past the buildings, cross the Maligne River, go to the end of pavement and turn left into the large parking lot. The trail, which was once a fire road (route to a fire lookout), is the gated track heading right where you turned left into the lot. Note: horses use this trail.
The elevation gain of nearly 500 m is well worth the effort required. The trail climbs steadily through an open forest of lodgepole pine. At km 3.2, keep left (uphill, fairly steep) rather than taking the flat trail branching right.
At the end of the old fire road (elevation 2170 m, once the site of a lookout station at treeline), 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. Look for hardy high-alpine flowers blooming on the stony tundra. Extensive alpine meadows to the south are very flowery in late July and early August. You may see caribou, which are easier to spot when they are standing on a snowbank to avoid the bugs.
Moose Lake Loop
2.6 km return (1-2 hours)
Trailhead: start on the Bald Hills Trail (see previous item), then branch left after 200 m onto the Maligne Pass Trail toward Moose Lake.
This trail stays in the woods, but the landscape is fascinating: little hills and hollows among the overgrown debris of a huge landslide. Thousands of years ago, half a billion cubic metres of rock fell from the ridge on the other side of Maligne Lake, blocking the valley and enlarging the lake considerably to its present size. The mossy, lichen-encrusted boulders seen along the traila natural rock gardenare part of the slide heap. Dark-brown hair lichens adorn the bare branches of lodgepole pines.
After a short section over relatively level terrain, turn left off the Maligne Pass Trail to reach Moose Lake, which lies in a hollow in the rockslide debris. From the lake the trail continues gently downhill to Maligne Lake. Keep left along the shore to return to the parking lot.
Lorraine Lake and Mona Lake
5 km return (2-3 hours)
Trailhead: park as per the Bald Hills Trail, described previously, but take the obvious trail entering the woods 50 m right of the Bald Hills Trail. This is the Skyline Trail; you hike to the lakes along it.
The trail climbs gently for 2 km through a lodgepole-pine forest, then a short spur leads to Lorraine Lake on the left. If you continue one-half kilometre along the Skyline, you will meet another spur trail that leads to Mona Lake on the right. Both these lakes lie in hollows in landslide debris (see Moose Lake Loop, previous item).
If you're after a longer walk, Evelyn Creek is 2.4km farther. There are picnic tables on the other side of the bridge. Beyond the creek, the trail switchbacks up to treeline and reaches Little Shovel Pass at km 10.3.
Carry at least a litre of safe drinking water on any hike, two litres or more if you are going to be out all day. Tap water from Jasper is safe.
Surface water is often contaminated with Giardia, an intestinal parasite that can cause serious health problems. Heating water to the boiling point will kill the organism. Or use a pump-filter certified to block Giardia cysts.
If you plan to fish in the park, you need a Parks Canada permit, available for a fee at information outlets, warden offices and tackle shops in Jasper. A copy of the fishing regulations summary is provided with each permit.Horses
Yes, you can take your horse for day-rides in Jasper National Park. Private horse travel is permitted throughout the park, except in picnic sites, campgrounds or camping facilities accessible by motor vehicle or for hikers only, in public-use areas within the town of Jasper, and on certain trails.
Please refer to the map on the other side of this guide for trails closed to horses in the town area. For more information about riding, please ask for the Horse-user's Guide at the Park Information Centre.
Jasper National Park Summer Trails Guide
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.