Jasper National Park of Canada
You can journey back to the park's early days while enjoying an easy stroll along the interpretive trails at Pocahontas, near the eastern park boundary along Highway 16.
Poco, as the locals call it, is named for the Pocahontas coalfield along the Virginia - West Virginia border, home to the American company that operated two mines in Jasper National Park between 1910 and 1921. In those days, resource extraction was actually encouraged in the young Canadian national parks. Why? Coal mined at Pocahontas and across the Athabasca River at the company's Miette Mine fetched 10 cents per ton in royalties paid to the federal government.
Throughout World War I, Grand Trunk Pacific railway trains carried Poco coal east, where it was used to fuel troop ships crossing the Atlantic. Like other Canadian Rockies coal, the semi-anthracite mined in and around Jasper National Park burned very hot. More importantly, it gave off no smoke for German U-boats to detect over the horizon. Hundreds of miners, mostly immigrants from Europe, worked the slanting seams that ran southwesterly under Roche Miette.
After the war ended, demand for this kind of coal slumped. The mine closed in 1921. The miners and their families left, and only a few people remained at Pocahontas. In 1930 the government brought in new legislation that protected Jasper National Park from further coal-mining.
Today, only the mine-superintendent's house remains in good condition from this historical period. You can see it up close as you take a self-guided walk among the overgrown ruins of the other minesite buildings. Turn off Highway 16 onto the road to Miette Hotsprings. In the opening stretch, take the first right and park in the Pocahontas lot. An exhibit there will get you oriented. Interpretive signs along the loop trails explain what you're looking at. The most popular loop is paved and wheelchair-accessible.
The park is managed as a natural area, and hazards that are part of the wilderness are also part of the park. You are ultimately responsible for your own safety, so please be careful.
Approach new places and new activities cautiously. Hike with companions. Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. Bring enough food and water. Pack extra clothing in case the weather changes. Carry this guide with you.
For more information about public safety, consult park staff.
Jasper National Park is a big place, and there isn't much public transportation. Fortunately for hikers who don't have a car or a bicycle, the Pyramid Bench area has many fine hikes from trailheads right at the edge of town. For the more distant trailheads, you may be able to arrange for drop-off and pick-up by one of the local transport companies. Call the Park Information Centre at 780-852-6176 for information and schedules.
Information, maps and guidebooks
You can buy detailed topographic maps, trail guides and natural-history books at the Friends of Jasper National Park non-profit sales outlet in the Park Information Centre in Jasper. These sales support Parks Canada through park-related projects such as the directional map-signs posted throughout the town-area trail network. The guide you are reading was partially funded by the Friends of Jasper National Park.
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.