Miette Hotsprings Area
Bighorn sheep © R. Gruys
If you like to hike in the park's high country, you normally have to wait until mid-June for the snow to goexcept in the Miette Hotsprings area, where the trails are usually clear by late May, when the road to the hot pool opens. It closes in mid-October. Check with park staff for exact opening and closing dates.
Take Highway 16 east toward Edmonton for 42 km, then turn right toward Miette Hotsprings. The 17-km Miette Road is narrow, winding and scenic; you might want to stop at the Ashlar Ridge Viewpoint at 8.9km. This road is also renowned for black-bear sightings. If you do see a bear, stay in your car and never, ever offer a bear any food. Food-habituated bears quickly create serious problems. They can be relocated, but usually they keep returning and often must be destroyed. As the wardens say, A fed bear is a dead bear.
Bighorn sheep are present in the pool area all summer long. They are used to being around people. Feel free to observe and photograph the sheep, but don't feed them.
Pocahontas Mine Trail
Trail 31 (easy); Lower loop; 800 m, 20 minutes; wheelchair accessible
Trail 32 (moderate); Upper loop; 1.7 km, 45 minutes
Step back in time as you stroll through the old Pocahontas Mine site.
Jasper House Trail
Trail 33 (easy); 700 m return, 20 minutes
A short walk to a viewpoint looking beyond the Athabasca River towards the Jasper House historic site.
Trail 140 (moderate); 6 km return; elevation gain/loss; 482 m; 2-3 hours
Trailhead: As you enter the parking lot for the pool, note the small picnic area on the right. Park at the far end of it, where a paved trail angles gently down to Sulphur Creek.
The path leads 500 m to the old pool building, now a ruin. Walk through the ruin and continue up the creek 200 m to the hot springs themselves, where the sulphurous water comes out of the rock. Interpretive signs here explain how the springs work. Farther on, the trail crosses the creeksometimes impassable at high waterand climbs 150 m to the pass, which offers a break in the forest and a fine wildflower display.
You can extend your day-hike beyond the pass, where the trail drops steeply down to the Fiddle River, but the route is mainly a back-packing trip.
Trail 30 (difficult); 8 km return; 700 m elevation gain; 4-6 hours
Trailhead: Park in the pool lot and walk up the steps toward the entrance, where there is a passenger drop-off loop. A wide paved path branches from the loop, leading uphill past the trailhead information kiosk.
Sulphur Skyline © C. Roy
If you'd like to reach the summit of a peak, take this challenging trail. The total elevation gain is nearly 700m. You climb steadily across on open mountainside for 2.2 km to Shuey Pass, elevation 1815m, where the trail splits. Take the right branch. The trail switchbacks up, angles across another open slope and arrives at the treeline, where you pass a large boulder of white quartzitea glacial erratic that was carried all the way from the Jasper area during the ice ages. Here the well-graded trail becomes a steep, stony path. Keep going; you'll reach the summit of the mountain, elevation 2050 m, sooner than you might think. Guard your lunch here. The golden-mantled ground squirrels that live among the summit rocks are very bold!
The view is spectacular. To the east you can see right over the mountain front and across the foothills. The gravelly valley of the Fiddle River winds to the southeast; Utopia Mountain (2563 m) and other gray limestone peaks of the Miette Range are close by to the south and west, and the great cliffs of Ashlar Ridge line the valley to the north.
Caution: This area is well-known for afternoon thunderstorms. Start early, and stay below the treeline if the weather looks threatening.
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.
Explore the Trails