Jasper National Park
COVID-19 Update: Jasper National Park is OPEN, but with many restrictions. You can find the most current updates on the park’s official COVID-19 info page.
Most trails are open, as are basic facilities like washrooms. Other public facilities like picnic shelters and camping shelters, remain closed. Most visitor centers and museums are closed. Backcountry camping is open for existing reservations only, and frontcountry camping is gradually reopening.
Right now is probably an excellent time to visit Jasper if all you want to do is hike and get away from people, and if you’re Canadian. Unfortunately for everyone else, the country has closed its borders to all foreigners, except for essential purposes.
Day Hiking in Jasper
So you want to know about hiking trails in Jasper National Park? Well, there are seriously TOO MANY to mention. This park is huge and the trail systems are kind of overwhelming. To help narrow it down, I’ll list the main hubs for trailheads––places you can be sure to find a trail for you, no matter your ability or time constraints––and a few top recommendations in each area. To learn more about each of these, just follow the links, which will take you to Jasper National Park’s official info page for each. For another really good overview of hiking in Jasper, plus tips on packing, fees, where to stay, etc. I recommend this very handy post by Travel With The Smile.
Near Maligne Lake
This is the largest and most famous lake in Jasper National Park, and there’s also several trails that begin from the main lakeshore area. Here are my top three:
- Bald Hills
- Opal Hills
- Mary Schäffer Loop
At the base of Mount Edith Cavell
If you look up pictures of Jasper National Park, you’re certain to see images of this iconic mountain. A narrow road leads to its base (in summer only), where a few particularly beautiful and remote-feeling trails begin.
- Path of the Glacier Trail
- Cavell Meadows
Around Jasper Townsite
The town of Jasper, as the main hub for the whole national park, is itself a great basecamp for hiking. There are lot of trails beginning right in town. Most of these are easy nature walks in the surrounding valley, but the scenery and wildlife even just outside of town are surprisingly good. You don’t have to go far for more serious hikes either, though. A short drive or a shuttle ride will get you to any of the following areas, each of which have a few trails to choose from:
Along the Icefields Parkway
The highway that runs between Banff and Jasper is known as the Icefields Parkway. It’s the way most people arrive in Jasper National Park, and the road itself has lots of trailheads and scenic stops along it. You’re likely to encounter crowds at any of these, but that’s because they really are must-dos.
- Athabasca Falls
- Sunwapta Falls
- Wilcox Pass
- Toe of the Athabasca Glacier
Backpacking/Trekking in Jasper
A mountain range traverse with more than 50% of its length above treeline, The Skyline Trail is not your typical backpacking trip. You’ll be exposed to alpine weather, extreme temperatures, but also epic views the entire way. This is Jasper’s ultimate trek for the high-mountain experience.
To plan your trip, you should first check out the national park’s official page on the Skyline Trail, which is of course the authoritative source but also has a lot of great info. To read about other people’s experiences on the trail and get some more helpful details, I recommend the posts by Clever Hiker and In a Faraway Land. They’ll give you a realistic idea of what to expect from the Jasper Skyline.
Another of Jasper’s “ultimate” treks in Tonquin Valley. Skyline is all about the altitude, but this one is all about the valley scenery and the wildlife. It takes you to a lake-filled backcountry basin at the foot of some painting-worthy peaks, and you’re likely to see big animals on the roam. To plan, I again recommend starting with Jasper’s official page for Tonquin Valley, then reading In A Faraway Land’s post about their trip.
Skyline Trail and Tonquin Valley are probably the two most famous treks in Jasper, and are certainly two of the best, but I won’t go so far as to say they’re THE best. That of course, would be a matter of opinion. So if you want to go backpacking in Jasper, you should check out other possibilities as well. For the best recommendations all in one place, simply go to Jasper’s official backcountry camping page. There you’ll find overviews of many different trips and links to more information about each.