A Complete Guide to Jasper’s Best Hiking Trails

By Leavetown Staff, May 20, 2015

Jasper National Park is home to some of the most scenic hikes in all of Canada. This is our guide to hiking some of the best trails in Jasper.

Hiking is the ultimate way to explore the unspoiled beauty of Jasper. When you travel through Jasper National Park on foot, you get to experience every detail of this wilderness paradise up close. Watch moose and elk roam in the distance, marvel at sweeping views from a summit or just soak up the tranquil ambience on a quiet walk.

Since Jasper is one of the largest national parks in Canada, you’ll have an astounding number of trails to choose from. These giant trail systems have evolved gradually over time. For centuries First Nations people used paths created by animals, such as moose or elk, so they could hunt more effectively. In the 1800s, fur traders and settlers further expanded on this network of routes.

It wasn’t until the national park was established in 1907 that these trails were regularly maintained for recreational use. Over the past century, these historic paths have been further developed so more people can enjoy the wilderness here. There are now more than 1,000 kilometres of trails throughout the park.

Trails for all skill levels

Whether you’d like to tackle a gruelling seven-day wilderness backpacking trek or prefer a simple day hike and picnic, the trail system in Jasper is designed for everyone to enjoy.

Challenge yourself on the steep terrain of the Skyline Trail or enjoy an easy stroll with stunning lake views along the Mary Schaffer Loop. Follow the Jasper Discover Trail around town or hike straight up and gaze at Maligne Lake from an elevation of 2,700 meters.

It would take a lifetime to hike all the trails in Jasper. So to help decide which route to try first, check out our list of of Jasper hiking trails below:

1. The Mary Schaffer Loop (Maligne Lake)

If you’re looking for a short walk through the wilderness, which is beginner-friendly yet still offers amazing views of the lakes and mountains, check out the Mary Schaffer Loop.

This trail’s namesake was the first non-native woman to travel through much of Jasper and Banff National Parks. She was also a writer, photographer and artist.

The trail is well maintained and easy, except for a few muddy areas near the shore of Maligne Lake. Along the way, you will visit the historic boathouse of Curly Phillips as well as a viewpoint with interpretive panels about Mary Schaffer’s history.

Directions

This hiking trail will start at the first parking lot on the right at Maligne Lake. From the Jasper townsite, drive east for 2 kilometres on Hwy 16 and then make a right turn onto the Maligne Lake Road. After that point, cross the bridge and follow the Maligne Lake Road for approximately 46 kilometres until you reach the parking lots before the Maligne Lake Chalet.

Details

Level: Easy
Distance: about 3.2 round trip
Length: The walk should take around 1 hour
Important: You can pick up a free day hiking guide to this trail at the Jasper Information Centre.
This trail is also a popular snowshoeing route.

2. Old Fort Point

The Old Fort Point Loop trail is a simple hike, which offers excellent views of Jasper National Park and the Canadian Rockies.

This trail curves along a bedrock hill, which stands 130 metres above the river. Old Fort Point has been shaped by glaciers, rounded on one side with steep cliffs on the other side. The name refers to Henry House, which was a company cabin built by the North West Company in 1811.

You can choose whether you want to give your calves a workout on the steep stairs that start by the cliff, or take the longer way up the wide easy path that begins by the train information kiosk.

Directions

The parking lot at the trailhead is located approximately 2 kilometres from the town of Jasper. You can exit the town on Hazel Street and drive across the railroad tracks. Keep going and cross Highway 16, then turn left on the Old Fort Point Road. This road will cross the river before it enters the parking lot at Old Fort Point.

Details

Level: Moderate
Distance: 2 kilometres
Length: 1-2 hours
Important: Bears frequent these trails at certain times of the season, so take the appropriate precautions.
From the same trailhead you can also reach a number of hikes to Maligne River or the Valley of Five Lakes.

3. Opal Hills Trail

Take a walk high above Maligne Lake to a beautiful wildflower garden and enjoy the expansive panorama above the treeline. These hills were given their name by Mary Schaffer in 1908, because of the gem-like colours of the wildflowers.

This is one of the most popular trails around Maligne Lake, where you will be treated to breathtaking view from an elevation of 2,700 metres. On a clear day the mountain scenery stretches out all around you, appearing almost surreal against the backdrop of a cloudless blue sky.

Keep in mind that grizzly bears have been spotted in these areas, so make sure you take all necessary precautions while hiking.

Directions

Drive east from Jasper for 2 kilometres along Highway 16 and turn right on Maligne Lake Road. Then cross the bridge and follow the road for 46 kilometres until you reach the parking lots before the Maligne Lake Chalet.

Details

Level: Difficult
Distance: 8 kilometres
Length: 4 Hours
Important: No dogs are allowed on this trail, as it is critical Woodland Caribou habitat and they are a threatened species at risk.
You can find a day hiking guide of this trail at the Jasper Information Centre.

4. Edith Cavell Meadow

The Edith Cavell Meadow is a very popular trail among hikers.. The trail is full of beauty right from the start, and never lets up along the way. The trail can be steep, and there are times where you must climb through loose rock. However, once you are met with breathtaking views of the meadow, Mount Edith Cavell, and the glaciers you certainly feel as with all the work is worth it.

After starting the trail, you are met with two options: you can take the easier walk towards Kettle Lake, or choose to take the more challenging trail on the left towards Cavell Meadows. If you choose the more challenging path, this is when you’ll hike through the alpine meadow while being met with the stunning sights of Angel Glacier, Cavell Glacier and the mountain – well worth the effort.

Early August is the best time to hike this trail as all the meadows flowers are in full bloom, providing a symphony of colours along the trail. If you are lucky, you may get to witness one of the many avalanches to happen alongside Mount Edith Cavell, but not to worry as this does not present any danger for hikers along this trail.

Directions

Take the Icefield Parkway from Highway 16 south for 6.8km and take the 93A junction off to the right. Follow this road for 5.2km turning onto the Mount Edith Cavell Road Drive for just under 14km until you find the parking lot. Park at the Mount Edith Cavell parking lot – just 28km south of Jasper. Note: Make sure you take a vehicle that can handle roads with a lot of potholes!

Details

Level: Intermediate
Distance: 8.5 kilometres
Length: 3-5 hours
Important: No dogs are allowed on this trail, as it is critical Woodland Caribou habitat and they are a threatened species at risk.
You can find a day hiking guide of this trail at the Jasper Information Centre.

5. Skyline Trail

Be prepared for major climbs and stunning views when you make your way above the treeline on this impressive alpine trail. As you traverse the Maligne Range, you will find yourself in the midst of prime habitat for some of the most iconic Rocky Mountain animals, including wolves and caribou.

The Skyline Trail is one of the best and most popular backpacking trails in the Canadian Rockies. It’s ideal to hike the trail from south to north starting at Maligne Lake, so that you can start with a 600m advantage in elevation. There are campgrounds along the way, so you can stretch the trip out over two or three days for an unforgettable wilderness adventure.

Directions

Drive east from Jasper on Highway 16 for 2 kilometres and make a right turn on Maligne Lake Road. Cross the bridge and drive down Maligne Lake Road for 8 kilometres. There is no sign, just a hiking emblem to mark the parking lot.

Details

Level: Difficult
Distance: 44 kilometres
Length: Most complete it over two nights and stay at Snowbowl and Tekarra campgrounds along the way.
Important: As this is a protected Woodland Caribou habitat, dogs are banned from this area.
To hike this trail you will need to make a reservation with the Jasper Trail Office, usually up to three months in advance.

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