Jasper is a small mountain town nestled cutely in a valley, surrounded by some of the Rockies’ most beautiful mountains. It is also home to many different types of West-Coast wildlife, from the occasional grizzly or black bear to the ever-present bighorn sheep, usually found perching up high on otherwise-treacherous mountain ledges.
Jasper greets almost two and a half million tourists every year, and they find plenty to do — whether they enjoy the outdoors or not. However, if you are a fan of the outdoors and like to hike, then you’ve basically entered the hikers paradise. From short trails to long trails, low altitude to high altitude, Jasper has it all. Here are ten of the best hikes in and around the town.
1. Old Fort Point Trail
Approximate Completion Time: 1-2 hours
Elevation Gain: 130m
The Old Fort Point Trail is one of the easier hiking trails in Jasper, and the perfect introduction to hiking in one of the most beautiful towns in the Rockies. The trail begins in a parking lot just outside of town and then meanders a staircase to where the hiking really begins. Keep an eye out for big-horn sheep, as they frequent the area. While not a strenuous hike by any means, it’s a good idea to bring a snack for the halfway point of the trail. One can also combine the Old Fort Point Trail with other trails around Jasper that are numbered on your tourist information hiking brochure.
2. Maligne Canyon Trail
Distance: 3.7km (one-way)
Approximate Completion Time: 1-2 hours (both ways)
Elevation Gain: 400m
The Maligne Canyon Trail is one of the easier hikes in the areas that surround Jasper. It’s easily accessible via a twenty minute ride in the free shuttle that leaves from the Jasper Adventure Centre. It’s a beautiful ride in and of itself, with a couple of stops to pick up other passengers. Finally, you’ll arrive at Maligne Canyon, and the hour/hour-and-a-half trek begins. There’s no great amount of elevation gain, so the hiking is relatively easy to begin with, then you get into the more (potentially) difficult parts of the trail where you can choose to hike the higher ground. After an hour or thereabouts of traversing the Canyon, you’ll come to a bridge which signals the end of the trail. Then, you’ll hike back the way you came to the parking lot.
3. Pyramid Lake Loop
Approximate Completion Time: 2-3 hours
Elevation Gain: 203m
This 5.6 kilometre loop trail is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in Jasper. The trailhead is relatively easy to find as it begins at “Pyramid Lake Road”. From there, you’ll hike into the Jasper wilderness — bear spray is a must — they are active in Jasper National Park. Compared to some of the hikes in Jasper, this is a relatively low-lying hike without much elevation gain, you’ll only rise some 650 feet on this hike, traversing moderate hills. Most of the hike takes place in the undergrowth, among the magnificent pines. Eventually, you’ll end up at Pyramid Lake, lying at the foot of Pyramid Mountain, one of Jasper’s many majestic mountains that surround the town. From there, you’ll turn around and carry on back towards town, taking a different route as the trail loops around.
4. Lake Annette Loop
Approximate Completion Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour
Elevation Gain: 87m
One of the easiest hikes in Jasper, perfect for a quick family outing, is the Lake Annette Loop — a 2.3km loop trail gaining only 87 metres (285 feet) of elevation, less of a hike, more of a gentle stroll around Lake Annette, with a gorgeous 360-degree view of the mountains above. The trail is well signposted, as well as being paved with various benches dotting the shoreline of the lake, offering an opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Plan for the Lake Annette Loop to be your first family outing in Jasper.
5. Whistlers Summit Trail
Distance: 6.8km (one way)
Approximate Completion Time: 6-8 hours
Elevation Gain: 1200m
The Whistler’s Summit Trail is the crucible of hiking in Jasper National Park. It is one of the most difficult and also the most rewarding of hikes. The trail begins in behind what used to be the Hostel International Jasper, and is now a building owned by Parks Canada, about ten minutes from the town centre. From there, the hike is a gruelling 6.8km and 1200m up the mountain. It’s an all-day hike from the base of the mountain to the top. The good news is that if you complete the hike, you get to ride down on the Skytram for free — besides the sense of accomplishment that comes from a 4000 foot ascent of one of Jasper’s highest peaks. Whilst I haven’t completed the hike myself, one of the hardest parts of the trek, according to those who have, is the elevation gain. So, if you’re going to be doing this hike, you should properly acclimate yourself to hiking at altitude. And bring bear spray.
6. Horseshoe Lake Trail
Approximate Completion Time: 30 minutes
Elevation Gain: 23m
Horseshoe Lake, much like Pyramid Lake is one of Jasper’s easier hikes, taking only approximately half an hour to complete and circling 1.5km. It’s perfect for a lunchtime or suppertime hike in the mountains, or for those with small children who aren’t used to or ready for strenuous mountain hikes.
7. Jasper Discovery Trail
Approximate Completion Time: 2-3 hours
Elevation Gain: 120m
What’s great about the Jasper Discovery Trail is that it can be started from anywhere in town, and is essentially one great big loop around the town of Jasper. Taking anywhere from 2-3 hours, covering 8.3 kilometers, it’s the perfect entry hike to those totally new to the town, both visitors and new residents. The trail will allow you to see all that Jasper has to offer, and only gain 120m (393ft) of elevation.
8. Utopia Pass
Approximate Completion Time: 2-3 hours
Elevation Gain: 482m
Utopia Pass, aptly named after it’s location — having visited, I’m fairly certain that Jasper can be called a utopia of some sort — is a 9.8km out-and-back trail located near Miette Hotsprings (which is actually located some 61km northeast of Jasper). The trail is one of the more difficult trails to be found around Jasper due to being difficult to navigate. Many reviews online state that the trailhead can be difficult to find and follow, though the views once you do locate it are worth the hassle. Be sure to take a dip in the Miette Hotsprings after your hike!
9. The Skyline Trail
Approximate Completion Time: 3-4 days
Elevation Gain: 1380m
This is one of the toughest and longest hikes in Jasper, long – as in – you’ll need to take three to four days to complete it. Due to its prestige among Jasper’s hikers, it is one of the most sought-after of trails and is quite heavily trafficked during peak season. The trail takes you across 44km of Jasper wilderness, with more than half of it being at or above the treeline, you’re sure to find some staggering views. If you’re a serious hiker, try out the Skyline Trail and take in some of the world’s most beautiful mountains and one of the world’s toughest trails.
10. Sulphur Skyline Trail
Approximate Completion Time: 4-6 hours
Elevation Gain: 700m
While the Sulphur Skyline Trail is a little ways outside of the town of Jasper (approximately 30-45 minutes), it is well worth the excursion to get there. The hike to the top is very difficult, and at times very steep, so watch your footing! If you’re super-fit, you can do it in about three hours, but for most people, it will take anywhere between four and six hours to complete.
Whichever of Jasper’s many trails you choose, you’re sure to find endless beauty and scenic views and make memories that will last a lifetime.
Author: Jack Hawkins
A travel writer and photographer from the East Coast of Canada and I have just spent the last two months traveling on VIA Rail Trains, seeing this vast and diverse nation of ours from east to west, coast to coast.