Backpacking in Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Jasper National Park, Alberta
By Caroline Shin
Jasper National Park , the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, presents stunning and dramatic landscapes: age-old glaciers, topaz-coloured lakes, and mountain wildlife. Only a backpacker can discover the most secluded parts of this vast wilderness, especially with this backcountry map of Jasper National Park.
Jasper National Park has a tremendous backcountry: more than 1,200 kms. of trails and 100 backcountry campsites with a range of backcountry experiences. In the semi-primitive areas, the trails are well-maintained and designated camp-sites include amenities such as pit toilets, tent pads, food storage cables, rustic picnic tables and metal fire grates at sites where campfires are allowed. You will often meet other backpackers on the trail. In Jasper’s more remote, primitive areas, the trails are less maintained and campsites have only a pit privy, fire grate and bear pole. In the true wilderness areas, backpackers must be prepared for river fords, basic route finding and random camping.
Popular Backpacking Hikes in Jasper National Park
The most popular hikes of Jasper National Park are:
● Brazeau Loop
The Local Guides of Jasper National Park
The best way to begin your trip is with knowledgeable park information centre staff, who can provide you with up-to-date trail conditions, bear warnings and other essential information. Numerous guiding companies are licensed by Parks Canada to offer their services within Jasper National Park. Before booking your guided activity, look for guides who are accredited by either or both the following professional organizations, for the highest standards of local knowledge and safety:
● The Mountain Parks Heritage Interpretation Association (MPHIA)
● The Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG)
Wilderness Pass in Jasper’s Backcountry
You must purchase a Wilderness Pass for any overnight backcountry visit. The Pass specifies the area, trail, and campsites you will be visiting and the number of people and tents in your backpacking group. You must pick up your Pass from a park information centre within 24 hours of your departure. All Wilderness Pass fees (excluding reservation and modification fees) are entirely refundable until 10 a.m. of your proposed date of departure. Frequent travellers can purchase an Annual Wilderness Pass valid in all the national parks of the Canadian Rockies for one full year following the purchase date.
Reservations in Jasper’s Backcountry
July and August comprise Jasper’s peak hiking months. It is advisable to make campsite reservations during these months. You can make a reservation up to 3 months in advance of your backpacking trip by contacting the Trail Office (see below). A non-refundable reservation fee applies.
5 Things to Know: Backpacker Safety in Jasper
All outdoor activities involve some degree of risk. In Jasper, you will likely encounter rapidly changing weather, steep, rugged or unfamiliar terrain, avalanches (at any time of year), cold, swift-flowing streams, canyons, rapids and waterfalls, glacial crevices, falling rocks and wild animals. Caution and self-reliance are essential.
1) Voluntary Safety Registrations in Jasper: You may choose to register your backcountry trip in person when you purchase your Wilderness Pass. A safety registration ensures that a search will be initiated on your behalf if you do not return by the date and time recorded. The safety registration system is voluntary, but becomes a binding agreement if you choose to use it. You must report back immediately upon your return to a park info centre, or, if they are closed, call the Jasper Warden Office at (780) 852-6155 (open 24 hours).
2) Jasper’s Wildlife: Remember that park animals are wild and can be dangerous and aggressive if it feels threatened. Keep your distance 30 mts. from most animals, and at least 100 mts. from bears. Both black and grizzly bears are of special concern to backpackers in Jasper National Park.
3) Water in Jasper: Giardia lamblia is a parasite carried by humans and some domestic and wild animals. These parasites can be in any surface water and may contaminate the water supply. Jasper’s backpackers must boil water to destroy the organism. Special filters and iodine tablets can also be used to purify water.
4) Jasper Weather: The unpredictability of mountain weather can be challenging for any backpacker. Rain or snow can fall at any time of the year and freezing temperatures occur even during the summer. To best prepare for Jasper’s climate variability, consult a detailed weather forecast.
5) Jasper Transportation: Trailheads can be difficult to get to without a vehicle. Public transportation to outlying park trailheads is limited. Please consult information centre staff for information about available options.
Information Centres in Jasper National Park
Parks Canada Trail Office
Jasper Townsite Information Centre
Wilderness Pass, safety registrations (in person only), trail reservations/information.
500 Connaught Dr.
P.O. Box 10, Jasper, AB ,T0E 1E0
Parks Canada Information, Icefield Centre
(May 1 to October 15)
Wilderness Pass, safety registrations (in person
only), trail information.
103 km south of Jasper on the Icefields Parkway
Information on mountaineering, ice climbing,
Parks Canada Calgary Service Centre
Information on all four mountain national parks
and others in the region.
1300 635 8 Ave. SW
Calgary AB T2P 3M3
Friends of Jasper National Park
Retail outlets at both Parks Canada information
centres. P.O. Box 992, Jasper, AB, T0E 1E0
For further information on guided tours in the Canadian Rockies, fill out the blue form on the right side of this page.