Backpacking Jasper: The Skyline Trail
You can never go wrong hiking the Canadian Rockies on your vacation. It’s one of the best reasons to visit Jasper National Park, and the other parks of the Rockies. One of the most famous hikes in Jasper is the Skyline Trail, and for good reason.
This hike offers some of the best scenery you’ll find in the park, partially because a whopping 15.5 miles, or twenty five kilometers of the Skyline Trail are at or above the tree line. No trees blocking your way, at high elevations, means that you’ll get plenty of panoramic views all the way.
Before you make plans though, you should know that the Skyline trail is a very popular, so reservations to backpack it must be made in advance. Call 1-780-852-6177 for information.
Now, we do need to mention that this isn’t just a trail you knock off if you’ve got a couple spare hours. The trails clocks in at a decent 27.3 miles, or 44 kilometers, and its elevation changes by 1.38 kilometers (4,526 feet). So, if you want to do the whole thing, it’s more of a backpacking trip. Bring plenty of food and water, and extra clothes.
A good place to start the trail is at Maligne Lake, mainly because Maligne Lake is a Jasper must-see, and so you can kill two birds with one stone. As a bonus, it’s one of the easier places to start the trail from, with less elevation change.
From Maligne Lake, there are actually two ways to get on the Skyline Trail. Most hikers start from the trailhead inn at the Maligne Lake parking lot, which brings you down a pretty, winding path through a forest past Mona and Lorraine lakes, before crossing the Evelyn Creek bridge to a campground. You’re off to a good start on this trail.
If you want a bit more of a challenge, or just need to burn off some steam, take the Bald Hills route. It’s a well-known shortcut to a stunning view of Maligne Lake. You’re adding 2.5 miles, or four kilometers, and and a 500-meter climb to the path. After that, you’ll jump on a fireroad and join the trail on the way to the Evelyn Creek bridge.
One of the reasons to love this trail is that there are plenty of campgrounds along the trail. The Evelyn Creek campground is a superb one, although it tends to be crowded. If you want more quiet, you might want to continue on up the climb through Little Shovel Pass. There’s a campground partway up the climb that offering a a little rest from the climb. Little Shovel Pass is the first of three challenging passes. The nice thing about passes though, they’re almost always complimented by stunning views.
One of those ascents, by the way, can be found at 22 kilometers along the path. Just past the junction to the Wabasso Trail, the Skyline Trail passes Curator Lake and then climbs abruptly to the Notch, which at 2,511 meters is not only the highest point of this trail but also the highest section of trail in all of Jasper National Park.
It’s important to note that the Wabasso Trail serves as a nice escape path if the weather suddenly turns bad on you. You’re very high up along much of the Skyline and the weather can be iffy. It’s a good idea to keep that in mind as you travel.
Now, if the stunning scenery isn’t enough to entice you out onto the trail, you should know that the Skyline is a wildlife watcher’s dream. Wolves and mountain lions roam along the path searching for prey. Grizzly bears are spotted fairly regularly. And if you’re very lucky, you might see a woodland caribou. It’s a threatened species, and the trail has been recognized as critical caribou habitat.