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1. Maligne Canyon
Discover this enchanting slot canyon in the Rockies! The picturesque bridges, roaring waterfalls, and moss-covered canyon walls of Maligne Canyon provide some of the most exciting views in Jasper.
What You Need to Know
If you’re looking for a simple, choose-your-own-adventure style trail, then a hike through Maligne (pronounced muh-leen) Canyon is the perfect fit! This area has a network of trails that allow you to decide how much you want to see and how far you want to go.
To explore the deepest and narrowest areas of the gorge, I suggest at least hiking to Bridges 1, 2, and 3. Along this route, you’ll see places where the canyon is 180-feet deep and where the walls close in to 7-feet across.
Hiking to Bridges 1-3 is about one-mile roundtrip with approximately 200 feet of elevation gain. If you start from the interpretive sign in the parking lot, you’ll hit 2nd Bridge first and then 3rd Bridge. As you turn around at 3rd Bridge and get back up to 2nd Bridge, don’t cross it. Continue straight to reach 1st Bridge. The 1st Bridge area is amazing, but it’s easy to miss!
If you’re hoping to get away from the crowds in Maligne Canyon, consider hiking down to 5th Bridge if you can. This trail is approximately 2.1 miles roundtrip with about 400 feet of elevation gain.
I think the trail maps here are extremely confusing for most people, especially for first-time visitors who don’t know the lay of the land. If you’re just here to see the bridges and waterfalls, try to follow Trail 7, which keeps you closest to the water. Above 7, you’ll find Trail 7F. This trail doesn’t get you as close to the water or high enough for the amazing views. Above Trail 7F, you’ll find Trail 7H. 7H provides some beautiful views of Jasper.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the 7s. But if you’re here to see the most beautiful parts of the canyon, just take the path that keeps you closest to the water!
From the town of Jasper, head north on Highway 16 toward Edmonton. After 1.1 miles, turn right onto Maligne Lake Road. Drive for 3.9 miles until you see the sign for Maligne Canyon (just after the Maligne Overlook). Turn left here to reach the parking area.
2. Path of the Glacier Trail
Venture high into the peaks of Jasper to see a valley full of promise, a stunning turquoise pond, massive glaciers, and the intimidating Mount Edith Cavell.
What You Need to Know
The Mount Edith Cavell area of Jasper is one of the most dramatic landscapes I’ve ever experienced in any national park — it’s mind-blowing!
A drive along a narrow and curvy mountain road is required to get up here, so vehicles longer than 22 feet cannot safely navigate this road. There is a drop-off area where the road begins if you need to leave your trailer behind.
When you reach the parking area for the Path of the Glacier Trail, you’ll see that you are standing face to face with the magnificent north face of Mount Edith Cavell! You’ll also notice an extremely rocky valley with very few trees. Until recently, this area was covered by a glacier. How cool is that?! You can see the raw effect of glaciers in the landscape, and one day this area will be full of plants, trees, and wildlife.
The Path of the Glacier Trail begins at the parking area and travels up closer to Mount Edith Cavell. The hike is 1 mile roundtrip with about 230 feet of elevation gain. The trail is paved but steep in a few places.
There is a large viewing deck at the end of the trail. Directly in front of you, you will see the stunning Cavell Pond with the Cavell Glacier along its shore. On your right, you’ll see Angel Glacier waterfalling over the cliffs.
The area beyond the viewing platform is closed, but sadly you will see many people ignoring the signs and hiking down to the shore of Cavell Pond. This is extremely dangerous! In 2012, a large chunk of a glacier fell into the pond and created a huge flood down the valley. The last time I was here, I witnessed a large chunk of snow crash down the mountain into the pond. This area is extremely unstable and is constantly changing, so please respect the posted rules.
From the town of Jasper, drive south along Highway 93/Icefields Parkway for 4.1 miles. Turn right onto Highway 93A (following signs for Mount Edith Cavell) and drive for 3.2 miles. Turn right when you see the turnoff for Mount Edith Cavell/Tonquin Valley. From here, your vehicle needs to be shorter than 22 feet to navigate the road safely. Follow this road for 8.7 miles until it dead-ends at the trailhead.
3. Athabasca Falls
Witness the sheer power of the Athabasca River as it tumbles down the cliffs! Standing beside Athabasca Falls is a truly humbling and magnificent experience for every adventurer.
What You Need to Know
Athabasca Falls is just a short detour off the Icefields Parkway, but it’s hard to imagine that the peaceful river beside the road turns into a massively roaring waterfall in just a few seconds!
A short 0.5-mile paved pathway takes you next to this 80-foot waterfall. As you admire the scene in front of you, you’ll notice the towering Mount Kerkeslin directly behind Athabasca Falls.
This is one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Canada’s Rocky Mountains!
From the town of Jasper, drive south along Highway 93/Icefields Parkway for 18.7 miles. Look for the sign for Athabasca Falls and turn right to reach the parking area.
4. Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre
Explore the dramatic land surrounding the Columbia Icefield, the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies! From the Icefield Discovery Centre, you can learn about the area, stand on a glacier, get a bite to eat, and grab a souvenir.
What You Need to Know
The Columbia Icefield is a massive chunk of ice that feeds six major glaciers in the Rockies, including the Athabasca and Saskatchewan Glaciers! You don’t see much of the icefield from the centre because it’s tucked up into the mountains, but you do get a great view of the Athabasca Glacier.
The Icefield Centre is a busy place, as it makes a good stopping point along the Icefields Parkway between the towns of Banff and Jasper. Inside, you’ll find restrooms, restaurants, gift shops, and tours.
The most popular tour is the Columbia Icefield Adventure, where you climb inside a massive sno-coach that takes you onto the Athabasca Glacier. While it is pretty neat to be standing on a glacier, I had mixed feelings while on this tour. I felt a twinge of sadness because it didn’t feel like the Athabasca Glacier was being preserved and protected in accordance to Leave No Trace ethics. But the tour was fun, and it sparked a conversation with my kids about why national parks are important and how we need to take really good care of these special places.
If you’d like to get close to the glacier without taking the tour, consider hiking the Toe of the Glacier Trail instead.
From the town of Jasper, drive south on Highway 93/Icefields Parkway for 64 miles until you see the Icefield Centre on your left.
5. Wilcox Pass Trail
Wilcox Pass is the best place to be if you love spectacular 360-degree views of the Icefields Parkway, the Columbia Icefield and nearby glaciers, and the stunning mountain peaks!
What You Need to Know
If you’re near the Icefield Centre, this trail is an absolute can’t-miss….it’s the highlight of the area! You’ll enjoy miles and miles of phenomenal views along your hike to Wilcox Pass.
You can see the Columbia Icefield from here, as well as the Athabasca Glacier and surrounding peaks. This trail is also a fantastic place to see herds of bighorn sheep!
The Wilcox Pass Trail is 4.25 miles roundtrip with about 1,300 feet of elevation gain, so this trail isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It’s a moderate difficulty for most hikers, but there are some steep parts along the way.
The great news is that you’ll be treated to stunning views even if you don’t hike the whole trail! The trail is a challenge initially as it climbs through the trees, but keep going — it levels out.
You’ll find some amazing red chairs about halfway through the hike, and this is a great place to turn around if needed. If you only hike to the red chairs and back, the trail is about 2.1 miles roundtrip with about 500 feet of elevation gain. Definitely try to make it to the red chairs!
From the town of Jasper, drive south on Highway 93/Icefields Parkway for 65 miles (just past the Icefield Centre). Turn left, following signs for Wilcox Creek. The parking area just off the main road is the trailhead — if you reach the campground, you’ve gone too far.