Long before Jasper was established as a national park, a vast network of trails provided an essential passageway for wildlife, First Nations people, explorers, and fur traders. Nearly 1,000 km (621 miles) of hiking trails in Jasper provide an opportunity to truly experience wilderness, and hardcore backpackers will find multiday loops of more than 160 km (100 miles). The trails at Mount Edith Cavell and Maligne Canyon should not be missed.
A few of these trails are restricted to pedestrians, but hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrian users may share most of them. Several paved trails are suitable for wheelchairs and strollers, while others are rugged backcountry trails designed for backpacking trips. Bathrooms can be found along the most used day-use trails. You might see elk, bighorn sheep, moose, bears, and mountain goats along the way. It is never a good idea to surprise a large animal such as an elk or bear, so make plenty of noise as you go along, avoid hiking alone, stick to designated trails, and carry bear spray and know how to use it.
Lake Annette Loop. This kid-friendly 2.4-km (1½-mile) loop trail with interpretive signage is paved and mostly level. It takes most people less than two hours to complete. Toilets are at two locations, and there is a shelter halfway around. Easy. Jasper National Park, Alberta.
Maligne Canyon. This 2.1-km (1.3-mile), one-way trail east of Jasper Townsite leads to views of the area's famous limestone gorge. Starting at the fifth of six bridges spanning the canyon, the winding trail gains about 100 meters (330 feet) in elevation. There's a waterfall at the head of the canyon. Easy. Jasper, Alberta.
Old Fort Point Loop. Shaped by glaciers, Old Fort Point is a bedrock knob that provides an excellent view of Jasper. It will take an hour or two to complete the 3½-km (2.2-mile) loop trail. A wide, easy path that begins behind the information kiosk leads to a very steep section of trail. It's common to see Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, the provincial mammal of Alberta, from this trail. Along the way you'll pass Jasper National Park's oldest rock, but the real highlight is the view from the top. Easy. Jasper, Alberta.
Path of the Glacier Trail. This must-do 1.6-km (1-mile) trail only takes about an hour. The kid-friendly path, paved at the start, runs across a rocky landscape once covered in glacial ice. Eventually you come to a viewpoint overlooking Cavell Pond, which is fed by Cavell Glacier. Small icebergs often float in the water. The view across the valley takes in Angel Glacier, resting her wings between Mount Edith Cavell and Sorrow Peak. Easy. Jasper National Park, Alberta.
Valley of the Five Lakes. It takes two to three hours to complete this family-friendly 4.2-km (2.3-mile) hike. Five small lakes are the highlight of the trip, which takes you through a lodgepole-pine forest, across the Wabasso Creek wetlands, and through a flowery meadow. Watch for birds, beavers, and other wildlife along the way. Turn this into a moderately difficult hike by continuing another 10 km (6.2 miles) to Old Fort Point. Easy. Jasper National Park, Alberta.
Cavell Meadows Loop. This moderately steep 8-km (5-mile) trail will take four to six hours. Into early summer the upper section is still covered in snow and not recommended, but from mid-July to mid-August you can enjoy the carpet of wildflowers. There's also an excellent view of the Angel Glacier. Moderate. Jasper National Park, Alberta.
Opal Hills Loop. Near Maligne Lake, this 8.2-km (5.1-mile) hike is very steep and takes from four to six hours to complete. There are excellent views of Maligne Valley, and many opportunities to observe wildlife, including moose and bears. Be sure to make noise as you hike, and keep your distance from the wildlife. During summer, you will spot many wildflowers along the trail. Difficult. Jasper National Park, Alberta.
Wilcox Pass. Excellent views of the Athabasca Glacier are the highlight of this strenuous, 8-km (5-mile) hike near the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre. This pass was originally used by explorers and First Nations people and is fairly steep. Keep an eye out for wildflowers and bighorn sheep. Be sure to dress in warm layers, because this pass can be snowy until late July. Difficult. Jasper National Park, Alberta.
Jasper's backcountry is some of the wildest and most pristine of any mountain park in the world. Check at the visitor center for information about the hundreds of hiking and mountain-biking trails and the overnight camping quotas on the Skyline and Tonquin Valley trails.
Skyline Trail. The trail meanders at or above the tree line for 44 km (27 miles) past some of the park's best scenery. Reservations are recommended. Difficult. Jasper National Park, Alberta. 780/852–6177.
Tonquin Valley. Near Mount Edith Cavell, Tonquin Valley is a classic Canadian backpacking area. Its high mountain lakes bounded by steep rocky peaks known as the Ramparts, attract many hikers in summer and fall. Difficult. Alberta.