If you’re looking for a relatively short day-hike in Jasper National Park that isn’t too steep and with dramatic views of glacier and mountains, Wilcox Pass Trail should be on the top of that list.
Jasper National Park’s weather in late spring was quite variable. During 10 days that we spent in the park, daytime temperature ranged from 40s to 80s and we had rain, sun, and snow. We waited for the day when the weather forecast was decent to do this hike as it’s up in the high country. The drive from our campground just outside of the town of Jasper to the trailhead on the Icefields Parkway was stunning. I’ll post a re-cap of our time in Jasper National Park and the Icefield Parkway in a later post.
We arrived at the trailhead around 2:30 pm. There were only a few spots available in the parking lot. After using a toilet at the trailhead, we started the hike. The trail climbed up right away through a pine forest. The trail through the forest was surprisingly dry. This didn’t last long, however.
After 20 minutes we had our first view and soon we came to a spot where Parks Canada placed the red chairs. The red chairs are bright red, plastic Adirondack chairs connected with a table. The table has a plaque that contains interesting information about the place. I read that some locals think it’s gimmicky, but I think it’s a great advertisement program for national parks. Once becoming well recognized, it could be used to draw visitors to lesser known or underused places in the parks, relieving crowd pressure from those better known spots. A couple of hikers who were about to leave when we arrived kindly took our pictures with the chairs.
The trail had been dry to this point. Shortly we started another climb toward Wilcox Pass. The trail became wet and muddy in some sections. A few sections were covered in snow. There was one major creek crossing before reaching the pass. Fortunately, there were stepping-stones placed to assist with the crossing so we didn’t have to get our boots all wet.
At the pass, we saw a hill to the left that would give us a good view of the land below, so we trudged through snow up the hill. There were rocks with orange-colored lichens providing a contrasting color with the surrounding landscape. Not wanting to climb higher through snow, we decided this would be our lunch spot.
After lunch we headed down. Cold, gusty wind started picking up. Adding more layers of clothes helped us staying warm. When we got back to the trailhead, the parking lot was almost empty. Since there were several hours of daylight remaining, we stopped at Athabasca Glacier and walked to a viewpoint at the toe of the glacier before heading back to the campground.
- Date hiked: June 18, 2017
- Hiking time: 3h 34m
- Distance: Approx. 5.0 mi round-trip (out and back)
- Elevation change: 1,127 ft gain