Wilcox Pass Trail–The best view of Athabasca Glacier

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.

Parking lot was almost full when we arrived, but look at the view!

Within about 20 minutes we had the first view of the mountains on the other side of the Icefields Parkway.

Alpine Forget-me-not

A glimpse of Athabasca Glacier on the left

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.

We found the red chairs that Parks Canada placed at popular spots in national parks across the country.

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.

Approaching Wilcox Pass. It was June 18 when we took this hike and trail sections at higher elevation were muddy or covered with snow.

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.

Stunning view at Wilcox Pass

The landscape was large and expansive.

Hiking down snow-covered hillside

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.

Creek crossing on the way back

David didn’t want to stand still when I took this photo. I guess he believed he could fly, or something. There’s a nice Athabasca Glacier ramp right there.

One of the two mountain goats seen on the drive back

  • 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

12 Comments

  1. What a fantastic hike, Keng. The views are breathtaking, and conditions so variable, easy to see you were very, very high here. Looks like a challenging hike, with snow, ice, stepping stones, and altitude. I can only imagine how exciting it must’ve been to see the glacier, too. Thanks for bringing us along.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    1. Thanks Jet, for your comment. There’s something so fascinating about glaciers, seeing enormous mass of ice that yet so fragile and could disappear with warming climate, that made me want more.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

Please leave a comment. We love to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s