Wilcox Pass, Jasper National Park

Distance: 4 km, half-day or day trip, allow 1.5 hours to Wilcox Pass (more if you’re taking photos, which you will…)

Access: Follow the Icefields Parkway (93) to the Wilcox Creek Campground on the east side of the highway just 3km south of the Icefield Centre and Athabasca Glacier. 

Tip: Bring a camera for goodness sake! And perhaps a towel. You’ll find out why…

Wilcox Pass is arguably my favourite hike in Jasper. The reason: alpine meadows reached in a short distance with hardly any back-breaking hiking. And some of the best views of the Athabasca Glacier and its surrounding peaks like Mount Athabasca (3491m), Snow Dome (3460m), and Mount Kitchener (3511m). This is a great family hike; if everyone is feeling tired after the 2 km trek through sub-alpine forest they are to be rewarded with astounding views around the corner- literally.

The trail head is located in the parking lot of the Wilcox Creek Campground right off the road.  The trail begins with a climb through a subalpine forest, then the grade moderates a you emerge onto an open ridge overlooking the Icefields Parkway and the glacier. Beyond this viewpoint, the trail climbs steeply along the edge of a gully containing a stream. Now this is where you’ll need a towel. Cool off your feet in the gully after a steep climb on a hot day. It’s easy to miss the stream because it’s hidden in the gully but it’s so worth it to get in there. If you want to reach it you’ll need to break from the trail and onto a narrow foot trail that requires some agile movement down into the gully.

After this the trail ascends  then levels out across alpine tundra and heads into the long U-shaped pass between Wilcox and Nigel Peaks. Ground-hugging alpine plants are everywhere if you pick the right time to go. Look for bighorn sheep as they seem to frequent the area. You can’t blame them though, it’s one of the best locations to live. The official summit is reached at 4 km but the entire pass is so long and flat it’s difficult to recognize it as the highest point. Most groups stop at this point and turn back the way they came.

If you decide to continue through the pass you’ll eventually descend upon Tangle Creek and the Icefields Parkway once again. The trail often disappears but there is a marker indicating where to descent to Tangle Creek valley begins. The trial emerges onto the highway 10km north of the Wilcox Creek Campground. Some people drop off bikes here so they can ride the road back to the campground. If you feel okay about hitch hiking for 10km do it.

The greatest thing about this hike, although I’ve already stated a few things, is that it’s open and free. You’re not limited by any thick forest areas or rushing rivers. You can explore as much as you like, just be careful of the environment that surrounds the area. And take lots of pictures!

 

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