Distance: 1.5km. The entire trail system wouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes or 1 hour if you dawdle and take in the sights.
Access: Drive 25km west of Jasper townsite on Highway 16, to the Portal Lake Rest Area. The parking lot is on your right side just past the Alberta/BC border.
The short trail along charming Portal Lake, is entirely within the boundaries of Mount Robson Provincial Park. Sitting right on the continental divide, this trail takes you along the east side of the small lake, and up and along the divide. If you’re driving from Jasper to Valemount, it’s an easy, accessible opportunity to stretch your legs and briefly escape the crowded highway. Most people get out of their cars, take a look and then get back in their cars, unaware that there is a trail worth exploring.
Park in the rest area, and find the trail head that keeps to the right of the lake. Following the shoreline, the path eventually climbs up a rocky ridge via switchback (yes, some effort is required). At the top, the forest closes in and you follow a distinct path along the “spine” of the continental divide.
The path heads downhill for a while, eventually bottoming out into more forest with some interesting rock features on your right. At this point, you can hear the whines and growls of the highway. You finish your short journey at the BC sign right on the highway. The parking lot is a short walk away. Outhouses are also nearby.