Jasper National Park
Time: 4 hours
Distance: 8 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 700 m
How To Get There: If you're heading from Edmonton, travel west on highway 16 until you get to the turn off for the Miette Hot Springs on Pocahontas Road. Proceed 16.9 km until you reach the Miette Hot Springs Parking Lot. The trail head for Sulphur Skyline is basically right beside the entrance to the hot springs!
This was a special hike- not only was I taking a rare trip to Jasper National Park but I was going to be spending two days with a good friend of mine, Kaitlyn! She and I have been through quite a bit together and I knew that any hike I threw at her she would conquer. When we met a year ago, I knew almost immediately I wanted to take her on a hike some day. It seemed almost surreal that we were finally getting the opportunity.
The park had received over 12 inches of snow two weeks prior to our visit and it was still evident as we parked at the Miette Hot Springs. The paved pathway at the beginning was crisp with spots of icy snow. That didn't deter us though- the blue sky was a great reminder that despite the white ground, we were in for a beautiful day.
While there is two parts to this trail, the paved portion and the dirt portion further along- it was hard to tell where the dirt trail began with all of the snow. Near the beginning we reached a fork in the road, and I think that may be where the "touristy" part ends.
As we continued the steady (but not severe) uphill climb, we came to a small creek where a small bridge crossing helped us get to the other side.
The path narrows not too long after that and snakes its way through a thin forest of snow-dusted pine. The trail is on a constant uphill grade.
As we continued on, the trees around us began to show us their still-yellow leaves. The sun was getting higher and the snow was slowly beginning to melt while we were still at a lower elevation.
As we climbed up the east side of the valley, the views briefly opened up behind us, allowing us our first glimpse of the surrounding mountains.
After 2.6 km, there is another junction, this one indicating the turn off for the horse trail as well as Mystery Lake. During the winter time, the trail is completely filled in with snow, an indication that it's only well-used in the summer time.
The reprieve is short lived and the elevation gain begins to increase quite a bit after this point as you are heading towards Shuey Pass.
Before you reach the first real switchback, you are treated to another great view of the mountains, Here you turn right towards Sulphur ridge.
As we climbed up the narrow (and slushy) trail, now heading south, the hike opened up to the beautiful valley below us.
The closer we got to the open ridge, the steeper the trail became as we ventured back into the forest one last time.
And just like that, the trees gave way to a vast expansion of alpine meadow. We had finally made it above the treeline.
Along the way to the top there was a bench that looked out to an amazing view of the mountain range. It's a great spot to stop and catch your breath as the rest of the way is definitely a leg-burner.
The slope going up was a bit tricky at times as it was pure snow and there wasn't much to hold traction. Kaitlyn isn't exactly a fan of heights so she definitely had to push through the last part.
At times it felt like we were climbing straight up!
But wow was it ever worth it once we reached the top. There are no words to describe the beauty of having a 360 view of a National Park. Immediately we dropped our packs and began taking as many pictures as we could. It didn't matter which way we pointed our cameras, there was always something gorgeous to see.
It was awesome finally being able to do a hike with Kaitlyn!
And I have to say, she's quite the model.
From the south part of the ridge, you can look down and see the hot springs and the road that led us to the trailhead.
Despite the snowy conditions, there were still a few other hikers that joined us on the summit, and we were lucky enough to get one of them to take a picture of the two of us up top. Though I've heard the ridge can get fairly windy, there was barely a breeze that day, and so we were able to stay up top for over 45 minutes, exploring the views and stopping for a quick lunch.
When we finally headed back down, we had to take things a little slower, as the snow had completely turned to a mix of ice and slush. Needless to say, Kaitlyn sometimes seemed to prefer sliding down on her butt instead of her feet.
This was one of those hikes where it doesn't take long to get to the top but you definitely have to work hard the entire way up. If you're interested in some amazing views in a decent amount of time, give this trail a go! And definitely make sure you take a friend- they make every hike that much sweeter :)