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The Top 12 Day Hikes in the Canadian Rockies

Listed from north to south

1  Bald Hills

2  Sulphur Skyline

3  Cavell Meadows

4  Wilcox Pass

5  Helen Lake

6  Emerald Triangle and Burgess     Highline

7  The Iceline

8  Lake Agnes and Plain of Six   Glaciers Teahouse

9  Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass

10  Healy Pass

11  Kindersley Pass and Sinclair Creek

12  Stanley Glacier

Jasper B & Bs

1 Bald Hills

Gem Trek Map: Jasper & Maligne Lake at 1:100,000 scale.
Trail distance: 5.2 km (3.2 mi) one way. Elevation gain: 480 m (1,575 m).
Maximum elevation: 2,160 m (7117 ft). Trailhead: Maligne Lake.

This moderate half-day hike on an old fire road leads to fields carpeted with wildflowers in mid to late July. From the old fire lookout you enjoy stunning, 360-degree views of turquoise Maligne Lake and the peaks ringing it, as well as the Queen Elizabeth and Maligne Ranges to the north. You may even catch a glimpse of the caribou herd that summers in these hills.

2 Sulphur Skyline

Gem Trek Map: Jasper & Maligne Lake at 1:100,000 scale.
Trail distance: 4.8 km (3 mi) one way. Elevation gain: 700 m (2,295 ft).
Maximum elevation: 2,070 m (6,790 ft). Trailhead: Miette Hot Springs.

This moderately-strenuous hike leads to a windswept ridgetop with unobstructed views of a veritable sea of peaks including Utopia Mountain, with the Fiddle River snaking through the valley below. On the way up, you have an excellent chance of coming nose-to-nose with deer and bighorn sheep. And at the end of the hike, you can soak your muscles in the Miette Hot Springs, hottest natural springs in the Canadian Rockies.

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3 Cavell Meadows

Gem Trek Map: Jasper & Maligne Lake at 1:100,000 scale.
Trail distance: 4 km (2.5 mi) one way. Elevation gain: 370 m (1,215 ft).
Maximum elevation: 2,135 m (7,000 ft). Trailhead: Mt. Edith Cavell.

This moderate half-day hike leads past boulders where marmots frolic to glorious sub-alpine meadows ablaze with wildflowers in late July and early August. From the summit you get close-up views of Angel Glacier and Mt. Edith Cavell and, if you're lucky, you might catch sight of an avalanche of snow and ice thundering down the side of the mountain. This is a late-season hike, as snow patches generally linger on the trail into July. On the way down, be sure to take in the short Path of the Glacier Trail which takes you through a barren, recently-glaciated landscape.

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4 Wilcox Pass

Gem Trek Map:Columbia Icefield at 1:75,000 scale.
Trail distance: 4 km (2.5 mi) one way to the pass summit. Elevation gain: 330 m (1,082 ft).
Maximum elevation: 2,375 m (7,790 ft). Trailhead: Wilcox Campground, 2 km (1.2 mi) east of the Columbia Icefield Centre.

A short, well-graded 30-minute ascent from Wilcox Campground will take you to high-alpine country featuring fabulous views of Snow Dome, Mt. Athabasca and the Athabasca Glacier. Bighorn sheep, white-tailed ptarmigan and golden eagle are often spotted in this area. Instead of retracing your steps back to the trailhead from the pass, you can meander along to the end of the valley and descend to Tangle Falls. Your total distance this way is 11 km (7 mi), and if you haven't arranged a shuttle, you'll have to hitchhike back on the Icefield Parkway to your vehicle.

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Banff National Park photo
Looking back to the Crowfoot Glacier

5 Helen Lake

Gem Trek Map: Bow Lake & Saskatchewan Crossing at 1:70,000 scale.
Trail distance: 6 km (3.7 mi) one way. Elevation gain: 550 m (1,805 ft).
Maximum elevation: 2,400 m (7,872 ft). Trailhead: 35 km (22 mi) north of Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) across from Crowfoot Glacier Viewpoint.

On this moderate half-day hike, you enjoy wonderful elevated views of Crowfoot Glacier and Bow Lake only 2.5 km (1.5 miles) from the trailhead.

Soon after, the trail begins to meander through alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers, where marmots whistle and play peek-a-boo in the boulders. From tiny Helen Lake, energetic souls can take the almost-vertical one kilometre (0.6 mi) trail that zigzags up to a ridge looking out to Katherine Lake and the intriguing Dolomite Pass.
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6 Emerald Triangle and Burgess Highline

Gem Trek Map: Lake Louise & Yoho at 1:50,000 scale.
Trail distance: 21 km loop (13 mi). Elevation gain: 880 m (2,885 ft).
Maximum elevation: 2,190 m (7,180 ft). Trailhead: Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park.

Strong hikers will enjoy this full-day hike which offers lots of scenic variety. The first section leads alongside Emerald Lake, one of the most gorgeous lakes in the Rockies. After a climb up open slopes to Yoho Pass, the Burgess Highline Trail leads south along a ridge. This stretch is the highlight of the triangle, featuring grand views down to Emerald Lake and across to the Vice President. You also have an excellent chance of spotting mountain goats.

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7 The Iceline

Gem Trek Map: Lake Louise & Yoho at 1:50,000 scale.
Trail distance: 13.8 km (8.5 mi) returning via Celeste Lake Connector. Elevation gain: 695 m (2,280 ft).
Maximum elevation: 2,195 m (7,200 ft). Trailhead: Whiskey Jack Hostel in Yoho Valley.

This trail is one of the most popular trails in Yoho National Park because of its dramatic scenery. It's the highest trail in Yoho Valley and also features a close-up look at a barren landscape that was covered by glaciers only 125 years ago. The rough, rocky trail leads up and down moraine rubble with spectacular views of Emerald and Daly glaciers. The trail is best done in fair weather, but be prepared for snow patches any month of the year.

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8 Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse

Gem Trek Map: Lake Louise & Yoho at 1:50,000 scale.
Trail distance: 13-km loop (8 miles). Elevation gain: 700 m (2,300 ft).
Maximum elevation: 2,250 m (7,380 ft). Trailhead: At the Chateau Lake Louise.

This classic Canadian Rockies hike takes in two rustic mountain teahouses where you can munch hearty sandwiches and home-baked banana bread and enjoy a steaming cup of tea or hot chocolate. Memorable views along the way include the snowy peaks of the Great Divide from Little Beehive, Lake Louise and the Chateau from Lake Agnes teahouse and Big Beehive, and a stunning view of six glaciers from near Plain of the Six Glaciers teahouse.

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9 Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass

Gem Trek Map: Lake Louise & Yoho at 1:50,000 scale.
Trail distance: 5.8 km (3.6 km) one way to Sentinel Pass. Elevation gain: 370 m (1,210 ft).
Maximum elevation: 2,600 m (8,530 ft). Trailhead: Moraine Lake.

For outstanding scenery, there is no better dayhike in the Canadian Rockies, especially in September when the larch trees turn gold. After a moderate climb you arrive in Valley of the Ten Peaks. This is what you hope heaven will be like - soaring peaks, flower-filled meadows, birds twittering, and two glistening lakes. An almost-vertical trail zigzags up to Sentinel Pass, highest point reached by a major trail in the Canadian Rockies. From here you look into Paradise Valley where weird spires of rocks rise like Sentinels.

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Healy
Healy Creek from the trail to the Pass

10 Healy Pass

Gem Trek Map: Banff & Mt. Assiniboine at 1:100,000 scale.
Trail distance: 9 km (5.6 mi) one way. Elevation gain: 650 m (2,132 ft).
Maximum elevation: 2,330 m (7,642 m). The trailhead is 18 km (11 mi) west of Banff townsite at the Sunshine Ski Area parking lot.

More than 300 species of plants bloom in these meadows, ensuring you'll enjoy a dazzling display of wildflowers along this trail. The best time to go is usually late July through mid-August, although peak flower season varies depending on the year. You'll get awe-inspiring views, too, of distant peaks, including the distinctive pyramid of Mt. Assiniboine, plus a fabulous overlook to Egypt Lake.

Instead of hiking up Healy Creek, you may want to take the shuttle bus from the Sunshine Ski Area parking lot to Sunshine Village. You'll save 300 metres (985 ft) of elevation gain, and your entire trip will be in ultra-scenic high country. The bus runs from mid to late June through September. For more information, call White Mountain Adventures at (403) 760-4403 (in season) or go to www.whitemountainadventures.com

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11 Kindersley Pass and Sinclair Creek

Gem Trek Map:Kootenay National Park at 1:100,000 scale.
Trail distance: 16 km circuit (10 mi). Elevation gain: 1,050 m (3,445 ft).
Maximum elevation: 2,400 m (7,872 ft). Trailhead: 9.5 km (6 mi) north of Kootenay National Park West Gate at Radium.

Strong hikers will enjoy the spectacular scenery on this classic alpine ramble along a ridge featuring grand views of various mountain ranges - a veritable sea of peaks. Since you'll be exiting at a different spot than where you started, do plan for the one kilometre (0.6 mi) walk or hitchhike back to the trailhead.

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12 Stanley Glacier

Gem Trek Map: Kootenay National Park or Banff & Mt. Assiniboine, both at 1:100,000 scale.
Trail distance: 4.2 km (2.6 mi) one way. Elevation gain: 350 m (1,150 ft).
Maximum elevation: 1,930 m (6,330 ft). Trailhead: Highway 93 South, 12 km south of Castle Mountain Junction on Highway 1.

This trail takes you through a fascinating area that was razed by fire in 1968 and is now a regenerating forest. Below the charred trees a profusion of wildflowers bloom throughout July. The trail peters out at a viewpoint of Stanley Glacier where you can listen to the boom of avalanches and the shrill cry of marmots and pikas who make their home in boulders in the meadow.

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Jasper Bed & Breakfasts

If you want to cut down the cost of staying in Jasper townsite, you might want to consider lodging in a private home.

There are more than 100 "Approved Accommodation" establishments licensed in Jasper. They're similar to a Bed & Breakfast with one important difference: breakfast is not available. (Parks Canada doesn't license them for serving food.)

Another minor difference is that you generally have less contact with your host than you would in a typical B & B. In many cases you'll be using a private entrance, and the only time you will meet your host is when you arrive and pick up the key.

The homes vary in the number of suites they offer, as well as their amenities, such as single, double or queen beds, and private or shared bath. Sitting areas, kitchens and patios are sometimes available. Be sure to ask whether they accept Visa and Mastercard.

Prices average $80 to $150 a night in high season, a savings of at least 50 per cent on what you'd pay for a hotel in high season.

Reservations are highly recommended during the summer. You need to book directly with the private home itself. For more information, see www.StayinJasper.com

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Last update: Nov. 4, 2015

Maps for the Canadian Rockies
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