Rolling into Jasper National Park was surreal. I think it instantly became my new happy place. Coming from Ontario I’m not used to mountains surrounding me or even being within view. Besides in the few times I’ve been to BC I never really got to see the Rockies, yeah I got to fly over them but being able to actually see them on ground level and gauge the real size was incredible. Just take a look at these epic photos before I go any more in-depth about Jasper National Park.
The above pictures were taken along the Pocahontas Campground Trail, which is where we would stay while in Jasper. Jasper would be the only place on our whole trip (other than our final stop before flying home) where we would spend 2 nights in the same place and boy oh boy was it ever worth it.
Heres a bonus from the trial lookout of the view and Tyler.
Our original plan had us making another stop in the Prairies, to spend a night in Edmonton. But we realized that none of us had any desire to spend a night in a city, and we really didn’t know what we would do in Edmonton other than see the mall. We did still stop at the West Edmonton Mall, to see the largest shopping mall in North America. We grabbed lunch there and saw the indoor roller coaster, but we had been talking about the mountains since we left Ontario so we decided to keep heading towards Jasper. After all, Jasper is home to the freaking ROCKIES!
Being able to set up camp and know that we didn’t have to take it down in the morning was bittersweet. We definitely took our time in the morning, as we had nowhere we had to be. It was just the surrounding mountains and us. However, since we were in Jasper, we couldn’t just sit around all day so we talked to one of the park staff at the campground and he recommended a trail that was a personal favorite. We were told that we were in for a real treat (and a lot of panting). We were set to climb Sulphur Skyline: a 700m+ elevation gain to a total altitude of around 6600 feet, 8+km loop trail, a hiking time of 4-6 hours, a black diamond rating and epic views from the top.
Sulphur Skyline was my first hike in the Rockies and the park staff did not let us down. It was an insanely awesome hike. The trail starts off in a small parking lot used mostly for the hot springs, and those hot springs are presumably how the trail got its name… (from the sulfur smell, commonly keep up). The beginning of the trail is dense forest and the elevation gain was immediate. From the distance that we had to cover, I knew I was really in for it. Halfway through the trail the switchbacks start, steep trail then a 180 turn, steep trail then a 180 turn, and repeat. The switchbacks went on for what felt like forever. Then three-quarters of the way up the trees stop, and the trail opens to rock. We were above the tree line. This was officially the highest altitude I had ever walked to. This is when the real climb started, it was loose rock and it was tough going.
Eventually, we made it to the top. First to make it was Neil, then Tyler and last (but definitely not least) me. We had made it up in an hour and a half, and after all that hiking it was finally time to enjoy the view.
We stayed for an hour at the top enjoying the view, eating lunch, and taking in the sights and sounds the top of a mountain can provide. Getting down was easy and according to our time check when we reached the car, we found out that it had only taken roughly 3 hours and 30 mins to hike to the top, eat lunch, and hike down. Our completion time beat the estimated hiking time, and we were proud of our modest feat.
We still had lots of time left for activities in the day so we piled into the car and headed towards Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon. We arrived at Malign Canyon first, and it was one of a kind. The heart of the canyon had the raging Maligne River roaring through it, and it had waterfalls and rapids and narrow sections with bridges you could walk over. There were also sections where you could see huge boulders had ground areas away to be smooth and flat. Maligne Canyon is a must see in Jasper, even if it is a little touristy.
The last item was Maligne Lake and just the drive to the lake was worth any effort to get there. We saw everything from wildlife to mountains (bet you didn’t see that coming), and even where the wildfires had hit earlier in the year.
Jasper was a real treat, and spending 2 nights in the park was definitely worth it. I can’t wait to go back, but for now, it was time to head down to Banff.
Good Bye Pocahontas campground!