A trip to Nigel Pass, gateway to extended trips on the Brazeau Loop or South Boundary Trail of Jasper National Park, makes for a rewarding day hike in the Columbia Icefields area. The trail is actually in Banff National Park and passes through a pleasant combination of forest, avalanche slopes and flower filled meadows, as it makes a gentle approach to the pass. Only the last few kilometres to the pass pose any challenge to the healthy hiker.
From the parking lot the trail crosses Nigel Creek and turns up stream. Alternately passing through forest and avalanche slopes as it makes its way to Old Camp Parker, a historic and prehistoric camp that is no longer in use. Just past the old camp a horse trail joins from left, after crossing two branches of Nigel Creek it leads to the Camp Parker Warden Cabin. The Warden Service still runs patrol on horseback in the Mountain Parks, from this cabin they can access over 500km of trail, in and out of the park. This trail, combined with a fire road to the trailhead can be used as an alternative route back to the parking lot.
At 5km most of the forest is left behind and the climb to the crest of the pass begins. Gaining elevation at a good pace the terrain turns rocky and exposed and there is normally a good wind blowing over the pass. Take a jacket on this hike, its proximity to the Columbia Icefields makes the weather unpredictable.
Strong hikers can extend a day trip in the area by messing around on the ridge, or descending to the floor of the Brazeau Valley, or as the local cowboys humorously call it, 'the Brazew' (Joseph would be rolling in his grave). It is also possible to push on, up to Cataract Pass and the boundary of the White Goat Wilderness. (http://www.cd.gov.ab.ca/enjoying_alberta/parks/planning/gateway/siteinformation.asp?id=397). This wilderness route has only a faint trail but extends down Cataract Creek to the Cline River, Pinto Lake and Sunset Pass. Be sure to pick up a good map if this is the plan.
Both Jasper and Banff National Parks produce a free day hiking guide of this and many other trails in the parks, they are available from the Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise and Columbia Icefields Information Centres. For maps there are Gemtrek's 'Columbia Icefield' at 1:75,000 or the government topo 83 C/3 Columbia Icefield at 1:50000, available from the The Friends of Jasper.
Submitted by 'mtncat'.
While Nigel Pass is located in northern Banff National Park, it is most often hiked by visitors to Jasper National Park. Drive south of Jasper on Hwy 93 for 118km to the parking lot on the left side of the road, or north of Lake Louise for 116km.
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Posted By: pmjwright
- Fri Mar 03 17:54:01 EST 2006
UpsideWhat Kmarshal said: Easy trail, lots of views. As an introduction to Brazeau Loop it's superb.
Downside(I'm just picky) there are many even more scenic trails in Rockies.
CommentFor best views, consider an easy scramble up a summit north of the pass. A hike south towards Cataract Pass is very scenic but more effort.
Posted By: Kmarshall
- Fri Jan 27 18:42:20 EST 2006
UpsideWOW you want a hike well here it is my friends and fellow hikers. This is a glorious easy easy hike. Are you looking to stretch your legs and walk for 19 Kms flat in some areas and elevated in others. Every turn through the great stetches of this vast hike is a view. Where ever you look you will see great Giants rugged and cracked and pretending to be roman ruins. The landscape is full of rich wild vibrant colored flowers the fresh air will fill your lungs and make you come to life. Get out your packs and hiking attire you should be fully prepared no matter what. Not alot of people on this hike. You will be pleased with the end result. Have your camera at the ready. Layer yourself. Take the kids take the dogs they will love you. Have your trekking poles at the helm. This is a spectacular overpowering uplifting exhilarting journey of wonder. We took so many pics I think our camera was overheating. There is a horse trail on the way so the signs are clearly marked you will have no problems getting to and from you destination. This Hike gives so generously and asks so little of you. You just need time and patience. It can be a bit overwhelming and exhausting. But again mother nature will kick you in the but and when you think you have nothing left to give the wind engulfs you and gives you your second wind. This is a hike worth doing. You will go through old growth and then it will open up into a glorious stretch or green lush meadow with the river run along side this will go on for 4 sections and then you will start to ascend up into the heart of the mountians and you will get to a overpowering demanding mountain that if you are brave go forward we did not we had lunch between the two mountains and the river roaring through it what peace what joy what beauty.
DownsideAgain the only downside is okay I can not think of anything. If you want a work out with a reward at the end this is it. If you have a day to hike and enjoy this is it. If you are not in a hurry this is it.
CommentI cried I laughed I loved it I wanted to go again. This is the ultimate hike. This is the most amazing thing we have ever done. I tell you I think I left my heart on that mountain and I would do it again. Have fun drink lots of water. Pack for safety pack food. DON'T FORGET BUG SPRAY AND LOTS OF IT.We went in July 2005 BUGS GALORE we also used bug suits. You are going to have a blast.