No Dogs: The Skyline Trail has been identified as critical Woodland Caribou habitat, a threatened Species-at-Risk in Canada. In an attempt to reduce stressors on this disappearing icon of the Canadian wilderness Parks Canada has banned dogs from all Caribou habitat in Jasper National Park.
The Skyline Trail in is one of the premier backpacking trails in the Canadian Rockies and with 25kms of the trail at or above treeline it is easy to understand why. Can be hiked as a point to point backpack of 2-6 days or as a there and back again for a quick over-nighter. The trail is best hiked south to north from Maligne Lake, this way you avoid a long grunt up a fire road and start with a 600m elevation advantage. Be prepared for big climbs as you tackle three passes and cross the highest section of trail in Jasper Nat Pk. Connects with the Watchtower Trail at 17km. With campgrounds at 5(Evelyn Ck), 8(Little Shovel), 12(Snowbowl), 19(Curator), 30(Tekarra) and 35(Signal) kilometres you can plan for almost any ability. Most hikers complete the Skyline as a point-to-point backpack of two nights, staying at Snowbowl and Tekarra campgrounds en-route. But there is nothing wrong with taking your time on such a beautiful trip and stretching it out to three or four nights. The campgrounds are well equipped with tent pads, picnic tables, bear poles (with metal cables and clips) and a green throne privy (solar composting at Signal c/g). The use of gas stoves is mandatory as campfires are not permitted and dogs have recently been banned as well.
By traversing the Maligne Range, not only are you undertaking a sublime Rocky Mountain adventure, you are entering the home range of animals that stand today as icons of our ever shrinking wilderness. Wolves and mountain lions, though seldom seen, roam these high valleys in search of prey. Grizzly bears can be spotted digging for ground squirrels or munching on plants in trail side meadows and as a special treat for the lucky few, woodland caribou call the area home as well.
There are two ways to start the Skyline but most people choose the main trail, otherwise known as the easy way. From the parking lot at Maligne Lake (several metres to the right of the gated Bald Hills fireroad) the main trail starts with a gentle ramble through the forest, passing Lorraine and Mona Lakes before reaching Evelyn Creek bridge and campground. The other way to start the Skyline Trail is by grunting up the Bald Hills via the short cut for a commanding view of Maligne Lake before heading down the fireroad and taking the connector trail to the Evelyn Creek bridge. This option adds a mere 4km and 500m of vertical to the first day.
Evelyn Creek campground is nicely nestled in the forest next to the creek but unless you plan on a late start then pass it by for higher campgrounds. From Evelyn Creek to Little Shovel Pass you'll be working the legs as the trail makes the first climb of the trip. With heavy demand on Snowbowl c/g by the two night crew, Little Shovel or Curator campgrounds are a good second choice for the first night out. From Little Shovel c/g the trail enters the more open terrain of the upper subalpine and continues its climb to Little Shovel Pass at 10km. Entering the Snowbowl the trail can be seen snaking its way down through open meadows and into the trees where Snowbowl c/g is hidden.
As the name suggest, Snowbowl is equally popular in winter as it is in summer. Hidden away in the valley is a small cabin called Shangrila. Built by legendary Jasper guide Donald Phillips in 1936 for skiing enthusiasts, the cabin, steeped in history is not available to summer hikers. Administered by the Maligne Lake Ski Club, Shangrila is only available in winter, call 1-780-852-3665 for more info. From Snowbowl c/g it's a long easy ascent through flower-filled meadows to Shovel Pass at 17km. In 1911 Jack Otto was guiding Mary Schaffer to her survey of Maligne Lake over this pass but found the way blocked by snow. Fashioning shovels from nearby trees the party dug their way through then left the shovels behind prompting Mary to christened it "Shovel Pass". The shovels are now displayed at the museum in Jasper. (http://www.jaspermuseum.org/)
Crossing the into the Curator Basin the trail swings right and contours past the junction with the Watchtower Trail. The short trip to the top of this col is worth the view on the other side. Four kilometres down this quiet valley sits Watchtower Campground, not only a good alternate campground when Curator is booked solid but a fitting destination in its own right.
Back in the Curator Basin the Skyline continues to the Wabasso Creek Trail junction at 19km. Less than a kilometre down this trail is Curator Campground followed by Shovel Pass Lodge. Unlike Shangrila, Shovel Pass Lodge (http://www.skylinetrail.com/) caters to hikers but horse trips are their forté. Both the Watchtower and Wabasso trails are good foul weather escape routes off the Skyline. Beyond the Wabasso junction the Skyline Trail passes Curator Lake then makes an abrupt ascent to the Notch at 22km the highest point on the Skyline at 2511m. The cornice that crowns this pass should always be navigated on the climbers right. To stand on or below the cornice is a risk that sensible people don't take.
Your experience over the next four kilometres is entirely dependant on the weather as you are completely exposed on the crest of the Maligne Range. Completely exposed to stunning mountain scenery that is. Take your time, poke around, walk a ridge, peek down a seldom traveled valley or just kick back and contemplate life above a bejeweled lake. The downside to this utopia would be a spell of nasty weather, like the day I hiked it in a July snowstorm. The high elevation and exposed nature of the Skyline means that hikers are at the mercy of the elements. Be prepared or be cold!
The descent to Tekarra c/g is down a twisted trail through a rocky valley bounded by Mount Tekarra on the left and Excelsior on the right. At the head of the valley, lending its name to the creek and lakes below is Center Mountain. After skirting lower Centre Lake the trail enters Tekarra c/g at 30km. (Tekarra Lake is at the head of Tekarra Creek on the north side of the mountain... no seriously, it's on the map)
From Tekarra c/g cross Centre Creek and follow the trail as it skirts the shoulders of Tekarra and Signal Mountain to the junction with the Signal Mountain Fireroad. Uphill to the left the fireroad climbs for one kilometre to the old Signal Mountain fire lookout site. (well worth the trip) Downhill to the right the fireroad passes the junction into Signal c/g then plunges into the forest for the final leg of the trip. Losing 800 metres of vertical over the final 9km is hard on the knees but a small price to pay for such a great trip. If you planned it well your car will be waiting for you at the bottom of Signal Mountain, if not you'll have to wait for the Maligne Lake Shuttle http://www.malignelake.com/shuttle.html to get back to your car.
The Skyline Trail is one of the busiest in the Rockies and reservation are definitely required. Call the Jasper Trail Office at 1-780-852-6177 up to three months in advance to book your trip, fees apply. The Friends of Jasper (www.friendsofjasper.com) are a good source of maps such as Gemtreks "1:100000 Jasper and Maligne Lake" or you can pay twice as much and get twice the topographic detail with the 1:50000 government topos "83C12 Athabasca Falls" and "83C13 Medicine Lake". The Gemtrek map is more user friendly and contains lots of extra information about other trails in the park while the trails on the government maps are not always plotted correctly and campground locations are not included.
From the town of Jasper drive east on Hwy 16 for 2km and turn right on the Maligne Lake Road. Cross the bridge, veer left and follow the Maligne Lake Road for 8 km to the northern parking lot on the right side of the road. Despite being one of the most popular backpacking trails in the Canadian Rockies there is no road sign, other than a hiking emblem, to tell hikers they've reached the Skyline Trail. Leave your car here and get yourself to the other end of the trail.The parking lot at the south end of the trail is at the end of the Maligne Lake Road 48km from Jasper. (there's no road sign for the Skyline Trail there either... go figure).
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Posted By: gang-gang
- Fri Dec 21 08:00:49 EST 2012
UpsideAn easy 3-day walk with excellent campsites. For us it was a great introduction to Rocky Mountain hiking.
CommentMy wife and I walked this in early September - in sun, fog, a bit of rain and a bit of snow. We have published a description with lots of photos on our Photodiary of a Nomad website [url="http://www.gang-gang.net/nomad/canada/can04.html"]Skyline Trail - Jasper National Park[/url]. These will give a good idea of what to expect and what you will see.
Posted By: nicsochatsky
- Wed Jul 18 20:21:22 EDT 2012
QuestionHello, me and my buddy are planning on doing a 2 day (overnight) hike at Skyline Trail and had a few questions.
Where do we sleep (tent)?
Do we need a reservation for this weekend Friday, July 20 to saturday july 21?
Are we allowed to make a fire?
Is there anything else we need to know or bring?
Thanks a lot for your time
Nic SochatskyANSWERS are in this forum: Skyline Trail Jasper
Posted By: lstocking
- Mon Oct 17 13:42:55 EDT 2011
UpsideBeautiful diverse terrain in each mile, hiked through meadows, shale, trees, rock and lakes as well as the ridge!
DownsideNone really. Ensure you are in good physical condition and have used your pack and boots before!
CommentWe hiked this on August 12-14, 2011. What an amazing weekend, +25C temperatures and great company made for a great trip. A 5 women group we had a blast and not much for trouble on the trip. Barely saw any wildlife but the wildflowers were amazing as though someone had spilt them down the mountainside! Two guys we knew ran the trail in one day and we hiked it in three. Next year I plan to run this trail as training for the Death Race. Ensure you have enough food but not too much and there is plenty of water along the way to filter. We stayed at Snowbowl and Tekarra camprounds. The second day was our longest and hardest day going over the Notch but what spectacular views!! Would do this trip again anytime! Definitely a premier backpacking trip. GPS said 46 km. Book your campgrounds three months in advance as they are booked quickly...
Posted By: mike wesbrook
- Tue Jul 19 12:25:38 EDT 2011
CommentA: A camping permit is required and can be obtained at the Jasper Trail Office 780-852-6177. Call soon as most of the sites are booked for the summer already.
Bring a water filter as there is lots of water along the trail but it needs to be filtered. Ask the Jasper Trail Office about water locations when you get your permit.
Two good hiking references for long hikes are Canadian Rockies Trail Guide by Patton and Robinson and Classic Rockies Hikes by Graham Pole.
The trail is in good conditions and the bugs have started so come prepared.
Posted By: susane duchesne
- Sat Jun 11 15:05:21 EDT 2011
QuestionI am planning on doing the Skyline trail at the end of July, is there any water sources along the trail or do we have to bring the water for the whole trip?ANSWERS are in this forum: water
Posted By: Groovy Guru
- Wed Aug 18 22:42:51 EDT 2010
CommentMy brother and I did this hike back in 1999 at the beginning of August. Spectacular weather except for a little bit of rain over night on the 2nd night. Thankfully we were tucked away in our tent.
We did this hike North to South because we wanted to get the boring old fire road out of the way when we had the energy to conquer it. It was 30 degrees C the first day and it was hot slugging up, but once we reached the top and the scenery we were filled with new energy and joy. Beautiful! So after a 1/2 day of tough slogging to get up the boring, monotonous fire road, we were treated to 2 days of wondrous beauty. Just have a decent level of fitness to get up the road with your pack and you'll be fine.
When I do it again, I will definitely go North to South. I much prefer the idea of ending in a beautiful meadow and a nice treed path, rather than clomping down an anti climactic fire road. Kind of a sad way to end a sublime hike.
Posted By: nadreck
- Mon Jul 26 13:09:39 EDT 2010
CommentFolks, nice description but the line: the cornice should always be navigated on the climbers right is the opposite of what it should be. The cornice should be on the climbers left, or the climber should stay to the right of the cornice, would be the correct way to say it.
Posted By: malloryman21
- Wed Jun 16 13:30:41 EDT 2010
I am planning a trip to Alberta in Late July. I want to hike for 30-40 days, non-stop.
Is there any one trail system through the Rockies that would allow for long distance hiking trip such as this? A collection of trail systems?
A guide book you would recommend to prepare for something like this?
ANSWERS are in this forum: long distance hiking
Posted By: rick.bekker
- Thu Jun 10 14:36:37 EDT 2010
Upsidewe did first 9 KM from Maligne Canyon to Signal hill June 6 - had to slug waist deep snow for .5 KM but well worth it. Warmest day of year so far so was great hike.
Posted By: jsnewton
- Fri Apr 23 03:46:38 EDT 2010
QuestionWhat are the temperatures like on the trail at the end of June?
Thanks!ANSWERS are in this forum: Temperature
Posted By: tamhart
- Wed Sep 23 16:56:06 EDT 2009
Downsidepoorly marked trail at some points
CommentHiked this on Sept 19-20,2009 and met some spectacular people! This was a wonderful hike, very challenging to do in two days but well worth the effort. Unfortunately we spent 2 hours trying to find the trail up to the notch and then, due to snow, weren't sure which way to go once we got up there... they definitely need to add more signs along this section of the trail. This meant we walked the last 3 kms in the dark - thank goodness for headlamps! ha ha!
Posted By: trail_and_error
- Wed Sep 02 16:38:37 EDT 2009
UpsideAwesome views, beatiful passes, lots of birds/ other wildlife to look at, relatively easy hiking. The ridgewalk after the notch is spectacular. Trail does not seem busy even when campsites were fully booked. people complain about the weather, but the weather was perfect.
DownsideThere was a fire in jasper, so the view from the notch was a little hazy.... but I am not abot to start complaining.
CommentI loved this trail. It was my first multi day trip in the rockies and had an awsome. I have been to Jasper countless times, but had not seen really seen Jasper until I did this trail.
Posted By: vagabondsoul
- Wed Jul 29 11:43:48 EDT 2009
QuestionIs this hike doable / accessible in early September? I'm thinking about hiking it the long weekend with my girlfriend. Also wondering how often you run into other hikers on the trail (probably a good thing if it is prime grizzly country).ANSWERS are in this forum: September?
Posted By: Chasman
- Thu Jul 24 21:00:37 EDT 2008
UpsideFantastic views, large part above treeline. Alpine flowers in July. Park officials patrol trail and campgrounds.
DownsideWeather variable. May be unpassable in certain weather conditions, and has a short period where it isn't snowbound. The Notch may be intimidating to the inexperienced hiker.
CommentOne of the best trails I've been on. It snowed the day before we began our hike, and a Ranger reported that two hikers were found in a hypothermic state and were guided out by two other groups. Be prepared for variable weather; at best it is always cold come nightfall. Shouldn't pass this one up...
Posted By: albertatraildog
- Wed Jul 09 19:32:08 EDT 2008
UpsideFantastic views above tree-line.
DownsideThe last 8.9 km of Fire Road is a quad-buster.
CommentSimply an amazing trail. One of the jewels of the Canadian Rockies. Ran it end to end (Maligne Lake to Jasper TH in 7 hours 33min. It rained pretty much the entire day, with some pretty wicked winds up on top the Notch and Amber Mtn. Saw only other hikers the entire day. Didn't see any Grizzlies, but this is prime bear country. Albertatraildog.
Posted By: bshubert
- Sun Jan 06 03:01:58 EST 2008
CommentI was wondering if anyone has hiked this trail in May, and what is the earliest you can start to hike it? If you have any info or recommendations for a few day hike around Jasper in May please e-mail me at email@example.com. Thanks!
Posted By: shasselmann
- Tue Nov 21 22:24:07 EST 2006
UpsideLike everyone saya: Beautiful valley walks, amazing views when you are above tree line (less than half your time - but alot!). Hike it from South to North as everyone else did - just don't forget to look back once in a while.
DownsideGet your water when you see it. There is plenty, but not always convenient to camp. Pack for all weather!
CommentLoved it. Enjoyed amazing weather except the day we climbed the Notch where fog and sideways rain gave us reason to move on (quickly)
Posted By: kilo2
- Sun Sep 17 09:30:00 EDT 2006
Downsideswitchbacks on day 1 coming through the forest from Maligne Lake were tough, but worth the effort once through. The water source at Snowbowl was scarce, load up at Evelyn Creek.
CommentThis is an awesome trail. We took our time which allowed for picture taking and rest breaks. Stayed at Snowbowl, Curator, and Tekarra. Would do this again for sure!!!
Posted By: shasselmann
- Tue Sep 05 16:58:36 EDT 2006
UpsideAn easy hike - only tough part is getting up and over the Notch.
DownsideFor us, the day of the Notch was extrememly cloudy with sideways rain until we got down the other side.
CommentWe really enjoyed the hike and will try it again, hoping for clear weather the day of the Notch. Coming around to Curator was extremely windy through the pass, at least 70kmph. Although some hiking books say the campgrounds are dodgy, we found them all well taken care of and clean. If you camp at Curator, go all the way to the back of the campground for site #3 - beside a creek to keep you company, but climb down to a faster, cleaner stream for your water. Take the hike from south to north for a number of reasons including the amazing views...but don't forget to look back once in a while!
Posted By: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sun Aug 27 17:01:32 EDT 2006
UpsideScenery is spectacular and there are frequent backcountry campgrounds which allow you to vary the duration of the hike according to your ability.
DownsideWeather can go sour very quickly! Also, the last 9 km of trail is a fire access road and is monotonous after the spectacular scenery on the rest of the hike.
CommentWe started the hike from Maligne Lake which is the south end of the trail and has a higher elevation than the north end. There is a convenient shuttle service that has multiple daily pick ups from the north end of the trail (only about 15 minutes from town) and then drops you off at the south trail head (about 45 minutes travel time). We made reservations for the shuttle in advance which cost about $15.00 per person. We camped at Snowbowl, Curator and Tekarra campsites and made advance reservations. Each of these sites had about 8 soil tent pads, which were fully occupied when we hiked the trail at the end of August. All of these sites had cabled bear caches, 3 shared picnic tables and a nearby water source. Curator is a pretty little site, but the downside is the 1 km of switchbacks down to the campground and then back up again in the morning. The most challenging part of the hike is "the notch" which is tackled about 2 km from the trail at Curator. After the notch, you travel about 5 km at the top of the ridge and should be cautious of electrical storms. You wouldn't want to be caught up there during a lightning strike! Tekarra is a beautiful site with a large creek and towering mountain. Aim for Tekarra if you have a chance and try to avoid the Signal campsite. 4 days was ideal for our moderate hiking abilities, but we did come across several more experienced hikers that were completing the trail in either 2 or 3 days. There are several marmot colonies around both Tekarra and Little Shovel Pass. Watch for grizzlies in these areas, as they are the principal predator of marmots. We heard several reports of grizzly sightings just beyond Little Shovel Pass and saw evidence of digging activity. Most of the wildflowers were out of bloom by the end of August, but the plus was that the bugs were also minimal at this time of year. Apparently the mosquitos can be quite bad earlier on. All overnight backpackers are required to purchase a wilderness pass, which can bought in the information centre at the Jasper townsite. Highly recommend this trail!
Posted By: kilo2
- Wed Jan 11 01:04:53 EST 2006
CommentPlanning to hike this trail in August this year. Never been our West before, any tips/suggestions re:weather, the trail itself please email 'email@example.com
Posted By: Desiree
- Wed Jun 29 00:31:05 EDT 2005
Commenti'm doing this trail in the end of july and i would like to get some information about this trail and how hard it is becuse i did the berg lake and mount robson trail and that wasn't that bad if anyone has and information on it could you please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org thanks
Posted By: bfcoffey
- Thu Mar 17 00:14:14 EST 2005
CommentThe last 3 photos have been added by the original trail submitter. The description of the photoshows in the address line of your browser when you click on the photo.
Posted By: northwalker
- Tue Mar 08 20:54:48 EST 2005
UpsideSpectacular views, wide open spaces, more than half of the trail is above treeline.
DownsideWeather conditions can, of course, change quickly and dramatically.
CommentWe didn't get to finish this trail, called it quits just before climbing the notch at the halfway point. The weather was deteriorating quickly and the snow was blowing in over the notch, builiding up quite a cornice so the going wasn't getting any easier. I decided to make the retreat down the watchtower trail.<br> I added some pictures from our trip to this posting. The last one is the view from the top of the ridge on the Skyline trail looking down the Watchtower trail. It's our only shot of the Watchtower as the snow turned to rain at the lower altitudes, the trail turned to mud and the camera ended up staying in my pack. We'll be back...<p> Lorne Finucane<br> Ontario Editor
Posted By: bfcoffey
- Tue Mar 08 10:24:49 EST 2005
CommentLooks like a good trail. Would the submitter please email 'email@example.com'.