Elevation gain - 515m (1,690'). Distance is return trip.
For hikers wishing to visit Wilcox Pass in Jasper National Park but are unable to bear the thought of the hoards of humanity on the short trail, this is the option for you. It is a longer hike and you spend more time in the trees but there is history to be seen and the approach to the pass is more dramatic. The name Tangle comes to us from Mary SchÃ¤ffer who named it in 1907 after her party had difficulty descending the valley through a tangle of fallen trees. Peakfinder: Tangl and Peakfinder: Mary Schaffer.
From the parking lot at Tangle Falls cross the road and look for a small brown sign marking the trail just up the road from the falls. The trail climbs on top of the rock cut and follows the road for 200m before turning left and climbing into the forest. Gaining 100m in the next half kilometre the trail passes over a ridge behind which are the remains of an old log cabin. The cabin is right beside the trail, so it's hard to miss. It is suspected that this old cabin is the remains of Jimmy Simpson's Sheep Camp. Jimmy was one of the early guides from the Banff area before Jasper National Park existed and this was one of his hunting camps. Undeterred by the creation of the park Jimmy continued to hunt in the area and eventually proclaimed himself to be the best poacher the National Parks ever knew. Peakfinder: Jimmy Simpson.
Winding through the forest the trail eventually crosses a feeder of Tangle Creek on a small footbridge. Beyond the crossing the trail follows the feeder into a large cirque below the northern edge of Wilcox Pass. Climbing gently through the cirque you pass under forested slopes, then cliffs and finally scree slopes up which you must climb to gain the edge of the pass.
At 4km the edge of Wilcox Pass is still 3km short of the summit of the pass, but with little in the way of elevation left and a very faint trail many hikers call it quits. Some will wrap around the top of the cirque and find themselves a nice little nest from which to take in the view. And for those who choose who continue to the pass, there is no need to worry about the faint trail. Stick close to the base of Mount Wilcox on your right till you see the little sign that marks the summit of the pass at 7km. Return the way you came.
Wilcox Pass is a wide open alpine environment and it is easy to wander off trail in exploration. If you fall victim to the beauty of Wilcox Pass on a hot summers day please respect the area and limit your impact by spreading out, avoiding wet areas or staying on rock. The weather this close to the Columbia Icefield is very fickle, to say the least, sometimes changing frequently throughout the course of a single day. I was once caught at the crest of the pass by a snowstorm in the middle of July, so be prepared. Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep are frequently seen feeding along the upper sections of the trail, I've also seen goats and caribou.
Jasper National Park produces a free day hiking guide called 'Summer Trails' of this and many other trails in the park, it is available at both the Columbia Icefields Centre and Jasper Information Centre. For maps there are Gemtreks 'Columbia Icefield' at 1:75000 or the government1:50000 topos '83 C/6 Sunwapta Peak' (the current edition does not show the trail), and you'll need '83 C/3 Columbia Icefield' if you want the other half of the pass both are available from the href=" http://www.friendsofjasper.com">The Friends of Jasper.
In winter please check the local avalanche bulletins and conditions.
Drive south of Jasper on Hwy 93 (Icefields Parkway) for 98km to the unmarked parking lot for Tangle Falls, which is 100m past the signed entrance to the Tangle Creek Maintenance Camp. The falls are on the left side of the road and the parking with two obvious panabode privies is on the right. At most times during the summer there will be people crossing back and forth across the road and taking pictures of the falls to help mark the location.
Although most visitors are unaware of its existence, there is another waterfall below the parking lot. It is all but impossible to get a good picture of it but is worth a look.
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