Optional pre and post trip accommodation packages are available from $80 per person per night for shared room lodging ($160 for single occupancy). Purchase with booking. Subject to availability.
How difficult is it?
How fit and experienced need you be?
This trip is rated challenging due to successive longish days (14 - 19km). On the first and second days backpack weights are heavier. Participants will be carrying personal clothing and gear plus a fair share of food and group gear (tents, stoves, etc). By keeping personal gear light, pack weights need not exceed 20kg (44lbs) on the 1st day, thereafter weights drop quickly. Please read our Traveling Light & Making Backpacking More Fun for information and suggestions for clothing and equipment.
Prior hiking experience is strongly recommended. Participants must be in good physical condition and able to carry a backpack over hilly terrain for a succession of longish days.
The trails are generally good with occasional boggy sections. We will hike at a regular and steady pace that conserves energy but you still must be in good hiking shape before you come. We cannot emphasize enough that training pays great dividends in enjoyment. We suggest you train by walking and/or cycling and/or hiking (ideally in hilly terrain). Break those hiking boots in!
In the remote headwaters of Jasper National Park's Brazeau River, where Poboktan and Jonas Creeks pass, there are huge expanses of alpine meadows that we call the Jasper Highlands! Our hiking journey circumnavigates much of this expanse in a huge triangular route also known as the "Brazeau Loop". The South Branch of the Brazeau River which we follow for the first two days is a very old trail long used by the indigenous people and later followed by European trappers and explorers. Now this trail is used by backpackers and wildlife including wolves and the elusive mountain caribou.
The ambiance of this valley is evocative of all that is wild, remote and beautiful in the northern reaches of the Canadian Rockies in what is one of our most challenging hiking trips.
If you have already enjoyed the Mount Assiniboine Backpack or the Rockwall Highline this is a natural step onto another level of mountain adventure. It's a more challenging and remote trip that should be on the list of any backpacking enthusiast.
Day 1: At 7.30pm we meet at the Yamnuska Mountain Adventures office in Canmore. We'll go over the trip with you and check to see that you are properly outfitted.
Day 2: Nigel Pass Trailhead - Four Points Campground
We will pick you up after breakfast, deal with last minute gear issues, pack our food then head off. Driving north from Canmore on the Icefields Parkway we travel 190 km to the Nigel Pass Trailhead which is just a few km from the Columbia Icefields. The drive along the Icefields Parkway is captivating. Crossing the pretty limestone canyon of Nigel Creek we head upstream to Camp Parker where carefully carved tree blazes date from early European visits in the late 1800's to when the road arrived in the 1940's. Gradually, we climb through slide paths, forest and meadows to reach Nigel Pass and the Jasper Park boundary. Leaving spectacular views of Mt. Saskatchewan and the peaks south of the Columbia Icefields behind we drop into the upper reaches of the Brazeau River to reach our first camp, Four Points, 5 downhill km later. Distance 14 km. Total elevation gain & loss: +335m / -275m.
Day 3: Four Points - Brazeau Lake
Before heading out we lighten our loads and cache food for our last night and day for this is also our last campsite. Today will be a longer day, though the gradually descending trail makes it much less onerous. Traversing lodge pole forests and frequent lush meadows, we travel north along the Brazeau River. This is an old, old trail used by Natives and early European explorers. It is also used by wildlife as the tracks of bear, moose and wolf attest. We continue along the valley dropping through the forest to emerge on a bench which allows us to traverse above a spectacular canyon of the river before dropping yet again. Reaching the junction of the Brazeau North Branch we follow it to our camp by Brazeau Lake. This turquoise marvel is one of the largest backcountry lakes in the Rockies! Distance 19 km. Total elevation gain & loss: +90m / -150m.
Day 4: Brazeau Lake - Jonas Cutoff Campground
A more challenging day as we climb John-John Creek to Poboktan Pass (2300m) to enter the Jasper Highlands! These huge tundra-like meadows cover many, many square kilometers and are home of the Jonas Creek mountain caribou herd! The view from the Pass is extensive, we can see for miles, and if lucky we may see bighorn sheep or even mountain caribou grazing nearby slopes. Views absorbed and photos taken we then hike several kilometers to our campsite at Jonas Cutoff . Distance 16km. Total elevation gain & loss: +490m / -180m.
Day 5: Jonas Cutoff Camp - Four Point Campground
Today we enjoy one of the most impressive alpine traverses in the mountain parks, a 13-kilometer section of trail that never drops below timberline. After a day of spectacular views that includes several nearby glaciers and glaciated peaks, we drop steeply to the valley bottom and the Four Points Camp and completion of the Brazeau Loop. Here we retrieve our food and fuel cache having enjoyed relatively light backpacks for the day. This is a great camp where we can enjoy life in the hills around a campfire. Distance 19 km. Total elevation gain & loss: +350m / -555m.
Day 6: Four Point Camp - Nigel Trailhead
At our camp by the Brazeau River we pack up for the last time. The 14km trail over Nigel Pass to the road passes quickly as light packs and a wonderful view to the west, that we really never appreciated on the first day, help the kilometers slip quickly by. We meet our van and drive back to Canmore, to hot showers and the customary final night of celebration. Distance 14km. Total elevation gain & loss: +280m / -335m.
We will meet you at our Yamnuska Mountain Adventures office at 7.30pm the evening of Day 1.
Our office is located at 200, 50 Lincoln Park, Canmore. See this map for location.
For your greater convenience we offer a pre-meeting shuttle service within Canmore. Please let us know in advance where you will be staying if needing this service. Pickup will occur between 7:00 and 7:20pm.
Please ensure that you have your hiking equipment with you.
Guides and Group Size
Yamnuska Mountain Adventure guides are certified through the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. Our professional guides have extensive experience in the Canadian Rockies. Guides also have advanced wilderness first aid training and heritage interpretation accreditation. Guides carry emergency equipment including a first aid kit, bear spray and radio.
There will be a maximum of eight guests and a minimum of four.
Accommodation and Meals
On the trail you will be staying in modern, lightweight 2- and 1-person weather-proof tents.
Accommodation in Canmore is not included. For your convenience we can arrange hotel accommodations in Canmore for $160 per night. This accommodation can be booked with the trip online or by calling us. Subject to availability. Hostel accommodation is also available for $30 per night.
You can also make your own arrangements and we would be pleased to give you any advice.
Excess luggage can be left at your hotel or our office.
We supply all meals and trail snacks from lunch on Day 2 to lunch on Day 6. Groups generally go out for dinner in Canmore on the final evening (own cost).
Trail cuisine is constructed from lightweight ingredients including our Yamnuska custom-made dehydrated dinners. Please specify any special dietary requirements you have on booking so we can incorporate them into our menus. A dietary surcharge will apply.
Getting to Canmore and Transportation
Canmore is situated 100km (65miles) west of Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway. It is well served by scheduled bus lines both from Calgary (airport and downtown), Banff (20km west) and points further west. Calgary International Airport is well connected to major cities throughout North America and Europe. Once in Canmore we will supply all transport needed for the trip.
Frequent shuttles connect Calgary International Airport and Canmore. We can arrange your airport ground transportation at time of booking.
We supply transportation from Canmore to the hiking trails.
Clothing and Equipment
We supply group camping and cooking equipment plus a full emergency and first-aid kit. You will need to bring personal equipment (backpack, sleeping bag, etc.) and clothing. Yamnuska Mountain Adventures does have rental and retail equipment such as sleeping bags, mats, and backpacks. Rental Gear List. Contact us in advance to reserve.
What you bring will have a big impact on the quality of your experience, we especially urge you to read our notes on lightweight gear and clothing. Your hiking boots should have many trails to their credit before you bring them on this trip
Please download the list below and make sure that you will have the items listed.
Contact us if you have any questions or concerns or check out our latest video on how to pack your backpack
Brazeau Lake fishes well for large cutthroat and hybrid varieties of trout. Participants are welcome to bring lightweight fishing gear. A National Park fishing license is required (purchase in Canmore). Fishing is only possible on the 2nd evening so it might be wise to consider whether carrying fishing gear for the whole trip is worthwhile.
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. A 35% deposit CDN (including GST) is required at time of booking. Final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the trip.
For detailed Booking Instructions and Conditions, click here.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travelers need to consider: Medical and Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance. We offer our guests coverage for both and highly recommend you purchase it.
Emergency Medical Expenses Insurance:
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident during your trip. Obtain extra coverage if necessary. There is no charge for rescue in the National and provincial Parks, however costs such as air or ground transportation, long term care and other services are not covered.
Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance:
We recognize that our guests’ schedules may change for many reasons; business, family, flight delays, injuries and other unplanned events. For these eventualities the Trip Cancellation/Interruption insurance is a great way to protect your investment.
For all your travel insurance requirements we recommend the Simpson Group. This agency offers a wide range of travel insurance options including Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Travel Medical and Personal Effect Loss for Canadian and International Travelers. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance. For more information and to purchase a plan, visit the Simpson Group’s website.