Jasper National Park
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 5:00 pm 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 south from the Columbia Icefields. The drive along the Icefields Parkway is captivating. We begin our hike crossing the pretty limestone canyon of Nigel Creek as we head upstream to Camp Parker, where carefully carved tree blazes date from early European visits in the late 1800s. 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. Distance 14 km. Elevation gain & loss: +335m / -275m.
Day 3: Four Points – Brazeau Lake
We’ll lighten our loads and cache food for our last night before heading out. Today will be a longer day traversing lodgepole forests and frequenting lush meadows as we travel north along the Brazeau River. This is an old trail used by Natives and early European explorers. It is also used by wildlife as the tracks of bear, moose and wolf attest. 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! We’ll enjoy relaxing on its shores with a campfire in the evening. Distance 19 km. Elevation gain & loss: +90m / -150m.
Day 4: Brazeau Lake – Jonas Cutoff Campground
Today will be 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 square kilometres and are home of the Jonas Creek mountain caribou herd. The view from the pass is extensive, and we may see bighorn sheep or mountain caribou grazing nearby slopes. Views absorbed and photos taken we then hike several kilometres to our campsite at Jonas Cutoff. Distance 16km. Elevation gain & loss: +490m / -180m.
Day 5: Jonas Cutoff Camp – Four Point Campground
This day we’ll enjoy one of the most impressive alpine traverses in the mountain parks, a 13-kilometre 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 Four Points Campground. 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. 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 trailhead passes quickly with light packs and wonderful views. We’ll meet our van and drive back to Canmore, to hot showers and an evening in which to celebrate our trip and time in the mountains. Distance 14km. Elevation gain & loss: +280m / -335m.
Read a “GUIDE’S PERSPECTIVE” for more about the hike and its special ambiance!
Meeting Place and Time
We will meet you at our Yamnuska Mountain Adventures office at 5:00 pm (MST) on 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 4:30 and 4:50 pm.
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 3-person weather-proof tents.
Accommodation in Canmore is not included. A variety of accommodation options exist in both Canmore and Banff, including campsites, hostels, all levels of hotels as well as condo style accommodation with kitchens or suites. We recommend that you book your own pre and post-trip accommodations well in advance as all levels of accommodations in the Bow Valley fill quickly.
Yamnuska guests receive exclusive rates with Clique Hotels & resorts upon booking an adventure with either Yamnuska Mountain Adventures or Canadian Rockies Hiking by Yamnuska. (Please note that some rates are non-refundable)
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 prepared from lightweight wholesome ingredients including our Yamnuska custom-made dehydrated dinners. For guests with dietary restrictions, we are able to modify the program food pack to meet your individual needs. As food pricing and preparation for these diets is more costly, we have implemented the following surcharges. For vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free, nut-free or any similar type of single restriction menu requests, there will be a $17/day surcharge. For a diet requiring any 2 restrictions a $26/day surcharge will apply. For any 3 restrictions, a $31/day surcharge will apply. Vegetarian meals will not be surcharged. For more complex diets our kitchen staff will assess the restrictions to inform you if the diet can be accommodated and what surcharge would 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 the transport needed for the trip.
Frequent shuttles connect Calgary International Airport and Canmore. Banff Airporter is the best way to get between Calgary Airport and Canmore/Banff. When you book with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures you will receive a 15% discount on Banff Airporter Scheduled Services.
We supply transportation from Canmore to the hiking trails.
Equipment and Clothing
We supply group camping and cooking equipment, as well as an emergency communication device, trip food, bear spray, water purification equipment and a full expedition emergency first-aid kit. You will need to bring personal backpacking equipment and clothing. When purchasing gear consider both functionality as well as weight. Lightweight packs, sleeping bags, sleeping mats and clothing are readily available and will lighten your load substantially.
What you bring will have a big impact on the quality of your experience. Please take the time to read the information below, and cross-check with our Traveling Light and Making Backpacking Fun. The list below will keep you very comfortable in the field. Make sure you have all your clothing and gear before you arrive, and reserve any rentals with us in advance. Your guide will go through your clothing and gear with you prior to the trip.
When hiking in the mountains, it is important to be able to adjust to the changing conditions. We recommend bringing clothing that can be layered to achieve comfort as you change from periods of activity to periods of rest. We discourage cotton clothing as it causes rapid heat loss when wet.
You will need to bring:
- Wool or fleece hat/toque
- Sunhat – Wide brim or baseball style
- Long underwear top and bottoms – Lightweight synthetic or merino wool
- Socks – Preferably a synthetic/merino wool blend. Bring at least three pairs.
- Light Synthetic Shirt
- Jacket – A midweight synthetic jacket
- Insulated Jacket – synthetic or down jacket
- Waterproof / Breathable Rain Jacket
- Rain Pants – Also waterproof/breathable. Ideally with side zips, so they can be put on without taking off your boots.
- Hiking Pants – Preferably windproof and quick drying. No blue jeans or cotton pants.
- Light Gloves / Mitts
- Light Footwear – Crocs, Tevas, or running shoes for the occasional creek crossing and use around camp.
You will need to bring:
- Boots – Spend some time walking around in your boots before you arrive for your trip and get used to how they feel. They should have good ankle support and tread, with sturdy soles. Your boots will make or break your holiday so some time getting used to them is time well spent. Ensure they have been waterproofed or have a good waterproof liner material.
- Gaiters – Recommended early & late season. Really help to keep feet dry, keep socks and pants clean from mud and keep debris out of your boots.
- Large Backpack – This should be between 55 and 75 Liter capacity depending on the bulk of your personal gear and length of the trip. In it, you will carry your clothing, sleeping bag and mat, plus your share of group camping gear and food which is typically an extra 10 – 20 litres of space. Lightweight packs with good suspension are recommended. If bringing an additional day pack, this should be very light and compressible in order to fit inside the bigger pack on the approach hike.
- Pack Cover – This should be waterproof and large enough to cover the outside of your pack to keep the contents dry in a rainstorm. You can also line the inside of your stuff sacks with plastic bags to keep gear dry.
- Sleeping Bag – We recommend a ‘3 season’ bag rated 0ºC to –6ºC as temperatures can drop to below freezing at night. Make sure you bring a stuff sac lined with a plastic garbage bag that will reduce your bag to its minimum size (i.e. one with compression straps). This will provide enough space in your pack for everything else. A down bag will be lighter and more compressible for the weight than a synthetic bag.
- Sleeping Mat – Lightweight “Therm-a-rest” mats are recommended (Not Required on Wapta Ice Hike and Lake O’Hara Hiking Tour).
- Pillow – A small, compressible pillow or a spare stuff sack into which you can stuff extra clothes to create a pillow.
- Trekking Poles – Must be collapsible.
- Sunglasses – With 100% UV protection and a hard case.
- Headlamp – With fresh batteries
- Water Bottle / Bladder – 1-2 litre capacity.
- Blister Kit – Moleskin, Second Skin, etc.
- Personal First Aid Kit – Our guide carries a group first aid kit so keep this small. Band-Aids, Tylenol/ibuprofen, etc.
- Sun Block & Lip Balm – Extra strength with UV protection.
- Eating Utensils – Bowls, sporks, a large mug, light pocket knife, etc. (Not required on the Lake O’Hara Hiking Tour)
- Personal Toiletries including hand sanitizer– Keep to a minimum with no scented items.
- Insect repellent
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. A 35% deposit CDN (including GST) is required at the time of booking. The final payment is due eight weeks before the start of the trip.
For detailed Booking Instructions and Conditions, click here.
Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the trip. Click here for a waiver copy.
There are two basic types of insurance that most travellers 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 Travelers. We highly recommend purchasing this insurance. For more information and to purchase a plan, visit the Simpson Group’s website.
Please note that this coverage is for Canadian residents only. For guests who are not from Canada and who are interested in the ‘Visitors to Canada’ insurance package please contact the Simpson Group directly at JSimpson@simpson-group.com and reference your Yamnuska Mountain Adventure’s trip.
$1525 CDN Includes the guide, National Park ‘Wilderness Pass’, out-trip meals, group camping gear and local transfers.
Not included: Canmore accommodation, Gratuities for guide & 5% Goods and Service Tax (GST).
Trip Cancellation Insurance is available through the Simpson Group.
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 day, backpack weights are heavier as we are carrying 5 days of food. However, we leave a food cache on Day 1 for our return meaning much lighter packs starting Day 2. 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. We will stay as a group while hiking.
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 hiking or walking in hilly terrain with weight on your back (use flights of stairs if in the city). Break those hiking boots in!