Jasper National Park, one of Canada’s largest parks, has many features, which I could spend a lot of time and a lot of words writing about. Instead, I will focus on a small area, tucked in near the East entrance. I have been here before, but as a child. My husband and I recently went for our first time together, to Pocahontas campground near the Miette Hot Springs and were able to explore one of Jasper’s great hikes – the Sulphur Skyline Trail.
Living west of Edmonton, my husband and I have been to Jasper National Park many times before. It is only two-and-a-half hours from us; but we have very rarely camped in Jasper. Often in the summer months, the campgrounds fill up rather quickly. We knew we wanted to hike the Sulphur Skyline Ridge and thought we would try our luck at camping at the Pocahontas Campground just 5 minutes from the East Entrance gates. Being spring, we hoped we could get a site and we lucked out! The campground is a beautiful hidden gem with 140 spacious treed lots. The campground is serviced with running water, flush toilets and fire rings. After setting up camp, we enjoyed a campfire-cooked meal, some wine and tucked away into the tent early to get a good sleep before our hike the following morning.
The Sulphur Skyline Ridge is a grueling, uphill for 4 km, ridge-walk that offers impressive views making the climb worthwhile. The trailhead starts at the Miette Hot Springs parking lot and is uphill from there. At the summit you are greeted with views of the remote Fiddle River Valley, Utopia Mountain and Ashlar Ridge. If planning on doing this hike, ensure you are well equipped with water as it is a steep, dry hike. Also bear spray is essential. We hiked passed many piles of bear scat and also heard from some hikers who encountered a mother and her cubs on the trail on the day prior.
After our hike we went back to camp for a hearty meal and then took off for a scenic drive to the Jasper Townsite, which is only 30 minutes away. We passed bighorn sheep and a large buck elk. After our sightseeing drive, we went back to camp for a small hike to Punch Bowl Falls. From the campground, the walk is a short 1 km down to the viewing platform of the falls.
In the Miette area there are other activities worth mentioning that we have yet to take part in. You can take a soak in the warmest hot springs in the Rockies – Miette Hot Springs. Enjoy the mineral waters at 40 degrees Celsius while you marvel at the surrounding views.
Utopia Pass is another hike that starts at the Miette Hot Springs parking lot and takes you up through the ruins of the old pool building. Continue up the creek to where the trail crosses to Utopia Pass with views of impressive wildflowers.
Jasper National Park has a lot to offer; this is just a small corner of the park with a couple of day’s worth of activities. As with most summers, my husband and I will be back to the park to continue exploring this magnificent area.
By Cassandrea Gascoyne