Wilcox Pass - Jasper National Park - Hiking Alberta

 

Wilcox Pass is near the Icefield Centre in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

Wilcox Pass, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The trail-head map lists the hike as 8 KM (5 miles) return with elevation gain/loss of 335 m (1,100 ft).  The information at the trailhead kiosk is different from the trail shown on an older Gem Trek map, however the current trail is well-defined and heavily used.  The fickle weather is trending towards increased cloud cover with intermittent sunny periods.  This hike begins in sun, but we are prepared for anything, following interesting hiking missions at Stanley Falls and the Athabasca Glacier.

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada The trailhead kiosk at the Wilcox Pass trailhead near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Excellent quality trail through old growth forest on the Wilcox Pass trail near Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Excellent quality trail through old growth forest on the Wilcox Pass trail near Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

New bridge construction traverses a drainage along the Wilcox Pass trail.  The old growth forest gives way to a clear section as moderate elevation is gained towards and above the Columbia Icefield on the opposite side of the Icefields Parkway.  The trail remains good but diminishes in quality as trail enters another band of forest with a glacial erratic at trail side.

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada An elaborate bridge crossing over and above a draw along the Wilcox Pass trail near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Hiking towards and above the Columbia Icefield on the Wilcox Pass trail in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada A storm is approaching our position from mountains to the west above the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada A glacial erratic along the Wilcox Pass trail above the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

As elevation consistently increases on this section of the Wilcox Pass trail, there is a light, refreshing breeze which is countering the effort of the hike.  On the approach to the treeline, the gentle breeze increases in intensity and there is clearly a squall heading towards us from the west.  The storm has been moving slowly but a noticeable increase in wind speed will rapidly close the distance between current position and the storm.  On the approach to the viewpoint over the Athabasca Glacier, it is clear the front of the storm will arrive soon.

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada A storm is moving towards us from the west as we hike the Wilcox Pass trail near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Boundary and Little A Glaciers from the Wilcox Pass trail across from the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada The Wilcox Pass trail levels as we hike across the top above the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Approaching the position on the Wilcox Pass trail above Icefield Centre and the Athabasca Glacier near Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Boundary and Little A Glacier across from Wilcox Pass trail near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

At the prominent red chairs on the viewpoint, other hikers are scurrying past with the hope of getting into forest before the storm engulfs them.  Rain gear and pack covers are in place just in time to address the horizontal rain.  The storm is a quick, frantic punch that passes overhead and disappears into the distance revealing clear sunny skies close behind.  Within a few short minutes, it is necessary to put away the rain gear for relief from the heat.  Such is the way of the mountains.

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Hikers returning quickly from Wilcox Pass to beat the storm near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada The prominent red chairs along the Wilcox Pass trail near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada The isolated storm rapidly disappears in the distance along Wilcox Pass trail near Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Returning into the treeline along Wilcox Pass trail near Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

As the sun returns, the descent from Wilcox Pass proceeds via by the same route. Mountain and valley views are spectacular to the east and south past Nigel Peak.

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Re-entering the forest along Wilcox Pass trail near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Back into old growth forest along Wilcox Pass trail near Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Hiking through old growth forest near the bottom of Wilcox Pass trail near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

On descent, a chance glance to the left reveals a faint trail through dark green, old growth forest to a brilliant green spot barely visible through the dense forest.  This will need to be investigated. 

The short rustic hike through dense forest travels a very short distance before erupting into a small, open area containing reflective wetland backed by forest and tall mountains.  This tiny, easy-to-miss, oasis is breathtakingly beautiful.

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Wetland oasis hidden adjacent to the Wilcox Pass trail near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Wetland oasis hidden adjacent to the Wilcox Pass trail near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Wetland oasis hidden adjacent to the Wilcox Pass trail near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Wetland oasis hidden adjacent to the Wilcox Pass trail near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

The final stretch through old growth forest on wide, flat trail leads to the trail-head kiosk and parking area.

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada The final stretch on wide, flat trail through old growth forest at Wilcox Pass trailhead near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

Wilcox Pass, Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada Return to the parking area and biffy at the Wilcox Pass trailhead near the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

 

On another day, with more stable weather, the entire 4 KM, one-way hike would be completed including the short diversion to Wilcox Lake.  On a return visit, there is also another opportunity nearby to hike the Parker Ridge Trail for an excellent view of the Saskatchewan Glacier and the Hilda Creek Trail for a look at Hilda Glacier wedged between Mount Athabasca and Hilda Peak in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.  So many trails, so little time.  Another day.

Photographs on this short hike to Wilcox Pass for spectacular views over the Icefield Centre to the Columbia Icefield were taken on August 19, 2014 in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Barry, How long is the hike in distance and time to the Red Chairs? Versus Parker Ridge, which would you choose to do if you could only do one? Thank you for the blog, it has been very helpful in planning our trip for this summer. Travis Waco, Texas

The hike to the red chairs is only partway to Wilcox Lake.  Just a couple of miles on moderate grade to the lookout over the Athabasca Glacier.  Perhaps an hour up and ¾ of an hour down for the average hiker.  Rocky mountain trails can be rugged and good quality hiking boots and hiking poles are important.  Parker Ridge is more scenic and well developed with a wide range of spectacular and unique scenery.  For most it is a half day hike with a quick trip into alpine terrain.  My suggestion would be to do the quick loop trail at the toe of the Athabasca Glacier followed by driving up to Parker Ridge for that short hike.  Warm clothing may be required at the top.  Go to the end of the trail (to the left).  It is an indelibly memorable hike for most  people.  Parker Ridge may be crowded but the hike is unique and worth the time.  Enjoy your visit, Travis.  It is always wise to check conditions with Parks Canada for your hikes.

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