Wilcox Pass is near the Icefield Centre in 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The final stretch through old growth forest on wide, flat trail leads to the trail-head kiosk and parking area.
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.