Sunday, September 09, 2012

Jasper National Park - Suphur Skyline Trail

The Sulphur Skyline walk was our first hike in the Rockies. It's located at the northern end of Jasper National Park at the end of Miette Hot Springs Rd, so it's quite far from the town of Jasper. The nearest campground, Pocahontas, was swarming with so many mosquitoes that it was impossible to sit outside at all. Perhaps we just came at a bad time, but I cannot recommend staying there.

One of the nicest things about the walk is that the trailhead is right at the parking lot for the Miette Hot Springs pools, so you can go for a soak after you're done hiking. Just remember to pack your swimming stuff and bring some cash for entry fees. There's also a cafe on site with nice salads, sandwiches, soups and ice cream.

The walk takes you up to a ridgetop and returns the way it came. The total distance is around 9.5 km. It begins with a steady climb up an easy wooded track. Bring your bug spray if you're walking during bug season, as it was pretty thick with mosquitoes on the bottom half.

We were there mid-July, during the peak of wildflower season. This meant we were treated to lots of colourful blooms along the track.

As we approached the treeline there were several big horn sheep hanging around. They are often mistaken for mountain goats, but the only goats in this area are white.

Above the treeline the track becomes steep and loose, covered in scree. It was a tough slog under the hot sun. The summit is worth the slog though, giving you views in every direction.

At the top, the golden-mantled ground squirrels seemed keen to share the hikers' lunches. We relaxed for a while before making our way back down. This was a moderately challenging walk, but no real skills are required. The scree presents the only tricky section. If you're planning a trip to the springs, or will be passing through the area on your way to or from the town of Jasper, it's a worthwhile half day hike.

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