Hiking Wilcox Pass Trail Jasper National Park

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Looking for a great hike with panoramic views on your way to Jasper? Wilcox Pass in Jasper National Park is an ideal hike for anyone driving the Icefields Parkway from Banff to Jasper.

What makes Wilcox Pass trail the perfect hike is the fact that you can see spectacular views early into the hiking path.

If you don’t feel up to doing the full hike you still get to stretch your legs and see the amazing Athabasca Glacier and Rocky Mountains.

Now, if you have the time and energy, I highly recommend you do the full hike including the last 1.4 km to Wilcox Ridge for the best vista point.

Here’s everything you need to know to hike Wilcox Pass Jasper.

Looking for more cool stuff to do? I wrote a post about fun things to do in Jasper National Park, including where to go kayaking in Jasper.

Icefields Parkway Guide to Hiking Wilcox Pass Jasper

This post contains compensated links and I may receive a commission for purchases made through links. See my disclosure about affiliate links here

Wilcox Pass Trail Info

  • Distance: 8 km (5 miles) round-trip
  • Elevation: 390 m (1280 ft)
  • Type of hike: Out and back
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time: Allow 2 – 3 hours

Wilcox Pass hiking trail with view of mountains and glacier

Where is Wilcox Pass Trailhead?

107 km south of Jasper and 127 km north of Lake Louise

Driving from Lake Louise, shortly after the Jasper National Park boundary with Banff National Park on the Icefields Parkway scenic drive you will find Wilcox Pass parking lot and trailhead on the right side of the highway.

You’ll pass by the Parker Ridge Trail (another great hike!) on the left, 6.4 km before Wilcox trail.

Total driving distance is 127 km from Lake Louise.

If you are driving from Jasper you will pass the Icefields Discovery Center on the left, then watch for Wilcox Pass Trail on the left side, 2.8 km further along the Icefields Parkway.

Total driving distance is 107 km from Jasper.

Athabasca Glacier view from Wilcox Ridge Jasper

Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is the highway connecting Lake Louise and Jasper.

If you’ve never driven along the Icefields Parkway you are in for a treat. This scenic drive is 230 km (143 miles) and features several spectacular sights for photography, hiking, picnics, and gawking at the amazing views.

Read my post about the best places to stop on the Icefields Parkway, including the 5 best places for photos.

Athabasca glacier Alberta Canada

Wilcox Pass Hike Description

The Wilcox Pass trail was used years ago to get around a canyon on the Sunwapta River near the Athabasca Glacier. Walter Wilcox was an explorer in the Rockies and a rock climber.

While hiking the Wilcox Pass trail you will start out with a wooden staircase and a steep hike through the forest. Mind your step as there are lots of tree roots on the trail.

Trees and roots Wilcox Pass trail

Watch for birds, squirrels, and chipmunks in and around the trees. We saw a ptarmigan, although I didn’t get a great photo at least you can see it’s a bird!

Ptarmigan bird

Once you reach the two red chairs you can expect fierce winds for this section of the hike. Stop and take in the view of the icefield, Athabasca Glacier and Dome Glacier.

Red chairs with view of the Rockies at Wilcox Pass trail

Continuing up the trail it eventually levels out and you will see big beautiful meadows and cross a couple of streams. Shortly after the second stream crossing, we saw three bighorn sheep.

Bighorn sheep Jasper National Park

Did you know both males and female bighorn sheep grow the large curved horns?

Bighorn Sheep Jasper National Park Canada

There is a sign marking the 1.4 km trail to Wilcox Ridge. Do hike up this trail to the top of the ridge, it’s steep but no scrambling is required. Watch for the cairns marking the trail.

Wilcox Ridge sign at Wilcox Pass Trail

Enjoy stunning panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains and glaciers. Be prepared for extreme wind conditions on the ridge. This is where I wished I brought a toque!

Hiker at Wilcox Ridge summit

Athabasca glacier Alberta Canada

If you continue straight on trail instead of turning to hike Wilcox Ridge, be aware that this portion of the trail is unmaintained. Since fewer people hike this portion be sure to bring the 10 essentials for hiking, which you should bring on every hike.

Panaramic view of mountains and meadows Wilcox Pass Jasper

Hiker on the Wilcox Pass trail Jasper National Park

Tips for Hiking Wilcox Pass Jasper

  • Always check the weather report before you plan your hiking trip. And check the Jasper National Park bulletins for important updates.
  • Trekking poles are a good idea due to the amount of elevation change during the hike
  • Bring bear spray and know how to use it – watch this informative video
  • Remember it’s always a good idea to pack the 10 Essentials on every hike. You don’t want to get caught off guard – lacking the basic supplies like waterproof matches or a compass when you really need it!

Cairn marker and glacier view Wilcox Pass

What to Bring Hiking Wilcox Pass

  • Wear hiking shoes with good grip on the sole. The trail can get muddy and there are some rocky areas.
  • Wool socks are the best for hiking because they absorb moisture, insulate even when wet, and dry quickly.
  • In winter use crampons on your hiking boots to get traction on snow or icy spots.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle and snacks or picnic lunch at the summit or along the way.
  • Wear layers and bring cold weather clothing (even in summer) when hiking in the mountains because the weather changes rapidly.

Rocky Mountains and meadows from Wilcox Pass Trail

  • Sunscreen– especially on sunny days but also for overcast days too – protect your skin from UV rays. I like Elta-MD sunscreen and have used it ever since my dermatologist recommended it.
  • Waterproof jacket or rain poncho (and something to cover your backpack)
  • Bring a small backpack to carry your picnic lunch and other supplies for the hike. It’s best to buy a waterproof backpack or bring a large plastic bag to cover your day pack if it starts raining during your hike.
  • Wide brimmed hat and a toque (knitted cap) for protection from the sun, rain, and ticks. I wore a sunhat (my favorite sunhat is made by Wallaroo Hat Company) but could have used a toque while hiking in the windy spots – it’s colder at higher elevations and often windy!
  • Bug spray – just in case the mosquitoes or flies are biting. Although I didn’t use any on this hike, I always like to have it handy. Bug repellant is essential when hiking certain trails in Jasper, like Valley of the Five Lakes.

Tip: If you are staying at a hotel in Banff, Lake Louise, or Jasper ask at the front desk if they have any extra bear spray. A lot of travelers will leave theirs behind since they can’t take it on a plane.

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Wilcox Pass view of Icefields Parkway Jasper

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling solo around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 5 of a solo road trip around the USA and Canada, living a nomadic life, and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

2 Replies

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  1. Jo Harmon says:

    The veiws are gorgeous. Quite a hike through some awesome mountains and forest then to see the glaciers. Just stunning Susan

    • Hi Jo, Yes this hike is amazing for the views. I love that you get to see the glacier quite early in the hike, you can sit at the red chairs (if it’s not too windy) and enjoy the panoramic view and then continue on the trail. Highly recommend this one!
      Cheers,
      Susan

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