The Skyline

The Skyline is an epic point to point 45 km trail in Jasper National Park with around 30 km spent above the tree line in alpine valleys and along fabulous ridges.  While a spectacular hike, it’s also very busy – lots of trail runners completing the trail in one day. Our sense of being in the wilderness was much less than other hikes we’ve done such as the Brazeau Loop and Devon lakes.

It’s a five hour drive to Jasper from Calgary, and the hike starts near Maligne Lake, a short drive into the mountains southeast of Jasper. We decided to drive the Icefields Parkway (almost becoming a chore to drive because we just want to get to the mountains in the north!) and camp at Jonas Creek. This campsite has some nice walk-in sites in the forest above the drive-in spots.

The next day we had a slow start and made it to Maligne Canyon around 11 am. We parked here (the end of the hike) and hitched a ride to the trailhead at Maligne Lake. The Day one hike from the lake up into the mountains is straightforward through nice forest past Evelyn Creek and Little Shovel campgrounds. Over Little Shovel Pass (2240 m), we dropped down into Snowbowl Campground. An easy 12.2 km. The wet summer was in evidence with some muddy spots and billions of mosquitos. Fortunately, it was windy and cold, which reduced the bugs. Unfortunately we had not brought quite enough clothes! Summer in the mountains.

Gill pauses on the short switchback climb to Watchtower Col

Gill pauses on the short switchback climb to Watchtower Col

Day two from Snowbowl to Tekarra is the epic day with all 18.3 km above the tree line, through Big Shovel Pass (2320 m) and The Notch (2510 m). We also did the short detour up to Watchtower  Col (2380 m) where we had lunch. The main challenge was the really fierce and relentless wind. It was so strong in the passes and along the summit ridge of Amber Mountain that we were glad of our large packs weighing us down as we hiked leaning into the wind. The views were spectacular, but the weather was a bit cloudier than we’d hoped for. We were impressed by the number of trail runners doing the 44 km trail – starting from either direction. Many looked battered by the weather.

Watchtower Col, the climb to The Notch, and the Amber Mountain ridge are the highlights. The views from the ridge towards Mount Edith Cavell (west) and the Watchtower (east) are fantastic. The weather closed in as we dropped to Tekarra. We were surprised to be the first hikers to arrive (after taking the day easy). We pitched our tent just before a heavy rainstorm and hid from the rain and mosquitoes the size of flying horses.  A lovely campsite with a great riverside setting.

Day 3 - morning view of Mount Tekarra

Day 3 – morning view of Mount Tekarra

On day three we got up pretty early so we could grab lunch in Jasper before the drive home. The hike across the meadows towards Signal Mountain was really pleasant. We took the detour up the fire road to the viewpoint overlooking Jasper. Craziest mosquitos of the trip. We then hammered it down the 8 km fire road to the trailhead and up to the Malige Canyon parking lot.

We had a breakfast and coffee/tea in Jasper at Coco’s Cafe.  We met with up with Ciaran and Maike who were starting their Rockies holiday and managed to lend them all our unwashed breakfast dishes as an added bonus!

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