Jasper National Park is a rugged, mountain park with some of the most incredible mountain scenery in Canada. The Brazeau Lake – Jonas Pass multi-day hike takes you to a spectacular lake, through large alpine meadows and up one of the most jaw-dropping passes in Jasper.
Day 1 – Nigel Pass Trailhead to Four Points Campground
Distance – 13.9 km, Elevation Gain – 365 m, Elevation Loss – 260 m
The hike begins at the trailhead for Nigel Pass, a popular day hike. This trailhead is in Banff National Park, but just before Nigel Pass you enter Jasper National Park. It is a gentle climb that first takes you through a spruce and fir forest. Higher up, you walk through meadows filled with low shrubs allowing you to enjoy the surrounding peaks. Nigel Pass (2225 m) is a large open area covered in smooth limestone rocks and offers spectacular views of the wide Brazeau River Valley in front and as far as Mt. Saskatchewan behind.
The trail continues to Four Points campground following the lovely Brazeau River Valley with awesome views of the rocky ridges above. Four Points campground (1935 m) has a peaceful setting in the forest along the Brazeau River. It seemed like a short day to stay here, but there is no other campground before Brazeau Lake which is still another 15.5 km away.
Day 2 – Four Points Campground to John John Campground
Distance – 23.5 km, Elevation Gain – 77 m
We spent most of the next morning travelling through lush open meadows and dense pine forests bordered by steep rock walls. Finally we reached the pretty Brazeau Lake where rocky mountains sweep down to the shores of this 5 km long lake. There is a campground at the lake where many people stay, but we only had four days, so we continued on to the next campground. It made for a long day, covering a lot of kilometers, but there was not much elevation gain so it was manageable. The open trail allows fantastic views for most of the 8 km to reach John John Campground (2012 m).
Day 3 – John John Campground to Four Points Campground
Distance – 26 km, Elevation Gain – 460 m, Elevation Loss 385 m
From the campground along the side of John John Creek, the trail steeply climbs through an alpine tundra meadow leading to the wide open Poboktan Pass (2320 m). From here you have 360° views of Jasper’s amazing mountains.
Then a gradual descent allow your legs to rest up for the upcoming climb. A series of steep switchbacks on an uninspiring scree slope, lead to the top of a long ridge which blocks your view. Once you reach the top you are more than rewarded for your effort. Emerging above the ridge is the ‘Oh Wow!'” moment of the trek with an incredible view of the long, majestic wall of Sunwapta Peak. This surprise view from Jonas Shoulder (2470 m) is the reason we prefer to do the hike in the counterclockwise direction.
After enjoying the spectacular view, the trail drops down to Jonas Pass (2320 m). This gorgeous long, wide valley walks beside towering rock walls for almost 10 km. At the far end of the pass, your knees will be screaming during a steep descent through the trees to reach the familiar Four Points Campground.
Day 4 – Four Points Campground to trailhead
Distance – 13.9 km, Elevation Gain – 260 m, Elevation Loss – 365 m
The trail retraces the steps back to Nigel Pass and then to the trailhead.
Distance – 78 km
Elevation Gain – 1,162 m
Days – 4 – 6 days
The trail doesn’t gain much elevation, but offers open views for most of the trip. The highlight is the view from Jonas Shoulder and walking down Jonas Pass. There are a number of campgrounds to chose from depending on how many days you want to hike. It’s connected to a few other trails allowing you to make this trip even longer. This hike can be done in either direction, but we prefer to do it in a counter-clockwise direction as it gives you an ‘oh wow!’ view from Jonas Shoulder.
Access – Park at the Nigel Pass trailhead which is 2 1/2 km north of the Big Bend switchbacks on the Icefields Parkway (Hwy 93).
Campgrounds – There are a few backcountry campsites with tent sites, outhouses, wires for hanging food and picnic tables. They are situated near running water, but this water must be filtered or treated. Most don’t allow open fires so you need to bring a camping stove. There will be no cell reception at any of the backcountry campgrounds in Jasper. There are camping fees for these sites. Depending on the time of year you may need to book your campsite in advance. You can book at the park office in Jasper or on-line here https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/Home.aspx?_ga=2.63336559.1192046008.1595195369-1510915438.1594850276
Fees – You do require a park pass if you plan on stopping at all inside of Banff or Jasper National Parks. Passes can be purchased from the park offices in Banff and Jasper and at all park gates in the summer. In winter some ticket booths are closed, but you still require a pass if you intend to stop. Park staff frequently check parked vehicles in town and at trail heads.
When to hike – Mid July to mid September should have the best conditions. Depending on the year there is likely to be too much snow even on the first of July and it may begin snowing again in September.
TIPS FOR HIKING IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
- Expect sudden changes in weather. Bring a rain jacket, an extra sweater, gloves and a toque for one or multi day hikes.
- Hiking poles are useful in many areas and can help save your knees when going down steep descents.
- Water taken from streams will need to be treated, filtered or boiled.
- Bring bear spray and/or bear bangers and educate yourself on wildlife safety.
Here’s a short video from many of our hikes and climbs in the Canadian Rockies.
Coming Next: More hikes in the Canadian Rockies
To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.
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