Wilcox Pass is a stunning 8 km hike in Jasper National Park. For a little effort, you’ll be rewarded with unique views of Athabasca Glacier and Snow Dome Glacier as you pass the bighorn sheep who frequent the area.
There are many beautiful hikes in the Canadian Rockies, especially along the Icefields Parkway. But because most people don’t have an infinite amount of time for exploration, they have to choose where to put more effort. Our comprehensive travel guide to Jasper National Park will make your planning easier.
My recommendation is, if you only have time for one hike on the Icefields Parkway, make it Wilcox Pass Hike in Jasper National Park or Parker Ridge in Banff National Park. They are close to each other and both offer amazing views of glaciers. Wilcox Pass is easier and longer while Parker Ridge is steep and short.
For more activities, read our post about 65 adventurous things to do in Jasper
In this blog post, you will read about the trail to Wilcox Pass, see a lot of photos to show you what you can expect, and also where to stay overnight to have glacier views.
More hiking ideas:
- Hiking in Jasper National Park: 17 best hikes for all levels
- 20 best hikes in Banff National Park
- Hiking in Yoho National Park
Pros & cons of the Wilcox Pass Hike
- One of the highlights of Icefields Parkway
- View of the Athabasca Glacier
- The usual spot for bighorn sheep
- Epic views from popular red chairs
- One of a kind alpine environment
- Easy trail with no cliffs or exposure
- Picturesque campground near the trailhead
- I tried but couldn’t find anything
Columbia Icefield is the only place in the world from which the water flows into 3 oceans – Pacific, Atlantic, and the Arctic.
Where is Wilcox Pass Hike
Wilcox Pass is in Jasper National Park, 47 km north of Saskatchewan River Crossing or 107 km south of Jasper. When you drive from Lake Louise on the famous Icefields Parkway, the trail is located shortly after you pass the sign welcoming you to Jasper National Park. It’s clearly signed along the highway before you reach the Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre.
Wilcox Pass Hike, Jasper National Park
- Distance: 8 km one-way (or 8 km roundtrip if you follow our footsteps)
- Elevation gain: 425 m
- Difficulty: easy trail with moderate uphill
- Best time to go: May to October
- Gear: water (there’s no creek where you can fill up from), windproof jacket, running shoes (the trail is easy but not flat), bear spray
You can see on the map above that we hiked halfway and then turned around the same way back.
The full-length trail starts at the kiosk of the trailhead for Wilcox Pass, right by the Wilcox Creek Campground. The end of the trail is at Tangle Creek Falls, 10 km north-west from the start (on Icefields Parkway). Hiking the full length would require a shuttle – parking the other car at the finish of the hike.
The good news is, you can only hike halfway as we did and still have stunning glacier views.
The trailhead is located at 2,030 m so you might feel out of breath very soon if you’re not used to the elevation. Drink lots of water to avoid headaches.
When Michal and I drove the Icefields Parkway at the end of May, we were pleasantly surprised to see no snow towards the Wilcox Pass. We parked by the campground, checked the route at the kiosk an off we went towards a beautiful day.
The start of the hike leads through a wide forest path. The wooden bridge traversing through forest suggests heavy use of this trail. Yet, we haven’t met many people on this hike. A few steep sections follow and we cleared the treeline pretty quickly.
From this point, the trail is flat with constant glacier views across the Icefields Parkway. Kitchener, Snow Dome, Andromeda, and Athabasca mountain peaks line up the panorama.
I almost ran to the bighorn sheep as they were enjoying the view towards the red chairs and I was busy staring at the Athabasca Glacier. We had to go a bit off-trail and around them as they clearly weren’t letting us pass.
The trail shortly enters a wide alpine meadow surrounded by snowy peaks. I can only imagine the number of alpine wildflowers in the summer. Even though the sign towards the ridge of Mount Wilcox was very inviting, we had to pass due to large accumulation of snow on the mountain. We continued hiking for a few more kilometres and turned around at a small unnamed tarn.
We admired not only the glacier views but all the different grasses and bushes so delicate and rare to see while hiking in the Rockies.
This alpine adventure couldn’t get any better so early in the hiking season!
Another trail to access Wilcox Pass is above the tent campground at Columbia Icefields Discovery Centre. It’s steeper but shorter.
Where to stay before or after the Wilcox Pass Hike
The Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper is a mountain road with no cell phone signal. There are a few wilderness hostels along the way, even fewer hotels but lots of campgrounds. That’s why we always suggest renting a campervan to enjoy nature to the fullest.
An amazing campground I’ve mentioned already is Wilcox Creek Campground right at the trailhead. Another one, for vehicles only, is a parking lot at Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre. You are guaranteed to have glacier views. How does that sound? Read our comprehensive guide about Camping in Jasper National Park for all camping info and lots of pictures of the campgrounds.
Know before you go
- National park entrance
When you enter Jasper National Park, you’re required to pay an entrance fee. You have a choice of either a daily pass or a yearly pass.
As of 2020, the fees are:
- 10 CAD per person for a daily pass, 20 CAD for a group/family
- 69.19 CAD per person for a yearly pass, 139.40 CAD for a group/family
The yearly Discovery Pass is valid for all National Parks in Canada. You can purchase it at the gate when you enter the national park, in the Visitor’s Centre or online here.
Read our recommendation: Hiking packing list for summer in the mountains
- Road closure
For road closures due to avalanche dangers in Jasper National Park, check out the report from Parks Canada.
Accurate road conditions can be checked here.
- Trail report
Before you head out, check current trail conditions on Trail Report from Parks Canada.
- Bear country
As always in the Canadian Rockies, you are in bear habitat. You should always carry a bear spray (can be purchased at Visitor’s Centre or outdoor stores), know when and how to use it and make noise while hiking and running (so you don’ surprise any bears)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around them.
Additional reading about the Canadian Rockies
Plan your trip with our suggested Jasper itinerary.
More hikes in Jasper National Park:
Plan your trip to the Rockies:
- Epic travel guide to the Canadian Rockies
- Adventure travel guide to Banff National Park
- 100 things to do in Banff National Park
- Adventure travel guide to Yoho National Park
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