Having just completed our big Mount Robson backpacking trip across the provincial border in British Columbia, Day 7 of our Canadian Rockies adventure saw us heading back to Alberta and Jasper National Park. Here we made a stop to take on one of the best half-day treks in the park, the Sulphur Skyline Trail.
Not to be confused with similarly named Sulphur Mountain in Banff, this hike leads up to the summit of Sulphur Ridge, about 45 minutes north east of Jasper town near the Miette Hotsprings. On the way to the hotspring facilities we passed Ashlar Ridge, a massive near-vertical limestone ridge that features prominently in the landscape and is popular with mountain climbers.
While only 4 kilometers in length, the hiking trail to the peak climbs 700m vertically, so it’ll definitely give you a good workout. As we got a late start in the afternoon, we saw relatively few hikers on the trail, and most of them were on their way down from the mountain.
The first two-thirds of the way is a gradual uphill slog through some dense woods and switchbacks, with not much to see in terms of scenery. However, as soon as you clear the treeline, views of the valley below open up beautifully. We could make out our starting point at the Miette Hotsprings, and Ashlar Ridge just beyond.
The last 300m or so to the top are across exposed rocks and loose gravel, and quite steep. After reaching a false peak, the last 100m are probably the most challenging – but once you reach the summit, a glorious reward for your effort! An amazing 360 degree view of the surrounding Miette mountain range.
Emily captured a photosphere from the peak which gives some idea of the incredible scenery at the top.
After taking a snack break we started our descent, which was pretty tricky due to the steep grade and loose rock. Partway down the slope, everyone froze – a herd of mountain goats (or a flock of bighorn sheep?) were headed our way! We weren’t quite sure what to do, so we just stood there and were amazed at our close encounter with the local wildlife. They walked right up to us, literally close enough to touch, and then past us, panting from uphill exertion. Clearly we were on their trail, and not the other way around! Yvonne captured it all on video, which I’ve included here. It was definitely the highlight of the hike; everyone was giddy with excitement after.
After returning to the parking lot, we were all exhausted. It had a been a long downhill stretch at a good pace, and we opted to skip the soak in the hot springs as it looked a little too much like a public pool (and was very crowded). We decided to stop in Jasper for dinner before continuing to Banff Town where we had arranged for accommodations that evening. It would not be the end of our wildlife encounters, though – right on the side of the highway, three or four elk were grazing by the lake. Cars were pulling over and everyone was taking pictures. I guess the animals were quite used to this as they completely ignored the commotion and walked lazily by. What a great way to end our hiking day.