What will you see and do in Jasper National Park? There are mountains, and marmots, and miles to hike… and not enough time to see it all!
Have you heard of the Miette Hot Springs? Yep, Jasper has hot springs too. And, next to the spring fed pools there is this amazing hike you can do called the Sulphur Skyline Trail. There are tonnes of big horn sheep living in the area, and the old crumbling ruins of a spa to explore…. All in one spot.
Visiting the Hot springs area can be convenient if you’re en route to or from Edmonton as it is located very close to the East park gates and could save you some driving time if you plan to stop here on your travel day instead of visiting after your arrival.
The Miette Hot Springs Pools
Nestled high up in the Fiddle River Valley, are the Miette Hot Springs. These springs, the hottest in the Rockies, became a popular destination for adventure-seekers and medical pilgrimages.
In the early 1900’s wooden cribs were built to contain the water. Later, a grand pool was built, but, has since been abandoned, the walls still standing, the pool filled in. The curved archways make a statement of the regal days where you could sit pool-side wearing a suit jacket, tea in hand.
Today, however, the scene isn’t so regal. The poolside guests are wearing bathing suits with smart phones in hand.
But, if you would happen to like a tea while at the pool, there is a small café serving easy meals and beverages. The old single pool has been replaced with four separate pools, each of varying temperatures. According to my daughter, these pools are “supper hot, just hot, cold, and freezing cold”.
Admission to the pools is surprisingly affordable and pricing can be found on their website. They only have a women’s or men’s change room making it difficult when a family arrives with all their swim gear in only one bag. (See ‘Specifics’ at the bottom of this article.)
April 2021 update: Due to Covid safety protocols, the pools were closed last year and Park’s Canada has yet made an announcement if / when the pools will be opening for the 2021 summer season.
Practicalities: Typically, the Hot Springs are open seasonally, opening in early May and closing after Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in October. You can rent bathing suits, towels, and lockers. Entry admission in the past has been $6.05 (adult), $5.15(youth). The Hot Spring’s website will give you up to date details on fees and hours.
Source of the Springs & the original pool’s ruins
Do make sure you take the short 1.2 km walk over to explore the old pool and actual hot spring.
It is an easy walk on a paved and boardwalk path. If you’re lucky you’ll spot some bighorn sheep along the way. The sheep up here seem quite accustomed to humans. Remember, however, that they are still wild animals with pointy horns and sharp hooves. Give them their space and don’t feed them.
Source of the Springs Walk: Follow the signs from the Miette Hots Springs parking lot. The walk is 1.2 km return on a paved path or wooden walkway. Watch for bighorn sheep on the path, in the woods, and along the facing slopes. Make sure to explore the old pools and put your hands into the sulphurous water running from the mountain.
How to get to the Miette Hot Springs and Sulphur Skyline Trail
Directions: From the Yellowhead, Hwy 16, Take Miette Road at Pochahontas. From Jasper townsite, the drive is about 60 kilometers to the springs and Sulphur Skyline trailhead.
The Sulphur Skyline Hiking Trail
While the hot pool and old springs are cool, what really draws our family to this area is the hike up the Sulphur Skyline Trail. It is a moderate to challenging walk, but the rewarding view at the top is amazing! Afterwards your sore feet, knees, and legs will appreciate a relaxing soak in the hot pool.
Yes, your feet will likely be sore. This hike is just over 8km (5 miles) round trip, with about 700 meters (2100 feet) of elevation to climb. Many people hike only as far as the meadow just below the last push to summit the peak. Making it this far is quite rewarding in itself.
(Small aside: As I am writing this I had to stop and ponder the correct spelling for mountain peak… is it peek or peak? Hmmm… a little bit of googling and I landed on this fun peek vs. peak visual by Drawingsof. Grammar is so fun!)
At the meadow, pictured below, you’ll still be rewarded with spectacular views, a large open grassy meadow and a huge boulder for kids to climb on.
If your family is motivated to keep going, your rewards will be all the more amazing!
Up on top of Sulphur Skyline you’ll have a clear 360 degree view over all the surrounding valleys and mountain ranges.
You’ll definitely want to bring along a camera and snap a few family photos with the Canadian Rockies falling off in the background.
Quick details for the Sulphur Skyline Trail
Follow the signs heading up past the pool building. This is a challenging 8 km return hike summiting Sulphur Ridge. The path is inclined the whole way. It is not stroller friendly. You’ll find yourself in the trees for the beginning, but once you hit the switchbacks, each turn will offer you glimpses down the valley and up towards the peek. Watch for bighorn sheep, grouse, and squirrels. Making it as far as the meadow and boulder near the top is very rewarding if you don’t want to do the last half kilometer climb.
Tips to make your Sulphur Skyline Hike successful.
Be prepared for cooler temperatures and strong winds as you approach the top of the mountain. Hats might blow off so consider snug head bands, hair elastics, and toques to keep the hair out of your eyes and your ears warm. Windbreakers and rain jackets can keep you warmer without adding much weight to your daypack.
There are a family of bold little squirrels up on the mountain top who are accustomed to people. We’ve even had a little fellow sneak into our packs, so guard your food.
As for wildlife, watch for bighorn sheep on the facing mountain cliffs, marmots in the rocky areas towards the peak, and grouse in the lower woods. Remember, this is bear country. So, you should always be aware of your surroundings, make noise as you hike, and carry bear spray.
I’ll be honest, this is a hard family hike. A few years ago we did this hike with our 6 year old daughter. My expectations were low; I didn’t think we’d actually summit the peak. The climb is steady without much pause and the last push at the top is steep and a bit intimidating as the trail crosses scree (loose gravel and rocks). Yet, there she was, her hair slapping her face in the wind, her face beaming as she looked back down, so very proud of herself. That smile made every step worth it. (Read more about the relationship between raising a confident child and physical challenges.)
If you do decide to try this hike with younger children, make sure they are well prepared for long distance hiking. They should be used to long and hard hikes and have supportive footwear. You will be best prepared with some extra warmer clothing, lots of water and snacks, lots of patience, and some motivation strategies to help keep them walking and feeling positive. Take it slow when they need to, especially on the rocks towards the top.
Most importantly, remember why you’re out here in Jasper National Park in the first place. Whether you check out the springs, picnic with sheep standing by, take a dip in the pool, or summit a mountain, remember why you are on family vacation in the first place. Enjoy yourself, enjoy nature. Go discover something new, make some memories, and reconnect as a family. Jasper is simply the beautiful backdrop for all that to happen.
P.S. Take Them Outside has more Jasper National Park adventures to share with you. If you’re visiting Jasper, you might be interested in theses Jasper 101 posts: