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Wilcox Pass Trail is one of the most beautiful and satisfying day hikes in Jasper National Park. The trail offers spectacular views of the glaciated peaks around the Columbia Icefield as it passes through alpine meadows on route to Wilcox Pass and the Wilcox Viewpoint across from Athabasca Glacier.
Most people who embark on Wilcox Pass Trail choose to hike to the Wilcox Viewpoint on Wilcox Ridge, which is a worthy alternative to hiking the full length of the Wilcox Pass. The ridge overlooks the Icefields Parkway and is one of the best vantage points for admiring the Athabasca Glacier.
Wilcox Viewpoint Hike via Wilcox Pass Trail
Distance: 9.5 km round trip
Elevation Gain: 380 m
Surface: Packed dirt, sections with exposed rocks and gravel
Trail Type: Out and back
Time: 3.5- 5 hours
Trailhead: Wilcox Creek Campground access road off the Icefields Parkway.
The hike to Wilcox Viewpoint starts from a small parking area just off the Icefields Parkway, on the road to Wilcox Creek Campground. At the trailhead you’ll see a board with some brief information about Wilcox Pass.
After embarking on Wilcox Pass Trail, you’ll almost immediately begin climbing through a mature subalpine forest. This first section can be challenging for some because the trail gains over 100 m in less than 1 km, plus you’re starting from a high elevation of 2040 m, so it takes less effort to feel out of breath.
As you make your way through the forest you’ll encounter some places where the trail has eroded to expose a web of tree roots. It’s kind of neat to see what’s normally hidden beneath the surface, but it’s definitely a tripping hazard.
Next you’ll come to a short wooden bridge and set of stairs that cross over a moss-covered hillside.
The trail is sheltered for a little while longer, but soon exits the forest to reveal views of Snow Dome and Dome Glacier ahead in the distance.
As you follow the trail up and along the ridge there are many beautiful views of the mountains across the Icefields Parkway. As nice as the scenery is, it’s only going to get better the further along the trail you go.
Continuing on, the grade moderates and the trail briefly re-enters the trees before once again traversing along the open ridge. You can now see Athabasca Glacier spilling down from the Columbia Icefield.
About 1.7 km into the hike on Wilcox Pass Trail you’ll arrive at a set of Parks Canada’s red chairs. From this lower viewpoint you can admire Athabasca Glacier, Dome Glacier, and Mount Athabasca.
While the view at the red chairs great, there’s a much more spectacular panorama at the higher Wilcox Viewpoint (plus some seriously gorgeous scenery on route). If you’re prepared for a longer hike continue on Wilcox Pass Trail, if not you can turn around here.
After the chairs, the trail curves north and begins climbing alongside a deep gully with a creek. Meadows and short conifer trees surround the path allowing for clear views of the Athabasca and Dome glaciers.
The next section of trail gently winds northwest through open meadows on the east side of the gully, gaining elevation as it goes. There are wide views of Mount Athabasca and Mount Andromeda, the Athabasca Glacier, Snow Dome and Dome Glacier, and Mount Kitchener.
It’s tempting to stop every few minutes because even a slightly different perspective of the peaks and glaciers somehow seems more beautiful than just a couple metres back. It’s worth it not to rush the journey on Wilcox Pass Trail because the alpine scenery undoubtedly deserves to be savoured.
As you continue your hike, eventually the trail levels out starts to heads towards Wilcox Pass. Mount Wilcox comes into view straight ahead and the long cliffs of Nigel Peak loom to the east.
You’ll want to keep a lookout for bighorn sheep on this stretch because they’re often grazing in the meadows by the creek.
As you proceed towards Wilcox Pass, the southeast ridge of Mount Wilcox partially obstructs the Athabasca and Dome glaciers, but the glacier-capped peak of Mount Athabasca is still on full display.
Continue following the trail until you reach a green sign marking Wilcox Pass (elevation 2370 m). If you want to hike through Wilcox Pass you would go straight here on the unmaintained “wilderness route” to Tangle Creek and Tangle Creek Falls. To get to the Wilcox Viewpoint you need to turn left towards Wilcox Ridge.
Heading left at the sign, the path becomes somewhat lost in the rocky landscape, but ahead there will be yellow trail blazes attached to rock piles that guide the way.
The final section of this hike passes through an undulating terrain of rock and sparse meadows as the trail leads towards the icefield. Mount Athabasca looks stunning ahead, but if you stop to look behind you there’s a great view of Nigel Peak.
At one point the land flattens and Athabasca Glacier and Dome Glacier are partially exposed, but then the trail dips down to conceal them again.
At the top of the last hill you’ll arrive at Wilcox Viewpoint and be greeted with an expansive view of the peaks and glaciers of the Columbia Icefield. Mount Athabasca and Mount Andromeda are on the left towering over Athabasca Glacier. On the right, Dome Glacier covers the slopes between Snow Dome and Mount Kitchener. A large meltwater pond sits near the base of Athabasca Glacier.
Since this viewpoint on Wilcox Ridge is directly above the Columbia Icefield Centre, you’ll also be able to see the packed parking lot and roads that the Ice Explorer all-terrain vehicles drive to take tourists to Athabasca Glacier.
Wilcox Viewpoint is a great place to enjoy lunch and there’s a lot of space for people to spread out along the ridge to admire the view. If you want to hike a little further along the ridge towards Mount Wilcox on your right, you can enjoy some slightly different views of the icefield.
After your time at Wilcox Viewpoint, to get back to the trailhead simply follow the same trail you came in on. Just like before, there are many impressive views of mountains, meadows, glaciers, and valleys encouraging you to slow down and revel in the natural beauty of Jasper National Park and the Canadian Rockies.
Review of the Wilcox Viewpoint Hike
The magnificent scenery along Wilcox Pass Trail makes the Wilcox Viewpoint hike one of the must-do hikes along the Icefields Parkway.
Hiking this route is a more active way to enjoy views of the Athabasca Glacier, instead of visiting the crowded Columbia Icefield Centre. During the hike you get to see so many different perspectives of the peaks and glaciers, plus pretty meadows and possibly a herd of bighorn sheep, that it’s sure to be a fulfilling experience.
Even though this hike is considered only moderately difficult for the average hiker, it might take you longer than you think because the scenery is so alluring it practically begs you to take your time.
In addition to the grand views, another great thing about this trail is its central location on the Icefields Parkway. Since it’s located so close to the boundary of Jasper and Banff national parks, it’s well positioned for visitors staying in Jasper or Lake Louise. Being central on the Icefields Parkway also means that most people will have to drive over an hour from the nearest towns to get there, so the trail is not as busy (especially in the morning) as other popular hikes in the Rockies.
Pictures of Wilcox Pass Trail
Here are a few more pictures of the hike to Wilcox Viewpoint.
Tips for Hiking Wilcox Pass Trail to Wilcox Ridge
Location: Wilcox Pass Trail is located at the south end of Jasper National Park, in between the Columbia Icefields Centre and the Wilcox Creek Campground, on the Icefields Parkway. It’s approximately 107 km from the town of Jasper and 126 km from Lake Louise village.
Getting to the Wilcox Pass Trailhead: The trailhead is accessed from the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). From Lake Louise, drive north on the parkway and from Jasper drive south. Turn off the highway at the entrance to the Wilcox Creek Campground. The parking lot for the trailhead will be on your left at the bend in the road.
Best Time to Hike to Wilcox Viewpoint: Wilcox Pass Trail is best hiked in the summer and early fall. If you plan to hike through the pass, note that this area can be snowy until late July.
Facilities: There’s an outhouse beside the parking lot at the trailhead. Food and drinks can be purchased nearby at the Columbia Icefield Centre.
Visitor Guidelines and Safety: This hike is in bear country so bring bear spray and know how to use it.
- Stick to the obvious main trail to avoid trampling vegetation.
- Do not approach the bighorn sheep and watch them from a safe distance.
- Leave no trace by carrying out all your garbage.
What to Bring: Wear suitable hiking shoes/boots with a sturdy sole. Hiking poles are nice to have but not mandatory unless you have bad knees.
- Dress in layers and bring rain gear because the weather can change quickly in the mountains. It also can be windy at the viewpoint.
Nearby Hikes and Places to Visit
You may also enjoy these nearby trails and places to visit:
These hikes are further away but still in Jasper National Park:
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