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The Woods Around The Pyramid Bench Are Especially Pretty For Snowshoeing

Where to Go Snowshoeing in Jasper National Park

If you love snowshoeing, then Jasper National Park is a terrific place to visit in winter. Enjoy kilometres of untracked trails, sublime mountain views, snowy meadows, quiet lakes, and a pretty good chance of seeing an elk. Winter is long in Jasper – and so is the season for snowshoeing, especially at higher elevation locations. On the days when the snowpack is thin, hike the trails instead, with a pair of icers tucked in your pack should you need them.

There’s lots of snowshoeing in Jasper close to town – but there are numerous options in you’re prepared to drive 15 minutes to 90 minutes. And if you’re new to Jasper National Park and would prefer a guided experience, I can personally recommend Canadian Skyline Adventures. Compared to Banff National Park, I found the trails quieter – probably because it’s just that much more difficult to get to Jasper in the winter.

Described are five snowshoe trails in Jasper National Park – along with a few suggestions of others I would do on my next winter visit.

Pretty snowshoeing trails near Cottonwood Slough
Pretty snowshoeing trails near Cottonwood Slough

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Beaver Lake snowshoeing

To access Beaver Lake drive to the Jacques Lake trailhead at the southeast end of Medicine Lake, about 35 minutes away from downtown Jasper. It’s an easy snowshoe through the forest and across a bridge – with running water below – even after a week of -30°C temperatures. 

The trail is wide, the grade is gentle as it’s on an old fire road – so it’s a perfect snowshoe for those who want a taste of the outdoors but don’t want to do it for more than an hour or two. It’s 4 km return to Beaver Lake, but there is the option to continue to Summit Lakes, a 10 km return outing. It’s still a gentle trail, gaining just 77 m.

The snowshoeing is easy to Beaver Lake
The snowshoeing is easy to Beaver Lake; I didn’t put on my snowshoes until the snow got deep
Note the bag for carrying snowshoes
Note the bag for carrying snowshoes – a great idea when there isn’t much snow at the start of the trail
Beaver Lake with a backdrop of limestone mountains
Beaver Lake with a backdrop of limestone mountains

Medicine Lake – Watchtower Canyon snowshoe 

Head to Medicine Lake via Maligne Canyon Road. The area around the road sees more snow than Jasper as it’s 325 m higher, enough that it makes a difference.

Starting from the Medicine Lake North Viewpoint, you can snowshoe along the lakeshore, while enjoying some truly lovely mountain views. While it’s a delightful outing, you can kick it up several notches by snowshoeing into and up Watchtower Canyon

Snowshoe for about a kilometre along the southwest shore of Medicine Lake keeping your eyes peeled for a narrow opening in the trees, with a stream (probably frozen) running out of it. You may be able to hear running water. Snowshoe up Watchtower Canyon, probing with your pole for the stream, as you don’t want to break through the ice and get a soaker. Follow the canyon up for roughly a kilometre to reach a large and very pretty frozen waterfall. 

Retrace your steps to return to the lake. The total snowshoeing time is only 60 – 90 minutes but I recommend extra time by the waterfall. It’s a good place for a cup of hot chocolate and a snack.

Snowshoeing alongside Medicine Lake
Snowshoeing alongside Medicine Lake
Making our way up Watchtower Canyon
Making our way up Watchtower Canyon
Looking up out of Watchtower Canyon
Looking up out of Watchtower Canyon in Jasper National Park
Snowshoeing in Jasper at Medicine Lake
You could make a half day of it just snowshoeing on Medicine Lake

Pyramid Bench Trails

Drive 10 minutes up to Pyramid Lake and park near the Pyramid Lake Resort. You can pick up a trail map at the resort and then head off on a whole network of looping trails.

I spent a day snowshoeing approximately 20 km from the resort to Pyramid Island, up the trail towards the Pyramid Overlook, then onto 2i, 2h, 2b, 2j, 12 and 2 all the way back into the town of Jasper itself. I had great snow and quiet trails – some with massive trees that were totally unexpected. I loved the section along 2b and 2j with views over to the Athabasca River. My lunch spot offered a view of where the elk had spent the night. 

There’s so much variety near Pyramid and Patricia Lake, that I had fun just exploring. I would say though that 2b is the must do trail, as it offers a beautiful overlook. And it’s interesting to see Pyramid Island in the winter.

Over a full day of snowshoeing during the week, I ran into one fellow and his dog on a bike. Maybe weekends are busier. 

Trails are well marked in the Pyramid Lake area
Trails are well marked in the Pyramid Lake area
Map of the Pyramid Bench Trails
Map of the Pyramid Bench Trails
You can snowshoe around Pyramid Island
You can snowshoe around Pyramid Island
Gorgeous snowshoeing on trail 2i
Gorgeous snowshoeing on trail 2i
The woods around the Pyramid Bench are especially pretty for snowshoeing
The woods around the Pyramid Bench are especially pretty for snowshoeing
Saw many a grand tree while snowshoeing in the Pyramid Lake area
Saw many a grand tree while snowshoeing in the Pyramid Lake area
Gorgeous snowshoeing on the Pyramid Bench trails overlooking the Athabasca River
Loved snowshoeing on the Pyramid Bench trails – 2b and 2j overlooking the Athabasca River

Valley of the Five Lakes

The Valley of the Five Lakes snowshoe or winter hike is a gorgeous outing that will take you about 90 minutes. The 4.6 km loop trail takes you past five lakes, as the name would suggest, on a trail that has just a couple of steep sections.

Start by snowshoeing through a forest of lodgepole pine to reach a boardwalk over Wabasso Creek in a pretty setting. Head up a slope to a four-way intersection where there are some benches to take in the view. There are some dandy big trees around here, including one of the largest Douglas firs in Alberta.

Stay on trail 9a/9b. We went left on trail 9b, and saw the largest lake first, but you can go around the lakes in either direction. After a red chair moment, there is more delightful hiking on an undulating trail to return to the intersection. From there its a short 10 – 15 minutes to reach the car.

You’ll find the signed trailhead on the Icefield Parkway, 2 km south of the toll booth on the parkway. It’s a 10-minute drive from Jasper’s downtown area.

Starting off on the Valley of the Five Lakes snowshoe, Jasper National Park
Starting off on the Valley of the Five Lakes snowshoe, Jasper National Park
Open water on the Valley of the Five Lakes snowshoe
Open water on the Valley of the Five Lakes snowshoe
Pretty view from one of the five lakes
Pretty view from one of the five lakes
Snowshoeing in Jasper on the Valley of the Five Lakes Trail
Snowshoeing in Jasper on the Valley of the Five Lakes Trail
A scenic red chair stop
A scenic red chair stop
Cross Wabasso Creek to return to the parking lot
Cross Wabasso Creek to return to the parking lot

Snowshoeing in Jasper on the Lac Beauvert Loop 

Start at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and enjoy the easy 3.5 km loop around Lac Beauvert. Snowshoes can be rented at the Fairmont if you make a last-minute decision to do the loop. You can knock it off in an hour.

Looking for a longer outing? Continue on the trail to Old Fort Point and loop back on a trail on the north side of the Athabasca River. There are lots of trail maps around so you can figure out your route on the fly.

Stunning views across Lac Beauvert towards the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Stunning views across Lac Beauvert towards the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Maligne Canyon

After a fresh dump of snow, you could in theory snowshoe the upper trails around Maligne Canyon, though I think a walk with icers is the better way to go. Don’t miss the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk experience in winter.  

Stunning natural beauty of Maligne Canyon
Stunning natural beauty of Maligne Canyon

More suggestions for snowshoeing in Jasper National Park

Mary Schäffer Loop 

This trail is named for the writer, photographer and naturalist who explored the Canadian Rockies in the early 20th century. In fact, there’s a great book out describing her adventures called No Ordinary Woman: The Story of Mary Schäffer Warren.

The 3.2 km snowshoe loop takes you past the Maligne Lake Boat House on a trail to a scenic viewpoint where you can enjoy views down Maligne Lake.

Sunwapta Falls

Take the trail from the Sunwapta Falls parking lot down to the second set of falls – that isn’t much visited. It’s only 2.6 km return so you can do it in under an hour.

Moose Lake Loop

One reader suggested I do the Moose Lake loop – one of her favourite snowshoeing trails in Jasper. It seems there are two choices – a 2.6 km easy loop through forest, over an old landslide to Moose Lake. But you can lengthen the outing and do a 6 km loop that includes Upper Moose Loop and the viewpoint over Maligne Lake. Drive to the parking lot on the west shore of Maligne Lake, just past the Maligne Lake outlet. It’s the same trailhead used for the Bald Hills hike.

Athabasca River Loop

Park at Athabasca Falls. Look for the snowshoe trail sign. Follow the trail clockwise, first for 2.5 km along the edge of the Athabasca River and then on a wide trail beside a meandering creek in the forest. Cross meadows with some pretty mountain views and finish on the Fryatt Trail and Geraldine Lake Road. It’s 7.9 km in total but with little to no elevation gain so it’s rated as easy.

A few things that you’ll find useful for snowshoeing in Jasper

If you don’t have snowshoes you can certainly rent them in Jasper at Pure Outdoors or Jasper Source for Sports. Otherwise consider buying a pair of snowshoes as you’ll use them for a decade or more. It’s not like they wear out very quickly. 

I’d also suggest taking a pair of icers or microspikes because some of the snowshoe trails don’t always have a lot of snow cover at the beginning when you’re at lower elevation.

Take a buff or neck warmer that you can pull up over your face if it gets cold. An inflatable seat cushion comes in handy at lunch time, especially on wet or snowy ground. Don’t forget a thermos of something hot to drink along with some extra energy bars.

Travel tips for a snowshoeing trip to Jasper

Before you leave for Jasper check out the Tourism Jasper website for additional ideas of things to do when you’re visiting. I also recommend visiting the Parks Canada website for Jasper National Park so you can get a read on trail conditions. They’ll also let you know about trail closures.

Before you begin any snowshoeing trip check the local weather forecast.

Where to stay in Jasper

My favourite hotel in Jasper is hands down the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Located about 7 minutes outside of town, it offers loads of amenities and lots of activities either on their grounds or close by.

Another excellent choice is Bear Hill Lodge. And for easy access to a beautiful outdoor skating rink and all the trails around Pyramid Lake, head for Pyramid Lake Resort.

Morning at the empty skating rink across from the Pyramid Lake Resort
Morning at the empty skating rink across from the Pyramid Lake Resort

More reading about winter activities in Alberta

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Where to go snowshoeing in Jasper - suggestions for near town and up to a 90 minute drive away

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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