If you love ridges and that feeling of being on top of the world, then head to the Bald Hills trail in Jasper. The top of the Bald Hills hike is magical, following epic ridge lines with stunning views of Maligne Lake and the surrounding mountains. There are many points when you have 360 views of the Rocky Mountains, making for pinch yourself moments.
The only drawback is that the majority of the trail to the top is along a forested fire trail. It’s pleasant enough, but it is an uphill grind with little reward (especially as we measured this section to be 6km long!). You may get lucky though as we saw three moose on this track (a male, a female and a calf) all near the trail head which made our day and we forgave the lack of views until the top!
Here’s what to expect and why we loved the Bald Hills trail in Jasper.
The Bald Hills Trail, Jasper
The Bald Hills trail starts by Maligne Lake, a beautiful area that is 50km from the centre of Jasper. It takes about an hour to drive to, but it is a stunning road all the way (passing by Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake and a few other places along the way).
There’s a big car park by the start of the trail with toilets. It’s pretty easy to find and we were able to park less than 100 metres away from the trailhead in the middle of the day in high season.
Bald Hills Trail stats
Elevation: 715m (including the ridge loop)
Type of trail: Out and back with chance to do a loop on the ridge
Time taken: 4 hours 15
The start of the Bald Hills Trail
The start of the Bald Hills trail is deceptively flat. For the first kilometre the trail seems to be quite mellow and simply heads into the woods. Then the climb begins and doesn’t stop until you’re above the treeline!
You’ll soon pass the trail head for Moose Lake on your left which you can add on if you have the energy (it’s an extra couple of kilometres). It was our plan to do this originally until we saw an absolutely huge male moose right by the side of the trail, no walking to Moose Lake required!
On the way back down we saw the same moose and this time even a mother and calf as well. It was magical, if a little scary! Moose can be grumpy and aggressive if you come too close. In our case it was impossible not to be close as they were practically on the trail itself!
As you begin ascending on the well maintained fire trail you may be wondering what made this hike have a place on our favourite hikes in Jasper list. It’s not unpleasant scenery but it doesn’t have the wow factor. The trees are pretty but you don’t have that feeling of being in the forest as the fire trail is wide. But persevere and you will be rewarded.
Your first choice: The steep or the shallow path
It’s not too long before you hit the sign that says “Bald Hills Hike” left or “Bald Hills Hike” right. The left will take you up a steep and scrambly route, but save about 1.5km in distance. The track on the right is the fire trail which is a lot less steep, much wider and easier to hike, but is longer.
Depending on how you feel about the extra sweat factor you can either choose steep or easier. It was a rare very hot day when we hiked the Bald Hills trail and we went for the easier route without hesitation! We’ve heard the steeper route is pretty adventurous so you’ll have to let us know if you choose this option!
The fire trail section is pretty relentless and very exposed, so make sure you have a lot of water (there is nowhere to refill), suncream and a hat if it’s a hot day. After 6km (yes 6!) you’ll reach a flat area with barriers and one incredible view.
This is your first glimpse of the stunning Maligne Lake and the snow-capped mountains surrounding it. It’s a spot where quite a few people chose to have a break for lunch. It’s also the first wow moment of the track and inspiring enough that you are more than ready to carry on up.
This is the part where the relentless uphill slog is over, but there is still a fair bit more uphill to go!
Your second choice: the loop or just the summit?
From here you have a choice - do the more scenic version (which is longer and steeper) or simply power on to the summit. We met a man who made out that the loop was some kind of treacherous ordeal and should be avoided. We’re so glad we didn’t take his advice.
The loop only adds on a little more time, and it is relatively straight-forward and well worth it! In fact it’s the best bit of the whole track and allows you to spend much more time above the tree line which is the reason you’ve put up with the fire trail slog!
The ridge lines were one of our favourite parts of the whole hike and we’re so glad we carried on despite being warned not to. However, we strongly recommend doing the ridge line first as it is really easy to head to the summit and take the easy, flat hike back which is what everyone we met that day was doing. We promise the loop is worth it and it really isn’t hard at all!
Finding the right path
The first thing to do is make sure you take the correct turning. Follow the path until you see two yellow arrows, take the left route. Then keep going straight for a while and ignore the first trail you see to the right!
We saw people go up a nasty zig-zag path which looked incredibly steep and slippery, you’ll see it straight away and we almost took it believing it to be the correct path up. It isn’t. The real trail had yellow markers along the way, so we ignored this route.
Keep going straight ahead through the meadow until you see a little yellow arrow on the left side of the trail. On the opposite side you’ll see a fainter trail which goes gradually uphill. This is the one to take for the ridge line loop. Otherwise keep going straight on for the summit.
The ridge line loop
We were lucky that the weather was perfect when we did this hike - no wind, clear skies and beautiful sunshine. If it is windy or the weather is bad, we don’t recommend taking the loop. The ridgelines are very exposed and we can imagine it could be dangerous up there in strong winds. It took us less than half an hour to do this extra section so it really isn’t a big add on at all in good weather.
The beautiful loop contains three small uphill climbs, with two of them being epic ridge lines. The first is the biggest and winds uphill with little yellow markers guiding you to the top. From here you get another beautiful view of Maligne Lake before heading left and down to the next hill.
Here’s where the trail gets a tiny bit more scrambly, but nothing too hard at all. From the top you can see the neighbouring valley and the whole mountain range.
It’s a narrow section, but not something to worry about in the right conditions.
On a good weather day we found it easy and it only took a few minutes.
The trail then undulates slightly before you rejoin the main trail for the summit.
Onto the Bald Hills trail summit
The summit isn’t too far once you’ve done the loop, with one final short uphill climb to the end. There are a couple of sections which require clambering over loose rock, but it isn’t too bad. You’ll know you are at the end of the trail when you can’t continue any further! The summit area is a good size and there is plenty of room to sit around on the rocks and admire the views or have some lunch.
The views are spectacular and overlook Maligne Lake and endless mountains in all directions. It is well worth the 700+ metres in elevation you’ve walked to get here. The other good news is that it’s all easy downhill from here too.
The hike back isn’t difficult, but you’ll still need to cover 7+ km, so it will take around one and a half to two hours to hike. The first section is through a beautiful meadow - keep your eyes out for wildlife as there is plenty here. We saw marmots, pikas, and weasels in abundance.
After the meadow you’ll hit the fire trail and it’s a straightforward meander back to the car park.
After 9km predominantly uphill your legs will be feeling it, but it is definitely one of our favourite hikes in Jasper!
Essential information on the Bald Hills Trail
Bald Hills Trail Condition
The Bald Hills Trail condition is very good. The track is primarily gravel and is easy to follow throughout. The first section is a wide fire trail, before becoming a narrow - but well worn - hiking trail. The ridges are a little more rustic but not difficult.
Weather is a major factor to consider as the Bald Hills Trail is very exposed. The winds at the top can become very strong. We recommend checking the conditions and packing for wet & cold weather just in case.
Weather conditions can change rapidly in alpine areas and you don’t want to be caught out. If it is very windy, you should avoid the ridge line.
This is bear country and an encounter is always a possibility. The trail is fairly well trafficked in the middle of the day in high season but as we finished up late and walked almost the entire way back without seeing anyone else. Carry bear spray and be alert in the unlikely event you do come across a bear.
Moose and Caribou also live in this area and can be dangerous. We heard of a moose charging a group on this trail because people were going too close to take pictures. Always keep your distance from wildlife and especially if there are young around.
How to get to the Bald Hills Trail
The Bald Hills trail goes from the big car park at the far side of Maligne Lake. The trail head is marked and easy to find on Google Maps. The drive from Jasper is 50km long and should take about an hour.
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Are you planning a trip to Jasper soon? Would you take on the Bald Hills trail? Let us know in the comments below!