A favourite with locals and tourists alike the Sulphur Skyline Trail is a great hike which can be completed within a few hours and finished off with a dip in the hot springs at the bottom! The perfect hiking combo.
It’s a bit of a test for your lungs but will be worth every last puff when you reach those views at the top!
Here’s what to expect from Jasper’s Sulphur Skyline Trail.
The Sulphur Skyline Trail Jasper
Distance: 8.8 km return
Elevation: 685 m
Time Taken: 2 hours 45
Type of trail: Out and back
Starting / End Point: Miette Hot Springs
Sulphur Skyline Elevation
This is a pretty steep hike up to the top of a mountain and back but achievable for most people. The Sulphur Skyline’s elevation is 685 metres (there are bigger peaks), but it is across 4.4km making it relatively steep. There are switchbacks and some small flat sections, but prepare yourself for the majority being uphill!
The start of the trail
The trail begins on a wide level path heading into the forest. It isn’t long before you hit the dirt track and immediately begin ascending. The path is in fantastic condition making for very quick walking. Even the muddy patches are easily circumnavigated (without going off trail). The forest is pretty and we even saw a couple of red squirrels! They might be common in Canada but in the UK they are incredibly rare so it was a lovely sight!
The path is relentlessly uphill but the switchbacks are not too steep so while we were definitely out of breath it is very doable and we saw everyone from very young families to trail runners out making the most of it. The path is wide enough that you can take a break as often as you want on the way up if you’re feeling the burn.
The forest doesn’t offer much in the way of views but you will get the odd peak out at the mountains - although nothing that will prepare you for what you’ll see at the top!
The switchbacks get a little steeper just before you break the treeline but it really isn’t long before you’ll see a huge white rock on an open clearing which has a couple of benches and your first completely open views. Most people stop here for lunch or a snack but it was blowing a gale when we visited so we decided to push straight on for the summit.
Although the view in the clearing is good, it’s not a patch on the summit so we’d definitely recommend continuing on.
The Sulphur Skyline Scramble
We’d read there would be a short scramble to reach the summit and knowing how tough some Canadian scrambles can be we weren’t sure what to expect.
The reality is that we wouldn’t really class this as a scramble at all, there is no point when you need to use your hands for support and it’s more that the path becomes rougher after the excellent trail you’ve had to that point.
Some of it is loose gravel and stone and it has a few steep sections but overall it is quite short and not too difficult. It is absolutely worth heading up as even on a day when the wind was so fierce that at points we felt the need to stab our poles in and brace, the views were worth it. It’s truly breathtaking in both directions. The mountains are just spectacular and it’s a scene of wild, untouched beauty.
There are some rocks up there to sit on but we didn’t have the weather for that sadly, otherwise I could have happily stared at those views for hours! We were even lucky enough to get a rainbow which really topped off the morning.
The descent from the summit has a couple of very short slippery sections but if you aren’t surefooted (like me) then poles or running down these bits should be ok and it really isn’t a long way. It actually looked worse on the way up than it was in reality.
The descent all the way from the meadow to the start of the trail is easy due to the excellent trail which makes for great footing. It is steepish so your knees might feel it but it isn’t in any way difficult. The quick descent meant this hike actually took a lot less time than we thought and you can easily squeeze it in to an early morning or late afternoon.
The treat at the end
There aren’t many better ways to end a hike than at a hot spring! You can soak your weary bones in one of two hot (and two cold) pools at the Miette Hot Springs beside the trail head. The views from the pools are fantastic but the pools aren’t natural and can get incredibly busy. We’d recommend visiting on a week day and as early or late in the day as you can for a more peaceful experience.
There is also an onsite cafe which had wonderful staff but sadly pretty poor food so we wouldn’t recommend it. It’s ok for coffee or an ice cream but we’d avoid anything else.
There are flush and pit toilets around the car park. The car park is large and had loads of space even when we visited on a Sunday.
Essential information about the Sulphur Skyline Trail
Getting to the Sulphur Skyline Trail
The Sulphur Skyline takes about an hour from Jasper and 45 minutes from Hinton to drive to. The trail starts from the car park of the Miette Hot Springs and is quite easy to find. From there it’s simply all the way up and all the way down!
The car park fills up in the middle of the day on weekends in high season, so you may want to start in the morning to ensure you get a space. The hot springs make it a pretty popular place!
Bear safety at the Sulphur Skyline Trail
This is bear country and encounters are always possible although the trail is heavily trafficked making sightings fairly unlikely in the middle of the day. You might want to carry bear spray anyway and always be aware.
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Are you planning a trip to Jasper? Would you hike the Sulphur Skyline Trail? Let us know in the comments below!