Wilcox Pass is a moderate hike that offers incredible views of the icefields throughout almost the entire trail. We chose to do this hike as a way to break up the long drive from Calgary to Jasper townsite. We hiked Wilcox in mid-July, so there wasn’t much snow left on the trail, though there were some large puddle sections left behind by the almost year-round snowpack. This trail can see snow most months of the year, so if you aren’t going during the middle of summer (mid-July to mid-August), check reports for trail conditions and maybe bring crampons (micro-spikes) for extra grip just in case.
To be perfectly honest, I was reluctant to do this hike initially. We had been driving for almost 4 hours at this point, and I was ready to “just get there” to our destination in Jasper. Once I got out of the car however, and began the hike, I realized how worthwhile this stop was.
The hike itself is a 9.3 km out-and-back trail that takes you to a lookout directly across from the Columbia Icefields. With a total elevation of 522 m, it is enough to feel like a “real hike” but not so strenuous or long that it will take a full day. This hike took us around 3 hours, at what I would consider a moderate pace.
We began the hike in pleasant blue skies, but the wind picked up as we hiked and clouds began to form from behind the Icefields. We had to add a few layers as we got closer to the viewpoint.
With the snow melt in the area, a number of puddles or small ponds have been created along the trail. I would strongly recommend waterproof boots or trail runners over regular sneakers for this hike, due to the wet and possible snowy sections.
The final viewpoint is exceedingly impressive. You can see tracks on the glacier from the tours that drive over the lower sections of the ice. We stayed as long as we could here to enjoy the view, but the wind was coming at us with full, icy force and it wasn’t long before our faces and fingers became too frozen to focus on anything else. We descended back down the knoll to get out of the wind and regain feeling in our hands.
Definitely bring extra layers for the wind, and maybe don’t plan to eat at the viewpoint if you do decide to eat lunch on the trail.