Winter is finally losing its grip on the Canadian Rockies. The first robins have made an appearance, not to mention the first grizzly bears. It won’t be long until we hear the sound of the first mosquitoes buzzing in our ears.
Even if you’re not looking forward to the mozzies, it is a good time of year for pulling out the guidebooks and maps to plan trips once summer arrives. And maybe reserve campsites before they’re all taken.
While we always promote the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide and Gem Trek maps for planning your backcountry trip, you should definitely check out the excellent backcountry guides on the Jasper National Park website.
There is no better Canadian National Park for backpacking than Jasper, and these multi-page guides are absolutely unmatched anywhere in North America.
The backpacker’s park
While we’ve always recognized Jasper as the best backpacking area in Canada, despite its northern latitude, it is also the best mountain park for early-season outings. Several of the 15 backpacking trips can be completed as early as May or June, and I’ve marked them with an asterisk (*) in the following list. You can also add a couple lower elevation campgrounds on longer trails (Lower Fryatt CG on Fryatt Valley and Whirlpool CG on Athabasca Pass), which are attractive early-season destinations.
Two to three day trips:
Big Bend *
Celestine Lake *
Jacques Lake *
Saturday Night Loop *
Four day trips:
Seven to ten day trips:
UTM coordinates for campgrounds
Some of the trails in the “seven to ten day” category, are not well maintained and sections are often obscured by deadfall and wildfire overgrowth. That’s where accurate UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) references for backcountry campgrounds are invaluable.
Unlike some UTM coordinates for campgrounds in other national parks, Jasper’s seem to be spot on, which is really essential when you’ve lost the trail and are trying to find your way with a GPS unit. (I prefer latitude and longitude readings when I’m working with GPS, and I use the “UTM to Latitude & Longitude Converter” on The Engineering ToolBox website.)
While the Canadian Rockies Trail Guide provides a good general overview of these routes and detailed distance outlines, the suggested itineraries in Jasper’s “Trails & Trips” are often not exactly the same.
But if you want the best up-to-date information, GPS references for backcountry campsites, excellent graphics (including overview maps on longer trips), and Parks Canada’s latest requirements and recommendations, you should definitely download the online pdf files from the Trails & trips “Suggested Itineraries” page on the Jasper National Park website.