Three epic hikes in the Canadian Rockies have made my list for the most spectacular views and amazing landscapes.
When spending time in the mountains, the associated jargon can sometimes be confusing. Is there a difference between a mount and a mountain? Are we talking about a chain of mountains or a mountain range? Sometimes the summit is mentioned. Sometimes we call it the ridge. Each terminology brings either a remarkable difference or a subtle nuance.
During my time in the Canadian Rockies, I wanted to get to the top of as many mountains as possible. Sometimes these peaks were ridges. The ridge is where the two sides of the mountain meet, thus forming a line that allows mountaineers to walk on the summit along this line.
While in Banff and Jasper National Parks, I ventured out to some of the ridges of their mountains. Tangle Ridge and Indian Ridge come highly recommended for the challenges their climbs present and the splendid views accompanying them. Many park visitors also covet the Parker Ridge Trail.
The trails described in this article are rated difficult, and some are full-day hikes. Ensure you have the necessary gear to be safe on the trail, from snacks and lunch to plenty of water and the appropriate clothes.
About the trail
The trailhead parking is 4 kilometres south of the Banff-Jasper park boundary on the Icefields Parkway.
- distance: 5 kilometres
- elevation gain: 300 meters
- altitude: 2255 meters
- estimated time: 2 hours
- Parker Ridge AllTrails map
The trail climbs quickly in switchbacks through a forest mainly populated by conifers. The climb is steep but short, and even before the two-kilometre mark, we find ourselves on the ridge above the treeline. The tundra is apparent. The bare summit offers no protection from the icy wind chilled by the ice fields.
Once on the ridge, the trail runs along the valley from where you can admire the Saskatchewan Glacier. I encourage you to keep going until you come across the sign announcing the trail’s end. The views of the glacier-fed Saskatchewan River and the valley are magnificent.
About the Trail
Tangle Ridge is located minutes from the Columbia Icefield Visitor Center. To get to the summit of Tangle Ridge, you will have to hike along Wilcox Pass Trail and Tangle Ridge Trail. The Wilcox Pass Trail begins at the foot of Tangle Falls. The parking lot is located across the road from Tangle Falls.
- distance: 10,5 kilometres
- elevation gain: 1150 meters
- altitude: 3000 meters
- estimated time: 5 hours
- Tangle Ridge AllTrails map
The trail follows the road for half a kilometre before a sharp left turn, heading into the forest. Before long, the traffic noise disappears and gives way to the calming sound of the wind in the high branches of the conifers.
The route continues in this coniferous forest dotted here and there with tiny wildflowers to make it even more beautiful. Finally, after a kilometre and a half, you arrive at the intersection of Wilcox Pass Trail and Tangle Ridge Trail. The trail crosses the stream.
This is the start of the climb. The summit is about four kilometres further at 3000 meters above sea level. As you progress on the trail, the trees are more and more scattered and eventually disappear altogether. However, the views are already surprising, and morale is still positive.
The meadow then gives way to scree of rocks, making the progression slower and more difficult. This is where you have to show perseverance and relentlessness. The summit is nowhere in sight, and although you think you are there, each hill gives way to another hill and then another. The painful climb seems endless. The trail is not evident, and there are few markers or cairns, but there is no wrong turn; the way is up.
After a few hours, your efforts will be rewarded, and the pain is quickly forgotten at the top. There is a massive antenna that confirms you are at the summit. You can keep going for several minutes on the ridge to enjoy the landscapes fully.
Make sure to layer up, especially after working hard physically once you get to the top. A down jacket, a toque and gloves are recommended. Preparing for such a hike carefully and having the appropriate clothes is essential. Even on a hot, sunny summer day, the temperature drops dramatically with the wind and the altitude.
Take your time admiring the surroundings and walking along the ridge before heading down again by the same route. Of course, the descent is much faster than the ascent.
About the Trail
To compete with Tangle Ridge is Indian Ridge, located closer to the charming town of Jasper. This is the third epic hike in the Canadian Rockies and my favourite of the three.
To access the Indian Ridge Trail, hikers have two options. First, climbing Whistlers Mountain and then continuing to Tangle Ridge is possible. This option adds 13 kilometres to the hike. You must plan a 12-hour day for 26 kilometres when choosing this option. Be prepared!
We chose option two to complete the Indian Ridge Trail: the Jasper Skytram brings hikers to the top of The Whistlers. It is possible (and even preferable) to book your ticket online. The Jasper Skytram website helps with online reservations and includes information regarding times and fares.
From the Skytram:
- distance: 13 kilometres
- elevation gain: 970 meters.
- altitude: 2800 meters
- estimated time: 6 hours
- Indian Ridge AllTrails map
A busy trail leads to The Whistlers’ summit just over one kilometre from the sky tram exit. For the more adventurous, just like us, we have the option to continue on The Whistlers Trail and reach the Indian Ridge Trail. The path without having any markers is still evident on the ground.
The hike to the top of Indian Ridge includes a bit of scrambling but nothing too complicated. The views across the ridge are spectacular.
The wind is surprising and icy. Once again, the importance of having the necessary equipment is essential. At the top of the mountain, several layers, hats, and gloves are required.
On the way back, make sure to enjoy the summit of The Whistlers before taking the sky tram back to the foot of the mountain.
A memorable summit among many equally memorable ones on these epic hikes in the Canadian Rockies!
More Hiking Adventures in the Rockies
- Pyramid Mountain Hike in Jasper
- Scramble up to Mount Temple’s Snowy Summit
- Hiking Guide to Mount Rundle’s Summit
- Hiking Guide to the Summit of Cascade Mountain
- Tips on Hiking the Tower of Babel
- Phenomenal Hiking on Roche Miette
- You might be interested in this list of 27 summits for beginner peak baggers and scramblers in the Rockies
- My Guide to the ultimate road trip through the Canadian Rockies will give you plenty of hiking and outdoor adventure ideas as you explore this unforgettable region.
The Rockies on the American side are also worth the road trip. There are wonderful hiking adventures in Colorado you might want to add to your list. Those mountains will keep on fascinating most hikers and backpackers!