Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies – and it’s one incredible place to go for a trail run.
There’s everything from exposed and rocky trail to soft and forgiving forest singletrack. If you’re lucky enough to visit this park, be sure to train as you won’t want your lack of fitness to hold you back from exploring one of the wildest and most amazing places on earth.
This trail run is located in the southernmost part of the park along the Icefields Parkway, just north of Banff National Park. It’s a great first run, especially if you’ve been in the car for a while.
Though it’s not super long (3.9 kilometers out and back) there is one fairly steep and technical section. Do this one for the views and a chance to get up close to the Athabasca Glacier.
This trail is located near the large parking lot for Maligne Lake (look for the yellow diamond 100 as you arrive as well as the sign for Skyline Trail). This run is great for those runners looking for a quick out and back run (it’s a little over 5 kilometers) along some rolling terrain that’ll have you skipping over rocks and roots. However, if 5 kilometers isn’t long enough, no problem, keep headed west along the Skyline trail which will allow you to tackle, roughly, an additional 22 kilometers.
If your legs are trashed from lots of climbing and descending, head on out to the Lac Beauvert loop. It’s close to town, flat, scenic and easy to navigate so you can shut your brain off and relax.
The best part is that after doing a loop you can pick up any number of different trails to extend your run.
Pro tip: If you’re traveling with a cyclist, bikes are allowed on this loop.
Trail runners who love options will love this run because you can add or drop distance depending on how you feel at several different points in the run. To start, park in lot P2, a small gravel parking lot on the outskirts of town, and begin climbing up a short series of steep switchbacks. Just when it seems as if the trail won’t ever level out it does and then you’re cruising past Cabin Lake and in just .8 kilometer will be running past the first of Mina Lakes. From there you can opt to head back to the parking lot or continue north and add on as many miles as you please.
The parking lot for this trail is fairly large but get there early if you want to run without the crowds as this is one of the more popular runs in the park. As the name suggests, you’ll run past five of the most beautiful turquoise, blue and green lakes, each of them a slightly different shade than the rest. The trail itself is very steep in a few sections but there are numerous places where you can open up your stride and run hard.
Know Before You Go
• Be sure to carry a detailed map with you as well as a compass. Cell phone service is extremely limited in Jasper National Park so do not rely on it for navigation.
• This park is located in bear country. Carry bear spray with you and know how to use it should the occasion arise.
• Some of the trails are used by horses as well as hikers and bikers so be prepared to share the space and yield when appropriate.
• Water is found in many areas of the park but treating it with a filter or iodine tablets is recommended.
• Stay on marked trails and do not walk on the Athabasca Glacier as it can collapse under your weight and lead to injury or death.
• Weather can change quickly in the mountains so carry appropriate gear with you and stay aware of the conditions around you.
Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley are based in Asheville, North Carolina, but are currently traveling the country in their van. You can follow along with their adventures at Authentic Asheville.
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