Jasper National Park, Alberta
by Paul Peters
The following hikes, all located on the Pyramid Bench, a lake-dotted terrace next to the town of Jasper that can actually be reached from town on foot, and still offer great experiences of the Canadian Rockies.
Cottonwood Creek/Pyramid Lake loop
From town, Trail 2 begins with a steady climb of 60m onto the Pyramid Bench, with a good view of the town along the way. Crossing the gated road to Cabin Lake, Trail 2 continues to the Cottonwood Slough parking lot and crosses the Pyramid Lake Road. Shortly past Cottonwood Creek, you reach a junction with Trail 2a. Turning right onto 2a takes you back to the north end of town along the creek, for a short walk of 1 to 2 hours.
To continue to Pyramid Lake, follow Trail 2 past the junction with Trail 6a and angle right onto Trail 2b. Soon the path climbs across an open hillside, giving you the first of many fine views of the Athabasca Valley.
Trail 2b follows the edge of the Pyramid Bench for 2km. You may see bighorn sheep grazing on the grassy slopes below you. The forest is mostly old-growth Douglas-fir, an evergreen easily identified by its furrowed bark. After the junction with Trail 2h, Trail 2b begins a steady climb of 120 m along a wooded ridge with openings that offer exceptional views. This scenic section is known as the Pyramid Overlook.
The trail descends to the Pyramid Lake parking lot, where it rejoins Trail 2. For the return leg of the loop, follow Trail 2 beside the Pyramid Lake Road.
The path goes behind a motel and through the woods for 1.5 km to the complicated stables area, where you need to follow the markers carefully. Cross the large parking lot there and find the continuation of Trail 2 at the far corner. Half a kilometre later you’ll close the loop, 2.5 km from where you started.
Trails used: 2 and 2a, 3.8 km return (1-2 hours) or 2 and 2b, 17.4 km return (5-7 hours).
Trailheads : Jasper Activity Centre parking lot (in town, near start of Pyramid Lake Road), Cottonwood Slough parking lot (2 km up Pyramid Lake Road), Pyramid Stables (3.5 km) or Pyramid Lake (end of road).
Note: the loop section of this hike is heavily used by horses, especially near the stables.