Jasper National Park Overnight Hike to Jacques Lake


A Weekend Adventure in the Backcountry in Jasper Alberta Canada

Beautiful Mountain Lakes, Views and Wildlife Make Backpacking to Jacques Lake a Memorable Experience

Jasper National Park Overnight Hike to Jacques Lake is generally considered an easy trail if the trial conditions are good. It has minimal elevation gain over the 12km long one-way on an out-and-back trail (24km round trip). As such it is a great weekend backpacking destination which is usually suitable for hikers of most experience levels. The hike in can take between 2.5-3.5 hours one-way on a good day. Beautiful wilderness lakes and fantastic views of the Cline and Queen Elizabeth II mountain ranges are highlights of this trail.

Our Jasper National Park Overnight Hike to Jacques Lake Trip Plan

We chose to do this overnight hike early in the season for some training and to test out some new gear. With a heavy, late season snowfall followed by substantial rains and then a bout of beautiful warm weather we knew we needed to be prepared for just about anything. According to the Parks Canada website the trail conditions were poor. We decided to tackle the trail anyhow. I mean, it was still open so how bad could it be? Well, let's just say that now we know exactly what Parks Canada means by poor trail conditions. And it certainly makes for a more challenging and adventurous trip. Nobody ever seems to share their experience hiking in poor conditions. So, we will. Here is our Jasper National Park overnight hike to Jacques Lake and our experience with poor trail conditions.

An easy section on the Jacques Lake Trail. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
A beautiful mountain view on the Jacques Lake trail. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

 A Backcountry Adventure with Poor Trail Conditions

The hiking trail starts on an old fire road which is wide and generally easy. However, it only took a few hundred meters for our poor trail conditions adventure to begin. Minutes into the hike water began to cover the trail. It seemed pretty minimal at the time so we carried on. Little did we know that flooding had caused the creek to swell so much that it was knee deep with a strong current.  Thankfully we made it across safely with a renewed appreciation for wool socks and Gore-Tex hiking boots. Shortly after this crossing the trail comes to a fork in the road. There was flagging tape closing off access to the trail beyond. How strange that Parks staff waited until after the creek crossing to close the trail. It turns out that the flagging tape wasn't to close the rest of the trail. It was for the people that were hiking out so that they wouldn't take the trail we were on with the flooded out creek crossing. Oops.

The trail to Jacques Lake as been flooded and turned into a stream. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Can you spot the Trail to Second Summit Lake? Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Fishing at Beaver Lake in Jasper National Park Alberta

After hiking for about 1.6km we reached Beaver Lake, the first of the wilderness lakes along the Jasper National Park Overnight Hike to Jacques Lake Trail. This is a small but beautiful emerald green lake with crystal clear water. It is a popular spot for fishing.  Although we did meet some people that hiked in carrying their inflatable boats (yes, they crossed the creek too) there are boat rentals available at the lake. Curries Guiding is one of the operators that provides boat rental services at Beaver Lake. A fishing permit is required. As it is a short hike to reach Beaver Lake from the trailhead, it is popular for day hikers and picnickers as well. The lake has both a boat launch and a picnic area with several picnic tables.

Emerald Green Beaver Lake. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Fishing Boats for rent on Beaver Lake. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Incredible Mountain Views at Summit Lakes

After another 3km or so along the old fire road are the Summit Lakes. There are two lakes here with stunning mountain views to enjoy. The lakes are so beautiful and serene. Although there are no picnic amenities here, it is a beautiful spot to stop for a picnic or just to have a little Zen-like moment in the mountains.

The spectacular First Summit Lake. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Second Summit Lake. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Hiking Summit Lakes to Jacques Lake

The Jasper National Park Overnight Hike to Jacques Lake trail narrows past the first Summit Lake and continues through dense forest to the second Summit Lake and onto Jacques Lake beyond. This is where the really poor trail conditions kicked in. So many trees had fallen over the trail that we needed to climb over, go under or find an alternate way around that it felt like we were in an obstacle course race created by Mother Nature. This certainly increased the degree of difficulty for the hike and slowed us down, a lot. 

Challenging Trail Conditions to Jacques Lake

The Jacques Lake Campground is 7.6km beyond the Summit Lake. Parks Canada describes this section of the trail as an 'easy hike through dense forest with many small bridged creeks'. It certainly wasn't easy climbing over what felt like hundreds of fallen trees. As for the many small bridge creeks, it turns out that they split over their banks and flooded the trail. Most of the trail ended up being under water for this section. Furthermore, some bridges had broken resulting in us needing to search for other ways to cross the creeks such as using some of the fallen logs instead. Naturally, you'd think the nasty trail conditions would get us down and make us turn back. For the most part though, we embraced the challenge. Plus by that point it was closer for us to press onto the campground then to turn around. Sore and tired, we did eventually make to the Jacques Lake Campground albeit it took us much longer than 3.5 hours. 

Mother Nature's Obstacle Course. Photo credit: Peter Guthrie
Climbing over fallen trees on the Jacques Lake Trail. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Jacques Lake Campground & Alpine Club of Canada Cabin

The campground is perched on the shores of Jacques Lake surrounded by views of the Queen Elizabeth II mountain range. There are 8 campsites here with food storage lockers and a privy. Additionally, there is a common area with three picnic tables and a fire pit. Further up the trail is the Alpine Club of Canada Jacques Lake Cabin. The cabin can be booked during the winter and is accessed by cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Unfortunately, the trail was washed out the day we were here so we couldn't make it all the way to the cabin.

Close Encounters of the Moose Kind in Jasper Alberta Canada

One unique feature of the Jacques Lake Trail is that it is part of a wildlife travel corridor making animal sightings a common occurrence. It is common for moose to make their way through the Jacques Lake Campground at both dawn and at dusk. We can verify that this is indeed true. 

In the morning we were awoken by some noises outside the tent. Upon peeking out of the tent we saw four moose casually stopping to enjoy the breakfasts just meters from the tent. We sat quietly for some time and just watched them until they wandered away. Thinking that was the last of out close encounters of the moose kind we began making breakfast. As we sat with another family in the picnic area eating our breakfasts another moose just moseyed on over and ate its breakfast too! Here is a video of our breakfast companion.
Early morning wake up call from a moose outside out tent. Photo credit: Peter Guthrie
This moose joined us for breakfast. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

The Difference a Day can Make

I'm not sure if it was our early start or if peak runoff had finished the day before but the hike out was an entirely different experience. Most of the trails were dry and creeks that were nearly impassable the day before were now easily crossed. Even though, the fallen trees still presented some challenges the hike was pleasant and we were in good spirits. We even took the time to enjoy the views and notice the mountain wildflowers. Making good time we shaved off over 40 minutes from our hiking time from the day before. On the way out, we paid attention to the flagging tape and avoided crossing the treacherous creek and followed a new trail that Parks Canada staff were building to lead hikers safely back to the parking lot. 

This avalanche scree section was underwater the day before. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
No more crazy creek crossings and wet feet at the start of the trail. The newly aligned Jacques Lake Trail avoids all that fun. Photo credit: Janet Guthrie

Folding Mountain Brewery

Naturally we had worked up quite a thirst. And we felt that we had earned a treat for all our hard work and for not quitting when the trail got tough.  Once again, we visited one of our favourite craft breweries, Folding Mountain to enjoy great food and a craft beer before heading home.

Folding Mountain has the Best Patio! Photo credit: Janet Guthrie
Craft Beers at Folding Mountain Brewery. Photo Credit: Janet Guthrie

Planning Considerations

Jacques Lake Trail is a high priority for Parks Canada staff, meaning that it is regularly maintained. The poor conditions we experienced were not due to a lack of care and attention from Parks staff, rather it was because of the sheer size and scale of the snow storm that blanketed Jasper National Park. Aware that the Parks Staff had other more pressing issues to attend to, we chose to still complete the hike and to be prepared to look after ourselves.

Trail distance and duration
- About 12.2 km one-way
- 1 - 2 day hike.

Permitted summer uses
- Horses and dogs are permitted
- Bikes are permitted as well but only as far as Summit Lakes

Required permits
- Parks Canada Pass
- Backcountry Permit
- Fishing license if fishing

- This trail is along a wildlife corridor which includes bears so be sure to keep a clean campsite and to use the food storage lockers. 
- We saw a lot of bear scat, some of which was very fresh, so be sure to make a lot of noise on the trail 
- Carry bear spray

- Proper gear is essential such as a good pair of hiking boots, wool socks, bug spray and walking poles. 
- The weather in the mountains can change rapidly so it is vital to be prepared with clothing suitable for all weather conditions 
- Just one weekend before our trip many people were on what they that thought was a nice summer backcountry experience when they were caught off guard when a freak snow storm hit the park.

Canada Adventure Seeker, Melanie Adair has 10 Tips for Hiking in Hot Weather

Jacques Lake Trail Map. Image Credit: Parks Canada

Getting to Jacques Lake

The Jacques Lake parking lot and trailhead are about a 35 minute drive from the Jasper Townsite. Located 28km in on Maligne Road, the Jacques Lake parking area is next to Medicine Lake along the left hand side of the road leading to Maligne Lake. The trailhead is just about the halfway point between Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake.

Directions to the Jacques Lake trailhead from Jasper. Image Credit: Google Maps

A beautiful Mountain Hike in Jasper National Park

Jacques Lake Trail is a beautiful mountain hike in Jasper National Park. The wilderness lakes are perfectly spaced to make the hike interesting and the mountain views are incredible. Not to mention, the close encounters with the moose. Although we enjoyed the learning opportunity as to what poor trail conditions mean, I think we will upgrade to moderate trail conditions next time. A Jasper National Park Overnight Hike to Jacques Lake should be on every adventure seeking, hiking enthusiasts list, especially when the trail conditions are good.

Jasper National Park Overnight Hike to Jacques Lake

An Adventurous Weekend in the Backcountry in Jasper Alberta Canada

Travel Guide

    • RV Park or Campground
    • Hiking Guide
  • British Columbia

Canada Parks

  • Jasper
  • Alberta
    • Recreation Area
    • Wildlife Watching
    • X Country Skiing
  • 12.2km 7.6mi
  • Moderate
  • Year Round

Location (Map)

Jacques Lake, Improvement District No. 12, AB T0E 0E0, Canada
Stay Informed

When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.

10 Waterfalls in Southern Alberta Canada
Hiking Haffner Coulee in Writing-On-Stone Provinci...

Comments 4

EH Canada Marketing Group on Sunday, 27 August 2023 22:14

Backpacking in not-so-perfect conditions turns into a great hike with memories of wildlife for life. Funny how adventures are in all how you look at them. Great Job Janet. Very well done and written. Great for others to look at.

Backpacking in not-so-perfect conditions turns into a great hike with memories of wildlife for life. Funny how adventures are in all how you look at them. Great Job Janet. Very well done and written. Great for others to look at.
Janet Guthrie on Sunday, 27 August 2023 22:43

Thank you

Thank you
Cora Lee Rennie on Tuesday, 12 September 2023 22:32

Amazing backpacking adventure in the mountains! Love the moose! This article is great Janet! Good job!

Amazing backpacking adventure in the mountains! Love the moose! This article is great Janet! Good job!
Janet Guthrie on Wednesday, 13 September 2023 05:50

Thank you Cora Lee.

Thank you Cora Lee.
Already Registered? Login Here
Friday, 19 July 2024

Alberta Experiences