Trailhead: Two end options. One located at the southwest end of the Maligne Lake parking lot approximately 56Km east of Jasper or the second at Maligne Canyon approximately 9Km east of Jasper in Jasper National Park.
Description: Sky Line trail is considered to be a “Classic” and one of the best backcountry trails found in the Canadian Rockies. It can be completed in two days by strong hikers, although 3 or more days would be preferred if you want to take your time and explore the area. Sky Line trail offers it all. Most of the trail follows 3 high mountain ridges and passes through beautiful alpine meadows. You can expect a lot of ups and downs.
A few things you should know before heading out. The trail is located in a Caribou protection area so no dogs are allowed. No open fires allowed so you’ll need to carry a stove, there is plenty of natural water sources along the route. Bad weather on the long open ridges can be down right miserable and may require an escape down Shovel Pass or Watchtower trail. Quality gear and proper clothing is a must.
Backcountry permits are required to stay at any of the backcountry campsites. Spots fill fast, early reservations are a must so book months maybe a year in advance and take your chances on weather. Expect lots of snow well into July. Best time to go would be late July to the end of August. If you want to travel light and fast, consider staying at Shovel Pass lodge (approximate mid point) for one night. The best way to approach Sky Line trail is from the far southeast end located at Maligne Lake. Several touring companies in Jasper offer a shuttle bus from the trailhead at Maligne Canyon to the trailhead at Maligne Lake, you can leave your vehicle at Maligne Canyon. You can start at Maligne Canyon, however there is an awfully long and high fire road right from the get go, a serious drudge. Without a doubt, it’s much nicer descending this boring section of the trail.
From the trailhead at Maligne Lake follow the trail through and old growth forest as it passes Mona Lakes and then climbs towards Evelyn Creek campground and Little Shovel Pass. Once you reach Little Shovel Pass you’ll be rewarded with extensive views of the beautiful Alpine Meadows that lay ahead. Continue on through the meadows towards the Snowbowl. Snowbowl Campsite is approximately 1/3 of the way and is popular when doing 3 day trips. Mosquitoes here are horrendous, plan on covering up exposed skin. From here it’s a long easy scenic hike towards Big Shovel Pass and Curator Basin.
Once you reach Big Shovel Pass you can drop down to Curator Campground and Shovel Lodge or take a side trip to the top of Curator Ridge. Views from the ridge leading down towards Medicine Lake are well worth the effort. From Curator Campground (approximate half way point), head up towards Curator Lake and the Notch located just below Shovel Pass. Work your way up the Notch by staying on the right hand side avoiding the large cornice of snow near the top. Depending on the weather, the next four kilometers on top of Amber Mountain Ridge may be the highlight or worst part of the trip.
If the weather is on your side views along this long exposed ridge are stunning. However if the weather is bad this is not a ridge you want to be on. Lightning storms are a real concern here. Once you reach the end of Amber Ridge the trail starts to descend to Tekarra Mountain. Follow the switchbacks down to the valley bottom then pass Tekarra Mountain until you arrive at the Tekarra Campground. Tekarra Campground is approximately 2/3 of the way and is another popular campsite when doing three day trips. From Tekarra Campground, cross the Centre Creek bridge, then follow the trail as it gradually ascends again towards Signal Mountain.
Once you reach the meadows the trail levels off again for another few scenic kilometers then drops down towards the Signal Mountain fire road. A long, exhausting drudge over 9kms to your car. Skyline Trail has a lot of history that is well worth researching before you go. More than I can mention here. Mary Schaffer, Tom Wilson and Shovel Pass are all connected to this area. Skyline Trail is also part of the Great Divide Trail. You Are In Bear Country.