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Indian Ridge – Jasper Day Hike and Scramble

hiker approaching indian ridge - jasper national park, ab ©

Traversing Jasper National Park’s Indian Ridge should be near the top of everyone’s Jasper Day Hike Bucket List. A popular ‘Kane scramble’ described in Kane’s Scrambles in the Canadian Rockes as;

an easy, scenic jaunt that benefits from the popular Whistlers tram (edit: now the Jasper SkyTram). From the upper tram station, the entire trip rambles above tree line granting an expansive view of peaks and lakes…

Consider hiking Indian Ridge as an adventurous done-in-a-day Skyline Trail like experience – All the wow factor of Jasper’s epic ridge line trek with none of the back country hassles.

The Numbers

Even though the aforementioned tram does most of the heavy lifting whisking you to the upper terminal at 2,277m/7,470′, accessing the ridge walk requires that you summit two minor peaks – Whistlers (2,464m/8084′) and Indian Ridge summit (2,758m/9,050′).

For the hardcore, or budget conscious not wanting to pay for the tram, the Whistlers Trail will take you to the upper tram terminal – here’s our Guide to Hiking the Whistlers Trail and Summit.

Trailhead – The Jasper SkyTram

Approximately five kilometres south of the Jasper Townsite turn right onto Whistlers Road. The road ends at the Jasper Skytram lower terminal and parking lot. Full facilities are available.

The Trail

Be prepared to spend an entire day (5 to 6 hours) above the treeline gawking at Jasper’s finest peaks. This is Canadian Rockies hiking at it’s best. We’ve broken the hike into the following segments:

    Whistlers Summit
    Once you exit the upper terminal leave the majority of your trammates behind and begin the 1 km climb to Whistlers summit along a well defined trail. It’s a short grind to the summit marker but the reward is panoramic views with the Victoria Cross Range, in particular Pyramid Mountain dominating the north. A handy summit marker/dial details all the major peaks in the area.

    Follow the trail westward off the summit and watch for a less defined left (southernly) fork that leads to a depression/saddle between Whistlers and the Indian Ridge summit.

    Indian Ridge Summit
    Judging by the well trodden trail leading to the Indian Ridge summit this trail has increased in popularity since Kane’s 1999 first edition. Once on the trail there’s little confusion as to where it leads – up!

    Views of the upper reaches of Marmot Basin open up to the east with a lovely alpine bowl nestled below to the west.

    Snow may cling to the edges of the trail well into August. If possible stay off the snow. Proceed with caution if attempting this hike early in the season as drifts and cornices may be unstable.

    The section just before the summit required us to scramble on all fours but the relative exposure is minimal and can be easily climbed without worry.

    Enjoy the views from the top! On clear days Mount Robson’s glaciated peak (tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies) figures prominently to the west.

    From the summit the northwest terminus (another summit marker) of the ridgewalk can be seen.

    The Ridge Walk
    Descend the summit and proceed along the curved ridge line. There’s no defined trail but the way forward is self explanatory. This is pure Canadian Rockies nirvana.
    The Notch
    Eventually you’ll reach a sizeable gap atop the ridge that cannot be easily navigated – the Notch – You’ll know it when you come to it. Basically there are two choices:
If we had to do this over again we’d retrace our steps and return the way we came avoiding the scramble around the Notch and Kane’s described descent completely.

If you’re looking for the full Kane experience brush up on you’re route finding skills. Kane’s route for navigating around the Notch still exists but not in any defined fashion. Backtrack off the Notch and drop down the west side of the ridge and scramble along the ridge below the Notch. Handholds are definately required and a fall, while probabaly not fatal would definately leave a mark – use of a climbing helmet highly recommended. Trail markers (cairns), if still in place, are only obvious once you’ve already figured out the route!

    Jane get me off this crazy thing!
    Kane’s description of an easy scree descent certainly leaves a lot to be desired. The number of hikers over this route has washed most of the forgiving scree away leaving a steep barren mountain side to slip and slide down. Not fun.

    Once off the scree slopes of the ridge you are forced to bushwhack as no defined trail exists. Make your way back to the low point between Whistlers and Indian Ridge summit rejoin the trail and retrace your steps the Whistlers summit. Return to the upper tramway terminal for a well-earned ride back down.

Special Considerations and the Fine Print

  • Sections of the trail, especially bushwhacking through the bowl are prime grizzly habitat. Carrying and knowing how to use bear spray is advised.
  • If attempting this hike early and/or late in the season pay particular attention to the time of the final tram down and plan your day accordingly to avoid an addition 8+ km walk back to your car. The tramway folks do their best to not knowingly leave hikers stranded so it’s a good idea to let them know your intentions before beginning the hike.
  • It’s called alpine tundra for a reason… it can get very cold and windy at the top even during the summer months. We always stuff a fleece jumper and our lightweight GoreTex shells into our pack. It’s also common to experience afternoon thundershowers making rain gear a necessity.
  • Always pack water and a snack. In case you forget, there is a full service restaurant at the upper tram station.
  • There’s no cost to hike the trail but a National Park entry fee is required to access the area.
  • You are hiking in an alpine area, please take care to avoid damaging plant life and sensitive soil.
  • If you have any doubts about the trail, heights, or your ability give this one a miss.


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Jasper National Park of Canada website.

Jasper SkyTram website.

Brochure related to bear safety – Parks Canada Bears and People.

Photo of the Week – Roped Up in Jasper

image of mountaineer on little a galcier - mount athabasca jasper national park, ab ©

Roped up on Litte A glacier – Jasper National Park, AB ©

Paved Paradise and put up a Glacier Walk

image of brewster's glacier walk nearing completion - icefields parkway, jasper national park ab

Jasper Park saviour, or tourist gimmick – Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park AB ©

‘Good news everyone’, Jasper National Parks’ saviour, the Glacier Skywalk, is operational! Can someone create a sarcasm font?

On our final Jasper trip of the 2013 season we saw Brewster’s “controversial Glacier Skywalk project” in-the-tin for the first time. And while it’s unlikely we’ll visit this attraction in the near future – it’s just not our thing – I can’t help but wonder what the hell where they thinking?

Thoughts below…

Can breathtaking and free be improved upon?

The current site of Brewster’s Glacier Walk was previously a large parking lot and viewing area that offered a panoramic view of the Sunwapta Canyon and adjacent peaks. As far as views went, it wasn’t the best Jasper has to offer, but for a road side pull out you got what you paid for.

Beginning May 2014, for approximately $25.00, Brewster’s will provide shuttle bus transportation from the Icefield Discovery Centre and offer tourists the Glacier Skywalk experience. The previous viewpoint is now “enhanced” with 200 metric tonnes of steel offering an interpretive walkway and glass floor extension over the canyon.

Twenty-five bucks for a 5 minute bus ride and glass floor.

Here’s the kicker – Despite it’s name, you couldn’t be further from a glacier if you tried!

Build it and they will come!

The Glacier Skywalk is seen as a way to significantly increase Park visitation. More tourists means more revenue, and Brewster’s has proposed a rather rosy future for their roadside attraction.

Here’s the issue; so far this strategy hasn’t worked. Visitation to Brewster’s Glacier Adventure peaked in 1999 with over 600,000 visitors experiencing the Athabasca Glacier via sno-coach tours. Ten years of declining tourist interest has seen the number of visitations reduced by half. Given that the Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield is considered a marquee attraction, and they are absolutely gorgeous and should be experienced, something is very wrong with Parks Canada and Brewster’s current assessment and/or business model regarding visitor interest along the Icefields Parkway.

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If the granduer of a glacier can’t attract interest a gimmicky roadside attraction, the likes of the Glacier Skywalk, is unlikely to attract sufficient longterm interest to reverse the fortunes of Brewster’s Icefield operations, nor increase visitation to Jasper National Park to any significant degree.

Ten years from now will ‘we’ be left with an aging attraction-become-eyesore that has outlived it’s usefulness? Then again, what do we know?

I don’t think “Ecological Integrity” means what you think it means

This is the Parks Canada Charter as presented on their website:

On behalf of the people of Canada, we protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations.

Scroll up to the picture at the beginning of this post… One of these things is not like the other!

Just because we ‘Value Your Input’ doesn’t mean We Value Your Input

When nearly every media outlet begins their respective Skywalk coverage with “controversial project” you know something’s fishy.

Parks Canada left a very sour taste in the mouths of those taking part in the Public Consultation process regarding this project. Negative opinion of the project far outweighed positives. Despite the overall lack of support Parks Canada in what can only be described as a ‘this is a good idea how moment’ came up with the following rationale as to why everyone is wrong…

Although the majority of comments reflected a lack of support for the proposal, numbers for or against were not the only factor that Parks Canada considered when evaluating public response. All comments were taken into account when making the determination, but in the end, the consultation process is not a plebiscite. Parks Canada considered the validity, scope and new information presented relevant to the assessment.

The largest number of comments received and the central public debate in the petitions and media against the proposal related primarily to the interpretation of Parks Canada Agency policy and appropriateness. While these comments were well meaning, caring and passionate, they were philosophically in opposition to the interpretation of policy and the determination of appropriateness by the Parks Canada Agency.
To address the concerns related to environmental and social effects (and visitor experience), the project environmental assessment screening report describes prescriptive undertakings for Brewster to mitigate adverse effects and to implement related follow up programs. Parks Canada has identified “desired end results” to guide mitigation and provide additional direction on the intended outcomes. The process and the nature of the concerns have helped to shape, clarify and justify the desired end results.
The analysis of public comment has concluded that there was no nature of concern or new information presented that would prevent the proposal from moving forward.

So, if by “disired end result” Parks Canada meant the Glacier Skywalk has already been decided as a good thing, then yes everyone else got it wrong!

Public Relations 101 – The only thing worse than not listening to your target audience is to marginalize them.

Stop chasing symptoms and tackle the problem

Whether Parks Canada believes the public got the Glacier Skywalk proposal wrong or not is the crux of another debate. Fact is the most vocal voices in the process suggested attractions like Brewster’s Glacier Skywalk are not what Park supporters are seeking to enhance their respective Visitor Experience within Jasper National Park.

The question then becomes, what do we want from our National Parks?

In our opinion plugging round holes with Skywalks doesn’t appear to offer a longterm solution regarding Visitor Experience or Ecological Integrity.