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Backcountry hiking in Jasper

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Jasper’s system of backcountry hiking trails and 111 backcountry campgrounds makes it one of the leading areas for backcountry hiking in North America. To stay overnight in the backcountry, pick up a wilderness permit ($9.80) within 24 hours of your departure from the park information centre in Jasper or at the Columbia Icefield. All trails and campgrounds operate quota systems; contact the park information office for details and book yourself backcountry campgrounds – and thus trail places – as soon as you can (reservations $11.70). Trails remain busy even into September; the busiest are Skyline, Maligne Lake, Brazeau and Tonquin Valley.

The park information office offers invaluable advice, and excellent, cheap maps of several trails. For overnight hikes, talk to staff or get hold of a copy of The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide – but by general consent the finest long-distance trails are the Skyline (44km; 820m ascent) and Jonas Pass (19km; 555m ascent), the latter often combined with the Nigel and Poboktan passes (total 36km; 750m ascent) to make a truly outstanding walk. Not far behind come two hikes in the Tonquin Valley – Astoria River (19km; 445m ascent) and Maccarib Pass (21km; 730m ascent) – and the Fryat Valley (3–4 days). Others to consider are Maligne Pass and the long-distance North and South Boundary trails (the latter two both over 160km).

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