Although summer is officially behind us, fall is still a great time of year to embark on a hike, with cooler temperatures, stunning sunsets and vibrant colours offering a truly memorable experience. Satisfy your inner wanderlust and enjoy the beauty of fall in Yellowhead County with these top 9 hiking adventures.
1. Wild Sculpture Trail
The ever-changing hoodoos of Wild Sculpture Trail in Sundance Provincial Park makes this one of Yellowhead County’s most unique hikes.
The sandstone cliffs, which were and are carved by rain and wind, hang on the side of steep cliffs overlooking the lake below.
There are three different routes that are part of the Wild Sculpture Trail system, which each offer different views and perspectives of the hoodoos and Sundance Valley.
The hike to the hoodoos is only a short one-kilometer hike in, but the trail continues on for eight more kilometers, taking you through an old-growth forest past a variety of beautiful lakes and creeks.
In addition to the hoodoos, the trail also offers views of rare plant species native to Sundance Provincial Park, as well as a variety of wildlife, including beaver, moose, deer, bear, marten and a variety of waterfowl and songbirds.
This trail is not only great for beginners but for the whole family as there are some spectacular views and very little elevation gain. There are also various camping opportunities available in the area, making this the perfect weekend adventure.
2. Emerson Lakes
Emerson Lakes is a series of five beautiful, crystal-clear lakes in Sundance Provincial Park that are a hiker’s dream.
With lush trails and stunning views, Emerson Lakes are enclosed by over 7 km of self-guided interpretive hiking trails. These trails wind around three of the lakes and offer incredible sunset and sunrise views, as well as countless opportunities for fishing, biking, canoeing and more.
The lakes are also home to a variety of wildlife, including deer, elk, bears and coyotes.
3. Joachim Valley Trail
The Joachim Valley Trail is an enjoyable and unique hike that winds through beautiful meadows and lush forests to a simulated airplane wreck, offering incredible views of the surrounding mountains and foothills along the way.
After a short and flat 3.5 km hike in, you will come to the cockpit of an airplane wreck nestled in the valley that is used to search and rescue training – a true hidden gem!
If you are looking for more of a challenge, you can continue on and hike the full 13 km to Black Cat Guest Ranch, which is a small family-run ranch offering ‘the splendor of the Rockies without the crowds and hustle of Jasper National Park’. They also offer a lot of great guided hikes in Yellowhead County as well as cabins nestled in the heart of the Rockies.
This flat, gentle trail is suitable for all skill levels and ages, making it a perfect trail for a family adventure.
4. Athabasca Lookout
The Athabasca Lookout trail is considered one of the most picturesque in the region, with incredible views of mountain ranges and many unique points of interest along the way.
There are two trailheads that you can choose from to reach the stunning viewpoint. The shortest route, which can be accessed at the end of the Hinton Nordic Centre Road, is only a 1 km uphill hike to the viewpoint.
If you are looking for a longer hike, you can access the Athabasca Lookout Trail via Joachim Valley. Although this route is longer and more strenuous, it offers a variety of points of interest along the way that you will not be able to find on the shorter trail, including an Indigenous burial site and a simulated plane crash.
The first 2.5 km of this trail is a fairly easy walk, but don’t let this fool you! The trail then turns and goes straight up the side of a hill, proving to be a rather relentless climb. Although it is not a technical climb, it is steep, so hiking poles are recommended.
The hike winds through a beautiful silver birch forest and ends with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and surrounding foothills.
Although there are many false summits on this hike that also offer incredible views of the mountain ranges and valley below, you will know you have reached the official viewpoint once you have come to a radio tower and interpretive sign.
5. Folding Mountain
Located only 40 minutes east of Jasper National Park, the Folding Mountain trail can often be overlooked, but its spectacular views certainly make it worth the trip!
This day hike offers incredible views of the surrounding peaks and Athabasca River, weaving you in and out of a forested trail and along a stunning alpine meadow – all without the traffic you would typically experience in Jasper National Park.
But be aware – this trail is not for the faint of heart! With nearly 1200m of elevation gain, including a steep scramble to the summit, Folding Mountain can be a challenging hike and should only be completed by experienced hikers.
If you are not comfortable with the scramble to the top, the view at the base of the ascent is still stunning, with a beautiful section of meadow you can rest in while taking in the incredible view of the surrounding Rocky Mountains.
However, if you are able to reach the summit, you will be met with an incredible 360-degree view of the mountains, including some of Jasper’s biggest peaks like Edith Cavell and Fiddle Mountain.
Be sure to snap a photo of yourself at the summit and present it to the Folding Mountain Brewery at the base of the mountain for a free beer!
6. Ogre Canyon Loop
Located southwest of the picturesque town of Brule, Ogre Canyon was once used as a packhorse trail in the 1900s and is now a great recreational opportunity for hiking, canyoning and ice climbing.
This limestone canyon and its sinkholes were carved out by streams and underground water and today offer incredible views of a waterfall and pools.
Because the road to the Ogre Canyon parking lot is not paved and receives little maintenance, we recommend you either hike, quad or off-road in, as there are many deep mud holes. Park at the Brule Community Hall and then make your trek in. The hike in is around 7 km, but will offer spectacular views of the surrounding flora and fauna, which is incredible this time of the year with the changing of seasons.
From the parking lot, it is only a 15-minute walk to the canyon, which is 17m deep at the waterfall.
Guided hiking tours of Ogre Canyon are available through Black Cat Ranch, and you can even embark on full-day canyoning adventure with Rocky Mountain Canyoning.
7. Fiddle Pass
Ready to get acquainted with the Alberta wilderness? This is the perfect multi-day backpacking trip for experienced hikers, taking you to Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park.
This rough backcountry trail is perfect for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse themselves in nature.
Although the trail travels through the popular Jasper National Park, it sees few visitors and offers hikers a quiet and tranquil experience, complete with pleasant riverside views, an incredible alpine pass and serene forest. And, if you plan it right, you can end your hike with a relaxing soak in Miette Hot Springs, the hottest hot springs in the Canadian Rockies. Please note that Miette is currently closed due to a road washout. It is hoped that the hot springs will be open in early September, so please be aware of this before you plan your trip.
To get to Fiddle Pass, you will need to take the Upper Whitehorse Creek trail for about 7.5 kilometers until you reach a trail fork near the Sawmill Campground. Here, turn right to begin your wilderness trek.
The trail climbs most of the way for the first 4 km to the first campground, Fiddle, which is located along a tree line. From here, you will pass through a flat meadow and along a small mountain lake before you make your final climb up Fiddle Pass. Take in the incredible views of Whitehorse Creek and Harlequin Mountain before continuing on to Miette Hot Springs, which is located another 26 km up the trail.
Because the trail spans a provincial and national park, different rules apply for each. In Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park, there are no reservation fees for overnight backcountry stays, but once you enter Jasper National Park, you will need to have a wilderness pass on hand, so be sure to purchase one before embarking on your hike.
As this hike is not a round trip, you will need two vehicles to make it work. Consider dropping a vehicle off at Miette Hot Springs and spend the night at one of the nearby campgrounds before departing back to Whitehorse Creek the next day.
8. Upper Whitehorse Creek
With scenic waterfalls, fast-moving rivers, impressive slated erosions and beautiful open meadows, the Upper Whitehorse Creek trail in Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park is a hidden gem of Yellowhead County.
This day hike is great for beginners or those with minimal experience as the trail is well-marked and easily navigable with very few points of incline. The trail is also a favourite for horseback riders, so if you meet someone on horseback, please step aside to let them pass.
There are multiple opportunities to take a break or fill up your water throughout the trail. At about six kilometers in, you will come to Trappers Backcountry Campground, which has a bear pole and hitching rails for equestrian users. After two more kilometers, you will be at Sawmill Backcountry campground, which is situated along a quiet stream and has an outhouse and tree-covered fire area in case of rain.
At the trail fork near Sawmill campground, you have the choice to either continue on to Whitehorse Creek Falls Campground or travel up Fiddle Pass into Jasper National Park, which will take you to Miette Hot Springs.
During your hike, keep your eye out for the American Dipper, a small black bird that is typically only found high in the mountains along rushing alpine streams.
9. Cardinal Divide
The Cardinal Divide is a popular hike in Whitehorse Wildland Provincial Park and offers unique views that cannot be found elsewhere.
The Divide spans the continental divide, which includes two rivers. On one side is the Athabasca River, which drains into the Arctic Ocean and on the other side is the North Saskatchewan River which drains into the Hudson’s Bay.
This wilderness area is renowned for its unusually high plant biodiversity, with many rare species calling it home. The region also supports at risk species including grizzly bears and harlequin ducks.
The east portion of the trail, which is only a 1.3km hike to the ridge, offers spectacular views of the McLeod River Valley and Cheviot mine site. To the east, the McKenzie Gap opens up onto the plains, and looking west you will be met with spectacular views of Tripoli Ridge, Cheviot Mountain and Prospect Mountain. Continue along the exposed ridge for another 2.5 km to reach its peak (2,220 metres), then return back the same way you came, or continue along the ridge to extend your hike.
Once you reach the top of the ridge, you will be met with incredible 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks and will have a unique view of the ridge, which curves out into the horizon.
The Cardinal Divide can only be accessed by vehicle through Mountain Park coming from Cadomin. Please be aware that this road is harsh and not suitable for smaller cars.
Which hike will you embark on this fall in Yellowhead County?