Location: Banff & Jasper National Park
Trail name: Brazeau Loop, trail map
Days: 4 nights, 5 days
Although commonly hiked in a clockwise fashion, we went against the grain and trekked the loop counterclockwise. The start/end of the loop is at Four point campground, and from there you can choose to either climb up Jonas Pass to Jonas Cut-off campsite (19km) or take a walk in the lodgepole pine forest along the Brazeau River to Brazeau Lake (18.5km). We choose Brazeau Lake first as I thought our packs would be lighter and thus easier to carry after Day 2 for the climb up to Pobokton and Jonas Passes.
The trailhead starts at the Nigel Pass trailhead car park (Banff National Park) a few kilometers south of the Columbian Icefields Centre. From there it’s a 14km hike to Four Point campground (4.5hours). At Nigel Pass or after fyording a small trib of Brazeau River and climbing up the other side of the valley, you can get some really nice views of the Columbia Icefields.
(Me and a beautiful view of Nigel Pass and the Columbia Icefields behind me)
(Tim’s quote “main reason why he enjoys trekking”…for the love of trail mix! LOL!)
After crossing Nigel Pass and the small trib, it’s about another 5km to four point campground.
(The Brazeau River enroute to Four Point campground)
The hike to Brazeau Lake is a nice 18.5km forested walk with very little elevation gain. We saw alot of bear scat and diggings, but no bears unfortunately. The weather wasn’t the best for trekking either- just rain and more rain.
After Brazeau Lake you start climbing up Pobokton Pass (16km to Jonas Cut-off) but must first cross John-John Creek. Unfortunately the bridge was “washed out” and Tim and I spent a good 30min looking for a safe place to cross the rapids. Luckily, we found this washed out bridge wedged inbetween some rocks and deadfall 100m downstream from the trail and used that to safely cross.
(Tim and Pobokton Pass)
(Tim getting pelted with hail and frowning. Enroute to Jonas Cut-off via Poboktan Pass)
(On our way down to Jonas Cut-off campground)
After Jonas Cut-off, the trail takes you up a valley and over Jonas’ Shoulder onto Jonas Pass. It’s 19km to Four point from the Jonas Cut-off campground. Again, not the greatest weather for viewing.
(Trail up to Jonas’ shoulder @ 2509m)
(View of Sunwapta Peak from Jonas’ Shoulder)
(Couply shot of Tim and I at Jonas’ Shoulder)
(Tim and Jonas Pass)
On our way down Jonas Pass, we encountered a trio of well experienced trekkers taking shelter under a well constructed tarp and having tea/lunch. Despite the sopping rain, they seemed to be really enjoying themselves. They invited us for afternoon tea- a nice welcome from the down pour. Thanks Ben, Jen and Bill for the laughs and tea!
As an aside, I perused the Mountain Equipment Co-op website and came across an awesome light weight tarp design by MSR, weighing only 670g- this will definitely be my next purchase! Check it out the specs here.
Well, despite the rain, hail, sleet and snow (and crazy thunderstorm on the 4th night), I really enjoyed the trek. Having done this trail 5 years ago, I definitely am in much better shape now! The second last day was horrid with rain, and poor Tim’s boots were soaking wet. The temperature went below freezing that night and so the morning after wasn’t very pleasant for him. We quickly packed the frozen tent, put on cold boots and pretty much ran back to the car park!
Great writeup. Shame ’bout my frozen boots!
Now you have me wanting to do this trek! Welcome home, Mai, Tim, and Darwin. Happy birthday, Darwin!
Thanks Bill and Pearl, feels good to be home! Yes, I’ve done the trek twice and would do it again in a heartbeat. I think part of the trail connects to the skyline trail, which one day, I hope to hike.
Great write up! When did you do the hike?
Thx Jessica! I did it in 2001 & 2008; would do it again when baby’s a bit older. It’s really lovely!
Thanks so much for the quick reply. What time of year did you do it? My husband and I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to do this trail, but we are in the area for a wedding at the end of June. Not sure if it’s the best time to go because of snow, but I would still love to try.
Oh I see, the time of year! I forgot to mention that I been there on a winter backcountry ski trip for two nights…so weather doesn’t deter me much- hehehe. I’ve been in mid-July (glorious weather but smoky from forest fires) and end of Aug (snowed/rained heavily). The evening would be a bit frigid in June, so I’d recommend booties and a warm jacket for the evenings. The high passes will likely have some snow but it shouldn’t be too bad (in terms of depth, traction)- if you have hiking poles and good waterproof hiking boots, you two should be good to go! As an alternative you can camp at Four points campsite and do a day trip up to Jonas Pass instead of doing the full loop trail. It would free a few nights if you want to do other trails in Jasper or Banff or Icefields. Good luck and enjoy the hike!
I want to do this in the next few months. Was searching for new trails and found this.
Good day! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate!
He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him.
Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Alexandre! Hopefully the post inspires you to do the hike too some day 😉
This is a great post, thanks so much! Great to see it is still being referenced 7 years later. We are starting the loop in a couple of days and your comments have been very helpful.
Thanks Kathi! Good luck in the hike and enjoy the fantastic views. So jealous- it’s been ages since I went backcountry camping!
Hi , loved the post we will be going this August with our six year daughter , and we are thrilled, only our second attempt at backpacking lol. Our first trip was last year to Mt. Robson and we did that in 4 days with our then 5 year old. Hope we do alright. Thanks for the great read.
Glad you enjoyed the read! Can’t believe you’re going with your 6yo! I’m so impressed! Good luck on the hike and I hope you have good weather 😊