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!