There are so many hiking trails near the Jasper townsite, it would be difficult to run out of places to hike for an hour or a day or even longer. We were looking for a good day hike, something that would give us 3-4 hours of scenery and exercise. We were also looking for a trail that would not be overrun with hikers, so we would not have a problem physically distancing.
Valley of the 5 Lakes is one of our go-to hikes, but the parking lot was pretty busy when we drove by the day before on our way back from the Icefields. We could hike another route up onto Pyramid Bench, but we wanted something different.
We finally settled on the Overlander Trail (#10), a 15.5 km one way trail that starts at the parking lot near 6th bridge on the Maligne Lake Road and ends at a parking lot on Highway 16, some 18.1 km from the East access road to Jasper town. The elevation gain along the trail is only 65 meters (213 feet), but you gain and lose this several times along the North end of the trail. We did not have to worry about that, as we were only going to hike the South end, which is mostly flat and as we found out, does not have many of the spectacular views of the Athabasca River valley, promised in the hiking guide.
The trail is named after the Overlanders, who used it as early as 1862 when they travelled by foot, horseback and cart from Red River (Winnipeg) to get to the Caribou goldfields in New Caledonia (British Columbia).
Safely parked in the lot at 6th bridge, we geared up:
- back pack – check
- mosquito repellant – check
- bear spray – check
- hiking poles – check
- water – check
- lunch – check
- way too many coats – check
…and headed out on the trail. Below, you will see the 6th bridge across the Maligne River and views of the river, as well. A lot of water moving along on this day.
The trail starts out as more of a logging/service road for the first bit, passing by the Warden’s stables fenced compound. Gradually the trail narrows and in places becomes a single foot path. Mostly flat, it does provide you with some brief view of a narrow part of the Athabasca River where the river splits around an island.
The trail passed through various types of forest, with glimpses of some peaks from time to time.
Lunch over, I shrugged the backpack back on and we headed back from whence we came. It is amazing what a different view you get simply by turning around.
As we came out of the forest, we spotted the little bridge we had crossed earlier. Something drew us in to sit and enjoy the moment.
Shortly after crossing the bridge above, we had a choice to make. Hike through the trees for .8 km to get back to the car or take the 1.3 km Flower Loop along the river. We were starved for river views, so opted for the longer path.
All in all, we estimate we hiked about 14 km this day. The day was cool and breezy, the bugs were not a bother and it was an easy hike.