Rocky Pass, Jasper
I hiked up Rocky Pass yesterday, a trip I tried three weeks ago but got turned back by deep snow on the ascent to the pass. The trail to the pass was in terrible shape as well but has improved somewhat since then. The rivers have been running high in the Jasper area so I wasn't sure what to expect when I got to the Cardinal River. I got an early start and was very happy to see that there were no other vehicles at the trailhead and never did see anyone for the entire trip. Even after hiking the Rockies for over four decades, I still get excited when I get to an empty trailhead. The first three kms you follow the Cardinal River Headwaters trail which is an old seismic line which has been decimated by quads and horses. It's a shame, because that trail to the headwaters of the Cardinal was the finest mountain bike trail anywhere in the Rockies. At km 3 you leave that trail and follow a quad track for a short distance until you reach the banks of the Cardinal River, less than one km. The trail drops down to the river which needs to be crossed three times in about 1.5 kms to reach the ascent to the pass. Although the river was running high and fast it was still a fairly easy crossing. The ascent to the pass starts immediately after the third crossing. The trail is no longer a trail as a nearby creek has re-routed onto the trail but the hiking is still easy. There were a couple of snow drifts near the top, but the snow was packed solid and was easy to cross. The pass itself is about four kms long and the trail is in perfect shape, although there is some willow bashing that needs to be done. Where the trail starts its long descent to the Medicine Tent River is where the canyon starts with dozens of beautiful waterfalls in it. The gorge is very deep and stunning in its beauty.
For most of the hiking season, trying to keep your feet dry is futile. When you hit the first standing water you may as well just walk straight through it, because the first five kms is all about water. Maybe, if the summer is dry, by late August or September you may be able to stay dry. Even with all the water and boot sucking mud, this hike is well worth it. I saw lots of grizzly signs on the trail but didn't see one until the drive home.