Post #154: Above the peaks

August 12, 2022


After more hot showers to wake us up in the cold morning, we headed to the nearby town of Jasper, nestled under Rocky Mountain peaks. Much smaller than Banff, Jasper was still fast asleep when we arrived just after sunrise. 

Good morning, Jasper, Alberta

We walked along the quiet streets, found one open shop to buy Susan a coffee, checked out the first totem pole of our trip and stopped briefly in the visitor’s center once it opened.

The Raven Totem Pole, carved in the 1870s, was a landmark in Jasper for over 100 years
About halfway to the trailhead, we pulled over when we saw a few big horn sheep grazing along the side of the (nearly deserted) road near the Athabasca River

Susan did a little online research and found what looked to be a challenging six-mile summit hike with terrific views within Jasper National Park and off we went. The Sulfur Skyline trailhead was within the park near Meitte Hot Springs, about an hour’s drive from town. 


We pulled into a parking lot at the trailhead and made breakfast on a picnic table surrounded by mountains. I hurried through oatmeal, eager to get started. During breakfast, another hiker who’d just completed an early morning hike up the trail warned us the mosquitoes were usually thick along the trail so we slathered up on DEET. Then we grabbed our hiking poles and staff and headed up the hill.

Susan had read that the 6-mile out-and-back hike would be a burn, with 2,200 feet of elevation gain in just a few miles on the way up, and it was. The trail passed through pine and fir forests with occasional views of  nearby granite peaks. It was a pleasant 75-degrees as we huffed up the trail. 

Multiple half-domes marched along the ridges that were now below us

A final very steep quarter-mile hike brought us through the tree line onto a bald summit where we were rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views of rugged mountains. The most extraordinary view was of a ridge that looked like four and a half Yosemite Half Domes in a row

At the treeless top, we joined a half-dozen other hikers who were soaking up the exhilarating view
Green hillsides abutted granite cliffs in every direction

A stiff wind blew up as we darted from edge to edge like kids, trying to see everything, overwhelmed by mountains on all sides.


After a while, we slowed down and tried to absorb the incredible beauty of this most-perfect summit.

Sitting didn't stop us from turning our heads to see the amazing views in every direction
Another couple took in the expansive view from a perch farther down
Even an agile chipmunk had to watch his step on the precipitous cliff

In some places, a misstep on the jagged rocks would mean a fall of hundreds of feet. 

Susan is comfortable sitting on the cliff's edge
Charles, not so much--but this spot had back support so he went for it

We sat perched on the rocks for a while, enjoying the views, the sun, the breeze and much-needed PB&J sandwiches.

Three of nearly a dozen bighorns on the hillside

On one side of the mountaintop, a small herd of bighorn sheep wandered a few hundred feet below, grazing and ignoring us as the wind blew hard.


Eventually, we headed 2,200 feet back down to the truck and reflected on what we’d seen. It had been a challenging climb, but well worth it for the reward of some of the most spectacular mountain views we’d seen. 

Contrary to what we were told, there hadn’t been any mosquitos on the trail. Before heading to the truck, we stopped at a building by the nearby hot springs and used the restrooms to wash off the greasy repellent we’d applied earlier.


Soon we were back on the road. We left the park almost exactly at 4pm when our national park pass expired. Heading northwest, we drove for about five hours until it was nearly sunset, around 9:30 pm. 

We eventually found a boondocking site a half-mile off the highway at a small pretty lake with surprisingly few mosquitoes and watched the moon rise as the sun set over the lake. We heated up some water and had a simple, late dinner of ramen noodles before settling in for the night.

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