There are stunning hikes throughout Jasper National Park, and many are located near the town of Jasper itself. Because of the convenience of their location, however, these hikes are usually packed with day hikers during peak season, which makes your attempt to escape the crowds of the city, well, anything but an escape.
If you want to avoid playing “follow the leader” while trekking through the forest, the shoulder season for the Rockies tends to fall in the autumn during the few weeks before the ski hills open and in the spring, right after the ski hills close. This is when there are fewer people in the park, and the trails located close to the town are usually empty of hikers.
One of my favorite shoulder season hikes close to town is the Valley of The Five Lakes. If you want to see stunning blue water and escape into the trees for a couple hours while enjoying a mild trek this is the hike for you.
The trailhead is located on Hwy 93, 9 km SSE of the Jasper Townsite. The parking lot is left off of the highway and clearly marked as P15.
There are a couple different loops that you can take. The full trek is around 7 km, but you can also do a 4.2 km loop or just walk to the first lake and back out.
The trail is clearly marked, so keep your eye out for signs so you don’t miss your turn if you are taking the shorter trek.
This is an easy trek.
There are a few small hills, but the maximum elevation gain is only 80 m (262 ft). Note that If you are hoping for a grand sweeping view, this is not your hike — you might want to try the Sulphur Skyline Trail instead.
There are some rocky areas on the trail and the pathway can get muddy if there has been a recent rain or melting snow.
This trail is located in an area of the park where there are often bear warnings.
Make sure to check-in at the Visitor Information Centre before you head out, and carry bear spray with you if you are concerned. (Note: You can rent bear spray from many of the outdoor stores in Jasper town).
Make sure to wear warm clothing or bring layers, as weather can change quickly in the mountains. You won’t need any specialty footwear — runners are fine if you don’t have hiking boots.
You may want to get some spikes to wear if there is still ice in the park to make sure you don’t slip. These can be purchased or rented in Jasper.
The path is fairly wide and dirt for the majority of the hike. Watch out for rocks, mud, and any slippery spots.
The first part of the trail leads you to a bridge over a small stream, this is where the path branches off to various other trails. Continue straight to the Fifth Lake.
The Fifth Lake is beautiful and the trail takes you straight to the shore. There is a dock that you can walk out onto and benches for you to sit and enjoy the view.
Continue past the Fourth, Third, and Second lakes — enjoy the mossy forest floor (make sure to stay on the trail so you don’t damage the moss) and the stunning forest views.
Between the Second and First lake — the longest lake — you can turn left and head back to the parking lot. Or, you can continue straight for about 2 km before looping back if you would like a longer trek (marked as 9 in the image of the trail map above).
Note that during the shoulder season, trail 9 doesn’t get a lot of traffic and so this is where you may encounter wildlife. Make sure to talk or sing with your hiking buddy so any animals can hear you coming.
The last time I hiked this trail, my sister and I were the only hikers that seemed to be doing the full loop, and when we were about halfway down trail 9 we heard a growl coming from one of the bushes nearby. We got out of there pretty fast and were just fine, but it definitely got our adrenaline pumping!
You end up back at the first bridge that you crossed at the beginning of the hike, so if you want to take one last look at the Fifth lake before heading back to your car, this is your chance.
Otherwise, trace your footsteps back to the parking lot and give yourself a pat on the back. You did it!
Meet The Author
Lindsay Shapka is an avid traveler and the creator of The Anthrotorian — a website dedicated to sharing travel tips, stories about adventures, culture quirks, artists you should know, fascinating bits of history, and more!
She is also an artist, marketing specialist, editor, and freelance writer who has work featured on websites, blogs, and in magazines like National Geographic Traveler.