Mount Robson Park: East end wilderness trails

Several trails are located at the east end of Mount Robson Park. They range from well-developed, hard surface trails such as the Yellowhead Mountain Trail to pure wilderness routes like the Moose River. The following will give an overview of each trail or route but it is recommended that hikers check current conditions/hazards at the Visitor Centre prior to starting their hike. All of these trails travel through bear country. Any trail updates will be posted under the park advisories for Mount Robson.

Yellowhead Mountain trail

Named after Pierre Bostonais (Tete Jaune), an Iroquois guide who worked for the North West and Hudson’s Bay fur trading companies in the early 1800s, Yellowhead Mountain remains, to this day, the guardian of the Yellowhead Pass. The pass not only marks the border between Alberta and British Columbia but is the subtle spine that separates the Pacific and Arctic watersheds.

Located 52.8 km east of the Mount Robson Park Visitor Centre, the Yellowhead Mountain Trailhead can be accessed by turning north at Whitney lake. A one kilometre drive will take you to a small parking lot located adjacent to the railway tracks. This trail will gain 800 metres in elevation in a distance of 8.5 km so it is only recommended for persons that are in reasonably good condition. At the 2 km point a viewpoint will provide excellent views of the surrounding mountains and lakes. After hiking an additional 6.5 km an sub alpine meadow system will be reached.

Although quite steep in places, the trail will reward you with wonderful views. As you gain elevation, note how the vegetation communities change. From valley bottom Pine, Fir and Aspen to sub alpine Fir and Black Spruce. There are no facilities or campsites on this trail, and it is recommended for day hikes only. Take plenty of water and enjoy this pleasant 3 - 5 hour return trip.

Mount Fitzwilliam trail

In 1863, while camped on the shores of Yellowhead Lake, Walter Butler Cheadle and William Wentworth Fitzwilliam otherwise known as Viscount Milton, gazed upon the “cone-like and terraced” mountain to the south and decided to name it Mount Fitzwilliam, after Milton's title, Viscount Milton of Fitzwilliam.

A royal name for one of the most impressive and imposing peaks in the Rocky Mountains.

The Mount Fitzwilliam trailhead and parking lot are located 54 km east of the Mount Robson Park Visitor Centre on Highway 16. Information shelter, parking and pit toilets are located on the shores of Yellowhead Lake. From there, cross to the south side of the highway and travel west along the pipeline right of way for 1.2 km.

Please register at the small info shelter located here prior to leaving the pipeline on the trail proper.

There are numerous switchbacks for the first two kilometres. At approximately 3.2 km the trail flattens somewhat. The first campsite is located 7.2 km up the trail along Rockingham Creek. A beautiful treed site with views of Mount Fitzwilliam. At this point one has gained 600 metres in elevation. Six tent pads, pit toilet and bear pole are located here.

After crossing the bridge over Rockingham Creek, the trail heads east around the base of Mount Fitzwilliam. The trail up to the main campsite on Rockingham Creek is a good hard surface trail while the trail beyond that point is rough, not very well defined and can be very wet early in the season and during rainy periods.

After going through open meadows, skirting the bottom of a rock slide the trail will come to a headwall at kilometre 11. Follow the trail markers up the left side of the gully. Caution should be used in this area. Slippery rocks and rockfall can at times be a hazard. An additional 2.5 km will take one to the wilderness campsite located at the north end of the first alpine lake. A bear pole, open pit toilet and three tent pads can be found here. There are a number of excellent day hikes available from this point.

Moose River route

The Moose River Route is just that, a route, not specifically a trail. This is not to imply that there is no visible trail but that there are a number of sections that cross braided gravel flats, or avoid marsh areas and may not be discernible.

This 5-7 day route is recommended for experienced backpackers only. Starting from the trail head on the north side of the CNR (Canadian National Railway) tracks by the Moose River, Highway 16 junction, the trail trends generally north following Resplendent Creek and the Moose River. A loop is possible on this route. At the 49 KM mark, the route will enter into Jasper National Park at Moose Pass. This point also marks the continental divide. The route then descends Calumet Creek, to the Smokey River, then back onto the Pacific side of the Continental Divide at Berg Lake. From the Highway 16 trailhead to the Berg Lake Campground is a distance of 66 km.

A number of wilderness campsites are located along the route. From the first one only 4.2 km from the trailhead to Berg Lake itself, several campsites can be found. Resplendent Creek camp, 15.3 km, Trio Mountain camp, 26 km, Steppe Creek camp, 38 km, Slide Lake Camp, 43 km, Calumet Creek Camp (Jasper), 52 km, Adolphus Camp (Jasper), 61.5 km and the Berg Lake Camp at 66 km. Several campgrounds are located as well on the remainder of the Berg Lake Trail should one wish to continue down the Robson River / Berg Lake Trail back to Highway 16.

Development on the Moose River Route is limited to primitive backcountry sites with open toilet bar, bear pole and rustic fire circle. The route is not regularly patrolled by ranger staff so hikers must be completely self-contained and able to contend with any eventuality one may encounter in a wilderness environment.

Depending on weather and melt off, the numerous unbridged river crossings can present a legitimate hazard. Late summer into early fall seem to offer the most reliable water levels, however creek and river levels can rise quickly after periods of heavy rain.

The entire route and in particular the section from just south of Steppe Creek to the Smokey River / Calumet Creek confluence, including Moose Pass, is   excellent bear country. Some of the best Grizzly Bear habitat in the park exists in these areas. Experience in bear avoidance, safe travel techniques and food storage and preparation are an absolute must for a safe experience. photo of hikers on the Moose River Route Wildlife along the route are typical of the Central Rocky Mountain Ecosystem, Grizzly and Black Bear, Wolf, Moose, Caribou, Mountain Goat, Whitetail and Mule Deer. A host of smaller animals include Wolverine, Coyote, Marmot and Pika. There have been over 182 species of birds documented in Mount Robson Park and the Moose River provides excellent habitat for many of these species.

A wildfire in 1998 in the Colonel Creek / Upright Creek area created a mosaic of habitats that will draw a wide variety of large and small animals in future years. In this area of the park, natural processes are encouraged to run their course. This would include, under appropriate circumstances, wildfire, windthrow as well as forest health issues. Excellent opportunities exist to observe natural succession after a large wildfire event.

There is a registration shelter at the Highway 16 trailhead and all parties camping in Jasper National Park will need a National Parks backcountry permit. Hikers camping on any portion of the Berg Lake Trail will need to register and pay overnight fees at the Visitor Centre prior to starting their trip. Up-to-date trail conditions can be obtained at the Visitor Centre as well.

The Moose River Route should only be attempted by experienced backpackers, self-contained and prepared to handle river crossings, wet marsh areas and uncertain mountain weather conditions.