Brazeau – Jonas Pass, Jasper


August 1987 with Murray.


Jonas Pass is a lesser-known trail that actually crosses two high and fairly remote passes in the southeast part of Jasper National Park. It’s part of what’s now known as the Great Divide Trail, connecting with the Maligne Pass and then Skyline trails south of Jasper, and further south via the rough Cataract Pass trail to Sunset Pass in the northern area of Banff National Park. It also connects with and forms part of the longer Brazeau Lake circuit, as well as the much longer South Boundary trail.


We did it as an end to end hike which involves drop-off/pick-up/hitching. One end is at the Nigel Pass trailhead, south of the Columbia Icefield in Banff National Park, and the other next to the Sunwapta Warden Station (then known as Poboktan or Mile 45). Jeff dropped us off at the Nigel Pass trailhead and we planned just to hitch home two days later from Mile 45.


Nigel Pass is fairly easy to hike into from the Icefields Parkway, and day hiking it gives you a chance to look across into lightly travelled wilderness. Nigel Pass and Peak are named for Nigel Vavasour, one of the native guides on Mary Schafer’s expedition to find Maligne Lake, which followed much of this route.

looking toward the Icefields Parkway from Nigel Pass:


The descent from the pass into the Cataract Creek valley was steeper and rockier but levelled out on its way to Four Point campground, our stop for the first night. The South Boundary trail continues downstream from here to meet the Brazeau River, but for Jonas Pass you go up a side valley which comes out into a long and open pass where you feel like you could spend a week. But the pass is a sensitive area (caribou habitat) and you can’t camp there, so you have to hike through the pass in a day. Jonas Creek runs down from the north side of the pass and meets the Sunwapta River and the Icefields Parkway where there is a good small campground, and a huge and really interesting roadside boulder field (if you’re a lichenologist), but that route is impassible to hikers. So you have to keep going even higher up and over Jonas Shoulder. The pass is moderate but the shoulder is steeper, tougher and even more spectacular.


On the other side of the shoulder it’s longer and steeper down until you get to the Poboktan Creek trail and the next campsite. For a longer trip you can go upstream to Poboktan Pass and then down to Brazeau Lake, but on a three day trip you just go downstream and out. We spent the second night at the Waterfalls campsite which didn’t have much to recommended it apart from a convenient location. Oh, and a nice waterfall. I don’t recall there being more than one so I can’t say why it’s called “waterfalls” plural.


The hike out from there wasn’t very interesting, and the only thing I remember about it was that it poured rain while we were hitching back to town. If I was to do this again I would stay on the north side of Jonas Shoulder then hike back the way we came to experience the pass from both directions. 


Looking down to Jonas Pass from Jonas Shoulder


Looking to Poboktan Pass from Jonas Shoulder


And I think this is looking down Poboktan Creek from the shoulder