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Skyline Trail Backpacking Guide, Jasper National Park

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Last Updated: September 5, 2023

The Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park is a spectacular backpacking destination in the Canadian Rockies. Of the 44.1 kilometers of trail (27.4 miles), nearly two-thirds of the route is above treeline. You can expect sweeping mountain views in all directions, beautiful glacial lakes, and wind-swept ridges for miles. Usually completed in 2-4 days, the trail climbs over three mountain passes along a moderately graded path. You’ll encounter diverse flora, including a breathtaking wildflower display in August, as well as vast meadows that are great for viewing wildlife, from caribou to pikas. Since the Skyline is one of the most coveted backcountry hiking trails in Jasper, securing a permit for this trail can be challenging. However, if you’re lucky enough to obtain one, you’re in for a fantastic high-alpine adventure.

Quick Facts

Distance: 44.1 kilometers (27.4 miles)

Days needed: 2-4 days

Elevation gain: 1,410 meters (4,625 feet)

Peak elevation: “The Notch”, 2511 meters (8311 feet)

Low elevation: Depends on starting point: The Maligne Trailhead is 1,690 meters (5,545 feet), whereas the Signal Trailhead is around 1,300 meters (4,265 feet)

Best travel time: Early July to late October, with the best conditions window between late July to mid-September

Permits: Required, more info below

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult, more info below


  • Approximately 25 km./16 mi. of the hike stays above treeline
  • Stunning panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies in all directions
  • A moderately graded path and mellow elevation profile
  • Well-maintained and well-marked trail
  • Many free, interactive maps to help with planning
  • Pockets of solitude due to permit process limiting foot traffic
  • Several gorgeous, unique campgrounds
  • Bear boxes and picnic tables at campgrounds
  • Convenient shuttle service options


  • Highly competitive permit process due to popularity
  • Permitting can make coordinating groups tricky
  • Susceptible to quickly changing weather conditions – the trail can be very windy above treeline, and storms can manifest suddenly
  • 9 km. (5.6 mi.) To and from the Signal Trailhead is a forested road walk
  • Campfires not permitted
  • Expect limited or no cell service

Best Time to Hike

In general, July through September is the best time to hike the Skyline Trail, although those who are prepared for rain, snow, and mud can trek through the shoulder seasons. Snowpack is a key factor for trip planning in this area, as snow can linger on the passes, especially The Notch, until late in the summer. Rain and snow can fall at any time of year and freezing temperatures are possible even in summer months.

As always, be prepared to diligently monitor current and upcoming weather conditions before your trek in this region. Before heading out, reference the Jasper National Park trail report for up-to-date conditions.


  • Total Distance – 44 kilometers (27 miles)
  • Total Elevation Gain/Loss – 1,410 meters (4,625 feet)
  • Overall Difficulty – Moderate to Difficult

We rate this hike as moderate to difficult. You will have a steady climb on your first day regardless of which trailhead you choose to start from. After that, most of the route will undulate up and over three moderate mountain passes on a well-graded trail. Even the descents from the passes, which can be strenuous for many, are reasonably gentle. That means happy knees and ankles!

As always, difficulty ratings depend on your experience, physical fitness, pack weight, and weather conditions. Any hike is likely to be difficult if you’re carrying 50+ pounds, or you’re attempting a multi-day hike after months of streaming TV from your couch. This is not a technically demanding hike, but you should plan accordingly, train properly, know your limitations, brush up on your skills, and dial in your gear. These steps will make for a safe, gratifying, and unforgettable adventure.


A backcountry permit is mandatory for hiking the Skyline Trail. Permits can be obtained online atreservation.pc.gc.caor by calling 1-877-737-3783 (1-519-826-5391 outside of North America). Since this is one of the most sought-after backpacking trips in Jasper National Park, we recommend booking as early as possible. Consider making a reservation at minimum 3 months in advance, although spots begin to fill in January. If you are unable to snag a spot so far ahead of time, continue to monitor the website regularly as there are occasionally cancellations.

Trailheads & Shuttle Info

The Skyline Trail has two trailheads, Maligne Trailhead (south) at 1,690 meters elevation and Signal Trailhead (north) at 1300 meters elevation. For easier logistics, we recommend beginning the trail at Maligne and ending at Signal. Most people complete the trail by using the Maligne Adventure’s Shuttle, which allows hikers to park their car at the Signal Trailhead and take a 45-minute bus shuttle to the Maligne Trailhead. At the time of this update, the cost was $42 per person and we felt it was well worth it for the convenience.

Getting There

Signal Trailhead: Located 15 minutes from the town of Jasper, head east on Hwy 16 towards Edmonton. Two kilometers from Jasper, turn right onto Maligne Lake Road. After 8 km, look for a sign with a small hiker symbol on the right, designating parking for the Signal Trailhead. If you hit Maligne Canyon, you’ve gone too far.

Maligne Trailhead: Located one hour from the town of Jasper, head east on Hwy 16 towards Edmonton. Two kilometers from Jasper, turn right onto Maligne Lake Road. Continue on this road for 48 kilometers until arriving at Maligne Lake. Pass the chalet and cross the bridge, then keep going to the parking lot on the west side of the lake. Maligne trailhead is on the right side of the road, just before the parking lot.


There are six campsites along the Skyline Trail. All campsites have seven individual sites that can be booked, with the exception being Evelyn Creek (which has four). For more information on individual campsites as well as a map and elevation profile for each, visit Jasper National Park’s information page.Below are the distances of each campsite from Maligne Lake.

  • Evelyn Creek – 4.8 km. / 3 mi.
  • Little Shovel – 8.3 km. / 5.2 mi.
  • Snowbowl – 12.2 km. / 7.6 mi.
  • Curator – 21.3 km. / 13.3 mi.
  • Tekarra – 30.9 km. / 19.2 mi.
  • Signal – 35.6 km. / 22.2 mi.

How Long Does It Take?

Most people complete the Skyline Trail in three days, but faster and more experienced hikers can complete it in two. Those who prefer a leisurely pace, don’t mind covering less distance each day, and wish to thoroughly explore the alpine terrain, may choose a four-day trip. At CleverHiker, we enjoy hiking and keep our packs light, so we completed the trail in two days and would hike it that way again. Below are three potential itinerary options:

Two Day Trip

  • Starting Trailhead: Maligne Lake
  • Day 1 hike: 21.3 kilometers (13.2 miles) to Curator Camp
  • Day 2 hike: 22.8 kilometers (14.1 miles) to Signal Trailhead

Three Day Trip

  • Starting Trailhead: Maligne Lake
  • Day 1 hike: 12.2 kilometers (7.5 miles) to Snowbowl Camp
  • Day 2 hike: 18.7 kilometers (11.6 miles) to Tekarra Camp
  • Day 3 hike: 13.2 kilometers (8.2 miles) to Signal Trailhead

Four Day Trip

  • Starting Trailhead: Maligne Lake
  • Day 1 hike: 8.3 kilometers (5.16 miles) to Little Shovel Camp
  • Day 2 hike: 12 kilometers (7.45) miles to Curator Camp
  • Day 3 hike: 10.1 kilometers (6.27 miles) to Tekarra Camp
  • Day 4 hike: 13.7 kilometers (8.51 miles) to Signal Trailhead

Maps & Guidebooks

  • Lonely Planet: Banff, Jasper, and Glacier National Parks – We used this book for planning all our trips in this region and would recommend it. Although it provided a good overview, it did not give all the specifics needed to complete the Skyline Trail.
  • National Geographic Trails: Jasper South – This map provides in-depth information about the Skyline Trail, including campsites, mileage, and elevation. You will also be able to use this map for other hikes in this area.
  • Parks Canada Jasper Park Website – We’ve been continually impressed with Parks Canada information on various trails and the Skyline is no exception. Their backcountry guide offers clear and detailed information on completing the Skyline Trail.


According to the Parks Canada site, the following regulations are in place for the Skyline Trail. We are not an official source on current regulations, so please consult the official website prior to your trip.

  • No campfires
  • No dogs
  • No bikes allowed between Maligne Lake and Signal Fireroad


Water is plentiful along this trail and easily accessible from small streams. Make sure to carry enough water to get from one source to the next and use a lightweight water purifier. Every campsite along this trail has nearby running water. We carried the SteriPEN Ultra and were happy with its performance. Two other good lightweight options are the Sawyer Squeeze and Aquamira Drops.

Bears & Food Storage

Jasper National Park is home to a healthy grizzly and black bear population. At each campground, there are food storage facilities (bear lockers or hanging cables) for nighttime food storage. Be sure to stow all items with a smell that could attract bears (food, garbage, toiletries, etc.). In addition, each campsite has a designated cooking area with picnic tables to ensure that all food-related activity is away from where you sleep. Please abide by these regulations to limit bear-human interactions.


During the most popular summer hiking months – especially late July into late August – the Canadian Rockies are home to hungry mosquitoes, flies, ticks, and other insects that can make your hiking and camping experience less than ideal. Even though much of the Skyline Trail travels through enough windy, alpine terrain to prevent swarms, take it from us – it’s worth planning ahead when traveling to buggy areas.

For the peak of summer, our advice is to cover clothes in Permethrin and bring a small bottle of bug repellent, like Picaridin Lotion, for exposed skin. We also recommend wearing long clothes to minimize exposed skin, avoiding scented products like flowery deodorants, or even consider bringing along a light headnet for relaxing in the evenings.

Backpacking Gear

We prefer lightweight backpacking because it’s more comfortable and it allows us to cover more ground with less effort. For recommendations on our favorite lightweight backpacking equipment, check out the CleverHiker Gear Guide and Top Picks page.

What to Pack


We used the Nemo Dagger OSMO 2P tent on this trip for its lightweight livability. The Dagger isn’t our top pick, but it still makes our list of the best lightweight backpacking tents.


We used the HMG Southwest 40 and GG Gorilla backpacks on this trek. Both are lightweight, convenient, comfortable, and make our list of the best lightweight backpacking packs


We used the Feathered Friends Egret UL 20 Women’s and REI Magma 15 Men’s sleeping bags on this trek for nighttime temperatures around freezing. Both sleeping bags are lightweight, incredibly warm, and make our list of the best backpacking sleeping bags.


We used the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite NXT and Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated sleeping pads on this trip. Both are light, comfortable, warm, and make our list of the best backpacking sleeping pads.


We used the BRS Stove, Snow Peak Mini Solo Cookset, and TOAKS Long Handle Spoon on this trek, all of which make our top picks gear list and best lightweight stove list


We used the SteriPEN Ultra as our main purification method on this trip. It’s lightweight, works fast, and doesn’t require any pumping/squeezing or chemicals. Check out our best water purifiers list for our other top recommendations.


We wore Saucony Peregrine trail runners (men’s and women’s) on this trail and they were excellent. If you prefer boots, make sure they’re lightweight and break them in well before your trip. Here are our lists of the best hiking shoes and best hiking boots.


Jasper National Park is home to a healthy grizzly and black bear population. In grizzly bear country, you should always hike with bear spray and know how to use it properly. We also recommend reading Parks Canada’s in-depth information on Bears and People as you prepare for your trip.


A small rechargeable headlamp like the Black Diamond Spot 400-R is an affordable, bright, and lightweight option.


When backpacking the Skyline Trail you’ll have to carry all your food and use the food storage lockers provided at each campsite during the night. For some suggestions on common backpacking food options, check out our backpacking food guide or our list of the best freeze-dried meals.


Here are some of our favorite hiking/backpacking clothing items from our Top Gear list


Although the trails here are well-marked, you always want to hike with a good map. For our trip, we hiked with the National Geographic Trails: Jasper South map, which provided detailed information on campsites, trails, and mileage. In addition, we always hike with a compass, though the trails were easy to follow and we didn’t end up needing it on this trip. We also used the Lonely Planet guidebook to help us plan out our entire trip in the Canadian Rockies and found it very helpful.


Always bring a small personalized first aid kit. We used the .7 Ultralight Kit and added extras, like painkillers and personal medications.


Sunglasses (polarized recommended), sunscreen, and SPF lip balm are an absolute must.


We brought along a small Swiss Army Knife, which came in handy here and there.


  • Small towel: PackTowl UltraLite
  • Cash and ID
  • Permits
  • Rechargeable power bank
  • Phone
  • Personal toiletries
  • Hand sanitizers: Always apply after using the bathroom and before eating.
  • Wet wipes: These can be useful for cleaning up after hiking.
  • Insect repellant: Treat clothing with Permethrin and use Picaridin on exposed skin.

Skyline Trail Slideshow