- November 12, 2021
A scenic day of hiking followed by soothing hot springs, then sipping a cold craft beer . . . sounds like paradise. Or, better yet, utopia! That is exactly the kind of day you can look forward to if you decide to take on the challenge of summiting Utopia Peak, a mountain nestled in the Miette range just a short drive from the Overlander Lodge. The motivation to tackle 1,400 meters of elevation gain and three false peaks lies in knowing that after a ten-hour day your muscles will be rewarded with the natural hot and cold waters of the surrounding springs. Rated difficult, this hike provides everything a seasoned scrambler could ask for. However, it is not for the faint of heart. The challenge is not only in the elevation and navigation of a sometimes-tricky trail to decipher, but also the summit could prove difficult depending on your comfort level. There is a lot of exposure for last hundred meters, and this trail is advised for experienced hikers only. For those visitors with such experience, looking for something with less traffic than scrambles around the town of Jasper, Utopia Peak is a beautiful trail and exciting climb that is worth exposing yourself to.
Utopia Mountain was not actually named for the views along the journey, or the utopian meadows and peaks that surround it. It was once a route for surveyors who would take refuge from summertime blackflies, relishing in the bug-free bliss of the mountain's base. However, the route itself also makes this peak suitably named. A beautiful creek-lined trail begins the journey, allowing you to listen to the bubbling river and rushing nearby waterfalls that you can find along the way. Eventually a flag marker will signal the trail on the climber's left of the river. A steep incline begins through the forest, the sounds of water drifting away as you find sanctuary in the shade of the trees. Eventually the trail emerges in a lovely alpine valley, offering you the first close up glimpse of the ridge you will climb to the summit. The route may seem intimidating, and in fact there are two options to reach the summit. You can follow the ridge to the climber's left for some hands-on scrambling or make the slightly slower trek up the scree to the climber's right. Both options will lead you to a false peak, but the views stretching out over the Sulphur Skyline are still stunning from here. If the remainder of the summit is too exposed, the valley below is a scenic place to picnic while looking out toward the many mountains nestled beyond the Miette Hot Springs. However, if your heart and legs are in favour, it is a fun challenge to scramble to the finish.
A notch is nestled between the false summit and the true summit, so you will have to descend along the exposed ridgeline. Climbing down into this rocky pocket, the boulders around you act as framework for the surrounding peaks. This view gives just the right amount of motivation needed for the last few hundred meters, scrambling which looks more daunting than it is. Once you manage the ascent, the view rewards you with some of Jasper's largest peaks, including Edith Cavell toward the west. You will find yourself looking down at the majestic slope of the small curved peaks that make up the Sulphur ridgeline. The satisfaction of the surroundings, and the accomplishment of tackling Utopia's exposure, will give you the energy to begin your descent. It is best to go down the scree back toward the valley and make your way home along the creek following the same route that brought you to the base of the ascent.
Upon return it will truly make sense why this is a mountain not to be missed. The varied landscape is a pleasure to the senses, with bubbling creeks and waterfalls adding the soundtrack to your adventure filled day. As you find yourself crossing back over Sulphur Creek toward the parking lot, it will be satisfying to know you have stashed away a fluffy white towel. Swapping your hiking gear for bathing attire, nothing will feel better then soaking your muscles in the Miette Hot Springs, while soaking up the views. Afterwards, a quick drive will take you to Folding Mountain Brewery for that cold beer to balance those hot waters. After enjoying some drinks and dinner, you can finally call it a night and return to your cabin where utopia takes on a whole new form with a cozy bed and a nice, long sleep!
- November 11, 2021
Folding Mountain Height: 2,117 metres (6,945 feet) Elevation Gain: 1,167 metres (3,829 feet) Distance: 16.2 km (10.1mi) Average Time: 7 – 10 hours Trailhead: Located behind Jasper East Cabins, marked trailhead Additional Notes: Dog friendly. No water sources on route. Best hiked between June and Sep