After passing by many wardens cabins in my life, this was the first time I have ever had the privilege to stay in one. From what I have seen of some, it wasn’t that desirable of a goal anyway, but a friend of mine was part of the party that renovated this cabin, and you could say it’s on another level.
Lucky for us, we were one of the first to book the cabin, scoring the week over Christmas 2019. With kids aged 10-17, it was an achievable target for us to spend a snowy Christmas in the back country.
|Trailhead Altitude:||1,462 m (4,796 ft)||Trail Length:||13 km|
|Cabin Altitude:||1,510 m (4,954 ft)||Difficulty:||Class 3 (Traverse: Class 4)|
|Altitude gain:||137 m (449 feet)||Map:||82/C13 (Medicine Lake)|
|Trailhead to Hut:||3-7 hrs to hut||Grid Reference||501651|
On Highway 16, 5 minutes easy of the east entrance to Jasper, you’ll find the turnoff to Jasper Park Lodge and Maligne Lake. Head left toward Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake for 15 km. Approximately half way to Maligne Lake, you’ll find Medicine Lake, a temporary lake that drains each fall and reappears each spring. Toward the far end of the lake you’ll find a parking lot at the trailhead of the Jaques Lake trail.
Leaving the parking area to the north east, you’ll find a large information sign. Heading past the sign you’ll follow an old fire road that is easy traveling other than a gradual incline as you follow the stream up the drainage. At approximately 1.5 km, you’ll see Beaver Lake to your right. The trail will begin to level out, still following the uneventful old fire road.
At 5.5 km, you’ll reach the first of the 3 Summit Lakes. In winter, you can attempt to carry on directly across the lake as long as the weather has been cold and ice is thick enough. Proceed with caution though, as these lakes stay open much longer than others in the area. The Summer trail takes an obvious 90° to the right about 50m before you reach the lake, and skirts around the North side of the first 2 lakes. The winter route follows the lake to the other side, where an obvious taper takes you back into the trees and a scrub swamp before arriving at the second lake. Head across and follow it as it bends to the right. At the end of the lake, the trail will climb up straight out the end of the lake and into the trees 15m before connecting again with the Summer trail.
Continuing along, the trail will turn north and east, winding it’s way up the left (west) side of the tightening valley leading up to the pass. The trail is still quite wide and well traveled.
Eventually, you will crest the pass and then see the trees begin to clear as Jacques Lake reveals itself. In summer, the trail continues to the west of the lake, but if the lake is frozen over in winter, you can ski up alongside the creek until you are able to gain the solid ice on the lake. Note that where the creek leaves the lake, the ice will often be thin from the moving water.
Jacques Lake Hut
While crossing the lake, the hut is just out of view at the far end, in the clearing to the right. Again, the creek at the north end will make the ice thinner, so I’d suggest keeping to the right, and exiting near the large tree. Once off the lake, continue right and the hut will reveal itself.
Where to stay
The most comfortable accommodation in the area is the Jasper Park Lodge, although it’s heritage and location also make it the most expensive option. Jasper, which is 20-30 minutes from the trail-head is the next easiest option.
The Wapiti winter campground is also open and offers powered sites with showers if you are opting for a quick stop to get an alpine start.
Refer to Parks Canada rules if you are considering the possibility of an overnight bivi.
Download the Jacques Lake Hut Trail – GPX
What you need to know
Parks Canada requires:
- an entry pass that can be purchased at the entry gate.
- a backcountry permit (or annual wilderness pass)
Alpine Club of Canada requires reservations and payment to gain access to the locked Jacques Lake Hut. Voluntary registration with the warden is optional but recommended.