Bald Hills

Bald Hills

Located in the southeastern portion of Alberta’s Jasper National Park, the Bald Hills comprise a scenic ridge overlooking Maligne Lake. For an easier hike, the Bald Hills trail offers surprisingly abundant scenery and great views of the surrounding mountain ranges. About an hour (30 miles) southeast of the town of Jasper, even the drive to the trailhead at Maligne Lake is tremendously scenic. Just off route 16, the 27-mile stretch of Maligne Lake Road winds through the mountains and around the shores of picturesque Medicine Lake, a lovely spot to stop and visit during the summer months. Upon arriving at Maligne Lake, the trail is accessed across the street from the last parking lot at the end of the road.

The trail begins with a gradual ascent through a lush forest. Don’t forget insect repellent; we found it to be incredibly buggy at the start of the hike and were feverishly spraying ourselves with DEET as we walked. Not long into the hike the route splits in two directions – a steeper hiking route climbs to the left, while the fire road (longer and more gradual) wraps around the hillside. As a larger group just ahead of us took the rocky, forested route to the left, we decided to continue on the fire road for more seclusion and to check out the scenery. This branch of the trail was indeed tranquil, and we seemed to abruptly split off from all the other hikers we saw at the trailhead. Hugging the outer side of the hill, the trail peeked out onto the countryside and was warmed by the bright, morning sunlight. And the best part? It was deserted. Eventually, the trail merged with the shorter route we’d skipped early near an old hitching post in a small clearing considered a “lookout.” While this spot does offer a glimpse of the vast Maligne Lake, stretching some 14 miles (22.5 km) long, continue to the Bald Hills summits for some really exceptional panoramas.

From the hitching post, the trail dipped through a small meadowland speckled with wildflowers, where pink moss campion, delicate mountain heather, and glaucous gentian, a distinct, shimmering blue-green alpine blossom, craned their stunted blooms toward the bright sunlight. From here, the path then ascended another hill before leveling off along the first section of the ridge.

After a flat walk, the trail climbed again to the summit of the first Bald Hill, abruptly giving way to fantastic, 360° panoramas. To the east and southeast, the majestic peaks of the Queen Elizabeth Ranges soared above Maligne Lake, with the glaciated summit of Maligne Mountain recognizable from the bare grey crests of its neighbors. To the west and southwest, the dark, serrated slopes of the Maligne Range plunged steeply to the intensely green valley below, carved by the rolling waters of Evelyn Creek.

To prolong the hike and the fabulous views, continue trekking along the treeless spine, as there are actually three Bald Hills summits along the ridge. Surprisingly, few people seemed to walk out beyond the first hill, allowing us to enjoy this part of the hike in near solitude. Atop the third summit, a large cairn indicates the trail’s terminus, though the abrupt drop off the end of the ridge makes the trail’s end quite obvious. Standing atop the final rocky outcropping that jutted out over the edge of the Maligne Valley was almost dizzying, and the views were simply unsurpassed. If you’re in search of an absolutely gorgeous hike, this one easily fits the bill, rewarding you with some really killer views for such little effort.

Pros – 360° panoramas of two mountain ranges & Maligne Lake, ‘bang for your buck’ scenery, beautiful alpine wildflowers
Cons – A seemingly more popular route