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South Boundary Trail: Nigel Creek Trailhead to Brazeau Lake

Intermediate/Difficult

Trail

18.3 mile 29.5 kilometer point to point
96% Runnable
Intermediate/Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 1,368' 417 m
Descent: -1,828' -557 m
High: 7,255' 2,211 m
Low: 5,705' 1,739 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 3% (2°)
Max Grade: 27% (15°)

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Trail shared by Joan Pendleton

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Climb over a pass to descend into the mountainous Jasper NP backcountry along the beautiful, turquoise Brazeau River.

Joan Pendleton

Features Commonly Backpacked · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Camping along this trail is limited to the established trail camps. Permits and reservations are needed for the trail camps. They can be gotten online at the Parks Canada permit/reservation website: https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/

Need to Know

The South Boundary Trail is a remote, long distance, 120 km (75 miles) trail along the southern boundary of Jasper National Park. This trail description is for 18 miles of it at its southern end, from the Nigel Creek Trailhead to Brazeau Lake.

From the Cataract Pass Trail junction at mile 5.0, to the Jonas Pass Trail #131 junction at mile 8.9, this trail is a segment of the GDT (Great Divide Trail).

Description

The Nigel Creek Trailhead and South Boundary Trail can be found on the east side of Icefields Parkway (93) just south of the Columbia Icefields.

From the trailhead, the South Boundary Trail (also called Nigel Pass Trail here) heads north along Nigel Creek (to the right of the trail) on a flat fire road through fir forest for the first 1.1 miles. At this point there is a sign showing that the running trail turns right, off of the fire road, onto a singletrack trail. Nigel Creek is crossed on a log bridge almost immediately, and the trail then climbs through the fir forest as it follows Nigel Creek (now to the left of the trail) upstream. The trees thin as the trail climbs, and views of the mountains to the south emerge. Continuing to climb, the firs become sparser and the trail runs through meadows with mountains rising on both sides of the Nigel Creek Valley that the trail runs through. After a final push, Nigel Creek peters out and Nigel Pass is reached at the 4.8 mile mark.

From here, the South Boundary Trail makes a very short descent to the head waters of the Brazeau River that must be rock hopped or waded through. On the north banks of the Brazeau River is a trail junction with Cataract Pass Trail. Go left here and climb the rocky north banks of the Brazeau River to continue on the South Boundary Trail. From here, the trail does a steep descent on the rocky north side of Nigel Pass. The Brazeau River can be seen far below in a canyon-like valley, with a huge, barren mountain towering over it.

At mile 5.8, the descent eases and the trail rounds a bend to the right to reveal an awesome view of the Brazeau River running through broad meadows in the valley far below. Continuing to descend, the trail leaves the rock behind and enters the valley meadows. At mile 6.7, the trail crosses the Brazeau River on a sturdy bridge. From here until the end of this section of the South Boundary Trail, the trail follows the Brazeau River downstream on its west side, sometimes next to the river, and sometimes a bit away from the river, but the beautiful, turquoise Brazeau River is alway there as the trail goes through forest and lush lowland meadows. And the trail descent going downstream is gradual with a only few very short climbs.

Poboktan Pass Trail, which marks the end of this trail description, is reached after 18.3 miles, on the north side of the bridged crossing of the Brazeau Lake outlet river that flows into the Brazeau River.

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Photos

The Brazeau River runs through meadows at the base of the north side of Nigel Pass. This awesome view surprises upon rounding a bend in the trail when descending the pass.
Aug 2, 2018 near Jasper…, AB
Nigel Creek is below the trail near the Nigel Creek Trailhead.
Aug 2, 2018 near Jasper…, AB
Evening along the Brazeau River at the Four Point Trail Camp
Aug 2, 2018 near Jasper…, AB
The gorgeous turquoise Brazeau River in the mountains of the backcountry of Jasper National Park, along the South Boundary Trail
Aug 1, 2018 near Jasper…, AB
The forest thins into meadows dotted with firs as the trail climbs to Nigel Pass from the Nigel Creek Trailhead. Headwater streams of Nigel Creek run to the left of the trail.
Aug 2, 2018 near Jasper…, AB
Headwaters of the Brazeau River run far below an unamed peak, as seen when descending the north side of Nigel Pass on the South Boundary Trail.
Aug 2, 2018 near Jasper…, AB

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