The Brazeau Loop is a beautiful, awesome backpacking tour of the backcountry in the southern portion of Jasper National Park. It crosses five high passes, runs through fir forests, expansive meadows, and creek valleys. Brazeau Lake, a large turquoise backcountry lake is along the way, as well as the gorgeous turquoise Brazeau River. Along it are several well maintained trail camps with tent pads, picnic tables, fire pits, bear hangs, and "green thrones".
The Brazeau Loop is a rugged 50 mile run that crosses five high passes. There are several creek and river crossings, some bridged and some unbridged (the largest ones are all bridged).
Snow can linger into early July in the high meadows and over the passes, and it can snow as early as August.
The Brazeau Loop is typically done in 5-7 days.
The Brazeau Loop can be done either clockwise or counterclockwise. It can also be accessed from either the Nigel Creek Trailhead (the shorter route) or Poboktan Trailhead, a longer route. The description here is a description of the clockwise route from the Nigel Creek Trailhead.
The Nigel Creek Trailhead can be found on the east side of Icefields Parkway (93) just south of the Columbia Icefields.
Head north through the fir forest on a flat fire road for 1.1 miles. At this point, following a sign, go right onto the trail that soon crosses Nigel Creek on a log bridge. The trail then climbs through the forest following Nigel Creek upstream in its creek valley, surrounded by mountains. As the trail climbs the trees thin, the trail runs through meadows, and reaches Nigel Pass
A short drop then brings one to a Brazeau River crossing. After rock hopping across, the trail climbs briefly before descending down the rocky north side of Nigel Pass
following the Brazeau River that is far below. The rocks give way to meadows of the Brazeau River Valley, and then the fir forest, as the trail follows the Brazeau River downstream. in the forest, the Jonas Pass Trail junction is reached just after passing the Four Point Trail Camp. Go left here onto Jonas Pass Trail.
Continuing in the fir forest, the trail climbs a ridge along a half mile climb. The forest thins and mountains appear to the southeast. The climb then eases, although the trail climbs gently for the next 5 miles to Jonas Pass, as it follows Four Point Creek upstream in the creek valley meadows surrounded by mountains. Many side creeks that flow into Four Point Creek are crossed.
Jonas Pass, marked by a large cairn with caribou antlers, is reached. Jonas Pass is a long pass, at 2-3 miles long, in the alpine meadows as the trail gradually climbs to the cairn and then gradually descends. As the trail descends the north side of the pass, headwaters of Jonas Creek appear below, to the left.
A looming buttress is to the right, with a ridge running northwest from its base. The trail veers right to climb this ridge. Views in all directions get better and better as the trail climbs: expect mountains, snowfields, glaciers, a lake, and expansive creek valleys. The rocky ridge top—Jonas Shoulder—is reached and the trail then descends down the other side of the ridge into the meadows and then forest.
Jonas Cutoff Camp Access Path
is passed, and Poboktan Creek is then crossed to arrive at Poboktan Pass Trail
. Go right onto Poboktan Pass Trail
Here the trail runs along Poboktan Creek, with a few creek crossings that can be rock hopped. After one last creek crossing (for now), the trail climbs relatively steeply for a short ways, then more gradually as it goes through thinning fir forest, meadows dotted with firs, and then treeless alpine meadows. Awesome, expansive views of the mountains and meadows with valleys below, can be seen in all directions.
Poboktan Pass is reached. It is a long pass with the trail gently climbing to it and then gradually descending, for a total length of a little over 2 miles. Backcountry mountains and valleys can be seen in all directions. Headwaters of John-John Creek appear at the east end of the pass in the valley to the right (south). All very awe inspiring.
The trail then drops steeply back down into fir forest where it runs along John-John Creek in a narrow valley between two high rock ridges for about 3 miles. John-John Creek is then crossed. Continuing in the forest, the trail crosses the bridged Brazeau Lake outlet river, passes Brazeau Lake Camp Spur
, and veers right to run along the Brazeau Lake outlet river to the South Boundary Trail junction. Go right onto the South Boundary Trail to cross the Brazeau Lake outlet river again.
In the forest, the trail heads for the Brazeau River and climbing gradually, runs upstream along it, 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 meadows to finally arrive at the rocky north side of Nigel Pass
Retracing the early part of the run, climb up over Nigel Pass
, down its south side through meadows and forests, following Nigel Creek, to return to the trailhead,