There are countless hikes in the Canadian Rockies, but few offer such beautiful vistas as early on as the Indian Ridge does.
That is if you choose to skip walking up from the valley bottom, by taking the Jasper SkyTram for the first 10km/1000m ascent and start the hike to Indian Ridge from the top of the Gondola.
The Indian Ridge Hike is an 8-kilometre return with close to 800 metres of elevation gain and is rated as one of the best hikes in Jasper National Park.
The trail starts at the top of the Jasper SkyTram not too far from the Whistlers Summit.
If you are hardcore or taking a Gondola is not within your budget you can choose to hike to the top of the Whistler’s mountain first, but do bear in mind that you will just add another 10 kilometres and more than 1000 metres of elevation gain to an already challenging hike.
Completely unnecessary if you ask me. Just forgo a few mornings take out coffees or late-night beers and take the gondola instead. Trust me, you will make it way more enjoyable for yourself and for your knees!
Hiking the Indian Ridge in Jasper National Park
Once you arrive at the upper terminal, the hike starts its first ascent up to Whistlers Summit, named after the high pitched whistle Marmots make. From here Indian Ridge is visible to the southwest.
With a ride up the Jasper SkyTram gondola, I was able to complete this hike in 4 hours, but I reckon a more reasonable time would be 6. I could have easily spent more time walking along the ridgeline, but a summer storm was rolling in.
Just a week before I got caught in a lightning storm and downpour, whilst backpacking the Skyline trail in Jasper NP. Certainly an experience I didn’t want to repeat again so soon.
On a nice day, the Indian Ridge hike is very easy to follow and the path is visible for several kilometres ahead of you. After reaching Whistlers Summit you’ll then lose a couple of hundred meters of elevation only to start again a relatively sharp ascent that finishes once you reach the ridgeline.
The last 20 minutes of the ascent to Indian Ridge present you with a challenging scrambling over a loose shale slope. We were consistently making little rock slides. Occasionally we released a huge beach ball-sized boulder, sending it hurtling down the mountainside.
Luckily, we were on the first 8 am gondola flight and started the hike to Indian Ridge very early, so there was no one behind us. If there’s someone ahead of you, consider asking them to go as a group or giving them lots of space and keep your eyes peeled for stones and rocks flying down.
Upon reaching the high point of the ridgeline it’s possible to see Mount Robson in the Yellow-Head Range, Victoria Cross Range, Collin Range, Maligne Range and of course Mount Edith Cavell – one of my favourite subjects to photograph in Jasper National Park.
On the return journey, near the upper gondola terminal, the views over Jasper are fantastic. You could see the layout of all the lakes that I had been to and photographed earlier in the week.
Another bonus of this hike, amongst many others, is that once we’ve completed the hike, we popped into the Skytram summit restaurant and ordered a couple of ice-cold beers. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the completion of a challenging ridgeline.
If you’re into wildlife, there are loads of marmots and chipmunks to be spotted. We were even lucky enough to see an eagle swooping around hunting for its next meal.
If you are up for the challenge consider hiking the Indian Ridge during your next road trip around the Rockies. You certainly shouldn’t be put off by the 50$ charge to use the gondola, it’s an experience in itself and the hike offers views like no other. Don’t forget to take a packed lunch, some waterproofs in case the weather turns bad, sunscreen, and most importantly, your camera.