Opal Hills Trail: Amazing Hike in Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies has a large number of one-day hikes, and Opal Hills Trail is one of them. Read our hiking guide with tips on what to expect from the loop, where to find the trailhead, what to pack, where to stay, and how difficult is the hike.
Jasper National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and all outdoor lovers and hikers will for sure appreciate amazing trails this part of the Canadian Rockies has to offer.
Generally, the area around Maligne Lake is absolutely stunning, and if you plan your Canadian Rockies itinerary, make sure you will allocate at least one day to fully explore Maligne Canyon, enjoy vistas over Maligne Lake, and do at least one hike - it is for sure a good idea to hike Opal Hills Trail, one of the most rewarding treks in the Rockies.
There are many one-day hikes around Jasper, Sulphur Skyline Trail is also very popular, but Opal Hills Loop, despite the incline is a great option for everyone looking for a short half-day program and amazing views.
Here's our hiking guide on Opal Hills Trail, where you can read more in-depth information on difficulty, bear situation, we will share our experience from the hike, tips on what to pack and where to find a hotel in Jasper.
OPAL HILLS TREK TRAILHEAD
To get to the trailhead, drive for a while from Jasper along Yellowhead Highway, and then turn right to the Maligne Lake Road.
Follow the picturesque drive to the very end. In approximately one hour you should arrive in Maligne parking lot.
The Opal Hills Trek trailhead starts on the top parking lot at its northeast corner.
OPAL HILLS TREK LENGHT & DIFFICULTY
Opal Hills loop is 8 kilometers long moderately difficult hike which you should be able to to finish in three to five hours.
Because Opal Hills trek is quite short, it is a great and rewarding hike for anyone who wants to spend all day in Maligne area - it is absolutely doable to see Maligne Canyon, Maligne Lake and do Opal Hills Trek in one day. The first half of the hike goes straight up (you will gain 466 meters), but any moderately fit person should be able to finish the hike.
The highest point of the trail is 2200 meters.
Be aware that Grizzly Bears frequently traffic this area, ask at the information center in Jasper how is the current situation, sometimes the trail may be closed.
Bears are most common in the area in berry season between June and August which coincides with the main tourist season. You can find a board outside the visitor center in Jasper with the most up-to-date information where and when were bears spotted last time.
Buy bear spray and try to avoid the encounter with bears as much as you can. Remember you are only a visitor in bear country.
When hiking, make noise (sing, talk loudly to avoid an encounter with a bear) and hike in a larger party of at least three people.
OPAL HILLS TRAIL
The very beginning of Opal Hills trek is an easy walk across a meadow, but do not be fooled, you will have to deserve the beautiful views as the profile changes rapidly. After passing the warning sign telling us we should be aware of bears in the area, we continued straight until we found ourselves at an intersection where is the official start of Opal Hills hike (until this point the trail is shared with Mary Schaffer Loop).
From this point, we kept on the right side and climbed this trek counter-clockwise. You can choose what direction you want to hike the trail, but as it is a loop, it really does not matter, both parts of the loop were similarly steep. The path started to ascend steeply, and we gained 466 meters very quickly.
This part of the hike is really not that easy we breathed quite heavily here, but hold on, if you're moderately fit, you should be able to reach the open valley in less than one hour.
Finally, we emerged on the meadow fringed by the mountains on the right side.
This part of the trek was the most beautiful and the easiest to walk on, and we could finally see that the hard work paid off. With no trees and only bushes, berry patches and wildflower around we continued along the clearly visible pathway, and at the end we could see the path turning slowly to the left and back to the forest.
At this point, we had to leave the beautiful meadow and started the descent back to the parking lot. After a few kilometers, we reached the intersection where we originally turned right and returned the same way to the parking lot. Although the hike is close to the famous Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon, we were surprised that we met only a few people along the trail, as the views were absolutely breathtaking.
Our Tip: The Opal Hills trail features one of the most beautiful wildflowers in the Canadian Rockies. Best time to see it will be probably late June and July, so if you can, plan your visit accordingly. We visited this area in early September and were not disappointed at all, although the flowers were not in bloom anymore.
WHERE TO STAY IN JASPER
The closest town from the Opal Hills Loop is Jasper, which is for many travelers a base for visiting Jasper National Park.
Because of its popularity, and considerably small size, if you plan on traveling to the national park, it is necessary to make a reservation well in advance, especially in the main season between May and October.
We've handpicked three best accommodation options for every traveler.
Budget | Mount Robson Inn - It is almost impossible to find budget accommodation in the Canadian Rockies when not camping. This hotel is reasonably priced and offers clean facilities and excellent breakfast.
Mid-range | Jasper Inn & Suites - Convenient location, indoor pool, onsite restaurant, and clean and tidy rooms should convince you to stay here.
Luxury | Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge - You will hardly find better accommodation in Jasper. Beautiful surroundings, comfortable rooms, and great service are the main reasons to stay here.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
WHAT TO PACK FOR HIKING OPAL HILLS TRAIL
Opal Hills Trail is an 8 kilometers loop, and although it should not take you more than a half day to finish it, weather in the Canadian Rockies is unstable, and you should come well-prepared.
Here are five essential things you should bring along when hiking Opal Hills Trail.
Trekking Poles | We found trekking poles extremly helpful as the Opal Hills Trail goes first steeply up and then steeply down, so it is comfortable to use them to protest your knees.
Bear Spray | Opal Hills Trail is known for bear activity especially in berry season between June and August. For safety reasons, having bear spray is a must.
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