There are plenty of places to hike and enjoy nature in Jasper National Park, but a lot of places are wilderness. As much as I love nature, I didn’t come for a backcountry wilderness experience, so I stuck to day hikes that are more popular, so I was rarely completely alone. This hike out was one of the rare times I had almost near solitude. I saw literally no one on my hike out to Summit Lakes, and only saw about three couples on my hike back to my car. It was quiet and peaceful and a good way to engage with nature, though unfortunately I had no wildlife sightings out there.
There are a wide variety of day hikes to do out in Jasper National Park, but I was looking for some hikes that maximized natural beauty, but weren’t THAT strenuous. That’s the challenge of finding hikes in a mountainous national park- so many of them involve more elevation gain than I was looking for. So I thought it was lovely when I saw the Beaver Lake hike. Truthfully, the trail goes out to Beaver Lake, Summit Lakes (there are two of them), and ends in Jacques Lake. Back when I first started researching this hike, I thought maybe I could hike all the way to Jacques Lake and back, which you can do, but it is one long slog of a day of about eight hours of hiking. I knew the trail was fairly flat all the way out, but when I researched the trail a bit deeper, it was obvious that the trail out to Summit Lakes is pretty good and easy to follow, but the trail gets much rougher out to Jacques Lake, where it is much muddier, rootier, and rockier. Plus the time factor. As much as I love hiking, I didn’t want to spend the entire day doing one hike, when I wanted to maximize my time at Jasper National Park.
I started my day early the morning of my hike, as I typically do when I am on vacation. Not as early as my days when I visited Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, but still early enough. I was the only car in the parking lot when I got to the trailhead, which surprised me a bit, only because I had never been completely alone out on any of the trails on my vacation up to this point. I saw the sign that cautioned that part of the trail had washed out, but it had been rerouted, and set off.
The trail out to Beaver Lake especially is pretty flat (a couple very minor elevation gains), and the trail reroute was pretty easy to follow with trail blazes. Since there was still ample water on that part of the trail, I had to cross a cut log bridge, and another temporary bridge set up. But once I got past that, the trail was pretty level and wide. It is more of a pleasant nature walk than anything.
Sometimes it’s hard to gauge distance out on a trail, because I think I should have covered more distance in the time available. But even so, I was pretty surprised when I hit the edge of Beaver Lake, because it felt like I hadn’t been hiking out that long. Turns out that Beaver Lake is only a mile out, so that made sense time wise. The edge of Beaver Lake is a nice place to stop and rest and take in the view. It was very pretty lake, surrounded by mountains and casting some lovely tree reflections. You can tell this is a more family friendly stop, just because there are a number of picnic tables near the lake.
After taking it all in, I continued on to Summit Lakes. The path remains level and wide. There are occasional spots with mud and puddles I had to skirt, but not that extreme. At this point in my vacation, I had seen my share of mud, so I was used to it by this point. The trail continued along Beaver Lake for a time, though the trail doesn’t really skirt the lake, but I could see the lake through the trees. Once I got past the lake, the scenery was pretty typical woodland with mountains. I kept my eyes out for wildlife such as elk, moose, or even bears, but I didn’t spot any.
As I approached Summit Lake, I could see the end of the lake, and I encountered my first sign on the trail. There was a sign that indicated the trail took a right turn toward Jacques Lake, but I kept approaching the shore of Summit Lake. This is another pretty lake surrounded by a meadow, trees blooming in fall foliage, and mountains.
I knew that there were two Summit Lakes, and the other one lay just beyond the first one. I saw what amounted to a goat trail hugging the right side of the lake, and started to follow it, but was deterred when I ran into some water, as the lake water level had risen. Thinking I must be on the wrong track, I turned back and returned to the trail sign for Jacques Lake. The trail didn’t say specifically it went to the next Summit Lake, but I had looked on a map previously, and knew that the trail would pass by it, so I figured I would take it. It was a mistake, though not a great one.
Once I took the turn for Jacques Lake, the trail instantly turned narrow, rutted with rocks, roots, and the like. Plus it looked like it MIGHT have been rerouted a bit, because of trees blowing down. In any case, the trail can be followed, but it is eminently more difficult. I knew that eventually it would pass by Summit Lake, so even though my hiking enjoyment diminished instantly, I plowed onward to the next lake.
I had only hiked about 10-15 minutes when I saw the other Summit Lake on my left, and made my way down to it. It wasn’t a clearly marked trail, and I took note of where I came out so I could return to it. The second Summit Lake is nice, though not as big or picturesque as the first one. I knew I wasn’t going any farther, so I took the opportunity to just relax and enjoy the sounds and views of the surrounding nature.
Behind my resting place, I saw a small goat trail leading not back to the way I came, but it looked like it was a direct route back to the first Summit Lake. I figured I couldn’t go wrong, and if it proved to be nothing, I could just return to the second lake. But lo and behold, it turned out that this was a genuine (if narrow) trail connecting the two lakes. It was the other end of the trail I had started, but then abandoned, because I didn’t think it was an actual trail.
It was here when I encountered my first sign of human life as I ran into a hiking group heading to the second Summit Lake. And a few minutes later, I was at the edge of Summit Lake. The trail was very narrow, but visible, and I could see that the lake water level had risen, because at times the trail was now in the water, and I had to skirt it. But this trail was much easier and less frustrating to follow than the trail that headed toward Jacques Lake, and I realized I should have plowed on when I first found this trail.
The walk back to my car was as easy as the walk out, though I ran into a few more people, and wasn’t completely alone anymore. But it was still a nice and peaceful walk. It is definitely good if you like beautiful nature, and hope to get some solitude out on the trail, because I was never more alone in my hiking, than I was when I hiked out to Beaver and Summit Lakes.