Backpack the Tonquin Valley

Canada Tonquin Valley Trailhead, Jasper National Park

  • Activities:

    Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Point-to-Point

  • RT Distance:

    43.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1640.4 Feet

Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Forest
Groups
Lake
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

The Tonquin Valley takes you into Jasper National Parks renown backcountry. The trail is a must do for any avid backpacker as it provides breathtaking views of Amethyst Lake and the surrounding Rampart mountain range. This trip can be done in 3 days but one can easily spend up to a week exploring what the Tonquin has to offer.

The Tonquin Valley is well known for its strong grizzly bear population. If you plan on tackling this hike check bear warnings prior to leaving and always keep a can of bear spray easily accessible.It also is recommended that hikers wait till late summer or early autumn to complete this hike. Early season rain and snow cause muddy conditions and deteriorate trails. If one comes up to muddy sections stay on the trail as going off trail causes further damage to the area.

There are two ways one can access the Tonquin Valley. The more popular and scenic route is the Maccarib Pass. This trailhead is accessed by the Marmot Basin Resort road and is located right next to portal creek. The second way to get into the valley is via the Astoria River trail. This trailhead is located across from the Mount Edith Cavell hostel. It is the shorter but steeper option of the two as it consists of multiple switchbacks that aren't very forgiving. Both trails lead into the Tonquin Valley and meet up at the Amethyst Lake Campground. Once in the valley one can day hike the Eremite Valley and Chrome lake trails.

The Tonquin Valley has a total seven campgrounds along the trail as well as two privately operated backcountry huts. Due to the trail's popularity these all tend to fill up fast so make sure you book your accommodations early. All of the campsites are equipped with bear poles, tent pads, eating area and a green throne so you can answer nature's call. During the earlier months the campsites are infested with mosquitoes so don't forget your bug spray!

One of the downsides to the Tonquin Valley is there isn't actually a complete loop where you can return to your car. Because of this most people hike into the valley and then go back out the way they came in. An alternative is to hike point to point and then hiring a shuttle to bring you back to your car. Hitchhiking back is not recommended as you can get caught at the trailhead during less busy times of the year.

Pack List

  • Trail Map
  • Tent
  • Backpack
  • Boots
  • Gaiters
  • Stove
  • Food clothing
  • Rain gear
  • Appropriate clothing
  • Bear spray
  • Bug spray
  • Camera
  • Campsite reservation (https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/Jasper%2FBackcountryCampsites%2FTonquinValleyTrail%3FMap)
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Reviews

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We hiked this loop mid August, and enjoyed the truly spectacular views and ever changing surroundings. You walk in via one valley, cross over via a lake, and then back out another valley with totally different scenery. One of the nicest hikes I've done. I would come back for this one and do it again anytime. Totally recommend. Some practical advice: - Edith Cavell road is restricted, but when you book your campgrounds, a permit to enter the road is included. So don't let this stop you. - We booked the only campgrounds that were available: Clitheroe on day one, and Maccarib on the second, thus forcing the direction of a start at Astoria. Hiking the path, we thought that the other way around would probably give the best views, so do that if you can. - Campgrounds were all booked solid but there were a lot of no-shows. So the second night we actually stayed at Portal, which we did not book but was more convenient for us. 40% no show at Clitheroe, 75% no show at Portal. Go figure. - There were A LOT of mosquitos, some people used face-nets which was smart. Especially down by the lake, and the Clitheroe campsite were bad. No problem at Portal and Astoria. - The best sightings of wildlife, and supposedly the best views are at Surprise point, which was booked solid so we did not get a chance to go. People stayed up there a night or two and did small day hikes, which seems like a good option. Would do that if I did the hike again. - The trail is not a complete loop, so you need to find a way to work out transport between the start and the end. We parked our car at Astoria trailhead and hitchhiked back when we got to the end of the trail, which was easy and worked quite well. If you do this, try to get to the trail end before noon, to improve your chances of a ride. We met various people who took a taxi between the start and end point, which costs 100 dollars (!). Most people arranged their lift / taxi / ride so that their car was already at the end point of the trail, thus taking out any risk of not getting to your car on the way back. An other option, involving some trust, would be to give your car keys with people you meet on the trail, to who ever gets to the end of the trail first. They can then leave your car with your car keys hidden away at your end of the trail. There was some talk of this as well. You meet a lot of nice people while hiking this hike :-) - If you are done with the trail, a really worth while short stop is the Angel Glacier at Mount Edith Cavell. Will take you 25 minutes extra including the sightseeing. - Which campgrounds to stay at, really depends on your itinerary etc. From our experience, I would say the following: Astoria was tucked away in the forrest, not the best views. Use only as an easy exit point when hitchhiking back to Portal the next day. Switch-back was located on top of a mountain, seemed like some really nice views. We heard they had a lot of mosquitos. We stayed at Clitheroe, which did not have nice views nor convenient facilities and a lot of mosquitos, would not recommend this one. Maccarib seemed nice, right by the river, good views. Portal also had excellent views and was easy to use as an exit point when hitch hiking back out to Astoria the next day. Surprise Point was the one that everybody we met was very enthusiastic about. It would add another day to your hike but could be really worth it. Enjoy the hike!

about 1 month ago
about 1 month ago

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