Tangle Ridge is located in the Columbia Icefield section of Jasper National Park directly across the Icefields Parkway from the second highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Columbia. But the views don’t stop there. Between Columbia and Tangle Ridge lay Mount Kitchener and Snow Dome. In clear view to the southeast are the popular climbs Mts. Athabasca and Andromeda. Sharing the same valley with Tangle Ridge are the aesthetic Nigel and Wilcox Peaks. Behind Tangle Ridge to the north is Sunwapta Peak. Tangle Ridge was officially named in 1907 due the difficult experience some early parties had descending Tangle Creek to the north.
The only published route on Tangle Ridge is the easy scramble up south slopes via the Wilcox Pass Trail. The only variation is in the descent. Despite 3800’ in elevation gain, this is one for non-climbers. Many photographers grab this opportunity to get to 10,000’ in the Icefields without technical difficulty. That being said, the weather in this section of the Columbia Icefield is fickle, thus, waiting for a clear day with clear views could try your patience and available time.
As with all high alpine in the Canadian Rockies, Tangle Ridge is not a bad place to identify a wide assortment of flora. On our trip, we nailed many a species, including White Cama Lilies, Bracted Lousewort and Indian Paintbrush in all shades including yellow & burgundy, as well as alpinized strains.
The Trans-Canada Highway dissects Banff National Park east to west as you come in from Calgary. Continue past the Banff and Sunshine Ski Resort exits to Lake Louise. Exit onto the Icefields Parkway. Drive 130 kms+/- northwest to the Columbia Icefield Center. Continue for approximately 7 kms to the Tangle Falls parking area on your left (falls on your right). There are restrooms at this location.
There is a park kiosk as you enter the Icefields Parkway which serves as a forced stop to check park driving permits which you should already have. The Icefields Parkway is probably the most “wildlife viewed” road in all of North America. I have witnessed moose and bear crossing the road in this area. I advise following the speed limit for that reason. We encountered a black bear crossing the parkway at Mosquito Creek in 2005.
You will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter the parks via Banff, Jasper or Rocky Mountain House. This pass is good for all four national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year, you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in Jasper National Park, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry versus the town campsites. This can be obtained via the parks website which is included in the camping section below. Park headquarters are located in Banff and Jasper and you will drive through the manned kiosks as you enter the parks from any direction.
This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person. I advise checking with Parks Canada
for any area and/or trail closures.
When To Climb
As with most climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Tangle Ridge in July and it was in dry condition. There are no published backcountry ski routes up Tangle Ridge, but it would make for a nice ski outing. I highly recommend giving it a go via backcountry skis.
The closest camping is located back east eight kilometers at the Columbia Icefield Campground
located on the north side off of the Columbia Icefields Parkway. You can go on line at Jasper National Park
to pick your camp site and obtain your camping permit. You will also be required to obtain your backcountry permit, if you are going to use a backcountry site, which is separate, but can be obtained simultaneously.
Mountain ConditionsJasper National Park’s website
has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association
is also useful, particularly for winter travel.
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