Total distance: 39 km
Total elevation gain: 1600 m
Trailhead to Avalanche campground (one-way): 11 km, 590 m
Avalanche campground to pass (one-way): 4 km, 170 m
Replica Peak from pass (one-way): 2 km, 550 mView mapDownload GPS track
Maligne Pass is a wonderful alpine pass in a rarely-visited area of Jasper. While the trail is currently in excellent condition and all 7 bridges are intact and in good shape, the trail has been decommissioned by Parks Canada and will no longer be maintained. (I've heard conflicting information on the reasons for this - it's either to protect caribou or grizzlies, depending on who you ask). Once the bridges disappear over Poligne Creek this trip will be much more difficult, especially this time of year when the water is high. [UPDATE: I've heard that Parks will be re-commissioning Avalanche campground and possibly continuing maintenance on the trail to Maligne Pass. No word on the future fate of the bridges yet.]
Trailhead parking is located on the south side of Poboktan Creek; the actual trail begins across the highway bridge on the north side of the creek behind the warden station. Initially the trail follows Poboktan Creek, reaching an intersection near the 6 km mark. The trail to the right, crossing a bridge over Poligne Creek, will take you towards Jonas Pass (and eventually to Saskatchewan Crossing, if you're motivated!); for Maligne Pass head left, soon reaching a bridge over Poligne Creek. Immediately after crossing the bridge the ascent steepens considerably, but it is short-lived and soon is only slightly steeper than the trail along Poboktan Creek (overall, this is a very easy backpacking trip).
Decommissioned Avalanche campground is reached 5 km after the trail junction. While there are 4 sites here, Parks permits only one party per night, so you'll have the place to yourself. A very nice toilet, bear pole, picnic tables, and fire pits are still all in good shape.
Departing the campground for the pass, the trail quickly deteriorates to a muddy, rooty, and rocky quagmire and stays this way for 2 km before ascending more steeply along the lower slopes of Replica Peak. Occasional glimpses through the trees to the west reveal the vast alpine meadows of the pass and leave you wondering why you're suffering in the mud and trees when you could be roaming in the open. Near the 3 km mark, however, things open up considerably and the pass, with it's beautiful clear blue lake, is reached 4 km from the campground.
At this point we decided to ascend Replica Peak, the peak to the right (east) of the pass. To do so, we ascended the heather and scree slopes immediately to the east of the lake, contouring to the right of a steeper rocky patch. The scree is small shale and lose so you'll slide back a bit on the steeper sections, but otherwise this section of the ascent is easy. After gaining 250 m from the pass, crest the westernmost ridge of Replica Peak. Everyone should come at least this far as the view of the Maligne Pass environs is fantastic and its many lakes are ridges are visible, allowing you to plan further exploration.
To continue ascending Replica Peak, simply ascend this ridge. It's far easier than what you just did and the views, especially those to the southeast, expand considerably as you do so. Unfortunately, the ridge and the easy ascent end 70 m shy of the summit. At this point the only viable ascent route is via an alarmingly steep, 50 m high scree chute. The scree here is of varying stability and scree-human slides are common, but with the knowledge that a 5-year old had made this ascent on her own
, I persevered and crested the main ridge of Replica Peak within 10 minutes. At this point you're on solid rock and the remainder of the ascent is easy. My total ascent time was only 95 minutes, so it's evidently not that taxing. Views from the summit are remarkable; I'll let the pictures do the talking.
The descent from the summit, discounting distractions, is fast and easy. We then proceeded to explore the vast alpine meadows of the pass, using the knowledge we had gained from ascending the peak. Our wanderings through the occasionally boggy heather and along small ridges took us by 7 lakes of varying shades of blue, two ptarmigan, and countless flowers and ground squirrels. We weren't lucky enough to see any caribou or bear, but this is certainly their territory so keep your eyes open.
As our wanderings neared an end near the eastern end of the meadows I realized that the campground was a very short distance (perhaps 1.5 km) through the trees below us. Eagerly wanting to avoid retracing our steps back to the trail and enduring its swampy mud, we simply aimed for the campground and descended. Bushwhacking was very minimal and we reached the camp 30 minutes later. Bits of trail along the way suggest others have had the same idea, and if you're competent with routefinding I strongly recommend this route. One note: If your explorations take you to the far southeastern corner of the meadows this route may not be practical as there are some steep cliffs and scree; we stayed further north and avoided these cliffs. A view from Replica Peak helps in plotting your route.