Wilcox Pass to the Red Chairs

View of Athabasca Glacier (middle) and Dome Glacier (right) from Parks Canada infamous red chairs.

Distance: 3.5 km

Elevation Gain: 194 m

Total Time: 1 hour 15 mins

Gaia GPS File

When I decided to do this trail, I wanted to go all the way to Wilcox Viewpoint. It is a total of just under 9km and I thought it would make for a wonderful afternoon. I wanted to do something with a view and something I have not done before. This one seemed to fit the bill. I didn’t make it the entire way.

Forest section near the trailhead.

There was one other vehicle at the trailhead when Kira and I arrived. The trail had clearly received a soft dusting of snow from previous nights and the person ahead of us was using their snowshoes. I took this to heart, knowing this trail was known for it’s snowshoe adventures. I don’t own a pair (I know, crazy right?) but I had my micro spikes (Costco pair), MEC brand gaiters, and trekking poles so I figured I would see how far that got me.

At this time of year (March), the trail was narrow but packed down. It was a moderate, steady climb up from the trailhead. With the slender trail, you had to keep watch on your footing so as not to get caught in the deep, unpacked snow. The tree wells were deep next to the trail as Kira found out a few times.

Looking back the way I had come. What a view!

It didn’t take long for us to be high enough to enjoy the views. A ridge was on the left as we hiked up the small amount of elevation. The views opened up and you could start to see the peaks in the distance. From this point on, I stopped quite a few times to take pictures. It is worth taking your time as every few feet brought you a new view to enjoy.

Athabasca Glacier to the right

As you climb, the view kept getting better.

The trail goes along a ridge towards the red chairs that Parks Canada has set up.

After about 1.5km from the trailhead, the forest is left behind and you open up to a ridge. The trail takes you right along the ridge and the views are 260 degrees from where you are. There is something new in every direction. You are drawn to the red chairs that Parks Canada installed in the distance.

Red Chairs on Wilcox Pass. Athabasca Glacier in the middle and Dome Glacier on the right.
Kira, enjoying the view.

Kira and I spent some time at the red chairs. The view was breathtaking. With Athabasca Glacier ahead and the lesser admired Dome Glacier on the left, this snack spot was inspiring. While eating, you can’t help but feel the expanse and enormity of the mountains in front of you.

On top of the ridge, who would have thought I would run in to two friends!

After a snack and water break, we continued on. The plan was to make it to Wilcox Viewpoint (I couldn’t wait to see MORE of the view!). As we walked away from the red chairs, someone started yelling. I turned around, Kira was wagging her tail, and realized that two of my friends just happened to be on the SAME trail at the SAME time. What are the odds? Of all the places to be, all three of us happened to be at this place on Earth.

We decided to head towards Wilcox Viewpoint together but didn’t make it far. The trail got deeper and less packed down.

Deep snow – trekking poles disappeared and the snow was up to mid-thigh.

I could see the snowshoe trail going forward and my Garmin inReach Explorer+ agreed that it was the right way. Kira went first but she started struggling. Her paws were sinking in to the snow and I started doing the same. The snow was midway up my thighs and my trekking poles disappeared completely into the snow. I swam my way over to another section that looked more packed down, but it was no use. Kira is lighter than me so she was able to stay a little more afloat than myself.

Talking to my friends, we agreed that we didn’t have the proper gear to continue on. So, we turned around and headed back to the red chairs. On my way back, I lost one of my micro spikes in a snow well. It must have fallen off when my feet were stuck in the snow and no matter where I looked, I couldn’t find it. The mountains claimed it. Someone will find it in the summertime – maybe me when I return!

Me at the red chairs

We took a quick break at the red chairs again. I took this opportunity to wipe the snow off my pants and took off my gaiters to dry them out. This part of the pass gets windy, so extra layers were needed as we rehydrated and refueled.

My friends, Kira and I headed back down to the parking lot. It was just as beautiful heading back down as it was heading up. The trail was definitely starting to warm up and thaw out. The snow was getting slushier and it was getting easier to slip. Especially without micro spikes!

I don’t regret turning around when I did, I was not prepared for that depth of snow.

This trail I will be returning to. I want to see what the viewpoint has to offer. I know that the wildflowers are stunning up there – I look forward to it. If it is this beautiful covered in snow, I can’t wait to see what it look likes in the summer!

Have you done this trail before? What time of year did you visit? Did you enjoy it?