The trailhead to Wilcox Ridge and Pass is found off Highway 93 at the entrance to Wilcox Campground, just east of the Icefield Center. The trail is light-moderate and is well traveled up to the pass entry and ridge. This trail offers excellent views of the Athabasca Glacier over the Icefield Center as well as beautiful mountain meadow views. The Wilcox Pass continues NW to the area near Tangle Creek if one is so inclined to continue all the way through. Unfortunatley, our trace was lost, however one can see the trail lines on the map below.
The first leg of the hike out from the parking lot is the steepest section of the entire route, although overall it is not particularly demanding for anyone is moderate physical condition. The trail is wide and footing is good.
As you gain in altitude views of the Athabasca Glacier begin to open up to your left over the tree line, along with views of the flanking glaciers. Every new vantage point offers a unique view of the Athabasca Glacier, which is the origin of the Sunwapta River. After about 1km of hiking you come to a set of red lounge chairs that look across to the glacier and Sunwapta Lake over the Icefield Parkway. Take a moment to sit here to soak it all in. If you go no further, it is worth getting to this point.
Beyond the chairs the trail carries on and eventually becomes more rocky. On the left as you continue your hike is a coulee that takes runoff down from the pass. On the far side we could see bighorn sheep lounging in the intermittent sun. Given the colours of the terrain, and the distance from the trail, you had to make an effort to find them. Our cameras were not sufficient to get a decent picture of what the eye could discern.
Continuing along the coulee up the trail the mountain meadow opens up on your way to the entrance to Wilcox Pass. Water was running across the trail in places which we always enjoy crossing. This image looks back along the trail …
… this one towards Wilcox Ridge and Peak …
… this is into the Wilcox Pass …
… and this one towards the right and back towards Nigel Peak.
Shortly one comes to the end of the main trail and is presented with several options: 1) turn back and call it a day; 2) push through the Wilcox Pass; 3) turn left and head to Wilcox Ridge; or, 4) traverse Wilcox Ridge and on up to Wilcox Peak. On this day we elected to hike the extra distance to Wilcox Ridge, however, both the pass and the peak are future adventures awaiting us.
The sign marker to Wilcox Ridge tells you there is 1.4k ahead of you, which is up and over a few hills before the actual ridge is reached. We first crossed what must be the beginning of the water running through the coulee, then we did a snow crossing up the next hill. The trail is well marked and hikers should avoid making new trails in order to preserve the unique flora of the region.
It does not take long to get to the Ridge. The views are incredibly impressive and we just wanted to sit and marvel at the sight before us which includes full-on views of the Athabasca Glacier and the Dome Glacier to the right. Mounts Athabasca and Andromeda are on the left, the Icefield Center is below us. Somewhere on the glacier is a few large buses taking tourists out onto the ice. This is a popular place to stop as many people enjoy the view.
This is the Dome Glacier.