The Rockies are power! Mountains to the left, mountains to the right, mountains everywhere. The sun clings to their sharp peaks. Blue streams rush at the foot, overtaking each other. The Rocky Mountains is a place that is better seen once than heard a hundred times about!
I love the Rocky Mountains! The turquoise lakes of Banff, the incredible views of Mount Robeson, the waterfalls of green Yoho, the quaint canyons of Kootenay. But most of all, the charming and stunning Jasper.
Jasper Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. It’s all full of snowy peaks, crystal lakes, violent rivers, waterfalls, hot springs, glaciers, 1,200 kilometres of hiking trails, and the world’s second-largest dark-sky nature reserve…
Since the nearest international airport is almost 400 kilometres from the city, there are no crazy crowds and hour-long lines for parking in Jasper. There are a lot of tourists in season, but you can always find a beautiful piece of wilderness for yourself.
Jasper National Park was founded in 1907 and is a Unesco World Heritage Site (like all other Rockies parks).
What is a must-see and must-try in Jasper Park – I will tell you in this article.
Download the “Rocky Mountains from Vancouver by car in 8 days” itinerary
What to see in Jasper Park
Jasper: Where to Eat and Stay
Jasper is a small alpine town with a population of about 4.6 thousand people (2020). The trading post was founded on this site in 1813 by the North West Company, and after – came into possession of Hudson’s Bay. Since then, of course, a lot has changed. Today you don’t come to Jasper for the animal skins, but to see one of Canada’s most beautiful places.
The city is so compact that there is no public transportation. There are a lot of hotels, restaurants and cafes though. You are supposed to travel through the wilderness (in your own car, cab, or tourist shuttles) and return to civilization to rest, eat delicious food, and buy souvenirs.
Where to eat in Jasper:
- Sunhouse Cafe – coffee, breakfast, brunch
- Wicked Cup – coffee, breakfast, brunch
- Alba Restaurant – Italian cuisine, chic balcony with a view of the sunset
- The spice joint Jamaican café – sandwiches, wraps, salads
- The Raven Bistro – Mediterranean + Canadian, reserve in advance
- Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria – pizza
- Jasper Brewing Company – beer, Canadian cuisine
- Bear’s Paw Bakery – bakery
- Scoops & Loops is an ice cream parlour
Where to stay in Jasper:
Hotels in The Rockies are quite expensive and they are quickly sold out. You can spend the night in nearby Valemount (just don’t forget that it’s in a different time zone!)
Campgrounds – at the link
There are over 1,700 lakes in Jasper National Park! Most of them are hidden in the mountains, but the largest and most beautiful can be reached directly by car.
Famous for the small picturesque island – Spirit Island, which many times appeared in commercials of large companies. You can take a 90-minute guided cruise to the island or take a kayak with an overnight stay in a campsite.
By the way, we didn’t get on the cruise even with tickets. Driving from Valemount, we forgot about the difference in time zones and were an hour late! I was almost upset when two moose came out to the lake to drink water. Pursuit, the company where I booked the boat, had no problem swapping a missed tour in Jasper for another one on a lake in Banff.
For a list of trails at Maligne Lake, follow this link
One of Jasper’s most mystical lakes. Every fall it almost completely disappears. In the spring, streams from the glacier flood the valley. Water does not have time to pass through the ground into the underground caves and accumulates in the form of a 7-kilometre lake. It drains gradually, like a full bathtub without a plug.
In summer there is a lot of trout and, as a consequence, almost all the local fauna: grizzly, black bears, caribou, sheep, moose, wolves, etc.
Along Maligne Lake Rd there are several lookouts on Medicine Lake
Lakes Edith and Annette
A trip to Jasper is not without a picnic, a swim or a walk at Edith and Annette’s. These two bluish-green lakes are located next to each other. Stunning mountain panoramas, sandy beach, tables and parking spots.
A small lake near the town of Jasper. Pyramid Island and the bridge leading to it is a popular local instagram spot.
Great place for paddle boarding or kayaking and stargazing.
Other lakes worth seeing in Jasper Park
Valley of Five Lakes: five tiny lakes connected by an easy 4.5 km trail. Look for red chairs for the best view!
Horseshoe Lake: Horseshoe-shaped lake is one of the deepest in Jasper. Trails, lookouts, cliff jumps (for experienced jumpers)
Cavell Lake: a lake with ice floes at the foot of Mount Edith Cavell (3,363 m), the highest peak visible from Jasper
Maligne Canyon is a 10-minute drive from town. In some places, it is two meters wide and goes down fifty feet! Maligne is the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park.
At the entrance to the canyon, there is a huge parking lot, toilets and a restaurant. There are lookouts and trails with stairs and climbs through the park. A map of all the trails is at the link.
Mountains, glaciers, canyons – you don’t have to go far to find waterfalls in such rich terrain in Jasper. I will tell you about the most famous ones:
Athabasca Falls is considered one of the most powerful waterfalls in the Rocky Mountains of Canada. The Athabasca River, fed by the Columbia Icefield glaciers, plummets 23 meters down the canyon at this point. It’s a great sight!
Parking and a lookout are 500 meters from Icefields Pkwy, a 30-minute drive from Jasper.
There are several trails nearby; plan to spend at least half an hour here. In the early morning, it’s cool at the waterfall. Rainbows can be seen closer to evening.
A spectacular waterfall worth stopping at on the way from Jasper to Banff (and vice versa). The turbulent river originates in the Athabasca Glacier, skirts a small island and cascades down between the rocks. Walk to the top and the bottom.
I liked it just as much as Athabasca (even though it’s less popular).
Other waterfalls worth seeing in Jasper Park
Tangle Creek Falls: a beautiful waterfall by the road, near the Columbia Icefield Skywalk
Snake Indian Falls: incredible wild waterfalls, how to get there – read here
About halfway between Jasper and Banff is one of the largest non-polar ice fields in the world, Columbia Icefield. Its size is about 325 square kilometres (a little more than the area of Malta), and the depth varies from 100 to 365 meters! Columbia Icefield is about 10,000 years old, includes 6 glaciers and is surrounded by some of the highest peaks of the local Rocky Mountains. Part of the ice field is visible from Highway 93 – my favourite stop in the Rockies.
Stutfield Glacier Viewpoint
Large, comfortable observation deck with spectacular views of the Stutfield Glacier. It is located on the other side of the river, there is no way to get closer, and the official trails are also not marked.
Columbia Icefield Skywalk
A one-kilometre hiking trail at the edge of the cliff, overlooking the glaciers and the Sunwapta Valley. It comes out to a platform with a glass floor at a height of 280 meters.
It’s a complicated, expensive project, but everything is well organized inside and the views are beautiful. Be sure to take an audio guide that talks about the history of the glacier and the local nature.
Book your tickets in advance online, the skywalk bus starts from Columbia Icefield Discovery Center.
The place, in general, is wonderful, but you can not drive up in your car. We lost some time on the transfer and waiting for the bus. If you’re going, order the Columbia Icefield Adventure, with a trip to the glacier.
Athabasca is the most visited glacier in North America. Its ice is in constant motion. Because of global warming, Athabasca has halved in size over the past 125 years.
Next to the glacier are the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center and a huge parking lot. Along the trail, you can walk up to the base and trace the path of the glacier retreat (more than 1.5 km) on the signs. The trail is not the easiest, through a rocky climb. It’s windy.
If you get hungry, the Discovery Center has a restaurant, Starbucks, and great free picnic tables overlooking Athabasca Glacier.
Jasper Park Entertainment
Jasper National Park is open year-round. In summer, its guests enjoy hiking in the mountains, swimming in the clearest glacial lakes, water sports and horseback riding. In winter, they ski and dog-sled, bask in hot springs and gaze at the endless starry sky. Some ideas for how to entertain yourself in Jasper:
Cruise on Lake Maligne to Spirit Island
There are mini-cruises on Lake Maligne to Spirit Island, one of the most photographed spots in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The walk lasts 90 minutes. You can order by following this link.
Miette Hot Springs
Miette is the hottest natural spring in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The water temperature in the pool is kept at 37-40°C. Hot spring water improves blood circulation and oxygenation, as well as metabolism and the removal of toxins. The contraindications can be found here.
Miette Hot Springs operates from May to October. For more information, visit the official website
Jasper SkyTram Gondola
The best panoramas of Jasper National Park at 2,263 meters! In each Jasper SkyTram cabin, there is a guide who talks about the geology, flora, fauna and history of the region during the trip.
There are several trailheads and a Summit restaurant at the top. You can find tickets here
Walking the Maligne Canyon
Organized hike through Jasper’s deepest canyon (summer and winter tours)
The best day trails at Jasper Park are at the link
The best multi-day hikes are here
Hiking Brazeau: 3 Days in the Canadian Rocky Mountains – a video report of how we hiked this amazing trail
If you have an extra day or two, I highly recommend the Berg Lake Trail at Mt. Robson park – one of the most beautiful hikes in Canada. Read here how we conquered it. Be sure to bring bear spray and check the Parks Canada website to see if the trail is open.
In 2011, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada listed Jasper as one of 17 Dark Sky Reserves (the second largest in the world). The light pollution is minimal and there is a well-developed infrastructure. In October, Jasper hosts the annual Dark Sky Festival, where thousands of amateurs, scientists, astronauts, and even Hollywood celebrities gather(October 14-23, 2022)
The Jasper Planetarium is open year-round.
Canoeing/kayaking in Jasper Park
Where to swim:
Lake Annette, Lake Edith, Patricia Lake, Pyramid Lake, Medicine Lake, Lac Beauvert, Talbot Lake, Leech Lake, Maligne Lake, Athabasca River, Miette River
Where to rent:
There are several levels of difficulty in rafting rapids. If you are a beginner – take no more than class 2. Wear waterproof clothing (less splashing if you sit in the middle of the boat). Take a change of dry clothes with you on the bus (which takes you to the point of raft launching). Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Rafting is one of the highlights of my trip to Jasper. How we paddled down the rushing rapids in a little inflatable boat. Splash, splash, splash and a lot of fun! There was a panorama of crazy beauty all around, and it took my breath away! I definitely plan to do it again!
We rafted down the Athabasca River to Old Fort Point. Booked a tour with Jasper Rafting Adventures, loved it all. Other companies in Jasper:
- Maligne Rafting Adventures
- Jasper’s Whitewater Rafting Company
- Rocky Mountain River Guides
- Jasper Raft Tours
Hike on the Athabaska Glacier with a guide
A unique opportunity to explore the 10-thousand-year-old ice of a vanishing glacier. A safe hike with equipment and a guided tour. Order here:
- Icewalks.com: there are tours for 3 hours (May through October) and more challenging 6 hours (July through September). Information and costs – here
- Pursuit: tours for 3-4 hours and 5-6 – at the link
- Viator: tours for half a day and longer (+reviews) – here
Ice Explorers tour of the Athabaska Glacier
An alternative way to get to the glacier is to take a tour on the Ice Explorer all-terrain bus. It’s called Columbia Icefield Adventure, it also includes the Columbia Icefield Skywalk (taken right after the glacier)
Columbia Icefield Adventure tours (with a stop at the Columbia Icefield Skywalk) depart every 15 to 30 minutes daily from late May through mid-October. The adventure lasts about 2.5 to 3 hours there and back.
Tickets can be purchased on the Pursuit website.
Other entertainment ideas in Jasper Park
- Dog sledding
- Wildlife Tours
- Horseback riding: Jasper Park Stables, Tonquin Valley Adventures
- Mountain bikingadventure
- Canada’s first golf resort
- Ski season at Marmot Basin
- Ice skating on a frozen lake (Mildred Lake, Beauvert Lake, Pyramid Lake)
- Climbing and canyoning
Jasper National Park Pass
A pass is required to enter Jasper National Park
For one day (in CAD$, for 2022)
|Adult (18-64 years old)||$ 10.5|
|Adult (age 64 and older)||$ 9|
|Children (under 17 years old)||free|
|Family (up to 7 people in one car)||$ 21|
Valid until 4 p.m. the day after purchase. Covers entrance to Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, Waterton Lakes, Elk Island
Unlimited for one year – Discovery Pass (in CAD$, for 2022)
|Adult (18-64 years old)||$ 72.25|
|Adult (age 64 and older)||$ 61.75|
|Family (up to 7 people in one car)||$ 145.25|
Covers admission to more than 80 national parks and historic sites for 12 months.
When is the best time to go to Jasper
The busiest months are July and August: high hotel prices, lots of cars and people. All activities are open (rafting, tours, etc.), great weather, camping, hiking and water activities
Off-season – late September, October, June: few people, lower prices, cooler weather, dark sky festival, hiking
December – March: winter activities, ski season at Marmot Basin
March-May: very few tourists, cold, suitable for wildlife watching, hiking
The best time to visit Jasper is in the second half of June and the first half of September. A little fewer people, good weather, all the entertainment is open.
Plan to spend at least two days in and around Jasper.
- There is only one gas station on the way from Jasper to Banff, The Crossing Gas Station and Store. Fill the tank before you leave
- Wild animals come out on the highway, especially in the mornings. Be careful!