What a delight the Pigeon Mountain hike near Canmore turned out to be. Once you…
Visitors to the Rockies often don’t make it past Banff and Lake Louise. But if you have the time, not only is it worth the drive to Jasper along one of the most scenic highways in Canada – but better yet, spend a few days in the Jasper area. It’s not as busy as the Banff – Lake Louise corridor and there’ so much to do.
Described are 10 things to do in Jasper – all within an hour’s drive of the town in summer. No matter what you decide to do, go prepared with the right clothes and gear. You’re in the mountains and the weather is fickle. Also be sure to carry bear spray with you that is easily accessible and not on the back of your pack. I have only run into bears once on a trail – and that was in Banff National Park but I’d rather have my bear spray at the ready.
What to do in Jasper – Visit Patricia and Pyramid Lakes
Drive to Patricia and Pyramid Lakes – only 15 minutes away from the Jasper townsite. Hike the loop trail around Patricia Lake or rent a canoe and explore the lake. You can also walk across to the island pictured below and enjoy a picnic by the water.
Ride the Jasper SkyTram
Take the Jasper SkyTram up Whistlers Mountain and feast your eyes on the incredible high alpine views. It’s Canada’s longest and highest aerial tramway, but you’ll have to cough up $49.30 per adult (2019) to go up.
Once on top there is some truly excellent hiking including the 5.5 hour challenging Indian Ridge hike that starts from the Upper Gondola. On a clear day you can see Mount Robson in British Columbia.
Visit Athabasca Falls
Admire Athabasca Falls, thirty minutes to the south of Jasper via Highway 93 or 93A. While the falls are only 23 m high, they are the most powerful ones in the Canadian Rockies.
The frozen falls are equally enjoyable to visit in the winter.
Discover Maligne Lake by boat
Drive to Maligne Lake – an hour’s drive away from Jasper and canoe, kayak or take one of the boat tours. Wildlife are frequently sighted on the drive.
Spirit Island which you’ll see on any boat tour is one of the most photographed places in the world.
If you have a couple of nights on one trio, I recommend an overnight paddle and camping experience at the far end of Maligne Lake – but book early as it’s popular.
Check out Maligne Canyon
Visit Maligne Canyon, 15 minutes east of Jasper. Walk the 3.7 km interpretative trail crossing foot bridges over the canyon along the way. In winter you can walk up the icy canyon as the water drains like a bathtub.
Soak in Miette Hot Springs
Soak your troubles away in the Miette Hot Springs – the hottest in the Rockies. They’re one hour east of Jasper in the beautiful Fiddle Valley.
There are a number of pools so you can move from hot to cold to warm until your skin looks look a wrinkled prune. They are closed from Thanksgiving until early May.
Do the hike to Mount Edith Cavell Lookout
Switchback your way up the 14 km Cavell Road through sub-alpine forest to reach the trailhead to the Mount Edith Cavell Lookout. (The road will be reopened by mid-June weather permitting.) Do not bring your trailer!
Join the rest of the tourists on the Path of the Glacier Trail. It won’t take you long to get those up-close glacier views you’ve probably seen in a postcard rack. The gorgeous turquoise meltwater of Cavell Pond only adds to the beauty and makes this area one of most stunning in all of Jasper National Park.
There is the option to continue hiking into Cavell Meadows which I highly recommend doing.
Go swimming in one of the town’s nearby lakes
Swim – yes swim in the spring fed Lakes Annette, Edith and Beauvert, ten minutes away via Highway 16. You can also walk the one hour interpretive trail around the lakes.
Pick one of the many exceptional hikes in the Jasper area
Hike in some of the most glorious country in the Rockies. One of the best in the area is the Bald Hills Trail. It starts in the vicinity of Maligne Lake and delivers wildflowers, glaciers, forests and desolate rock scenes. Even better – it’s a relatively easy 12.6 km round trip hike.
If you want a multi-day hike, try to score a reservation and do the phenomenal Skyline Trail. It’s one of the best ones I’ve done in Canada with over 40 kilometres above tree line.
Another fantastic multi-day hike is the Tonquin Valley Trail. Plan to do it in late summer when the bugs have died back. It’s one of the easiest multi-day hikes in the Rockies.
One summer I tried canyoning in Jasper National Park. It’s an adventure few people know about but it’s an amazing way to spend a day. There is some hiking involved to get to the point where you start the canyoning adventure. It will be one of the most memorable days of your life – in a good way.
Look for wildlife in Jasper
In Jasper the chance of seeing wildlife is very high – especially in the early morning and at dusk. Drive carefully on any of the roads around Jasper. You may even get stopped on the Yellowhead Highway waiting for the animals to cross.
The road to Medicine Lake is often the top place to see animals. Don’t speed through here – and keep your eyes peeled for bears, deer and elk.
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I’ve stayed in my fair share of dodgy hotels in Jasper and I wouldn’t recommend the experience. Plan ahead, especially in summer, so you stay where you want. There is lots of camping and even that should be reserved well in advance here. Note that front country reservations start the first week of January!!!
In winter you can’t beat the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for its location with a gorgeous skating rink nearby.
Choose the Maligne Canyon Hostel for an affordable option.
For an out of town choice the Pyramid Lake Resort would be an excellent option.
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