Why Jasper is an all-year round destination
I have been to Jasper on two occasions so far, once in the summer months and once in the winter month. I have just recently experienced my first Canadian winter and managed to return to the small town of Jasper in the heart of the Jasper National Park. However as I found out there is not much to do in the town but it is an excellent base for those who want to go skiing (in winter months) and hiking (in the summer months) or to those doing a road trip and go out further into the mountain range to check the area out (which is totally awesome). Here on this blog post I will tell you some of the awesome stuff to do and see whilst on a short break in the area.
Life here started out in 1813 as a settlement for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad workers who were laying tracks down alongside the Athabasca River. The town grew as people from outside the area were interested to see what the Rockies were all about (as well as a trading route for fur) and eventually resorts, restaurants, hotels and a visitor centre sprung up. The town itself is small with a few things to do but it is a great base to find accommodation and there are some great restaurants and bars here.
Opens in Spring through to Autumn, the Jasper Tramway whisks visitors up towards the summit of Whistlers Mountain. There maybe a wait to get on the cable car especially in peak seasons so I would advise to book in advance, like the day before and get up there early (hoping that it will be a clear day because the views of amazing). The seven minute ride finishes at the upper station which is at 2,285 meters (7,497ft) but it isn’t the summit.
After leaving the upper terminal there are a few paths to take to get right to the summit of Whistlers Mountain which is 2,470m (8,100ft) which doesn’t seem much difference but for those who don’t walk up mountains often, it can take the breath out of you. For those who are frigging crazy and don’t want to take the cable car up the mountain, there is 2.8km walking trail from the bottom to the summit of the mountain! I really wish I had time because the mountain and surrounding area is totally awesome. On a very clear day looking out to the west (which I had when I came up), a view of Mt. Robson, the tallest mountain peak in the Rockies over forty miles away can be seen.
Marmot Basin – Jasper’s only ski resort
Whilst Lake Louise and Banff have a few ski resorts and is the main place for skiers to ski as the location is nearer to Calgary and the main international airport of Alberta, Jasper does offer one ski resort and is worth checking out. On my visit here I noticed that the slopes are a lot wider and is an excellent place for first time skiers to learn and practise. Voted North America’s top ski resort by USA Today in 2018, the resort offers a great bar and restaurant, shop, rentals and lessons. There are plenty of shuttle buses to get skiers to and from the hotels in town. For further information check out the resort here.
Maligne Canyon Ice Walk (Winter Only)
One of the highlights for me has to be walking on a frozen river through a canyon which is located not too far south of Jasper. I was lucky to do this with a tour guide called Wes (who was a former Park Ranger and his knowledge of the area and animals is amazing!) from Sundog Transportation and Tours LTD.
The two-hour hike took me and my group to the deepest accessible canyon in the Jasper National Park (and the whole of North America) where I got to experience frozen waterfalls, ice caves and there were some pretty awesome ice formations. After the canyon we were taken along the river where we got to see incredible views of surrounding mountains, walked into the river and drink the fresh water and saw squirrels, chipmunks and woodpeckers.
It’s not all outdoor adventures in Jasper
That’s right. I managed to get myself on a food tour around Jasper with Jasper Food Tours where the owner of the company Estelle took us around four places on the ‘Downtown Foodie Tour’ which includes four eats and four drinks. The walk is very short and whilst checking out the restos (where there are four carefully handpicked dishes paired with booze to go with them, tasting mighty fine), we got treated to listening to top tales of the local area. I don’t want to spoil the tour but all I can say is that the food I tried is very tasty, very yummy and the rib I tried, oh my god, just melted in my mouth. This is a must for anyone visiting Jasper and a massive thank you to Estelle for her knowledge, tales and taking me to some of the best eating places in town. Jasper Food Tours also offers a Poutine tour. For more details and bookings visit the Jasper Food Tours website.
Driving to/from Jasper on the Icefields Parkway
The 1-93 is known as the Icefields Parkway and is the main road between Jasper and Lake Louise to the south. A non-stop drive is around two hours but there is so much to do along this road which could take all day with all the photo opportunities. Heading south from Jasper the first stop is the Jasper Tramway and the turn off for the ski resort of Marmot Basin.
Athabasca Falls is a definitely worth a pit stop. Located at the junction of I-93 and 93-A, the raging waters of the Athabasca river plunges 23 meters into the river bed below and if visitors get the right viewpoint, the dramatic effect of the water and the spray is one to stare at for hours. However come here early or late in the day and the area will be quieter as it can get quite busy at times. What I did notice whilst here, the falls maybe smaller in height compared to others in the Rockies but the force and sound of the water is truly amazing to see and hear.
Columbia Icefield and the Icefield Centre – The largest area of ice can be seen in between the Jasper and Banff national parks were created at the last Ice Age (there was more than one Ice Age now?) A lot of visitors come here to take tours on huge Sno-coaches and drive onto the Athabasca Glacier (not a budget thing) but I took time out here to park up the car and walk around the area and to get great views of the glacier and surrounding mountains.
And of course there are other stops on the Icefields Parkway which are worth checking out like Bow Lake and some amazing waterfalls…..(plus there is a gas station about halfway (only open in the summer months) between Lake Louise and Jasper, so make sure if doing a road trip to have enough gas in the car).
Mount Robson National Park
Heading west of Jasper there is a nice little road trip to Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies standing at 3,954m (12,972ft) and is actually located in British Columbia (I know, it’s not Alberta but Mount Robson is not far from Jasper).
On the way there is Moose Lake which is worth checking out and a great photo opportunity. Part of the Fraser River, the lake is around 11km long and 2km at its widest point. Along here is a great place to check out moose (especially during the sunset when there is not many cars about and trains on the nearby tracks)
Like I said, Jasper is a great base and loved every minute of my long weekend here. I was traveling up from Lake Louise by car and took me all day to drive the Icefields Parkway as I was stopping every so often because the scenery is outstanding. I really wish I spent a few more days here and done some hikes but what I did see and do was truly amazing (and I also celebrated Canada Day on July 1st in Jasper which was nice and seeing how the locals let their hair down). A truly amazing area of Canada which must not be missed.
Looking for accommodation. Then check out the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, read my experience and why you should stay in this luxury resort.
Please note that while I was working with Tourism Jasper, Marmot Basin, Jasper Food Tours and Sundog Transportation & Tours Ltd, the reviews and experiences written about in this post are 100% genuine. I value my readers too much to lie to you. My blog would be nothing without you and your continued support! Many thanks to Tulene, Erin, Estelle and Wes.
I did two trips to Jasper, Alberta so far in my life. The sunnier/summer photos were taken in July 2015 and the winter photos were taken in March 2019.