Last year, we were lucky enough to spend some time in Jasper National Park.
Waking up early one morning, we heard hushed voices right outside the cabin. Peaking out, a herd of elk were lazily wandering down the embankment. We must have watched silently with about ten other travellers as they made their way from the river to the thick tree coverage.
What a beautiful way to start the morning!
Although we weren’t in Jasper for long, we did get chance to take a couple of day trips. These are our ‘don’t miss’ suggestions:
A furious waterfall on the upper Athabasca River, this was a great way to spend a morning. It was only around a half hour drive from our base in Jasper and was fairly easy to find. The force of the water is incredible, as is the noise as it crashes down into the gorge below. Over the years, the water has channelled a way through the softer cliff walls, creating a twisting, turning chasm.
The viewing areas for the waterfall are well thought out, jutting out at a variety of places across the water. Athabasca Falls is located just off highway 93A, making it a great little stop if you are visiting the Athabasca Glacier or driving down the Icefield Parkway.
Jasper Town Centre
If you are heading through Jasper, you can’t miss a trip to the town centre. Set out on a long stretch of road, multiple little shops await, full of the usual souvenirs and bear spray. This is not why you should visit the town centre. I have a bit of a pet hate of natural parks and remote places adding lots of shops (I’m looking at you Banff). I can completely understand the need for a couple of little stores, stocked with essentials and set up to blend in with the surrounding area – however national parks don’t need shopping complexes in my opinion. Anyway, with that in mind: go to Jasper town centre, find the shops and then turn your back on them. Look in exactly the opposite direction and you will be greeted by an incredible view of the Rockies.
I’m not sure if it was the contrast of the mountains against the shops and cars, but this was truly an amazing view. It looked just like a cardboard cut out of a storybook skyline and it was breathtaking.
This was a slightly longer drive from where we were staying (about two hours). Try to keep your eyes peeled on the drive down the Icefield Parkway as early morning trips are likely to reveal lots of wildlife spotting opportunities.
The weather change from Jasper town centre to the glacier is huge – we started in shorts and ended up wrapped up in layers and winter coats! You can read all about our Glacier Trip here.
This was the underdog of the day trips from Jasper. I didn’t know much about the lake and we’d not really done much research about the visit, deciding our destination on the spur-of-the-moment.
If you plan to visit the lake, it’s worth trying to have as long there as you can – you won’t want to leave! What a setting this place is! Emerald waters stretch away from the sandy shore, framed by the glacial mountains in the distance, it’s clear why this location is one of the most photographed in the Rockies.
One of the main attractions is Spirit Island – reachable by one of the many over-priced boat rides on the lake. The Stoney Nakoda First Nation believe that the Island is a spiritual place, particularly as it is overlooked by three of the glacial mountains, which they believe to be their ancestors. As you can’t actually set foot on Spirit Island, we chose to do a walk around the lake instead.
A trail follows the outline of the lake, giving glimpses of the mountain range through the tree line.
I found Jasper to be far prettier and much more relaxed (and cheaper!) than it’s much-discussed Banff neighbour. Lots of other travellers told us to spend longer in Banff than Jasper, but I’m going to be rebellious and suggest that longer in Jasper would have been better. This might have been something to do with our little log cabin stay at Jasper House Bungalows which, although fairly expensive, were in a gorgeous setting, looking out over the Athabasca River.
We had some incredible sunsets here too, it was such a tranquil setting.