Essential Guide to Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada is a place where elk still wander through town and bears are often spotted along the highway—and the locals prefer it that way. This is a place where residents prefer cabins to condos, and believe 5-star ratings pale in comparison to the 5 million stars in the night sky. Glacier walks and mountain hikes, scenic cruises and epic road trips, Jasper is the largest park in the Canadian Rockies and it’s got the diversity of wildlife, wild views, and adventures to prove it.

Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
The jewel of Jasper National Forest, Angel Glacier is a remnant of a retreating glacier on Mount Edith Cavell’s north face. (The glacier’s name is a reference to its white “wings” of ice.) Venture to the bottom and you’ll find a small, jade-colored glacial pool called Cavell Pond, where icebergs bob serenely in the water, refusing to reveal the secrets they’ve witnessed over thousands of years. The hike from the parking lot itself is quite fascinating, as the paved trail takes you through a lunar, rocky moraine. This is an experience to be treasured: Given the rapid pace at which the world’s glaciers are vanishing, there may no longer be an angel to see in the near future.
1 Old Lodge Rd, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
Opened in 1915 as Tent City—a string of luxury canvas tents along Lac Beauvert, with vistas of Whistlers Peak and Pyramid Mountain—the iconic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge was possibly North America’s first “glamping” site. The destination proved wildly popular, and in 1922 a main lodge was opened, as well as a series of luxury log cabins spread across 700 acres in the heart of Jasper National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Bristling with Douglas firs and pine trees, the property sees herds of elk nibbling the grass, chipmunks scurrying through the trees, and even the occasional bear. The 442 rooming options—all of which were renovated between 2015 and 2017—include cozy spots in the main building, fireplace-equipped Junior Suites, and bring-the-whole-family Signature Cabins, all with views across the lake or the forest and mountains. The newly introduced Estate Cabins, located near the golf course, feature a private gated entrance for a more residential feel. Classic lodge-style interior design is the order of the day in the cabins, with wood beams and a combination of earthy and granite tones, while rooms and suites are clean-lined and decked out in fresh white bedding and light wood accents.
Icefields Parkway
Even after being chased off by strong winds and an incoming storm, Wilcox Pass is currently holding the title of my favorite day hike in the Canadian Rockies. Beginning just north of the Banff National Park border, this eight kilometer trail wanders through the forest and quickly emerges above the tree line to some outstanding views of surrounding peaks and glaciers.
624 Connaught Dr, Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
Opened in 2005, the Jasper Brewing Company was the first brewpub within a Canadian national park. It is now a local’s staple hangout. Seven different beers—like the Rockhopper IPA and Honey Bear Ale—are brewed on location, so make sure to order a brewery tour along with a fresh pint. The food menu is pub fare with a special flare to help bring out the flavors of the beer. The brewpub, open daily from 11:30am to 1:00am, is child-friendly, too, as the venue is divided into two, with both a restaurant and pub. Beer from $5.50. Contact 1-780-852-4111.
AB-93, Alberta, Canada
The Icefield Parkway isn’t just a highway linking Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta. It’s a 230-km road trip through the Canadian Rockies, past a series of emerald-green alpine lakes fed by nearby glaciers. The entire route connects Jasper and Banff national parks and traverses the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks UNESCO World Heritage site. Heading south from Jasper, the first must-see landmark is Athabasca Falls. After that, the sights come one after the other, like the Endless Chain, Sunwapta Falls, the Athabasca Glacier, Waterfowl Lake, and Bow Summit. That’s just the tip of the Icefield, though, as there are hundreds of breathtaking sights. The drive can take as little as three hours; however, it can also last for days. Throughout the summer there are a number of resorts along the route, along with a half-dozen campgrounds. The road is open throughout the winter, but there are no open services.
Maligne Lake, Improvement District No. 12, AB T0E, Canada
It takes patience and good fortune to create a unique image in a place considered Canada’s second-most-photographed landscape. The Through the Lens Cruise on Maligne Lake gives amateur and professional shutterbugs such an opportunity. While in the boat, the onboard instructor talks technique and composition with aspiring photographers and challenges seasoned veterans to try new perspectives. Once the group arrives at Spirit Island, everyone spends an hour framing the perfect shot. The cruise experience hasn’t changed much since Jasper National Park pioneers Curly Philips and Fred Brewster set up shop at Maligne Lake in the 1920s.
Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
The sky above Jasper National Park comes alive at night. Celebrated as a Dark Sky Preserve, the national park is one of the best places in the world to stargaze. Light pollution is that orange hue often seen above cities, which is caused by the large amount of iridescent light omnipresent in populated areas. Jasper, home to only 5,000 people in a 10,000-square-kilometer area, is essentially light-pollution free. Because of this, the skies are darker—the area around Columbia Icefield is one of the darkest places in North America—so it’s possible to clearly see more stars than nearly anywhere else. Although the dark skies are best viewed in autumn and winter, from September to March, the best time to learn about the stars is during Jasper’s annual Dark Sky Festival that takes place at the end of October. The best part? It’s absolutely free.
AB-93, Jasper, AB T1L 1J3, Canada
Jasper National Park’s newest attraction, the Glacier Skywalk, opened earlier this year as part of several features at the Glacier Discovery Center. After parking at the center, take a quick bus ride to the Skywalk. A free audio tour introduces the local ecosystem - it’s a nice accompaniment to the stroll along the nature exhibits on the way to the platform. Once you finally reach the engineering marvel – anticipation building – take a step out onto the 1.5-inch thick glass that hovers over the Sunwapta Valley below. Peering down the valley reveals a glimpse of the Athabasca Glacier (though you’ll have to head down the road to get a good view of the whole thing). From the Skywalk you’ll see waterfalls, endless trees, and maybe even a mountain goat or two. Visiting first thing in the morning means less crowds and more freedom to really explore the Skywalk. The best thing about the attraction? The view is still amazing even if you are too nervous to go out very far on the glass. Photo and travel courtesy of Travel Alberta.
606 Patricia Street, Jasper, Alberta, Canada
Stretching a formidable 27 miles, Jasper’s Skyline Trail is a challenge for all but the most seasoned hikers. The journey is worth undertaking—nearly two-thirds of the route is above the tree line, which means you’ll enjoy stunning panoramic views as the rule rather than the exception. The path runs from Maligne Lake back to the town of Jasper at the foot of Signal Mountain, traversing the Maligne Range mountains in the middle. There’s a short window during which you can enjoy this trail, typically from late July until mid-September. The classic trip includes two nights of camping at Snowbowl and Tekarra campgrounds, but if you’re pressed for time, hike like the locals: Many Jasperites choose to start early and finish late, conquering the entire length in a single day.
Jasper, AB T0E, Canada
Jasper National Park recently received a solid boost to its tastebuds when Jasper Curry Place opened its doors. It’s the first indian-inspired restaurant in Jasper and its been a booming success it opened its doors in June 2015. The lunch menu is a series of entress from Butter Chicken to Korma Masala, while the dinner is served buffet-style with a rotating selection of mains.
Jasper, AB T0E 1E0, Canada
An overnight stay at Tonquin Valley Adventures’ lodge is perhaps the best way to experience the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. (It’s a well-earned one, too: The lodge lies almost 20 kilometers, or about 12 miles, from the nearest road!) To get there, hike the Tonquin Valley backcountry from Edith Cavell Road to the path alongside Astoria River before reaching the Ramparts Mountains. The setting is surreal, as the lodge has a series of cabins with unforgettable views. A short walk leads guests to the edge of Amethyst Lake, where canoes, kayaks, and rowboats await to take you on your next adventure.
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