Jasper National Park, located northwest of Banff National Park (see map), is unbelievable! In fact, the road trip from Banff to Jasper was one of the highlights of our trip given there is so much to do and see along the way. If you are going to Banff, you absolutely need to explore Jasper as well! Not only is there a ton to do on the way, but the cute mountain town is worth a visit and the surrounding area is gorgeous. This post explores highlights of what to do in Jasper National Park.
WHAT TO DO IN JASPER
- Hike Athabasca Glacier Icewalks – One of the highlights of our week long trip was going on an afternoon ice walk on the Colombia ice field, the largest mass of ice in the Rockies! Cat and I were a bit nervous beforehand, thinking we’re not in shape and we’ve never done this before and we loved the experience.
When we arrived, we were greeted by Jess, a fun loving Kiwi who provided us with traction cleats to wrap around our shoes to easily be able to walk on the ice. We saw a variety of ice formations, peaked down into large and narrow crevices where the water is bright blue, and even got to taste glacier water! We learned so much from Jess throughout the three hour excursion including some fun facts about the glacier – did you know:
- The ice stretches for more than 15 MILES across the Continental Divide!?
- It is the only place in the world where water (from the melting snow) will actually flow into three separate oceans – the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans.
- Visit Athabasca Falls & Sunwapta Falls – These waterfalls are near one another and make for the perfect stop along the road trip. If you only have time for one, my vote is Athabasca Falls. They actually make my top 3 list of things to see along the entire stretch of the Canadian Rockies. The waterfall cascades down through canyons and has a picturesque mountain backdrop. This is a MUST DO!
See Wildlife – One of the best parts about exploring Jasper is the chance to see wildlife. Given the remoteness of Jasper, there are a ton of opportunities to catch glimpses of wildlife. Before our trip, we were told to pick up bear spray given it was bear season. We went to MEC Calgary (a Canadian outdoor and camping store) and spent $40 CAD, but never had an encounter with a bear. We were prepared nonetheless! Cat and I were lucky enough to see moose, deer, birds, goat, and a million squirrels. We actually saw 4 female moose along Maligne Lake Road (the road to get from Jasper to Maligne Lake)! This road is known to be able to see wildlife in the early mornings and evenings. They were feeding right along the main highway and a bunch of cars were stopped nearby to see them, including ours. Moose mating season is actually end of September to early October! So, we knew just by seeing the females, the bull wasn’t too far, though we never actually saw him. Definitely keep your eyes open driving around Jasper, you never know what you’ll come across.
- Hike the Valley of the Five Lakes – The cover image of this blog post was taken on this hike! This was hands down the BEST hike we did on the trip. As the name suggests, the trail goes along five magical lakes, all reflecting the mountains above. Seriously gorgeous. I actually created an Instagram story during this hike and got SO MANY responses when I posted. Reactions included “WOW” and “OMG” and “WHAAAAAAAAT THE”. Yea. If you go on any hikes in Jasper, this is the one, also it only took like 2-3 hours (start on the 9a trail and take the 9b trail back).
- Walk Glacier Skywalk – The Skywalk was partially closed for construction on the day we went, however the views surrounding it are gorgeous!
- Hike Maligne Canyon – This hike was a bit crowded, but pretty nonetheless. If you are short on time, I recommend only going to see the first three waterfalls. We hiked down to the fourth and honestly it started to look the same, we thought the first few were the most impressive!
- Go on the Maligne Lake Cruise & See Spirit Island – This was fantastic! The boat tour takes you straight across the lake towards Spirit Island where you can get off and take pictures of the surrounding mountain ranges. Definitely look at the weather before you book and make sure you go on a clear day.
- Kayak or Canoe Pyramid Lake – Pyramid Lake and Patricia Lake (right next to one another), are two gorgeous lakes you can find in Jasper. If you’re looking for an affordable canoe or kayak rental, I definitely recommend doing it in Jasper versus Banff (Lake Louise rentals are over $100 Canadian). This is just as beautiful AND less people = win, win!
JASPER NATIONAL PARK IMAGE GALLERY
THE ICE FIELDS PARKWAY ROAD TRIP
The Icefields Parkway is known to be one of the most scenic roads in the world! It’s one of a kind with wide lanes (who remembers that Seinfeld episode?!) and vast mountain views. For our trip, we rented a car from Alamo Rent a Car – OK not just any car, we got an Audi! Everything was convenient and straightforward, except for that time we were stuck in goat traffic… 🙂
WHERE TO STAY NEAR THE COLOMBIA ICE FIELD
If you plan to visit both Banff and Jasper National Parks, then you’ll undoubtedly visit the Colombia Ice Field. As a break between our road trip, we stayed at the Glacier View Inn for one night before making our way to Jasper. The Inn is located directly across from the ice field so makes it pretty convenient if you are looking to do any of the tours (skywalk, icewalk or bus) and then not have to get back in your car at the end of the day.
The Inn has a restaurant and cafe as well as viewing platform overlooking the glacier and surrounding mountains. During the day, the parking lots are completely filled with visitors making a stop here along their road trip. It calmed down at night with only hotel guests dining in the restaurant for dinner.
Please note I was welcomed as a guest by Athabasca Glacier Icewalks and Brewster Travel Canada. As always, all opinions are my own.