The largest national park in the Canadian Rockies and home to the second-largest dark sky preserve in the country, Alberta's Jasper National Park contains 11,228 square kilometers (4,335 square miles) of some of the most stunning scenery to be found in the Canadian Rockies. Spread over five regions, the park is most famous for its extensive network of hiking trails but offers truly unique year-round experiences for young and old alike.
The local travel experts at Canadian Train Vacations have spent extensive time the park. We help visitors to Canada plan their vacations, creating personalized trips. Here is our guide to Jasper National Park.
Popular Activities at Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park truly has something to offer everyone. If your taste runs more toward sedate activities you can relax by soaking in the Miette Hot Springs or enjoying a peaceful Maligne Lake cruise.
For the more adventurous, there is white-water rafting on the Athabasca River, and rock climbing/mountaineering opportunities. Athletic types can find fun in all four seasons of the year. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are very popular in the winter and there is no end to the physical activities you can join in the rest of the year. By far the most popular activities in the park are hiking and biking the extensive network of trails.
Even if you are mobility impaired, or just want to take it easy, the park still has much to offer. The Jasper Skytram, helicopter rides, and motorcycle sidecar tours open up the entire park to everyone.
The most sought-after sights and attractions in Jasper include:
- Maligne Lake
- Old Fort Point Trail
- Lake Edith
- Lake Annette, Jasper Whistler's Summit
- Moose Lake
- Cavell Meadows
- Pyramid Lake
- Icefields Parkway
- Columbia Icefield Skywalk
- Athabasca Glacier
- Lake Mildred
One word of caution should be mentioned. The animals in Jasper National Park, though accustomed to people, are still wild. Proper caution should be used anytime you are in the park. Do not leave food out. Be aware of your surroundings and never under any circumstances approach or feed the animals. That said, safe wildlife viewing in Jasper is a key attraction.
After a day of enjoying the wonders that Mother Nature provides, foodies will fall in love with the dining opportunities available at the Jasper Park Lodge and in downtown Jasper.
Top 10 Scenic Wonders and Natural Features
Jasper National Park is one of those heavenly locations where every step you take seems to open up a new vista for you to enjoy. Among the abundance of wonders, here are a few that must be seen to truly be appreciated.
1. Rocky Mountains
Nestled within the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park owes its allure to the majestic Rocky Mountains that define its landscape. These formidable peaks create a mesmerizing backdrop, offering unparalleled panoramic views that are sure to captivate. The park's identity is intricately tied to the Rockies. Hiking trails wind through alpine meadows and dense forests, providing a unique perspective on the rugged beauty of the mountains. Rock climbing enthusiasts are drawn to the challenging terrain, adding an adventurous dimension to the outdoor experience.
The Rockies are not just a geographical feature but the essence of Jasper National Park. Their beauty lures travelers with the promise of both serene tranquility and thrilling exploration. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park stands as a testament to the profound impact of the Rocky Mountains on its scenic grandeur and the diverse array of outdoor activities it offers. Jasper is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, the continuous national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, and the provincial parks of Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber.
Travel Tip: Bring your binoculars
Along with seeing wildlife, you’ll want to get a closer look at the amazing glaciers and other landscape features in Jasper National Park. You might even consider a travel monocular, which many people find easier to focus.
2. Maligne Canyon
Maligne Canyon, a gem within Jasper National Park, boasts unique features that make it a must-visit destination. The canyon is renowned for its captivating turquoise blue water that winds through rugged terrain, creating striking canyon landscapes. Hiking enthusiasts can explore different trails, including the easy-rated Maligne Canyon Trail and the moderate-rated Maligne Canyon Loop Trail. The former spans 3.7 kilometers, providing you with an easily accessible route, while the latter, at 2.7 kilometers is both more challenging and rewarding. Both trails showcase diverse birdwatching opportunities amid the picturesque surroundings.
Additionally, you can savor the iconic views at the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen, where a smokehouse menu enhances your dining experience.
3. Maligne Lake
Considered by many the crown jewel of Jasper National Park, Maligne Lake beckons with its breathtaking turquoise blue waters, that set the stage for the acclaimed "Best Boat Cruise in Canada." This cruise, endorsed by millions of visitors, navigates the lake's pristine expanse, providing unrivaled views of towering peaks and serene landscapes.
Maligne Lake isn't just renowned for its exceptional cruise; it's also a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Paddling across its crystal-clear waters or embarking on lakeside hikes unveils the park's natural beauty up close.
Maligne Lake stands as a testament to the Canadian Rockies' splendor, offering an unforgettable blend of scenic wonders and outdoor adventures in the heart of Jasper National Park.
4. Lake Louise
Nestled within nearby Banff National Park, Lake Louise is one of the most iconic and photographed locations in the Canadian Rockies. This glacial lake is a spectacle of vibrant turquoise waters cradled by majestic mountain peaks.
The glacial-fed brilliance of Lake Louise reflects the pristine alpine grandeur that characterizes the region. You can't help but be drawn to its unparalleled beauty, where the mirror-like waters and breathtaking surroundings create an atmosphere of serenity and awe.
5. Pyramid Lake
Nestled at the foot of the majestic Pyramid Mountain, Pyramid Lake is one of the most picturesque destinations in Jasper National Park. The pristine beauty of this alpine lake captivates visitors, offering a serene escape into nature's splendor. A 1¼-mile (2 km) trail along the lakeshore provides an easy and immersive way to experience the tranquility of the surroundings.
Pyramid Lake's allure is further enhanced by a charming wooden bridge leading to a small island within the lake, adding a touch of whimsy to its already enchanting landscape. Whether strolling along the shoreline or crossing the bridge, Pyramid Lake unfolds as a natural haven, inviting exploration and admiration in the heart of Jasper's wilderness.
6. Mount Edith Cavell
Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park is another testament to the captivating beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Its showpiece is the Angel Glacier, a celestial ice formation gracefully descending from the mountain's heights. This radiant blue marvel adds an enchanting allure and serves as a dynamic reminder of nature's geological forces.
You can partake in a variety of activities, from hiking the Cavell Meadows Trail with its panoramic views to thrilling ice-climbing adventures around the glacier. Photographers are drawn to the play of light on the glacier and the pristine wilderness, making Mount Edith Cavell a haven for capturing the essence of the Rockies.
7. Athabasca Falls
While Athabasca Falls only has a height of 75 feet, its power is awe-inspiring. You can embark on a short trek along the canyon, providing you with a close encounter with the falls. This trail provides you with ample photo opportunities, allowing you to capture the falls' raw energy and surrounding beauty.
A highlight of the experience is a bridge that spans right over the falls, offering a thrilling perspective and immersing visitors in the sheer force and majesty of Athabasca Falls.
This is a must-visit destination for those seeking the perfect blend of natural beauty and a touch of adventure in Jasper.
8. Miette Hot Springs
Located in Jasper National Park, Miette Hot Springs offers rejuvenating natural hot mineral waters. The facility boasts convenient amenities such as easily accessible changing rooms and rental options for swimsuits and towels to ensure a hassle-free experience. Entry is on a first-come, first-served basis, allowing everyone to unwind in the soothing waters.
The hot springs offer a therapeutic temperature range of 54 to 40 degrees centigrade, ideal for easing sore muscles after a long day of hiking. Operating hours vary by season, and the facility is scheduled to be closed from, October 10, 2023, to May 2024 for maintenance but will resume normal operations after work is complete. Be aware that during peak times, you may experience long wait times.
9. Ice Caves
The ice caves in Jasper National Park are a captivating wonder, formed by the interplay of the runoff from melting glaciers. Nestled within the park, these caves boast crystalline formations and surreal ice sculptures, creating a mesmerizing underground world.
Exploring the caves requires a sense of adventure, and if you are undertaking the Ice Canyon Hike at Maligne Canyon you should be equipped with sturdy footwear and possibly crampons for secure footing. Safety precautions are paramount, given the dynamic nature of ice formations. It is highly recommended that you join a guided tour.
10. Frozen Waterfalls
Winter transforms Jasper National Park into a frozen masterpiece, showcasing a series of enchanting frozen waterfalls. Formed as cascading water meets frigid temperatures, these natural wonders unveil their crystalline beauty. The best time to witness this spectacle is during the winter months when the falls freeze into breathtaking formations.
Notable frozen waterfalls include the majestic Athabasca Falls and the ethereal Tangle Falls, each boasting unique characteristics. Hiking enthusiasts can embark on trails like the Icefields Parkway to explore these frozen wonders, reveling in the stark beauty of the ice-clad landscape.
[ Read: Best Waterfalls in Canada ]
Camping and Overnight Accommodations in Jasper
Jasper National Park offers a range of lodging experiences, from the luxurious confines of resorts like the iconic Jasper Park Lodge to the charming hotels nestled in the heart of town, such as Forest Park. The lodge provides a rustic elegance with stunning mountain views, while in-town lodgings offer convenience and local charm.
For those seeking a more immersive experience, camping in the park is an enticing option. From fully serviced sites to more primitive backcountry spots, camping caters to various tastes. Campers generally need to reserve a campsite in advance and permits are required. Fees for camping range from 16.75 CAD for a basic first come first serve campground to 50 CAD for a campsite with an electrical hook-up. However free camping is available on public lands near the park.
When venturing into the wilderness, safety is paramount. Visitors should familiarize themselves with wildlife protocols, carry bear spray, and practice the Leave No Trace principles. A flashlight, first aid kit, and knowledge of the weather forecast add layers of preparedness for an unforgettable and safe camping experience in Jasper National Park.
[ Explore: National Park Train Tours ]
Wildlife and Environment
Jasper National Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, the park is celebrated for its pristine ecosystems, unique geological formations, and commitment to preserving natural beauty. Towering glaciers, turquoise lakes, and dense forests contribute to the park's unparalleled environmental features.
You can marvel at the surreal Athabasca Glacier or explore the intricate cave systems. Jasper National Park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike and stands as a testament to the importance of conserving our planet's natural wonders.
[Read: Discovering the Canadian Wildlife ]
Understanding Jasper's Climate
Jasper National Park experiences a varied climate, with cold winters and mild summers. Weather greatly influences visitors' experiences. Winters are characterized by snow and sub-zero temperatures as low as -25C. This offers stunning landscapes but can limit your outdoor activities. Summers bring warmer temperatures, making it ideal for hiking and wildlife viewing. Spring and fall are considered prime seasons as the leaves change and wildflowers bloom respectively.
Tips for visitors:
- Winter (December to February): Pack warm layers, insulated jackets, snow boots, and accessories like gloves and hats.
- Summer (June to August): Bring lightweight clothing, sturdy hiking boots, sunscreen, and insect repellent.
- Spring/Fall: Layered clothing for temperature fluctuations, waterproof gear, and comfortable footwear for varying terrains.
#2 Travel Tip: Pack a woolly hat
No matter the season in Jasper, a woolly hat or toque will come in handy. Temperatures in the mountains drop at night in the summer and you might be surprised at how often you reach for this uber-Canadian accessory.
Discovering the Park's History and Culture
Jasper National Park has significant Indigenous roots. The Stoney Nakoda and the Plains Cree have inhabited the area for thousands of years.
The park's formal establishment in 1907 was a pioneering move in establishing Canada's large national park system. Tourism burgeoned in the 1920s with the opening of the iconic Jasper Park Lodge.
In 1984 the park achieved UNESCO World Heritage Site status. This designation recognizes not only its stunning landscapes but also its cultural and ecological importance.
Today, visitors can trace the footsteps of both Indigenous communities and early explorers. Along with visiting the Jasper Museum, embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in local Indigenous experiences, such as Warrior Women.
Jasper is truly a unique Canadian experience. Its dynamic landscapes, breathtaking scenery and unique activities make it the ideal destination on a train vacation. The local travel experts at Canadiantrainvacations.com can help you create your perfect itinerary, whether you want to spend your days hiking or relaxing —or a little bit of both.
Popular Train Trips to Jasper
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Jasper better than Banff?
Preferences vary. Some find Jasper better than Banff for its quieter atmosphere and equally stunning scenery.
What is the best month to go to Jasper?
The best month to visit Jasper is subjective, but many prefer July for its mild weather allowing numerous outdoor activities.
What is so special about Jasper National Park?
Jasper National Park is renowned for its pristine wilderness, diverse wildlife, and breathtaking landscapes, including glaciers, lakes, and rugged mountains.
About the author: Katherine is Product Manager with Fresh Tracks Canada. Having worked in the Canadian travel industry for almost 20 years, she enjoys sharing her local expertise with visitors. She is based in Calgary and one of her favourite Canadian destination is the... Read more
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