Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada – our old friend. Our trusty, safe and stunningly beautiful friend. Canada is filled with some wonderful people, and incredible scenery, and is the perfect place to explore the great outdoors. This peaceful country celebrates 150 years this year, and to mark the occasion, all national parks are free to enter! Simply grab a 150 Parks Pass and start your adventure to explore some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. There is so much to explore in this great country, so we’ll give you one place to start. Jasper National Park is full of amazing landscapes, unique wildlife and adventure. We’ll show you exactly what to do in this national park, how to get there, and how to make the most of your Canadian exploration. Trust us when we say, it will be unforgettable.
What To See and Do
Maligne Lake Area
Maligne Lake is a beautiful and relatively small lake in the national park. There are about 4 or 5 hikes to do that surround the landscape around the lake. Arrive early, and tackle them all! They’re all easy and have beautiful scenery. In the warmer months, you can rent canoes and explore the lake yourself. There are also plenty of camping options around the lake. Two of the most popular hikes are the following:
Moose Lake Loop
This hike is an easy trail that will take about 1-2hours. The trail is 2.7kms long, staying in the woods, but the landscape is fascinating: little hills and hollows among the overgrown debris of a huge landslide. After a short section over relatively level terrain, turn left off the Maligne Pass Trail to reach Moose Lake. From the lake the trail continues gently downhill to Maligne Lake. Keep left along the shore to return to the parking lot.
Mary Schäffer Loop
This trail is an easy 3.2 kms loop, more like a stroll. In its first kilometre it passes Curly Phillips’s historic boathouse and reaches a viewpoint that features a set of panels about Mary Schäffer, famous for her explorations in the Canadian Rockies.
This canyon is a naturally carved rock formation, with rushing water flowing between the rocks. There are plenty of hikes to do around this area – going over the bridge that stretch over the canyon. You can hike up onto the ridge and look down over the canyon, or stay right on the edge, following the water as it flows through the canyon, carving the rock. The hikes are relatively easy, and there are plenty of signs that help you along the way. Due to the easy nature of the hikes and the beauty of the area, this is very popular with tourists and especially tour groups. Arrive early to avoid the crowds and the bottleneck at the viewing points along the way.
Sulfur Skyline Hike
This hike is one of the best experiences you’ll have in the park. It’s a 7km hike to the top of Sulfur Mountain, where you’ll be gobsmacked by the stunning views. The 360-degree panorama of the mountains are well worth every aching muscle. The 700m elevation will burn those thighs, and the hike should take about 3-4 hours. At the top of the mountain, the ground is very rocky, so watch your step. To access the hike, park at the Miette Hot Springs and follow the signs. This hike will most definitely be one of the highlights of your Canadian adventure.
Miette Hot Springs
Once you’ve done the Sulfur Skyline Hike, why not relax those throbbing feet in a hot spring? It’s at the bottom of the mountain, where you parked for the hike. Hot Springs are always a good idea – even in the middle of Summer. With four different pools at different temperatures, you’ll be spoilt for choice at this place. You’ll pay about $9CD for all day access to the springs, showers and facilities. The hot springs are very popular and are a great way to unwind after connecting with nature for the day.
Red Chair Locations
A highly successful marketing campaign by the Canadian government resulted in the famous red chairs. The red chairs are placed in popular destinations across the national parks of Canada. Visitors take photos with them, and are encouraged to post them with the hashtag #sharethechair. The chairs are designed to connect Canadians and visitors with nature, as they are placed in locations that encourage you to walk to or hike to. It’s a great initiative and a lot of fun to locate the chairs along your travels.
In the Summer and Spring months, you must take bear spray with you on hikes around this area. Many bears are roaming around with their cubs, and can become dangerous when you cross their path. Ensure that you are hiking with at least three people. Official advice states that when you encounter a bear, the best thing to do is to get as ‘big’ as possible – use your jacket to appear larger. You can also shout and speak as loud as possible to scare off the bears. Another method is using a bear bell, a belt that wraps around your mid-section, that has tiny bells that ring constantly as you walk, so that the bears hear you coming and are scared off. Don’t be alarmed, just be prepared and cautious. There are lots of other wildlife in the park too – you’ll come across plenty of Elk in the Summer months, mostly on the side of the road. You’ll also encounter deer, mountain goats, coyotes, moose, and many more. Always follow government instructions and warnings, and keep your distance. Many cars stop on the side of the highways to capture wildlife in their natural environments. Always be very careful!
How To Get There
Established in 1907, Jasper National Park stretches over 10,000 square kilometres. The park itself surrounds the town of Jasper, a small and sleepy village with approximately 4,500 people. It takes about 5 hours to drive to the next major city – Calgary, Alberta. You can fly from LA to Calgary for about $230USD, taking around 3 hours. You can also fly from New York to Calgary for $300USD, taking just over 5 hours.
Travelling by car is the best way to see the National Park, once you’re there. You can drive anywhere within the park from the town of Jasper, including the Icefields Parkway. The Icefield Parkway is the main highway straight through the middle of the national park, starting in Jasper and going all the way through to Banff. There is so much to see along this 232km drive, including a plethora of lakes, forests, hikes to do, and wildlife. The drive is dotted with over 100 glaciers, all feeding into the various lakes in the area. Beware – distances within the park are vast and they will surprise you! Be prepared to drive a few hours a day to get to different highlights within the park, especially if you’re staying in Jasper.
Your best option for accommodation is to stay in the village of Jasper. Nightly fees can get very expensive, so get in early, especially in Summer.
You do have the option of staying in ‘home’ accommodation – staying with locals in the town of Jasper. There are plenty of website dedicated to this, as it’s a very popular option for budget travellers. You get a local’s knowledge, and reduced priced accommodation – what more could you want? There are also a few hostels and hotels that are reasonably priced in the town of Jasper.
There are plenty of camping options within the park, including the Hidden Cove Family Canoe Camp, a ‘backcountry’ campground near Maligne Lake. The grounds were created with beginner canoeists and kayakers in mind. Aspiring paddlers follow a short, four-kilometre route along the shoreline, entirely in protected waters. It’s perfect for family groups with children or seniors.
Well, there you have it. Jasper National Park is full of wonders, a new and breath taking vista at every turn. Whenever you decide to visit, there is so much to fill your days. Allow plenty of time to truly immerse yourself in nature, bring your camera, some emergency safety gear and plenty of water. This national park is one of the most beautiful in the world – prepare to constantly be in awe of your surroundings!