Beloved Banff is a tranquil getaway for Calgarians seeking a quick mountain escape. For many, it's a return to a cherished spot loaded with memories and insider's knowledge.
However, those who venture farther afield quickly become obsessed with Jasper National Park. The world class destination is just 4.5 hours from Calgary, and brims with outdoor adventure, classic Canadian Rockies' scenery, alpine inspired accommodations and a locally focused dining scene.
Wild, beautiful and rustically charming, there's so much to love about Jasper. Here are the top five reasons for visiting this season.
1. Driving the Icefields Parkway to Jasper
Jasper is spectacular, and the drive to arrive is equally epic. The Icefields Parkway, connecting Banff and Jasper national parks, is recognized as one of the world's most scenic routes. It's also garnered a prestigious nod from National Geographic, earning the title of "A Drive of a Lifetime." Picture vibrant blue lakes, tumbling waterfalls, sky high peaks and ancient glaciers. The dramatic backdrop is also a wildlife corridor, which presents many opportunities for impromptu sightings. As there's limited cell service, and only one gas station along the 268 km route, have your playlist set and fuel tank filled before making the journey. Plan to stop for a stretch, some thrills and lunch midway at the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre.
Traveller tip: Plan to stop at Columbia Icefield Skywalk, a glass-floored observation platform floating 280 m above Sunwapta Valley and combine with a visit to Columbia Icefield Adventure and lunch at the gorgeous Altitude Restaurant.
2. Jasper's Expansive Wilderness
At nearly 11,000 square kilometres, Jasper is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. Vast, untamed and impossibly pretty, it's a tapestry of open valleys, a ribbon of rivers, wildflower meadows, ice-blue lakes and endless mountain ranges. The views here are big, bold and startlingly dramatic. Some valleys, including the Athabasca Valley where the town of Jasper is, are vast and spacious. Adventure abounds in Jasper, and there's something for every level of thrill and skill. From gentle lakeside loops and canyon hikes to mountain bike trails and multi-day treks. Striking Rocky Mountain scenery is the only constant in Jasper's diverse array of outdoor offerings. The national park is also the world's second largest dark sky preserve. Thanks to its expansive size and minimal light pollution, Jasper’s stargazing is epic.
Amazing astronomy: Pyramid Lake and Maligne Lake are two top spots for viewing the night sky. Book in at Pyramid Lake Resort to blend multisport adventure with good food, cozy lodging and the perfect location for sunrises and night sky watching.
3. Jasper's Wildlife Wows
Jasper's protected wilderness is almost twice that of Banff National Park, but with half the population. More space and fewer people make for a magical habitat that's rugged, remote and teeming with wildlife. While moose, bear, wolves and cougars frequent the park, the most common creature sightings include elk, deer and bighorn sheep. Join a guided tour for the best viewing opportunities or ask a local for their favourite haunts. Maligne Lake Road, a 46 km stunner, linking Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake, typically takes top prize. Head out early, or just before dusk, to increase your chances. There'll be fewer cars and the time is prime for roadside foraging. Read on for some tips on Responsible Wildlife Viewing.
Foodie refuel: Swing by the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen after your adventure for deliciously hearty and locally inspired smokehouse fare.
4. Jasper's Small Town Charm
Downtown Jasper is quaint, yet vibrant. Think locally owned boutiques, bakeries, ice cream parlours, coffee shops and restaurants. It's a small, welcoming community with a laid back vibe and spectacular Rocky Mountain backdrop. Even during the bustling summer season, Jasper never feels crowded. There's a sense of calm that inspires unplugging and unwinding. If you stay in town, on foot is the best way to get around. Wander, window shop and patio hop—the ideal après adventure itinerary.
Canadian cuisine: Check out Authentic Burger for local scratch made eats, like Rocky Mountain Ramen and our signature house-made Alberta Beef Burger.
5. Jasper's Postcard Perfect Lakes
Photographers swoon over Jasper's sparkling glacier fed lakes. Pyramid Lake, at the foot of its namesake mountain, is popular with visitors, locals and wildlife. The kidney shaped waterway, just outside of town, offers a serene setting for lakeshore walks, biking and on the water fun, like kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and canoeing. During summer, families also flock to the beachfront at Lake Annette to play in the white sand and splash around in the clear, refreshing water. The BBQ's and fire pits at both Pyramid and Annette are perfect for group gatherings during the warmer months. At Maligne Lake, an iconic natural attraction, you'll discover unparalleled scenery and outdoor activities. With kayak and canoe rentals, a scenic waterfront trail and a variety of unique dining choices—from casual bites to gourmet lakeside cuisine—it's easy to spend a full day exploring Maligne. The biggest draw, however, is the one and a half hour Maligne Lake Cruise to the world renowned Spirit Island.
Snack suggestion: Pop to the Waffle Hut for a cinnamon bun or waffle on a stick with chocolate and strawberry sauce and hazelnut crumble.
With so much on offer, there’s no better time to explore Jasper National Park. Check out where to eat, stay and play and start planning your next summer adventure.