After crossing Canada from coast to coast on a road trip, we fell in love with our country. That’s why, given the current international travel restrictions, we went back to visit one of our favourite places in Alberta: Jasper! The moment you see the peaks of the Canadian Rockies, straight out of a postcard, you feel your stress levels drop a notch. Prepare to be breathless at the sight of these mountains!
As the largest national park in the Rockies, Jasper is a favourite playground for all outdoor enthusiasts. The park is so big and filled with points of interest for all types of adventurers that you could spend a lifetime exploring it, and you wouldn’t even see all the hikes, lakes and mountains!
The Icefield Parkway is a reason in itself to visit Jasper. It doesn’t matter if you get into the national park via Calgary or Edmonton. It’s hard to explain in mere words the majestic character of the towering Rocky Mountains. It’s no surprise that this 232-kilometre road is among the most beautiful in the world. Moreover, it is proven that the air of the mountains is the secret ingredient for eternal youth! I’m exaggerating, of course, but few places in the world have amazed me so much.
Depending on the time of year you visit Jasper, some activities may not be available. In the spring (and sometimes until mid-summer), some lakes are still icy, and many trails are covered in snow. Since we’ve been fortunate enough to tour the area in the spring and winter, we’ve prepared the ultimate guide for you to experience the best that Jasper has to offer.
What to do in Jasper, Alberta (Spring/Summer)?
For the best views, climb to the top of Whistler Mountain. At 2,263 metres above sea level, this is the spot for a panoramic photo of Jasper National Park. The hike should take only 3-4 hours. The good news is that after this trek, you can jump into the Jasper SkyTram for free to descend back down the mountain. You can transition to the Upper Station when you arrive from the SkyTram and then continue higher to hike the Summit Trail for an added challenge.
Head to Pyramid Lake for the sunset. There, you can cross the bridge leading to a small island with a small path around it. On the way back, stop at Patricia Lake, another breathtaking lake with crystal clear water. The dizzying mountains with the turquoise lake provide the perfect backdrop for your Instagram feed.
If you have more time in Jasper, you can also visit:
- Maligne Lake: A 1.5-hour cruise on Maligne Lake to Spirit Island.
- Maligne Canyon: A 7 km trek to explore the deepest canyon in the Rockies.
- Valley of the Five Lakes: A 2-hour trek around five lakes for a 4.5 km loop.
- The Path of the Glacier Trail to Mount Edith Cavell: A short hike (1.8 km loop) for a view of Angel Glacier.
- Miette Hot Springs: About an hour’s drive from Jasper, you can take a dip in the hottest thermal springs in the Rockies.
- Glacier Lakes: Explore the most popular lakes, including Medicine Lake, Lake Annette, Lake Edith and Lake Beauvert.
- Horseshoe Lake: This place is popular during the summer for cliff jumping.
- Old Fort Point: A short but difficult hike that takes in scenic views of the Jasper Valley.
What to do in Jasper, Alberta (Winter)?
Although the Rockies in winter are often associated with board sports, there is so much more to do in the Jasper area, even if you are not a skier or snowboarder. A winter stay in Jasper has everything to make you fall in love with winter, no matter the weather! Even my beach bum self didn’t mind when the mercury dropped to -40!
For a one-of-a-kind experience, explore the park’s deepest accessible canyon with Sundog Tours. During the Maligne Canyon Ice Walk, you will have the chance to see frozen waterfalls, ice caves and surprising ice formations. Be careful if you tend to get cold quickly: you must dress warmly for this activity since the temperature drops by several degrees when you reach the bottom of the canyon. If you are doing the activity on your own, be sure to rent crampons, which are included if you book a guided tour.
If you want to spoil yourself (because YOLO and this is by far the experience of a lifetime), treat yourself to a helicopter and snowshoe ride in the Rockies with Rockies Heli. It was the first time for me in a chopper, and I was amazed from start to finish! The price includes a 20-minute helicopter tour where you can admire glaciers, frozen lakes and the distant peaks of the Rockies as far as the eye can see.
We get dropped off with our guide in the middle of nowhere, literally alone in the world, for a snowshoe ride, rewarded with a little hot chocolate and Baileys. What more could you ask for!
After a day in the elements, it’s time to take it easy at the Spa at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Enjoy the heated outdoor pool with the best view in town or relax in the brand-new outdoor spa.
Finally, accompanied by a Quebec guide who has been living in Jasper for more than 12 years, I explored four of the best “foodie” spots in Jasper during the Jasper Food Tour. You will feast on typical dishes of the region such as game meat and local beers, as well as culinary discoveries from all over the world. Without revealing the secrets of Estelle, our guide and founder of the Jasper Food tour, I can tell you that we come out with full stomachs and maybe even a little tipsy.
For hyperactive people looking for other winter activities to do in Jasper, you can also:
- Go on a fat bike ride.
- Go skating on Pyramid Lake or Mildred Lake at Jasper Park Lodge.
- Try ice climbing.
- Hit the slopes in Marmot (P.S. by staying at HI Jasper, you can get 15% off your lift ticket).
Where to sleep in Jasper, Alberta?
Your best option is the HI Jasper, a brand-new hostel which opened its doors a year ago. Just a short walk from downtown Jasper, this is the perfect location for your nature adventures.
The hostel’s kitchen is super well-equipped, but if you lack motivation for your breakfasts or lunches, head to the Sleepy Hollow Cafe, located downstairs for an on-the-go bite.
There are rooms to suit all budgets, from beds in dormitories to double rooms with private toilets. Ask the reception about discounts for outdoor activities and even some restaurants in the area.
Where to eat in Jasper, Alberta?
After a day exploring nature, visit the Jasper Brewing Company. To quench your thirst after a day in the sun, we tried the Jasper The Bear Ale, and we loved it! In winter, we warm up with a Hot Buttered Rum… yum! Do not miss the Wapiti meatloaf (Rustic Elk Meatloaf), which is a pub classic.
With its cozy atmosphere reminiscent of a speakeasy, the Downstream Restaurant & Lounge is the perfect place for a date. We tried the bison ribs, and they were delicious!
The Coco’s Cafe is a super cute small cafe, where you can sit on the bench at the window to do some people watching or simply relax with a good book. As they open at 6 am, it’s perfect for a morning boost before heading out on a winter adventure. We recommend the Reuben on Rye or one of the delicious smoothies that will certainly fill you up for the rest of the day.
For a gourmet meal at one of Jasper’s trendiest restaurants, don’t miss Evil Dave’s Bar & Grill. Fans of word games will appreciate the bold names of the dishes on the menu. I loved Hell’s Chicken for a Caribbean twist right in the middle of the Rockies.
At Jasper Pizza Place, you can order yourself an authentic pizza baked in a wood-fired oven. Nomadic tip: order your pizza to go and eat it at the youth hostel in front of the fireplace. It’s a sure-fire way to make new friends.
The perfect place for happy hour after a day of exploring is the Whistle Stop Pub. Indulge yourself with their plate of nachos… it’s huge!! Bring some friends to share this with you!
Where to go out in Jasper?
Jasper may seem like a quiet little mountain village, but it’s at 4 Peaks Nightclub that you can revel in the party atmosphere. Make sure you don’t miss the Happy Hour from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
The Legion’s is the place you want to be on Friday evenings for Friday Jam nights when the crowd of locals join the visitors. It’s guaranteed that the party is pounding!
The Francophone community of Jasper
If you want to stay tuned for French-language activities in Jasper, visit the Association Canadienne-française de l’Alberta in Jasper Facebook page. They organize many events during the year, such as music shows to celebrate the Francophone diversity of the region or even thematic evenings such as the “Sugar shack” evening.