The town of Jasper:
This quaint, historic town is smaller and much less touristy than Banff, but still has everything you need. All kinds of shops from trinkets to quality outdoor gear, loads of history with plaques and signs to teach you, cafes for a quick sip or yummy snack, hotels of varying prices and a variety of restaurants to choose from. It has three gas stations, one with diesel, so it’s a great place to fuel up before continuing on your adventure.
If you don’t have a car, there is a historic train station right in town that dates back to 1925 and it’s still in operation today! So cool. There are also several buses that will take you there. However, I do highly recommend renting a car so you can take your time on the road between Banff & Jasper. (You’re gonna want to make a lot of stops, trust me!)
Located in the center of town is a small park with a historic building that is now the tourist info center. Here you can gather loads of information about hiking trails, lakes and must-do activities in the area. Be aware that the recent pandemic has them understaffed, so their hours of operation vary. (Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with a list of awesome things to do in Jasper! Just keep reading.)
Things to do in and around Jasper:
Take an amazing hike: The number of hikes around Jasper is borderline insane, so you are sure to find something suitable for every skill level and desired view. Grab a map & talk to the info center to find the ones that get you most excited, but I recommend:
- Maligne Canyon. This is an easy stroll as you see the canyon from above along fenced pathways. The views of the churning water 50 meters below is humbling and the plaques along the trail educate you on the geology, 365 million year history, and lush ecosystem of the area.
- Whistlers Peak Summit. If you are feeling adventurous, you can start at the bottom and hike your way up, but this is difficult and can take around 6 hours. Another amazing way to access is via the skytram (see below), then taking a shorter hike to the summit. Either way, the views are awe inspiring!
- Lac Beauvert. If you are longing to see the incredible crystal blue waters floating around the Instagram feeds, but don’t want the crowds, this is the lake for you! It’s an amazing, quiet alternative and is very well maintained because of the resort on the lake. Lac Beauvert is an easy 10-15 minute drive from the town of Jasper and is worth every mile.
Pro tip: Don’t try to enter from the resort side, unless you are staying there of golfing the course. The GPS may try to take you there, but they only allow guests at this entrance. Save time by going to the other side of the lake where the public access point is. It has a small, free parking lot, toilets and you are still able to hike all the way around the lake.
Bonus tip: If you are debating about walking all the way around the lake, do it! There is an easy walking path that takes you the entire way, and the views are ever changing. It is worth it to see it from every angle. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife (but don’t get too close).
Simply stroll through town:
- Sit at an outdoor table at one of the cafes and watch the world go by.
- Peruse the shops for a souvenir or just to chat with a local shop owner.
Learn a bit of the history by stopping by some of the oldest spots. The train and fire stations, totem pole, visitor’s center & Yellowhead Museum are all educational and fun!
- Roam the streets (there are only a few) and see how locals live their daily lives.
Grab some snacks from the supermarket (or the farmer’s market if you’re there in the summer) and have a little picnic in the park. The view of the river with mountains in the background is begging to be appreciated and a great way to enjoy the place you’re in is just to BE there. Sit back and take it all in.
My favorite Jasper Activity:
Skytram! We debated for a long time about taking advantage of this experience due to a gloomy weather forecast, but in the end we went for it. And it has become one of my most memorable life experiences! (That’s not an exaggeration.)
Tickets are $60CAD per person and can be purchased online or at the bottom of the tram. There is a café with snack items near the ticket counter and a full restaurant at the top.
As you make your way up the mountain side on the tram, the operator will give you some info about the history and landscape of the area. They are very friendly and happy to answer any questions you may have.
When you arrive at the top (after about 7 minutes of breathtaking scenery), you are greeted with even more amazing views. And wind. It’s cold and windy up there, so bring a good jacket with a hood, and hold tight to any hats/masks/lose items you have. It’s self guided at the top, so you are free to explore the viewing decks or chow down and chill out at the restaurant. They serve alcohol up there as well, but remember you are at a higher elevation and maybe limit your refills.
If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, there is a hiking trail that takes you to a false summit, then the actual summit. It’s not a long hike, but it is very steep and in some parts a bit unsteady. Not to mention the altitude is 8,200ft/2,500meters meaning the air is thin. Take it easy and slow. (Honestly, this isn’t hard to do as the incredible sights will stop you many times along the way). The top provides some breathtaking views (it isn’t just the altitude that will take your breath away here) and a few plaques with info about surrounding mountain tops.
Whether you stop at the tram landing pad, or hike to the top, this is an absolute MUST when you pass through Jasper.
If you are debating between visiting Banff or Jasper National Parks, my piece of advice is:
If you are already in the area, it’s silly to skip one and the drive between the two is definitely not to be missed! Check out my post below to plan out the Banff portion of your adventure.
Related posts you might like:
I did this trip with my amazing parents who are on thier own adventure, driving a converted school bus the entireity of the Pan-American Hwy (North, central & South America)! Follow their journey here!
If you will be in Canada for a while, be sure to stop by Vancouver, BC for an amazing city experience! (Bonus points if you are flying in/out of YVR). Check out my guide to get the most out of your time there!