When it comes to exploring the great Canadian Rocky Mountains, there is no better place to visit than Jasper National Park. The town of Jasper has everything you need for your perfect weekend getaway, with a wide variety of accommodations, places to eat and shop, and fun activities to do outdoors.
No matter what time of year you’re visiting, there are plenty of ways to experience the magic of Jasper. Want to come in the winter months? How about skiing in the rockies, or taking an ice walk through the Maligne Canyon? If you’re travelling in the summer, why not check out some of the local hiking trails, or go white water rafting at Athabasca River?
To make your vacation easier for you, here I have created a list of the top activities and fun things to do while staying in Jasper, Alberta.
Columbia Icefield Tour
If you’re the kind of person who loves a once-in-a-lifetime kind of adventure, then you won’t want to miss a tour of the Columbia Icefield. This activity is definitely something you’ll want to cross off your bucket list!
First, you’ll get to experience the view of the Icefields Parkway. It’s a guided tour where someone else drives, so you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy yourself while soaking in the view of the mountains, glaciers, and wildlife along the way.
On the way, you’ll stop at Athabasca Falls, an impressive Class 5 waterfall. When you finally make it to the Columbia Icefields, you’ll hop on a bus-like vehicle called the Ice Explorer. The tour will take you into the Athabasca Glacier, where you’ll get to experience the glacier safely up close.
Before the drive back to Jasper, you can always check out the Skywalk, a one-kilometre walkway that leads you to a glass platform with beautiful views all around you. The glass platform is pretty tall, and you might feel queasy if you look below your feet.
This activity is one of the top attractions to do in Alberta, but the tours are only available from spring to fall. The glacier remains all year round, so be sure to pack warm clothes and bring sturdy footwear.
Soaking in the Miette Hot Springs
The Miette Hot Springs is another fun activity to do in Jasper. It is located 60 kilometres northeast from Jasper National Park and is known as one of the hottest hot springs in the Canadian Rockies.
The hot springs hit a piping-hot temperature of 54 degrees Celsius (129 degrees Farenheit) right from the mountain, but the water is cooled to a more resonable temperature of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Farenheit) in the pools where people come to swim. There are a few different options of pools to choose from, and some of the pools are even colder if you’re really looking to cool off on an extra hot day.
Aside from relaxing in the soothing water, the views from the pool are pretty spectacular. Here, you can see the top of the mountains at a close distance. It’s the perfect combination for a relaxing outdoors experience.
The pools can be accessed from early May to mid-October, but are closed during the winter and early spring months. There are lockers and showers available on site, and it’ll be a good idea to bring a pair of sandals and some sunglasses with you.
Official site: https://www.hotsprings.ca/miette
Hiking in Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is the perfect destination for people who love to hike. The park has endless options of hiking trails to keep you busy during your trip to Jasper.
Hikers who want to challenge themselves can check out the scenic Bald Hills Trail, which overlooks the Maligne Lake. This hiking trail is approximately 10.4 kilometres and takes four to six hours to complete, offering stunning views along the way.
The Skyline Trail is also a must-try activity for advanced hikers: this 44 kilometre trail takes most people two to four days to complete, depending on how quickly you want to move. Gaining 1,380 metres in elevation, this hike takes up to the top of the treeline and features panoramic views that you will never forget.
If you prefer to keep it on the easy side, you can try the Wapiti trail, which is a 9.4 kilometre trail but with no elevation gain. It will take you a few hours to complete.
Many companies in the Jasper area offer dogsledding tours – all of them have different routes and covers different landscapes, but all of them allow you to explore Jasper while getting to know an adorable team of huskies.
Dogsledding is one of the oldest methods of winter transportation. Nestled into the sled, you’ll be surprised just how smooth the ride is and how much land the dogs are able to cover. On the back of the sled, a musher sits as a director for the dogs, telling them when they should change their speed. Most of the tours offer passengers the opportunity to be a musher for the sled.
Tours range from a short, hour-long trip to an overnight adventure where you’ll end up sleeping in a cabin deep into the woods. This activity in Jasper only runs throughout the winter months, so you’ll need to dress in your best warm clothes for the ride.
White Water Rafting on the Athabasca River
You don’t need much experience in white water rafting to enjoy a day at the Athabasca River. Your guides will teach everything you need to know so you can have a safe, fun, and memorable float.
Beginner tours are suitable for children that are as young as six years old, tackling Class 2 rapids that big enough to give you quite a thrill but are still manageable. Anyone of any age is able to have fun on this ride. Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity!
White water rafting is usually a summer activity that runs from May to September, although the glacier-fed river can get really cold. Your tour guide will provide you with the gear you need to keep you warm, including wet suits, life jackets, neoprene boots, and paddle jackets. Just make sure to bring a bathing suit or clothing that you don’t mind getting wet.
Maligne Canyon Icewalk Tour
The Maligne Canyon Icewalk Tour is one of the most popular and impressive activities to do in Jasper. This activity takes you through a three-hour long guided tour of Alberta’s deepest canyon. Here, you will get to walk a 3.5 kilometre trail and explore frozen waterfalls, ice caves and ice formations while learning about the Maligne valley, karst typography and the mystery of the disappearing Medicine Lake.
These tours are available morning, noon and night. You can be picked up from your accommodation in Jasper and be driven directly to the canyon. Your tour guides will provide you with warm boots, ice cleats and safety helmets.
Ride the Jasper SkyTram
If you really want to soak in the amazing views of Jasper National Park, head on to the Jasper SkyTram. This aerial tramway takes up to 26 people at a time up 2,263 metres in just under 8 minutes. There’s a lot of beautiful views to take in when you’re up in the air, but each tram features a guide who will explain everything you’re looking at for the whole ride. Pro tip: if you look down beneath your feet, you might even spot some wildlife!
Tickets need to be booked in order for you to ride the SkyTram, but cabins come and go about every nine minutes. Once you’re at the top, you’re free to explore as much as you want for as long as you want.
What is there to do at the top, you might ask? Those who are looking for a hike can walk up to the summit of Whistler’s Mountain for even more spectacular views. Those who want to take it easy can explore the boardwalks near the Upper Station. In the colder months, snowshoe rentals are available on-site if you want to explore the area on foot.
The Summit Restaurant is also a great place to visit for when you’ve worked up an appetite after a long day of hiking.
The SkyTram runs seasonally from mid-March to late October/early November. Whatever time you plan to visit, be sure to bring layers, because the top of the mountain is actually 12 degrees colder than it is in the town.
Official site: https://www.jasperskytram.com
Stargazing at Jasper National Park’s Dark Sky Preserve
When’s the last time you took a minute to look up and enjoy a starry night sky? A lot of Canadians live in cities where the pollution is so high, you can barely see any stars.
Jasper National Park is an official Dark Sky Preserve, meaning it takes extra steps to minimize the impact of pollution. At 11,000 square kilometres, it is the second largest dark sky preserve in the world. The result is a really dark sky filled with bright sparkly stars. It’s truly a sight that you don’t want to miss.
Although the night sky can be enjoyed all year round, the Jasper Dark Sky Festival runs every year from mid-to-late October. The festival includes moon viewing events, visits to a planetarium, photography workshops for the night sky, a symphony under the stars, and a line up of scientific speakers. If you’re passionate about seeing the stars, then this festival is an activity you must do on your trip to Jasper.
Elk, mountain goats, black bears and grizzly bears are just a small handful of the wildlife you might encounter while exploring Jasper. The national park is home to many animals, big and small, and seeing wildlife in their natural habitat is truly an unforgettable, amazing educational experience.
The local tour guides know the best spots for wildlife sightings and can also teach you a lot about the animal population. They will instruct you on how to observe the animals from a safe distance.
Since animals tend to migrate and hibernate throughout the year, different seasons bring different wildlife sighting opportunities. In the winter, you might see some coyotes, wolves, moose, deer, and elk. In the summer, you’re more likely to spot some grizzly bears, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep. Don’t forget to bring your camera to snap some photos of these beautiful creatures!
Skiing or Snowboarding at Marmot Basin
If you’ve always dreamed of skiing in the Rocky Mountains, then Marmot Basin is the perfect destination for you. With a base elevation of 1,698 metres, Marmot Basin has the highest base elevation of any ski resort in Canada, with lots of fresh, powdery snow. It’s less a 30 minute drive out of town, making it for the perfect choice for a day trip.
The mountain features 1,702 acres of delightfully skiable terrain, spread between five different mountain faces. Seven ski lifts can be accessed throughout the mountain, which includes options for skiers of all levels, from beginner to advanced.
Marmot Basin usually opens in mid-November, with a long ski season that extends until early May. If you decide to ski between the months of December and February, when the mountain is at its chilliest weather conditions, be sure to pack proper winter gear and take breaks when needed.
Official site: https://www.skimarmot.com/
Cross-Country Skiing through Jasper National Park
Cross-country skiers, rejoice: there are five different cross-country areas in Jasper National Park, featuring a variety of terrain.
Pyramid Mountain features an easy 4.5 kilometre loop with minimal elevation change, making it a perfect trail for beginners. Advanced skiers can explore the 15 kilometre Pyramid Fire Road, featuring a 553 meter climb. The Pipeline Trail, Wabasso Campground, and Athabasca Falls offer additional easy trails, and the Whirlpool Winter Hub has great options for intermediate skiers.
Cross-country ski rentals are available all over town, so don’t worry if you don’t have a pair of your own. Just don’t gorget to wear layers, because it does get pretty chilly in Jasper during the winter months.
Accommodations in Jasper
Budget Hotels: HI Jasper is the only budget-friendly hotel in Jasper.