Things to Do in Jasper
Jutting out from the side of a Jasper National Park cliff, the elevated, glass-bottomed Columbia Icefield Skywalk, also known as Glacier Skywalk, is an exhilarating—if somewhat unnerving—way to experience the epic, untouched landscapes of the Canadian Rockies. From this vantage point, the view of the park’s ice-hatted peaks and glacial valleys is nothing short of spectacular.
With its vivid aquamarine waters and impressive backdrop of jagged, glacier-studded peaks, Maligne Lake has visitors to the Canadian Rockies reaching for their cameras. The glacier-fed lake is the largest in Jasper National Park. Tiny tree-topped Spirit Island stands in the middle of the lake and is the subject of countless postcards.
Travel up Whistlers Mountain on the Jasper SkyTram, Canada’s longest and highest aerial tramway, to see Jasper National Park from a brand-new perspective. The enclosed gondola takes you from 4,279 feet (1,304 meters) to 7,472 feet (2,277 meters) above sea level. From the top, enjoy stunning views of Jasper, the Rockies, and the Athabasca River.
Carved out of the limestone bedrock by a rushing river, this narrow and steep canyon—which reaches depths of up to 160 feet (50 meters)—is one of the most striking geological features of Jasper National Park. In summer, hikers flock here to follow trails that span the gorge, while in winter, the canyon freezes into an icy wonderland.
Situated in Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park, Spirit Island is—for most of the year, at least—not actually an island at all, but rather a pint-sized peninsula connected to the mainland by a thin strip of land. A long-standing symbol of the Canadian Rockies, the tree-topped islet has featured on countless postcards and images of the park.
The Athabasca River originates from the Columbia Glacier on the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. The Athabasca River is Alberta’s largest undammed river and the second-longest river overall in the province. It travels almost 1,000 miles (1,500 km) northeast across Alberta, and drains into Lake Athabasca in the northeast. The Athabasca runs through the glaciers and snow-covered mountains of Alberta’s Jasper National Park, considered to be one of the most beautiful areas in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The river is accessible by both road and by rail from all major centers in Alberta and British Columbia. The river offers excellent canoeing, rafting, kayaking, and hiking with all of the usually services and facilities that are usually found in Canada’s national parks. Beautiful waterfalls and trails to explore abound along the river, and it would be an excellent “home base” for a couple of days for any campers wanting to explore more of Jasper National Park.
An alpine lake surrounded by the rugged mountains of Jasper National Park, Medicine Lake is not only a wildlife watching and recreation destination, it is also a geological anomaly. In summer, the pristine lake is brimming with glacial water. Come fall, sinkholes at the bottom of the lake drain the water, leaving nothing but mudflats.
Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park are a gorgeous spot to soak your bones after a hike in the Rocky Mountains. Known as the hottest springs in the Canadian Rockies, the mineral-rich water gushes out of the mountainside at a steamy 129°F (54°C) before being cooled to 104°F (40°C) for a comfortable dip in the pool.
At 75 feet (23 meters) tall, Athabasca Falls may not be the highest waterfall in the Canadian Rockies, but it is one of the most powerful. Originating in the Columbia Icefield, the Athabasca River narrows dramatically before it thunders over the falls and creates a natural wonder.
Sunwapta Falls are a set of Class 6 waterfalls that originate from the Athabasca Glacier and the Sunwapta River in Jasper National Park, Alberta. The falls are easily accessible by car during the summer months, located a short drive off the Icefields Parkway that connects Banff and Jasper National parks.
Sunwapta is a Stoney (Assiniboine) word meaning “turbulent water.” Over time as the Sunwapta River changed its course, a deep gorge was caused in the limestone rocks. Today, the two sets of falls that make up Sunwapta Falls are over 75 feet tall. They have a total drop of 60 feet (18 meters) and a width of 30 feet (9 meters). The upper waterfall flows through a narrow canyon and drops into three lower falls. The waterfalls are at their peak in late spring and early summer when glacial melt is at its highest, and in the winter, you can ice climb, snowshoe, and admire the ice formations created by the falls.
More Things to Do in Jasper
At almost 11,000 feet (3,300 meters) above sea level, Mt. Edith Cavell is one of Canada’s most impressive mountains — and the province of Alberta’s most notable peak. The mountain was named after a British nurse who was executed in WWI for helping Allied prisoners escape from occupied Brussels. The bright turquoise glacial meltwater of Cavell Pond below the rugged summit of Mt. Edith Cavell is one of the most beautiful vistas in Jasper National Park. It is one of the few places in the world where a short walk can bring you up close and personal with a glacier. Vegetation grows slowly at such high elevation, and Mt. Edith Cavell experiences heavy visitor use. It is considered a fragile ecological area (where even a footprint can last for decades), so please do stay on the marked trails. In the spring, you may see and/or hear avalanches thundering down Mt. Edith Cavell’s stark north face.
From the parking lot, a well-groomed trail leads uphill to an excellent view of the mountain and Angel Glacier. The Path of the Glacier Loop meanders through the geological debris left behind by the retreat of the local glaciers. The trail ends at a small meltwater pond full of icebergs, and offers a fantastic view of both the Angel and Cavell Glaciers. Flower lovers may be especially interested in the Cavell Meadows Trail, which leads above the glacial debris to a subalpine meadow that explodes with wildflower life during the month of July.
Designated a Dark Sky Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Jasper is a stargazing paradise. Come to the 40-seat Jasper Planetarium for a glimpse at the area’s star-studded skies, with interactive planetarium shows and powerful outdoor telescopes.
Stretching from the Canadian Rockies to Vancouver, the Fraser River is the longest river in British Columbia and is known as one of the most productive salmon fisheries in the world. Throughout its vast basin, outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy a range of recreation activities such as white-water rafting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and hiking.
Home to the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson Provincial Park and Protected Area draws in mountaineers, photographers, and sightseers. The 12,972-foot (3,954-meter) Mount Robson stands out both because of its size and dramatic geological rings that spiral up the mountain. Visitors frequently spot moose, elk, bear, and caribou.
Easily accessible from nearly anywhere in Jasper, the Jasper Discovery Trail is a 5-mile (8-kilometer) loop trail that rises above the mountain town, offering views of the town and the Rocky Mountains. The route is a convenient way to get out into the mountains and can be used to travel from one part of town to another.
Granting travelers passage through the rugged Canadian Rockies for centuries, Yellowhead Pass began as trade thoroughfare and today is a National Historic Site and a popular roadside stop. In addition to a plaque noting its historical significance, the site provides road-trippers with views of Mount Robson and the Fraser River Valley.