If a fresh air mountain paradise is at the top of your list, consider it checked in Jasper, Canada. Mind-blowing vistas and wildlife sightings are par for the course in the heart of Jasper National Park.
The region offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences in its multitude of hiking trails, pristine lakes, and striking scenery. On top of all that, Jasper is one of the world’s International Dark Sky Preserves, providing the opportunity for some of the best stargazing in the world.
Experience the best of the Canadian Rocky Mountains with these incredible things to do in Jasper.
1: Drive the Icefields Parkway
Icefields Parkway is an incredible drive that links Jasper National Park to Banff National Park. Pure scenic bliss awaits you on this 144-mile route, with glaciers, waterfalls, pine and larch forests, and the soaring Rocky Mountains as all the pretty cherries on top.
Just off the highway, hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulties are available. Highlights include Bow Lake, where you’ll feast your eyes on the glacier of the same name; Crowfoot Mountain; Mount Thompson; and the Wapta Icefield.
Tangle Falls is another natural point of interest where, in the summer, you can admire the cascades that are tackled by experienced ice-climbers in the winter months. Another roadside stop will have you standing at the foot of the Athabasca Glacier, just like that.
A quick walk from a parkway stop will give you access to the Saskatchewan and Howse river valleys, also known as the “Saskatchewan Crossing Point.” Bighorn sheep, elk, bears, and caribou are just some of the wildlife you may spot along the drive. Make sure to bring your camera, as this is one amazing drive worth stopping every few minutes to capture the beauty surrounding you.
2: Explore the Columbia Icefield/Athabasca Glacier
The Athabasca Glacier, one of the six “toes” of the Columbia Icefield, is a thing of striking beauty. Exploring the icefield is one of the most unforgettable things to do in Jasper since it’s one of the largest non-polar ice fields in the world.
Learn about the history of the glacial landscape as you explore Mother Nature’s ancient layer cake of ice. A well-equipped, ice-ready vehicle will transport you to this natural wonderland, where you can marvel at the sheer beauty around you. You’ll even have the surreal opportunity to walk around on the glacier.
After exploring the glacier up close, make sure to visit the cliffside Skywalk. You’ll gain a wide-angle perspective as you stroll the path and peer through the glass-floored walkway bottom to the expansive glacial landscape and Sunwapta Valley. This is definitely one of the top Jasper attractions guaranteed to leave you breathless.
3: Learn Regional History at the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives
For a deep dive into the history and culture rooted in the Canadian mountain town of Jasper, head to the Yellowhead Museum and Archives, located right in the center of town. Artifacts, documents, photographs, and a rotating exhibit with informative displays educate visitors in an engaging way about the area’s history.
The railway, trade, and pioneer stories, as well as the history of Jasper’s tourism sector’s start and development, are all highlights of this museum. Events depicting the history of Jasper and the Yellowhead Corridor are often performed throughout the year. The gift shop sells items by local artists as well as literature about the park for all ages. If you’re looking to learn about the region’s rich heritage, this is the place to do it.
4: Hike in Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is a hiker’s dream and one of the best things to do in Jasper for nature lovers. The abundance of hikes in Canada’s largest national Park means more choices for varying levels of skill as well as family-friendly and accessible hikes.
Athabasca Falls is one of the best hikes since it’s just a short walk to the impressive 75-foot high thundering falls. Along the way, take in the views of Mt. Kerkselin, the tallest peak in the Maligne Mountain Range. Once you reach the cascading falls, admire the view from various lookouts.
If you’re looking for a longer hike, consider the five-mile Opal Hills Loop Trail. Flower lovers will appreciate the bountiful wildflower meadows along this trek. This trail begins at Maligne Lake, approximately 45 minutes outside of town. You’ll need some endurance to complete this moderately rated hike though, as the first portion is a bit of a steep climb before arriving at the peaceful meadows skirted by stunning mountains.
5: Adventure in Maligne Canyon
As one of the top things to do in Jasper National Park, Maligne Canyon is a natural wonder well worth exploring. This narrow slot canyon snags the award for “deepest canyon in the Rockies” and is a true treasure to uncover. The gorge goes as deep as 164 feet at some points, and it’s filled with waterfalls, caves, and ancient fossils of snails, sea lilies, and lampshells.
The path winds you along the crevice with up to six bridge crossings, and each offers a unique vantage point into the canyon’s splendor. The length and number of bridges you cross depend on if you choose to do the full 2.4-mile loop or an out-and-back hike.
At the third bridge, you’ll have a view of the gorge’s tallest waterfall. Appreciate the collective power of Mother Nature and water which has carved this limestone canyon. An on-site restaurant, Wilderness Kitchen, is the perfect way to fuel up after your canyon adventure.
6: Find the Famous Red Chairs
The famous Muskoka red chairs are a Canadian landmark, and finding them is part of the outdoor fun around the Jasper area. This series of bright red Adirondack-style chairs are strategically placed for visitors to relax in while observing some of the best views in the park.
While some are easily found, others are more challenging, and looking for them is a fun outdoor scavenger hunt perfect for families or couples. All of them will encourage you to take a break and truly be in the moment. There are a total of eight chair locations waiting to seat you in front of lakes, mountains, valleys, and other picturesque sights.
The Valley of the Five Lakes is a fun, straightforward hike where you can discover some of these signature Jasper chairs while also experiencing some of the area’s most striking alpine lakes. This trek will have you hiking along an easy 2.8-mile hiking trail, perfect for people of all ages and varying skill levels. The glacier-fed bodies of water will wow you with their vivid blue and green hues. Spotting the red chairs amongst the pristine wilderness will be a grand reward for your hard work.
7: Stargaze In An International Dark Sky Preserve
Jasper was deemed a Dark Sky Preserve in 2011 thanks to the small amount of artificial light pollution it produces. As the second biggest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, Jasper is one of the premier places to admire the magic of the night sky.
This protected area spans a vast 4,247 square miles, where you can see your favorite constellations and catching a glimpse of the immense Milky Way. Its accessibility adds to the allure, so you don’t have to go too far into the wilderness to experience the magic.
There are many ways to experience this stargazing splendor within the park, whether outdoors in nature, with a telescope, or in the interactive planetarium. A visit to the planetarium makes for a more well-rounded understanding of the connection between Jasper’s Aboriginal culture and the stars. You’ll learn how the night sky has held deep meaning to indigenous people throughout generations. Every year, Jasper is host to a Dark Sky Festival to celebrate the region’s rich nighttime ritual.
8: Ride the Jasper Skytram
Hailed as Jasper’s “best view,” the Skytram will have you reaching 7,424 feet towards the sky in under ten minutes. Upon arrival, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping 360-degree views that include the town of Jasper, six mountain ranges, vibrant alpine lakes, and shimmering rivers from nearby glaciers. You may even spot wildlife like bighorn sheep on the thrilling ride up to the top.
If you’re looking to stretch your legs, a network of trails is available for exploring the alpine tundra. Trek the Whistlers Mountain Summit trail and stop at the varied viewpoints along the way. Listen for the whistle of the hoary marmot, spot a white-tailed ptarmigan, or appreciate the lovely wildflowers that appear during the summer months. All of that fresh air will make you hungry, and the Summit Restaurant is an easy choice to refuel.
9: Enjoy Pyramid Lake
Just ten minutes outside the town of Jasper lies Pyramid Lake and a mountain of the same name towering over it—a duo you have to see for yourself. The island in the midst of this kidney-shaped lake makes for a gorgeous photograph to remember your time here.
A wooden bridge connects the island to the shore, where you can stroll and take in the scenery, and even enjoy a picnic. A historic shelter built in the 1930s still stands on the island, which was recognized as a Federal Heritage Building.
Head out onto the lake via kayak, canoe, or boat for a unique vantage point of the stunning landscapes surrounding you. Hike the 3.5-mile loop trail which encircles the lake, or go on a mountain biking expedition.
Outdoor adventures aside, you could just lay back and relax on the lakeside beach. No matter what activity or combination of activities you choose, this lake is one of the all-around best things to do in Jasper to enjoy the mountain air and scenery.
10: Admire Sunwapta Falls
This two-tiered waterfall off the Icefields Parkway within Jasper National Park is fed by the Athabasca Glacier and is a true natural beauty to behold. Translated to mean “turbulent water” from the native Stoney language, this powerful waterfall is a top attraction in Jasper.
The waterfall cascades approximately 61 feet into the limestone gorge and can be viewed via trails to both the upper and lower falls. The path to the upper falls is more popular as it’s an easy, paved trail. On the way to the lower falls, depending on the time of day, you might even see wildlife. The footbridge provides a postcard-perfect scene of the waterfall backed by the dramatic mountain. You’ll want your camera for this one!
If you’re ready for a Rocky Mountain adventure, Jasper has everything you could want in an outdoor haven. On a Canadian Rockies cruisetour, you’ll explore the rugged beauty of Alaska on one of our luxury cruise ships, then head inland to Canada’s stunning interior.
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