A little more under the radar than Banff, its big brother, Jasper offers more rugged, intense scenery with hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. Jasper is the perfect spot to escape the city, get close to wildlife and get back to nature.
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If you haven't already read my Banff post, it might be helpful to know that we did this trip by renting a van and hiring camp spots to park it in overnight. I think this was an amazing way to see both Banff and Jasper - it allowed us to be super mobile & offered more comfort than you get with the ol' tent and air mattress.
We booked our Jasper campground 2 months in advance, but similar to Banff, there weren't too many options left. I highly recommend planning your trip as far in advance as possible, keeping in mind the booking system for national parks opens at the beginning of the year. We stayed at the Wabasso Campground in Jasper. A fire license (which comes with firewood) can be purchased upon check-in at both sites for approx. $10/night, similar to what we saw at our Banff campground. Keep in mind that this site does not have showers, but read on for a solution to that.
7am-4pm drive with a view: Whether you’re coming from the Calgary airport or continuing on after a stint in Banff, the Icefields Parkway is a must-do drive with jaw dropping scenery, complete with several stops to check them out at. The drive from Banff is about 3 ½ hours, while it’ll take you a little over 5 hours if you’re coming straight from the airport. However, depending how crunched for time you are, it’s best to budget almost an entire day to allow for lots of stops and photo ops.
- moraine lake: If you’re haven’t already been, Moraine Lake is a must-do. The road here closes off if the parking lot is full, so your best bet is to head here early. There’s a loop that goes around the lake, while the Rockpile Trail will provide you with enough elevation to get some amazing views for very little effort.
- peyto lake: The colours of this lake are absolutely jaw-dropping, making a stop here well worth it. A brief uphill walk from the parking lot will give way to stunning views.
Other stops include Bow Valley, Saskatchewan River Crossing and Glaciers & Goats. You'll see signage pointing these out along the drive up the Columbia Icefields so no need to plan these stops out ahead.
4pm-7pm jasper brewing company: If you haven’t had your fill of breweries, the Jasper Brewing Company is a great way to unwind after a day on the road. Several beer options are offered, along with a full food menu. Before heading to your accommodation for the night, take the time to wander around Jasper town.
Word to the wise: Should you end up at a campsite with no showers like we did, the Jasper Activity & Leisure Centre offers shower facilities to travellers for a small fee. The centre is right near the town centre and the showers are super clean.
7am-9am path of the glacier trail: Although Jasper seemed a lot less trafficked than Banff, we still made a point of getting an early start to beat any potential crowds. This 1.6km trail brings you to see the Mount Edith Cavell, a glacier with a turquoise pool at its foot.
10am-1pm valley of the five lakes: This gorgeous hike will have you seeing 5 different lakes, all of which vary in size and colour. Although the hike isn’t overly long or hard, it’s best to budget more time to enjoy each of the lakes (and perhaps sunbathe on the dock at the fifth lake).
1pm-3pm pyramid lake: To further explore the Jasper area, head on out to Pyramid Lake. There are a few trails that start from here, along with some beaches should you just wish to kick back and relax for an hour.
3pm-4pm jasper's bear paw bakery: Get an energy boost with an iced coffee and a pastry at Jasper’s beloved café, Jasper’s Bear Paw Bakery.
4pm-6pm athabasca falls: Next up is a trail that takes you around the Athabasca Falls. This can tend to be packed with other visitors, but the falls are beautiful and worth a visit.
Heads up: We heard a lot more reports of bear sightings in Jasper than in Banff (even on the on well-trafficked trails), so you may want to consider bringing a can of bear spray with you. The ones we saw were super calm and unbothered, but it’s better to carry a can just in case.
7am-10am medicine lake drive: Get an early start and drive the Medicine Lake road. This is a beautiful drive, especially early in the morning. If you’re lucky, you may get to see some wildlife having their dawn snack. If you’re going slow and stopping to take in the sights, the drive can take you a few hours. Keep driving until you reach Maligne Lake.
10am-1pm maligne lake: This is a beautiful lake to walk around, with a shop and a couple places to grab a bite. Head to The Waffle Hut for a sweet breakfast, and/or hop on a boat tour to see more of the lake and swing by Spirit Island.
1pm-4pm maligne canyon: Another busy but beautiful spot, the Maligne Canyon can be seen by following the 3.4km loop trail.
4pm-6pm fairmont jasper park lodge: Cheers to a couple great days in Jasper with a drink or two at the Jasper Park Lodge. This hotel is laid out on beautiful grounds, and the lobby bar offers a view of the water. If you’re feeling hungry, there are several restaurants within the hotel where you can grab a bite before heading back into town (or to your campsite if you’re hoping for one last s'mores session!)
what to pack.
✧ flip flops for communal showers (these ones are my fav - so simple!)
✧ on-the-go bathing wipes to tide you over between showers/after hikes
✧ hiking day pack for toting around the essentials
✧ national geographic's star gazing guide - a little dorky but jasper is home to some of the best spots in north america to see stars
pin me for later!
Know of any other Jasper gems? Share in the comments below :)