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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Bates

Why Jasper is an all-year round destination

Updated: Feb 17

We have been to Jasper on two occasions so far, once in the summer months and once in the winter months (Well, I have been here twice, Olga has only been here in the summer). Only once have I conquered the Canadian winter and doing this on my return to the small town of Jasper in the heart of the Jasper National Park. However as I found out there is not much to do in the town but it is an excellent base for those who want to go skiing (in winter months) and hiking (in the summer months) or to those doing a road trip and go out further into the mountain range to check the area out (which is totally awesome). Here on this blog post I will tell you some of the awesome stuff to do and see whilst on a short break in the area.

A view to the north of Whistler's Mountain near Jasper, Canada
A view of the valley west of Jasper, taken from Whistler's Mountain


Life here started out in 1813 as a settlement for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad workers who were laying tracks down alongside the Athabasca River. The town grew as people from outside the area were interested to see what the Rockies were all about (as well as a trading route for fur) and eventually resorts, restaurants, hotels and a visitor centre sprung up. The town itself is small with a few things to do but it is a great base to find accommodation and there are some great restaurants and bars here.

Whistlers Mountain

Opens in Spring through to Autumn, the Jasper Tramway whisks visitors up towards the summit of Whistlers Mountain. There maybe a wait to get on the cable car especially in peak seasons so I would advise to book in advance, like the day before and get up there early (hoping that it will be a clear day because the views are amazing). The seven minute ride finishes at the upper station which is at 2,285 meters (7,497ft) but it isn’t the summit.

After leaving the upper terminal there are a few paths to take to get right to the summit of Whistlers Mountain which is 2,470m (8,100ft) which doesn’t seem much difference but for those who don’t walk up mountains often, it can take the breath out of you. For those who are frigging crazy and don’t want to take the cable car up the mountain, there is a 2.8km walking trail from the bottom to the summit of the mountain! I really wish we had more time because the mountain and surrounding area is totally awesome. On a very clear day looking out to the west (which we had when we came up), a view of Mt. Robson, the tallest mountain peak in the Rockies over forty miles away can be seen.

Marmot Basin - Jasper’s only ski resort

Whilst Lake Louise and Banff have a few ski resorts and is the main place for skiers to ski as the location is nearer to Calgary and the main international airport of Alberta, Jasper does offer one ski resort and is worth checking out. On my visit here I noticed that the slopes are a lot wider and is an excellent place for first time skiers to learn and practice. Voted North America’s top ski resort by USA Today in 2018, the resort offers a great bar and restaurant, shop, rentals and lessons. There are plenty of shuttle buses to get skiers to and from the hotels in town. For further information check out the resort here.

Maligne Canyon Ice Walk (Winter Only) - Maligne Canyon hiking (non-winter months)

One of the highlights for me has to be walking on a frozen river through a canyon which is located not too far south of Jasper. I was lucky to do this with a tour guide called Wes (who was a former Park Ranger and his knowledge of the area and animals is amazing!) from Sundog Transportation and Tours LTD.

The two-hour hike took myself and my group to the deepest accessible canyon in the Jasper National Park (and the whole of North America) where I got to experience frozen waterfalls, ice caves and there were some pretty awesome ice formations. After the canyon we were taken along the river where we got to see incredible views of surrounding mountains, walked into the river and drank the fresh water and saw squirrels, chipmunks and woodpeckers.

It’s not all outdoor adventures in Jasper

That’s right. I managed to get myself on a food tour around Jasper with Jasper Food Tours where the owner of the company Estelle took the group around four places on the ‘Downtown Foodie Tour’ which includes four eats and four drinks. The walk is very short and whilst checking out the restos (where there are four carefully handpicked dishes paired with booze to go with them, tasting mighty fine), we got treated to listening to top tales of the local area. I don’t want to spoil the tour but all I can say is that the food I tried is very tasty, very yummy and the rib I tried, oh my god, just melted in my mouth. This is a must for anyone visiting Jasper and a massive thank you to Estelle for her knowledge, tales and taking me to some of the best eating places in town. Jasper Food Tours also offers a Poutine tour. For more details and bookings visit the Jasper Food Tours website.

Driving to/from Jasper on the Icefields Parkway

The 1-93 is known as the Icefields Parkway and is the main road between Jasper and Lake Louise to the south. A non-stop drive is around two hours but there is so much to do along this road which could take all day with all the photo opportunities. Heading south from Jasper the first stop is the Jasper Tramway and the turn off for the ski resort of Marmot Basin.

Athabasca Falls is definitely worth a pit stop. Located at the junction of I-93 and 93-A, the raging waters of the Athabasca river plunges 23 meters into the river bed below and if visitors get the right viewpoint, the dramatic effect of the water and the spray is one to stare at for hours. However come here early or late in the day and the area will be quieter as it can get quite busy at times. What we did notice whilst here, the falls maybe smaller in height compared to others in the Rockies but the force and sound of the water is truly amazing to see and hear.

Columbia Icefield and the Icefield Centre - The largest area of ice can be seen in between the Jasper and Banff national parks that were created at the last Ice Age (there was more than one Ice Age now?) A lot of visitors come here to take tours on huge Sno-coaches and drive onto the Athabasca Glacier (not a budget thing) but we took time out here to park up the car and walk around the area and to get great views of the glacier and surrounding mountains. Details can be found here.

And of course there are other stops on the way which are worth checking out like Bow Lake and some amazing waterfalls…..(plus there is a gas station about halfway (only open in the summer months) between Lake Louise and Jasper, so make sure if doing a roadtrip to have enough gas in the car.

Mount Robson National Park

Heading west of Jasper there is a nice little road trip to Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies standing at 3,954m (12,972ft) and is actually located in British Columbia (I know, it’s not Alberta but Mount Robson is not far from Jasper).

Mount Robson in British Columbia, Canada, not too far away to travel from Jasper, Alberta.
Mount Robson

On the way there is Moose Lake which is worth checking out and a great photo opportunity. Part of the Fraser River, the lake is around 11km long and 2km at its widest point. Along here is a great place to check out moose (especially during the sunset when there is not many cars about and trains on the nearby tracks)

Like I said, Jasper is a great base and we loved every minute of my long weekend here. We were traveling up from Lake Louise by car and took us all day to drive the Icefields Parkway as we were stopping every so often because the scenery is outstanding. We really wish we spent a few more days in the area and done some hikes but what we did see and do was truly amazing (and we also celebrated Canada Day on July 1st in Jasper which was nice and seeing how the locals let their hair down). A truly amazing area of Canada which must not be missed.


How to get to Jasper:

Fly: there are no airports near Jasper. The main airports are found to the east, the nearest being in Edmonton and the main international airport at Calgary. There is also Red Deer to consider for internal flights in Alberta. To the west it has to be Vancouver, but that is a days drive away.

Train: There is a train station in Jasper, however not many passenger trains come through here unless you are checking out the amazing Rocky Mountaineer, which runs from Jasper to Whistler and Vancouver. There is a Via Rail Canada passenger service which runs from Toronto to Vancouver via Winnipeg, Edmonton and Jasper twice a week.

By car: This is the easiest way to get to Jasper. Each way to the town is a scenic one with plenty of photo opportunities to be had and plenty of mountains, lake and wildlife to see. From the south, Highway 93 which starts at Lake Louise junction with the Trans-Canadian-Highway-1 is one of the most scenic drives in the world I have encountered. It's that great, I done it twice, once in the summer and once in the winter. Both amazing experiences. From the east is the Route 16 from Edmonton. Most of its flat until the last hour drive before hitting Jasper as the road goes into the Jasper National Park and the landscape gets more scenic. And finally from the west, Route 16 again which starts off on the British Columbia coast at Port Edward and passes through Smithers and Prince George (which has a junction where the road south from there heads towards Whistler and Vancouver).

By bus: there is a tour company (as mentioned earlier in this post) and they also run a daily shuttle service between Jasper, Banff and Calgary downtown and airport. For more details click here.

Accommodation: My top two places to stay in Jasper which I have personally checked out myself are the Crimson Hotel in the heart of Jasper Downtown and at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on the outskirts of town.

Need insurance? Safety Wing offers coverage for a lot of adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and so forth. I never travel without travel insurance. I highly recommend them for those who need travel insurance.

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