Jasper National Park On a Budget
SightsA visit to Jasper is an opportunity to enjoy wild beauty and natural scenery. In this alpine ecosystem, natural features like mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons, and caves are the main attractions. It is for these landscapes that Jasper National Park was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site along with several other of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks. A few locations worthy of note include:
Medicine Lake: An overflow form the Maligne River, Medicine Lake changes drastically from a lake of blue glacial melt in the summer to a few number of pools in the fall and winter. The phenomenon occurs because of its location over a series of underground limestone caves.
Maligne Canyon: The deepest canyon in the Rockies, Maligne Canyon can be explored by hikers over a series of six bridges. It is the gateway to the breathtaking scenery of the Maligne Valley.
Miette Hot Springs: Guests can soak in warm mineral waters while enjoying stunning mountain views at the Miette Hot Springs.
Athabasca Glacier: This glacier is a part of the larger Columbia Icefield that spans the continental divide in Banff and Jasper national parks. It is about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) long and between 90–300 meters (300–980 feet) thick.
Pyramid Mountain and Lake: Named for its pyramid-like shape, the mountain is one of Jasper's landmarks. The lake reflects its unique shape beautifully, and is surrounded by abundant scenery and wildlife.
Other notable features include Athabasca Falls, Spirit Island, Sunwapta Falls, Mount Edith Cavell, and Mount Robson (the highest point in the Canadian Rockies).
NeighborhoodsJasper is an alpine town located at the center of the national park. The town itself is small enough to easily navigate on foot, and has plenty of options for dining, drinking, and accommodations-both camping and lodging. The train station is located on the east side of town, around which visitors will find a concentration of cafes, restaurants, shops, and inns. Many of the shops sell outdoor gear and apparel. There are two main tourism companies in town: Brewster (larger, 50-person bus tours) and SunDog (smaller, 12-person bus tours). Both offer a varieties of tours to most of the park's major attractions. For a more independent adventure, many hiking trails are accessible right from the town center. Located at the heart of Jasper National Park, the town is nestled between mountains, with the Athabasca River situated to the east and alpine lakes all around.
ActivitiesIn Jasper, activities ranges by season from hiking, biking, and camping in the summer, to cross country and downhill skiing in the winter. No matter the activity, the scenery-abundant with native flora and fauna-will steal the show. Visitors can arrange a bus tour for a more guided experience of the park's features, or hop on the Jasper Skytram for stunning views from above. Be prepared to spot wildlife on any adventure. A few of the local species include elk, caribou, moose, porcupine, beaver, river otter, grizzly and black bear, coyote, mountain goat and bighorn sheep, bald eagle, great horned owl, and many others.
Food and DiningAs a major vacation and tourism destination, Jasper has also become a hub for good eats, fine food, trendy restaurants, cozy pubs, charming cafes, and more. From hearty alpine meals to globally-inspired entrees, the dining options in Jasper are many and varied. Guests looking for authentic Canadian cuisine, should be sure to sample the local maple syrup with a pancake breakfast. The province of Alberta, within which Jasper is located, is also world renowned for its locally raised beef. It can be barbequed, grilled, braised, minced, or skewered and is often served with mushrooms, onions, green peppers, rice, beans, and a variety of sauces. Game meats and wild fish are also common, as are bison steaks, burgers, and sausages. Meals will often come with a side of vegetables like beets, carrots, or sweet Taber corn, and desserts usually consist of local nuts and berries. Jasper will have a variety of these local eats, in addition to the more varied international options.
TransportationThe nearest international airports to Jasper are the Edmonton International Airport (four-hour drive) and Calgary International Airport (five-hour drive). From Edmonton travel west on AB-16 and arrive at Jasper's eastern entrance. From Calagary travel west on AB-1 and connect with AB-93 North to arrive at Jasper's southern entrance (note: AB-93 may be closed at times, and it might be best to head north and then west to arrive at Jasper's east entrance). AB-16 bisects the parks in the east-west direction.
Visitors can also arrive at the park by train. VIA Rail provides commercial rail travel from Edmonton and Vancouver, in addition to a private Rocky Mountaineer tourist train.