2 Days in Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park offers many adventures for the outdoor enthusiast. But, in order to enjoy all that Jasper has to offer, and to see some of the best terrains in the Canadian Rockies, you’ll need to do an overnight trip. A day trip is just not enough. Below, you’ll find a suggested two days trip itinerary for lovers of the outdoors who just aren’t fit enough for the more strenuous Banff hikes. Or families with young children who just want to enjoy easy to moderate hiking trails. But, before starting any trip, I have one recommendation: make a stop at the Information Centre in the heart of the town to grab some maps and up-to-date information on the many trails and attractions in Jasper.
For the avid hikers, Banff National Park is the more popular Rocky Mountain destination, but for families or the casual hiker, hiking in Jasper National Park is the more optimal choice. Equally as stunning and less crowded, Jasper is one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring places to visit in the world. Established in 1907, Jasper is at the most northern end of the four adjoining mountain parks —Banff National Park, Kootenay National Park, and Yoho National Park. Right in the midst of the spectacular Rocky Mountains, its beautiful scenery of snow-capped peaks, glacier-fed lakes, rivers and mineral springs attract more than 3 million visitors each year.
2 Days in Jasper National Park: Day One
Mount Edith Cavell
Wake up early (7-8ish) and make your way up to the much overlooked Mount Edith Cavell to walk the Path of The Glacier Trail. Before heading off, make sure you trust your vehicle (and driver) as the road towards Mount Edith Cavell is a loopy, two-way-pothole-ridden, upward drive to its main parking area at the base of the mountain. From the parking area, make your way up the steep but paved path to the viewing point. For a short 10 minute walk, you are rewarded with a spectacular view of the mountain face, and the Angel Glacier. At the foot of the glacier is a lake filled with ice floes —created in 2014 when an enormous piece of the glacier had broken and fell.
Mesmerised by the glacial lake, we approached the glacier. Please don’t do that. We later found out that we completely missed the warning signs at the top of the main path that said to stay away from the glacier as it posed a danger to life! Obviously, in our ignorance, we went right to the foot of the glacier to grab some pictures. It was an incredible experience, but also terrifying. Standing there, you could hear loud, eerie cracks that reverberate and echo throughout the area. After a quick look around, we made our scramble back up the rocks towards the main path. Apparently, glaciers are always in constant movement, hence the cracking noises. Had a big chunk of ice fell into the glacial pond, it could have caused a flash flood. And had we been standing there, we could have been swept away into frigid cold water. Yikes!
Side Tip: One of my favourite free thing to do in Jasper National Park is Wildlife viewing, If you’re the same, take a drive to the Goat Lookout. Near Mount Edith Cavell, and located just 38 km south of Jasper in the Icefields Parkway Region, and off Highway 93, this spot offers not only breathtaking views of the mountainous region of the Athabasca River Valley, it is also one of the best locations to observe wildlife. At the Goat Lookout, you can observe bighorn sheep and mountain goats. Just be careful of the exposed glacial deposits, keep your distance and do not feed the wildlife.
We spent almost an hour here wandering around the different icebergs and enjoying the pine-scented air. I had a long moment of quiet fascination here, just staring at the glacier lake and the ribbons of waterfalls cascading down the mountain face. It was quite spiritual and is on our list of top places we would love to revisit one day.
Replenish yourself at Bear’s Paw Bakery
After enjoying your morning hike, stop by Bear’s Paw Bakery to grab some butter tarts, cinnamon roll and/or scones to replenish your energy. Early in the morning, around 6 am, there’s always a huge lineup all the way to the street, but at 9 am, it starts dying down. Baked goods and loaf are made fresh every morning from scratch, with a wide selection to choose from. If you’re like me who shy away from large corporations like Tim Horton or McDonald’s, Bear’s Paw Bakery is the way to go. Not only are you supporting a local mum and pop store, you’ll also be enjoying some of the best freshly made goods in the area.
Valley of the Five Lakes
Once you’ve had your fill of ice-capped mountain views, glacial pond and delicious food, make your way to Valley of the Five Lakes. This is an easy to moderate trail which should take you two hours to complete if you take the short loop. If you have more time, you could opt to take the longer route to see all five lakes, however, in my opinion, the shorter loop (9A) is the more picturesque of the two, even though you will only see 4 lakes. The trail isn’t well-marked, and many will mistake the first pond to be one of the five lakes. At which point, you will be bemused, to say the least. However, if you trek on past the pond and through the woodland of short but steep inclines, you will soon greet the very first of the five lakes. And you will be stunned. The lake is crystal clear and aquamarine, the colours so vivid, it’s almost mythical. And as you continue trekking onward, the view and the lakes gets more and more amazing as you gain some more elevation.
Even though this should be a short 2 hours hike, we spent an extra hour just wandering through the trails and stopping at the lakes for pictures, snack breaks and a quick dip in the cold water. This is a great hike for anyone of any skill levels as there are only a few steep uphill bursts, nothing compared to the majority of the hiking terrain in Banff. As usual, since you are in bear country, I recommend you bring bear spray or bear horn. As we explored the area, we noticed some bear claw marks on trees in the area. If you forgot, or don’t want to spend the money on bear spray, you can rent it at the local visitor centre.
Reward Yourself with Local Brews
There aren’t many places in Canada that offer a great selection of IPAs, especially ones that are both fruity and hoppy (just the way I like them). So after a long strenuous day of hiking, head back to sip the local brews at the Jasper Brewing Company. An authentic Candian pub, many of the beers served are brewed right in Alberta. Enjoy Rockhopper IPA or Liftline Cream Ale as you recap your day’s adventures. If you’re not a beer drinker, try blackeye blueberry vanilla on tap, a unique ale many of my non-beer drinking friends actually enjoyed. On a side note, they also offer some great hamburgers. I’m not a hamburger person, but according to my friend, the guy who always order a hamburger at every restaurant he enters, they offer some of the best burgers in Alberta.
2 Days in Jasper National Park: Day Two
Maligne Canyon Hike
Rise nice and early (7-8ish), pack some snacks or a picnic and head over to Malign Canyon. Only a few minutes drive from the Jasper townsite, Maligne Canyon is one of the most interesting canyons within the Candian Rockies. With a maximum depth of 50 metres (160 ft deep), it offers spectacular views of one of the most narrow, and deepest gorge among the rugged landscape of the Rocky Mountains. This stunning series of narrow and deep gorges were formed over aeons ago when soluble limestone bedrock was whittled away by the rushing waters of the Maligne River. This large body of flowing water originated at Maligne Lake, flowing beneath the surface from Medicine Lake until it reaches Maligne Canyon.
There are several hiking trails options available at Malign Canyon ranging from easy to moderate, but due to the rough uneven terrain in certain areas, even the easiest option requires some degree of balance, and most importantly, comfortable footwear. Although there are many available hiking options, plan on spending anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours here, depending on your ability and willingness to hike the circular trail. There are many well designed and executed series of bridges, pathways and safety fences that accompany your walk, so it is very family friendly. Just not stroller friendly due to rugged terrain in some areas; a child carrier backpack is highly recommended.
Maligne Lake Drive
After this great hike, make your way to Maligne Lake, a turquoise coloured glacier lake about 45 kilometres away. This winding drive, built along the glacier valley between Maligne and Elizabeth mountain ranges offers you beautiful views of towering glacier-capped mountain peaks, rushing Maligne River and plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife. So it’s always a great idea to have your camera ready. Bears, moose, elk, deer, wolves, and coyotes might cross your path, as it is a fairly common occurrence in Jasper National Park.
Park your car at the parking lot just off the road and rest your weary feet in the cold water of Maligne Lake while enjoying the almost surreal view. If you packed a picnic or light snack, this is the perfect place to enjoy it.
If you have time to spare, have some more energy for a short little hike and don’t mind a crowded attraction, drive over to Athabasca Falls. View the majestic Athabasca Falls, hike along the Canyon and marvel at the deep gorge from various lookouts, caused by the sheer force of rushing water of the Athabasca River as it thunders through, carrying sand and rocks. There are paved trail and picnic sites available in this area if you’re looking for another great picnic site.
Explore Jasper town
After a relaxing time at Maligne Lake, drive over to Jasper Townsite and take a stroll through the quaint compact town. Go to the main streets of Connaught Drive and Patricia Street where most of the restaurants, stores, guided tour office, rental shops and cafe resides. Don’t forget to take a little detour into the side streets, breathe in the fresh mountain air and take photos of the surrounding mountains and picturesque town.
If you had your picnic and a large meal in a restaurant isn’t part of the game plan, take a stroll to Wicked Cup located on the far west side of Connaught Drive. Wicked Cup offers a beautiful patio where you can enjoy a delicious cup of organic coffee or tea along with many other yummy food items from their menu. Their wicked talented baristas will even turn your breakfast Latte into artwork.
Dark Sky Preserve
You’ve had a long day of hiking and exploring, so grab a hot beverage from Wicked Cup (or any of Jasper’s delicious coffee shops) and head down to Pyramid Lake Island. Jasper National Park is one of the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserves, so while there, take the opportunity the enjoy our milky way. Be sure to pack your warmest clothing, because it’s time to cosy up under a blanket and do some quality stargazing. Take this time to bond, and reminisce about your adventures in Jasper National Park while enjoying a hot latte under millions of stars.
If you’re a photographer, take this opportunity to grab a milky way picture. I’m by no means a great night photographer. I’ve attempted and failed (many times) so there’s no way I can write any sort of comprehensive information on star photography. I did, however, found this great article here on photographing the milky way if you’re planning on taking advantage of the Dark Sky Preserve in Jasper National Park.
Jasper National Park Lodging
Both Jasper and Banff National Park is popular travel destination no matter the month. Winter, spring or summer, there’s something there for everyone. However, I will note that for July and August, it will be more crowded than usual, and if you didn’t book anything, and just going with the flow hoping you can find a place to say, you will be out of luck. On certain holiday, even the overflow campground is crowded. It is important to decide where you would like to stay ahead of time, whether you’re tenting, RV’ing or seeking creature comfort at a hotel or bed and breakfast. Here are some recommended stays to start off your research.
Cottage near Jasper National Park
Looking for outdoor tranquillity, look no further than Alpine Village Cabin Resort. Only a 5 minutes drive to Jasper town-site, this cabin resort facing the Athabasca River feels like you’re miles from civilization. From a luxurious deluxe log cabin or a charming heritage log suite, each unit provides the perfect blend of comfort and seclusion. If you’re looking to meet wildlife up close, this cabin resort is the perfect wildlife photographic opportunity. It is not unheard of to see elks or bulls eating shrubbery and grass at the resort office or bighorn rams roaming nearby the cabin. Alpine Village Cabin Resort is the perfect mix of creature comfort and outdoorsy wildlife experience. However, it is closed during the winter months.
Jasper National Park Hotels
If you’re looking to be right in the mix of things: a little bit outdoorsy, a whole lot of creature comfort, and tons of shopping and eating nearby, check out some of these hotels inside Jasper National Park.
Jasper National Park Bed and Breakfasts
Looking to meet some locals while avoiding corporate hotels? Staying at a bed and breakfast is a perfect choice. There are many bed and breakfast in Jasper providing much better value than hotels with a more personalized attention, and unique experience. Sometimes, it’s nice to wake up to homemade breakfast, and enjoying a hot cup of hot coffee while conversing with other travellers and locals who knows all the secrets of the area. Here is a website to check out if you’re planning on having a bed and breakfast experience in Jasper National Park.
Jasper National Park Camping
Only 3km south of Jasper Townsite, Whistlers Campground is one of the more popular campgrounds for family and large groups. It is the largest and has the most amenities, with the greatest variety of camping options. In addition to standard camping sites, Whistler Campground also offers oTENTiks; a cross between a cabin and a tent and sleep up to six people on foam mattresses.
Jasper National Park Maps and Brochures
If you want to see some maps and brochures to plan out your Jasper Trip, visit Parks Canada’s website. They have area maps, campground maps and all the brochures you’ll ever need about Jasper National Park.