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Jasper National Park in Alberta has a magical feel to it. It’s still not quite as busy as Banff which feels like a big city in comparison. Somehow Jasper is managing to feel a bit wilder and you know what? I loved that about it. There are so many things to do in Jasper National Park from hiking to wildlife spotting, chilling in the hot springs, biking, kayaking… If you’re planning a road trip in the Canadian Rockies then make sure you don’t miss out on Jasper!
About Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park stretches over 11,000 square kilometres. This makes it the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. I honestly think you could spend a lifetime exploring and still find new things to do in Jasper. Jasper is also part of UNESCO’s Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.
Jasper National Park can be split into five different regions. If you’re spending a lot of time in the Canadian Rockies, you might want to spend one day (or more!) in each region. The regions are; Jasper town, Miette Hot Springs, Maligne Valley, Edith Cavell Mountain, and the Northern half of the Icefields Parkway.
Best things to do in Jasper National Park
Miette Hot Springs
Before you conjure up imagines of wild hot springs with few people that’s not what the Miette Hot Springs are like. They’re basically four swimming pools but the pools are fed with water from the nearby hot springs (which you can hike to the source of). The Miette Hot Springs get pretty busy but there’s no better way to relax after a hike than a dip here.
We left the hot springs around 6 pm and found there was a queue outside. I’d suggest going mid-afternoon before most people have done all their planned activities for the day.
There are so many hikes to do in Jasper. For a summary of the best hikes in Jasper take a look at this post. But a few top suggestions would be the Sulphur Skyline Trail that starts and ends by the Miette Hot Springs and Maligne Canyon.
Take the Jasper Sky Tram
The Jasper Sky Tram is the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada. It takes you to an altitude of 2,263m and takes about 7 minutes from bottom to top. During the ride, a guide on board will tell you about the sights and answer some questions.
From the top, you can see six mountain ranges, some of Jasper’s aqua lakes and the town down below.
Discover the Maligne Valley
The Maligne Valley is one of the most stunning areas in Jasper National Park. The road is extremely scenic and winds through the valley until you reach Maligne Lake. There’s a high chance you’ll spot some wildlife along this road. But, if not, you’ll still enjoy what there is to see.
The Maligne Canyon is the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park. At some points, it drops to depths of 50m! There are six bridges that cross the canyon which give you incredible vantage points of the canyon and the rushing water.
The best viewpoints are from the first three bridges but for an easy hike, you can do a loop that takes you past all 6. The full loop is 4.4km. The further you go from the first bridge, the quieter the path tends to get.
You’ve definitely come across photos of Maligne Lake before. It’s beautiful (and indeed you’d expect nothing less of a lake in the Canadian Rockies). It’s also the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies.
The most photographed part of Maligne Lake is Spirit Island. You can only get to the island by taking a boat trip or the motorised or self-powered variety. If you are going to kayak, be aware that it’s a 14km trip each way. You can camp at the end of the lake, the Fisherman’s Bay campsite, but these spots book up quickly. Reserve a place here.
We loved Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Mountain. The mountain is seriously impressive and you’ll easily see where its name comes from. If you time it right you’ll get a nice reflection on the water of Pyramid mountain. You can rent kayaks and canoes here for a paddle or just take a walk. We loved the little island that gave you an unobstructed view of the mountain across the water.
Take a scenic drive
Just driving is an adventure in Jasper. As you drive you’ll be mesmerised by the mountain views. It’s the passengers’ job to keep an eye out for wildlife hiding in the buses. Remember to drive slow so you don’t miss anything (or hit it).
The best scenic drives in Jasper are the Maligne Valley Road (for Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake and Maligne Lake) and the Icefields Parkway.
You can also take a wildlife tour with a certified guide if you’re not having much luck on your own!
DO go chasing waterfalls
There are so many waterfalls. Waterfall chasing is definitely one of the best things to do in Jasper National Park since they’re all pretty different. Some of the best-known ones are the falls that form Maligne Canyon, Athabasca Falls and Sunwapta Falls.
Note: We saw lots of people being pretty stupid around the waterfalls during our trip to the Canadian Rockies. The safety fences are there for a reason don’t cross them just to get a photo. The water is super fast and if you slip I’m certain you’re not coming back out that water alive.
Feeling adventurous? Take a white water rafting tour on some of the best-known waterfalls in Jasper National Park.
Paddle in the Athabasca River
As we were driving towards the Miette Hot Springs we saw loads of people out in the river to our left. We pulled over and got out to investigate.
It turns out the Athabasca River has a section where it’s super slow flowing, shallow and WARM!
It was great fun walking out into the river and taking in the mountain views all around. Some people looked like they were there for the day with some floats and swimsuits.
Go kayaking or canoeing
There are so many places in the Canadian Rockies that you can go kayaking or canoeing. Some of the best are in Jasper. I’d recommend Maligne Lake, Pyramid Lake but there are plenty more to choose from.
I think the best way to see the Canadian Rockies is to go camping! Whether you’re in a tent, van or RV there are plenty of campsites in Jasper.
I saw one of the best night skies I have ever seen in my life from our campsite in Jasper so don’t forget to look up when it gets dark.
Where to stay in Jasper
Hotels in Jasper tend to be pretty expensive and book up fairly quick. With that in mind make sure to book a few months in advance, especially if you’re visiting Jasper in the summer.
Here are my top picks for hotels in Jasper.
To find cheaper hotels and hostels, I’d recommending widening your search to include towns outside of the National Parks. This will mean you’re driving more in the morning and evenings but it might help you cut costs a little! Some suggestions are Golden in BC and Canmore just outside of Banff.
Personally, I think camping is the best way to experience the National Parks.
Getting to and around Jasper National Park
The easiest way to get around Jasper National Parks and the Canadian Rockies is to hire a camper van or a car and camp. For an itinerary to the Canadian Rockies from Vancouver read this post. Otherwise follow signs to Jasper from Edmonton, or to Banff from Calgary and then go north on the Icefields Parkway.
RentalCars.com is a great website for finding the best car hire deals.
Useful resources for your trip to Jasper
- RV & Campervan rentals
- Canada Parks Pass
- GasBuddy – great for finding the cheapest gas. Fill up in Alberta before heading back into BC as it’s so much cheaper!
- Booking.com for your hotels
- RentalCars.com for your get around in the Rockies
- Campsites in Banff, Jasper & Yoho: everywhere you can camp in these National Parks
- Skyscanner: Get your cheap flights to Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton