Category Archives: Jasper National Park

Three Great Natural Beauties of Jasper

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Jasper National Park, Alberta

If the Greeks knew about the Canadian Rockies back in the day of philosophizing, I am sure they would have thought this is where Zeus and the rest of the Gods would choose to call home. There are so many incredible natural beauties among Lake Louise, Banff and Jasper that to see them all, it would take you a lifetime. On a recent trip to Jasper, I only had time to tick three more off the list and I am already looking back on them with nostalgia.

Mount Edith Cavell reflecting on Edith Cavell Lake.

Mount Edith Cavell reflecting on Edith Cavell Lake.

Sunwapta Falls

These stunning waterfalls are only 55km from Jasper town and they are completely worth the trip. The Stoney Nation named these falls with the word Sunwapta meaning Turbulent River in their language. A more appropriate description is hard to think of. The waters collapse into a deep canyon below with incredible force. In winter, it is a completely different experience as the falls freeze making for one of the best photographs you are likely to take.

Mount Edith Cavell

Mount Edith Cavell is 3,368 metres of beautiful mountain. Named after the selfless English nurse from the First World War, it is situated only 18 miles from Jasper Town. It can get pretty busy in summer so try and make the trip early in the morning if you are looking for a more peaceful walk.

Miette Hot Springs

These Hot Springs are the hottest in the Canadian Rockies as 53.9 degrees Celsius. You can really spend a full day out here. There are two hot pools, two cool pools, café, hiking trail, a picnic area and even accommodation. If you need to relax, I can’t think of anywhere better in the Rockies.

If you are planning a trip to Banff and especially to the Columbia Icefields, there is no way you can miss out Jasper. There is something about this place whether during the beautiful summers or the snowy romantic winters. These are only three of the natural beauties. There are tons more in this quaint National Park.

Top 5 Things to do in Jasper

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Jasper National Park, Alberta

Originally when I sat in a café in Jasper writing this list, it was supposed to be top 3 things to do in Jasper but the more days I passed in this little gem of a town, I realized that I would need more paper. Though Jasper gets millions of tourists a year, I still see it as an untouched beauty. Here are just a few of the reasons why.

Jasper Tramway

This is one of the easiest (laziest) ways to get the best views around town. Two tram cars zip up and down the mountain to the height of 8,200ft where you are met by a licensed restaurant and some great hiking trails. Do not leave Jasper without trying this.

The more peaceful part of the Athabasca river.

The more peaceful part of the Athabasca river.

Rafting

Yes it may be a bit cold right now but when the spring hits again, there is nothing like setting off down the Athabasca with nothing between you and the raging waters but a raft. This is a great way to spot wildlife grazing at the side of the river without disturbing them.

Skiing and Snowboarding

Jasper has always been great for skiing but this year Marmot has got phenomenal snow. It’s going to be a great winter to ski. Marmot has 84 runs and over 1600 acres of terrain to show off your skills.

Athabasca Falls

If you are looking for the photo opportunity that will make everyone at home jealous, head here to the Athabasca Falls. It is the spot where the Athabasca River meets a narrow gorge and the result is so powerful, it will take your breath away.

Golf

I love golfing under any circumstances but the Stanley Thomson designed course at the Jasper Park Lodge is something else. Aside from the beautiful fairways and greens, there is also the added bonus of the best scenery in the world and the wildlife being the hazards!

Hiking Jasper, Alberta

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Lac Beauvert Trail

Jasper National Park, Alberta

Every time I visit Jasper, I make sure to take the back route to the Jasper Park Lodge. This time around Jasper has been having freakish amounts of snow. Though this is great for the ski hills, it does make the walk a little more complicated than usual. Within the first five minutes of leaving Jasper townsite, I had managed to slide and fall unceremoniously on the ice twice. The walk takes under an hour and the whole time I walked I saw no other humans. Peace at its purest.

It is the general tranquility that appeals on this walk but also the lake itself is something special. It really lives us to its English name of Beautiful Green at the right time of year. During winter you can walk or even skate on it but it is definitely best seen in the early morning during summer with Mount Edith Cavell reflected on the surface. You pass through the incredible golf course where elk are almost constantly grazing and people in strange looking trousers try to hit a tiny ball into a tiny hole.

There are some really great photo opportunities on the route though as I slipped through the trail, the snow was beginning to get too heavy for any sort of clear vision. The Lake itself comes just before you enter the accommodations of Jasper Park Lodge – beautiful quaint little cabins and luxurious fancy rooms adorn the grounds of this famous hotel. It is absolute heaven to step into the warmth of the hotel and make your way to one of the many coffee shops. I still think it is one of the best lattes in Jasper though this may be simply because I am usually so cold and exhausted by the time I make it in there.

It is about a $25 taxi from Jasper to the Park Lodge so if you don’t have your own transport, there is even more reason to be adventurous and walk the back trails. You will be rewarded with some great views and if you make it early enough the views of early morning Lac Beauvert alone will be something to cherish for a long time.

The Dead Dog Bar, Jasper

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Jasper National Park, Alberta

If it wasn’t so cold in winter in Jasper, I would probably just walk around the little town all day. It is equally as beautiful as Banff though quieter and quainter. Whether you have been out skiing on Marmot all day or hiking during the summer, everybody deserves a beer at the end of a long day of enjoying yourself. There are some great choices around Jasper with excellent views but for pure atmosphere and a great pint of your favorite beer, the local’s choice is the Dead Dog Bar next door to the Astoria.

Everybody deserves a beer after a day hiking in Jasper.

Everybody deserves a beer after a day hiking in Jasper.

It is a country themed bar and though there is nothing exceptional about the Dead Dog, it has spirit in abundance. The staff is super friendly and in a town like Jasper where everyone is friendly – this means a lot. There is a great selection of beers to choose from both draft and bottled. There are big screens all over the place where you can watch whatever sports are the flavor of the day. There is an area where you can play darts that becomes quite addictive after a while.

It is a really spacious bar so when you come in with a big crew, there is always space for more. It is easy to forget the time as you while away the hours in the Dead Dog. It makes it easier of course if you live next door in the Astoria Hotel! When you take a trip up to Jasper and you feel like a beer, you should definitely take the time to step into the Dead Dog for a pint.

Enjoying a Drink in Jasper

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Having a Pint in Earl’s of Jasper

Jasper National Park, Alberta

As the snow fell softly upon my exposed face and the reflection of Christmas lights shone in my eyes, I couldn’t help looking around Jasper and thinking this may well be the most romantic place in the world. At that, I took my headphones out (no more Jeff Buckley) and headed alone into a bar to watch some hockey! There are choices all over town to go for a drink but the blackboard sign outside Earls reeled me in like a hungry fish. Hump Day? Yes. Thirsty? Yes. Enjoy Mountain Views? Yes, actually. $4.50 pints of Albino Rhino – I have no idea what this is but yes I think I will enjoy this. Ah the Canadian Rockies and their hidden gems!

The only thing better than a pint is a full pint!

The only thing better than a pint is a full pint!

Franchises are generally not my cup of tea. Call it my inner rebel. Earls, however just doesn’t feel like a franchise. Besides, even if it was owned by Satan or George Bush, you would still come here for the incredible views of the Canadian Rockies. The place is huge and spacious. Though I wasn’t after food, I was more than tempted by the lucky man enjoying some Chinese style cuisine to my right. It was about time I found out about this strangely named beer. One Albino Rhino please! Now, if there is one thing I am fit to review it is the quality of a beer and this my faithful readers is one of the best I have had and only $4.50. Bargain!

I began chatting with the barman whose conversation was almost as good as his enviable moustache. As soon as he found out that I was actually a Banff Insider researching Jasper, there was no competition like you might find between your typical Calgary and Edmonton locals. Rather, he shared some of Jaspers little secrets with me such as The End of the World. This is a lookout point just before you reach Marmot ski hill which offers a straight down drop off a cliff. I guess it’s not so secret now! Every day there is a new special in this great place. Whether you are lucky enough to actually be with someone in this gorgeous town or alone and looking to watch some hockey and have a chat, Earls is a good choice.

Jasper’s Best Accommodations

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The Mount Robson Inn – Affordable Luxury

Jasper National Park, Alberta

Ah how I do love coming to Jasper. Though Banff is truly beautiful, it is always a breath of fresh air to come to this quaint and peaceful sister town of the Rockies. The sun was going down as I pulled into town on my SunDog bus after the four hour journey from Banff. The snow was cascading down as if it had never been released before and Jasper looked more romantic and appealing that it had ever been before. The only thing that could have improved on my good mood was a top class accommodation and this is exactly where I found myself just insider the town at the Mount Robson Inn.

The Mount Robson is a great choice to stay in Jasper.

The Mount Robson is a great choice to stay in Jasper.

When on vacation, the tone is always set by the first glance at your hotel and more importantly your hotel room. At the Mount Robson, I was welcomed into the lobby by the ever bubbly Joyce and Mount Robson owner Chad Gulevich. Somehow, between them, they managed to give the man with the worst directions in the world everything I needed to know about Jasper! Christmas decorations were in the process of being erected in the lobby as everybody joked along. At times it felt more like a family evening in than a two day stay in a hotel!

I was taken aback when I stepped into my room and temporary residence for two days. My feet were cold and wet from the snow and my body tired from sitting on a bus for so long. I can not explain my happiness at strolling into room 250 and seeing absolute luxury. Though, from the outside, it may not look overly remarkable but much like me, it is what is on the inside that matters most. The bed was big enough to fit 4 fully grown women (in my dreams), the room was heated to perfection, the TV was bigger than some European countries and in general the place had comfort written all over it. Well comfort and romanticism (where are 4 fully grown women when you need them?!)

Aside from the great connecting restaurants, there is also a tempting set of outdoor hot tubs and high speed internet connections in all of the rooms. It really has everything you might need including, of course, the whole reason for your visit – Jasper! It is only a pleasant five minute walk into the town centre. Really it takes even less time to stroll through this centre. Jasper is not exactly renowned as the biggest town in the Rockies. If Banff is the heart and Lake Louise –the face, then Jasper is the soul. The Mount Robson Inn is like a microcosm of Jasper itself. Welcoming, pretty, romantic and peaceful.

Jasper National Park, Hikes, Old Fort Point Loop

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Jasper National Park, Alberta

by Paul Peters
Editor, CanadianRockies.net

The Old Fort Point Loop trail is a fairly short and simple hike, offering great view of Jasper National Park and the surrounding Canadian Rockies. The hike also contains interesting geological features, and a bit of Canadian Rockies history.

View from the Old Fort Point Trail

View from the Old Fort Point Loop trail.

Old Fort Point is a prominent bedrock hill standing 130 m above the river. Rounded on its south side, cliffy on its north side, Old Fort Point is a classic roche moutonnée: a bedrock knob shaped by glaciers.

The loop trail over the top is steep in places, but it provides an excellent view of Jasper and its surroundings. The name Old Fort probably refers to Henry House, a North West Company cabin built near here in 1811, now gone but commemorated as a National Historic Site.

The quickest route to the big view at the top of the hill is up the stairs that start by the cliff. (The stairs lead to a Canadian Heritage Rivers plaque about the Athabasca.) But it’s a steep climb. Instead, we recommend the wide, easy path that begins behind the trail information kiosk. Follow Trail 1 up a short hill and on through the woods.

At 1.3 km you climb a very steep section, with 30 m of elevation gain in a short distance, beside an outcrop of the oldest rock in Jasper National Park. The layer is Precambrian, about 750 million years old. Take a close look at this unusual rock. It’s breccia, made of angular chunks of pink limestone.

What you’ll see:

Viewing clockwise: Mt. Edith Cavell (always snow-streaked) to the south, The Whistlers (mountain with the tramway terminal near the top).

jnp0336_mountathabasca_jaspernationalpark

From the trail, you'll see Mount Athabasca, one of Jasper's finest.

To the southwest, the valley of the Miette River leading west toward Yellowhead Pass and B.C., the town of Jasper across the Athabasca River, the reddish quartzite of the Victoria Cross Range

To the northwest beyond the town (the peak with a microwave relay station on top is Pyramid Mountain), Lac Beauvert and Jasper Park Lodge

To the north (other lakes visible northward: Annette and Edith), the gray limestone of the Colin Range to the northeast, rounded Signal Mountain and the cliffs of Mt. Tekarra to the east,

To the southeast, Mt. Hardisty (sloping layers) and Mt. Kerkeslin (layers bowed gently down).

Distance (on trail): 3.5 km return or 1-2 hours.

Distance to the trailhead from town: 1.6 km.

Trailhead: From town or from Highway 16, follow Highway 93A to the Old Fort Point/Lac Beauvert access road. Turn left, cross the Athabasca River on the old iron bridge, then park in the lot on the right.

Hiking the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park, Pyramid Bench

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Jasper National Park, Alberta

by Paul Peters
Editor, CanadianRockies.net

The following hikes, all located on the Pyramid Bench, a lake-dotted terrace next to the town of Jasper that can actually be reached from town on foot, and still offer great experiences of the Canadian Rockies.

Cottonwood Creek/Pyramid Lake loop

Jasper National Park offers amazing hiking opportunities.

Jasper National Park offers amazing hiking opportunities, with one-of-a-kind views.

From town, Trail 2 begins with a steady climb of 60m onto the Pyramid Bench, with a good view of the town along the way. Crossing the gated road to Cabin Lake, Trail 2 continues to the Cottonwood Slough parking lot and crosses the Pyramid Lake Road. Shortly past Cottonwood Creek, you reach a junction with Trail 2a. Turning right onto 2a takes you back to the north end of town along the creek, for a short walk of 1 to 2 hours.

To continue to Pyramid Lake, follow Trail 2 past the junction with Trail 6a and angle right onto Trail 2b. Soon the path climbs across an open hillside, giving you the first of many fine views of the Athabasca Valley.

Trail 2b follows the edge of the Pyramid Bench for 2km. You may see bighorn sheep grazing on the grassy slopes below you. The forest is mostly old-growth Douglas-fir, an evergreen easily identified by its furrowed bark. After the junction with Trail 2h, Trail 2b begins a steady climb of 120 m along a wooded ridge with openings that offer exceptional views. This scenic section is known as the Pyramid Overlook.

The trail descends to the Pyramid Lake parking lot, where it rejoins Trail 2. For the return leg of the loop, follow Trail 2 beside the Pyramid Lake Road.

The path goes behind a motel and through the woods for 1.5 km to the complicated stables area, where you need to follow the markers carefully. Cross the large parking lot there and find the continuation of Trail 2 at the far corner. Half a kilometre later you’ll close the loop, 2.5 km from where you started.

Trails used: 2 and 2a, 3.8 km return (1-2 hours) or 2 and 2b, 17.4 km return (5-7 hours).

Trailheads : Jasper Activity Centre parking lot (in town, near start of Pyramid Lake Road), Cottonwood Slough parking lot (2 km up Pyramid Lake Road), Pyramid Stables (3.5 km) or Pyramid Lake (end of road).

Note: the loop section of this hike is heavily used by horses, especially near the stables.

Hiking the Canadian Rockies, Jasper, Columbia Icefield

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Hiking the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies

The Columbia Icefield is one one of the most unique sights in the Canadian Rockies.

The Columbia Icefield is one one of the most unique sights in the Canadian Rockies.

One of the most singularly amazing sights available in Jasper National Park and the Canadian Rockies is the Columbia Icefield, one of the largest icefields in North America. While it is possible to walk up to the edge of the icefield and touch it, fly over it with a helicopter, or take a driving tour over it, one of the most gratifying and singular experiences is hiking over the ice. Below you’ll find the essential information for getting out onto the ice.

First, tips and advice

For these hikes, travel 90 to 120 km south from Jasper along Highway 93, the Icefields Parkway. There are no gas stations between Jasper and Saskatchewan Crossing (154 km south of Jasper), so be sure you have enough fuel. Highlights along the way: Athabasca Falls, 31 km from Jasper; Goats and Glaciers Viewpoint, 38 km; Sunwapta Falls, 55 km; Bubbling Springs Picnic Area, 60 km; Tangle Falls, 99 km. Rugged mountain terrain and alpine vegetation make the area around the Columbia Icefield exceptionally beautiful, but temperatures are cool and winds are often strong. Showers of cold rain are frequent, and wet snow is always a possibility, even in midsummer. Be sure to pack an extra sweater, gloves, and a jacket with a hood.

Ok then, the hikes

Beauty Creek and Stanley Falls

The trail follows a low dike across a wet area to the old, torn-up BanffJasper Highway, completed in 1940 and since realigned. Turn right and follow the old route until you reach a bridge abutment, where a rough trail branches to the left and continues along the narrow, deep limestone gorge of Beauty Creek. Caution: no guardrails! The trail passes by seven small waterfalls before reaching Stanley Falls, which is higher. If you see a little grey bird jumping in and out of the cold glacial water, it’s an American dipper.

Distance: 6.4 km return (2-3 hours)

Trailhead: 90 km south of Jasper, one-half kilometre past Beauty Creek Hostel, look for a small pulloff and hiker sign on the left (east) side of the highway.

Athabasca Glacier Forefield

The trail crosses the forefield of the glacier: the barren area exposed by glacial melt since the mid-1840s. It’s a strange landscape of bare rock, boulders and moraines. Conditions are extreme here, but hardy alpine plants have gained a foothold. Please help to protect them by staying on the trail. Wear sturdy shoes and bring a jacket for crossing this rocky, breezy terrain. Be prepared to turn back: meltwater streams flow across the trail, and on warmer days they can get large enough to cause problems.

Distance: 2 km to the toe of the glacier and back (30-60 minutes)

Trailhead: 105 km south of Jasper, directly across from the Icefield Centre building, turn right onto the Athabasca Glacier access road. Park soon after, where the road turns right again, in a small lot by a gate.

Kids enjoying some of the freshest water in the world on the Columbia Icefield.

Kids enjoying some of the freshest water in the world on the Columbia Icefield.

Toe of the Athabasca Glacier

The trail begins by the interpretive signs in the southwest corner of the lot.Once across the bridge over a meltwater stream from the glacier, you’re walking at times on glacially smoothed limestone surfaces that were under the ice in the 1950s. Scratches and gouges in the rock are aligned with the ice flow. The trail steepens and reaches the top of a rock bench, where you can see the edge of the glacier just ahead. By all means, approach the ice it’s wonderful to be able to actually touch a glacier but watch where you put your feet! Avoid any places that look wet. You can plunge past your ankles into water-saturated mud known locally as glacial goop. And if you go on the ice itself, stay in the safe area. Read the warning box beside the map.

Distance: 1 km return (20-30 minutes)

Trailhead: directly across from the Icefield Centre building, turn off Highway 93 onto the access road for the Athabasca Glacier. Turn right soon after, and follow the road down to the parking lot.

Wilcox Pass

To avoid an impassable canyon on the Sunwapta River north of the Athabasca Glacier, aboriginal families and later travellers on horseback used this bypass route, now named for early Rockies climber Walter Wilcox. The first kilometre of the trail is fairly steep, but it gets easier as you cross the treeline and reach the wide-open pass area. Watch for bighorn rams in the flowery meadows. A side trip of 200 m across the tundra to the left (west) will take you to a grand view of (left to right), Mt. Athabasca, Mt. Andromeda, the Athabasca Glacier, Snow Dome, the Dome Glacier and Mt. Kitchener. Note: the pass area can be snowy until late July. Most hikers go no farther than the summit marker, but good route-finders can follow the indistinct, boggy trail northward. Keep to the left, along the base of Wilcox Peak, until you descend steeply past two small ponds, after which the trail improves. It follows the valley of Tangle Creek down to Highway 93 at the Tangle Falls parking area, 96 km south of Jasper.

Distance: 8 km to the pass and back, 11.2 km one way to Tangle Falls (4-6 hours)

Trailhead: the parking area on the left-hand side of the Wilcox Creek Campground entrance road, 3.1 km south of the Icefield Centre.

Parker Ridge

This well-defined trail switchbacks 275 m up a moderate grade to the top of a tundra-clad ridge above the treeline. Keep going over the top and slightly down the other side for a remarkable eagle’s-eye view of the Saskatchewan Glacier. In good weather the source of the glacier is visible off to the right: the southern part of the Columbia Icefield and Castleguard Mountain (3077m). Across the glacier the highest summit is Mt. Saskatchewan (3342 m). From mid-July to mid-August you’ll see blue alpine forget-me-nots and cushions of pink moss campion on Parker Ridge. Mountain goats use the area. This trail is very popular, so it’s important to follow the established pathway. Short-cutting damages the delicate alpine vegetation and leads to erosion of the thin soil cover, especially in spring, when the trail may be closed.

Distance: 5.2 km return (2-3 hours)

Trailhead: 8.8 km south of the Icefield Centre on Highway 93, past Hilda Creek Hostel. Look for the hiker sign at the large parking lot on the right.

Nigel Pass

After a short walk downhill along the road, the trail branches to the right and crosses Nigel Creek. From there you pass through subalpine forest, cross several shrubby avalanche tracksno danger in summerand reach meadows that offer views of Mt. Athabasca, Parker Ridge, Nigel Peak and Mt. Saskatchewan. The final kilometre to the pass is fairly steep; total elevation gain for the day is 320 m. If you walk a half-kilometre beyond the pass, you are rewarded with a fine view eastward into the Brazeau River back-country. Warning! Unless you are with a professionally guided group, stay within the safe, fenced-in area of the Athabasca Glacier. Over the years several people have died from falling into crevasses. These deep, ice-cold cracks in the glacier lie hidden below a thin covering of snow that may collapse under a person’s weight. Millwellsplaces where meltwater plunges down deep vertical shafts in the iceare slippery around their entrances and extremely dangerous. Glacier travel outside the safe area should be attempted only by experienced and properly equipped mountaineers.

Distance: 14.4 km return (full-day hike)

Trailhead: 12 km south of the Icefield Centre, park at the start of a gated road on the left (east) side of Highway 93. Please do not block the gate.

Birds of the Mt. Robson Area

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Male spruce grouse displayingMt. Robson Provincial Park has a varied bird fauna. More than 180 species have been recorded in the park and vicinity, and of these, the majority are summer residents or transients.

Not more than 25 species can be considered to be regular permanent residents in Robson; there are several raptors – Goshawks, Great Horned Owl, Boreal Owl, Great Gray Owl; grouse (feeding on the buds of trees and shrubs) – Ruffed Spruce, Blue Grouse, Willow and White-tailed Ptarmigan; corvids – (omnivorous feeders) Gray Jay, Black-billed Magpie and Common Raven; woodpeckers (grubs and ants from rotten wood and under bark) – Hairy, Northern and Black-backed Three-toed Woodpeckers; chickadees (bark gleaners) – Black-capped, Mountain and Boreal; waxwings (frozen fruits) – Bohemian Waxwing; and finches (seed eaters) – Evening and Pine Grosbeaks, Gray-crowned Rosy Finch, Red and White-winged Crossbills.

Transients include several species of waterfowl which breed on the prairies and winter on the south coast, and shorebirds which breed in the more northerly boreal forests and winter generally well south of the Canadian border.

Red-necked and horned Grebes, Mallard and Ring-necked Ducks and American Coots breed in Moose Lake Marsh. They can be seen from the highway by even the casual visitor.

Most abundant of the summer bird visitors are the colourful small woodland species such as the warblers. The Blackpoll Warbler performs the longest and the most spectacular migration of all the summer birds. In late August, the Blackpoll together with other migratory woodland species, move eastward through the parkland zone of the Prairie Provinces and eventually eastward through the Atlantic seaboard. The Final stage of their journey takes them non-stop across the open ocean over Bermuda to their winter home in South America.

Jasper Wildlife | Jasper National Park | Rocky Mountain Destinations