Category Archives: Jasper National Park

Early Spring Jasper Photography Hotspots – Athabasaca River

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The leaves are now in full bloom along the Athabasca River in Jasper National Park and around the Jasper townsite and this makes for some great spring nature photography.  Combine this with the fact that bears and other wildlife are now being sighted daily in the park and you have the perfect storm for a wildlife and landscape photographer to spend a few days or a week enjoying the photo opportunities in Jasper.

One of my favourite early season landscape photography locations in Jasper is along the Athabasca River south of town on Highway 93 (the Icefields Parkway).  Earlybird photographers may see wolves or bears along this route prior to 8 am, and really early risers can catch some spectacular sunrise light between 5 and 7 am.

Mt Fryatt and the Athabasca River at sunrise in Jasper National Park

The best locations are south of Athabasca Falls (17 miles/30 kms south of Jasper).

Happy shooting!

John

Jasper Winter Wildlife Photography Workshop opening next week

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Hi everyone,

Just a quick note for all of you wildlife photographers out there that I have an opening in my Jasper winter wildlife photography workshop next week from February 7th-12th.

Come and join me for five days of photographing bighorn sheep, elk, moose, deer, coyote, and even wild wolves and lynx.

Bighorn sheep rams

Bighorn sheep rams photographed during the 2011 Jasper winter wildlife photography workshop

Happy shooting!

John

Family Vacations in Jasper National Park

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Planning on taking the whole family out for a Rockies vacation? One of the top places on your list should be Jasper National Park.

This part of the Canadian Rockies offer children many exciting activities. You’ll find all kinds of vacation activities here to keep yourselves entertained, and you kids from getting bored.

Recommended Kids’ Activities in Jasper National Park

Go Guided: The many talented guides in Jasper can take you and your out and show you the best places in the park, help you safely look for area wildlife, and learn about the park’s history, ecology and more.

Get out: Take a hike, with the kids. There are plenty of great trails all around Jasper that are perfect for younger kids, including The Discovery Trail, located on the edge of Jasper townsite, and Lake Annette Loop. These trails are short, fun and easy, perfect for burning off a some kid energy.

Snowtubing: Another great way to have fun with the whole family, and let the kids get out and burn off some extra energy.

Museums: Need a more relaxed day? Hang out in the local museums. You can learn about Jasper history at the Yellowhead Museum or see the many wildlife displays at the Wildlife Den in Whistler’s Inn.

Just Jasper: The town of Jasper offers plenty of interesting shops, ice cream parlors and restaurants  that can be fun for the whole family. The surrounding mountains of Jasper National Park are almost always visible, so you can still enjoy the scenery. Scenic Appreciation

The whole family can enjoy a pleasant hike through Jasper National  Park.
The whole family can enjoy a pleasant hike through Jasper National Park.

Take a Float: Rafting can be an awesome bonding experience for you and your family, and the Athabasca river in Jasper National Park is perfect for all levels.  You can float this river in a 20-person raft, suitable for even younger children.

Maligne Canyon and Lake: You can walk over six bridges for views of the Canadian limestone gorges and waterfalls. Learn more about Maligne Lake.

An Icy Vacation: The Columbia Icefields are a stunning Jasper must-see. You can go out onto the glacier in an ice buggy. Older kids will enjoy a river float trip, which is a fun way to spend the day.

Jasper Tramway: Open during the warmer months, Canada’s highest aerial tram is the Jasper Tramway just outside of Jasper. In just seven-minutes you’ll reach an altitude of 8,000 feet. A guide shares the history of Jasper as you look out over the spectacular Canadian Rockies scenery of Jasper and the entire Athabasca Valley.

Fishing: Rent fishing rods and buy bait at the boathouse.

Horseback Riding: In warmer months, take a morning or afternoon trail ride that heads out from the Maligne Lake Lodge to the top of the Bald Hills. The rides are from three to four hours long, so this is best for older kids. They will appreciate the wildflower-covered meadows and views of ice-capped mountains that Jasper offers along the way.

Quick Tips for Jasper National Park Vacations

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Jasper Recommendations

Jasper National Park is one of the top sightseeing vacation spots in all of the Rockies, and is perfect for mountain vacations year round, but the summer can be especially magical, and has better road conditions to boot.

The Tangle Falls are a beautiful place to picnic in Jasper  National Park.
The Tangle Falls are a beautiful place to picnic in Jasper National Park.

The Jasper summer activities season typically runs from the beginning of May until the middle of October. Of course, this is all dependent on the weather in the Canadian Rockies, which can be a little unpredictable.

Take a good look at Jasper

Want to see Jasper right now, as you sit at your computer? Visit the Jasper webcam. This webcam actually allows you to control it yourself, moving the camera 360 degrees, zooming in and out, and even snapping photos to share with friends. It’s free and you don’t even need to register to use it.

Getting to Jasper

The train is one fun way to get to Jasper any time of year. The half-day train rides run year-round, three times a week. Railway journeys to the British Colombia interior is with VIA Rail Skeena.

Daily buses (in summer) to Jasper from Calgary, Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise.

Greyhound also has regular bus service to Jasper from both Vancouver and Edmonton.

Jasper Vacations runs daily shuttle service to Jasper from Edmonton and Edmonton airport.

Getting Around Town

Mr. Taxi is a good local option if you have not rented a car.

Where to Eat

Jasper has a wide variety of restaurants, offering everything from ethnic foods to fine dining, burger joints to great places to pick up a big breakfast before heading out for a hike. Check out this Jasper restaurant guide to get the info you need.

Jasper Tramway

This is one of the best ways to take in all the scenery of Jasper National Park for all visitors, and to get good photographs, see wildlife, and just generally take in Jasper. Check out this hand Jasper tramway guide for more info.

Quick guide to Maligne Lake

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No trip to Jasper National Park, or the Rockies for that matter, would be complete without a side trip to Maligne Lake. Separated from the Banff/Jasper Highway by the rugged Maligne Range, this 29 mile (46 kilometer) road follows the glacial valley separating this range from the neighboring Queen Elizabeth Ranges. The main access is along Highway 16, approximately five kilometers east of Jasper.

Activities: Sightseeing, photography, walking, hiking, canoeing, whitewater rafting.

Highlights: Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake, Jasper Park Lodge Road, Hanging Valley Viewpoint, Rose Marie’s Rock, Maligne Lake.

Time: Minimum of two hours.

Location: Five kilometers east of Jasper.

Point and Shoot

All along the drive to the Maligne Lake area, you’ll likely have lots of chances to photograph wildlife. Grizzlies bears are frequently sighted roaming the area. Along with moose, mule black bear, elk and white-tail deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goat. So you’ll definitely want to have your camera at the ready here, as in most parts of Canada, just remember to keep a safe distance between yourself and the wildlife.

The View at Hanging Valley

At mile four (kilometer six), you’ll see a sign on your left for the Hanging Valley Viewpoint. Watch the odometer, because it’s easy to miss. The viewpoint offers up an excellent panorama of the Athabasca Valley and the town of Jasper. The Maligne Valley is a classic hanging valley, sitting at a much higher elevation than the nearby Athabasca Valley, thereby offering a bird’s eye view of the area.

From the viewpoint, near the edge of the valley, you get a wonderful view of the vastness of the valley left behind by the Athabasca Valley glacier. Across the valley, Pyramid Mountain looms with its CNCP telecommunications tower on the summit. To the left of the Jasper town site, Whistlers Mountain and its ever-present Jasper tramway dominate the skyline.

Maligne Canyon

Not too long after leaving the Hanging Valley Viewpoint, you’ll take a left into the Maligne Canyon day-use area. This is a great chance to see one of Jasper’s geological marvels. Glacial melt made this canyon deep but very narrow.

The trail at Maligne Canyon is well kept, but it does get steep, so give yourself plenty of time so that you can appreciate the magic of this place. This is also a great place for photographers to get excellent landscape photos. But please avoid the temptation to climb over fences and other barriers to get your photos. Photographers have literally died here doing that.

Medicine Lake

Experience the popular lakes, rivers and streams of the Canadian   Rockies.
Experience the popular lakes, rivers and streams of the Canadian Rockies.

Much of the drainage from the surrounding Canadian Rockies exits Maligne Valley through a hidden drainage network of underground caves. Medicine Lake dramatically illustrates the how this underground drainage system works. Every Autumn, as the land dries up, the lake disappears. This is because the lake acts as a large basin with the drain open. If you have the tap running at full blast, the basin will fill with water despite the water running down the drain.

In the case of Medicine Lake, upwards of 4,000 gallons (24,000 liters) of water go down the drain every second. During the runoff in summer,  there’s enough water flowing into the lake from local streams to make up for the drainage and the lake bed begins to fill, and by late spring, Medicine Lake is in its full glory. By September, runoff has dropped off, and the lake quickly drains.

The cave drainage system beneath Medicine Lake resurfaces below Maligne Canyon, more than 11 mi (17 kilometers) downstream. This makes  it as the longest underground drainage system in all of Canada. Twice attempts were made to plug the drain, once using old mattresses, the other using magazines—neither of these odd attempts had any effect.

Medicine Lake also provides some excellent Canadian Rockies fishing. Its quiet waters teem with eastern brook trout. The fish were stocked in 1927, and somehow managed not to get washed down the drain, but rather flourish.

At mile 22 (kilometer 35), the road passes the takeout point for kayakers and whitewater rafters. Keep your eyes open for some of these icy Canadian adventurers. The waters of the Maligne River don’t rise far above the freezing point, but despite its chilly nature, the stretch between Maligne Lake and this pullout represents one of Alberta’s most popular rafting destinations.

Rose Marie’s Rock

At mile 25 (kilometer 41), the road crosses a bridge over the Maligne River. Looking upstream, a large rock is visible in the middle of the river. This rock can be seen din the the 1953 classic Rose Marie, starring Howard Keel and Ann Blyth. No, Nelson Eddy didn’t sing to Jeanette Macdonald here, despite the sign in the Maligne Lake Restaurant! It was the remake of this classic movie that was actually filmed here.

Maligne Lake

You’ve arrived one of the most picturesque spots in the Canadian Rockies. Nestled between Mounts Charlton, Unwin, Mary Vaux and Llysfran Peak on the right  and Leah Peak, Samson Peak and Mount Paul on the left, it offers some of the best photography you’ll find on your vacation. The lake was created when a landslide off the surrounding Opal Hills released almost almost 700 million-yd³ (500-million-m³ ) of material into the lower valley. This natural dam caused the water to backup, forming the present lake. Like Medicine Lake, fish stocking in the early part of the century has created a fisherman’s paradise. Don’t forget to pick up your National Park fishing license before casting in your reel.

History

In 1875, railroad surveyor Henry MacLeod recorded the first non-native exploration of this valley. Looking for a route for Canada’s planned transcontinental railway, he found the valley to be blocked at its eastern end. Perhaps the best reflection of his expedition can be found in his dubbing the lake at the valley’s eastern end “Sore Foot Lake” (now Maligne Lake).

The lake remained quiet until 1908 when a Quaker from Pennsylvania, Mary Schäffer, hired local guide Billy Warren to take her to Chaba Imne (Stoney for Beaver Lake). Along with her was long-time friend Mary Adams. The party had explored Jasper the year prior, but had not been able to reach the lake before snowfall. Mary wrote in her journal:

“Indians, of course, had been there, but, unless a prospector or timber-cruiser had come in by way of the Athabasca River, we had reason to feel we might be the first white people to have visited it.”

As you drive this winding road, keep your eyes open for wildlife. Many a grizzly has been seen wandering its isolated hillsides and lakeshores. There is also the potential to spot a black bear, elk, moose, mule and white-tail deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goat. A camera and film are essential, but please stay in your vehicles when you see animals and please keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the wildlife.

Crossing the Athabasca River over the H.J. Moberly Bridge, you pay tribute to one of Jasper’s earliest pioneer families. Henry Moberly worked as a factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company, settling in the Jasper area in 1858. He lived until 1931, and this bridge, built in 1940, is dedicated to his memory.

Boat tours along the lake are a must for visitors to the Jasper area. Culminating with a visit to world famous “Spirit Island”, they offer endless views of the surrounding Canadian ranges, and provide the most civilized way to see the further reaches of this magnificent lake.

Swimming and Skating Jasper- Lake Annette, Lake Edith & Lac Beauvert

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Jasper National Park, Alberta

It seems strange to be talking about swimming in the beautiful lakes of Jasper when the temperatures outside are hovering around the minus a million degrees Celsius. However, the towns of the Canadian Rockies change drastically between summer and winter. Winter sees people donning the warmest clothes ever made and putting ice skates and ski’s on while summer is quite the opposite. It really depends on what your interests are. During the warmer months, you can climb to the highest peaks and admire the stunning views of the Canadian Rockies. In winter, you can climb to the highest points and then fly down the slope at full speed.

Beautiful Lake Edith reflecting the mountains.

Beautiful Lake Edith reflecting the mountains.

In Jasper, the most popular swimming lakes lie to the northeast of the town. Just like pretty much everything in Banff, you can get to them by foot if the mood strikes you. Though it seems all the lakes are named after friends of my mother, they are actually all far more stunning and less wrinkly come to think about it. Lake Annette is glacially fed which means that even in summer, it is as cold as the many girls who refuse to talk to me in bars. If you are feeling brave on a hot day, you would be doing well to make it to waist deep. It is great for ice skating in winter though.

Lake Edith lies next to its old buddy Annette and is equally deep and cold. For this reason, it tends to attract more kayakers than swimmers. The setting is stunning though with mountains all around and private cabins that were built in 1930 all around the lake. Lac Beauvert rests beside the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and is a gorgeous emerald green in summer. In winter, it makes for a great skating rink. If you stay through the seasons in the Rockies, it really does feel like two different worlds – both of which are unique in their own beautiful way.

The Miette Hot Springs, Jasper

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Jasper National Park, Alberta

I am the kind of person who believes that for every tough thing the body does, it deserves a reward. If you have had a hard days working, grab a beer. If you have been skiing all day then hell – why not take a well earned break and jump into some natural hot springs. Banff boasts its own hot springs but the Miette springs are something special. These are the hottest springs in the Rockies and have been around for a long time. The serenity and relaxation you feel in here is second to none.

Take a relaxing dip in the Miette Hot Springs.

Take a relaxing dip in the Miette Hot Springs.

When it was originally founded, the waters were a scalding 54 degrees Celsius. Realising that only Humpty Dumpty might be interested in a dip at this temperature, the water was eventually cooled to what is it now – a much more respectable 32 degrees. It is not the springs themselves that first catch your attention but rather the extraordinary views all around the pools. Snow tipped mountains shelter this natural beauty. Once you get yourself settled in the pool, it feels like you are in an incredible old fashioned painting. The image stays in your mind for a long time afterwards.

If you had only planned to come up here for a look, you may well get tempted by the steaming water. Well fear not, there are bathing suits, towels and lockers for rent so you can jump in and enjoy yourself with everyone else. If you are feeling especially brave, jump into the pool that sits adjacent to the hot springs. This is a cool pool and good for the body though you may not be thinking this at the time when certain parts of the body migrate inwards for this temporary winter! A trip to the Canadian Rockies wouldn’t be complete without a dip into the hot springs of either Banff or Jasper.

Check out local weather and conditions with this live, user-controlled Jasper web cam.

Maligne Lake of Jasper

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Jasper National Park, Alberta

The sights of the Rockies are like my children and like any parent, I have my favourite. Lake Louise during spring has always been top of the list… until I saw Maligne Lake for the first time. I knew a few facts about it. I knew that it was the most famous photograph of the Canadian Rockies and I knew that over 8 million people voted the river’s boat tour as the best in Canada but nothing can prepare you for the extraordinary beauty that hits you upon arrival.

The natural beauty of Maligne Lake.

The natural beauty of Maligne Lake.

Though it was first spotted by Henry McLeod, a Canadian Pacific Railway surveyor in 1875, this lake is always remembered for the parks first tourist Mary Schaffer who explored the park and was a female ahead of her time. Stretching 22km north to south, Maligne Lake is surrounded by a circle of rocky peaks that can not be photographed badly. One of the main reasons people visit here is for Spirit Island. This is a tiny little island that held a spiritual place for the first Nations people. It is this island which is used for so many photos and postcards of the Rockies.

Though you can tour the island on the aforementioned boat tours, there is a much better alternative. Rent a few kayaks, get some waterproof packs and camping gear and hit the lake yourself. There are two lakeside campgrounds where you can sit by a fire and relax the arms after a day of paddling. This is a particular favourite amongst newly married couples with an adventurous (trying to kill new spouse) streak! It really is one of the most unique ways to see one of the greatest sights not just in Jasper or the Rockies but in all of Canada.

Shopping in Jasper

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Jasper National Park, Alberta

Banff has the reputation in the Rockies as the place to go to part with your hard earned cash in the many stores around but Jasper is no push over when it comes to shopping. Anything you may want from jewellery to teddy bears – you can buy in this little town and trust me it is so romantic a place that you will want to take something away with you as a reminder.

Jasper has a great selection of shops to choose from.

Jasper has a great selection of shops to choose from.

There are three main shopping locations in Jasper. The first is on Connaught Drive, Patricia Street is the second and the third main option is the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. A trip up to the Fairmont is a day out in itself. Cafes, clothes shops and activities are just a few of the things you can do. If the weather is benign, consider taking the back route up past Lac Beauvert to the hotel. It makes you feel like you really deserve some window shopping and a coffee.

As I mentioned Jasper is the sort of magical town that makes you want to take home a keepsake. Ammolite Jewellery is found in abundance around the Rockies and Jasper is a great place to pick up something special for a loved one. There are some truly fantastic oil and water paintings to be found so you never have to leave the landscape of the Rockies behind. Many people can be tricked by the weather of the Rockies. Somehow no one really expects the winter to be as cold as it is and no one expects the summer to be as warm as it is. It’s a great excuse to shop around in the many stores for a whole new wardrobe.

Regardless if you find yourself in Banff, Lake Louise or in this tiny gem of a town they call Jasper, you will end of partaking in a spot of shopping. Check out our new shopping section for more details!

Family Activities in Jasper

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Jasper National Park, Alberta

As well as being one of the most romantic little towns in the world, Jasper is also an extremely family friendly place. Hotels are more than welcoming to kids and there are activities aplenty to choose from to keep everyone happy. Aside from the usual sightseeing options open to families, here are three of my favourite things to do for all ages.

Dogsledding

Though this is not allowed in the park itself, there are teams of Alaskan huskies available outside the park for adventures. You can choose between 1-4 hour trips. This is really one of the most unique things to do on a vacation. It also happens to be one of the most fun things to do as well. There are a few different options to choose from.

Goat Lookout

Located about 38km south of Jasper towards the Icefields Parkway, this site offers one of the most breath taking views in the Canadian Rockies. Aside from the views of Mount Edith Cavell, this is a great spot to see some cool wildlife as well.

Ice Skating

Both Lac Beauvert and Lake Mildred are stunning lakes in the summer but in winter, they are even more fun for the family. They are groomed for ice skating and Lake Mildred also has a hockey rink for the kids to run circles around their parents. Bringing kids to Jasper is always a good decision.