Jasper Alberta – Wilderness & Small Town Perfection
At the northern end of the stunning Icefields Parkway there’s an almost perfect little town that makes us wanna stop driving any further north. After an action packed week of non-stop scenic mountain drives, gondolas and miles of hiking one might think we’ve had enough of the Canadian Rockies, then we roll into Jasper, Alberta, Canada.
Glacial blue lakes, aqua green rivers, snowcapped mountains, fir and aspen trees as far as the eye can see, this small Canadian town has got it going on! Not only are we surrounded by endless nature but the icing on the cake is this little town is picture perfect too. With only two days scheduled in Jasper we tried to cram in as much in as possible and I think we made a good “dent”:
Kayak Pyramid Lake – Originally we wanted to paddle Maligne Lake, however since we’re early in the season that wasn’t an option, so we headed to Pyramid Lake instead. With our schedule for the day being totally full we decided rent for a quick paddle instead of lugging around our paddle board. I can’t think of a better way to start a day of exploration than on a beautiful, crystal clear lake surrounded by mountains. The resort had public WiFi which was a post paddle bouns!
If you have your own SUP make sure you contact the visitor center and/or park services before heading out on the water, some of the lakes may be protected. SUP is new to the area and the visitor center confirmed for us that Edith Lake and Annette Lake are both cool for SUPs, they weren’t sure about the other area lakes.
Old Fort Point Trial – What a fantastic little hike! The trail quickly ascends to the top of a large hill, past the resident sheep and summits with great panoramic views of the town, rugged mountaintops, lakes and rivers. We chose to continue on the 4km loop trail and we were blown away by the diverse eco-system that surrounded us. At the summit there are very little trees and giant boulders, down the trail we’re covered by a canopy of trees and lush green forest floors. Nikki spotted a wild orchid on the edge of the trail and from there we must have seen hundreds of wildflowers that were all worth stopping and enjoying. We were on lookout for a grizzly that crossed the road in front of the road near the trailhead, unfortunately we never saw him again, but we did catch a little wildlife wandering around. I would highly recommend beginning any Jasper adventure with this short hike.
Maligne Lake – Everyone gushes about this little glacial lake, and although its beauty is undeniable I can’t say it’s more beautiful than the other lakes in the area. Granted we didn’t get to see the lake in all its beauty due to the looming clouds and intermittent rain, but the not-so-perfect weather “forced” us into the café for a coffee and almond croissant. Surprisingly the café uses locally roasted coffee and the pastries looked fresh baked…and yes both were yummy! We sat and watched the new boat captains practice docking the tour boats while we enjoyed our sweets then we walked about a mile of the lakeside trail. I thought we made the best of our rainy afternoon!
On the road to Maligne Lake keep your eyes peeled for wildlife! We noticed several clusters of cars pulled off the road in a few different places, with large groups of people with giant camera lenses running frantically to capture the local residents. As we passed one pull-out Nikki yells “Bears” and sure enough there was a momma and 2 babies hanging by the lake. We sat at a distance and watched them play for nearly an hour. We also spotted a pica and a moose in the area.
Maligne Canyon – Six bridges cross the canyon letting you practically drink the mist of the flowing river as it pounds the canyon walls underneath. We hiked a bit of this trail but we’ve read it only gets better as you continue down. Dang, it’s a real bummer that we don’t have more time here.
Jasper Sky Tram – By far our favorite gondola type thing we’ve done in Canada. I love how the car operator welcomes you then says “prepare for your flight”, it’s an entirely different experience from Lake Louise or Banff. The little red car ascends quickly to the top of the mountain where we were greeted by clouds with ZERO view, bummer. We decided to walk around the boardwalk and we spotted a little hoary marmot hiding in the rocks, we must of watched that little guy for 20 minutes waiting for him to move but his lazy butt just sat there! HA. Some of the clouds cleared so we decided to hike up to the peak. We were rewarded with clearing clouds and fabulous views of the valley and the town far below. Due to snow we only made it to the first peak but it looked like you could continue on hiking for miles up the ridge. This is our kinda gondola: A rapid ascent up the mountain that offers additional hiking opportunities to peak even more mountains. If the weather is nice I’d pack a healthy lunch and explore for hours.
Whistlers – It’s a great National Park campground with a bunch of little “spokes” that make this 781 site campground seem way more private than it really is. As normal we chose a non-hookup site because it’s less expensive and more scenic. Our sight had a little tighter than entrance than I’m really comfortable with, but once we squeezed in there was plenty of sunshine and room on the inside of the site.
If you have a big rig don’t worry, they have hook-up sites to accomodate just about any size rig. When checking in make sure to request sun if you have solar, most of the sites are covered in a canopy of trees. Elk are supposed to be wildly abundant here but we didn’t see a single one…but we didn’t exactly go searching for them because they were calving which brings out the hungry grizzly bears, yikes!
Sips, Bites & WiFi
Jasper Brewing Company Brew Pub – The brewery was opened in 2005 and is Canada’s first National Park Brewery which we thought was pretty neat. I’m not gonna try and tell you this is the best beer ever, to be honest during our visit they had 6 brews on tap that were all pretty decent. In my “unexpert” opinion all the beers were fairly traditional and would likely satisfy the majority of the population, unfortunately they didn’t have any bombers or specialty beers for sale so the only thing we could drink was the standard tap. We absolutely loved the fish and chips which came highly recommended, and we also ordered the sea scallops based on our server’s recommendation (which I thought was a brave dish to have us order, seared scallops can be extremely finicky). The scallops were perfect and the house made polenta was a beautiful companion. We rounded the experience out with a Beer Float for dessert and took advantage of the fast, free WiFi.
Famoso Pizza – Sometimes fast, free WiFi takes precedent over finding the perfect local eatery. Sadly, the first two local places had notes on the door “WiFi free zone” and “Conversation is recommended” which is totally cool, but as full-time working travelers we needed to get an hour of work done over lunch. While searching for WiFi we found Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria. Great pizza, fast and most importantly free WiFi (as opposed to the coffee shop below that charged $4 for 30 minutes). Come to find out this is a Canadian chain but nonetheless it’s pretty good grub.
Our Wishlist for the Next Visit
Mt. Edith Cavell – It’s considered one of the most rugged summits in the area which sounds spectacular, add to that the frozen-in-space Angel Glacier and you’ve got a double whammy hike.
Maligne Canyon Winter Ice Walk – Just search online to see the spectacular ice formations that appear during the winter, it would be so cool to see these up close and personal…no matter how cold it is J
Dark Sky Preserve – The entire area is a designated a Dark Sky Preserve, in fact Jasper is one of the world’s largest. What does this mean? Basically they have rules and restrictions about light pollution. What it provides is beautifully dark night skies. Remember it doesn’t get very dark during the summer, so this is another reason we’ll need to come back when it’s a little later in the year.
Rentable Bear Spray – We didn’t have time for any major backcountry hikes but we thought it was pretty cool you can rent bear spray. It’s a real bummer you aren’t allowed to cross the international border with bear spray (even though a lot of people cross over with it and never get hassled), it’s even more of a bummer that to be safe you’d have purchase bear spray multiple times if you’re doing our same #AlaskaBound trip, so that’s why renting seems so great.
Fuel Prices – Gas and Diesel was all fairly priced in Jasper sitting around 1.10 per liter for unleaded.
Road Conditions – All the roads we traveled in and around Jasper were literally perfect. Its smooth sailing here and the town is extremely RV friendly.
Dates Visited – May 26 – 29 2015
We’re sooo stoked we were able to visit Jasper and we know we’ll be back one day. We’re calling this our “dip our toes in” visit. If you’ve been to Jasper, Alberta and have a few recommendations of your own please share in the comments below. We love hearing from other travelers and locals alike.