Jasper National Park, 15 Must-Sees
Jasper National Park, Alberta
by Kay Barbaro
At more than 10,000 square km, and with at least 1,000 km in trails, Jasper National Park is the largest in Canadian Rockies, and offers a mind-boggling array of hikes and sights to get out and see. So many, that a visitor may be overwhelmed with all the potential activities. Here, we’ve provided 15 Jasper must-sees to help you narrow it down.
Medicine Lake is perhaps one of the most intriguing lakes in the world. This, in part, is because it is not actually lake, but a part of Maligne River that, after having gone underground, resurfaces. This causes the lake’s water levels to change drastically over the course of the year, which led local tribes to call it Magic Lake. Located 32 km. (19.2 mi.) S.E. of Jasper townsite. Open year-round.
Located in incredible Maligne Valley, this is the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world, encompassing 22 km. (14 mi.). A one-and-a-half hour boat cruise will give you views of glacier-topped peaks before bringing you to world-famous Spirit Island. Maligne Lake is a great place for guided fishing, hiking or horseback riding. It is also great for cross-country skiing in winter. Located 48 km. (28.8 mi.) S.E. of Jasper townsite. Open year-round.
Maligne is one of the most amazing canyons in the Canadian Rockies, with sheer limestone cliffs that plunge to depths of over 50 metres (165 ft.) The canyon is easily accessible by a trail that begins at a picnic area and takes hikers across six bridges, where they can catch the spray from the powerful Maligne River, or peer into the its turbulent depths. In winter, take a guided Canyon Tour across the floor of the frozen canyon. 1 km. (6.6 mi.) S.E. of Jasper townsite. Open year-round.
Besides being one of the most beautiful lakes in the Canadian Rockies, Lac Beauvert is bordered by one of the worlds most scenic golf courses, and the world-famous Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Enjoy the beautiful views, and access to a wide range of activities such as dining, shopping, horseback riding, cycling and boating. 7 km. (4.2 mi.) from Jasper townsite. Open year-round.
Meitte Hot Springs
As the hottest springs in the Canadian Rockies, the Meitte have to be cooled from 54º C (129· F) to a comfortable 39º C (102º F). The scenic Fiddle Valley facility includes two hot pools (one wheelchair accessible), a cool pool and poolside cafe. Adding to the attraction are nearby hiking trails, picnic sites and accommodations. Swimsuits, towels and lockers are available to rent. 60 km. (36 mi.) East of Jasper townsite. Open daily from May 9 – October 13, 2008
Patricia and Pyramid Lakes
These beautiful lakes are popular for fishing, picnicking, boating, hiking, horse-back riding, boating, canoeing, windsurfing and sailing. In the winter, cross-country skiing and ice-skating on Pyramid Lake are great for family fun. Seasonal and year-round accommodation and dining is also available, and Pyramid Island is now wheelchair accessible.
The Jasper Tramway whisks you up Whistler’s Mountain to an elevation of 2285 metres (7496 feet) for stunning vistas over mountain ranges stretching up to 80 km away. Interpretive exhibits explain the high alpine environment and a hiking trail leads you to the summit of the mountain. On a clear day the white pyramid of Mt. Robson can be seen in nearby British Columbia. Gift shops and licensed dining facilities available. 8 km. (4.8 mi.) S. of Jasper townsite. Open mid April – mid October.
One of Jasper’s main attractions, Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield south of Alaska, shimmering glacial ice and snow cover some 389 sq. km. (233 sq. mi.). An exciting 90 minute Ice Age adventure will take you out onto the Athabasca Glacier, a tongue of the Columbia Icefield, for an awe-inspiring glimpse of icy crevasses and ice-fed streamlets. Or, join a guided Glacier Ice-walk and visit the Icefield Interpretive Centre for informative exhibits and slide shows. Seasonal accommodation, dining and camping available. Hiking trails nearby. 105 km. (63 mi.) S. of Jasper townsite.
Sunwapta is a Stoney Indian word for “turbulent river.” At the falls, you’ll find that an apt name as the Sunwapta River abruptly changes course from northwest to southwest and plunges in a cloud of spray into a deep canyon. Seasonal accommodation and dining. Picnic sites available. A frozen wonder in winter, Sunwapta Falls will delight photographers with its uncanny “ice sculptures”. 55 km. (33 mi.) S. of Jasper townsite. Open year-round.
Mount Edith Cavell
Few summits in the park can match Mt Edith Cavell’s craggy beauty. The small, powder blue Angel Glacier is easily reached by a short self-guiding trail that winds its way along the shores of the lake. Another longer trail leads to picturesque Cavell Meadows. Trails are less crowded mornings or late afternoons. Parks Canada and Friends of Jasper have been working to restore the sensitive meadows after years of misplaced footsteps, please make your footsteps count by staying on the trail. 30 km. (18 mi.) S. of Jasper townsite. Open end of June – October.
Lake Edith and Lake Annette
These two day-use areas offer ample picnic sites and shelters in a beautiful lakeside setting. The water is refreshing and after a delightful swim you can stretch out on the sandy beaches or open grassy areas. Take a quiet evening stroll along the easy trail surrounding the lakes, including the wheelchair accessible Clifford E. Lee Trail. Or, cycle the bicycle trails around Lake Edith. Both 6 km. (3.6 mi.) from Jasper townsite. Open year-round.
Just off Highway 16 on the Miette Road you will find the remains of the “Pocahontas Coal Mine.” A trail leads through the mine remnants as well as to some spectacular viewpoints that overlook the Pocahontas ponds. Enjoy some time exploring this historic site. 48 km. (28.8 mi.) E. of Jasper townsite.
Among the most powerful and breathtaking falls in the Canadian Rockies, the Athabasca River thunders through a narrow gorge where the walls have been smoothed and potholed by the sheer force of the rushing water carrying sand and rock. Picnic sites available. Cross-country skiing. Capture the brilliance of rainbow-hued spray or the dazzling sheets of ice suspended from jagged rock on film. 32 km. (14.2 mi.) S. of Jasper townsite. Open year-round.
A tongue of the massive Columbia Icefield, the Stutfield Glacier pours over 900 vertical metres (3000 ft.) of cliff face, forming a picturesque set of double icefalls visible from a roadside viewpoint. The Sunwapta River braids its way through several channels across the broad, gravel flats below. 95 km. (57 mi.) S. of Jasper townsite. Open year-round.
From this elevated picnic area sweeps a panoramic view of the Athabasca Valley and the sheer mountain peaks surrounding it. This is a good place to spot mountain goats, bighorn sheep and other animals searching for mineral licks. Please remember, it is illegal to touch, bother or feed wild animals in any national park. Please help keep the wildlife wild and healthy. 38 km. (22.8 mi.) S. of Jasper townsite.