Last updated on July 22nd, 2024

Red Chairs, Fairmont Jasper

Red Chairs, Fairmont Jasper

When to Visit Jasper National Park

Jasper is extremely busy during the summer months of July and August. The months of June and September are good options to avoid the crowds. June will have more waterfalls and raging rivers. September will have a better chance of those beautiful blue colors in the rivers and lakes. Forest fires outside the park in the fall can influence air quality for the entire Canadian Rockies in early September. Even in smoke, rain or snowfall, Jasper can be beautiful though.

Jasper National Park – by Vehicle

You need a vehicle to visit Jasper National Park. The nearest airport is in Edmonton, which is 4 hours away on the #16 Highway. You will either need to rent a car or join an organized tour. You can also get to Jasper National Park on the Icefields Parkway, which joins with Banff National Park to the south. So, another option is to fly to Calgary and start by driving to Banff. Calgary is 5 hours from Jasper. If you visit both Jasper and Banff, you can save about 4 hours of driving time by making a one way car rental between Edmonton and Calgary.

Spirit Island, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Spirit Island, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Jasper National Park – by Train

The Rocky Mountaineer is the best way to visit Jasper National Park by rail. The train between Vancouver and Jasper stops overnight in Kamloops, so you get sleep in a hotel and maximize daylight views on your journey. You can start in Calgary or Vancouver and pick different options for various sights around Banff and Jasper. The Rocky Mountaineer is a great option in the busy summer months, as the hotels they use give you priority over all the crowds at the popular sights. The downside of their luxury is that they are quite expensive.

You can also reach Jasper on Via Rail, which offers cross Canada service that stops in Jasper along its route. Via Rail is slow. The trip from Vancouver to Jasper is nearly a full day. The added expense of an overnight sleeper makes it more expensive than flying. Plus you will need to rent a car when you get to Jasper. So, Via Rail just isn’t a great choice for most visitors. If you do take Via Rail, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge will pick you up at the train station.

Visit Jasper National Park – Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is the most popular route to travel Jasper National Park. The Parkway runs 150 miles from Jasper south to the outskirts of Lake Louise in Banff National Park. Your first stop southbound will be Athabasca Falls, conveniently located beside the highway and with parking a few feet from the falls.

Athabasca Falls Rainbow Spray

Athabasca Falls Rainbow Spray

The route then passes the roadside stop at Sunwapta Falls. For a side trip, hike to the small glacial lake at Mount Edith Cavell. After passing the braided gravel river bed of the North Saskatchewan River Crossing, the Icefields Parkway next arrives at the Columbia Icefield. The Columbia Icefield forms a finger of the Athabasca Glacier right along the highway.

Columbia Icefield from Information Center

Columbia Icefield from Discovery Center

Columbia Icefields

The most popular stop on the Icefields Parkway is definitely the Columbia Icefields. Busloads of tourists from all over the world, making this one of the most popular destinations in the Canadian Rockies. The Glacier View Inn overlooks the Columbia Icefield. The hotel is part of the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, which includes national park information, a restaurant and souvenirs. The most important reason most visitors stop here is to take Ice Explorer Glacier Tour that drives on top of the Columbia Icefield. Once your Ice Explorer bus arrives on top of the glacier, you can get out and walk on the ice. Icefield tours can also include the nearby Glacier Skywalk.

Black Bear, Visit Jasper National Park

Black Bear, Pixabay / brigachtal

Hike to the Base of the Columbia Icefield

You can park just below the Columbia Icefield and hike to its base, but the rapidly receding ice makes it harder to reach this spot every year. Warning signs prohibit climbing on the base of the glacier, because people have died from collapsing ice. Hikers can die from hypothermia in an ice collapse.

The most astounding part of the hike to the base of the Columbia Icefield is the markers showing the steady retreat of the glacier over time. In the early 1900’s the glacier reached the bottom of the valley, but now it only reaches a third of the way down. In fact you can find a marker at the back of the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre parking lot showing that the ice was at the center back in 1848.  At the top of the Columbia Icefield, the snow melt can end up in the Atlantic, the Arctic or the Pacific.

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park

Just as you are reach Banff National Park, the Icefields Parkway goes past some of the most beautiful lakes in the Rockies. Don’t miss Peyto Lake, which many think is more impressive than Lake Louise. Shortly thereafter is the turnout to the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge parking lot on Bow Lake along the parkway. Watch for black bears along the road side, but don’t get out of your car. Bears often collect berries at the roadside in early fall.

Beauvert Lake, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Beauvert Lake, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Visit Jasper National Park Lodging

  • Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge – luxury hotel on Beauverte Lake just outside of the town of Jasper.
  • You can stay at the Jasper town site, but the town of Hinton has less expensive hotels. Hinton is about an hour from Jasper by car.
  • Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge – an hour south of Jasper on the Icefields Parkway.
  • Glacier View Inn – units facing the Columbia Icefield, about 1.5 hours south of Jasper.
Maligne Lake Glacier, Jasper Tour

Maligne Lake Glacier

Visit Jasper National Park – Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake is one of the most widely recognized photo stops in the Canadian Rockies, because of Spirit Island. Spirit Island became world famous in the Kodak Colorama display in Grand Central Station, New York in 1950. Suddenly lots of people wanted to see Spirit Island and that meant all kinds of people who wanted to visit Jasper National Park. You can arrange a tour from Jasper to Spirit Island, but you can also drive to the boat landing yourself. If you drive there, you can book your own boat ride to Spirit Island online. Maligne Lake is 30 miles from Jasper. Just before Maligne Lake, you pass Medicine Lake, which is full in the spring and empty in the summer every year.

Spirit Island Maligne Lake Cruise

Spirit Island Maligne Lake Cruise

Maligne Canyon

When you visit Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, stop on your drive and hike Maligne Canyon on the way. Maligne Canyon is about 10 minutes from Jasper. The free trail criss-crosses the canyon in a series of 6 bridges. Start at the parking lot & tea house at the top of the Maligne Canyon. Then work your way down over the first few bridges. The views into the canyon are fabulous. If you hike the entire route down, you will eventually walk right out of the canyon.

Jasper SkyTram View

Jasper SkyTram View

Jasper – See the Sights

Visit Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. You can walk the grounds, rent a canoe and enjoy a meal at their bar or restaurants.

Ride the Jasper Tramway which is located a few minutes south of Jasper. Have breakfast, lunch or dinner at the top. On a clear day you can see the valley, the Victoria Cross Ranges and even Mount Robson in British Columbia.

Athabasca Falls Lower Exit

Athabasca Falls Lower Exit

Sights near Jasper National Park

  • Mount Robson Provincial Park – Mount Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Hike to the Berg Glacier.
  • Banff National Park joins Jasper National Park to its south.
  • If you drive through Edmonton, see all the attractions at the West Edmonton Mall.
Sunwapta Falls, Visit Jasper National Park

Sunwapta Falls

Jasper National Park Weather

Banff and Jasper are in the same glacial valley, so they have similar weather. Jasper National Park weather is good in July and August, but evenings are cool. Snow is possible any month of the year. Fall brings cold Jasper National Park weather by late September. Many tourist facilities are only in operation from May through September. January and February are the height of extremely cold winter weather, making for excellent skiing at Marmot Basin.

Visit Jasper National Park – Background

Jasper National Park is in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The park boundary is shared with Banff National Park. Just to the west in the province of British Columbia is Mount Robson Provincial Park. Mount Robson is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. The town of Jasper was built as a railway town for the Canadian National Railway. Early railroads tried to lure tourists to the west with luxury lodges. So, the Fairmont Jasper Lodge opened to the public in 1922 and still operates in the national park today.

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