Jasper National Park is the largest of Canada’s Rocky Mountain Parks and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jasper spans 10,878 square kilometres (4200 square miles) of broad valleys, rugged mountains, glaciers, forests, alpine meadows and wild rivers along the eastern slopes of the Rockies in western Alberta. The Jasper townsite is surrounded by a necklace of emerald lakes, Edith, Lake Annette, Patricia and Pyramid Lakes. Abundant wildlife, towering mountain peaks and a wide range of different accommodation styles from luxury to rustic cabins. Also home of “Big Friendly” Marmot Basin Ski Resort.
ACCOMMODATION – WHERE TO STAY
Jasper is extremely busy throughout the summer. There is a limited range of older hotels in the town itself and cabins in nearby surrounding areas. It is common for Jasper to become completely booked out, especially in July, August and early September and it strongly advisable to reserve accommodation in advance. Jasper Park Lodge provides the only luxurious option and contains all the amenities you would expect from a five star resort. Other hotels are conveniently located downtown within walking distance to restaurants and shops. Those who want to stay somewhere a little more styled for the mountains will enjoy some of the lodge and cabin properties set around the lakes and rivers. Jasper also has a unique selection of Home Approved Accommodations (similar to bed and breakfasts – but more like a self catering separate entrance basement suite).
The nearest airport to Jasper is in Edmonton 4 hours to the east. Most people are visiting Jasper as a part of a driving journey throughout the Canadian Rockies. Calgary airport is approximately a 6 hour drive through Banff (3 « hours) and then along the famous Icefields Parkway. Jasper is also located on the VIA rail line serviced by The Canadian and by the famous Rocky Mountaineer sightseeing train from Vancouver.
You will have much more flexibility visiting Jasper if you have a vehicle. There is no public transit but you can still see some of the attractions by using local tour and sightseeing companies. But having a vehicle is far more convenient since many of the really great things to see are much further than a walking or cycling distance away.
WHAT TO SEE
Plan to spend more than one full day if you want to see even the most popular and most well known attractions. Because the valleys are relatively wide the sites are further away from the townsite. There seems to be more wildlife in easy to reach places. Elk and big horn sheep are common on the roadside and motorists should take extra care and heed all signs. Maligne Lake and Canyon, Miette Hot Springs, Mt Edith Cavell and Jasper Tramway should be on everyone’s to do list. Throw in some raging waterfalls and Mt Robson, the Rockies tallest peak, and that’s a full schedule of things to see in a few days.
Mountain weather prevails in Jasper. Summer is usually warm and sunny but in the mountains you must always be prepared for a cool or wet change. Bring a light jacket and a sweater. Winters are snowy a quite cold. Spring and fall can bring a real mix of weather and temperatures. Expect the lakes to stay frozen until at least mid May. Jasper falls colors can be very pretty and begin usually in mid September.
Jasper enjoys a nice range of pubs and watering holes filled with visitors and locals. Jasper does have a cinema and aquatic centre for families to enjoy. Like the rest of the Rockies, in summer there is daylight until well into the evening, meaning that you will get to enjoy outdoor activities and sightseeing until later – even if you get off to a late start. You won’t need to pack your dancing shows since Jasper doesn’t have a disco or nightclub.
The selection and variety of dining in Jasper is excellent. There are great family restaurants with restaurant that will please all palates and the fast food craving can be filled here too. For more sophisticated and adventurous tastes there is a good choice of restaurants serving Rocky Mountain specialties and Nuevo cuisine. Be sure to also check out restaurants that are located in hotels as well as those in the main streets.
For a small town, Jasper has a surprisingly good variety of shopping. Of course, being a town visited by tourists, there are many souvenir stores, but there are also stores featuring local artisans. If you haven’t packed well, there’s outerwear stores with everything you’ll need to be comfortable in the mountains. If you really enjoy browsing stores, about half a day should be about right to check it out.
The population of permanent residents in Jasper is a combination of National Park staff, railway workers and businesses that support tourism. The one thing that the locals have in common is a love for the mountains. Jasper in January is an enjoyable winter festival with ski and ice themes. In 2007, Jasper National Park celebrated its 100th anniversary, the Jasper Townsite being the centre of activities.