Things to do in Jasper Alberta
Jasper National Park in Alberta is more than 11,000 square kilometres which makes it the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. It’s also included as part of UNESCO’s Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. We spent two days exploring this amazing national park but you could spend a week or more and still not run out of things to do in Jasper. Here are a few of my suggestions.
Wildlife Spotting in Jasper Alberta
As well as the amazing scenery, Jasper National Park Alberta is teeming with wildlife. Of course, I was hoping to see some bears here and we did manage to catch a glimpse of one on the road to Maligne Lake. Sadly, I didn’t get a good photo as he was too far away. Still, it was very exciting and we watched him foraging for food on the hillside for quite a while.
Fortunately, many of the other animals in the were more accommodating when it came to photos. I spotted this lovely squirrel quietly eating his food on a tree near Maligne Lake and he even posed for a photo. These long-horned sheep brought traffic to a standstill on the road but nobody minded as we watched them stroll by.
Be prepared for that wow moment when you get your first glimpse Maligne Lake. It’s the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies but it’s the setting that really makes it stand out. Surrounded by trees and snow-capped mountains this is just another reminder that Canada has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
Mary Schaeffer Trail
In 1908, a wealthy Quaker named Mary Schaeffer reached the lake with an exploration party. She then travelled the length of the lake by raft and was stunned by the views. Today, you can walk the Mary Schaeffer Trail which runs past the boathouse and along the side of the lake.
If you want to walk further there are more trails winding into the surrounding countryside and then back to the visitor’s centre. The modern, spacious visitor’s centre is the ideal place to relax after a long walk and we had a very pleasant lunch here.
For me, Maligne Canyon was one of the highlights of Jasper National Park. The Karst System at Maligne Canyon makes it quite distinctive and it’s certainly unlike anything I’ve seen before. In case you don’t know (and I didn’t before I visited here), Karst is a topography which is formed when rocks, in this case, limestone, is dissolved to leave canyons, caves and sinkholes.
If that sounds pretty spectacular to you then you’re right, it is. It’s one of the most impressive natural sights I’ve ever seen. As you wander along the pathways, cross the bridges and climb steps you’ll get different viewpoints of the canyon. Sometimes looking from above into the deep canyons. Then face-to-face with a thundering waterfall.
The self-guided trails form a series of loops so that you can walk as far as you like. It’s well signposted and also has details of how far each trail is and how long it will take you. We started off intending to do the shortest trail but it really is so pretty here that we ended up walking much farther than we expected. We just didn’t want to miss out on another view of this amazing canyon. Be warned though, you walk down the canyon from the car park so the further you go the further you have to walk uphill to get back!
Miette Hot Springs
As soon as I heard about Miette Hot Springs, I knew I wanted to visit. There is something about relaxing in naturally warmed mineral water that always appeals to me. Here, you have the added bonus of spectacular scenery as well.
The water is pretty hot when it flows from the mountains but fortunately, it cools a little on the way down. At the springs, the water temperature is between 37ºC and 40ºC (98ºF to 104ºF). Best of all, it is full of minerals which are great for the skin and can help soothe aching limbs also.
Once through the changing rooms and lockers, you have the choice of two large warm pools and some smaller cold ones. We tried both the warm pools but stayed well away from the cold ones. There were people taking a cold dip but the air temperature was pretty cool in September so they are braver than me! Apparently one of the pools was slightly warmer than the other but I really couldn’t tell. The one nearest the changing room building has a shallow section, though so it would be better for children.
Pocahontas Coal Mine Trail
We spotted a sign for the Pocahontas Coal Mine Trail as we drove towards Miette Hot Springs so we turned in to take a look. You can choose one of several short trails which meander through an area of mining history. Most of it is now overgrown so there is not a great deal to see but it is a pleasant walk. You will find some remnants of the old mining activity though so stay on the paths and watch your step.
Mount Edith Cavell
Edith Cavell was a British nurse so when I saw that there was a mountain named after her just south of Jasper I wanted to take a look. Edith Cavell was a nurse who worked tirelessly during the First World War to treat the wounded on both sides of the conflict. Sadly, she was accused of treason by the Germans and executed by firing squad.
To reach the mountain you must drive up a winding mountain road to the nearby car park. When we visited the parking area was fairly newly renovated and there was plenty of space. Just above the car park is a wooden boardwalk and observation deck where you can get a closer look. It’s also the starting point for a number of longer trails.
The shorter, Path of the Glacier trail, is 1.6km return and offers a closer view of the Cavell and Angel Glaciers. If you’re looking for a longer hike then the Cavell Meadows trail is 6-7 km return. It’s a steeper trail but offers fabulous views of the Angel Glacier.
The town of Jasper is the central hub for food, drink and tourist information. We spent time in the town during the evenings and there is plenty of choice for eating out. Parking is limited but when we visited in September we were always able to find a space. In fact, we found this pretty little church while looking for somewhere to park on our first evening. There is plenty of on-street parking if you don’t mind a few minutes walk down to the main town.
The famous Rocky Mountaineer train stops in Jasper on some of its itineraries. This iconic train takes its passengers on a scenic journey through the spectacular Rockies. My parents were lucky enough to spend time on this fabulous train a few years ago. We just caught a glimpse of it as it unloaded its passengers at Jasper Station.
Two Brothers Totem Pole
This totem pole stands near the railway line in Jasper Town. It’s called two brothers totem pole because of the story it tells. Before this, Jasper had a different totem pole but that was sent back to Haida Gwaii and this one was commissioned to take its place. It tells the story of two brothers who travelled from Haida Gwaii to the Rockies. One of them remained but the other one returned home. The totem pole, carved using traditional methods, is a symbol of the connection between Haida Gwaii and the Rockies.