Guide to Jasper National Park, Canada
By Kilee LeBlanc
With over two million visitors annually, Jasper National Park is undoubtedly a popular place. It’s the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies and is home to some of North America’s healthiest populations of wildlife – from elk to grizzly bears, wolves, and moose. Rugged terrain, mountainous peaks, azure lakes, and powerful glaciers shape the landscape and provide plenty of opportunity for adventure. During your trip to the Canadian Rockies, discover what Jasper National Park has to offer no matter the season. Rent a campervan from Escape’s Calgary depot and hit the road!
What to See in Jasper National Park
Hiking, biking, skiing, ice climbing – there is an abundance of outdoor activities in Jasper! Incredible photo opportunities lie around every corner, and wildlife sightings are almost guaranteed – it is hard to miss the herds of elk hanging out on the outskirts of town. Here are some key spots to round out your visit to Jasper National Park.
Get the latest updates on trail and road conditions, grab a map, or ask for advice at Jasper’s Visitor Information Centre in the heart of town. You can also pick up your Parks Canada daily or annual pass that is required when traveling through Jasper National Park.
A mere 12-minute drive from the town of Jasper and is a slot canyon created by the wear of water rushing through rock. With a large parking lot and facilities open year-round, it’s a great spot for a quick peek or a full-day adventure. Bridges criss-cross the canyon, where at points is 50 metres deep, and makes for good hiking and exploration.
Columbia Ice Fields
No trip to the Jasper area would be complete without a trip to the Columbia Ice Fields, an hour and a half drive from the town of Jasper. It’s the largest ice field in the Canadian Rockies where the glaciers nearly touch the highway. The Ice Fields Parkway runs for 232 kilometres where you’ll be swathed between rivers, mountain peaks, and epic viewpoints around every corner.
Following Maligne Road out of town, Medicine Lake appears after 20 kilometres and is a haven for wildlife. Grizzly bears, black bears, mule deer, moose, caribou, wolves, and mountain goats frequent the lake in the summer season and when snow covers the lake in the winter, look out for footprints.
Maligne Lake is another 30 minutes down the road and is famed for its bright blue waters surrounded by snowy mountain peaks. Hike along the water’s edge, rent a canoe or kayak, or take a boat tour to Spirit Island. There’s a large parking lot and an outhouse, so plan to arrive early to beat the crowds on a sunny day.
Miette Hot Springs
One hour from the town of Jasper is Miette Hot Springs – a commercially developed outdoor hot spring that overlooks the Fiddle River Valley. The fee for the hot springs is very reasonable at $7 and towel rentals are available. Do note that the road to the hot springs can be closed in the winter – refer to the park staff at the Jasper Information Centre before making the drive.
Where to Camp in Jasper National Park
While there is a lot of camping options along Highway 93 (Ice Fields Parkway), if you plan on exploring Jasper you’ll want to choose one that is close to town so you’re not spending your whole day driving back and forth between your campsite.
Wapiti Campground is located 10 minutes south of the town of Jasper and is on the shores of the Athabasca River. It is open year-round and has access to washroom facilities (heated in winter!), potable water, and each site has a fire pit. Rates are from $27 to $32 per night, and reservations are highly recommended in the summer (first come, first served in the winter). Sleep under the stars and fall asleep to the sound of the Athabasca River in the distance.
Whistlers Campground is closed for the 2019 season and is the closest and largest campground to the town of Jasper. With this in mind, plan your camping accordingly and try to reserve if possible. Other campgrounds nearby include Pocahontas, Wabasso, Snaring, and Kerkeslin.
Where to Eat and Drink in Jasper National Park
Jasper is a great place to stock up on necessities at the local grocery store (Robinson’s), liquor stores, or the pharmacy, and is filled with shops and restaurants should you feel the need for retail therapy during your campervan trip.
Cure your hankering for something deep-fried and delicious at Jasper Brewing Company, right off the main drag in the town of Jasper. Not only do they serve up standard pub fare, but they’re also slinging ramen, curries, fresh salads, and other comfort foods to warm you up.
And of course – the beer! Sample a flight of their beer and purchase a six-pack or growler of your favourite to take with you on the road. We thought the Jasper the Bear Ale was the perfect accompaniment to a campfire at the end of a long driving day.
If you’re itching for a hot shower and a place to relax, head over to the Jasper Fitness & Aquatic Centre where you can enjoy their pool, hot tub, and steam room. Entry is around $8 for an adult and they will even rent towels for a couple bucks!
Jasper is part of the UNESCO Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site – one of fifteen World Heritage Sites in Canada – thanks to an abundance of flora, fauna, and spectacular mountain landscapes. Whether you’re coming from the Vancouver or Calgary depot, ensure your route through the Canadian Rockies takes you through Jasper National Park – one of the wildest places in Canada. Book your Escape campervan rental for your Canadian Rockies adventure.