Named after a trading post operator in the region, Jasper, the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, will fulfill those dreams you have of being a man of the woods (even if you’re crashing at a charming bed and breakfast). A good four-hour drive from Banff, and with many areas without cell-phone service, Jasper retains a mountain-town feel with its small town centre and everything a decent trek to get to. The time you spend behind the wheel, however, is more than worth the effort; in fact, driving and soaking up the vistas is one of the best experiences you’ll have here; you’ll feel as though you’re starring in the slickest SUV TV commercial with the drop-dead backcountry forests, stunning mountains peaks and winding roads. Where and what to do here? This Jasper hit list is a solid itinerary for a couple of days in arguably one of the most beautiful areas in Canada.
Where to stay
There are a limited number of hotels in Jasper, so book months in advance if you’re hoping to score one during the summer. A great stop for your first night is Glacier View Lodge, which features a phenomenal view of Athabasca Glacier.This all-inclusive property has you in a prime location to take advantage of the Columbia Icefield Adventure, which will bring you in an impressive Ice Explorer onto the glacier followed by a visit to the Skywalk, where the beauty of the Sunwapta Valley surrounds you as you walk in this glass-floored walkway 918 feet above the valley floor. If, like us, you plan your travels last minute, and can’t find hotel accommodations, check sites like Airbnb for spots to stay like this one in nearby towns such as Hinton.
Where to eat
That crisp mountain air always stirs up an appetite for comfort food and craft beer. Head to Jasper Brewing Company Brew Pub & Eatery (be prepared to wait for a table at this popular spot) where you can satisfy both cravings at the same time. Their hefty fried chicken sandwich with sriracha mayo will do the trick (but there’s Alberta beef on the menu, too, if you’re looking to eat as much as you can while in the Prairies), and a superb choice of beers including a dozen on tap (seven favourites plus five seasonal choices). To grab some lunches to pack for a hike, stop into Patricia Street Deli for some simple but very satisfying sandwiches made with extra fresh ingredients.
What to see
The deepest canyon in Jasper National Park, Maligne Canyon, is Mother Nature showing off in the best way. As deep as 50 metres in some sections, the canyon features six bridges and, if you’re feeling less adventurous and just wanting a simple hike, stick to the first few bridges where you’ll have an easy stroll but still enjoy incredible views. With a little more time on your hands, you can check out the remaining bridges for even more stunning views, but if you’ve scheduled the Maligne Lake Cruise for the same day, you may have to keep to an efficient schedule as it’s a 45-minute drive down the road to the cruise (and you’ll definitely want to stop along the way at least once for photos, such as at Medicine Lake). On the boat tour, the cruise serves up more stunning mountain and lake views (trust us, though, it never gets old), and also includes a stop at Spirit Island. Named by the Stoney Nation indigenous people for the spiritual journeys their ancestors experienced here, the serene island gives you a chance to take a breather; step away from the other travelers and have a quiet moment immersed in the wild with the clear blue water, majestic mountains and lush forest around you.
What to do
Good things come to those who sweat, and with all this driving around Jasper, getting those legs moving will feel fantastic. First timer to Jasper? Start with the Sulphur Skyline trail, which will give you a good overview of the area (and with some steep sections of this challenging route, you’ll get a good heart-pumping workout). For a simpler hike where you’ll encounter locals with their dogs, hit up the Valley of the Five Lakes, where the lakes are so brilliant you’ll have to dial down the saturation on your photos.