Jasper is a service center, a junction and a destination unto itself. It is the natural and obvious destination when traveling north from Banff and one of the two principal routes into British Columbia. As the largest park in the Canadian Rockies, there is so much to discover in this part of the world. Often people only visit for two or three days, but Jasper can be explored for a lifetime. These are but a few of the most exciting sights to visit.
Highway 93 North connects Jasper with Lake Louise, through a route with amazing mountainscapes, waterfalls and alpine forest, and which is considered one of the most incredible drives on earth. The initial section going south from Jasper Town is a good area to spot bears, and even wolves from time to time. You will also see signs for caribou, but they are so elusive that they are almost a myth. Drive between Jasper and Lake Louise and you pass through five river valleys, all of which deserve a moment to stop and admire. Driving north and south offer entirely different vistas, so make sure you take the time to explore both directions.
Located at the southern end of Jasper National Park, the Columbia Icefields are the second-largest non-polar icefields in the world. The icefields are one of the fastest changing landscapes in the country and current advertising for the tours say, “come visit while they are still there.” Six glaciers flow from the mighty icefield and all are receding rapidly, while nearby Mount Snow Dome is the hydrographic apex of North America, with waters flowing to the oceans.
Jasper is home to only 4,600 permanent residents, but welcomes millions of visitors. The town is an interesting mix of tourist services, Parks Canada and railway, as well as many local businesses, restaurants and pubs. Jasper has an incredibly relaxed feel and is easy to walk around, so give yourself a whole day to explore it properly.
Make sure to set aside enough time to visit the whole route of Jasper National Park’s East Gate. The front (east) mountain ranges are nearly vertical and are very exposed. This part of the Rockies is somewhat less-visited and worth every minute you’ll spend there.
Atop the Maligne Valley, Maligne is the largest lake in the national park and a must visit when in Jasper. Maligne is simply magnificent, framed by the Brazeau Glacier at the southern end. This moose country and the Maligne River is home to protected harlequin ducks. There is a day lodge, boat tours to Spirit Island and canoe or kayak rentals. If you fancy a day fishing, this should be your destination. The largest trout ever caught in the lake was over 20lb (9kg)!
Whether you go for a long walk or a short one, Maligne Canyon absolutely must feature on your itinerary. The canyon area is spectacular anytime of the year, well marked and easy to reach by road. From certain viewpoints you will look down to 160 feet (50m) into the depths. In the winter, the canyon should be visited from the inside with ice cleats.