The Best Things to Do in Jasper, Canada

Go rafting on the Athabasca River in Jasper National Park
Go rafting on the Athabasca River in Jasper National Park | © Shaun Cunningham / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Patrick Twomey
22 July 2020

Jasper National Park is the largest and most northerly of the four Canadian Rockies parks. The town itself has been described as a small drinking town with a train problem, but it is in fact a hub for so much natural discovery. Jasper is very isolated (the closest major airport is four hours away) and the park has become a major Dark Sky preserve, ideal for stargazing and even enjoying the Northern Lights. Over time, Jasper has developed into a four-season destination and remains an important rail hub for Canadian National. Even the famous cross-Canada Via trains pass through Jasper.

Rafting

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River Rafting in Jasper National Park, Canada
© Don White / Alamy Stock Photo
Jasper Raft Tours offer float trips on the Athabasca River, which flows near the town. The waters of the Jasper area eventually drain into the Arctic Ocean and emerge from the Columbia Icefields. Rafting in Jasper manages to combine the thrill of a few bumps and waves on the river, while being entirely safe and accessible for almost everyone. For those seeking a little more adrenaline, there are more ambitious raft trips in the area, but these may not be suitable for younger children. Find Jasper Raft Tours at number 611 on Patricia Street, or book a tour online in advance.

Guided walks

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Jasper is home to many mountains, with interpretive guides and walks available for all levels and interests. Evening walks are popular for spotting wildlife and interpreting the stars, and walks can be planned for just a few hours or even for several days in the wild. At certain times of the year, there are colorful eruptions of flowers on the mountain meadows. Walking with a guide is an excellent idea due to the bears and other wildlife that reside in the area, and you will also benefit from their extensive local insider knowledge of the area.

Maligne Canyon Icewalk

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Tourists on an Ice Walk exploring under the Ice at the River Bottom of Maligne Canyon in Jasper National Park Alberta Canada
© Gunter Marx / Alamy Stock Photo| Gunter Marx / Alamy Stock Photo
One of the very best winter activities is the Maligne Canyon Icewalk, which is located just a few kilometers from the townsite and can be entered every year once the ice has formed. The canyon icewalk, organized by local company SunDog Tours, is done with a guide who will assist visitors with everything from crampons to ice pick. The limestone canyon is remarkably deep and throughout the walk participants will explore frozen waterfalls, ice caves and ice formations, while learning much about the Maligne Valley. You will probably meet some professional ice-climbers along the way, too.

Maligne Lake tour

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Heritage Boathouse, Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
© Michael Wheatley / Alamy Stock Photo
Widely considered the most magnificent boat tour in the Rockies, Maligne Lake is a picturesque one-hour drive from town. The tour takes visitors to Spirit Island, which only stands as an island for a few weeks each year as the melting snow of springtime causes water levels to rise high enough to separate the land mass from the shore. This has become an artist’s destination for its incredible landscapes, with the small island framed by the lake and Brazeau Glacier is the distance. When visiting Maligne Lake, make sure to walk down to the “bridge to nowhere” at the mouth of the Maligne River and look for harlequin ducks and trout.

Jasper Tramway

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Located on Whistler Mountain, just outside the center of town, this tramway has two large cabins, rather than many small pods. Jasper Tramway takes visitors above the tree line on the mountain, past sweeping views of the Athabasca Valley and the Yellowhead Pass. It is the highest and longest guided aerial tramway in Canada. It goes to a height of 2,263 meters above sea level with a travel time of 7.5 minutes. While it may be tempting to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of the tramway, It is well worth spending time walking the trails atop the mountain, before riding back towards town.

Marmot Ski Resort

Ski Chalet, Resort
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Skiing at Marmot Basin near Jasper Jasper National Park Alberta Canada
© Blaine Harrington III / Alamy Stock Photo
Jasper’s only downhill ski resort, Marmot is a short drive from town and visitors benefit from almost constantly short lift lines. The winter sports area is situated between the elevations of 1,698m and 2,410m on the mountain and the ski area has runs for all abilities, as well as views across and down the valley, with 91km of slopes available for skiers and snowboarders and six lifts to transport you between slopes. During ski season, listen for avalanche blasting in the mornings.
These recommendations were updated on July 22, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.