When you think about spectacular natural landscapes, it’s feasible that you may think about places like Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon or perhaps the Mighty 5 national parks in Utah. However, after visiting the Canadian Rockies during our recent trip to Jasper and Banff National Parks, we think that this part of Canada is unequivocally superior to anything we have experienced before. If you are looking for amazing ‘natural’ things to do in Jasper National Park, you have come to the right place.
Having spent an amazing two action-packed days exploring Jasper National Park, we can truly attest that this is the epitome of breathtaking natural beauty. I want to add a caveat now to my earlier statement regarding the Canadian Rockies because it’s all down to personal opinion. We LOVE the aforementioned US national parks and would return to all of those in a heartbeat but after exploring much of what Jasper and Banff National Parks have to offer, it’s one of those areas that we literally fell in love with immediately.
And we are convinced that you will too after reading this post along with our series of other posts on this part of Canada. Visiting Canada in 2017 is particularly exciting given that the Maple Leaf Nation is celebrating their 150th anniversary. We were delighted to have the opportunity to appreciate the beauty throughout both Jasper and Banff but for now, we want to focus on the best things to do in Jasper National Park.
Top Things to Do in Jasper National Park
When thinking about the best things to do in Jasper, well the list is pretty much endless! It’s really going to be dependent on how much time you have in this part of Canada but if you are willing to experience action-packed days, you can easily fit a lot of amazing attractions into your itinerary.
We spent a little over 2 days in Jasper and although we feel like we experienced a lot, there is still plenty to more to discover but we will save that for a return trip!
Let’s take a look at some of the top things to do in Jasper National Park. Whether you are a wildlife spotter, a lover of breathtaking panoramic landscapes or simply want to enjoy the peaceful serenity of a glacial lake, Jasper has it all…and much more I may add!
- Athabasca Falls
- Sunwapta Falls
- Maligne Canyon
- Maligne Lake
- Pyramid Lake
- Patricia Lake
- Jasper SkyTram – Whistlers Mountain
- Athabasca Glacier and Glacier Skywalk
- Downtown Jasper
- Jasper Planetarium
10 awesome things to do but in order to accomplish all of this, you better be prepared for an action-packed itinerary if you only have a short time in Jasper.
Want to know how we did it? Check out our post on how to enjoy a breathtaking 48 hours in Jasper National Park.
If you love the sight and sound of waterfalls, a visit to Athabasca Falls is something you cannot afford to miss! As we left Jasper en route back to Banff, we headed to this waterfall with very little idea of what to expect. It didn’t take long for us to quickly realize that we were exploring a spectacular part of Jasper National Park.
When I read about Athabasca Falls and found the following statement…I knew this was a place we had to visit to see with our own eyes!
Feel the spray of the Athabasca River as it thunders into the canyon below.
Athabasca Falls is a waterfall on the upper Athabasca River and after visiting here, you will quickly realize why it is renowned as the most powerful. It may not be the largest or the widest but in terms of volume of water that powers through this gorge, it is an incredible sight to behold.
Be sure to take your time walking around the various trails to get a better view of the Athabasca Falls and the beauty of this attraction is that you can literally get “up close and personal” with the falls, yet still within the safe confines of the trail.
Driving along the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park, it would be remiss of you to forget about another iconic waterfall – Sunwapta Falls! In fact, this is a pair of waterfalls known as the “lower” and “upper” falls.
With a drop of around 60 feet, this is another powerful waterfall that is an appealing sight for those that love this type of natural phenomenon.
“Sunwapta” is a word derived from the Stoney language and means “turbulent water.” It’s rather fitting that this is the description given that you can clamber to the edge of these falls and certainly see and feel the power just a few steps from you (don’t worry, there is a barrier preventing you from falling over the edge).
Maligne Canyon is what I would classify as a “hidden gem” in Jasper National Park. If you are planning on taking the wonderfully acclaimed scenic drive to Maligne Lake to appreciate the beauty of this glacial lake or catch a glimpse of the myriad of wildlife to be found along this route, it’s fair to say that you may drive straight past the entrance to Maligne Canyon without any second thoughts.
However, after taking a short hike through the canyon, we are excited to include this in our list of top things to do in Jasper National Park because this is an awesome experience.
Measuring over 160 feet deep, Maligne Canyon is the deepest gorge in the Canadian Rockies so this alone should make you want to keep this on your radar when planning an itinerary.
If you manage to take yourself away from the gorgeous scenes at Maligne Canyon, the scenic drive will culminate in the gorgeous sight of Maligne Lake, a glacial lake that is one of the most photographed scenes throughout Jasper National Park.
You may be wondering why Maligne Lake is such a popular spot for avid landscape photographers? Take a moment to think about an idyllic scene with azure-colored water, towering peaks in the background and the sight of glaciers visible from the banks of the lake, and combine all of this together and you have Maligne Lake.
A boat cruise around Maligne Lake is a popular attraction in the Summer months and we had every intention of experiencing this but unfortunately, we had to experience Maligne Lake in the “thawing” phase as only part of the gorgeous lake was visible and the rest was still frozen. This takes nothing away from the beauty of this natural attraction and it is well worth the 1 1/2 hour drive from Jasper town center.
One of the most convenient natural spots to visit for those staying overnight in the town of Jasper is Pyramid Lake (along with nearby Patricia Lake but more on that later).
Not only does this tranquil environment offer breathtaking scenes with reflections of the mountains frequently occurring on the lake, this is also a popular spot for wildlife to roam.
If you are willing to wake up early and head out to Pyramid Lake, you have a distinct possibility of stumbling across a moose, black or even a grizzly bear! Take a stroll across the boardwalk to Pyramid Island to capture even more spectacular views and you may find this to be the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic to fully appreciate your surroundings.
A visit to the more popular Pyramid Lake will at least give you the opportunity to pass another gorgeous natural attraction in Jasper – Patricia Lake. It may not have the same popularity and is frequently left in the shadow of it’s more infamous counterpart but there is nothing that can take away from the beauty of this lake.
Named after Princess Patricia of Connaught, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Patricia Lake offers a variety of hiking trails back to the town of Jasper or deep into the gorgeous mountains that surround the pair of lakes in this part of the region.
Are you ready for a fun fact that I’m sure most of you didn’t know (because we didn’t)? Patricia Lake is notable for its involvement in World War II with the British-inspired “Project Habbakuk”. A prototype vessel made out of an ice composite known as ‘Pykrete’ was constructed with the hope of creating an unsinkable aircraft carrier.
Obviously, plans to move forward with this project ceased for a variety of reasons but it’s certainly a notable claim to fame for Patricia Lake.
Are you ready to stand on top of the world? Ok, well that may be a little dramatic but when you visit the amazing Jasper SkyTram, you have the opportunity to rise to the top of Whistlers Mountain where you can admire a plethora of breathtaking panoramic scenes across Jasper National Park.
Without going into too much detail as we will be publishing another post dedicated to our experience here, the Jasper SkyTram is the longest and highest aerial tramway in Canada. After riding a gondola to the summit, you have the opportunity to hike to the summit of Whistlers Mountain.
One final word of caution, be prepared to take an extra layer of clothing because at almost 7500 feet above sea level, it’s a little chilly at the summit!
Athabasca Glacier and Glacier Skywalk
If you are looking for the “highlight” experience in terms of the best things to do in Jasper National Park, look no further than walking on the Athabasca Glacier.
When we read the following statement on Brewster Travel Canada’s website, we knew that this was something we just had to try out for ourselves:
Discover the power of nature on the Glacier Adventure – the must-do experience in the Canadian Rockies (Brewster Travel Canada)
But taking a stroll along a glacier isn’t the only jaw-dropping experience at the Columbia Icefield.
Be sure to purchase the “package” which gives you access to this adventure plus also a journey out into the unknown, or should I say, a death-defying walk along a glass-floored Glacier Skywalk.
Don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging on the edge too long as we will be posting a review of our experiences here in the near future.
Anyone visiting Jasper National Park will likely want to spend some time in downtown Jasper. When you think about idyllic Canadian alpine towns, it’s fair to say that Jasper pretty much fits the bill.
Filled with a variety of restaurants, accommodation options, gift shops and much more, this town is a great place to relax after a day exploring the natural beauty that surrounds this relatively urbanized area. I say that with a hint of caution because it’s far from an urban community but in comparison with the surrounding untouched wilderness, there is a quite of bit of activity here.
Take a stroll along Connaught Drive and when you first arrive, be sure to head inside the Jasper Information Center. Not only is this packed with plenty of information to guide you on your way around the national park, it’s also a gorgeous building and certainly is the focal point of the downtown neighborhood.
If you are ready to experience an ‘alternative’ attraction when looking for the top things to do in Jasper National Park, head over to the Jasper Planetarium to learn all about astronomy, enjoy an evening gazing at the stars and take a peek through the largest telescope in the Rocky Mountains.
Don’t let your first impressions of the planetarium impact your opinion on the experience. It may look just like an inflatable tent but once you head inside, you are led on a journey through Jasper and beyond.
We barely touched the surface of the amazing experiences you can enjoy when visiting Jasper. We hope that you are ready to sample some of the best things to do in Jasper National Park based on our own itinerary but we cannot wait to return to enjoy more of the natural beauty throughout this part of the Canadian Rockies.
I think it’s fair to say that Jasper is frequently seen as the “lesser” known national park given its location next to Banff but we are convinced that anyone visiting this part of Canada should add both to their itinerary. Our favorite attraction in Jasper? That’s an incredibly tough decision but having the opportunity to walk on the Athabasca Glacier was definitely a memorable experience we will cherish.
Disclaimer – We would like to thank Tourism Jasper for collaborating with us on this trip and providing passes to the Jasper SkyTram, Athabasca Glacier, Glacier Skywalk and Jasper Planetarium. These are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.