Take a look around: rugged mountains and lush green forests in every direction, pristine lakes dotting the landscape, wildlife roaming freely and an eclectic atmosphere that draws visitors from all over the world. No, you are not in heaven; you are in Jasper. Located in the heart of Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, this mountain town may be small in size, but it is large in amenities. There are art galleries to explore, museums to be seen and an array of restaurants to sample, which range from traditional Canadian fare to international options, such as German, Mexican and traditional Napoli pizza with ingredients imported straight from Italy. When you are ready to make your way out into the 4,200 acres of the park, your options are seemingly endless. Whether you crave unstructured adventures or guided activities, try one of these five things to do in Jasper during the summer.
1. Ride the Jasper SkyTram
Seven and a half minutes - that is all it takes to completely change your perspective of the Canadian Rockies with a ride aboard the Jasper SkyTram. Taking travelers nearly 7,500 feet above sea level to the Upper Station, this tram is the longest and highest aerial tram in all of Canada. The tour begins at the Lower Station, where there are a cafe and a barbecue deck so that you can fill your belly before your adventure. When your flight time arrives, you will board the glass-enclosed tram car for your journey up through the mountains. Up to 26 passengers can fit in each car, and there is a trained staff member in each tram, as well, that provides valuable information about the wildlife, mountains, flora and more as you ascend. Take a look around; the ride up is complete with 360-degree views over Jasper National Park! As you reach the Upper Station, there is yet another place to eat, the Summit Restaurant. Here, enjoy delicious soup and sandwich offerings as you gaze upon the rugged vistas. Stepping outside the Upper Station, follow the series of boardwalks to look at the Rockies from different angles and elevations. If you are feeling especially adventurous, there are hiking trails that take you from the Upper Station up the remaining few hundred feet to the summit of Whistlers Mountain. You can choose to spend as much time as you want at the top; trams descend the mountain until 30 minutes after the last ascending flight time.
2. Explore Columbia Icefields and Athabasca Glacier
Set at the southern end of Jasper National Park, the Columbia Icefields is one of the unique destinations in the area. This site measures approximately 125 square miles in size and has been forming, moving and changing for hundreds of thousands of years. The contrast of the glacial ice against the soaring mountains is a true sight to behold. Luckily, there are several ways for you to experience the beauty:
- One of the most popular ways is on the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure Tour. During this 80-minute tour, you experience the icefield and Athabasca Glacier aboard a specially designed explorer bus. Holding up to 56 guests, this bus takes you right up onto the ice, where you will have the opportunity to get out and explore the glacier. Later, you will also have time to journey across the glass walkways of the Glacier Skywalk.
- IceWalk Tours of Columbia Icefield and Athabasca Glacier are another great way to get in touch with the sheer immensity of this landmark site. Guests have the option of full day tours or those that last just a few hours. No matter which tour you choose, a knowledgeable guide leads the way and ensures a safe pathway along the varied terrain of the Columbia Icefield.
- You can also explore this region independently by driving down perhaps the most scenic highway in Canada, Icefields Parkway Highway, and begin your expedition at the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre. There is ample parking available here, educational materials inside that teach you about Jasper National Park and the Columbia Icefield, s and access to trails that take you to Athabasca Glacier. The Discovery Centre also offers a free shuttle service that takes guests to the Glacier Skywalk.
3. Tee Up at Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course
Carved into the natural landscape of Jasper National Park, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club is a par 71 course that makes golf one of the best things to do in Jasper during the summer months. This course moves with the mountain terrain, curves through the trees, changes elevation with the landscape and meanders along the banks of the glacier-fed lakes. In addition to Rocky Mountain views, it is not uncommon to see wildlife passing through the course, including elk, bear, and wolves, amongst other species. The course features a full 18-hole game that presents a challenge for novice and experienced golfers alike. In fact, this course is so impressive that SCOREGolf Magazine has consistently rated Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course as one of the top golf resorts in all of Canada for over 20 years. Visitors enjoy access to the onsite clubhouse, which is complete with a restaurant called Thompson's Terrace and impressive views over the 18th hole and surrounding scenery. At over 90 years old, this golf course is full of charm, yet remains a "bucket list" club for many golfers in Canada.
4. Tour Maligne Lake
One of the most scenic photography spots in the Jasper region, Maligne Lake is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. This body of water winds through the Maligne Valley and is surrounded by the majestic Canadian Rockies. The clear waters of the lake reflect the stunning blue skies, giving Maligne Lake a turquoise look. All of this paired with views of three glaciers and the hallmark of the lake, Spirit Island, make this locale one not to skip.
Upon arrival at Maligne Lake, a lodge and gift shop welcomes you. Inside, enjoy soup, sandwiches, salad, baked goods, coffee, hot chocolate, beer, wine and more in the restaurant as you gaze over the water. There is also a gift shop in the lodge. You have the option to explore the lake and its surrounding land on your own or take part in one of many touring opportunities. Guided fishing tours, rafting excursions and boat tours of the lake are just some of the offerings for visitors; tickets can be purchased at the onsite ticket office. Kayak and canoe rentals are available if you want to paddle around the lake and island on your terms. Of course, you can always explore the lakeshores on land, too, as there hiking trails for all skill levels surrounding the lake. The options are limitless, and so are the views. Keep your camera handy to capture the awe-inspiring scenery and any wildlife you might come across (the latter at a safe distance) during your time at this quintessential Canadian site.
5. Enjoy Nature
What is summer in Jasper, Canada without hiking? Throughout the national park, there are well over 600 miles of hiking trails; hiking trails long and short, and hiking trails easy and difficult. Try the Lac Beauvert trail, Wilcox Pass or the Mary Schaffer Loop around Maligne Lake for a low-impact hike with amazing views. Slightly more difficult, Old Fort Point Loop, Pyramid Lake Loop, Edith Cavell Meadow and Whistler's Mountain are great options to get out in the wilderness for a few hours. If you crave a difficult hike full of adventure check out the Opal Hills Trail or the Skyline Trail, which offers a multi-day hiking experience if you follow the trail from beginning to end.
Other ways to enjoy nature during the warmer months in Jasper include canoeing, white water rafting, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing and even scuba diving! If nature photography is your passion, there is no better place to be, with the abundant mountainscapes and the array of wildlife that calls Jasper National Park home, including black and grizzly bears, moose, hoary marmots, porcupines, elk, deer, caribou, big horned sheep, bobcats, bison and more. There are even specialized photography tours lead by photographers, allowing you to sightsee and capture the very best images possible. Want to try stargazing? Jasper National Park has been dedicated as one of Canada's Dark Sky Preserves, as there is little to no outside light visible at night. Spread out a blanket, lay back and enjoy a little-seen view of the universe, with constellations, planets, the Milky Way and even the Northern Lights all before your eyes. For a more formal stargazing experience try one of Jasper's telescope tours or check out the town's planetarium.
Is your interest piqued? Vacations By Rail offers thoughtfully planned rail vacations to Jasper all throughout the year. While some of the tours feature Jasper as a beginning or end point on the journey, there are others that use this Rocky Mountain town as a premier destination along the way. Contact one of our Rail Specialists to find the Jasper tour that is right for you.