Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

A Comprehensive Guide to Jasper National Park

Updated September 2023, A Comprehensive Guide to Jasper National Park was originally published in February 2023

Jasper National Park is renowned for its captivating mountain landscapes, dazzling lakes, and abundant wildlife but is lesser-visited than its star neighbor Banff. Located in the Canadian Rockies and Jasper is one of Canada’s most beautiful national parks. In the fall of 2022, I finally paid my first visit to Jasper National Park (and Banff too) on my road trip moving me from Alaska to Colorado

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Best Time to Visit Jasper National Park

I visited in late September and would say this is probably one of the best times of year to visit in terms of crowds. Sure, temperatures at night were a little cool since I was sleeping in a tent along the way, but was still comfortable enough in my opinion.

There were still plenty of visitors in Jasper and Banff in later September, so I would avoid the peak summer months of July and August even though these are the best months in terms of weather.

In general, it is said the best time to visit Jasper is from May to October when temperatures are at their best for exploring and doing various outdoor activities.

The shoulder months of May, early June, late September, and October are the best for avoiding crowds but are still warm enough for most activities.

If you don’t mind cold and are into winter sports, a November-March visit is great for those wanting to get in some skiing and snowshoeing.

Columbia Icefield, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

How Many Days to Spend in Jasper

This is a subjective question that is up for debate. In all honesty, it just depends on what your interests are in Jasper National Park. 

As I was moving out of Alaska and had several other destinations on my to-do list including Kluane National Park, Banff National Park, and Glacier National Park, I only spent two days in Jasper. If I had more time on my road trip I would have opted to stay much longer to squeeze in several of the longer hikes in the park.

It is possible to hit many of the easy-to-reach highlights of Jasper National Park along the Icefields Parkway in a single day but it’ll be a whirlwind. For most people 2-3 days is sufficient, but those wanting to get deeper into the park may want a week or more.

Sunwapta River, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

How to Get to Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park is located in western Alberta and is accessible by car, train, or bus. The nearest international airports for those flying in from other destinations are Calgary International Airport and Edmonton International Airport, which are both roughly a three-and-a-half-hour drive from the park.

By Car

I would recommend renting a car (unless you’re on an Alcan road trip like I was and already driving my own car) for your visit to Jasper to give you the ultimate freedom to explore the national park on your terms. You can easily rent a car on arrival from several car rental companies in Calgary or Edmonton (or elsewhere depending on where you may be starting your Canadian adventure). 

As I was driving down from Alaska, I arrived at Jasper National Park via the Yellowhead Highway, which is how most coming from the Edmonton direction will arrive. On this end, you’ll find the park entrance just beyond the small town of Hinton. Coming from the opposite direction, the Yellowhead Highway also connects Prince George and other destinations to the west (northern British Columbia) to Jasper.

For those coming from Calgary, you’ll take the Trans-Canada Highway to the entrance to Banff National Park and eventually hit the Icefields Parkway which will connect to Jasper National Park.

By Shuttle Bus

Shuttle bus services connect Jasper National Park with both the cities of Calgary and Edmonton. Sundog Tours offers reliable shuttle bus services from either city. 

If you plan to take the shuttle bus to Jasper, know that getting around inside the park will limit you to either hiring taxis to drop/pick you up at different destinations or trailheads, or booking day tours around the national park.

By Train

For those that don’t mind spending a little more for a more luxurious adventure, check out this 6 day train tour between Calgary and Vancouver that visits both Banff National Park and Jasper National Park en route.

The Rocky Mountaineer train offers a scenic route through the Canadian Rockies from Vancouver Station via the Kamloops or from Edmonton Station. The Rocky Mountaineer is a comfortable option but know that it is incredibly expensive for this luxury train service.

Entry to Jasper National Park

You will need to pay a fee to enter Jasper National Park or hold a Parks Canada Discovery yearly pass. The daily fee for visiting Jasper National Park is $10.50 for adults, $9.00 for seniors (64+), and free for youth (under 18). Note that the entry fee includes both Jasper and Banff.

The fee is payable by card or cash at the entry stations to either park.

Sunwapta River, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada, Kia Soul
Just a girl and all her worldly possessions jammed in a Kia Soul 😂

Getting Around Jasper National Park

As mentioned before, the easiest way to get around Jasper National Park is by car as there is no public transport in the park. 

If you do not have a car for exploring Jasper, the next best option is to look at various day tours in the park. You can also hire taxis from Jasper Town to drop you off at different points in the national park as well.

Those that are a bit more adventurous can opt to rent bicycles in Jasper Town or take a horseback riding trip in the park.

Jasper National Park by Tour

Various tours are offered to Jasper National Park and combo tours with neighboring Banff National Park. In the next section, you will find links to several specific recommended tours around the park. 

Medicine Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Things to do in Jasper National Park

Athabasca Falls

While not the tallest waterfall out there at 23 meters, Athabasca Falls is a must-see stop in Jasper National Park. The falls are located on the Athabasca River where the crystal clear waters of the river plummet from a narrow gorge.

Athabasca Glacier

Situated along the Icefields Parkway, Athabasca Glacier is one of Canada’s easiest-to-access glaciers requiring only a short walk to reach the toe of the glacier. 

Athabasca Glacier is a part of the Columbia Icefield, the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains.

A great way to experience Athabasca Glacier is to hop on a Columbia Icefields tour that will get you out and on the glacier and also includes a stop for the Columbia Icefield Skywalk. 

Horseshoe Lake

Only a short walk downhill from the parking lot along the Icefields Parkway, Horseshoe Lake was one of my favorite stops on my quick visit to Jasper National Park. The waters are crystal clear and usually reveal a perfect reflection of the sky above. For the best views, continue walking to the left once you reach the lake along a path up through the forest.

Icefields Parkway

The Icefields Parkway is considered to be one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world, taking in unbelievable views of the Canadian Rockies, dazzling lakes, icy glaciers, and more. The parkway is 232 km in length, connecting Jasper National Park and Lake Louise in neighboring Banff National Park. 

The Icefields Parkway gives access to several of Jasper’s highlights including Athabasca and Saskatchewan Glaciers that form part of the larger Columbia Icefield, the famed Parker Ridge and Willcox Pass Hikes, Horseshoe Lake, and the Athabasca River, just to name a few.

Plan to take your time driving the Icefields Parkway giving ample allotments for scenic stops, hikes, and more. 

Jasper Skytram

Looking for panoramic mountaintop views without too much effort? The Jasper SkyTram takes its visitors on a 7-minute long cable car ride up to an elevation of 2,277 meters. Once at the top, there’s plenty to do including several hikes, a boardwalk, and the Summit Restaurant.

If you plan to visit in the peak season, try and book your Jasper Skytram tickets in advance to reduce the risk of it being sold out. Make sure and bring a jacket with you too as temps can be significantly cooler up top. Note that the Skytram is closed for the winter season from late October through late March. 

Maligne Canyon

Carved by the beautiful blue waters of the Maligne River, Maligne Canyon features 50-meter-high walls at certain points. It’s one of Jasper National Park’s easiest-to-access attractions so do plan for it to be crowded if you’re visiting in the summertime. 

It is one of Jasper’s most photogenic places, so many visit quickly to get a few snaps before moving on elsewhere, however, there are several hikes and walks you can do in and from Maligne Canyon. 

Visiting in winter? Check out this Maligne Canyon ice walk tour.

Maligne Lake

Glacially fed, Maligne Lake boasts gorgeous greenish-blue waters and several islands. One of the best ways to experience the famous lake is on a Maligne Lake boat tour, many of which include a stop for Spirit Island which is one of the most photographed locations in Jasper National Park. 

Those more adventurous can opt to kayak or canoe, hike on different trails that start from the lake or even go fishing on Maligne Lake.

Marmot Basin

Those visiting in the winter will want to add Marmot Basin to their itinerary. Marmot Basin is among Canada’s world-class ski resorts and is located only about 20 kilometers from Jasper Town. 

Medicine Lake

Sat between Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake is Medicine Lake, which is known for its stunning reflections. Though, do know that because of an underwater drainage system, the lake will sometimes be empty. 

Miette Hot Springs

Take a minute and relax between adventures in Miette Hot Springs as you explore Jasper National Park. The springs feature several pools that range in temperature from 40°C to 54°C. Note that Miette Hot Springs comes with a small fee of just less than $8. 

Sunwapta Falls

The falls, formed by the Sunwapta River tumbles over cascading stones (giving it its name) before plunging into a narrow gorge cut by erosion over the centuries. Sunwapta Falls is just a short walk from the parking lot located along the Icefields Parkway, making it a great opportunity to get out and stretch your legs as you meander your way between Jasper and Banff.

Wildlife Spotting

Of course, you’re bound to run into wildlife of some variety as you explore what Jasper National Park’s stretch of the Canadian Rockies has to offer. If you want to increase your odds of spotting wildlife in the park, I would recommend taking one of these morning or evening Jasper National Park wildlife tours. You will be escorted by a professional guide, who is usually in the know about where many of the park’s animals like to hang out. 

Stargazing a Dark Sky Reserve

In 2011, Jasper National Park was listed as an official dark skies reserve owing to its lack of noise pollution. In October each year, Jasper hosts the Jasper Dark Sky Festival which is a must for any stargazing enthusiasts planning to visit the park.  

Horseshoe Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Take a Hike in Jasper National Park

Jasper National Park offers an array of hiking opportunities from short walks to multi-day backcountry trips. Here is a list of some of Jasper’s best hikes:

  • Bald Hills Trail: Moderate | 9.5 kilometers
  • Edith Cavell Meadows: Moderate | 8 kilometers
  • Indian Ridge: Moderate | 13 kilometers
  • Lake Annette Hike: Easy | 2.75 kilometers
  • Lake Edith Hike: Easy | 4.5 kilometers
  • Lorraine Lake Hike: Easy | 5.75 kilometers
  • Maligne Lake Hike: Easy | 7 kilometers
  • Mona Lake Hike: Easy | 5.75 kilometers
  • Moose Lake Loop: Easy | 2.75 kilometers
  • Opal Hills Trail: Moderate | 8 kilometers
  • Parker Ridge Trail: Moderate | 5 kilometers
  • Pyramid Lake Hike: Easy | 5.75 kilometers
  • Skyline Trail: Difficult | 48 kilometers
  • Snake Indian Falls: Difficult | 54 kilometers
  • Stanley Falls: Easy | 4 kilometers
  • Sulphur Skyline Trail: Difficult | 8 kilometers
  • Valley of the Five Lakes: Easy | 4.9 kilometers
  • Whistler Mountain Hike: Moderate | 6.8 kilometers
  • Wilcox Pass Hike: Moderate | 8 kilometers
Athabasca Pass Lookout, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Hotels, Hostels & Campgrounds in Jasper National Park

First and foremost, if you plan to visit Jasper during the peak months of June-early September, do make reservations for hotels, hostels, and campgrounds well in advance as these all book up quickly. 

Camping & Budget Travelers

If you’re on a budget, utilizing the public campgrounds scattered around Jasper National Park is the best option. I stayed in the Icefields Tent Camp myself. See all the different campgrounds in Jasper and their amenities here.

Next up for budget travelers who don’t want to sleep outdoors are hostels, which are located in Jasper Town. HI Jasper Hostel and the Jasper Downtown Hostel are recommended options. 

Midrange & Luxury Travelers

For midrange travelers wanting to stay in Jasper Town, check out Tekarra Lodge and for those who don’t mind being a little way out of town, the Jasper Gates Resort comes highly recommended.

Those that want luxury and don’t mind splurging should head to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for the most extravagant stay in the national park. 

Eating & Dining in Jasper National Park

Jasper Town has a scattering of restaurants to try for those planning to spend time here so not to worry there. If you plan to camp, do a lot of hiking, or just want to save money, plan to pack your own picnic lunches and cook your breakfasts and dinners. There are grocery stores in Jasper Town but prices will be a bit higher, so if you have a cooler with you I’d recommend getting your food for the trip into Jasper National Park in either Calgary or Edmonton. 

Athabasca River, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

Other Tips for Jasper National Park

  • If you plan to do much hiking packing bear spray is highly advisable.
  • Those taking on longer hikes and bringing food with them should pack all their food (and other smelly items) in a bear vault.
  • Dress for the weather and in layers. Weather can change quickly in Jasper National so be prepared.
  • Keep your distance from wildlife.

Have any questions about planning your visit to Jasper National Park?

Ask in the comments section below.

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