10 Must-See Spots in Jasper National Park

What to do in Jasper National Park in summer

When it comes to the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park has it all. From the soaring limestone walls of Maligne Canyon to the breathtaking views of Athabasca Falls and crystal clear Pyramid Lake, Jasper National Park is filled with sensational activities for the hiker, kayaker, and all-around outdoors enjoyer could ever want. But with over 745 miles of natural hiking trails to explore, it can be hard to know where to start.

That’s why I put together this list of must-experience spots, the kinds of places you have to visit to say you’ve truly seen Jasper. So tour the world’s most accessible glacier, get front-row seats to a diverse range of wildlife including elk, bears, bighorn sheep, and rocky mountain goats, and dive into massive mountain peaks, vast valleys, and forests filled with extraordinary evergreens.

Columbia Icefields © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Maligne Canyon

Just a 10-minute drive from the town of Jasper, Maligne Canyon has one of the most impressive ravines in the Canadian Rockies. Sheer limestone walls drop to depths of over 150 feet making it the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park and one that’s magnificent to visit any time of year.

Maligne Canyon is a beautiful place to hike in the summer months. This popular Jasper attraction has six bridges built throughout different points of the canyon. If you’re looking for a simple walk, venture over to the First and Second bridges. If you want an extended hike, continue to the Sixth Bridge for more great views of the waterfalls and rapids. You’ll also be able to grab a bite at the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen before or after your hike.

Tip: Get there early to grab a parking spot as it fills quickly in the summer. In the winter, Maligne Canyon is nothing short of magical. Wander through the canyon to marvel at the frozen waterfalls, ice caves, and surreal ice formations. You can explore the area on your own or take a guided tour to learn more about the canyon. Want even more thrill? Try ice climbing with a certified mountain guide!

Rocky mountain goat © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Athabasca Falls

While the falls are only around 75 feet high, it’s their power that makes Athabasca Falls rather astonishing. Located about 20 miles south of Jasper, Athabasca Falls offers exquisite views and water that changes color every season.

Parking is close to the falls and the hike itself is quite easy. Once there, walk along the interpretive trail to admire the falls from various vantage points. Make sure to cross the bridge and head down the stairs to the bottom of the falls for close-ups of the canyon. Caused by earlier erosion, it continues to be whittled away a bit each year from the flowing water.

Do yourself a favor and stay on the right side of the viewing fence. The mist makes the stones slippery and people have drowned trying to get the perfect photo.

Tip: If you’d like to see Athabasca Falls from a different perspective, consider a rafting tour along the Athabasca River. Beginner tours offer just enough rapids to give you a bit of a thrill, all while your guides share information about the surrounding area.

Jasper townsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Maligne Lake

Spanning over 13 miles in length, Maligne Lake is the largest natural lake in the Rockies and the second-largest glacially-fed lake in the world. Walk along the Mary Schaffer loop to enjoy views of vivid turquoise waters and gorgeous horizons.

This area is also great for getting on the water and offers canoe, kayak, and rowboat rentals as well as guided fishing tours. For a truly incredible experience, take a Maligne Lake boat cruise to Spirit Island, an amazing spot from which to see the stars, as Jasper is the world’s second-largest dark sky reserve. On the cruise, you’ll learn about the history of the lake and get some stunning views of the peaks, glaciers, and wildlife around the lake. I enjoyed the boat tour one summer and left convinced it might be the most beautiful spot on the planet.

Tip: Maligne Lake is about 30 miles from downtown Jasper, so make sure to schedule in driving time when planning your day.

Elk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Jasper Skytram

As Canada’s longest and highest guided aerial tramway, the Jasper SkyTram is a ride unlike any other. This seven-minute ride takes you nearly 7,500 feet up Whistler Mountain giving you 360-degree views of Jasper, its mountain ranges, and the many waterways that make up the park.

Once you’ve arrived at the top, you can hike up to the summit for more stellar sights of Jasper or enjoy the vistas while grabbing a bite at the full-service Summit Restaurant. Either way, you’re in for a real treat.

Pyramid Lake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Pyramid Lake

Located at the foot of Pyramid Mountain, Pyramid Lake is one of the most picturesque places to see in Jasper. This kidney-shaped lake is the perfect spot to relax on the beach or picnic at the log frame pavilion.

Walk along the lakeshore trail to a wooden bridge to get to a tiny island in the middle of the lake. Once there, the peaceful mountains set behind the beauty of the lake will likely take your breath away and make for some lovely photos.

Rocky mountain sheep © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Mount Edith Cavell

Mount Edith Cavell is one of Jasper’s most famous mountains. And with its signature diagonal rock patterns, renowned alpine wildflower trails, and fascinating history, it’s no wonder why.

A long, winding drive off Highway 93A leads visitors to a newly expanded parking area where a short, paved path leads to jaw-dropping views of the Angel Glacier, the mint-green lake below, and the iconic, sparkling peak above. For extra adventure, hikers can opt for a longer, non-paved walk up into an alpine meadow with even more panoramic views (note that dogs aren’t permitted on the upper trail).

Edith Cavell saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers during World War I before she was executed by a German firing squad. Before the mountain got its current name, it was called White Ghost by Native Americans, la Montagne de la Grande Traverse by French mountaineers, and Mount Fitzhugh until the war.

Jasper Park Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Sunwapta Falls

Meaning turbulent river in Nakoda, Sunwapta Falls is located on the Icefields Parkway. This pair of waterfalls were created by hanging valleys that divide them into the Upper and Lower Falls.

The upper falls are close to the road making them readily accessible. Hike along the trail until you reach the lower falls and make sure to take the footbridge so you can observe the river in an uproar before calming down as it streams into the wider part of the gorge.

The Sunwapta white water rafting river tour is sure to get your blood pumping. Unlike the Athabasca tours, this expedition includes Class 3 rapids and is the most challenging white water in Jasper National Park. During the ride, you’ll hit large waves while taking in the spectacular scenery.

Elk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Miette Hot Springs

Miette Hot Springs features the hottest hot springs in the Canadian Rockies. The natural hot springs water flows from the mountain at 129 degrees Fahrenheit, the water is then cooled to a comfortable temperature of 104 degrees as it enters the hot springs pool.

After taking a soak, head on over to one of the two colder pools to cool down as you watch the sunset over the mountains. If you feel like walking a bit more, there are a few easy hiking trails near the springs including the site of the old Aqua court. Just make sure to keep your eyes open for bighorn sheep near the parking lot—it’s a favorite hangout spot for them and a great photo op for you.

Note: At time of writing Miette Hot Springs was closed due to a road washout resulting in the closure of Miette Road. Check with Parks Canada for an update on the reopening of Miette Road.

Glacial Skywalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Icefields Parkway

Stretching from Jasper to Banff, this 140-mile highway packs the best of the Rockies into one epic road trip. Seriously, driving the parkway might be the most sublime experience you can have. Lake Louise (you know, that photo) is on the itinerary. So are more than 100 ancient glaciers, surreal hikes with unobscured mountain views, and wildlife like deer, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. Be sure to give yourself at least a full day to travel the parkway one way.

Those afraid of heights should probably skip this one. For the rest of us, the Glacier Skywalk is a horizontal ark that juts out over the edge of the Sunwapta Valley, 918 feet in the air. Built in 2014, the thing has glass floors so if you can handle looking down you’ll get unreal views of the valley below. Get here by stopping along the Icefields Parkway 60 miles south of Jasper. As a heads up, this one closes for winter and most of the spring due to weather.

Worth Pondering…

The mountains are calling and I must go.

—John Muir

All about Canada, Eh?

Planning an RV trip to the Great White North

The second largest country in the world, Canada has plenty to be proud of: beautiful natural parks, a rich and diverse culture and heritage, a coastline spanning three oceans, Old World charm, and New World ideas, hockey.

Yes, that’s right! In today’s post I shine the spotlight on Canada. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help you plan your next trip to the second-largest country in the world. With its sprawling wilderness and endless beauty, you would be hard-pressed to not enjoy your stay.

So, as the clicks add up while you’re heading to The Peg (Winnipeg) or wherever your plans take you, be sure to treat yourself to a Timmies Double Double and some Timbits from Tim Hortons.

Banff National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Crossing the Border

What awaits you at the Canada-United States border? If you’re thinking of taking an RV trip from one country to the other, make sure you hone up on current border crossing requirements. Know the rules for each country including similarities and differences to experience a smooth, hassle-free crossing. 

Having correct documentation is the key. To drive across the border, you’ll have to present identification to border-crossing officials. Acceptable forms of ID include a passport, a trusted traveler card such as NEXUS, or an enhanced driver’s license. American citizens entering Canada also may use paperwork that shows proof of U.S. citizenship such as a birth certificate. For Canadian citizens crossing the border into the United States, a birth certificate is acceptable identification only for children under 16. Each passenger in your vehicle needs appropriate identification.

Have copies of the registration and insurance information for each of your vehicles as well. Bring proof of up-to-date rabies vaccinations for your dogs and cats on board. As for COVID-19 requirements, Canada has removed their rules for those arriving from the United States has done the same. 

Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

What can I bring? When entering the United States, you’re required to disclose the following items to border-crossing officials: firearms, fruits and vegetables, plants and cut flowers, meat and animal products, and live animals. Numerous foods are restricted or prohibited such as most fruits and vegetables (unless commercially canned) and many milk/dairy and poultry/egg products. Canada also maintains a list of restricted/prohibited food items. Both countries prohibit bringing in firewood as well as soil (make sure any camping equipment is free of soil and pests). Most Canadian provinces and territories prohibit radar detectors also. According to Ezbordercrossing.com, both countries have strict firearms protocols.

At the border, open the windows in your RV so the interior is visible. Remove your sunglasses. Turn off phones and the radio. Clearly and courteously communicate your reasons for travel, travel dates, and destinations to border officials.  

Declare all money or currency equal to or over CAN$10,000. It is not illegal to bring such amounts into Canada but you must declare it on arrival.

Banff National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Exploring Canada

The Great White North offers so much to see and do. Canada is full of national parks, lakes, mountain ranges, coastal views, and great camping locations. Here’s a sampling of sites worth seeing.

Banff is Canada’s most famous national park and the oldest national park in the country. Banff was designated as a national park in 1885 after the discovery of its hot springs by employees of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Located in Alberta just 1 hour and 30 minutes west of Calgary, Banff national park is nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies.

RVs in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

There is a reason everyone flocks to Banff. With snowcapped mountains, glacier lakes, and world-class four-season activities, it’s Canada’s outdoor playground. Banff National Park is so beautiful that one of its most famous lakes, Moraine Lake was depicted on Canada’s twenty-dollar bill.

Another location is Jasper National Park in Alberta, the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies and the second-largest dark-sky preserve in the world. An extensive network of trails provides views of its abundant wildlife.

Icefields Parkway, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Driving along the Icefields Parkway, you will be able to see parts of the Columbia Icefields—the biggest icefield in the Rocky Mountains. It feeds six large glaciers and covers 125 square miles. Athabasca Glacier is one of the six and it is the most visited glacier in North America due to ease of access. The Icefield Interpretive Centre and paid tours are nearby and definitely recommended as a stop on your road trip.

Vaseaux Lake, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

Folks who love wineries, beaches, and bird-watching may gravitate to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The Okanagan is characterized by a dry, sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and a series of lakes. The region receives less than 12 inches of rain and two inches of snow annually and is the hottest and driest place in Canada. On the horizon are mountains of green foliage, aqua blue lakes, and, in the distance, rolling vineyards as far as the eye can see.

Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

In central British Columbia, Wells Gray has something to offer every outdoor interest: lush alpine meadows, excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities, hiking, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Guiding businesses offer horseback riding, canoeing, whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking. The history enthusiast can learn about the early homesteaders, trappers, and prospectors or about the natural forces that produced Wells Gray’s many volcanoes, waterfalls, mineral springs, and glaciers.

Many people head to Wells Gray for the lakes but there are also over 40 named waterfalls in the park. Many of them are in remote corners of the park but eight of them are easy to reach from Clearwater Valley Road.

Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

In Newfoundland, Gros Morne National Park features a unique mountain landscape that resembles a massive gorge. The park which was forged by colliding continents and grinding glaciers will surely take your breath away.

You can’t visit Newfoundland without a stop in St. John’s, Newfoundland’s charming capital city filled with windswept hikes, delicious eats, charming landmarks, whale watching, and iceberg hunting, yes, iceberg hunting! 

Long drives in Nova Scotia are definitely desired more than they are dreaded. One of the most scenic routes in Canada is Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail; this 185 mile (298 km) highway runs along the Cape Breton coast line. Stop at the famous Ingonish Beach where you can jump from ocean saltwater to fresh lake water with just a few steps.

Do this drive in the fall and you will be stunned by the natural beauty of the fall trees and the coastal views along the way. If you’re looking for stop along the drive, there is no shortage of things to do and see in Cape Breton. Hike or camp at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, play a round of golf at Highlands Links, peruse artisan shops along the trail, or book your spot on a sea kayaking, cycling, or whale watching tour.

Penticton in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

With its breathtaking northern coastline, beautiful red sand, and incredible seafood cuisine, it’s no surprise that Prince Edward Island is a popular maritime destination. Dip your toes in the ocean at Cavendish beach, one of P.E.I’s major summertime destinations.

Here you can also visit the famous green-roofed farmhouse and find the Anne of Green Gables Historic site. Golf lovers can enjoy the coastal view while playing a round of Golf at the Green Gables Golf Course. For a scenic drive, Points East Coastal Drive explores the eastern end of the island where beautiful beaches, rare dune systems, and lighthouses mark the coastline.

Fort Assiniboine National Historic Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Quebec City has a special feature that makes it unique in Canada (and the U.S., for that matter): it has walls. Quebec City is the only city north of Mexico that still has fortified walls. First the French and later the English built up Quebec City’s fortifications between the 17th and the 19th centuries.

Quebec’s entire historic district including the ramparts has since been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. You can also tour the Citadelle de Quebec which is the largest active military fortress in Canada. Don’t miss visiting the iconic Chateau Frontenac, also a national historic site.

Niagara Falls is made up of three falls with Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three on the Canadian side. Enjoy clear views of Horseshoe Falls and stay past sundown for a chance to see the falls illuminated any night of the year. During the summer and early winter staying past sundown will see you treated to a fireworks show.

Don’t leave the Niagara region without visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake. Begin exploring this famous wine region with the gorgeous scenic drive from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Summer is peak season but fall harvest season and January’s Icewine Festival can also be great times to visit.

Black Hills, an Okanagan Valley winery, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

Manitoba is known for its golden prairies, magic skies, and hundreds of thousands of lakes. Asessippi Provincial Park offers camping facilities, trails for hiking and snowmobiling, boating, swimming and water sports on the lake, and some of the best walleye fishing in the province, all accompanied by breathtaking views.

Elk in Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights

Saskatchewan is home to two national parks that are very different from one another: Prince Albert National Park in the northern boreal forest and Grasslands National Park in the prairie grassland natural region. The two national parks are perfect examples of the provinces varied landscape. Just over six hours separating the two parks it is the perfect way to see a wide variety of what Saskatchewan has to offer while visiting this prairie province.

The year is still young. Consider a trip to the Great White North in 2023!

Worth Pondering…
My truck tore across Montana
Ian Tyson sang a lonesome lullaby
And so I cranked up the radio
Cause there’s just a little more to go
For I’d cross the border at that Sweet Grass sign
I’m Alberta Bound.

—Lyrics and recording by Alberta born Country Music singer, Paul Brandt, 2004

Tips for Summer Visits to Jasper National Park

The largest national park in the Rockies is waiting

After a wild June in Alberta that was full of some of the highest and lowest temperatures on record, significant precipitation and snow, Jasper National Park is asking summer visitors to come prepared.

Since more than 1.5 million people travel to the mountain park between June and September, Parks Canada says to “be prepared for crowds and line-ups, remember to pack your patience and be respectful to the people and wildlife you encounter.”

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Staff are still cleaning up fallen trees and debris from a significant June 19 storm. Pay attention to closures and warnings, and remain alert. Check current trail conditions before heading out. Plan a trip suitable to your abilities and wear appropriate gear and footwear to navigate around fallen trees.

To avoid congestion, use JasperNow. This web page includes regular updates on parking capacity at some of the park’s most popular places plus vacancy updates for campgrounds (including self-registration).

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Parking and camping updates use these color categories:

  • Green: parking/camping available
  • Yellow: parking/camping is nearly full
  • Red: parking/camping is full

If parking is full, there are also suggestions to visit other areas nearby or to use different modes of transportation. To secure a parking spot at one of the park’s popular locations:

  • Go early: Arrive well before 10 a.m. and leave before it gets really busy.
  • Go late: Visit after 5 p.m. or even later and take in a mountain sunset.
  • Have a plan A, B and C: There are many gorgeous places to visit.
Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Good planning makes a great trip.

Don’t come to Jasper without a hotel or camping reservation (and remember that camping in a non-designated campsite or in the town of Jasper is illegal). During most long weekends and summer months, the park is at capacity. If there is no availability in Jasper, look into accommodations in a neighboring community such as Hinton, Folding Mountain, or Valemount.

To avoid parking lot congestion, BYOB (bring your own bike)—or rent one in Jasper to take advantage of the family-friendly connector trail systems. Trails go to Lake Edith, Lake Annette, and Pyramid Beach, popular locations within biking distance of Whistlers/Wapiti Campgrounds and town.

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Use updated on-site wayfinding to navigate the trail network. If you are biking from Whistlers or Wapiti Campground, take the Campgrounds Trail (Trail #12) to town. To connect to the beaches (Lake Edith and Annette), branch off the Campgrounds Trail and on to the Lakes Loop (Trail 14 to Trail 18).

Pack and be prepared for the elements. Check the trail report, be aware of visitor safety guidelines, pack snacks and water, take your time and enjoy the scenery. Get the most up-to-date road conditions by visiting 511Alberta or Drive BC. 

If you’re visiting with an RV know where you can go and park. Many roads and day-use areas can accommodate extra-long rides but other areas can be tight.

Jasper Townsite © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The roomiest parking lots to accommodate RVs are:

  • Maligne Canyon (use the Maligne Overlook pull-through stalls)
  • Valley of the Five Lakes
  • Athabasca Falls

Areas if your RV is 25 feet or shorter:

  • Cavell Day-use Area (Cavell Road also has a trailer drop off area at the beginning of the road)
  • Maligne Lake Day-use Area

Areas where RV access is not permitted:

  • Lake Annette/Lake Edith
  • Lac Beauvert Road
  • Pyramid Beach Road
  • Wilcox Pass Trailhead

Visit JasperNow to view the status on your plan A and plan B destinations before you head out.

Rocky mountain goat in Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember to always give wildlife space. You are in the home of many wild animals so respect their space, never feed them, and always carry bear spray and know how to use it. Dogs must always be on a leash and under control. Abide by all speed limits, drive carefully, and be alert. Learn how to view wildlife safely and avoid a negative encounter. Report any interactions with wildlife, concerning wildlife activity, or dead animals to Parks Canada Dispatch 24 hours a day at 1-780-852-6155.

Finally, leave drones at home. Flying a drone in a national park is prohibited and can lead to a fine of up to $25,000 (about $19,000 USD). Consider hiking and putting the work into getting the best views atop a mountain. For a quick and steep ascent with incredible views of town, try Old Fort Point.

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For more questions, stop in at the Jasper National Park Visitor Information Centre or the Parks Canada information desk at the Icefield Centre.

Worth Pondering…

The mountains are calling and I must go.

—John Muir