Top three. Without a shadow of a doubt Jasper has made my ‘top three destinations of all time’ list. I fell head over heels in love with the beauty of Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada.
I knew it was a worthy of a spot when I started talking about visiting again. I usually prefer to go somewhere new because let’s face it, there are so many amazing places in the world and sadly not enough time to see them all. However, I’m quite smitten with my new love interest and I’d quite happily go back. Jasper, you have well and truly stolen my heart.
Jasper National Park
So you’re probably wondering why I loved my recent trip so much. Well for a start the scenery is mind-blowing. I felt like I was in the Truman Show and that someone had wheeled in a picture-perfect backdrop. I just couldn’t believe that the staggering mountains and impossibly clear, still lakes were real. It was like a real-life walking postcard. On more than one occasion I found myself stretching my arm out to the landscape, half expecting it to hit a beautifully painted wall.
I’m fortunate to have visited quite a few countries and cities, so it does take quite a bit to really, really impress me. And when somewhere is as epically wonderful as Jasper, you usually find hordes of tourists all vying for the same photograph, selfie sticks spoiling the skyline and noisy, excited chatter stealing any serene moments. So perhaps that’s why Jasper is so jaw-dropping – it feels like a secret, magical, wondrous place that you get to keep all to yourself.
We hardly ever saw any crowds. We visited on a weekend, a Bank Holiday weekend to be exact, yet we nearly always had the roads to ourselves. We only had a few days in Jasper National Park so we didn’t even have time to get off the beaten track too much. The busiest we saw it was at the Icefields Parkway and even in the Jasper townsite or at our hotel resort we never had to wait for a table for dinner or anything. Maybe we were lucky, but either way it’s definitely one of the reasons I loved it so much.
Jasper National Park is known as the gentle giant of the Canadian Rockies. I’m told a lot of people choose to go to nearby Banff, largely due to the famous Lake Louise, but you can enjoy a pretty amazing experience in Jasper without the crowds so surely that’s a winner?
Jasper and Edmonton
Jasper is just under a four-hour drive from Edmonton – a city in Alberta, so you can easily split your city break up with a road trip to the mountains – that’s what we did. We flew to Edmonton with KLM, hired a car from the airport and spent a good chunk of time in Edmonton (this post will tell you all you need to know about the city) and then sandwiched a visit to Jasper in the middle of our adventure. Everyone loves a road trip, right?
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Thanks to an online deal through a site I’d never used before – Amoma – we stayed at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, which is a rather pricey and fancy resort. The reduction was so good that I had visions of our booking not being there when we turned up, but thankfully it was.
The resort is huuuuge, with an outdoor swimming pool looking out onto a beautiful lake. We didn’t spend too much time there as we were out exploring as much as possible, but what we did experience we loved. The staff really make it a 5* service, going out if their way to be super friendly and helpful. We spoke to the valet guy for a few minutes one day and from then on he remembered our names, always making an effort to chat to us.
So besides sitting gawking at the Canadian Rockies and unbelievably still lakes, we were also romanced by the wildlife. Prior to our trip we’d joked about whether we’d see a bear. As we drove into the park we started seeing warning signs and the welcome brochure at the park gates mentioned the difference between a grizzly and a black bear. Apparently it’s all in the shoulders and claw length, but frankly who’d want to get near enough to distinguish the difference?!
And so our conversation changed to what we’d do if we saw a bear. Would we run? Nope. We decided a bear would be quicker. Climb a tree? Nope, they’re better climbers. Jump in the lake and swim? Nope, they’d probably be better than us too. We basically came to the conclusion that we’d be screwed if we saw one whilst we were walking.
We were incredibly lucky because from the safety of our car we saw a bear on our first day. We were driving a bit too quickly to stop and I spent the rest of the day wishing I’d been able to take a photo. My wishes came true because the next day we saw another bear and this time it was right next to us. We paused for a few minutes, watching it have a little snuffly shuffle, choosing to leave when it raised its head in our direction and began to edge closer. We were on such a high for the rest of our drive. I have no idea if it’s common to see a bear, but either way it was such an amazing moment that we’ll remember forever.
We also saw caribou, squirrels, chipmunks, elk, deer (though don’t ask me which kind) and a bald eagle. Sadly we missed out on seeing a moose, but maybe that’s my excuse to visit again?
But wait, there’s EVEN more to Jasper National Park. We had some other incredible, pinch-me moments during our visit.
Things to do in Jasper
We drove a short hour and a half to Maligne Lake. Maligne Valley is a bit of a beaut and the boat tour across the lake to Spirit Island was a real highlight for us. We boarded a small boat that sped across the water whilst we listened to our guide. We were framed by impressive mountains and kept glancing at each other in wonder. After a little while we turned a corner and Spirit Island seemed to magically appear.
We were granted fifteen minutes to get off the boat to walk the small loop overlooking the island. We flitted between wanting to take photos, to Snapchat it, to vlog it and to just enjoy the magical moment as a family. Let’s just say those fifteen minutes whizzed by, but I’m glad that we got some snaps, some of which are already my most treasured.
We also spent time at Icefields Parkway. It’s a scenic 232 kilometres drive that winds through the heart of Jasper and Banff national parks. There are glaciers, waterfalls and beautiful hikes along this parkway. We chose to do the Icefields Experience and it didn’t disappoint at all. We arrived early to beat the crowds and hopped on the Ice Explorer, a beast of bus that took us onto a real glacier. As the bus clambered up the icy makeshift road, we peered out of the steamy window to see the huge drop and did wonder if we were being irresponsible parents.
We needn’t have worried because Nova just seemed to enjoy the ride the bumpier it was and we all had the time of our lives! Once we were on the glacier we were allowed to hop off to have a play. It was bitterly cold, but we were bundled up and didn’t waste any time in enjoying the moment. In fact I think I got a bit too excited, skipping and beaming like a crazy person. Again, it was such a ‘pinch-me’ moment that I feel incredibly grateful to be able to travel to such amazing places.
After playtime on the glacier we were dropped off at the Glacier Skywalk. It’s not for the faint hearted! A glass ledge juts out from the mountainside so you can basically see the sheer drop below as you walk on it. It was snowing heavily when we visited so the visibility was pretty rubbish, but it still scared me (especially with Nova in my arms!). I can’t imagine how terrifying it must be on a clear day!
We also took a trip on the Jasper SkyTram, which again, isn’t really for anyone with a fear of heights. The cable car whizzes up the mountain in just seven minutes. It’s pretty cool watching the dense green trees climb higher and higher until they disappear, being replaced by snowy rocks.
From the top you can really appreciate just how stunning the park is. There are so many beautiful turquoise lakes that look like they’ve been Photoshopped. It’s just so hard to comprehend that this beautiful place is real.
Besides the adventurous stuff we also did normal things like eat out. We did most of that in the Jasper townsite, heading to Jasper Brewing (nice, but perhaps a bit overrated in my opinion), Tekarra Restaurant (well worth a visit for a hearty meal and good cocktails in a traditional mountain lodge) and the restaurant at the Fairmont. Quinoa seemed to be on a lot of menus, so that made a nice difference to the usual vegetarian option of mushroom!
I feel like we only brushed the surface of Jasper National Park. We had the time of our lives in the short few days we spent there, so I’m adamant that we’d have an amazing time if we visited again.
Do me a favour and give those mountains a wave from me if you get to visit before I do. I missed them from the moment we left. X
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