Jasper National Park is the perfect stop for your weekend getaway. Located in the province of Alberta, Jasper is calmer and less crowded than it’s Rocky Mountain counterpart Banff making it a great place to go for a weekend of rest and relaxation. Surrounded by majestic snow-covered mountains make the cozy town a magical winter wonderland.
Arriving in Jasper on a Friday evening instead of Saturday morning gives you an extra chance of an aurora borealis sighting. This town is known for its Dark Sky Preserve, which is an area with no artificial lighting and measures to reduce light pollution from nearby cities.
I suggest spending your first evening at the Jasper Planetarium inside the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. The planetarium has an incredible heated 50-seat dome theatre and the largest telescope in the Rockies!
Jasper National Park is a hugely popular place for outdoor winter activities. Here’s a list of my favourite ways to spend a weekend there.
The Best Things to Do in Jasper National Park in Winter
Wildlife Sighting Tours
Winter is a great time to spot wildlife, such as deer, moose, elk, long-horned sheep, coyotes and even wolves in Jasper National Park. But you won’t see any bears —they’re all sleeping during winter! The glistening white snow provides a beautiful backdrop and makes the brown and black speckles of animals pop out even more. Make sure to pack your binoculars! You can also improve your chances of spotting animals by going on a wildlife tour with Sun Dog Tours.
Be led through the stunningly beautiful snow-covered alpine valley by a pack of Alaskan Huskies. The highly trained dogs are so eager and excited to take you on an incredibly unique journey through snow-lined forests and past frozen lakes – all while being surrounded by the incredible Rocky Mountains. Cold Fire Creek offers one-hour tours and longer tours, depending on how much time you want to spend with these incredible dogs.
Jasper National Park is the largest park of its kind in the Rockies, with over 11,000 km² of protected land. The best places to head to for snowshoeing are Pyramid Bench and the Maligne Lake area, where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views and potential wildlife sightings. Snowshoeing lets you access trails and land that hikers and cross-country skiers have great trouble accessing. You can hire snowshoeing gear from various locations throughout Jasper. But if you’re worried about setting out on your own, Sun Dog Tours and Walks and Talks Jasper both offer snowshoeing tours.
Skiing or Snowboarding
Marmot Basin is the place to head to if you’re up for a day of skiing or snowboarding on mountains covered in fresh powder and along beautiful tree-lined trails where you can admire picturesque views from the mountaintops. There’s a direct shuttle to the Marmot Basin from Jasper National Park, as well as several shops offering lessons and equipment rental.
If you’re a thrill-seeker, you can have a go at climbing a frozen waterfall in the incredible Maligne Canyon. Armed with ice picks, you’ll climb the multi-pitch waterfall that offers a fun and safe experience for all types of climber. Visit Rockaboo Mountain Adventures to book your tour today!
Maligne Canyon Ice Walk
Strap on some anti-slip cleats and head down the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park. Inaccessible outside the winter season, the canyon’s normally flowing water freezes at this time of year, offering you a spectacular view from deep beneath the canyon’s walls. I went on a nighttime ice walk tour several years ago with a group of people from the Netherlands. They always yelled “log!” so we all knew to watch our step. At the time this made me laugh so hard and I still remember them to this day. It’s a great way to meet locals and travellers alike! Several walking tours are offered by Jasper Hikes & Tours, Sun Dog Tours and Maligne Adventures.
If you do only one thing in Jasper National Park, make sure you check out Athabasca Falls. Although the waterfall is always spectacular, there’s something extra special about it in the winter. The pathway is plowed so you’ll be able to walk safely to the half-frozen falls. The crisp, cold winter temperatures freeze the waterfall, but there’s still a flowing ice-cold river down below. It’s definitely a sight worth seeing.
If you don’t want to end up venturing too far out of town, you can take a self-guided walking tour around the Jasper townsite. You’ll visit the iconic Jasper the Bear statue and get a taste of Canada’s Aboriginal history at the Two Brothers Totem Pole. You can even stop by The Den, Jasper’s Wildlife Museum, for a chance to see a taxidermy Grizzly Bear!
Where to Stay
Jasper National Park lodging options provide you with loads of really great hotels, inns and cabins to stay in. My personal favourites are the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, where you can also visit the planetarium dome and look through the telescope, and the Pyramid Lake Resort, located on a terraced hillside next to the enchanting Pyramid Lake.
Where to Eat
Jasper has a selection of fantastic restaurants, cafes, pizza places and pubs that offer incredible Canadian cuisine. Coco’s Café is my favourite for breakfast and lunch. Coco’s Cafe has fresh food with gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. You’ve got to try the huevos rancheros wrap!
My second favourite is Jasper Pizza Place, which dishes up delicious wood-fired pizzas. Plus, it’s a local place and I love to support local businesses!
Jasper National Park is a bit out of the way compared to Banff National Park. This makes it the perfect getaway for a quiet weekend of relaxation and fun. You can get to Jasper from Edmonton by following Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) for 365km.
You can also reach Jasper National Park from Banff by taking the scenic Icefields Parkway (Highway 93). Don’t forget to check out the Athabasca Glacier along the way! Be aware that sometimes this road is closed due to adverse weather conditions and avalanches.
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