A Guide to Jasper National Park
Driving through Yellowhead Pass was the first time I had crossed Canadian province borders on land. It was also my first step ever into Alberta, which is a place I have been dying to visit for years now. Jasper National Park has been on the top of my places in Canada to see forever! The trip was finally coming to fruition so cue the emotions.
Most of Jasper National Park can be seen in a day with a car, but if you're like me, take your time and camp throughout the park, taking every second to explore the beauty of one of Canada's most famous National Parks. You will need a National Park Pass to enter the park, available at the huts at the park entrances for daily, multi-day or annual use.
Where to Camp in Jasper National Park
Just before entering Jasper National Park, we spent a night at the Robson Shadows Campground just past Valemount as the already-grey skies were getting darker. This campground was easily the nicest one we stayed at on the whole trip – our lot sat right on the waters edge and we awoke to clear glacial runoff.
Once in the park, we stayed at the unmanned Mount Kerkeslin Campground, which essentially means filling out a form and dropping it with payment in a locked box and then pinning your stub and proof of purchase (and campfire purchase if you opt for that as well) on the stump at your site for a ranger to check later in the evening. It's peaceful, but if you need any assistance, you're on your own! We quite enjoyed this campground as it was by far the largest we stayed in meaning we had privacy, and the river rushed along close by.
Things to See in Jasper National Park
1. Mount Robson
This one is actually just before Jasper National Park, just across the border in BC and a popular place to start your trip into Jasper. Although we never did actually see the peak, which would be the tallest point of the Canadian Rockies, the glacier-fed waterfalls coming down the side of Mount Robson were still impressive. The parking lot was full of adventurous hikers prepping to take on the multi-day Berg Lake trail, one I want to one day come back to and tackle.
2. Rearguard Falls
Still in BC before arriving in Jasper, a beautiful little pit-stop is Rearguard Falls, fondly nicknamed by Sam as Bum Protector Falls. I fell in love with this gushing waterfall the moment I saw it. Known for the last pit stop of a hefty salmon run, Rearguard Falls offers visitors a jungle gym of metal railings with views of stunning blue waterfalls.
3. Moose Lake
It was Moose Lake where we first laid our eyes on the turquoise blue that was to be so prevalent during the subsequent days of our road-trip. It was Moose Lake where we met three Slovenian motorcyclists biking cross country. It was Moose Lake where we did not see any moose.
4. Yellowhead Lake
Our fourth stop before we finally got to enter Jasper National Park was at Yellowhead Lake. We traipsed our way through overgrowth which was well worth it as we took in the greeny-yellow reflections without a single other soul in sight.
5. Maligne Canyon
We crossed into Alberta at Yellowhead Pass, bought our park pass at the National Park huts, and then we were in the gorgeous Jasper National Park! We stopped first at Maligne Canyon, a beautiful multi-bridge stack of canyons and swirling rivers! Sam and I explored the different paths between the various lookouts and bridges.
6. Jasper Town
The beautiful little town of Jasper is nestled in the mountains of the park and offers hungry, tired and supply-needing travelers a range of goods and services. I learnt how to fill up the gas in a car in Jasper. Memorable, to say the least!
7. Medicine Lake
I can’t put into words what Medicine Lake feels like when you first lay eyes on it. The lake itself stretches far beyond what you can see, wrapped entirely by road and sheer mountain faces. Sam and I enjoyed our lunches perched on crumbled rocks at the water’s edge with a view like no other.
8. Maligne Lake
Home to the famous Spirit Island, Maligne Lake is serene. We went for a wander around the lakeside paths and I dipped my toes in while Sam went fully under. He promptly came right back out, shivering but grinning.
9. Athabasca River
Right after turning onto the Icefields Parkway out of Jasper, there’s a little shoulder where you can pull over and scramble down to the riverfront. The River here gurgles past, offering travelers the most gorgeous blue colours best seen on a sunshiney day.
10. Mount Edith Cavell
The drive up to the Glacier, a little road just off the Icefields Parkway, offered jaw-dropping views before we even arrived at the final destination. I was in absolute awe and more than once I made Sam pull over to the side so I could stand up in my seat through the sun roof to take photos. We met two Texan motorcyclists at the top who graciously took a number of photos of us in front of the most incredible glacial site.
11. Icefields Parkway
Hands down the most beautiful road I’ve ever driven on, and I’ve driven on some incredible roads, Icefields Parkway is famous for having an unlimited supply of views in every single direction, each more jaw-dropping than the last.
12. Athabasca Falls
One of Jasper’s most famous sights, the falls at Athabasca are an impressive gushing of water. Arrive early for an empty parking lot and an empty viewing deck where the walkways wander between carved out rock and various falls. I suggest first thing in the morning for the peace and calm of being the only souls wandering the walkways.
13. Horseshoe Lake
We would have missed this lake entirely if it weren’t for Sam pulling the car over into what seemed just like a dirt shoulder on the road. It was on my list of places to stop at from my research prior to the trip, so we were keeping an eye out, but a complete lack of signage meant sheer luck was the only thing that brought us to this beautiful sunrise perch.
14. Sunwapta Falls
Sunwapta Falls focuses on the water rushing around the little island and down into the ravine. There is one main bridge from where you can view the falls, so not as big as Athabasca, but still stunning. It’s a quick 3-minute walk down from the parking lot.
15. Tangle Creek
I loved this one especially as it summed up what the entire roadside views of the Icefields Parkway really is. We literally didn’t have to leave the car for these views and joined the other roadside visitors to take in the landscape.
16. Columbia Icefield and Athabasca Glacier
This was by far one of my favourite stops of the trip. A number of paid guided tours are available that allow you to walk on the actual glacier, but we just trekked up the roped off walkway to the foot of the glacier and took in the most beautiful views. I have never been so close to a glacier so 'the most-visited glacier in North America' was a great first time!