Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. Having everything you need in outdoor heaven – snowcapped mountain peaks, waterfalls, lakes, hot springs, and glaciers, you’re bound to have a blissful visit.

Town of Jasper, a little alpine town in the heart of the national park, offers all types of accommodations, restaurants, hiking and biking trails. This is our favourite national park and we can’t wait for you to visit as well.

You will read about the best outdoor adventures and budget-friendly tips to have a great time in Jasper.

 

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - Pyramid Lake

Why you should visit Jasper

  • To visit the largest park in the Canadian Rockies
  • To walk on a glacier
  • To see the wildlife – bears, deer, moose, mountain goats, deer
  • To experience wilderness and camping in the mountains
  • To hike the mountain peaks and feel on top of the world
  • To kayak or stand up paddle board on any lake you like
  • To jump in crystal clear (and cold) lakes
  • To road trip Icefields Parkway, one of the most scenic drives in the world
  • To visit its neighbour Banff National Park

Get excited for your visit – our post Canadian Rockies from above includes many mountain photos (taken from a small plane), and video as well. Enjoy!

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - Cinnamon bear in Jasper

Where is Jasper

Town of Jasper is a base for visitors of Jasper National Park. It sits in the Athabasca River Valley surrounded by mountain peaks. Just as its famous neighbour Banff, it’s in Western Canada in the province of Alberta.

Considering the distances from the big cities, it is a favourite getaway for many locals as well who consider the drive being only a few hours. It takes around 4-5 hours to get from Calgary to Jasper, but in Canadian standards, that is not a long drive.

You can find Jasper in great company neighbouring with Banff National Park.

How to get to Jasper

Even though the closest airport to Jasper is in Edmonton (365 km), I would still suggest flying to Calgary (413 km) and the reason is quite simple.

If you’re driving from Calgary, you will go through Banff National Park first, then through the Icefields Parkway, an enormously scenic mountain road before you reach Jasper. The sights along the way are not to be missed.

Both highways (from Edmonton and Calgary) are toll free. Read below for the options how to get to Jasper from both – Calgary and Edmonton.

From Calgary to Jasper

Jasper is 413 km away and takes about 5 hours by car. Having said that, I doubt that any visitor drove that fast. There are just too many opportunities for picturesque stops along the way – viewpoints, famous turquoise lakes, glaciers and hikes. To take it all in without rushing, we recommend at least a full day, or 2 days ideally.

There is no public bus going to Jasper. You can travel by:

  • Car

Having your own transport is the best way to see Canadian Rockies with very limited shuttle buses operation. Calgary Airport has plenty of major car rental companies (or you can head to downtown for cheaper prices). Use Rentalcars to compare different car rental companies and find the best deal.

For even better prices, check out Turo. You can rent a car from locals, it works on the same principle as Airbnb. Get $25 off on your first rental when you sign up through this link.

  • Shuttle bus

Sundog Tours (135 CAD one-way + 5% GST) and Brewster Express (167 CAD one-way + 5% GST) provide shuttle transport but as you can see, it’s not very budget friendly.

  • Campervan

The most budget-friendly option is to rent a campervan which will save you not only on transport but also on accommodation. The fuel from Calgary to Jasper would cost around 60 CAD. You can rent our Smile Campervan to have complete freedom over your day to day activities and use campgrounds in the Canadian Rockies.

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - camping in Jasper

camping with Smile Campervan in Jasper

From Edmonton to Jasper

Jasper is 365 km away and takes around 4 hours by car. This might seem slightly faster than going from Calgary, but you won’t see half of the national park this way. If you’d like to visit Jasper from Edmonton, these are your options:

  • Car

Edmonton airport has many options for car rental companies and the drive on Trans-Canada Highway (also called Yellowhead Highway) is very easy. You can also check out Turo as I mentioned in the ‘From Calgary to Jasper’ section. If you’re two or more people traveling, this might be the most budget friendly option.

  • Shuttle bus

Cold Shot is operating a bus, 5 times a week for 70 CAD. Sundog Tours operate offers transport for 99 CAD + 5% GST from Edmonton to Jasper. It takes around 5,5 hours.

  • Train

VIA rail offers train going to Jasper with starting price 90 CAD in the high season on Monday, Thursday and Friday.

How to travel within Jasper National Park

Jasper is a small town and you can get around by walking, even to some lakes and hiking trails.

You can pick up the map in Information Centre and walk around or rent a bike in bike shop. There’s a nice trail all around town called Discovery Trail from which you can explore several interesting places around town.

Jasper doesn’t have a public transportation system. Because most of the attractions and hiking trails are spread around the park, your only option would be to hire a taxi, book a tour or rent a car. The latter being the best and most cost effective solution.

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - traffic jam in Jasper

typical traffic jam in Jasper

Shuttle bus is available in these locations:

  • Maligne Lake – Maligne Valley shuttle bus departs from Info Centre to Maligne Lake with stops along the way. Only available May to October when Maligne Lake boat tours are operating.
  • Jasper Tramway – operated by Sundog Tours costs 59 CAD (for skytram and shuttle)

If you’re driving a car or campervan, there are parking lots at each of the mentioned places. Parking is free of charge but fills up quickly, especially during the summer.

Best time to visit Jasper

Because Jasper is a base for outdoor activities, it’s great any time of the year. It really just depends on what you’d like to do.

Skiing in Marmot Basin is usually possible from mid-November to end of April. The best conditions are from December to March.

Hiking season is for some people year round activity – you either walk or use snowshoes in winter. Due to Jasper being in a valley with wide open space around and mountains are spread out, a lot of trails near the town dry out in April which is much sooner than in Banff or Yoho National Park. Most of the trails are dry June to September, especially along Icefields Parkway.

April and May are great for wildlife watching, especially newborns. You will have a high chance of spotting bears while driving the Icefields Parkway. Read our post Wildlife in Canada to learn what types of wildlife you can see here. Generally, you can see wildlife all year round, even right in town.

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - mama bear and a cub

TIP
Be respectful of wildlife. Visit Jasper’s Information Centre or Parks Canada website to learn how to behave around wildlife. You should never approach or feed wildlife (and of course not take selfies!). If the animal feels threatened it might charge you. In these cases, Parks Canada has to put the animal down and it’s the person’s fault. In the better case, Parks Canada can give you a huge fine, they are regularly on patrol.

Most people visit Jasper in summer. July and August are the busiest times – hotels have higher rates, hiking trails and parking lots are full. There are still some places where you can get away from the crowds though. A great example is a hiking/biking trail to Snake Indian Falls.

October is a great time for watching the Milky Way and night sky. Jasper belongs to Dark Sky Preserve with little light pollution and holds a yearly Jasper Dark Sky Festival.

Our suggestion is to visit in shoulder season June or September.

For a complete breakdown of all seasons and the best time for different outdoor activities (including seeing Northern Lights), read our post Best time to visit Banff National Park which also applies to Jasper.

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - Edith Lake in Jasper

Edith Lake – some lakes are warm in May already

How much time to spend here

For first time visitors, I’d recommend visiting the Canadian Rockies for at least 10 days or 2 weeks. If you start in Calgary, you can spend 2 days in Canmore, 4 days in Banff, 2 days along Icefields Parkway (which spreads through Banff & Jasper National Parks), and 4 days in Jasper.

If you’re short on time, plan at least 2 full days in Jasper to visit the most popular places such as Whistlers Peak, Pyramid Lake, Valley of the Five Lakes and Mount Edith Cavell.

We’ve compiled a nice detailed 2-week itinerary that a lot of our readers enjoy in our post: Western Canada road trip itinerary.

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - Edith Cavell Hike

Edith Cavell Hike

Activities in Jasper

This list includes seasonal and year-round activities. I’m sure you’ll find many more once you get to Jasper. We always find new interesting things to do whenever we visit.

Things to do in Jasper

  • Picnic on the Pyramid Island
  • Hike the Discovery Trail around town
  • Wildlife watching – bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk (they can be often see along the road or while hiking)
  • Photograph the totem pole carved by the Haida Nation (next to the Jasper’s train station)
  • Horseback riding – travel like first settlers in Jasper and watch out for wildlife
  • Canoe on Pyramid or Patricia Lake
  • Visit Jasper Dark Sky Festival, the 2nd largest Dar Sky Preserve in the world
  • Ice skate on Mildred Lake or Beauvert Lake – you will see why Canadian love ice skating surrounded by the Rocky Mountains
  • Go mountain biking – Jasper has everything from easy trails along the river to difficult adventurous rides, such as Valley of the Five Lakes or Snake Indian Falls, download a detailed map here. If you like mountain biking, Jasper is the place to be.
Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Island on Pyramid Lake

Things to do in Jasper National Park (outside the town):

  • Hike or bike to Snake Indian Falls
  • Road trip the scenic mountain road Icefields Parkway
  • Swim in Lake Annette or Edith Lake
  • Visit Maligne Canyon – year round activity where you can walk on ice in winter
  • Cliff jump at Horseshoe Lake (only if you have experience, injuries are common)
  • Try canyoning (rappelling down the waterfalls) in Ogre or Two Valley Canyon
  • Float down the Athabasca River, just as fur traders used to many years ago
  • Watch Northern Lights
  • Relax in Miette Hot Springs
  • White water rafting on Athabasca Falls or Sunwapta River
  • Hike the Whistlers Peak or take the Jasper skytram for a bird’s eye view of Jasper
  • Stand up paddle board on Lake Edith – SUP rental is right by the lake
  • Boat tour or backcountry canoe across Maligne Lake (the 2nd largest glacial-fed lake in the world) and visit Spirit Island
  • Go skiing in Marmot Basin
  • Walk on Athabasca Glacier – either take a tour or walk on the Toe of the Glacier by yourself
Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake is always crystal clear

Hikes in Jasper

Below is a selection of the best hikes in Jasper National Park. For more info about the trails, highlights and photos, read our post 17 best hikes in Jasper National Park.

TIP
Before you go hiking, always check the trail report from Parks Canada for possible closures due to construction or wildlife presence.

Easy hikes in Jasper National Park

  • Pyramid Lake hike & Pyramid Island – the most popular place in Jasper easily reachable on foot from the town
  • Whistlers Mountain Hike – if you’re new to hiking, take the skytram up and hike a bit further to the top of the mountain
  • Lake Edith & Lake Annette Hike
  • Valley of the Five Lakes – the most beautiful easy hike in Jasper following the trail around unbelievably green little lakes
  • Maligne Canyon
  • Horseshoe Lake – small loop around the like, come here for cliff jumping
  • Athabasca Falls
  • Maligne Lake Hike
  • Mona Lake & Lorraine Lake – easy and family friendly hikes near Maligne Lake
  • Moose Lake Loop
  • Sunwapta Falls – the gushing water with a mountain background will take your breath away
  • Stanley Falls – little known and uncrowded hike along Icefields Parkway
Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - Valley of the Five Lakes

hiking Valley of the Five Lakes, it’s pretty even in the rain

Moderate hikes in Jasper National Park

  • Whistlers Mountain Hike – it’s moderate if you don’t take the gondola up the mountain and since the trail passes an avalanche zone, it’s open from June
  • Indian Ridge
  • Edith Cavell Meadows – wildflowers, wildlife and glacier, what else can you ask for?
  • Bald Hills Trail – steep hike with a panoramic view of Maligne Lake and the Rockies
  • Wilcox Pass – 8 km hike with a view of Athabasca Glacier. Definitely a must do if you ask me.

TIP
Read our recommendation: Hiking packing list for summer in the mountains

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - Wilcox Pass Hike

Wilcox Pass Hike

Difficult hikes in Jasper National Park

  • Snake Indian Falls– 54 km trail mostly in the forest with a huge surprise at the end. We’ve done this trail on bikes and it was the highlight of our visit.
  • The Sulphur Skyline Hike– 8 km steep day hike with panoramic views
  • Skyline Trail– 48 km backpacking trial, one of the most scenic in the Rockies

If you’re alone and would like to join a group, visit the Tourism Jasper website, they offer many guided hikes.

TIP
Always carry a bear spray and learn how and when to use it when hiking in the Canadian Rockies. You can buy one at many outdoor stores, the cheapest one would be at Jasper’s Information Centre (500 Connaught Drive) where they can provide you with lots of bear safety tips.

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - Snake Indian Falls

bike trip to Snake Indian Falls

Where to stay in Jasper

Camping in Jasper

A popular and budget friendly option. There are 11 campground within the park with over 1,800 sites. If you’d like to stay close to Jasper, book in advance, especially during the peak season July and August.

Some of the campgrounds further from town are on a first come first serve basis. Price starts at 15,70CAD/ night for a basic campground without showers. If you’re unlucky to get a campground with showers, you can shower at Fitness & Aquatic Centre for 4 CAD or at SnowDome, a coffee bar with internet and surprisingly, a laundromat .

The biggest campground is Whistlers (which has showers) and it’s closed in 2019 for construction.

Check out Parks Canada website for locations, prices and booking. Alternatively, you can stay in a campground in Hinton (80 km north-east from Jasper).

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - camping in Jasper

campgrounds in Jasper are very well maintained with lots of private space

Backcountry camping

Jasper National Park has plenty of backpacking trails and backcountry campgrounds. Popular backcountry trips are Skyline Trail and Tonquin Valley. Download Jasper’s backcountry guide here. You can reserve your campsite and backcountry permit here.

Hostels

There are 4 hostels near Jasper and 1 new hostel right in town:

  • HI Jasper is a short walk from town. Dorm price starts at 47 CAD/bed during high season. You can book it here.
  • HI Maligne Canyon Hostel is a wilderness hostel 11 km from town with lots of outdoor activities nearby (such as popular Skyline Trail hike), mixed dorm costs 35 CAD/bed in high season. You can book it here.
  • HI Mt. Edith Cavell is 23 km south of Jasper, a great base for Cavell Meadows Hike (there is no running water or showers). Dorm costs 33 CAD/bed during high season. You can book it here.
  • HI Athabasca Falls & HI Beauty Creek are even further from town, you can book them through Hostelworld.

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - sheep along the road in Jasper

B&B, Lodges& Hotels

Jasper has plenty of accommodation options if you don’t want to camp. An average hotel price during the low season is 90 CAD/night for a Queen room and from 300 CAD/night during high season. Most of the hotels are book months in advance for summer. If you’re looking at this option and want to visit in summer, you need to book months in advance.

Alternatively you can look at small Bed & Breakfast, search on BBCanada or Jasper Home Accommodations. Another option would be staying in Hinton, the closest town to Jasper.

Where to eat & drink

Jasper has four grocery stores:

  • Robinsons
  • TGP
  • Tags Jasper
  • Circle K

If you’d like more options, the closest grocery store is Walmart in Hinton (80 km away).

We usually buy a salad in the Deli section of the grocery store or cook a simple meal because long waiting in front of a restaurant for a table is common during summer. When we go eat outside, our favourite places are:

  • ALBA Restaurant for Italian food
  • Bear’s Paw Bakery for a delicious pastry

If you’d like to buy a beer or other alcohol, you need to go to a liquor store. Alcohol is not sold in grocery stores in Alberta. You’re also not allowed to drink alcohol in public. Or visit a nice bar, such as Jasper Brewing Company for craft beer.

While we don’t drink coffee and can’t say from experience, people are raving about SnowDome Coffee Bar as the best coffee in Canada.

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - town of Jasper

Jasper as seen from Whistlers Peak

Tips for visiting Jasper National Park

  •  National park fees

When you enter Jasper National Park (or any national park in Canada), you are required to pay an entrance fee. You have a choice of either a daily pass or a yearly pass.

  • 9.80 CAD per person for a daily pass, 19.60 CAD for a group/family
  • 67.70 CAD per person for a yearly pass, 136.40 CAD for a group/family

The yearly Discovery Pass is valid for more than 100 National Parks in Canada. You can either purchase it at the gate when you enter the national park, in Visitor’s Centre or online here.

  • Road closure

For seasonal road closures due to wildlife presence or avalanche dangers in Jasper National Park, check out the report from Parks Canada.

Current road conditions for Alberta province can be checked here. Icefields Parkway going from Lake Louise to Jasper is closed a few times each year, usually due to an avalanche. Sometimes it can take days before the road opens, make sure you check the conditions before the drive.

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - Icefields Parkway scenic road

Icefields Parkway scenic road

  • Bear country

If you’re hiking in the Canadian Rockies, you’re hiking in a bear country. You should always carry a bear spray (can be purchased at Visitor’s Centre or outdoor stores), know when and how to use it and make noise while hiking (to let bears and other wildlife know that you’re there so you don’t scare them)! Carefully read these instructions on how to behave around bears.

  • GST

Alberta province, where Jasper National Park is located, has 5% GST. The reason I’m telling you is that it is not automatically added to the price shown. It applies totours, souvenirs, groceries, etc. The difference might seem minor but it goes up when you travel to British Columbia, their GST is 12%.

  • Information Centre

Jasper’s Information Centre is located at 500 Connaught Drive. The helpful staff can answer any questions you have about the area, current trail closures or reports, and provide basic maps. You can also purchase hiking maps, backcountry permits, souvenirs, and bear spray.

It’s open daily 9 am to 7 pm from May 16 to October 9, and 9 am to 5 pm outside those dates, you can also reach them at +1 780-852-6236.

Adventure travel guide to Jasper National Park - elk in Jasper

Elk in Jasper – this is an example of how NOT to behave around wildlife. You should never approach a wild animal.

  • Public restrooms

They are located across the Information Centre along the Connaught Drive, and another one further down the road right next to the totem poles. Another one is next to the Jasper Library on Robson Street.

  • Free Wi-Fi

You can access Wi-Fi in Jasper Train Station, Jasper Library (Robson Drive), Tim Hortons (Patricia Street), and several restaurants and bars in Jasper.

  • Gas/fuel

Jasper has 4 gas stationsin town. If you’re driving the Icefields Parkway, make sure to fill up your tank in Jasper as the only gas station on the scenic drive is quite overpriced (located in Saskatchewan River Crossing).

*In the spirit of full disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission at no extra costs to you. We appreciate your support!


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