I really like this bear that is named after me!
All children visiting Jasper want to have a picture of the Jasper bear and themselves. This big statue can be found at the Lower Station of the Jasper Tramway. I can tell you that it is very difficult to have a picture made of just myself and the Jasper bear! I think it took us about 10 to 15 minutes before I was all alone with the bear (for 10 seconds only).
I think the bear and I look quite similar. What do you think? Just let me know!
Pristine Maligne Lake
The highlight of our stay in Jasper was the boat cruise to Spirit Island in Maligne Lake. We were staggered by the high cost of food there but gasoline seemed quite consistent with the other areas of Alberta we had visited.
Our guide on the boat cruise told us that the weather had been awful for the entire month of August and we were experiencing one of the few sunny days. It was a beautiful day. We were able to see the glaciers that the guide identified and really take in the wilderness experience.
This view of the mountains around Jasper was taken from the road just outside the Lodge we stayed at.
The centre of town is behind the photographer.
Jasper is not as large a place as I imagined, but it is surrounded by these mountains, which make a good backdrop.
The railway line is right of picture. This is the line the Rocky Mountaineer takes
The town of Jasper originated in1911 as a railway settlement named Fitzhugh, after the vice president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. The GTPR rails reached Fitzhugh in August that year, and were at "Summit City" on Yellowhead Pass by November. The line was completed to Prince Rupert on the Pacific Ocean in 1914.The towns name was soon changed to match that of the surrounding national park.
The park had been named for Jasper Hawse, who oversaw a fur trade outpost in the Athabasca Valley in 1817.
Jasper's elevation is 1,054m. Although with a community of 4,500, Jasper has less hustle and bustle and a more small town feel to it than Banff.
Most businesses and services are located on Connaught Drive and Patrcia Street.
The campgrounds close to Jasper are Whistlers nd Wapiti , respectively 3.8 and 5.5 km south from the town centre on the Icefields Parkway.
There are hostels on Whistlers Road and at Maligne Canyon.
"Thursday night – Calgary to Lake Louise"
First of all, don’t forget your National Parks pass! We get an annual pass, since we go to Banff often. You can buy one for $70 at any of the park gates (or you can pay $10/car/day).
It took us exactly two hours to get from Calgary to Lake Louise. We decided we’d leave after work and spend the night at the Lake Louise youth hostel, so we could have a full day to drive to Jasper. We tried booking a private room, but they don’t have very many, and it seems you would have to book far in advance if you wanted to stay in one. But the dorm room wasn’t so bad. There are only four people to a room, with the double bed on the main floor as you enter, and two single beds in the loft up above, so you feel as though you have some privacy. Also, the people we shared with were very quiet, so we had no problems falling asleep. See my Accommodations Tips for more details about the hostel.
We had time to visit the Lake and the Chateau before tucking in for the night. The Lake was, as always, beautiful, despite the mosquitoes. The Chateau, on the other hand, looked a little worse for wear. The concrete is cracked and crumbling in spots, and generally the outside has a sort of decrepit feel to it. Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t be a big deal, but when you consider how much those poor rich tourists are paying for a room, I’d say they were getting ripped off.
"Friday – Lake Louise to Jasper"
There aren’t many places to buy food in Lake Louise. There’s a deli/bakery in the one plaza, with a grocery store next door. We picked up some fruit and some sandwiches, and were on our way by 8:30am. We made some stops along the way to enjoy the scenery, one of which was Peyto (Pee-toe) Lake. A 10-15 minute walk up a paved trail takes you to a lookout area where you can snap some great photos of this blue-green lake. You have to rub elbows with busloads of tourists, but at least they park in a different lot, so the walk to and from the lake is not very crowded.
We arrived at the Columbia Icefields by 11am. We had pretty much decided before we got there that we weren’t going to pay $35 each to ride the Sno-Coach. Instead, we drove across the highway to the short trail that takes you to the toe of the Athabasca glacier. Really, from up close the glacier just looks like a pack of dirty ice, no different from the slushy snow-banks on the sides of your street in winter. It’s the sheer size of it from afar that is truly impressive. And yes, glaciers really are blue.
We had lunch at the Icefields, then continued on our way. Most of the lookout areas are on the west side of the road, which is the left side if your driving up to Jasper, so we didn’t make too many more stops. We figured we’d get them on the way back. We did stop in at Athabasca falls, which is just a short walk. The falls are powerful, mesmerizing. But don’t go over the railing, some guy did that last month and fell in. They’re still looking for him.
We got into Jasper around 4pm, and went straight to our accommodations for the next two nights: Robin’s Nest B&B. See my Accommodations Tips for more about this place.
"Saturday – Jasper, Maligne Lake, Miette Hotsprings"
Jasper is a cute town. A lot smaller than Banff. There are a lot of older building and houses, that gives it some charm. It doesn’t take long to explore the place on foot, and before long, you’ll start recognizing people.
Maligne (Ma-leen) Lake is a good half hour drive from Jasper. You’ll pass by Maligne Canyon (see my Sunday chapter), and Medicine Lake. The road ends at Maligne Lake, so you can’t miss it. We got there fairly early, thinking it was a good time for a hike, before the heat of the day set in. Unfortunately, that’s also what the mosquitoes were thinking. Maybe the Mary Schaffer trail would have been fun at some other time, but we didn’t really like it that much. Apparently, the Opal Hills hike is quite something, but it’s a bit longer, and we later found out it was closed due to grizzly activity (yikes! make sure you read those trail updates).
After that walk, we didn’t feel much up to doing the other short one, Moose Lake, which starts at the other parking lot. I considered taking the ferry to Spirit Island, but my husband decided for us that the price was probably not worth it (now we’ll never know the truth!). Instead, we paid $15 to rent a canoe for an hour. The cool breeze off the lake was just what we needed, as it was around 30°C that day.
When it got close to lunch time, we perused the cafeteria, but the food seemed over-priced and not so appetizing, so we headed back into town. See my Restaurant Tips for some of the places we chowed down in.
Later in the afternoon, we headed out to Miette (My-ette) Springs. It’s also a good half hour drive, maybe closer to 45 minutes. But what a lovely view! Don’t be surprised when you spot your first mountain goat. They’re everywhere, and seem to be used to people. But I still wouldn’t venture too close, as I saw some tourists doing. They are, after all, wild animals, and I’m sure they wouldn’t hesitate to attack if they felt threatened. The entrance to the hotsprings is $6/adult.
We saw a lot of wildlife, besides the mountain goats, this day. There were some birds I’ve never seen before that ventured very close to us on our walk at Maligne Lake, and also on that trail we crossed paths with a ferret (or weasel, not sure which). We got close to a young deer on the way back from Miette. Luckily, no bear sightings. We could have done without the mosquitoes (pack your DEET!). And another strange thing: there was an infestation of moths in Jasper. They were everywhere, like a plague. We were waiting for the locusts and frogs next. But they only lasted one day, and our B&B hostess said she’d never seen anything like it before. Was it some sort of sign? Whatever it was, it was pretty disgusting. Luckily, we spent the day outside of Jasper, and by Sunday morning, they were gone.
"Sunday – Jasper to Calgary"
It was raining when we got up, but that didn’t stop us from driving the 6km out to the 5th bridge at Maligne Canyon. We got a bit wet, but I’m so glad we did the trail. The canyon was amazing, it really was the best thing we’d seen all weekend. And after a while, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Perfect!
After that hike, which took us about an hour, we headed back into town and grabbed some lunch from Subway to go. Heading back towards Calgary, we took Highway 93A to Mount Edith Cavell. This was another best thing we did all weekend! I really enjoyed the drive up (it took us over half an hour), and the view up there was breath-taking.
After that, we were really on our way home. At Mistaya Canyon, we first headed into the trees looking for the trail (it’s at the end of the parking lot, there’s no sign pointing the way), then searched beyond the bridge that passes over the canyon for the rest of the trail (there isn’t any more to it, once you’ve reached the bridge, that’s it). By the time we got back to the car, I was starting to feel delirious.
We got to Lake Louise by 7pm, and had supper at the cafeteria in the Chateau. For being a cafeteria, the food is really good, and set us back about $20 (two people). By 10pm, we were home sweet home, exhausted but happy.