Jasper National Park is the largest and most northerly of the four Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks that comprise the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its scenery is rugged, including deeply gouged Maligne Canyon and picturesque Maligne Lake. Thrill to the thunder of Sunwapta Falls; enjoy the serene beauty of glacier-covered Mount Edith Cavell; hike along any of the 1,200 km of trails; have a relaxing soak in Miette Hot Springs, or embark on a number of spectacular mountain drives.
Jasper spans 10,878 square kilometres (4,200 square miles) of broad valleys, rugged mountains, glaciers, forests, alpine meadows and wild rivers along the eastern slopes of the Rockies in western Alberta. Jasper joins Banff National Park to the south via the Icefields Parkway. This parkway offers unparalleled beauty as you travel alongside a chain of massive icefields straddling the Continental Divide. The Columbia Icefield borders the parkway in the southern end of the park.
Large numbers of elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer and other large animals, as well as their predators make Jasper National Park one of the great protected ecosystems remaining in the Rocky Mountains. This vast wilderness is one of the few remaining places in southern Canada that is home to a full range of carnivores, including grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves and wolverines.
You are in bear country wherever you are in the mountain national parks! Bears are naturally wary of humans, and generally choose to avoid us. However, bears may threaten and even attack people when they become accustomed to humans, when they are surprised, or when they are forced to defend themselves, their young or their food. You can substantially reduce your risk and enhance your park experience by taking a few precautions, including making noise when you hike, travelling in groups, and properly storing food.
Jasper’s combination of wildlife, startlingly blue-green mountain lakes, soaring peaks and broad forested valleys ranks it as one of the world’s premiere national parks. The park’s distance from large urban centres and its relatively intact ecology create a special sense of “early days in the Rockies.” Today, over 3 million pass through the gates and more than 1.8 million people a year visit the park to experience this unique wilderness and World Heritage Site.
In such a large and spectacular area, there are many sights to see and plenty of stories to be told. A few of the highlights include:
- The highest mountain in Alberta (Mt. Columbia, 3,747 metres)
- The hydrographic apex of North America (the Columbia Icefield)
- Water flows from the Columbia Icefield to three different oceans
- The longest underground drainage system known in Canada (the Maligne Valley karst)
- The only sand-dune ecosystem in the 4 mountain parks (Jasper Lake dunes)
- The northern limit in Alberta of Douglas-fir trees (Brûlé Lake)
- The last fully protected range in the Rocky Mountains for caribou (Maligne herd)
- The most accessible glacier in North America (the Athabasca)
- Miette Hotsprings – Fiddle Valley, 44 km from Jasper townsite
- Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake in Maligne Valley, 2 outstanding natural features
- The Whistlers and the Jasper Tramway (also called the Sky Tram)
- Mt Edith Cavell – Monarch of Jasper’s mountain skyline
The main service centre in Jasper National Park is the friendly and picturesque community of Jasper. The Jasper townsite offers a variety of hotels, restaurants, shops, gas stations and grocery and convenience stores welcome visitors, mostly along Connaught Drive and in the downtown core of Jasper.
The Jasper Information Centre, managed by Parks Canada and located at 500 Connaught Drive, is a handy reference point for visitors to the townsite. Parking for large vehicles is available on Connaught Drive one block to the east and one block to the west of the Jasper Information Centre.
Be prepared for the unnaturally high numbers of elk in Jasper townsite. They are attracted by easy access to food sources (lawns and gardens) and an absence of predators. Elk can be aggressive and may attack without warning. People have been kicked, knocked down and seriously injured. Elk have attacked vehicles. In September and October, during the rut (the mating season), males are particularly aggressive. In May and June, during the calving season, females aggressively defend their young. Whatever the season, do not approach elk. Always maintain a distance of at least 30 metres from elk and other large animals (100 metres away from bears).
Hiking and Backpacking: There are more than 1,200 kilometres (660 miles) of hiking trails – both overnight and day trips. Backpacking trips range from 1-night trips to outdoor adventures of 10 days or more.
Camping: Parks Canada operates 10 campgrounds in Jasper National Park, offering 1772 campsites during peak season, with a variety of services. Reservations are not accepted, and campsites are available on a first come first serve basis only. Demand is heaviest from June through September, with July and August being the busiest. Serviced (hook up) sites are very limited in Jasper National Park and are only available at Whistler’s and Wapiti campgrounds. Campgrounds are listed below:
- Pocahontas Campground
- Snaring River Campground
- Whistlers Campground
- Wapiti Campground
- Wabasso Campground
- Mt. Kerkeslin Campground
- Honeymoon Lake Campground
- Jonas Creek Campground
- Columbia Icefield Campground
- Wilcox Creek Campground
Horseback Riding: The park has a long history of horse use. Many areas of the park are accessible by horse and invite exploration. Through the park guidelines the operators are able to protect the park’s ecological integrity while still allowing visitors the freedom to discover Jasper National Park on horseback. There is no restriction on party size for day riding, but a maximum group size of ten people and twenty horses is permitted for horse groups using backcountry camping facilities. Horse camping is allowed only at designated backcountry horse or horse/hiker campsites.
Winter Activities: Whether it’s skiing, skating, scenic driving, snowshoeing or ice climbing, Jasper National Park gives everyone a chance to combine exploring the park with the magic of a winter wilderness experience. Groomed trails are maintained for Cross-country Skiing and Snowshoeing, the traditional means of winter travel. Marmot Basin is the only Downhill Ski resort in Jasper, boasting more than 1,000 acres of ski terrain, including wide open bowls and groomed trails through the trees. The challenging sport of Telemarking can be practiced at Marmot Basin, or on steep slopes during cross-country ski trips. Skating on a mountain lake is an exhilarating experience when conditions are right. Outdoor rinks are maintained all winter in Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. Make sure you have solid ice at least 6 inches (10cm) thick. Natural ice conditions in Jasper are not monitored or signed. Skating In Jasper is available at Pyramid Lake and Lac Beauvert/Mildred Lake.
Ski Touring and Ice Climbing require special equipment and knowledge of route finding and avalanche safety. Ice climbing is popular in select areas near Banff, Jasper, Field and Lake Louise. Commercial operations offer Dog Sledding, Sleigh Riding, ski and snowshoe trips, and canyon hikes. Winter photography is excellent almost anywhere in the park, or visitors can soak in Miette Hotsprings. Wapiti Campground is the only campground open during the winter, located 4 km south of the Jasper townsite on the Icefields Parkway.
The Icefields Parkway travels in the shadow of the Great Divide. Following the headwaters of three major river systems among the rugged mountains of the Eastern Main Ranges, this route will take you through scenes and experiences you’ll never forget. It is one of the world’s greatest mountain highroads, named for the chain of huge icefields that roofs the Rockies. Not long ago, only packtrains travelled here, and a fast trip from Jasper to Lake Louise took almost two weeks. Today’s parkway lets everyone visit areas once seen by only the hardiest tourists.
Jasper National Park is situated 192 miles (370 km) west of Edmonton, 256 miles (404 km) northwest of Calgary and 500 miles (805 km) northeast of Vancouver. Commercial airlines service the major centres of Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
Both Vancouver and Edmonton have regular bus and train service to Jasper. There are tour buses that travel to and from Jasper via Banff. There are several car rental agencies located in the Jasper and Banff townsites.
Nearby Regions & Towns
Parks Canada – British Columbia
Box 129, 23433 Mavis Avenue
Fort Langley, BC, V1M 2R5