NESTLED IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES ON THE WEST SIDE OF ALBERTA, JASPER IS A SMALL ALPINE TOWN THAT PACKS A BIG PUNCH. LESS TOURISTY THAN BANFF OR LAKE LOUISE, THIS IS THE PERFECT PLACE FOR OUTDOOR ENTHUSIASTS LOOKING TO ESCAPE THE CROWDS AND IMMERSE THEMSELVES IN THE WILDERNESS. JASPER NATIONAL PARK IS OUR NEW FAVOURITE PLACE IN THE ROCKIES AND WE CAN’T WAIT TO SHOW YOU AROUND!
Jasper is the largest national park within Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Home to iconic spots like Maligne Lake and The Athabasca Glacier, Jasper also houses a ton of more “off the grid” adventures. It boasts several remarkable springs, lakes, waterfalls, and glaciers, as well as some of the most abundant wildlife we have ever seen.
“I dont know how on earth it took me 27 years to visit, but I am completely obsessed!”
The town itself has a more local and down-to-earth vibe than Banff and the attractions are far less crammed. If you are looking to connect with nature, escape the crowds, and have unlimited outdoor adventures, you have come to the right place. I can’t wait to show you all the reasons we have fallen in love with this extraordinary area and help you experience all that Jasper has to offer! Keep reading for a breakdown of our incredible long weekend itinerary with Tourism Jasper.
Day 1 | 08:00am
Drive to Maligne Lake, Enjoy The Wildlife, and Stop at Medicine Lake
On your first full day in Jasper, get up bright and early to start experiencing the magic of Maligne Lake Road. Although the drive from Jasper to Maligne Lake is technically only around 45 minutes, we would highly recommend giving yourself extra time. There are incredible views around every corner and your chances of seeing wildlife along the way are very high, especially at this time of day! Bears, moose, elk, and deer frequent the area and are most commonly seen at dawn and dusk.
NOTE: Please do not get out of your vehicles or attempt to approach any wildlife. Giving them their space and admiring them from afar is the safest move for them, for you, and for future human encounters.
About 30 minutes into your drive, you will come across one of our favorite places for an early morning stroll. Filled with water from Maligne Lake, Medicine Lake actually feeds Maligne Canyon via an underground limestone cave system. Because of these subterranean springs, Medicine lake will simply “vanish” at certain times of the year! It is quite a phenomenon. The first parking area offers the best views of the lake with the mountains in the background. Make sure to walk along the shore if you have the time.
Day 1 | 09:30am
The Maligne Lake Cruise to Spirit Island
The Maligne Lake Cruise by Pursuit is actually one of our favorite tours in all of the Canadian Rockies. There are a few reasons for that, but here’s the biggest:
They do an excellent job of keeping it quiet and secluded, despite how popular it is.
There are many tours that David and I will avoid or recommend trying on your own to ditch the crowds. This is not one of them! The small group sizes and spaced-out departure times ensure that you can enjoy the serenity of this magnificent area without it feeling busy or overcrowded.
Over this 1.5 hour tour, you will travel over halfway across Maligne Lake to one of the most photographed spots in all of Canada, Spirit Island. Tours start at 9 am daily and in our opinion, the earlier you can book the better! Arriving early will typically give you the calmest water and the smallest crowds. It also significantly increases your chances of seeing wildlife. To book your tour in advance, click here.
Once you’ve finished your cruise, spend a little time exploring Maligne Lake from the shore. There are several walking trails that will leave you in awe. Leave Maligne Lake around 11:30 and start making your way back towards Jasper.
day 1 | 12:00pm
Lunch at The Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen
David and I always make a point of dining at the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen when we`re in Jasper. Trust us, you will not be disappointed. The restaurant is beautiful, cozy, and slightly rustic with a huge rock fireplace in the center of the dining area. The patio offers peaceful views of the turquoise blue river and the start of the canyon. For lunch, we would recommend the bison burger, the brisket, the poutine, the mac & cheese, and the skillet-breads. Although truthfully, I don’t think you can go wrong with anything on this menu!
day 1 | 01:00pm
Hike The Maligne Canyon Trail
After you finish lunch, head back to the parking lot and look for signs pointing to The Maligne Canyon Trail. The trail, paved and accessible to hikers of all abilities, features five bridges built across different areas of the canyon. The waterfalls and winding river below reach a depth of more than 50 meters in certain areas. Hikers can explore the 3.4 kilometer trail year-round with exhilarating views and a ton of local wildlife. In total, the trail gains 118m of elevation, but you will most likely be too distracted by the views to notice.
day 1 | 3:00pm
Shop, Eat Ice Cream, & Be Merry
Patricia Street, the main street in Jasper, is a great place for shopping, people-watching, and ice cream! You can find everything from outdoor gear to incredible bakeries with a laid-back local vibe. If you`re in the mood for something sweet, Scoops & Loops is the place to go for ice cream and Candy Bears Lair has a huge selection of fudge, chocolate, and candy!
Day 1 | 07:00PM
Dinner at Evil Daves Grill
Evil Daves Grill was one of our favorite meals on this trip to Jasper and a must-visit during your stay. The staff was wonderful and the food was out of this world! From burgers to curry to cowboy sushi, this place is locally sourced and globally inspired. Open Wednesday to Sunday 4-9 PM, Evil Daves is the perfect place to celebreate your first day in Jasper.
Day 1 | after dinner
Relax on Your Private Patio at Bear Hill Lodge
There is just something about staying in a cabin that can’t be beat. Especially when you’re in the middle of the astonishing Canadian Rockies. During our last trip to Jasper, David and I stayed at Bear Hill Lodge and it was absolutely perfect! Their cabins range from cozy studios to multi-room homesteads that can sleep up to 8 adults. Each unit is incredibly unique, with the buildings ranging from the mid-1900s to the newest addition in 2019.
Features include fireplaces, kitchenettes & full kitchen units, pet-friendly units, and continental breakfast for rooms without a kitchen. We very much enjoyed spending our evenings outside on our private patio!
day 2 | 08:00am
Breakfast at Coco`s Cafe
Coco`s Cafe is a cozy little place on Patricia Street that has been a local favorite in Jasper since 1991. They specialize in artesian sourdough and Montreal-style bagels and listen… they do a damn good job of it! We ate here a few times and everything we had was extremely tasty. I was also excited to see plenty of vegan and dairy-free options on the menu. There are not a ton of seats so go early if you plan on eating in.
day 2 | 09:30am
White Water Rafting With Maligne Rafting Adventures
Jasper has a variety of rivers with class II & class III rapids, making white water rafting a great summer activity. The Fraser River, Sunwapta River, and Athabasca River offer tours ranging from scenic floats to multi-day trips. We took a trip with Maligne Rafting Adventures down the Athabasca River and absolutely loved it!
The Athabasca Falls Canyon Run Rafting Tour begins downtown Jasper where you check-in, meet your guides, and board the bus. We were lucky enough to spot a mama grizzly and her three cubs on the 20-minute drive to the starting point! Once we arrived, we got all suited up and hit the river at the bottom of Athabasca Falls. We spent the next few hours floating down a good mix of rapids and calmer water. The first portion of the trip boasted a unique perspective from the river with the high canyon walls on each side before opening up for views of the valley.
This tour is family-friendly and such a fun way to spend a morning in Jasper, especially on a hot summer day! On top of The Athabasca River, Maligne Rafting Adventures also offers trips down the Sunwapta River and they are actually the only operator in Jasper licensed to raft the Fraser River!
Day 2 | 1:00PM
Lunch at Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria
Famoso in Jasper National Park is located on Patricia Street with an excellent indoor dining area as well as a lovely patio. Whether you’re in the mood for a classic Neopolitan pizza, a plant-based option, or a creative new world flavor(HINT: Try the Spicy Thai!), Famoso has got you covered.
Day 2 | 2:30PM
Go Canoeing at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
This historic hotel is worth a visit even if you don`t plan on spending the night. The impressive property is home to a golf course, several restaurants, daily lawn games, wildlife fireside sessions, a pool, a spa, a planetarium, trail rides, shopping, and so much more! The wildlife in the area is booming and the natural beauty is wonderfully relaxing.
We rented a canoe from the boathouse and explored Lake Beauvert. The color of the water is jaw-dropping and it was a great way to enjoy the serenity of the area. We then had an appetizer and a drink on the patio of the Emerald Lounge before jumping in the lake!
For a full list of activities at the Jasper Park Lodge, click here!
day 2 | 07:00pm
Dinner at Authentic
Authentic is a new Pursuit restaurant located in the Crimson Hotel. We didn`t actually know about this restaurant until it was recommended to us but we are incredibly happy we got the opportunity to dine here! The atmosphere was trendy and inviting and the staff were wonderful in every way. The drink menu boasts some brilliantly unique options and the food was absolutely top-notch. Do not miss this restaurant during your time in Jasper!
day 3 | 09:00AM
Breakfast at Harvest
Sleep in a little and take a load off! You`ve had a busy few days. Once you’re feeling ready, head downtown and start your day off right with a drool-worthy meal from Harvest Food & Drink. We have been here a few times now for breakfast and cannot recommend it enough!
day 3 | 10:00am
Explore Jasper by Bike!
With hundreds of kilometers of mountain bike trails as well as numerous road riding options, biking is an excellent way to explore the wonders of Jasper National Park. Trails range from easy to difficult with backdrops like Pyramid Lake, Maligne Lake Road, The Icefields Parkway, and so many more!
On our recent trip to Jasper, David and I spent a day exploring by bike and we were completely blown away. I had no idea how accessible Jasper’s top lakes, hikes, campgrounds, and viewpoints were, all by these trails.
“If you are intimidated by the idea of mountain biking, I would encourage you to trust me and just give it a shot. Jasper is the perfect place for beginners! The trails were well signed, well maintained, and the grade was super manageable. It was my first time mountain biking and it was honestly a highlight of the entire trip.”
We paid a visit to The Bench and they suited us up with bikes, helmets, locks, a map, and a variety of ideas for our adventure. It was clear that they were extremely passionate about the trails in the area and that excitement was contagious. To our surprise, several trails take off right from town and they are all in excellent condition.
The loop we did, which we would highly recommend, was around 30km, relatively flat, and took 3 hours with plenty of stops. We started downtown Jasper and took Old Fort Point Road to a beautiful viewpoint over the river. Then, we followed Trail 14 to Beauvert Lake at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, there were plenty of signs to get us there. We biked past the golf course and through the property and then proceeded past Mildred Lake.
From there, we biked to Edith and Anette Lakes, where we stopped for some beach views and a snack break. Next, we followed Trail 18 all the way to the fifth bridge at Maligne Canyon. We watched the river roar over the rocks for a few minutes before turning around. On the way back, we stopped at Beauvert Lake for a swim, it was 31 degrees out!
For a full list of mountain trails, Tourism Jasper has a downloadable PDF here.
day 3 | 1:00PM
Lunch at Jasper Brewing Company
Jasper Brewing Company is always busy and for good reason! Arriving in the early afternoon gives you a great shot at getting a table right away. Try some local brews and enjoy the great food with your biking buddies in a lively atmosphere! We would recommend the Roasted Cauliflower, Warm Buttered Soft Pretzel, Nachos, Pesto Pasta, Rustic Elk Meatloaf, and everything else on the menu.
day 3 | 02:30PM
Explore Pyramid Lake & Spirit Island
Located only a few minute’s drive from downtown, Pyramid Lake is a must-visit spot during your time in Jasper National Park. We highly recommend exploring the area by walking the shore and visiting Pyramid Island which is located in the middle of the lake. The picturesque bridge that brings you across offers dreamy views over the water with Pyramid Mountain propped perfectly in the background. You can also get out on the water by renting a canoe or SUP at Pyramid Lake Resort.
SIDENOTE: We actually stayed at Pyramid Lake Resort for two nights this past February and really enjoyed our time there. This newly renovated chalet-style Alpine resort offers a fireplace and incredible views with each and every guest room. We were impressed by the friendly staff and the safety protocols during COVID-19. Pyramid Lake Resort went above and beyond to ensure that we felt safe and enjoyed our stay to the fullest.
Day 3 | 07:00PM
Dinner at The Pines
Situated right on the shore of Pyramid Lake, The Pines Restaurant offers an excellent view through wonderfully large windows and from the patio. The upscale menu boasts specialties such as Bison, Duck Breast, and Rocky Mountain Trout. The salads and appetizers looked heavenly and they always have a vegan and gluten-free option available. This will probably be your most expensive meal in Jasper National Park but trust us, it`ll be worth it!
day 4 | 08:30AM
Go for a Hike
Jasper National Park is home to an incredible array of hiking trails. From easy hikes around turquoise lakes to multi-day adventures through some of the most scenic alpine terrain in Canada, there is truly something for everyone in Jasper. Grab some breakfast to go from The Crazy Elk Cafe and hit the trails!
Some of our favorites include:
THE VALLEY OF THE 5 LAKES | EASY: 4.8KM & 172M ELEVATION
The Valley of the 5 Lakes is an easy and scenic hike located just south of the town of Jasper on Highway 93. Beginning in the forest, you will make your way past 5 beautiful lakes, all connected by a 5-kilometer loop. Each lake varies in color from different shades of blue to green and the red Adirondack chairs between the third and fourth lake are the perfect place for a picnic. This is a great option for any fitness level and is suitable for children.
EDITH CAVELL MEADOWS TRAIL | MODERATE: 8.5KM & 558M ELEVATION
Edith Cavell Meadows is one of our all-time favorite hikes in the area! Featuring spectacular flowery meadows, glaciers, and mountains; it`s really got it all. The elevation gain is steady most of the way while you wind past Angel Glacier, Cavell Pond, a subalpine forest, and alpine meadows full of colorful wildflowers. To get to the very top of the summit requires ascending about 1 kilometer of steep scree. It`s challenging but 100% worth it once you arrive.
THE TONQUIN VALLEY TRAIL | HARD: 45.4KM & 1320M ELEVATION
If you have extra time and want to see what backpacker’s dreams are made of, hike into the Tonquin Valley! With multiple routes and options to stay in tents, huts, or lodges; this area is unique and well worth the adventure. Some highlights include The Rampart Mountain Range, Amethyst Lakes, Eremite Valley, and Moat Lake; not to mention the higher than average chance of seeing the endangered mountain caribou. Most people take 3-7 days to complete this hike and in our opinion; the more time, the better!
day 4 | 01:30PM
Lunch at Your Favorite Restaurant!
For your last meal in Jasper National Park, revisit one of your favorites from the past few days or branch out and try something new. There are too many places to eat at all of them during your stay, so I guess you`ll have to come back to enjoy the rest!
day 4 | 02:30PM
Drive Home Via The Icefields Parkway (If Possible!)
The Icefields Parkway is highly regarded as one of the most scenic drives in all of the Canadian Rockies. Also known as Highway 93, this stretch of road spans 233 km from the town of Lake Louise all the way up to Jasper. If possible, budget a few extra days to explore this incredible area and all that it has to offer!