In the heart of Canada’s Rocky Mountains you’ll find the country’s largest national park: Jasper. With jagged mountain peaks, towering glaciers, flourishing lakes, cascading waterfalls and seemingly endless canyons – the sheer size of Jasper will shock even the most experienced outdoor explorer. The park itself is more than 11,000 sq. km, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1984.
You can opt to combine a trip to Jasper with nearby Banff and Lake Louise for the ultimate activity package – hiking, sledding, snaking down world-class ski trails, exploring the backcountry, and unwinding in the Miette Hot Springs. We hope you’re rested – the list of things to do in Jasper is extensive.
Jasper National Park is located 370 km (192mi) west of Edmonton, 404 km (256mi) northwest of Calgary and 805 km (500mi) northeast of Vancouver. You can reach the town of Jasper from the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93), which travels through the Canadian Rockies north to south. The other major road is Route 16, which cuts through Jasper National Park and Jasper town site east to west.
In this guide we’ll take you through the basic overview of Jasper National Park – including how to get there, where to stay, where to eat, what to see and what to watch out for.
To reach Jasper via airplane there are two options. The closest is Edmonton International Airport (YEG). We prefer to fly in via Calgary International Airport (YYC). Flying into Calgary allows you a stunning drive past Banff, Lake Louise and then up one of the most incredible roads on earth, the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93N).
Both airports serve regional and international airlines on a daily basis, are located within a 4-6h drive in winter conditions from Jasper.
There aren’t many options for public transportation in Jasper. If you’re planning on covering a lot of area you really need a car to get around. If that’s not possible there are a few shuttle buses available to transport visitors between towns – i.e. from Jasper to Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise. Those shuttle companies are, Brewster, Roam bus and Sundog; however, service in winter is often reduced.
Jasper is accessible all year round, categorized by short summers and long winters. The weather changes vastly across the park due to the mountainous terrain that creates a variety of microclimates. Elevation, latitude, prevailing winds, shading from the mountains and wind from the glaciers are all factors in the daily area’s climate.
Altitude, for example, has a significant impact. In Jasper you can expect a decrease in temperature of 1.7 degrees Celsius for each 300 meters gained.
Temperatures begin to cool significantly by October and November, and mid-October is when you can expect to get snow. The ski trails will open up around mid-November. January is the coldest month, where the temperature rarely comes above 9 degree Celsius. You can expect the ski hills to close sometime in early May, although by mid April the snow will begin to melt at the bottom of the valleys.
Average monthly temperature and precipitation:
Despite being home to only 5,000 year-round residents, Jasper town site and the surrounding national park boast a vast amount of lodging options to accommodate the more than a million visitors that visit the area each year. If you’re looking for luxury, you can find it in Jasper. What about a budget-friendly dorm-room bunk? Yep, you can get that too.
The most exclusive accommodation is the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Nestled deep into Jasper National Park, this hotel it surrounded by unforgettable scenes of the Canadian Rockies. In addition to being well located to a number of activities in the area, it’s also home to the Fairmont Spa – the perfect place to unwind after a long day of exploring. It is historic and top of the line.
Now, you might think that kind of luxury is out of your depth, but – if you sign up for our newsletter – we can get you 45% a night’s stay at Fairmont Hotels! All you need is our free guide on Saving Money on a Winter Trip to The Rockies!
Another option for families is the Pocahontas Cabins. Located at the base of the Miette Road (the mountain road that goes to the Miette Hot Springs, which are closed in winter), guests can choose from a variety of individual cabins for a truly authentic mountain retreat.
We often stay at one of the Mountain Park Lodges in Jasper. This group of hotels caters to all budgets. What we like the most is that because they have so many different hotels they can check them all with one call. Booking is so easy. We like the kitchenette suites, especially at Marmot Lodge. While not luxurious, these comfortable suites are great for longer trips where you want to eat healthy and cook your own food (a great way to save some money).
One of the best values in Jasper is at Sawridge Inn. You wouldn’t guess that a place with such great amenities can be such a value, but the trick is knowing how to get the deals. Subscribe to our newsletter and get a free guide to our insider savings for Jasper.
Just five blocks from the centre of Jasper town you’ll find the highly recommended Mount Robson Inn. With comfortable rooms, continental breakfast, year round hot tubs and number of amenities, this option is a greatly value just minutes from Jasper National Park. Plus, how great is a hot tub in the dead of winter? If you’ve never tried it, you’re missing out!
For a taste of history, check in at the Athabasca Hotel. This contemporary hotel has been around since 1929, and offers visitors a variety of additions services such as complimentary passes to the Jasper Activity and Aquatic Centre. With vintage-style décor, an unbeatable location and warm hospitality, you can be sure to enjoy your stay here.
And, if value is what you’re after Jasper has you covered. First, you should sign up for our newsletter to get those money savings tips for your trip to the Rockies. In that booklet you’re going to find tips like try staying at a hostel. That’s obvious, right? Well, what hostels are good and which ones should you avoid? We really enjoy HI Hostel in Jasper. Not only is the price low, but also there are private rooms with 3 or 4 beds. If you book early, a private room could be the perfect way to save money on your ski trip. Or, try the Athabasca Falls Wilderness Hostel. There are a few private rooms that sleep six, or there is the main cabin bunk area. There main living area is like something out of an adventure novel: pine furniture, exposed beams, stump stools, and a cast iron stove in the middle of the room. You won’t want to miss the campfire at night. The stars put on a real show out there.
One of the top-rated restaurants in Jasper is the Raven Bistro. Founded by Jasper locals, they serve up a Moroccan fusion cuisine with dishes such as coconut kaffir lime seafood pot, beef with harissa, chicken with mint cilantro sauce & lamb cevapcici with lemon-tahini yogurt on a bed of jewelled Israeli couscous. Yum!
Another great choice for a nice dinner out is Syrahs of Jasper. Newly renovated, they have a good selection of craft beers, international wines and feature cuisine based on the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
For something a bit more casual, check out the Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria. They prepare pizza the authentic Naples way – even receiving training from the prestigious Associanzione Verace Pizza Napolitano (VPN). Famoso offers a variety of delicious pizzas – from the classic margherita to new world recipes such as spicy Thai and honey BBQ chicken. This chain of restaurants was founded in Alberta and is a Jasper favourite.
For a bit of comfort food, chow down on the indulgent fare from Evil Dave’s. They offer a mix of regionally inspired dishes combined with international ingredients. All their dishes have creative (evil-themed) names like the Malevolent Meatloaf or Hell’s Chicken. If you’re looking for some seriously refreshing beer, check out Jasper Brew Pub and Eatery for a cold one brewed on-site and upscale comfort foods.
To grab a tasty sandwich to go, check out Patricia Street Deli. They have a great selection of ingredients to make a freshly made sandwich. In terms of breakfast, bakeries and coffee, Jasper also doesn’t disappoint. Coco’s Cafe has a great breakfast and lunch menu (also available to go), focusing of vegetarian, vegan, locally sourced and organic ingredients; although, they’ve got options for meat lovers too! Bear Paw Bakery is the place to go rolls, pastries and more – all fresh out of the oven of course.
Jasper is truly a year-round destination – with a huge variety of activities to keep you busy no matter what the weather. From the Maligne Canyon and Maligne Lake, to the Athabasca Glacier and Falls, the hiking here is exceptional. But, that’s a summer activity, right? Wrong! There are quite a few trails still open in the winter you just might need to buy or rent some microspikes! Microspikes are metal-spiked chains that stretch over your boots with a thick rubber strap. They will let you enjoy the trails safely in winter, which is an amazing time to see all the sights: frozen waterfalls, icy streams, blanketed hills and mountains, etc.
Maligne Adventures offers a guided ice walk of the Maligne Canyon as well as a winter wildlife search. They’re a great touring company and hiking in groups during the winter is always a very good idea (in fact we’d say it’s practically mandatory).
In the winter, snowshoeing, ice-skating, snowmobiling, and ice climbing, are all loads of fun too. Sun Dog Tours offers both a good snowshoeing tour as well as a dog sledding tour. Whereas if you want a group – or private – ice climbing tour you’ll want to ask Rockaboo Mountain Adventures.
For those who find ice climbing just a touch out of reach, we always love to recommend a sleigh ride on Pyramid Lake. There is nothing like cozying up under a blanket listening to those sleigh bells jingling.
Marmot Basin is Jasper’s ski resort, famous for the highest base elevation for all of Canada’s ski areas. They also offer ski and snowboard classes, rentals, and are located close to many of the accommodation options listed above. If downhill skiing is a little too fast-paced, cross-country skiers will enjoy the variety of routes around Jasper. From quick loops to longer and more challenging trails, you can glide past beautiful frozen lakes and mountain scenery. If you want to save 50% off a lift ticket, sign up for our newsletter to get lots of awesome tips. Our booklet can save you lots of money on your ski trip.
And, if downhill skiing is too fast-paced, you can go onto the Jasper Park Website to find all the great cross-country ski trails. This can be awesome fun and should not be overlooked.
A dash of culture can be found at the museums in Jasper, such as the Mountain Galleries – aimed at supporting and showcasing local Canadian artists. Or, visit the Jasper Yellowhead Museums and Archives, where you can learn about the history of the area through artifacts and documents. Lastly, don’t forget to check out the Jasper Planetarium for a chance to gaze up at the star-laden night sky, enjoying the world’s second largest dark sky preserve (an area where almost no artificial lighting is visible at night).
- Never feed or approach wildlife. Always carry bear spray. Of course Bears will be hibernating in the winter, but you should always be careful around any wildlife.
- Even though it may look pristine, make sure you boil, treat or filter all water before drinking it.
- Pay attention to avalanche conditions and do go on trails without knowing the avalanche risk.
- Weather can change quickly. Make sure to bring multiple layers.
- The roads may be very crowded during peak seasons. Pay attention to wildlife, especially at dusk and dawn.
- Always bring sunglasses, a hat and wear sunscreen – even in winter. The sun at the alpine altitude is very strong.
- Law protects all rocks, fossils, horns, antlers, wildflowers, mushrooms, nests and any other natural or historic object within the park. Leave them in their nature setting.
Don’t Forget! If you sign up for our newsletter – or if you already are signed up for our newsletter – you can get a copy of our free guide on Saving Money on your Winter Trip to the Rockies! We can show you how to save up to 45% off accommodations, get a ski pass for $2, and save 10% off of dozens of restaurants all throughout The Rockies!