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Your Heart Will Beat a Little Faster in Jasper
Look up, look way, way up to the beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Jasper National Park’s omnipresent mountain range keeps watch over the town site, and whether you’re walking down the street or sitting in a café, you’ll have a front row seat to Mother Nature’s splendour. While you’re gawking at the majesty of it all, it wouldn’t be unusual for an elk to trot on past, daring you to follow. There’s so much waiting for you just outside the town limits, and if you’ve been looking for getaways in Canada that will make a lasting impression, Jasper should be at the top of your list. So, pack your camera, shine up your binoculars, and prepare to be inspired.
The Journey is the Reward
A trip to Jasper means you can cross something off your bucket list: a stay at a picture-perfect mountainside town that happens to be on the road less travelled. With just over 10,000 km to discover, Jasper National Park has a smaller population and larger land size than Banff National Park, its popular neighbour to the south, but also has less tourists and more chances to get lost in the beauty of it all. A great place to immerse yourself in nature is on one of the many hikes in the area. And in Jasper National Park, where there is a hike, there is almost certainly a lake. One of the premiere hikes is to Maligne Lake. Here you can hike in the forest, to the top of a small peak, or tone it down a notch and walk the lakeshore. Maligne Lake is frequently featured on postcards of Jasper, and you’ll want to pack a picnic lunch to make the most of the impressive views. Pyramid and Patricia Lakes are also a top contender for most picturesque hike in the National Park, and you’ll have to put in little effort for a big reward. The 5 km loop passes through stunning wildflower fields in the summer months, and lovely views of the Athabasca River down below. Pyramid Lake has an island for some fun exploration, and wildlife encounters in the area are frequent. Afterward, reward yourself with a stop for tea at historic Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, one of the oldest hotels in the area. Or if all of that hiking has left you sore, a trip to Miette Hot Springs could be just what the doctor ordered. It’s one of the best kept secrets in Canada, and boasts the hottest mineral hot springs temperature in the Canadian Rockies.
Make the Most of Your Time with a Guide
While it’s always nice to do some independent wandering, sometimes a guided trip can give you some extra insight. You’ll learn insider information and maybe even tuck some tips in your back pocket for your next visit. One of the most popular guided tours is to the Mount Edith Cavell Trail. This hike is of little to moderate difficulty, and passes through some seriously gorgeous scenery. A guide will cover local history, geology and ecology on the 1.5 hour tour. Another destination where a guide could be beneficial is the Columbia Icefield. Tours typically take guests to the Athabasca Glacier, the most visited glacier in the Canadian Rockies and 1 of 6 glaciers in the Ice Field. There is a Glacier Discovery Centre and a Glacier Skywalk open to unescorted tourists, but a local guide will be able to give you invaluable commentary on this must-visit destination. Guides are generally not cheap, but some companies offer deals if you book more than one excursion. This is especially true if you book an adventure package, such as a horseback riding and whitewater rafting combo. If you like to keep a fast pace and aren’t ready to retire to one of the many cosy cabins and hotels that Jasper has to offer, a sunset tour of Maligne Lake is a crowd favourite. This 90-minute cruise over the azure-blue waters is chock full of information, and even includes an option for dinner.
Head Inside for Awhile
If the weather isn’t co-operating, or if you just feel like spending some time indoors, Jasper has a few opportunities for exploration that don’t involve hiking boots or skis. The Jasper Planetarium is a unique indoor venue that will have you eager to learn more about astronomy. From the Planetarium dome, you will be introduced to constellations and stars above Jasper’s most iconic destinations. Staff are on hand to answer questions and guide you through your interstellar experience, and if you’re lucky, you might see the Northern Lights. The Jasper Yellowhead Museum & Archives will not only give you a roof over your head, but a fascinating blast from the past. Extensive archives are augmented by thousands of photographs, manuscripts and memorabilia, including pictures of the original Athabasca Hotel, the Canadian National Railway, and some of the first intrepid explorers. And while it only lasts for 7 minutes, the Jasper Sky Tram is an unforgettable experience that will have you wanting to switch inside for outside when you see the spectacular vantage point in store for you. When you get to the top, you’ll be clamouring to get out into the open for a photo opportunity like no other at an elevation of 2277 metres.