Jasper National Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Canada. Like it’s southern sister, Banff, there are many things to do in Jasper all year round.
In the summertime, you can easily grab a canoe and paddle your way around one of the many mountain lakes, or in the winter you can take a drive on the stunning Icefields parkway. If you’re wondering what to do in Jasper on your Canadian vacation, we have you covered.
Best Things to do in Jasper
What better way to start off the Canadian adventure you’ve been dreaming about for months than by hanging yourself out to dry on a manmade structure protruding from a rocky precipice overlooking a valley nearly a thousand feet below. If that sounds like the kind of thing you had in mind, then Glacier Skywalk in Jasper National Park is the place for you.
The view straight down through the walk’s glass floor to the Sunwapta River valley below will make you wish you’d brought your parachute, but you probably won’t need it. Once you’ve bought your ticket, head to Glacier Discovery Center and hop on the shuttle bus which will take you right to the Skywalk. It’s open from May to October and other day tours to nearby towns and attractions are available, so check online or ask an attendant.
We’re a bit mixed on whether it’s the worth the price of a ticket as it’s pretty easy to achieve the same views on a simple hike. However, if you have the larger Ultimate Explorer Pass. That being said the only experience we truly feel is worth paying for is the Lake Minnewanka cruise.
Jasper Sky Tram
Built in 1964, the Jasper Sky Tram is the highest and longest tram in Canada. With a starting elevation of over 4,000 feet, the 10-minute trip to the top in the enclosed gondola will take you to over 7,500 feet, where you’ll be surrounded by magnificent views of the largely undisturbed Canadian Rockies, the town of Jasper and the Athabasca River.
Starting at $32 for adults and $16 for children, the fees won’t break the bank, and your guide will point out landmarks and teach you about the areas geology, history, and wildlife. Open from April until October, remember to dress accordingly and bring a hat and mittens as the weather here can change quickly.
Take a Motorcycle Tour
You know when a company is endorsed by the Canadian Tourism Commission that they’ve been doing something right. Such is the case with Jasper Motorcycle Tours, who provide a unique experience unlike any other you’ll probably ever experience. If you’ve only ever driven vehicles with four wheels, don’t worry, because you won’t be the one doing the driving.
The cost of your motorcycle tour covers a safe, experienced and professional driver, and you’ll get to enjoy the stiff Canadian wind and breathtaking scenery from the relative safety of the sidecar or rear seat.
The tour will take you on nearly 100 kilometers of the Icefields Parkway, which was named one of the world’s 10 best drives by National Geographic. Check out the company’s website for pricing and booking information.
Due to its remoteness and overall lack of development, Jasper boasts amazing views of the stars, galaxies, and constellations that are often difficult to see in more urban areas. If you’re an amateur stargazer or just prefer comfortable reclining seats to craning your neck or laying on the cold ground, then the Jasper Planetarium is one of the best things to do in Jasper that you won’t want to miss.
Located in Jasper National Park, the planetarium’s trained guides will lead you on a virtual tour of the galaxy and explain a few of those mysteries of modern science, like the aurora borealis – or northern lights. Boasting one of the largest telescopes in North America, after the planetarium show, you’ll get to peer through its massive lenses and gaze into impossibly distant worlds.
Tour Mount Robson
If mountains had resumes, you’d swear that Mount Robson’s was embellished. One of the best things to do in the summer is a hike around Mount Robson. Towering to just a tick shy of 13,000 feet, it’s the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and resides in one of Canada’s oldest parks – Mount Robson Provincial Park.
Paired with those statistics and its natural majesty, it’s impossible to miss the icon of Jasper that finds its way onto photographs and artists’ canvas more than the average mountain.
For experienced, fearless, and properly equipped mountaineers, Emperor Face – on the mountain’s north side – is the most challenging way to reach the summit. Robson is well known in the mountaineering community here for as a proving ground.
It’s also open to multi-day campers in the summer who want to hike around Berg Lake. Consisting of nearly 600 stunning, wildlife-packed acres, the park isn’t open all year, so check out their website for specifics.
Take a Soak in Miette Hot Springs
About 40 miles east of Jasper, Miette Hot Springs may not be the most accessible of all Jasper’s attractions, but if properly timed to coincide with other nearby activities, it’ll be the perfect place to soothe those bones, weary from a long day of exercise and fresh air. Bubbling from the earth at a piping 130 degrees Fahrenheit, the water cools to about 100 degrees before making its way into the pool.
Not only will the water relax you, but the dissolved minerals within have long been thought to have curative powers for those with skin, bone and muscle ailments. Though originally built in the ’30s, the facilities have been upgraded, and there’s a swimming pool and restaurant on site if you’d like to make a day of it. Open from May to October – depending on the weather – the entrance fee is less than $10 for adults, making it a relatively cheap way to pamper yourself.
If you like getting two for the price of one, then visiting Jasper’s Sunwapta Falls is one of those things to do in Jasper that should be on your itinerary, because it’s not just one, but a pair of waterfalls. Located inside Jasper National Park, you can reach them by an access road leading from the Icefields Parkway. Due to the massive ice melt-off that occurs in spring, this is when the falls are at their most dramatic.
But no matter when you go, you’ll be impressed by the falls which drop over 60 feet. Of the two falls, the upper one is the more easily accessible of the two. Like many things in Jasper, they’re open from May to October. You can go in the winter months but you’ll have to hike in, preferably with snowshoes and someone who knows their way around the area.
Maligne Canyon is another one of the things to do in Jasper that will keep you occupied and fulfilled, regardless of the season in which you visit. Carved slowly out of limestone over the years by the rushing waters within, the deep canyon walls reach nearly 200 feet in places, making it one of the most dramatic sights in Jasper National Park. Though it freezes solid in winter, it provides recreation for brave ice climbers; there are guided tours of the area’s frozen waterfalls and ice caves too.
When the ice thaws in late spring and summer, the canyon area is a hot hiking spot due to its natural beauty and the sheer number of amazing and unique geological features you’ll find. Guided tours are available but you can also visit on your own, though visiting in the winter without a guide isn’t recommended for those not equipped for Canadian winters, as you’ll need special cleated or spiked boots to walk on the ice safely.
As one of the lowest – and therefore most easily crossed – passes in the Canadian Rockies, Yellowhead Pass has been taking travelers of all sorts across the Continental Divide for ages untold. At 3,700 feet above sea level, and located in Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park, this national historic site is one you should plan on checking out – especially since you’ll be in the two parks listed above visiting other sites anyway.
According to legend, the pass was named after a golden-haired trapper who first crossed the pass in the early 19th Century, though the First Nation people were surely using it long before that. Though the pass’s traffic has steadily increased over the years, you’ll still get a glimpse of its original splendor, so check it out.
A great thing to do in Jasper in the winter is check out Athabasca Falls. Located about 20 miles south of Jasper town – with a drop of about 75 feet – Athabasca Falls isn’t a giant by waterfall standards, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dramatic and majestic in its own right. The volume of water that rushes over the edge is very high, making the upper Athabasca River positively roar – especially during the height of the thaw in late spring. Like so many other visitor sites in the area, it’s conveniently located in Jasper National Park, which will make filling up your day with enough scenery to satisfy even the most finicky nature lover pretty easy.
There are ample hiking trails to get you to viewing areas which will allow you to ogle the river and falls in all their glory. Don’t try to get closer to take a good picture, the ground and rocks are treacherous and slippery and a fall into the frigid water and rocky canyon wouldn’t end well.
Climb Mount Athabasca
Mount Athabasca looms over one of the most popular attractions on the famed Icefields Parkway, but only a few get to see the view from the top. To reach the summit requires a long hike to a technical glacier crossing and then up an exposed face or couloir. The views are breathtaking in more ways than one. From the top, you can spot countless glaciers, icefields, and many of Alberta’s highest peaks.
The peak is one of many in the Canadian Rockies famous for reaching an altitude of 11,000 feet. Many climbers in the Rockies have the lifetime goal of summiting all 54 (58) of the peaks, and they are considered classic mountaineering objectives. At 11,453 feet in elevation with a massive glacier and convenient location, Athabasca proves to be a tremendous first “11,000er.”
You cannot attempt this on your own without mountaineering experience, it is a serious mountain. We did a three-day mountaineering course with Yamnuska and summited on the third day – the experience was epic. This is probably not for everyone, but definitely one of the more adventurous things to do in Banff.
Columbia Ice Field
Located in the Canadian Rockies – straddling the Continental Divide and border between British Columbia and Alberta – Columbia Ice Field is the largest in the Rocky Mountains. Part of the ice field resides in the southernmost portion of Jasper National Park, and its base is continually replenished each year with nearly 300 inches of snow, which, through the thawing and compression processes, turns into rock-hard ice.
The ice field covers an area of nearly 125 square miles and can reach a depth of 1,000 feet in places. As you can imagine, it’s a treacherous place, but tours are offered – some of which are given in massive, six-wheel-drive behemoths that look like they’re out of a James Bond movie.
This is the best way for most visitors to experience a glacier and can be arranged at the Glacier Discovery Center. It all takes place on the terminal end of the glacier, but to reach its true center requires mountaineering experience or a helicopter tour. The Glacier Discovery Center has a restaurant and cafeteria, gift shop, exhibits, and lodging too if you’re inclined to spend the night.
Evening Wildlife Tour
A great Jasper activity is a wildlife tour! Like animals everywhere, many of Jasper’s non-human residents prefer to come out at night to hunt and forage. What could be better than watching them and all the interesting things they do on a guided, moonlit tour. Like the SS Minnow on Gilligan’s Island, it’s a three-hour tour, but instead of a skipper, this one will be guided by a local expert who knows pretty much all there is to know about the local fauna.
Though it’s not guaranteed, you may see grizzly bears, mountain goats, foxes, moose, and bobcats, to name a few. Tours are limited to 15 people, and as long as you’re staying in Jasper, they’ll even pick you up and drop you off after it’s done. The start times vary slightly depending on the season, but are usually 4:30 or 5:30 PM.
A great place to visit in Jasper is Spirit Island. As you may have guessed by its name, Spirit Island is a serene and revered place, especially to the area’s indigenous people. Due to its sacredness, the island is off limits, but boat tours are available which will take you close enough to appreciate its splendor.
For those who need a little more exertion and adventure, it’s possible to view the island by kayak or canoe; this option is only for the physically fit because the roundtrip is difficult to complete in a day. There are campsites nearby where you can book an overnight spot, breaking the trip into a day and a half and giving you a wonderful night in the wilderness.
Play a Round at Fairmont Jasper Park Golf Course
Conceived by a famous Canadian golf course designer, the renowned 18-hole course at Fairmont Jasper Park Golf Course incorporates all the twists, turns, vistas and changes in elevation that diehard golfers have come to expect from world-class courses. On the Jasper to-do list of golf enthusiasts from all over, it’s been rated the #1 golf resort in Canada in past years.
Not surprisingly, the course isn’t open all year round; the greens fees also vary by season, day of the week, and whether or not you’re a Canadian or pesky tourist. It’s not particularly expensive by exclusive course standards either, so check out their website for a visual tour, booking, fees, and tee-time information. It’s one of the things to do in Jasper that golfers should take advantage of.
Medicine Lake is a fantastic thing to see in Jasper. Located about 12 miles southeast of Jasper, Medicine Lake is in the Jasper National Park. Though technically part of the Maligne River, to the untrained eye it looks like a lake, especially when it swells with water from the big thaw, which takes place in late spring and summer.
At less than $10, admission to the park is cheap; once inside, you’ll be stymied by all the things there are to do and see. The area abounds with wildlife and is a favorite spot for hikers, bird watchers and fisherman too. In winter, many of the roads become inaccessible and much of the lake disappears below mud and ice.
Ski at Marmot Basin
One of the best things to do in Jasper in the winter is ski at Marmot Basin! Marmot Basin is an alpine ski area less than 30 minutes drive away from Jasper. With 91 named runs on four mountain faces and 3,000 vertical feet of drop it’s definitely one of the best ski resorts in all of Western Canada!