Jasper National Park Things to Do Tips by mht_in_la
Jasper National Park Things to Do: 233 reviews and 346 photos
Hiking in the Whistlers
The adventure-minded may choose to hike up the Whistlers instead of taking the Tramway. The trailhead starts near HI-Jasper (Hostel International), about 1 km before the lower terminal. From here it's a 7 km hike to the upper terminal, with elevation gain of 1200 meters. From upper terminal, it's another steep 1.5 km to the summit.
I visited the Whistlers in early June, 2003. As seen in photo the hike to the summit was still snow covered. In some areas snow was deep to my knees. Fortunately there were footprints to follow so it's not as hard as it looks.
Deer in Jasper
These large animals are quite common in the Rockies. I saw them along the highway a lot. The photo was taken near Trans-Canada Highway just north of Jasper townsite at sunset.
Medicine Lake is part of a large underground river system, the largest in North America. When more water flows in from Maligne River, the water level rises. The water level drops when inflow slows, but there's no outlet. Ancient people observed this and thought the Lake had magical power therefore named it Medicine. Along the Lake there are interpretive displays explaining this interesting phenomenon and pointing out the drainage holes.
After visiting Medicine Lake I continued to hike Maligne Canyon. In Maligne Canyon there's a river flowing out of rocks and merging back into Maligne River, evidence of the underground river system. See my Maligne Canyon posts.
The Whistler summit
Enlarge the photo and you'll see the footpath on snow leading to the summit of the Whistlers. The black dot on top is a fellow hiker making it to the top. The summit had a smooth, round top with a small rockpile. It was a sunny day. The 360-degree view from the top was just incredible. To the far west I saw Mount Robson, the highest peak in Canadian Rockies.
The fastest way to go up to the Whistlers is by Tramway. From Jasper townsite, drive south on #93 (Icefield Parkway) and follow the sign to Whistler Road. You'll pass Jasper hostel (HI-Jasper) first, then about 1km further you'll arrive at the Tramway's lower terminal. It's about 4 km from town.
The photo was taken at the lower terminal. The black and white statue that looked like a skinny, cartoonish bear is the official mascot of Jasper. The ticket to Tramway was $20 (Canadian, as of June 2003). The ride to the top was less than 10 min, with elevation gain of 1000 meters. Unlike Banff Gondola that was reconstructed in 1998, Jasper Tramway is 40 years old and always filled to maximum capacity, so the ride was a little scary. But the view on top, in my opinion, was better than Banff's.
Maligne Canyon - waterfalls
Between 3rd and 4th bridges in Maligne Canyon, Maligne River widens a bit. There are a few underground rivers and streams flowing out of rocks. The photo shows an interesting looking stream-turned-waterfalls merging into Maligne River
Athabasca Glacier of Columbia Icefield
This is the biggest tourist attraction in Jasper National Park. By "Snocoach" or on foot, you must spend some time here to touch the ice and to admire this natural wonder.
Columbia Icefield is on the border of Jasper and Banff National Parks and easily accessible from Highway #93. What you see in photo, is actually Athabasca Glacier, one of the many glaciers spill out of Columbia Icefield. Imagine Columbia Icefield as a bucket of water, Athabasca Glacier is just a drop. That's how massive the icefield is.
The photo was taken from the Icefield Centre on the other side of highway. In the Centre you'll find interpretive displays and galleries revealing the stories and history of the Icefield. This is also where you purchase snocoach tickets.
Hiking Maligne Lake
There are a few trails around Maligne Lake. Hiking along the shore you are likely to see wildlife such as ducks, loons, eagles, and mosquitos. I visited the Lake in early June, and it's probably the mosquito season. They don't bite, but they can really be a pest during the hike.
The color of the lake is noticeably different between the northern end (Home Bay) and the southern end (Spirit Island). At the northern end the color is blue, while at the southern end the color is green due to the mineral content fed into the water from the glaciers.
Maligne Lake Cruise
The photo shows the view from the boat when I took the Maligne Lake Cruise in early June 2003. The cruise was $35 per person and the trip took 1.5 hours. It's a little touristy but the fastest way to see Spirit Island, the signature of the Lake. The crew was knowledgeable and the narration was good. In the summer, the cruise is often fully booked so reservation may be a good idea.
On Maligne Lake, the cruise is the only motorized boat allowed on water (besides warden's). Other ways to enjoy the Lake include paddling canoe/kayak, or renting a fishing boat that runs on battery. Given the long shape of the Lake, these don't go as far as the cruise, usually only around Home Bay.
Malign Lake - Spirit Island
Spirit Island is one of the most photographed spots in Jasper NP. It is at the southern end of Maligne Lake, about 20 km from Home Bay where the road ends. The mountains and glaciers that feed into the lake can clearly be seen here. If you visit by the cruise like most, you'll have a 20 min photo stop here before heading back. There's a short trail on shore with a viewing platform. That's why most Spirit Island photos you've seen are from the exact same angle (mine included). The Island is actually connected to the shore, but walking on the Island is not allowed due to the Island's fragile ecology.
Other than the cruise, it's also possible to paddle here on a canoe or kayak. But it'll take a few hours to a full day. There's no listed trail to hike here from Home Bay, but I'm sure it's doable. In the winter, you can walk here when the lake is frozen, or cross-country ski here when the lake is covered with snow.
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