JASPER, Alberta – It just may be the most vital piece of equipment you require on a vacation in Jasper National Park.
It’s not a piece of clothing. It’s not a tent, or a camper, or even a vehicle (all right, a vehicle is fairly important, all things considered).
It’s your camera.
Jasper National Park is one of the most scenic places in the Canadian Rockies … which means, of course, the world. Everywhere you go, there are sights you cannot miss, vistas you won’t get anywhere else. Bring a lot of film, or a lot of memory if your camera is digital; you’ll need it.
But even in a land as rich as Jasper, there are a few places that stand out. The next time you come to vacation in Jasper, be sure to visit the following:
– Athabasca Falls: Less than 32 kilometers from Jasper, these falls are among the most impressive to be found anywhere in the Rockies. Water from the Athabasca River charges through a narrow gorge, nearly polishing the walls to a shine, before thundering free. Be sure to see it in winter, when the falls are frozen in a vertical sheet of ice.
– Medicine Lake: There’s something awe-inspiring about the expanse of a clear mountain lake. But there’s something truly magical about a lake that sometimes doesn’t exist. Medicine Lake has an unusual drainage system that renders the level of the lake unstable. In fact, ancient peoples thought the lake was inhabited by spirits because sometimes the entire lake simply disappeared. Also because of the drainage, the color of the lake’s water is spectacular.
– Maligne Lake: Welcome to the second-largest glacier-fed lake in the world. You’re welcome to swim, if you can stand the cold! For vacationers who aren’t keen on freezing, there are a host of other activities, including fishing, horseback riding, and hiking. Or you can take a boat out on the lake, ride for an hour and a half and behold the beauty of Spirit Island.
– Maligne Canyon: Follow a trail over six bridges that bring almost close enough to drink the spray of the powerful Maligne River. If you go in the winter, you can try the guided canyon tour.
– Lac Beauvert: Here’s one for the golfer in your family. Lac Beauvert is fairly small and only a 10-minute drive from Jasper town. On it you can stay at the luxurious Jasper Park Lodge – and play one of the world’s most beautiful golf courses. And if you lose the ball, well, you’ll just have to look for it among some truly amazing scenery. It’s a tough game, isn’t it?
– Miette Hot Springs: If you took a dip in the pristine but frigid Maligne Lake, you might want to come here next. The hottest hot springs in the Canadian Rockies, the two Miette pools, open from May to mid-October, have water that is 40 degrees celsius – and that’s water that’s been filtered and cooled from the geothermally heated source water. Here is the very definition of relaxation.
– Patricia and Pyramid lakes: In summer, here is the ideal fishing location, and it’s only 10 minutes away from Jasper town on the Pyramid Lake Road. In winter, you can put away your fishing pole and break out your ice skates. It’s also a skier’s paradise.
– Whistler’s Mountain: Whistler’s Mountain, also known as Mount Robson, is a beautiful white pyramid so large it can be seen from British Colombia. The summit peaks at 2,285 meters (7,496 feet). The view from up there has to be seen to be believed. You can hike up to the top … but if you’re not inclined to climb that much, the Jasper Tramway will take you all the way.
– Columbia Icefield: The icefield is a bit of a drive away from Jasper town – more than 100 kilometers – but that’s one of its attractions. On this drive along the Continental Divide of North America, you will see the feeder for no fewer than eight glaciers. If that’s not enough, you can take a 90-minute adventure out onto the stunning Athabasca Glacier. You can also go on a guided walk to learn about the history and geography of the icefield.
– Sunwapta Falls: Easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway drive that connects Jasper and Banff National Parks, these falls – there are actually two of them – feature a stunning drop of more than 18 meters. It’s best viewed in the spring, when the snowmelt sends a torrent of water cascading down. The big falls are the more popular because they’re easier to reach, but the smaller awaits the hiker who seeks a quieter, more personal experience.
– Mt. Edith Cavell: Mt. Edith was named after an English nurse who was executed by the Germans after helping Allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium to the Netherlands. The must-see highlight of this craggy summit is the hanging Angel Glacier, which pours over a 300-meter cliff in a frozen moment that must be photographed.
– Lake Edith and Lake Annett: If you’re tired of swimming in lakes that turn you into a popsicle, here are the places for you. A 20-minute drive from Jasper town will bring you to these two sheltered lakes that are perfect for picnics, swimming, hiking and biking.
– The Goat Lookout: This stopoff along the Icefields Parkway gives you beautiful views of the spectacular Athabasca Valley and the mountains that frame it. It’s a wonderful place to stop for a picnic. You may see a lot of wildlife here; remember, it’s illegal to feed them!