Activities in Jasper National Park

Visitors to Jasper National Park enjoy a range of year-round options By: Deanna Ting
Jasper National Park has an abundance of natural beauty. // © 2011 Ensie & Matthias
Jasper National Park has an abundance of natural beauty. // © 2011 Ensie & Matthias

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Jasper National Park, in Alberta, Canada, is a year-round playground for almost any traveler who appreciates at least one, if not all, of the following qualities in a destination: impeccable natural beauty, small-town charm, adventure and all the comforts of home. The town of Jasper and its surrounding park grounds possess all of this and more. So, no matter what time of year your clients decide to travel to Jasper, they are sure to find something that suits their appetite for an active, welcoming and adventurous vacation.

For almost every activity or attraction that your clients wish to do in the colder winter months, there’s an equivalent for the warmer summer months. Here are just a few suggestions to keep your clients busy — and contented — on their next trip to this beautifully preserved national park.

Winter Icewalking, Summer Hiking
During my February visit to Jasper, I took part in a breathtaking icewalk through the Maligne Canyon, the deepest accessible canyon to be found throughout all of Jasper National Park. While an icewalk isn’t much different from a hike — with the exception that you walk on ice instead of dirt — it certainly helps to enlist the help of a guide to explain all of the unique structures and features you will spot along the trail of the canyon.

For my icewalk, I traveled with Jasper-based tour operator, Jasper Adventure Centre, which has an office location in the heart of Jasper’s downtown area on Connaught Avenue. Before we even began our icewalk, senior guide Chuck Cantlie told me that the Maligne Canyon Icewalk was the company’s most popular winter tour activity from late November well into early April. The tour operator offers commissionable icewalks through the canyon three times a day, seven days a week, during the winter season.

After meeting at the Jasper Adventure Centre’s downtown storefront, Cantlie drove us over to a nearby storage area where our group was outfitted with proper ice cleats and snow boots before making the eight-minute drive to the canyon.

In winter, the Maligne Canyon literally freezes itself over and, at one point in the canyon, clients can actually walk across thick, frozen sheets of the river that normally flows through the canyon in the summertime. The sight of frozen ice hugging the crevices and cliffs of the canyon is simply amazing and not to be missed.

Our 2½-hour tour encompassed a length of approximately 1.6 miles and, along the way, Cantlie took the time to interpret many of the natural occurrences we saw. The Maligne Karst, he explained, was a series of underground caves, and he told us how the lake disappears and reappears every year.

At one point during our tour, we actually walked down into the canyon and were surrounded by frozen ice. Walking into one of the caves along the river, I simply stood in awe of all the stalactites of ice hanging from the rocks perched above me.

In summer, all that frozen ice melts away to reveal a beautiful canyon and a rushing river. Jasper Adventure Centre also offers guided Maligne Canyon Walks in the summertime, allowing clients to spot bighorn sheep and mule deer and take in the lush green scenery that surrounds them.

Year-Round Wildlife Safaris
Because Jasper has, for the most part, remained undeveloped and able to retain its natural landscapes and resources, it’s still rather easy for visitors to see much of its native wildlife — even in town. To see wandering elk in the main township is not an uncommon sight, for example.

But to truly see the wildlife found throughout the park — at any time of year — it’s advisable to book a Wildlife Safari tour with an operator such as Sun Dog Tours or the Jasper Adventure Centre.

During my tour with Sun Dog, our group spotted a group of female elk on our way up to Pyramid Mountain and Pyramid Lake, and we learned how there are 70 different types of larger-size animals bordering the Rockies, 1,300 species of plants, nearly 300 types of birds and 140 different types of fish. So, needless to say, we were sure to encounter wildlife on our morning motorcoach tour. And that we did, later watching a group of bighorn sheep crossing the road, as well as more elk and even some deer. Overall, the tour was a leisurely, laidback way to explore parts of the park that aren’t that easily accessible.

Ice Skating in Winter, Canoeing in Summer
Jasper is home to some truly beautiful lakes, including Lac Beauvert, Lake Mildred and Pyramid Lake. In winter, the lakes become natural ice-skating rinks while, in summer, clients can rent rowboats and canoes to explore the lakes, some of which take on a beach-like atmosphere. Equipment rentals are easily available from such outfitters as the Maligne Lake Boathouse, Coast Pyramid Lake Resort and the Outdoor Activity Centre at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.

Spa Time, Any Time
Another indulgent activity that clients can take part in while visiting Jasper involves a visit to the spa. Last October, the famous Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge welcomed the opening of its first-ever spa, The Spa at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. The 10,000-square-foot spa facility was built at an estimated cost of $6.7 million and features a total of 10 treatment rooms and two couples treatment rooms. Signature therapies include a Sweet Maple Body Treat, a Great Canadian Facial and even a Skier’s and Hiker’s Retreat Body Experience.

So, no matter what time of year your clients decide to visit Jasper, it’s certain they’ll find what they’re looking for — and much more.

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