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Jasper National Park, the largest and wildest of Canada’s Rocky Mountain parks, is filled with jagged mountain peaks, clear blue lakes and an abundance of wildlife. Adventure awaits around every corner in this year-round playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
On a recent visit, my husband and I were driving up Pyramid Lake Road when we noticed some bushes rustling near the edge of the road. Moments later, an enormous seven-point bull elk emerged from the thicket, tilted its head and came straight toward us. I popped my camera out of the car window and snapped what I hoped would be the shot of a lifetime while my husband popped the vehicle into gear and sped out of the path of the huge animal.
There are more than 4,200 square miles to explore in Jasper so the biggest challenge for visitors is figuring out where to begin. We only had two days on our recent stay and here’s how we made the most of it.
Wildlife Watching The Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in part for the diversity of wildlife found within them. There are more than 53 species of mammals in Jasper National Park, so visitors can see wild deer, wolves, grizzly bears and more from the safety of their cars. Dusk is the ideal time to go on a wildlife drive. The key is to go slowly and watch carefully for any signs of movement along the roadsides. Favorite wildlife drives include Pyramid Lake Road and Maligne Lake Drive.
Take a Hike With more than 600 miles of recreational trails, there is no shortage of hiking opportunities in Jasper. Visitors will find a range of routes, from easy paved trails for mobility-impaired clients to rugged high-altitude treks for the adventurous. Mount Edith Cavell is a must-do hike for any visitor. A short paved trail leads from the parking lot to the base of the spectacular Angel Glacier and a longer, more challenging three-hour hike leads to fields of wildflowers in Cavell Meadows.
Scenic Driving There are some places in this world where the journey is more important than the destination. Ranked as one of the world’s best drives by National Geographic, the Icefields Parkway winds its way past jagged peaks, glaciers, waterfalls and shimmering blue lakes. The entire 144 miles could be driven in less than three hours, but it’s better to recommend that your clients take their time and stop along the way. Just south of the town of Jasper, Athabasca Falls makes a great first stop. Visitors can see the mighty falls and feel their mist as they pass through a narrow gorge. Further along, a stop at the Athabasca Glacier reveals a short steep trail from the parking lot to the massive glacier. Across the street is the Columbia Icefield Center with interactive exhibits and audiovisual displays explaining the science and history of the Columbia Icefield. Inside the center, visitors can book a journey onto the surface of the glacier in a giant all-terrain vehicle. Further down the road is a new cliff-edge walkway known as the Glacier Skywalk.
Cool Accommodations There are plenty of great accommodations in Jasper National Park. For an upscale, rustic, year-round resort, book your clients at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. If they prefer a peaceful retreat, suggest Patricia Lake Bungalows, or if they are on a tight budget and want to be closer to nature, they can try Whistlers Campground Cottage Tents.