Home » 2001 Cross Country Road Trip

Jasper National Park, AL

Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 10:00am by Lolo
145 miles and 3.5 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay


Like Whistler and Moab, Jasper was another one of those towns we fell in love with--the kind of place outdoor enthusiasts flock to. Although it was similar to Banff Townsite in some ways--like the fact that it was surrounded by some incredible scenery--it was a lot less glitzy and touristy and seemed more real. Rather than fancy boutiques and restaurants along its Main Street, there were pubs and stores selling outdoor gear and clothing. Even the people seemed different, like they had just come off the trail or mountain. Banff might have been a great place to visit, but Jasper was the type of place I could picture living in.

Maligne Canyon hikeMaligne Canyon hikeWe arrived in Jasper late afternoon after our drive along the Icefields Parkway, and as we were traveling with friends, we were lucky to get two campsites together in the Whistlers Campground just 2 miles south of Jasper Townsite. Our plan was to spend two nights in Jasper before the Kalchbrenners had to leave us and head back to Calgary to return their rental RV and fly home. That gave us a full day to try to see as much of Jasper as we could.

In the morning we headed out early to do the Maligne Canyon hike, which is considered to be one of Canada's best. This trail follows the Maligne River as it cascades down through a narrow, deep chasm to join up with the Athabasca River. During our hike, we crossed six footbridges which spanned the sides of the narrow canyon, which was only 10 feet across, and gazed down at the cascading river more than 150 feet below. It really was a great hike.

Gang fishingGang fishingAfter the hike, we headed out to Maligne Lake to do some fishing. Along the road to the lake, we noticed that some cars were pulling over. Not wanting to miss anything, we pulled over as well. It was unbelievable. The road was full of big horned sheep, some of them quite aggressive, wandering along the road towards cars and then licking their tires. It was bizarre. I'm not sure what it was about the tires that attracted them, but they sure loved them. Herb was getting a little nervous about what they might do to the RV. When they moved away from us to try tasting a new set of tires that pulled up, we took the opportunity to continue on to the lake.

Herb fishingHerb fishingWe parked at the Maligne Lake Lodge, got our fishing gear, and hiked along the lakeshore to what we hoped would be a good fishing spot. The lake was quite beautiful, with that color that only glacier-fed lakes seem to have, and was surrounded by jagged, snow-capped mountains. It was so nice just sitting by the lake that I don't think anyone really cared that we weren't catching any fish. The fish might not have been interested in us that day, but the birds certainly were. Small birds would swoop down and take pretzels right out of our hands. The kids even got the birds to land on their heads by placing tiny pretzel pieces there. So far the wildlife in this park certainly seemed quite comfortable with people.

That evening, our final together with the Kalchbrenners, we spent in Jasper Townsite strolling along Main Street and browsing in the shops. Jasper really is a great town--good restaurants, great outdoor gear shops, and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains right from the center of town. We had a fun dinner that night at the Jasper Pizza Place, which had a nice pub atmosphere and served every possible pizza combination imaginable.

The next morning, we parted with our friends and started heading east across the plains of central Canada.


Jasper is located along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in western Alberta, about 200 miles north of Banff National Park via the spectacular Icefields Parkway. Jasper is Canada's largest mountain park, encompassing 4,200 square miles of rugged mountains, glaciers, alpine meadows, and glacier-fed rivers and lakes.

Jasper RockiesJasper RockiesLike Banff Townsite, Jasper Townsite serves as a base for the recreational activities in the park. However, Jasper is much less glitzy and touristy than Banff and the streets are filled with hikers, bikers, and climbers rather than shoppers. As in Banff, there are numerous restaurants and shops, but they tend to be less trendy and expensive.

The park is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Summer recreational activities in the park include:

  • hiking along the 660 miles of hiking trails
  • floating along the mild rapids (Class II and III) of the Athabasca River
  • more extreme whitewater rafting down the Maligne River (Class III)
  • rock climbing with the Jasper Climbing School
  • fishing in Maligne Lake
  • horseback riding into some of the more remote areas of the park
  • golfing at the Jasper Park Lodge
  • wildlife viewing for bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, deer, moose, mountain lions, wolves, black bears, grizzly bears, and even caribou.

A good way to get an overview of Jasper is to take the breathtaking ride on the Jasper Tramway 1 ¼ miles up to the summit of Whistler's Mountain. The views from the top of the mountain are fabulous.

There are many hiking opportunities in Jasper, but one of the best in all of Canada is the Maligne Canyon hike, which follows the Maligne River as it cascades downstream to meet the Athabasca River. Along the way, the trail crosses six footbridges that span the deep, narrow canyon, which is only 10 feet across and as much as 150 feet deep.

45 miles east of Jasper Townsite lies the beautiful 13-mile long, glacier-fed Maligne Lake, the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world. There is much wildlife to see along the drive, especially bighorn sheep. From the Maligne Lake Lodge, a 90-minute boat cruise goes to Spirit Island in the middle of the lake several times a day. Boat and kayak rentals are also available. Maligne Lake is also popular with fisherman, who comes here for the rainbow and eastern brook trout.

Maligne Lake flows into Medicine Lake just to the north of it. The interesting thing about Medicine Lake is that it disappears each fall into an underground drainage system and then reappears each spring and grows to 5 miles long and 60 feet deep.

Off Highway 16 about 37 miles northeast of Jasper is the Miette Hot Springs, a beautiful hot, spring-fed swimming pool surrounded by outstanding scenery.

There are 10 campgrounds in the park. The largest one, as well as the one closest to Jasper Townsite is Whistlers, with 700 sites.

Jasper National Park location map in "high definition"

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