Go here: Jasper National Park, Alberta
Here are some of the top activities for you to try on your visit to our biggest Rocky Mountain park:
Mountain biking: The town of Jasper has tons of mountain-biking trails, ranging in difficulty from flat and gentle to not-at-all-flat and not-at-all-gentle. If you’re looking for a nice intermediate—and scenic—ride, try Trail 7. It runs north from the townsite area right along the edge of the broad Athabasca River, giving you great views across the valley. When you reach the Maligne River, the trail turns east and you follow the rushing current upstream until you get to the Maligne Canyon. Definitely worth a photo or two. From here, you can either return via the same route or you can continue farther along Trail 7 as it loops back toward the townsite (with some more challenging sections).
The Jasper Tramway: It’s true that taking a gondola kind of seems like cheating, but if you don’t have the time to hike to the top of Whistlers Mountain, the ride on the lift is definitely worth the cost ($31). Unlike the gondola in Banff, the Jasper Tramway doesn’t take you all the way to the top of the mountain, so you can still get in a decent hike to the summit. As you’d expect, the views—of the town of Jasper below, of six different mountain ranges—are amazing, but I was particularly thrilled to see the white summit pyramid of Mount Robson (the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies) in the distance.
Whitewater rafting: Okay, it’s not the kind of wild ride that will have you hanging on for dear life, but the 16-kilometre float offered by Jasper Raft Tours does go through a few rapids. The hour-long-plus ride also gives you the chance to see some wildlife up close, and you can ponder the fact that you’re travelling down what was once a fur-trading highway. Indeed, even the famous David Thompson came through here in 1811.
Where to stay: The town of Jasper may not be as big as Banff, but it sill has a wide variety of accommodations. At the top of the list is the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, which—instead of the usual castle-like Fairmont fortress—features small cabins that front onto the sparkling waters of Lac Beauvert. If you’re packing your tent, the Whistlers Campground is the closest campsite, 3.5 kilometres south of town. For more options, check with Tourism Jasper.