Jasper National Park with Big Horned sheep on a cliff above the Athabasca River

Best Places To Visit In Jasper National Park

The bright yellow dandelions dotted the highway on our way along the Icefeilds Parkway to Jasper National Park from Banff. I was surprised that I hadn't seen more animals in Banff, but Blackbears love to munch on dandelions and we were stopping every 15-30 minutes for a Bear spotting. To see wild animals in their natural habitat is a while new kind of excitement I didn't realize existed. I can see why people jump out of their cars, but now you get a $20,000 fine if you do now. There are more than animals to see in Jasper though - you have Maligne Lake with Spirit Island, Athabasca Falls and River, Sunwapta falls, incredible hiking and Lakes to swim in. 

There are a few things you should know before visiting Jasper though, like the new fine I mentioned above, and a few other things - so if you want to make your trip to see the best places to visit in Jasper national park epic, then keep on reading. 

Spirit Island with Turquoise waters among mountains - Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

Visit Maligne Lake

Just 45 minutes outside of Jasper City you will find the turquoise glacial waters of Maligne Lake. Fed by the Coronet Glacier with beautiful mountain peaks surrounding it. During the winter, it is used as a very important Caribou Conservation area, but during the summer is visited for the trip to see Spirit Island, one of the most photographed areas in Jasper National Park. 

Maligne Lake is the largest natural lake in the Canadian Rockies and was named by Mary Schaffer as Maligne Lake after the Maligne River that fed into it. The Indigenous people called it Chaba Imne, or Beaver Lake. The Stoney Nakoda First Nation would gather here during the summers to hunt and trade. 

You can rent a Kayak, Canoe or paddle boat to get to Spirit Island, but the easiest way is a 45 minute boat ride to it. The tour company that provides the panoramic top tour is through Pursuit, if you book online you can save 20% on tickets. Once you get to the island, they give you about 15 minutes to take the short loop hike up the hill to the viewing platform, the trail goes down by the lake, then back to the boat. The Stoney Tribe uses the island as a coming of age ceremony sacred place, so you can't actually step on the island. 

There is a common legend about two lovers from warring tribes that would meet on this island. The father of the woman found out, and forbad her from meeting her lover. Her lover continued to come to the island until he finally died there. I was a bit gutted to find out that the story wasn't actually true, and the indigenous people laugh about the story because they don't even know how the legend started. 

You can fish on the lake but need to get appropriate licenses to do so. A daily fishing permit from Parks Canada costs $12.75 per person, or an annual permit can be purchased for $44.25.

There is ample parking spaces at the lake, washrooms, gift shop and three restaurants/cafes The Lake House Café, Waffle Hut and The View. 

If you pop into the gift shop, you can also grab a map from the Pursuit staff who will show you some of the best hikes around Maligne Lake that are often overlooked due to the ever popular Spirit Island. 

Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

Best Hikes Near Jasper

Old Fort Point Trail: 1-2 hour hike, 457ft (139m) elevation gain over 0.9 miles, family friendly, lots of stairs, in and out trail, tremendous views of Athabasca River, Whistler Peak, Pyramid, head to Old Fort Point Rd then follow the road to the trail and the trailhead will be on the right. 

Whistler's Summit: 1-2 hour hike, 889 ft (271m) elevation gain over 2.3 miles, this is a more of a moderate trail that can require some scrambling along Indian Ridge. The trail starts from the tram, when the trail first opens in the spring it can be a bit muddy or icy (think crampons). On a rainy or cloudy day it takes you up above the clouds and you get incredible views of the valley below with a blanket of fog. Think dreamy hiking photo op. 

Cavell Meadows: 2.5-5.5 hours, 1640 ft (500m) elevation gain, 5.3 miles (8.5km). This hike takes you up to Cavell Glacier that feeds the meadow below it that in the summer blooms with beautiful wild flowers. Unless you want to hike to the summit, make sure you take the left switchback through the forest, and that will lead you to the meadows. 

Valley of Five Lakes: 1-2 hour hike, 3 mile (4.8 km), moderate hike, take a picnic and a swimming suit if you're brave. Plenty of parking and close to Jasper. Make sure to wear some ankle supporting hiking shoes, or bring some hiking poles as some areas require a good bit of a balancing act. The trail takes you past five different lakes, with the 3rd and 4th lake being the highlights and most photographed. The blue green colors against the tree line is truly picturesque and peaceful. 

Sulpher Skyline Trail: 4.9 mile (7.9km), 2,152ft (0.65km) elevation gain, out and back trail that is considered quite challenging. This trail is good June-October with the right gear. It is also a great trail to take your dogs on. I would bring hiking poles on this one as the last 1/3 of a mile has a lot of small stones and can be quite slippery. The views at the top are well worth it though because it isn't just the immediate mountains you can see, but you can see multiple mountain ranges for miles and miles on a clear day. 

Maligne Canyon Trail: 1-2 Hour hike over 2.3 miles (3.7 km), 406 ft (653 km) elevation gain and is a loop. You can access this one May to October (year round with the right gear ie/ cleats) and is great for backpacking and birding and one that is quite popular. The canyon has a lot of payoffs to offer travelers and is also close to the Maligne Lake where the picturesque spirit island is. You walk over bridges, through feilds, over bridges atop gushing rivers, waterfalls, and spectacular low vantage point views of the surroundings mountains. The trail can get quite touristy with inexperienced hikers - think high heels and designer sneaker hikers - so just be prepared and have a mindset to be entertained. 

SAFETY STOP! Grizzlies and Black Bears are far more common in Jasper than in Banff National park so you MUST carry a can of bear spray for their safety as well as your own. Carry a bell, or something that makes noise as you hike (talking works too) that will help avoid surprising bears around blind corners. Try to avoid playing music on trails to respect fellow hikers/travellers. Most of the hikes I've listed here are usually quite busy, so bear encounters are unlikely, but it is still a good idea to carry a can. That being said, if you see any wild life, stay a good distance away 500 ft (200 m) away from any wild life and don't turn your back to them. 

Pyramid Lake Pier with Red Lounge chairs- Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

Lakes Near Jasper Worth Seeing

Patricia Lake- Patricia Lake was named after Queen Victoria I granddaughter and has a WWII wreck in it with a memorial plate you can dive to (in a dry suit of course). There are two easy hikes here, the Patricia Lake Circle and the Patricia North Loop both considered easy trails.

Pyramid Lake is one of the more popular Then you have Pyramid Lake with the gorgeous Pyramid Lake Lodge, and the delicious high end restaurant Aalto with its Scandinavian inspired cuisine. The lodge is definitely worth checking out to stay at as you can Kayak ($45/hr) on the lake, and they also have paddle boats ($50/hr) and canoes ($80/hr) you can rent. The sunsets here are incredible with Pyramid Mountain as a backdrop. While at Pyramid Lake a Grizzly and her cubs came to visit. The game wardens rushed over so fast though, that I wasn't able to get a picture fast enough unfortunately. 

During the summer the lake is warm enough to swim, in the winter you can go ice skating ($10/hr). During the winter you also can rent out fat tire bikes ($18/hr), snow shoes ($10/hr), and go on horse drawn carriage rides ($30/ride). 

Medicine Lake - Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

Medicine Lake is called the disappearing Lake, as it disappears every fall and becomes a mud flat. If you look at the tree tops it is also a place that Eagles frequently nest. During the summer the lake is fed by glacial waters from the surrounding areas, during the fall the waters drain into the extensive cave systems that are beneath the lake.

Medicine Lake is one of the few areas in Jasper and Banff that has a nice beach type area you can lounge at. While you can swim in the lake, just make sure you know how cold it will be given it is a glacial runoff lake. 

Medicine Lake is also a great spot for sunset photos, as it is easy to access and get back on the road after dark. You can easily change your photo composition by just driving to the different pull offs to get that perfect angle of the sun no matter the time of year. 

The lake was originally named Mde-wakan, meaning lake of the spirit. Legend has it that there is a great spirit that overturned a warriors canoe and the body was never found. Believing that he was taken to live with the great spirit. The first settlers shortened the name to something they could more easily pronounce, thus we got Medicine Lake.

During the height of summer the average lake depth is about 24 ft (7m), with a max depth of 152 ft (46m). The lake itself has a parking lot, a few trails around the lake, and is easily accessed from the parking lot with beautiful Maligne Valley Mountains surrounding the lake. 

Lake Edith is another great lake to swim in, however it is also quite cold as it is also glacially fed. During the summer you can find lots of fishermen here as the lake is usually well stocked with fish. There is a also a dock here that is quite popular with swimmers, SUP, Kayakers. You cannot take gas powered boats on the lake, there are lots of sand bars and Parks Canada wanted to protect the serene and peaceful nature of the lake. This lake is located pretty close to Maligne Lake, so you could visit Spirit Island on Maligne Lake then come here for an afternoon picnic and swim. 

Lake Annette is a very popular lake for locals and visitors alike during the summer because of the amenities and great beach area. This is one of the few areas that has BBQs available for people to use, as well as a hiking trail around the lake (a loop). The amenities and lake are a day use only area, if you stay too late the wardens will come put out your fire for you. There have been some vandalisms in the area of people not following the rules and it does put the beautiful park, animals, and everyone else camping and exploring at risk - so please be respectful of the rules.

Birds Eye View of Jasper From Top of Sky Tram - Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

Ride Jasper Sky Tram

Rising 7,425 ft (2,263 m) above the town of Jasper is the Jasper Sky Tram, on a clear day you can see up to 50 miles (80 km) away. The tram is located right next to the Marmot Basin Ski Resort and has plenty of parking.

Make sure you book online as the service desk doesn't open until 11 am. Once you reach the top you can walk alond the boardwalk that has different signs explaining the different peaks, valley and rivers. In the winter you can snow shoe or hike the Indian Ridge Trail 0.87 miles (1.4 km) that take you up even higher to the peak of Whistler's Ridge in the summer months. 

The reason it is called Whislter's Ridge is because of the hoary marmots who sing at the top on a sunny day. I also personally like to think that people whistle at the top because of how exposed the mountain feels being up so high. There aren't any trees up here, so make sure you check the weather before heading up. 

You can take 90 minutes or 2 hours of your day to properly explore the top. Grab a decent, yet expensive meal a top the summit if you want to - if nothing else but for the experience. The summit cafe does close at 4 pm so plan accordingly and bring your own reusable water bottle to help out the environment. 

Be aware though that bad weather and gusty winds can halt the sky tram, even if there are people still up top (better safe than sorry is what I say). Dogs and strollers are allowed on the way up and it can get quite crowded during the summer months because of the family friendly nature of the tram. 

Adults are around $60 per ticket, kids are $33 (under 6 is free), dogs are $9 per pet and have to be on a leash at all times. They do give group discounts/family discounts or package tickets as well. The Sky Tram is typically open from March to October but make sure to check the website as this can change depending on weather. If you do any hiking further from the Sky Tram, make sure you are back at least 2 hours before the last Tram down. If you wait til the last one leaves (one hour before) you might miss the last tram down as everyone else will wait til the last tram and it is on a first come first serve basis going back down. 

Athabasca Waterfalls - Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

Athabasca Falls

Fed by the Columbia Icefeilds the class 5 Athabasca Falls is a must see when visiting Jasper National Park. While it is only 75 ft tall (23 m) the sheer volume of water flowing over these falls gives a thunderous and constant roar of power that touches the soul. 

It is located about 19 miles outside the town of Jasper, so you definitely need a car to get here. You can access the gorgeous falls from a short paved trail from the parking lot. There is also a small bridge that crosses over the canyon as well (for the brave). 

Surrounding the falls is the soft limestone that has slowly been carved away, creating pockets in the rocks you can see while hiking down. The first platform you come to gives you an stunning view of Mount Kerkeslin. Keep going down the path and you come to an intersection, go right and you go down to the river (be careful the edges are SLIPPERY), going left takes you to another platform overlooking the river. Keep heading down the path to the left and you get to the best spot to view Athabasca Falls. 

Pro Tip: If you are here in the summer, then make sure to get here early, or at sunset because there are lots of tour buses that stop here to get a good look at the falls. Also bring a garbage bag/sack with you to pick up trash as there can be quite a bit of litter from all the tourist unfortunately. 

They do have outhouses at the start of the trail and a few picnic tables, but garbage's here are usually full so plan to pack it in and out. There are also bears in the area here, so makes sure you have your bear spray, and a bear safe canister or tie up your food away from your car in a nearby tree. There are usually enough people on the trail or visiting here that you don't necessarily need a bear bell, but sometimes it is good to have on ya to let people know you are behind them if they are walking slow, lol. 

Sunwupta Waterfall - Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

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Sunwupta Falls

If you have extra time AFTER seeing Athabasca Falls then I would also try to see Sunwupta Falls. This is also a short hike (2 mi/3.2km) to see the falls, but to me it is unique because the river bends around a small island of trees before falling down the canyon. The best time to visit (to me, for photography) is in the early morning hours to get the soft hues of pink, or late in the evening to get the beautiful sunset colors that will make the colors of the trees pop. 

The falls are only about 61 ft (18.5 m) tall, there are two different falls - the upper falls and lower falls. The Upper Falls is what you see in most photos, the lower falls are a little bit further down the path, but are is an impressively raging waterfall that is classed as a Class 6 waterfall. 

Visiting these falls only takes about 30 min to 1 hour to hike to them and fully enjoy, take photos etc.... I would take a wide angle lens for this, because if you shoot the falls vertically the bottom of the falls fan out like a veil. 

Jasper Dark Sky with Galaxy above and reflecting in the lake below with a silhouette of a mountain between- Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

Planetarium Tour in Jasper - A Dark Sky Park

Did you know that Jasper National Park is a Dark Sky Park? Every October there is a whole festival around this, and you can partake! No matter what time of year it is, taking a tour with the Jasper Planetarium is truly awe inspiring. You get a guided tour to point out the constellations as they appear in this hemisphere, how/when to see the illusive Northern Lights, and they bring out their BIG telescopes so you can take a gander at Venus in all her glory!

The tour is a couple of hours and is only around $50, but if you do a combo ticket then it is $69 and you get to see Jasper as it looks from space in the domed auditorium at the Planetarium. 

Miette Hot Springs- Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

Miette Hot Springs

Miette Hot Springs is a commercially developed hot spring area with two pools, and water temperatures ranging from 40-104F (37-40C). There are 2 hot pools and 2 cold plunge pools, with the ability to buy a single entry (about 1 hour), day pass, or a season pass. They do give discounts for kids and there is an area for kids to soak in safer temperatures as well. 

The minerals in the pool are Sulphate, Bicarbonate, Calcium, Magnesium, and Sodium are the minerals contained within the hot spring. You can rent a towel if you don't have one for $1.80 so make sure to bring the cash/card to do so. There is a small trail that you can hike on as well that follows the hot springs up the mountain. 

Raft of people on the Athabasca River - Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

Ride the Athabasca River

If you are looking for a real adventure, then riding the Canadian White Water Rivers is the first place to stop. Go on a guided tour down some of the most beautiful rivers in the Canadian Rockies, the one I recommend near Jasper is the Athabasca River Tour. You can choose from just a non-scary scenic route, a 5 mile (8km) or a 7.5 mile run (12.5km). 

You can get pictures of your time on the river, as you are guided, and paddle down some Class 2+ river rapids. 

When my family and I went when I was 14, I remember going over some rapids and face planting into the raft and just bouncing right back to my seat because I had a death grip on the ropes. It was so much fun and by the end I just remember my cheeks hurting from laughter. 

I challenge you go get outside your comfort zone, the further you push your comfort zone the bigger your comfort zone becomes - until everything seems easy. 

Big Horn Sheep on a cliff above Athabasca River - Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

Getting To Jasper

Most folks coming to Banff and Jasper fly into Calgary, and then will either drive or take a bus. You can take Sundog tours or utilize the Pursuit Banff Jasper Collection bus charter. The bus to Banff can cost anywhere from $60 to $87 depending on the company you use. 

You don't have to book ahead, there is an entire line of offers for transport at the airport. I would personally book beforehand as these are very popular parks, and I would hate to have you miss a bus, or wait all day to catch one. 

Cocktail held up in a toast to Pyramid Lake - Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

Places To Eat In Jasper

Banff and Jasper weren't known for being foodie towns 20 years ago when I first visited, that has all changed now. With the push for sustainability and wanting to eat clean food, there are plenty of delicious places to choose from that also have healthy options. I listed a few below here, without going into too much detail so as to not make this an incredibly long article. 

Breakfast Places

Waffle Hut

  • Offers sweet and savory options of waffles along with a variety of coffee concoctions. While the waffles have varied reviews, it is right on Maligne Lake and provides an incredible view of the lake to soak in. 

Sunhouse Cafe (open at 8 am-3 pm)

  • Australian cafe inspired food with everything from porridge, French toast, burgers, and coffee. 

Wicked Cup (open at 7 am-4 pm)

  • Muffins, eggs, salmon, bagels, savory and sweet options, they also serve morning cocktails for those who need a bit of the 'hair of the dog' ;)

Coco's Cafe (open at 7 am - 4 pm)

  • bagels, oatmeal cinnamon waffles, breakfast burritos, breakfast bowls, and huevos rancheros. They are weird, and queer, and also volunteer :) If you are looking for an inclusive and quirky cafe, then this is the spot for you. 
BBQ family meal with potatoes and Mac and cheese


Maligne Canyon Kitchen

  • Delicious BBQ dishes that are perfect for the whole family. It has incredible views right by the river, where you can sip on your cocktail with butterfly pea flower (my favorite). 

Lake House Cafe

  • Also right on Maligne Lake this cafe has great soup, poutine, all freshly made and is conveniently good for eating in and taking it to go. 

Evil Dave's Grill (5 pm- 9 pm)

  • Strongly encourage you to reserve your table beforehand at this one. This is globally inspired, but locally sourced food. 
Fancy white fish with crispy skin and round radishes at Aalto


Aalto - you need to reserve a table

  • Scandinavian inspired food you can munch on all day. There are charcuterie boards, nettle lavage, fermentation, smoking, pickling etc.. The Chef here is so passionate about his food, his work and creating a story that he shares on the plate. I cannot recommend this place, and also Terra (another restaurant he is in charge of). 

Terra 7 a.m.–12 p.m. // 4–10:30 p.m.

  • This is Canadian inspired food locally sourced from many of the First Nations here. They have amazing cocktails, delicious food that really tastes like they walked out back and cut it all fresh (at least the veggies and fruit). Pro Tip: DO NOT skip dessert. 

Harvest 9:00 a.m. — 2:00 p.m.

  • Charcuterie boards, burger, steak, smoked fish, salads, and even fondue are your options here. This one is located right in the heart of Jasper 

Nightlife in downtown Jasper

Urisade Lair (Thurs-Sunday 7:30pm-1am)

  • This is a Scotch tasting Lounge and cocktails inspired by the Scottish homelands. It is a bit for older crowds with smooth jazz and a more refined feeling walking into the cozy lair. 

 Tent City Sports Lounge

  • Place to meet local staff that work at the park, bit of a place for the younger crowds and tent campers. You can play pool, play dats, grab a decent meal (food isn't anything to rave about really), but the cocktails are great and they have a full bar. 


  • DJs and live bands throughout the summer and lures a young, party-seeking crowd. With a sports-bar ambience and classic rock blaring,

Jasper Brewing Company Sunday to Friday: 4:00pm – 9:00pm, Saturday: 2:00pm – 9:00pm

  •  This was the first National Park Brewery in Canada and opened in 2005. 
  • They offer several different types of beer including Union Blonde and B Hill Pilsner to Rockhopper IPA.
Black Bear Rummaging for Dandelions  - Best places to visit in Jasper National Park

My Takeaway of Visiting jasper National Park

Both Banff and Jasper have unique features to them that I loved, but due to my love of animals and connecting with other humans - I really really loved Jasper and all it had to offer. You have way more animals here because of the altitude, and it feels less crowded than Banff because of so many more parking spaces. You can find a bit more variety and I felt it was a bit more of an authentic outdoor experience like I used to remember when visiting the parks as a kid. 

No matter where you stay you will love your time here, push your comfort zone, stay up late to catch those sunsets (and even later to see the stars). 

If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comment section below, I would love to answer what I can. 

Guided Tours of Jasper National Park

Where to stay in Jasper Natinal Park

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