Nestled in Western Alberta you’ll find the postcard-worthy town of Jasper. In this Jasper itinerary, written by a girl who once was lucky enough to call Jasper home, you can read about all the things to see in Jasper.
Be warned though, you will find yourself booking a ticket to Canada in no time…
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What to do in Jasper National Park: 4 day Jasper itinerary
Planning a trip to Jasper: things to know
This post is written by Laura, a Canadian content creator who has called a lot of the world home, including Jasper, Alberta. She has a passion for sharing her travel stories on her blog She Who Wanders.
Is Jasper worth visiting?
The answer is yes, absolutely 100% yes! Located in the spectacular Canadian Rockies, this mountain town has the air of a small town village where everyone knows their neighbors.
Besides the laid-back vibe, Jasper also boasts stunning panoramic views of the Athabasca River Valley and is an action-packed mountain town.
For most people visiting Canada, Jasper town and the surrounding National Park are very high on the list of must-see locations.
There are so many great places to visit in Jasper, you don’t want to miss out on anything!
So keep reading for insider Jasper travel advice as a former resident shares which Jasper attractions are not to be missed…
What’s the best time to visit Jasper
There is no single best time to visit Jasper, Jasper is a great year-round destination! Each season offers something special and different Jasper activities can be enjoyed each month.
Visiting Jasper in winter (December-February)
For those brave enough to brace the cold, Jasper winter season (December-February) is awesome. Skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed at Marmot Basin.
Snowshoeing and ice skating are also excellent things to do in Jasper in winter for outdoor enthusiasts.
Visiting Jasper in spring (March-May)
is beautiful, with lots of wildflowers and waterfalls at their most impressive, fed by the melting snow. Please note bears are coming out of hibernation in spring, so take appropriate precautions.
Visiting Jasper in summer (June-August)
Summer (June-August) is peak season in Jasper, resulting in higher accommodation prices and bigger crowds (especially July and August).
This season is great for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and fishing.
Visiting Jasper in autumn (September-November)
When visiting Jasper in autumn (September-November), you can see the colorful leaves, visit the Jasper Dark Sky Festival and enjoy the National Park without the crowds!
Many of the best hikes in Jasper are still accessible, especially from September until mid-October.
How much time to spend in Jasper?
You could easily spend weeks exploring the many things to do in Jasper, Alberta.
However, if you are like most people and don’t have weeks but only a couple of days available, I recommend staying in Jasper for 4 days.
You can do all the activities on this itinerary without rushing and also enjoy some time relaxing at one of the many lakes around Jasper.
At the end of this itinerary, I’ll list some additional activities for those lucky enough to have more Jasper sightseeing time available.
The best things to do in Jasper
In the map below you can find all the things to do in Jasper, Canada that are mentioned in this itinerary. I’ve also included places to eat and the recommended places to stay.
Day 1: Old Fort Point and the Valley of the Five Lakes
You will be doing not one but two hikes today, so before heading out to the gorgeous Jasper National Park attractions let’s find a nice place for breakfast.
Bears Paw Bakery or the Other Paw Bakery
You know a café is good when there are two locations in the SAME town!
Yep, both Bears Paw Bakeries are within walking distance of each other so you have two options to choose from, depending on which end of town you’re at when hunger strikes.
Renowned for their specialty cakes, you’ll sometimes be able to see cake ideas come to life for someone’s special occasion.
Sit in and warm your bones with homemade soup and sandwich, or get something to take out with you as you hit the trails. Whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed.
And if you want your mind and tastebuds blown, sink your teeth into one of their mouthwatering white chocolate and raspberry scones!
Old Fort Point
Once you are good to go, it’s time for your first Jasper hike! It’s only a 4km loop to the top but this hike is fairly steep and ascends 130 meters.
This is a classic Jasper trail that will reward you with sweeping panoramic views from the top.
The trail can be reached via Jasper Park Lodge or Jasper townsite and is connected to several other hikes in the area.
At the base of the trail, you’ll find a set of wooden steps that will guide you up towards a path on the mountain.
Along the way, you can enjoy great views of the Athabasca River, where during the summer months you might just happen to see some adventurous raft boats coming down the river.
Continue up along the ridge, which will be easy enough to figure out as this is a well-defined and popular trail. Be sure to keep your eyes open for the adventurous little goats who roam up there!
Once you reach the top you have two options for coming back down, back the way you came or continue the loop (I recommend continuing the loop).
Valley of the Five Lakes
A 4.5km circuit around some of the most beautiful lakes Jasper has to offer.
Less than 9 kilometers from the center of Jasper (along the Icefields Parkway) you’ll find the marked parking lot and signage towards the trailhead.
This set of trails is relatively flat, but there is a little elevation gain at the midway count and a few rocky patches that can be slippery when wet, so be sure to keep that in mind.
Lakes 1-3 are gorgeous, but the highlights are the last two lakes in the loop. The five lakes vary in shades of blues and greens, each is colored this way because of glacial rock dust that settled in the water in addition to a special kind of algae.
The weather will affect the colors too, so during each visit, the lakes look a little different. If you only have time to do one hike in Jasper, make it this one!
These unique Canadian natural wonders are easily accessible and it takes less than two hours to do this loop.
Insider advice: if you have extra time you can combine the Valley of the Five Lakes hike and the Old Fort Point Loop, a good option for those looking for something a bit more intense.
Dine at The Raven Bistro
Boasting a creative menu of Mediterranean fusion flare, the Raven Bistro will create a meal for you that makes you feel like you’re looking out towards the Mediterranean instead of the mountains (both are great options if you ask me).
Seafood, provincially sourced beef, vegan and vegetarian options, and a great wine list, there’s not much the team in the kitchen won’t do for you to ensure you’ll have a memorable evening.
If you fancy a lighter option, they have a lunch menu to choose from as well.
Day 2: Jasper Tramway and Pyramid Lake
Ready for another awesome day filled with Jasper’s must-see sights? Good!
If you are still a bit tired from your hikes yesterday, sleep in and head to the wonderful Patricia Street Deli for a late breakfast (opens 10 am).
Patricia Street Deli
Tucked off the street behind a few shops, you could easily miss Patricia Street Deli, a cute little shop, if you don’t know where to look. For those in the know, you are in for a treat.
The owners, Glen & Wendy (and the staff), will make you the best dang sandwich you’ve ever had!
Homemade sauces and chutneys, locally sourced meats and cheese, and a selection of vegetarian and gluten-free options to satisfy everyone’s craving in the group.
I haven’t lived in Jasper in almost nine years now and I still get cravings for homemade garlic mayo and roasted chicken!
With a full tummy, it’s time to head out again! If you want to snag some great views without the sweat, then hop aboard the Jasper Tram!
If you’re feeling courageous enough (or want to burn off those Patricia Street Deli calories), you can hike to the top of the impressive Whistlers Peak (2470m). The higher you get, the better the views.
The highest and longest aerial tram in Canada will take you high above the clouds, giving you spectacular views of Jasper townsite.
There is a cafe/restaurant on-site and if you visit during the winter months, snowshoeing is a cool option as well!
Insider advice: buy your tickets online in advance to skip the queue.
In the afternoon, head to Pyramid Lake. Lying at the foot of one of my favorite Jasper mountains, Pyramid Lake is not only a gorgeous bit of scenery but a fantastic spot for lots of activities too.
If you’re so lucky to stay at the beautiful Pyramid Lake Resort, you’ll wake up to views of the mountain and lake daily.
Don’t fret if you haven’t managed to book yourself one of the much-coveted rooms, you can admire the wonderful views nonetheless!
Pyramid Lake is about 7 kilometers from town, cycling there is a good option if you don’t have a vehicle.
There are several different trail options, and if you’re well equipped you can even climb Pyramid Mountain (standing 2766 meters tall).
At the lake there are boat rentals, as well as canoes and kayaks for hire, giving visitors a different perspective of the surrounding area.
Click here to book a 3-hour private canoe adventure on Pyramid Lake!
Be mindful of wildlife, and in the summer months, weddings are often taking place near the wooden walkway.
Evil Dave’s Grill
In the evening, head to Evil Dave’s Grill. Since 2007 this restaurant has been pumping out fantastic food with a flare in a great atmosphere.
The owner’s Mike and Cyndi have created a menu that will leave you coming back for more.
From the malevolent meatloaf to the Cowboy sushi, Evil Diva Salad and a range of wickedly delicious cocktails, there is nothing on this menu that I wouldn’t recommend.
Day 3: Maligne Canyon, Medicine Lake, and Maligne Lake
Maligne Canyon is the deepest canyon in Jasper and can be explored in both the summer and winter months.
During winter, strap some grips to your boots and hike down into the ice-covered canyon where you’ll be able to hear the water rushing behind the frozen falls. This is one of the most popular Jasper winter activities!
If you don’t have the gear, don’t sweat it! Jasper has multiple excellent tour companies that will fit you with the equipment necessary and even drive you out there to experience the winter wonderland.
In the snowless months, you’ll find the ice replaced with rushing turquoise waters and some pretty impressive spray!
Well-marked paths guide you around this area, and there are fences put in place to keep people from getting into any unsafe situations.
The canyon itself measures 50 meters deep and, depending on the season, always looks different and never ceases to amaze.
Medicine Lake is a 7-kilometer long lake found along Maligne Lake Road (Range Road 260A).
While most people quickly pass by this lake on their way to famous Maligne Lake, it’s worth stopping and learning more about fascinating Medicine Lake.
What makes this lake so special is the fact that it’s disappearing each fall! Medicine Lake is fed by melting water and each spring and summer the lake is continuously fed by water flowing down from the surrounding mountains.
In fall, however, the flow of melting water decreases to such an extent that the outflow of water is higher than the inflow.
While this is true for many lakes, what makes Medicine Lake unique is that there isn’t a river flowing out of the lake. Instead, water from the lake disappears into the vast cave system found on the northwest side of the lake.
This cave system is one of the largest in the world which earned Medicine Lake a spot on the list of protected natural areas.
Insider advice: go to the boating area instead of the pullout. It’s much quieter and there is a toilet there.
Medicine Lake is a beautiful picnic spot, just be sure to take all your trash with you and watch for wildlife. Moose, mountain goats, bears, elks, and eagles can all be seen at Medicine Lake.
At the very end of Maligne Lake road, you will find Maligne Lake (what a surprise;-). This famous lake is a great place to spend an afternoon, or even a full day if you have time and the weather is nice.
There are several hiking trails, ranging from an easy stroll (the 3.2km Mary Schäffer Loop) to the strenuous multiday Skyline Trail (44km).
Other popular activities at Maligne Lake include fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.
During summer there are boat trips to Spirit Island, one of the most photographed spots in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Insider advice: for those who love to venture off the beaten track, there are three backcountry campsites at Maligne Lake which can only be accessed by canoe!
During the winter months, you can go snowshoeing, or simply enjoy the stunning view of the frozen lake.
Day 4: the Sulphur Skyline trail and Miette Hot Springs
Head to your favorite breakfast spot, or grab a quick cup of coffee and some Timbits from Tim Horton before starting another awesome day exploring the best Jasper tourist attractions.
Sulphur Skyline Trail
Yes, another hike! What’s more, this hike is not for the faint of heart as the elevation gain is quite high and roundtrip can take between 4 to 6 hours.
That being said, the sweeping views are worth it when you make it to the top!
Be sure to bring lots of food and water and dress in layers, the weather can change quite quickly as you’re on your way up, even in summer I experienced snow when I did the trek!
Miette Hot Springs
What makes the Sulphur Skyline Trail even better is the fact that Canada’s hottest of hot springs, Miette Hot Springs, lies at the base.
Treat your tired and aching bones with a soak in the hot pools while continuing to take in the fantastic views.
What to see in Jasper if you have more time available
If you are so lucky to spend more time in Jasper, there are plenty of other places to see in Jasper. Some of my favorites include:
Edith and Annette Lake
As one of the few swimmable lakes (though only barely, water temperatures are approximately 18°C in summer) these lakes are especially popular with families and a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon.
Mount Edith Cavell
This spectacular mountain requires a 14-kilometer drive along Cavell Road, a twisting and turning road with equally spectacular views.
From the parking lot, the short Path of the Glacier trail leads to the north face of Mt. Edith Cavell and offers beautiful views of the mountain, Cavell Pond, Cavell Glacier, and the Angel Glacier.
These powerful waterfalls are one of the most famous falls in Jasper National Park.
Not because of their height, but because of the huge amount of water pressed through the gorge, creating potholes as the softer limestone rock slowly gives away under the pressure of the thundering water.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the worthwhile Jasper National Park activities, but I’m confident that by following this Jasper travel itinerary you will have an amazing Jasper vacation.
Best places to stay in Jasper
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge first opened back in the 1920s as part of Canadian Pacific hotels. Nowadays it’s owned and operated by the world-class Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.
As a former staff of the hotel I was able to experience not only staying there (one night out of luck) but the chance to work with the most dedicated people giving guests an unforgettable experience.
This is a hotel like no other, situated a few kilometers outside the main town center you truly get the feeling of being in the wilderness.
Of course, the elk roaming past the cabins adds to the wonderful feeling of remoteness as well.
A famous spa and golf course are the perfect addition to any holiday, while the food and beverage outlets complement the location and atmosphere perfectly.
From cabins to suites and extraordinary guest rooms, there is something here for everyone’s budget.
If you’re like me and traveling Canada on a budget, look no further than the newly opened HI-Jasper.
A Hostelling International Canada property and one several years in the making, this property opened in May 2019 and has been welcoming visitors from around the world all summer long!
Whether you’re after a shared room to meet new people, a private room, or even a family room, the hostel welcomes people of all ages to their new downtown location.
This property has a games room, a cozy lounger, a cafe catering to guests, and also offers free parking. Plus, those with HI-Memberships will receive a discount!
How to get to Jasper
Travel to Jasper by car
Most visitors coming in or leaving Jasper National park do so via the world-renowned Icefields Parkway, also known as Highway 93.
This amazing scenic route leads drivers (and even brave cyclists) from Jasper to Banff National Park, with countless of amazing stops along the way.
How far is Jasper from Banff?
The distance from Jasper to Banff is 287 kilometers (178 miles). While it’s possible to drive from one town to the other in approximately 3-4 hours, I recommend spending at least several days as there are just too many stunning sights along the Banff to Jasper drive.
Stop at the Saskatchewan crossing, make a beeline for Lake Louise no matter the weather, go boating at Bow Lake, and admire the countless waterfalls calling your name.
Even if you are pressed for time and don’t stop along the way, the scenery along the Icefields Parkway will impress you at every turn.
Travel to Jasper by train
It’s possible to travel to Jasper by train from Vancouver with the VIA Rail overnight train, the trip takes 18 hours.
Keep in mind this isn’t a cheap option, but the trip itself is an activity with stunning views along the way.
Alternatively, you can also travel to Jasper by train from Edmonton, which is a much cheaper and also faster option (6h30m).
Travel to Jasper by bus
How to get around Jasper National Park
Many of the things to do around Jasper mentioned in this itinerary cannot be reached unless you have a car. While there are shuttle buses, for example to Maligne Lake, these typically don’t stop along the way.
One of my favorite parts of travel is to be able to pull over at a pretty spot and brew some tea or coffee while admiring the view. That’s why I love traveling around Canada with a campervan so much!
If you don’t have your own transportation, joining a (multi-day) Canadian Rocky Mountain tour is an excellent way to see both Banff and Jasper and the surrounding National Parks.
Jasper what to do: in conclusion
Whether you’re arriving at Jasper National Park by plane, train or automobile you’ll be gifted with some of the most pristine views that Canada and the Rocky Mountains have to offer.
There are hundreds of places to see, and just as many things to do but given that most visits go by far too quickly I hope that I’ve shared just enough to fill your Jasper holiday with incredible food, amazing scenery and so much more!
Want to read more about traveling to Canada? Also check these posts:
- Cutest Canadian towns
- Calgary summer itinerary
- Drumheller itinerary
- Guide to the Sea to Sky Highway
- Nanaimo guide
- Nelson BC guide
- Vancouver day trips
- Vancouver guide
- Vancouver Island guide
- Victoria guide
This post was updated in April 2022.