Jasper National Park is a place full of lakes & mountain, adventure & sight-seeing. There are hikes in Jasper that will knock your socks off. There are lakes in Jasper that you simply will HAVE to dive into. ALL of the things to do in Jasper National Park are what make this place an unforgettable adventure destination that you NEED to put on your bucket list!
Jasper National Park is the furthest North that we have ever been in North America. We expected it to be covered in ice and snow. We were ready to be shivering for most of the trip. We thought there would be hockey players checking our National Park passes and we’d have to trade in our hiking boots for ice skates.
Of course, we were wrong. We were SO SO SO very wrong! And thank goodness we were. Jasper is a natural wonderland nestled on the Western border of Alberta Canada, just north of Banff National Park and East of Yoho National Park.
Jasper National Park stood out to us because of the the uniqueness of activities that we could do! We typically love hiking, and have been publishing National Park Hiking Guides for every park we’ve visited, however for Jasper that just wouldn’t do! Jasper has so many incredible sights that don’t require hiking to get to!
There is an ENORMOUS Icefield, hot springs, meadow trails, mountain trails, alpine lakes, alpine waterfalls, and so much more! In this blog, we narrowed down everything you can do in Jasper to our favorite 8 sites to see.
However, we are not only going to go through our 8 favorite sites. We are also going to give you the best 4-day itinerary to see all of those sites! The itinerary is scheduled so that you will MINIMIZE driving while MAXIMIZING adventure!
On top of the itinerary, we are also going to give our tips on camping in Jasper, wildlife in the park, and our thoughts on bringing your 4-legged friends along for the trip. Hint: dogs are allowed in Jasper! Finally, we will share our gear recommendations to make sure you are packing everything you’ll need for the trip!
#8 Best Site in Jasper – Cavell Meadows Hiking Trail
Coming in at number 8 on our countdown of the best things to do in Jasper National Park is the Cavell Meadows Hiking Trail. This trail, sometimes called the Edith Cavell Trail, is an alpine meadow that takes you deep into the Jasper wilderness
The highlight of this trail is the active glacier that you will see and hike alongside for much of the route! Angel Glacier is a living glacier that you can hike right up to if you wish to.
One very unique part about this hike is that you can see the full lifecycle of the glacier, called the ‘Path of the Glacier’ on this trail. When you look up you see the huge ice field, and as your eyes move downwards you see the ice melting into a stream and flowing into the alpine lake that has formed with glacial runoff!
We absolutely LOVE photography, and sharing pictures! These are the cameras we use on all of our adventures. The drone and GoPro help us get cool new perspectives (underwater, in the air, wide angle) and the Rebel we use on a day-to-day basis for most of our shots!
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Now, you are NOT going to want to go swimming in this lake. As you can see in the pictures, there are still icebergs in the water, which means that it will freeze your little buns off! And besides, there are lakes we can swim in further down the countdown…
Along the Cavell Meadows Trail, wildlife is known to frequently explore, including the Canadian bears. We didn’t see any wildlife during our trip, however it is best to be prepared! Have bear spray along just in case and make noise as you are hiking!
- Distance: 6.1 km (3.8 mi)
- Elevation Gain: 400 m (1310 ft)
- Trailhead: Edith Cavell Trailhead
#7 Best Site in Jasper – Athabasca Falls
At number 7 is a site that does not require any hiking to see: Athabasca Falls! This magnificent waterfall is located right off the Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 and is best done right as your driving north towards the town of Jasper from the Columbia Icefields!
Just because Athabasca Falls is easy to get to does NOT mean that it is not incredible. This waterfall is one of those that you can sit and watch for 30 minutes and not get bored, just because of the sheer POWER that it has. Water is flowing so fast and falling so far and in such a high volume that it left us awestruck!
At Athabasca Falls there is a boardwalk where you can walk from one side of the falls to the other, and get many different perspectives on the site. We recommend taking your time and exploring the area all around the falls, even some of the forest trails that are there!
Another reason to stop at Athabasca Falls, as if you needed one, is for a break from driving. As we’ll go over later, this stop is during Day 1, where we are also visiting the Columbia Ice Fields and driving up to the town of Jasper.
That drive can be over 2 hours total depending on where you are coming from, so it is best to take breaks. Better yet, plan a picnic and have a meal with Athabasca Falls rushing in the background!
- Class 5 Waterfall with an 80 Foot Drop
- We were in AWE of the POWER of these Falls
- Located just off Hwy 93 Icefields Pkwy
#6 Best Site in Jasper – Miette Hot Springs
Coming in at number 6 on our things to do in Jasper countdown is the Miette Hot Springs. People, it is time for some rest and relaxation!
Hiking is our number 1 favorite activity. You get outside, get exercise, see amazing things, and don’t spend a lot of money. It is literally the perfect activity! You do need to have the right gear to go though. Here is all the best gear we use for our hikes.
Let’s think about something. SO far we’ve talked about a hike along a glacier and a huge flowing waterfall, and now we have hot springs! Is there ANYTHING that Jasper National Park doesn’t have?? Well, that answer is: pretty much no. Jasper is FULL of unique things to do!
Side Note: It was cold and raining out when we were at Miette Hot Springs. Zach was running from the Hot Springs to our van, in his swimsuit, and someone yelled ‘Run Forrest Run!’ at him. He just yelled back ‘I Gotta Find Bubbaaaaaaaaa’
Miette Hot Springs is the best hot springs in Jasper. In fact, pretty sure it is the only ones… Full disclosure: this is not free. It does cost about $7 per person to enter and use the springs. However, you also get a shower after! If you are camping or living the van life, that shower is HUGE! That’s what sold us…
The Miette Hot Springs are a perfect place to hang out and relax for a few hours, even all day if you’d like! We found that it was best to do after a hike, especially if it is a cold day. There is NOTHING like hot springs on a cold day, they are just SO much more refreshing!
Also at the Hot Springs is a cafe and a little shop. We hung out for the majority of one afternoon and made ourselves at home! We suggest you do the same, as this was an excellent stop on our trip to Jasper National Park.
Hot Springs Details
- Approximate Water Temperature: 40 degrees C (104 degrees F)
- Great Place to Relax and Recharge!
- Located at the end of Miette Road
#5 Best Site in Jasper – Bald Hills Trail
Number 5 takes us back on the trails! The Bald Hills Trail to be exact. At just over 8 miles round-trip, this will also be the longest hike of our trip in Jasper National Park!
Before we talk about how awesome the views are along this trail, let’s talk about the difficulty level. This isn’t a trail that is hard because you will have to climb over rocks or anything. But it is a trail that is hard because of the vertical distance you’ll cover!
For the first 3 miles of the hike, you’ll be going slightly uphill for most of it. This part isn’t too difficult. However, the last section of the hike is a straight up TREK! Make sure you bring along enough water, and throw in some snacks as well. That will fuel your hike up the hill.
The Bald Hills Trail is worth the effort though!! The trail takes you over 2,000 feet up to the top of a hill that has one of the most incredible views in all of the Canadian Rockies! In fact, this view is the Canadian Rockies in one image.
From atop the Bald Hills, in the distance you’ll see the jagged snowcapped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Just before the peaks is the ENORMOUS Maligne Lake, one of the most picturesque lakes in all of Jasper. In front of the lake is a vast pine forest. All of that adds up to everything that is amazing about the Canadian Rockies in one picture!
Who doesn’t love camping?? Getting out into the great outdoors, enjoying Mother Nature’s beauty, it is the best! We love waking up with a cup of coffee after camping by the lake under the stars. Here is all the camping gear we use and love!
Also, on top of the Bald Hills you’ll be able to see for miles in every direction. If you have binoculars, bring them along! We could spot a herd of elk in the distance, and another animal we couldn’t make out. But that’s just because we were dummies and forgot our binoculars. Don’t be like us. Don’t be dummies. Bring binoculars if you can.
- Distance: 13.2 km (8.2 mi)
- Elevation Gain: 700 m (2300 ft)
- Trailhead: Maligne Lake
#4 Best Site in Jasper – Sunwapta Falls Hike
Coming in at number 4 is our favorite waterfall in Jasper National Park: Sunwapta Falls. This was one of the most picturesque waterfalls we have EVER seen, and we did a Havasupai Falls hike this year!
Sunwapta Falls is such a beautiful waterfall for a few reasons. First off, the topography of the falls itself. The river splits about 100 yards upstream from the falls, and the 2 halves rejoin each other right before they fall over the cliffside. That forms an incredible island that is visible just behind the falls themselves.
Secondly, the water color is almost beyond belief here. The falls have some of the same water that is present in the alpine lakes, and share some color characteristics with that awesome water. The bright blue color of these falls makes the painting just that much prettier!
A third reason that Sunwapta Falls is so awesome is because of the background. There is a huge mountain perfectly framing the falls as the backdrop. In addition, the pine forest seems to fully engulf the falls and gives a perfect green accent to the blue of the water and sky.
Sunwapta Falls does involve a hike to reach it, however it is by no means anything difficult. The hike is about 1 mile each way, and does not have much in terms of elevation gain.
In fact, the hike is almost a bonus because it means there will be less tourists at Sunwapta Falls! As with most National Parks, tourists tend to go to the sites that don’t have hiking, so anything that involves a hike to reach will be much less packed!
- Distance: 3.2 km (2 mi)
- Elevation Gain: 150 m (490 ft)
- Trailhead: Sunwapta Falls trailhead off Hwy 93
#3 Best Site in Jasper – Columbia Ice Fields
At number 3 on our list of the best things to do in Jasper National Park is the most famous place in the park: the Columbia Ice Fields. If you hear the name Athabasca Glacier in your research, that is the name of this particular section of the Ice Fields.
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Now, the Columbia Ice Fields are able to be seen from Columbia Ice Fields Parkway (Hwy 93) but don’t let that fool you. You DO have to walk a little ways to get to the toe of the glacier. The fact that the glacier is SO DANG ENORMOUS makes it look like you could touch it from the highway.
There are 2 ways to explore the glacier. As you may have guessed, one is free and one isn’t. We chose to do the free option, since we do everything on a budget, so we will talk about that one first!
Hiking from the highway parking lot to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier is free, and we think it is a must-do! Along the walk, which will take about 15 minutes each way, there are signs that describe the lifecycle of the Columbia Ice Fields and the Athabasca Glacier.
This is extremely interesting, and shows how the glacier has been receding in the last 100 years or so. In the picture below you can see how far the glacier stuck out back in 2006!
Once you have gotten you fill of standing at the toe of Athabasca Glacier, you can head back to the parking lot and the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center. If you are still itching for more adventure on the ice field, then you should do option 2: an excursion ON TOP OF the glacier!
There is a Columbia Ice Field Trek that takes a crazy-looking machine out on top of the glacier! Click that link and check out the machine, it looks like something NASA would drive on Mars. On this trek, you can actually set foot on the glacier and walk around some of the oldest ice on earth!
To be honest, we were pretty jealous of the people going on this trek. However, the price was a tad too steep for us, and we opted for the other free adventures described in this blog instead. If you have a few coins to throw around, we suggest doing the trek as it looked super fun!
Ice Fields Details
- Largest Ice Field in the Rocky Mountains
- Free Hike to the Base of the Fields
- Or Pay for a Tour on Top of the Fields
- Located just off Hwy 93 Icefields Pkwy
#2 Best Site in Jasper – Maligne Lake
Our silver medal thing to do in Jasper is to visit Maligne Lake! If you’ll remember, the hike to Bald Hills Trail actually starts at Maligne Lake, so it is best to do these on the same day!
Maligne Lake looks incredible from atop the Bald Hills, but it is just as pretty at the bottom. And there is a ton of things to do here!
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First off, there’s a beach where the bravest in your group can jump in the lake! Why do they have to be brave? Because this lake is cooooooooold. We took a few steps in but then wimped out and hung out along shore for the rests of the day.
Secondly, you can take a boat out onto the lake itself! If you want to drive the boat, you can rent a canoe or kayak. And there are also Maligne Lake boat cruises where you can sit back and enjoy the ride!
Maligne lake is freaking huge! We are talking over 7 square miles of water. And as a result there is also a ton of shoreline to explore! This was our favorite place in the park to hang out and soak up the sun.
Yes, you heard right, we said soak up the sun. Even though we are getting pretty far North, the Summer can get quite hot and Maligne Lake is a great place to hang out in the sun!
We recommend you pack a picnic and make a full day out of it. Eat, relax, enjoy the view, and walk the shoreline when you need to stretch your legs. Heck, even read a book! Click here for our favorite book recommendations.
- Enormous Lake with tons of Trails and Activities
- Area: 19.7 sq km (7.6 sq mi)
- Located at the end of Maligne Lake Road
#1 Best Site in Jasper – Valley of 5 Lakes Hiking Trail
Whew, we finally made it! The number one thing to do in Jasper National Park. Our favorite place in the park is, you guessed it, a hike. But not just any hike, a hike to FIVE LAKES!
The Valley of Five Lakes hike was one of the coolest and most unique hikes we have ever done. And a special bonus: it was named by someone with absolutely 0 creative bones in their body! The names of the lakes are literally:
- First Lake
- Second Lake
- Third Lake
- Fourth Lake
- Fifth Lake
Whoever named these bad boys was a darn poet. Look at these lakes. You are telling me someone explored and discovered all of these pristine beautiful bodies of water and then named them that? What on EARTH?!
The Valley of Five Lakes hike is a loop that is just under 3 miles, and doesn’t involve much elevation gain. Also, since there are so many stops along the hike at each of the lakes, this hike is not challenging at all. You’ll be trekking through the forest and then BAM, another stunning lake is right in front of you, each more beautiful than the last.
If you want to go swimming, HERE is the place to do it. The water temperature isn’t exactly bath water, but it is warmer than all of the other places in the park (outside of Miette Hot Springs of course…).
The best part about all of the lakes along this trail is their color. The lakes range from a deep blue to bright green, with shades of sapphire and emerald in between. The colors change as the water gets deeper and as the lake floor changes, which seems to happen every few feet!
On top of that, the colors seem to change as you walk around each lake. We have no idea why, but try it out for yourself! On one side a lake will look deep green, and on the other side it will be blue and reflective!
The final reason that Valley of Five Lakes is number 1 on our countdown? The fact that it is SO underrated! A lot of the other sites on our list will be packed with people, but the Valley of Five Lakes is basically empty! We had the place all to ourselves, which was a real treat given how dang beautiful the surroundings were.
- Distance: 4.5 km (2.8 mi)
- Elevation Gain: 150 m (490 ft)
- Trailhead: Valley of Five Lakes Trailhead off Hwy 93
As promised, we put together an itinerary for you to explore Jasper National Park. With this itinerary, you will hit all of our top 8 sites in the park, and you’ll minimize your driving while you do.
Note: This itinerary assumes you will be driving to Jasper from the South and leaving to the South, as we did. If you fly into Calgary or drive up from Banff, this will be the case. If you are coming from somewhere else, you’ll want to move some things around.
- Columbia Ice Fields
- Columbia Ice Field Discovery Center
- Athabasca Falls
- Explore the town of Jasper
- Cavell Meadows Trail
- Miette Hot Springs
- Maligne Lake
- Bald Hills Trail
- Valley of 5 Lakes
- Sunwapta Falls
As we do in every National Park, we were able to find free campsites to stay at just outside of the Jasper National Park! All of these campsites were in incredibly beautiful areas, surrounded by lush pine forests with rivers running nearby.
Full disclosure: some of the sites we stayed at had some roads that were challenging to traverse. However, we took it slow and we ended up just fine.
We found all of our free campsites using iOlverlander, which we have found is an incredible crowd-sourced tool for finding free sites. If you have any questions about our campsites, please reach out in the comments and we will tell you all we can!
Dogs in Jasper National Park
Question: What is the best part about Canadian National Parks?
Answer: Dogs are allowed!
Unlike in most other National Parks, you can bring your furry four-legged friends to Jasper National Park! Having a dog along in Jasper National Park is great because you can spoil them with awesome experiences AND of course make them pose for an awesome photoshoot!
Now, dogs aren’t allowed everywhere in the park. There are some trails that dogs aren’t allowed on due to wildlife activity, and of course they aren’t allowed in every building. But still, having your dog along in Jasper is going to make the trip that much more special!
Jasper National Park Wildlife
Jasper is known for having some of the most incredible wildlife of any National Park on earth. The following list of animals are the big wildlife that you are most likely to see while hiking and driving around the park:
- Black Bears
- Grizzly Bears
- Bighorn Sheep
- Mule Deer
Wolves and mountain lions are also present in Jasper, however they typically are wary of people and keep to themselves.
Of course, if you do come across some wildlife, admire them from a safe distance! It is a magical experience to come across a beautiful moose or a black bear, but make sure to follow the National Park rules and don’t approach them.
As with any trip, you have to have the proper gear packed to fully enjoy the experience! Here is some gear that we recommend if you plan on maximizing your adventure in Jasper National Park!
Full disclosure, these are affiliate links, if you click them and purchase the item it helps us continue to provide free content and hiking recommendations!
We personally have used these items and have shopped around for the best. We are EXTREMELY conscious of price (we live on a monthly budget of $1,000 TOTAL…) and we believe these are the best products for the cheapest cost on the market.
Hiking is our favorite activity, and Jasper National Park has some pretty dang incredible hikes! We bring this gear on all the hikes we do, and are ALWAYS thankful for having it along.
Men’s Hiking Boots
Women’s Hiking Boots
Of course, we love capturing as much as we can in the places we visit. Below is the equipment we travel with, and as a result we are able to get different perspectives and capture awesome moments so that we have them for the future!
Canon Rebel Camera with Accessories
DJI Spark Drone
GoPro Hero 7 Black
GoPro Floating Handle
When camping, we always make our own food, and try to be as off-grid as possible. It just feels more outdoorsy to be cooking up a meal over a camp stove compared to picking up food at a drive-thru and bringing it to the campsite!
There you have it! Our countdown of the top 8 things to do in Jasper, the recommended itinerary, and more helpful tips and tricks for your adventure. Next stop, Jasper National Park, enjoy!
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