One of our goals this year was to explore more of our own backyard of Canada. We always opt for far away places as they usually seem more intriguing, but this year we set out to prove to ourselves, and all of you, that you don’t have to venture to far off places to have incredible experiences. We’ve been talking about planning a Canadian road trip, so we figured that instead of waiting until it all works out, we should start right now. This last September long weekend we packed up the minivan and the girls and took off down the open road to Jasper National Park for an extended long weekend.
Jasper National Park is a vast wilderness area in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta. The area is defined by glaciers, stunning blue lakes and peaks. Wildlife sightings include Elk, Moose, Bears and Bighorn Sheep. With such a large subalpine forest, hiking, camping and skiing are also popular activities in the park. There are so many things to do, it really seemed like you could never truly discover it all.
Take a look at some of our favourite experiences exploring in Jasper National Park:
We didn’t see as much wildlife as we would have liked, but we did have a couple amazing encounters. We found an Elk and were able to watch it scratch its head and antlers up and down a tree, saw several Deer along the road and some Bighorn Sheep were wandering around the parking lot at Miette Hot Springs. Some of them were getting right under cars and it really sounded like they were chewing away, but a gentleman told us that they were just licking the salt off the bottom of the cars. The Bighorn heep sure created quite the traffic jam during peak time at the Hot Springs.
Miette Hot Springs
The excitement started right away as we drove into the parking lot and were stuck in a traffic jam as the Bighorn Sheep wandered around the parking lot. The Hot Springs left us so relaxed and refreshed, and the warm (not the hottest) pool was the perfect temperature for Madison and Sadie to play without getting overheated. Add in the views from the Hot Springs and you are in for a real treat.
One of the items we had on our checklist was to witness Lake Louise. It was bad timing on our part though, trying to stop by on a long weekend, and on the same weekend the road to Maligne Lake was closed. This lead to everyone flocking to Lake Louise and parking was an absolute mess. Anyone hoping for parking had a long walk ahead of them if they parked on the side of the road, or had to circle the parking lot for a good hour before catching a parking spot. There were throngs of people along the walk around the lake, and a handful of people taking a canoe out onto the water. The lake was beautiful and even though it was so insanely busy, it was definitely still worth the stop.
The weather was pretty crazy while we were in Jasper. One minute it was raining, the next the sky parted and the sun decided to shine, then back to a downpour again. We were thrilled when the sun decided to break through the clouds for our Glacier Adventure. We went in a massive Ice Explorer onto the surface of the Athabasca Glacier and the views were mesmerizing. The glacier water was delicious, too.
After the Glacier Adventure, we went to check out the Glacier Skywalk, a glass-floored observation platform that is 918 feet high, with spectaular glacier-formed valleys and rushing waterfalls around and below you. There is also plenty to learn with many interactive exhibits.
When we woke up the morning we were taking an early ride up Whistlers Mountain on the SkyTram, we were a little bummed. It was cloudy, so what could we possibly be able to see? We figured visibility would be horrible, but little did we know, we were in for a real treat. As we ascended Whistlers Mountain in the Skytram, we started to realize that we were actually rising above the clouds. Though the ground below us wasn’t completely visible, we could see the peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the layer of cloud under us created such a dreamy experience. It felt like we could have walked out on the clouds. It felt like we were looking at a painting. It was breath-taking.
Maligne Lake was another stop that we had heard so much about and wanted to see for ourselves. We figured that taking a cruise of the lake would be a great way to see it. The cruise took us over to Spirit Island and we were able to get some great views, even if a lot of the mountains were shrouded in clouds.
We had yet to take the girls camping, so we thought that camping in Jasper would be a ton of fun. Our three year old, Madison, absolutely loved it. She insisted on having a camp fire, roasting marshmallows, and smores had to be made. She refused to actually eat any of it, but had a ton of fun making them. Our one year old, Sadie, was so wide-eyed with everything going on around her. Camping was as great as we thought it would be with the girls, even if it rained.
Driving Jasper National Park
Everywhere we looked, we had stunning views, and particularly beautiful was the drive along the Icefields Parkway. The landscapes of Jasper are so incredible and even in the moments of cloud and rain, our surroundings did not disappoint. We loved that the trees were starting to change colour as the extra colours really added to the beauty of the surroundings, especially some of the bold yellows. The mountains may have been shrouded by clouds during part of our visit, but even the clouds couldn’t conceal the grandness of the Rocky Mountains for long.
Keep an eye on the blog over the next couple weeks for more details on all our Jasper National Park adventures.
Have you ever been to Jasper National Park? What were your favourite sights?