Canadian Rockies, and most people instantly think of Banff. As the
main tourist destination in the Rockies, Banff is very much a commercial
town geared to tourism. But for those who like their Rockies a little
quieter, 250 kilometres north is paradise - the town of Jasper.
July and August
are the peak times to visit Jasper, but if you don’t mind colder
weather and like your lakes frozen, you can avoid some of the tourists
by visiting in the few months either side. The weather can be haphazard,
so allow a little flexibility in your plans.
south of Jasper is Whistler Mountain. If you visit early or late
in the day, you will most likely hear the melodic sounds made by
the whistling marmots living on the lower slopes of the mountain.
Early birds can also get cheaper tickets on the Whistler Mountain
gondola. The terminus is at 2,500m, with spectacular views south
to the Columbia Icefields, and west to Mount Robson.
For those who
prefer to look up at mountains, there are plenty of beautiful lakes
close to town, all surrounded by snow topped peaks. Patricia and
Pyramid Lakes, 8km north-west of town, are small and quiet. They
have beaches just begging for picnickers to sit on them and admire
the view after a tranquil lunch. Herds of elk and deer roam the
area, and if you’re very lucky, you may spot a coyote or a black
is south of Jasper, and is the largest of the glacier fed lakes.
A boathouse from the 1920s completes the storybook setting. There
are a couple of excellent hikes in the area, taking full advantage
of the beautiful scenery.
Nearby is Maligne
Canyon, a narrow cleft through the rocks filled with roaring water
during the spring thaw. It’s also home to a very active herd of
big horn sheep, who can jump out of nowhere to startle tourists.
For those visitors
who like more leisurely pursuits, it is possible to swim in Lakes
Annette and Edith near town. Situated at around 1000m, they are
popular during the summer months, although it’s still not advisable
to take a lengthy swim in the icy waters.
After a few
hard days of sightseeing, go for a leisurely drive about 40km towards
Edmonton. At the sleepy little town of Pocahontas (she certainly
got around!) take the turnoff to Miette Hot Springs. The renovated
spas contain two pools, and are a welcome respite for tired bodies.
On the way there you may be lucky enough to see mountain goats beside
the road, although they’re more likely to be perched on a cliff
high above you.
drive is route 93A, which was the original road heading out of Jasper
towards Banff. Now preserved as a scenic route, the road offers
a number of interesting stops. Keep your eyes open, particularly
during the quieter times early and late in the day, because wild
life abounds here. Mother bears with their cubs have been seen chomping
on berries right beside the road!
The aptly named
"Meeting of the Waters" marks the place where two rivers
join together. During the spring thaw this meeting can make for
spectacular waterworks. Further along, it is worth taking the time
to visit Moab Lake. A pleasant walk ends with the magnificently
sited lake, mountains hovering in the background.
in winter will certainly want to make the trip to Marmot Basin,
a popular ski resort south of Jasper on 93A. In summer, however,
it looks much the same as any other deserted ski field, except for
the breathtaking scenery.
One of the final
stops before the road rejoins the main highway is the Athabasca
Falls. A raging torrent in spring, the fierce waters tumble and
crash over hundreds of smoothed boulders. The adventurouss can explore
further up the river, but wear shoes with a good grip.
When the time
comes to leave Jasper, there are two major routes. Those who arrived
by train can continue their journey either east to Edmonton and
on across the Canadian plains, or west to Vancouver. This route
takes you on one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world,
with incredible scenery in every direction.
For those travelling
by car, allow plenty of time to explore the 230km Icefields Parkway
which connects Jasper to Banff, with a slight detour to Lake Louise.
The road follows a valley through the Eastern Mountain Ranges, and
offers spectacular scenery and plenty of wildlife. By the end of
the day you’ll probably have a stiff neck from craning upwards to
see the view.
Falls are set in chunky terraces of rock, and it’s worth taking
a short stroll to the viewing platform. Peyto Lake is a beautiful
glacial lake, but should only be visited when the snow clears, otherwise
the gentle uphill stroll can become a mammoth battle through waist
high snow drifts.
stop is the Tangle Falls. Intrepid visitors can do some exploring
here, rewarded by a close up look at the rushing waters. The best
known stop, however, is Athabasca Glacier. This glacier has been
steadily retreating for years, and there are date markers so you
can see the gradual regression. It is possible to take a truck ride
on the ice, or you can simply walk from the car park. Be warned
- the weather can change very rapidly during your visit, so be prepared.
Wall is particularly interesting after or during rain, with thousands
of tiny waterfalls pouring down its rough faces. And for those nature
lovers with a penchant for moose, try visiting Waterfowl Lake at
either end of the day. It’s home to a number of these huge creatures.
Parkway continues on to Lake Louise, the magnificent setting for
scenes in the movie "The Bodyguard". Finally the road
reaches Banff, leaving the peace and quiet of the wilder Jasper
behind for good.
Canadian Rockies is a must for lovers of rugged, mountain scenery.
For those who want to experience the Rockies and its wildlife as
closely as possible to how it would have been centuries ago, Jasper
is the perfect base. The Rockies are waiting for you.
About the Author:
Canada is a much loved past time for the author. Check out http://www.travelcanadainfozone.com
for more information.
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