With no clear direction on where to go next, we’re travelling back in time to last year’s summer holiday. I blogged about our first stop, Clearwater, BC and now we’re going to explore our second destination—Jasper. The town of Jasper is located within a National Park so you have to pay an entrance fee, depending on how long you plan to stay. It would be easy to spend a week here, there is so much to do. But with limited time and money we had to squeeze everything we could into 3 days.
Our accommodations in Jasper were much smaller than in Clearwater and much more expensive. If you intend to visit the area, book well in advance. By the time I booked, 3 months before we left, there was only one place that could fit the six of us. Still, it was a nice place, individual log cabins with an easy walk to town. Speaking of town, Jasper is mostly tourist shops or mountain bike rental/sports clothing stores, but there is one must-stop place: The Bear Paw Café. My husband went there every single day. Make sure you check out the amazing cake ideas hanging from the ceiling.
We also went on our first white-water rafting expedition. As we have a seven-year-old, we took the tamest tour, but still it was fun. Of course, rafting down a river fed by glaciers and snow run-off, the water was dang cold when you got splashed but the dry suits kept us warm. We had a great time. But then we had to race to Maligne Lake to catch our 3pm boat cruise to Spirit Island. And when I say rush, I mean crawl at 20km/hour behind a long line of motorhomes driven by people who’ve never piloted anything larger than a Smart Car. And don’t get me started on those who stop right on the road and exit their vehicles to take photos of the wildlife.
Maligne Lake is well worth the hour drive (even though it’s only 45km from Jasper) but beware it is extremely crowded. It took us almost as long to find a parking space. And if you want to do the boat cruise then book in advance and get there in time as the cruises are full. You can also rent canoes and paddle yourself, in fact if you want to go to the far end of the lake you have to paddle as motor-powered boats are forbidden beyond Spirit Island. But that’s a two or three day adventure that should be undertaken only by the most outdoorsy and experienced.
Spirit Island is one of the most iconic photographs of the Canadian Rockies, the original image was part of a photo competition sponsored by Kodak. By the way, it’s not even an island, it’s a peninsula. Still, it is pretty. The boat tours give you about ten minutes to take the little walk and view it from several angles. There’s a few great spots to take family photos as well.
Another adventure we went on in Jasper was horse-back riding. I’d done it a lot in my youth but hadn’t been on a horse in twenty years. Again, it’s something you generally need to book in advance. But when we were due to go, it was pouring rain, so I called the stables and they very kindly allowed us to change our reservation to the afternoon when it was drier. In fact there was only myself and my four children in our group. My husband rented a mountain bike and went cycling while we were riding.
After our energetic day, a swim in hot springs seemed like a great way to ease some tired muscles. So we drove to Miette hot springs. Again, although it is only 35km away, it took over an hour, due in part to road works on the highway. If you’re not used to mountain driving, go before sunset as the road is narrow and twisting. Also, don’t do what my husband did and forget to bring your swimsuit, although he was able to rent one there. The pools are crowded but still felt great after being jostled atop a horse for an hour.
Next we took the Icefields Parkway down to Banff. I’ll blog about that next time. Have you been to Jasper? What would you recommend doing?