What do you get when you mix mountains, forests, glaciers – and families of fearless elk that stride past you so close you can almost reach out and touch them? A fab Jasper National Park holiday in summer.
(But before we continue, you should know that you really shouldn’t get too close to elk as they can be aggressive. It’s just that sometimes they meander VERY close to you. So be aware.)
Anyway, wildlife warning out of the way, we visited Jasper on a quick two-day visit last year, thanks to VIA Rail.
At a travel writers’ event, we had won a pair of Vancouver-Jasper return tickets in a sleeping cabin. (How lucky are we!) Chug-chug. Chug-chug. Chug-chug. Yes, it was quite fun being rocked to sleep, listening to the wheels of the train chug-chug on the tracks, as we snuggled down into cozy down comforters in our bunk beds.
But the point is, we were so smitten with Jasper that we returned this summer for a family holiday (driving with family from Calgary).
Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is one of Canada’s oldest and largest national parks, spanning 4,200 sq. miles (almost 11,000 sq. km) of wilderness in Alberta.
There’s plenty of room to roam on a Jasper National Park holiday.
And that’s what our family got up to. Hiking – many short and longer, more challenging hiking trails (all incredibly scenic!) are within a short drive of the Jasper townsite. Admiring the wildflowers. Marveling at the elk – being careful to get out of their way!
Wildfires had plagued part of Jasper earlier in July. But fortunately, by the time we visited, rain and cooler temperatures the previous week had doused most (if not all) of the fires. And no lingering smoke hung in the air – indeed, you’d never know there had been any forest fires at all if you hadn’t heard about them previously in the news.
But pictures can often tell a better story than words. So why don’t we let these photos tell the rest of the tale of our summer Jasper National Park holiday…
Our Jasper National Park holiday photos…
1) Maligne Canyon
One of the most popular sights in Jasper is Maligne Canyon. A truly spectacular gorge, it plunges to depths 160 feet and more.
We started our hike at Fifth Bridge, then walked upstream along the side of the rushing river. The trail crosses several bridges like this one below. At one point, we even saw a rainbow.
2) Lots of elk!
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is the premier place to stay for a Jasper National Park holiday, with deluxe cedar chalets sprinkled about on manicured lawns around Beauvert Lake. We didn’t stay at the lodge (we were in other cabins across the river). But the lodge’s elk photos are great, as you can see here in these first three elk photos (thanks Fairmont!). Janice’s sister-in-law took the 4th elk photo.
About 1,300 elk live in Jasper National Park.
At dusk we saw families of them grazing on the grass right outside our cabin.
3) Nifty “red chairs” program
What a great idea!
Parks Canada has placed several bright red Adirondack chairs at scenic spots in national parks across the country – perfectly situated for sitting back and soaking in the majestic views. The idea is to sit quietly and really connect with nature.
We took in the views – and had our photo taken – at two of Parks Canada’s bright red chairs at a picnic spot on the Icefields Parkway (the stretch of highway linking Lake Louise with Jasper).
4) Glaciers and Cavell Meadows
The hike to Cavell Meadows is one of the best in Jasper. If you don’t want to walk too far, a short easy trail (just over one mile roundtrip) takes you right up to the face of two glaciers.
Angel Glacier hangs on Mount Edith Cavell, spreading out her wings, and Edith Cavell Glacier sits above the meltwater of the pond below.
We took the longer route (about five miles roundtrip), working our way up through a boulder field and continuing on through forest into alpine meadows at the top.
The views of the two glaciers were spectacular up here!
On the way down, we watched a family of hoary marmots (large bushy squirrels) frolic in the rock boulders and lie out in the sun.
A sea of colorful alpine wildflowers – scarlet Indian paintbrushes and cheerful yellow Arnicas – greeted us in the Cavell Meadows. As pretty as the glaciers are breathtaking…