What do you get when you mix breathtaking mountains, forests, glaciers and families of fearless elk that stride past you so close you can almost reach out and touch them? Jasper National Park.
Needless to say, there’s plenty of room to roam. And oodles of beautiful sights you must see in Jasper National Park.
(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.)
What you must see in Jasper National Park
Anyway, wildlife warning out of the way, here are some of the best things to see in Jasper National Park – along with some inspirational photos. (Sad confession: The best photos aren’t ours :-). Photo credits are at the end of this post.)
1) Maligne Canyon
One of the most popular Jasper attractions is Maligne Canyon.
A truly spectacular gorge, it plunges to depths 160 feet (48 m) and more.
A hike along the canyon is the ultimate way to experience it. You can start from various points along the canyon, and the trail crosses several bridges.
From the Fifth Bridge to the First Bridge, the hike there and back takes around 2.5 hours.
We started our hike at Fifth Bridge, then walked upstream along the side of the rushing river. At one point, we even saw a rainbow created by rising mist from the gushing water below.
Maligne Canyon in winter is a completely different experience.
You can hike up inside the canyon and get close-up views of frozen waterfalls.
2) Maligne Lake
Known as “Beaver Lake” by the First Nations people who lived in Jasper, Maligne Lake is the largest natural lake in the Rockies – 13 miles (22 km) long.
Canoeing on the lake is fun. Boat cruises to Spirit Island are also popular.
And like Maligne Canyon, Maligne Lake is one of the best places to visit in Jasper National Park.
We love everything wild, especially wildlife. (Gawking at the “Big Five” on safari in Africa is something we’ll never forget.)
About 1,300 elk live in Jasper National Park.
So the elk are one of our favorite Jasper National Park attractions.
You don’t even have to go anywhere in particular to see elk in Jasper.
You often spot them in fields along the highways (Highway 16 and Highway 93), as well as in and around the town. At dusk, we saw families of elk grazing on the grass right outside our rented cabin.
4) Medicine Lake
Nestled in the Maligne Valley, Medicine Lake isn’t really a lake but a catchwater basin for overflow glacial water from the Maligne River. By early summer, the water pools up to form the lake.
Come autumn, though, you might only see a few small pools – the rest of the lake water having drained through underground sinkholes over the course of the summer.
If you’re lucky, you might even see black bears grazing near the lake!
5) Lake Edith And Lake Annette
Two of the warmest lakes in Jasper are Lake Edith and Lake Annette, a few miles away from the town center.
The more popular lake is Lake Annette; it has a long curve of sandy beach with a large grassy area and picnic tables. Lake Edith usually has fewer people. But both lakes are fairly quiet.
And on a hot summer day, both lakes are must-see places in Jasper National Park. Because… they’re both very inviting for a quick swim to cool off!
6) Moose Lake
So, what do you think you might see at Moose Lake? Yes, the name is a giveaway.
And the lake is indeed one of the best places to see wildlife in Jasper. Meaning moose, of course.
For a short quick hike, the loop around Moose Lake is a pleasant one. It’s just over 1.5 miles (2.7 km) and will probably take about 30 minutes.
Keep an eye out for moose in the forest or swimming in the lake!
And just like with other wildlife, always keep your distance.
7) Angel Glacier and Cavell Meadows
The hike to Cavell Meadows is one of the most spectacular and best hikes in Jasper. If you don’t want to walk too far, a short easy trail, just over 1 mile (1.6 km) 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 5 miles (8 km) 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 are staggering up here – they really are sights you absolutely must see in Jasper National Park.
On the way down, we watched a family of hoary marmots (like large bushy squirrels) frolic in the rock boulders and lie out in the sun.
8) Pyramid Lake
Another must-see in Jasper, this small kidney-shaped lake is picture-perfect.
An easy trail, just over a mile long (2 km), winds along the lakeshore. There’s also a wooden bridge you can walk across to a teeny island in the middle of the lake.
Pyramid Lake truly is one of the most beautiful places to see in Jasper National Park.
9) Athabasca Falls
On the upper Athabasca River, Athabasca Falls is not very high (75 ft or 23 m). But they’re very powerful. A short trail – about a ½ a mile (1 km) – along the canyon offers lots of photo opps. There’s a bridge too that crosses right over the falls.
Lichen on the boulders changes color with the seasons – from green and gold in the summer to orange and red in autumn.
Ahhh. The wildflowers in spring and summer! They’re as pretty as the mountains are breathtaking.
A sea of colorful alpine wildflowers – scarlet Indian paintbrushes and cheerful yellow Arnicas – greeted us when we hiked in the Cavell Meadows.
You can also see carpets of purple calypso orchids and blue asters.
Again, like the elk, you don’t have to go to any particular place in Jasper to enjoy them – they’ll be blooming all around you!
11) Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is the super-scenic stretch of highway heading up from Lake Louise to Jasper.
If you’re coming from Calgary (through Banff), you’ll naturally drive up the Icefields Parkway.
And 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 kicking 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.
12) Sunwapta Falls
The Sunwapta Falls are the last in our round-up of best sights in Jasper National Park. Located on the Icefields Parkway, they’re a pair of waterfalls created by hanging valleys.
The Upper Falls are right next to the road, so they’re convenient to walk to and photograph. The Lower Falls are a short hike away.
The falls are most impressive in late spring when snow and ice are melting, and clouds of mist swirl around.
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Photo credits: 4 to 6, 12, 23 to 25, 31 to 33 and 37 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase