Vast mountainous landscapes, blue glistening lakes and rugged canyons. Jasper National Park is a must-see destination in Canada. It’s breathtaking beauty cannot be compared to anywhere else. Spending 3 or 4 days in Jasper? This post highlights the best attractions, places to stay and where to eat. It includes everything you need to plan the perfect Jasper itinerary!
Covering an area of over 11 square kilometres, Jasper National Park is an outdoor paradise and offers a vast array of activities, from adrenaline filled to simply relaxing in hot springs. Whether you want to fill your days on the ski hill or want to slow down, sip cocktails by the pool and admire the mountain views.
Jasper sees approximately 2 million visitors a year, that’s 2 million less than Banff. As Jasper is further out from the Calgary and it’s international airport it receives far less visitors than nearby Banff National Park. As a result, Jasper feels less busy and has a slower vibe. Walking down Jasper Avenue was so nice without hoards of people all trying to get to the same places and for this reason I much preferred it.
We spent a total of 5 days in Jasper including two days along the Ice Fields Parkway driving to and from Banff. Although out last day we didn’t do much because if forest fire smoke. This 4 day Jasper itinerary is based on our actual trip this past summer along with a few adjustments on what we would do next time.
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Tips For Visiting Jasper National Park In Summer
- Prepare For Cold Temperatures – Weather in the Rockies can be unpredictable. Even in July and August you may experience cooler temps, rain or even snow. Bring an umbrella and rain coat as well as warm clothes.
- Rent A Car – The best way to explore Jasper is by car. There aren’t as many bus tours or sightseeing tours in Jasper as you’ll find in Banff so hiring a rental car is highly recommended.
- Buy Travel Insurance – As with any trip you’ll need to purchase travel insurance before jetting off to the Canadian Rockies. Anything can happen on your trip and it’s especially true on adventure holidays (yes this is my kind of adventure!) You can purchase travel insurance through World Nomads prior to your trip who offer exceptional service.
- Purchase Your Parks Pass – Before driving to Jasper National Park, you’ll need to purchase your Parks Pass. A Parks Pass is required if you are planning to stop and/or stay in any Canadian National Park. There are different options depending on the length of your stay. Daily passes are $10 per day per person. If you are staying for a week or more, it’s more cost-effective to purchase a Discovery Pass. This will give you entry to all Canadian National Parks for a 12-month period.
- Bring Your Hiking Essentials – Even the easiest hikes in Jasper require some kind of planning. Come prepared for any hikes by bringing the hiking essentials. I never hike without a good pair of hiking boots, like my Salamon X ULTRA 3 and a good hiking backpack like the Osprey Tempest 20 that’s comfy for hours of hiking.
- Respect The Local Wildlife – You’ll find wildlife almost everywhere in Jasper. We spotted our first Elk along Jasper Avenue. You’ll often seen Elk and Big Horn Sheep on the sides of the road. Always remember to keep a safe distance when photographing wildlife and respect their space.
- Take Time To Slow Down – Jasper town is very different from Banff. Jasper sees less visitors per year than Banff and the National Park covers a bigger area which means that the town is less busy than nearby Banff. It’s easier to slow down here and really take in your surroundings.
How To Get To Jasper
If you are coming from afar, you will probably be flying into one of two airports. The nearest international airports to Jasper are Calgary and Edmonton. Most people will probably be flying into Calgary as it is the bigger of the two.
From Both airports Jasper is approximately a 4-5 hour drive.
If coming by bus to Jasper, you can book a shuttle from Calgary or Edmonton with Airport Shuttle Express.
If you are coming by bus, and do not intend on renting a car during your trip, you will need to rely on local taxis and tours to get around. Most of the attractions in Jasper are a ways from the downtown area.
For the purpose of this itinerary, renting a car is essential as it stops along the Ice Fields Parkway which is not possible with a shuttle unless you book a tour.
f you are hiring a car for your 4 days in Jasper, you’ll still have a bit of a drive ahead of you once you land. The drive from Calgary Airport is approximately 5 hours. The pros of flying into Calgary International is that you’ll need to drive the Ice Fields Parkway to get to your destination. This is considered one of the best drives in the world. Luckily this itinerary incorporates part of the drive so you’ll get to see all the best attractions. A trip to Jasper is also often paired with a trip to Banff.
The drive from Edmonton is slightly shorter at approximately 4 hours. If you are arriving in Edmonton, consider flying back out from Calgary so you can stop along the Ice Fields Parkway and Banff National Park.
If you are planning a Canadian Rockies Road Trip, you’ll no doubt be venturing to nearby British Columbia. The drive from Vancouver is approximately 10 hours one way without stopping. But that would be no fun – check out my Canadian Rockies Itinerary for more info. Many people fly into Vancouver and take 2-3 weeks driving through BC and Alberta and then flying out of Calgary.
Where To Stay During Your 4 Days In Jasper National Park
Jasper Park Lodge
As with any Fairmont property, the Jasper Park Lodge boasts some of the most luxurious lodging in Jasper National Park. Unlike it’s sister hotels in Banff, Jasper Park Lodge isn’t a tall towering stone building, but rather a collection of smaller buildings and cabins.
This hotel sits on the beautiful Lake Beauvert and offers a variety of lodging options and amenities including an award winning golf course, horse-back riding, a spa and swimming pool.
If you’re searching for the ultimate mountain escape this is it!
Whistler’s Inn is a mid-range hotel with a fantastic location right in the heart of downtown Jasper. If you like to walk everywhere like I do, then this is a great option. This hotel is within walking distance of all the coffee shops, restaurants and gift shops in Jasper.
The hotel features on onsite pub (always a plus!) gift shops, a steam room and a rooftop hot tub! Who doesn’t dream of sitting in a hot tub with beautiful mountain views?
The Lobstick Lodge offers basic lodging and is a great option if you want to be within walking distance of Jasper town but not in the immediate vicinity. This hotel is located a little further out from the main area but it offers a quieter stay.
Amenities include on site restaurants, gym and swimming pool. Rooms offered are basic but roomy and include everything you need for a comfortable stay.
Day 1: Hotel Check In, Hiking & Sunsets
Path of the Glacier
Dive into your first day in Jasper with some easy hiking trails. The Path of the Glacier Trail is an easy trail that gets you up close with a real glacier. This trail is accessed along the Edith Cavell Road, which you can get to from the Ice Fields Parkway.
This hike is only 1.8km long return trip and an elevation of 84 metres, so it’s more of a walk but as always, it’s good to be prepared with hiking gear when going into the backcountry. Enjoy the beautiful views before heading back out onto the Ice Fields Parkway and continue your drive into Jasper Town.
Explore The Trails At Maligne Canyon
Maligne Lake Road is the perfect place to start exploring in Jasper National Park. There are so many hiking trails for all abilities and several lakes. The beauty of the Maligne Canyon area is that you can walk as little or as much as you like. There are several ways to experience the canyon from quick visits to long hikes.
The most popular way to see Maligne Canyon is by pulling into the main parking lot just opposite from the Maligne Canyon Hostel. From the parking lot a 5-minute walk brings you into the first bridge area which is the most popular lookout point. From here you can continue to walk further to see more of the canyon and bridges.
Other ways to enjoy the canyon include driving to the fifth and sixth bridges. These are both quite a ways away from the main entrance but as a result you’ll have less crowds. From either of these bridges it is a bit of a walk but if you have the time it is very worth it!
Alternatively you can walk to the third and fourth bridge from the main entrance which is a fairly short walk.
Cool Off At Lake Edith & Annette
There are an abundance of beautiful lakes in Jasper. Edith and Annette lakes are frequented by both locals and tourists alike. These two stunningly blue glacial lakes are tucked away next to the Jasper Park Lodge. Lake Edith & Annette can be accessed along the Maligne Lake Road.
Both of these lakes are immensely popular during the summer as we came to find out. The weather during our trip was really warm hitting temperatures of 30c and above. After a day of exploring mountains and canyons, Matt and I both agreed that we needed to get to the nearest body of water. I suggested Edith & Annette based on recommendations.
Not only are both of these lakes stunning to look at but the water temperature in the summer was just perfect! We took a dip in Edith Lake and everything about it was just right. I could see the bottom (a big win for me) and there were no slippery weeds!
If you want some down time during your 4 days in Jasper, consider making the trip out to Edith and Annette Lakes. While it does get busy there are plenty of parking options once you drive past the first beach (usually crowded) and there are plenty of beaches and places to sit.
Soak In The Sunset at Medicine Lake
Flanked by pristine mountains on either side, the sunsets at Medicine Lake make for the perfect photographic experience. Medicine Lake is located along the Maligne Lake Road. It’s approximately halfway down the road just after the turn off for Maligne Canyon. We watched the sunset here on our first evening in Jasper and just so happened to arrive at the right time.
Day 1 Summary:
- Hike Edith Cavell Path of the Glacier
- Visit Maligne Canyon
- Cool off at Edith & Annette Lakes
- Watch the sunset at Medicine Lake
Day 2: Canoeing, Wildlife Spotting & Boat Tours
Visit The Jasper Park Lodge
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is one of Jasper’s top hotels. You don’t need to be a guest to visit just like their other properties in the Rockies. Whether staying at the hotel or not, their grounds are great for a walk, visiting the nearby Lake Beauvert or popping in for evening cocktails or dinner.
Go Canoeing On Lake Beauvert
Canoeing is almost a given in any Canadian National Park, and Jasper is no different. Lake Beauvert has easily become one of my favourite lakes in Canada, it’s pristine blue waters are like something from the Caribbean, it’s hard to believe this lake exists in the great white north!
I’d go as far as saying that Lake Beauvert rivals Lake Louise in it’s beauty. While the blue colour has it’s many differences, Lake Beauvert one ups Lake Louise in that the price for a canoe rental is $40 less AND it’s substantially quieter, which means you get to really enjoy the lake.
Lake Beauvert can be accessed by driving to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Canoe rentals are $95 an hour plus GST.
Make Friends With The Local Wildlife
Maligne Lake road is the best area to spot inquisitive wildlife in Jasper. We drove this road every single day of our trip and we saw an animal every time.
Our first evening we spotted a bull Elk which we named Dave. We saw Dave several times during our 4 days in Jasper. He was a really chill Elk, looked me directly in the face several times and made his way towards me, that was the moment I hopped back in the car!
We managed to see a black bear, several Big Horn Sheep and groups of Elk during our evening drives in Jasper. It’s also possible to spot Mountain Goats and Caribou.
Jasper is home to a small herd of Caribou, around 60 in total. Unfortunately it’s rare to see Caribou as their numbers are on the decline in Canada due to the logging of old-growth forests.
Tour Maligne Lake By Boat
“…There burst upon us… the finest view any of us had ever beheld in the Rockies.”
Take a boat cruise along the endless shimmering waters of Maligne Lake. Maligne Lake is one of the biggest and longest lakes in the Canadian Rockies. The area was made famous thanks to Mary Scheaffer, who helped map out the area along with the help of Samson Beaver, a local Stoney First Nations man. Upon seeing it’s beauty Mary stated “Lake Louise is a pearl, Maligne Lake is a whole string of pearls”
Taking a boat cruise has it’s benefits for several reasons, 1) you don’t need to put in the effort of canoeing this long lake and 2) you get to learn about the history of the lake, and there is a lot to learn!
I chose the premium tour during my trip to Jasper, and I’d highly recommend it. The tour is longer than the standard tour and includes 30 minutes to enjoy Spirit Island instead of 15. This tour also takes you to he Pincushion Bay area of the lake – beyond this point, only non-motorised boats can are allowed to venture.
Soak up the natural wonders at Spirit Island
Spirit Island is one of the most photographed places in the Canadian Rockies. Spirit Island is a sacred place for the local Stoney First Nation, therefore walking onto the actual island is prohibited. However, you can still visit the area by boat and there is a boardwalk that features several lookout points of the island and surrounding mountains.
The best time to visit Spirit Island is early in the morning. The lighting is much better than later in the day and the area is generally quieter. The best way to get to Spirit Island is with a boat tour.
Pursuit offers two types of boat tours to Spirit Island, the standard and premium tours. The premium tour is longer and gives you 30-minutes at Spirit Island instead of 15 like the standard. There’s only two premium tours a day and the last one is at 5pm. If you want to go early in the morning, then the standard tours start at 9am.
The other way to get to Spirit Island is by Canoe. Canoe rentals can be purchased at the Maligne Lake Boat House. You can either rent one for the day or for several days and stay at campsites along the lake that can only be reached by canoe.
Hike The Moose Lake Loop
If you have chosen to take a boat tour along Maligne Lake, head over to Moose Lake afterwards. The Moose Lake Loop is a 1-2 hour walk and leads to a swampy-looking lake that Moose love to hang out at – hence the name Moose Lake!
The best time to spot wildlife is later in the evening when it starts to cool down, but it’s possible to see them at any time of the day so keep an eye out! We managed to spot a female moose right in front of the Maligne Lake boat house after our tour. When we walked back to our car, we also spotted a baby Moose in the parking lot!
The next evening we tried to spot Moose over at Moose Lake but we were not successful. The time of year also depends on how likely you are to see them. The quieter seasons of Fall, Winter and Spring are the better times to see wildlife.
Day 2 Summary:
- Wander through the Jasper Park Lodge
- Canoe on Lake Beauvert
- Spot wildlife along the Maligne Lake Road
- Take a Maligne Lake Boat Tour
- Marvel at Spirit Island
- Walk around the Moose Lake Loop
Day 3: Jasper Sky Tram, Hot Springs & Shopping
Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Island
Spend the morning exploring Pyramid Lake, one of the most well-known lakes in the Jasper area and is a short drive from the town centre. A 15-minute drive will bring you to this pristine lake. It’s beautiful location and close proximity to town make it a well-loved destination.
Pyramid Island is the main attraction at Pyramid Lake. The Island sits in the middle of the lake surrounded by stunning mountainous views. It’s one of the most recognisable spots in Jasper and makes for great photo opportunities and is a great place to wander or enjoy a picnic on one of the many picnic tables.
Pyramid Island is popular with visitors and tour buses, and everyone wants to get a snap of themselves walking over the picturesque bridge that connects the island to the shore. Coming early in the morning is recommended with sunrise being the best time for lighting.
Jasper Sky Tram
The SkyTram is one of Jasper’s top year-round attractions. Whether you are wanting to hike, ski or sightsee and soak in the mountain views, the Jasper SkyTram is something that everyone can enjoy. The SkyTram transports you to the top of Whistler’s Mountain where you can take in the views of six different mountain ranges.
If you want to enjoy alpine views without the effort of hiking, the Jasper SkyTram is the best way to do so. Once you arrive at the top, there are a number of things to do. There is a restaurant, gift shop, boardwalk and a 1.4km hiking trail that takes you to the top of Whistler’s Mountain.
Miette Hot Springs
After a morning of hiking, it’s time to relax and soak in the Miette Hot Springs.
Located just outside of the town of Jasper, Miette Hot Springs features two hot pools and two cool plunge pools which are surrounded by stunning mountainous views of the Fiddle Valley.
The hot pools are kept at a temperature of between 37c and 40c and are the perfect way to heal sore muscles after a day of hiking.
Wander the gift shops on Jasper Avenue
End your day by taking a walk along Jasper Avenue and picking up any vacation souvenirs and merchandise. There are a multitude of gift shops in Jasper which sell all the best Canadian souvenirs. You’ll find everything from maple syrup, hats, mittens and Christmas ornaments. I never leave a place without buying at least one magnet from my trip!
Day 3 Summary:
- Take a walk at Pyramid Lake & Island
- Journey up the Jasper Sky Tram
- Soak in the Miette Hot Springs
- Go shopping on Jasper Avenue
Day 4: Morning Hiking, Lakes & Waterfalls
Valley of the 5 Lakes
Get an early start and drive out to the Valley of the 5 Lakes. This hike is considered a moderate hike and is family friendly dependent on experience. As the name suggests this hikes leads to 5 beautiful crystal blue lakes.
Getting to the trailhead early is essential in the peak months as this trail is doable for the majority of visitors to Jasper. I would also recommend doing this hike in the morning when it is still relatively cool outside. To get to the trailhead you’ll need to drive along the Icefields Parkway towards Banff. The total drive is approximately 11km and takes 15 minutes.
The hike itself isn’t technical, there is no scrambling involved however there are some uphill sections. Before planning this hike, ensure that everyone in your party is of the right fitness level required. The trail is not suitable for strollers as there are a few steep rocky sections. The iconic red chairs can be found at the Third Lake. Getting a photo here on the red chairs is a must!
There are several routes you can take for this hike, so doing your research before you head out is worth it. I took the shortest route which hits all 5 lakes. Check out the different trail options on Alltrails. Download the app and use this as your GPS along the way.
Prepare for the hike the night before by packing the ten essentials.
Located just south of the Valley of the 5 Lakes, Athabasca Falls is one of the top spots along the Icefields Parkway. It is fed by the Columbia Ice Fields, making it one of the most powerful waterfalls in the Canadian Rockies. This can be a quick photo spot or you can spend longer as there are some short hikes in the area. The parking lot here is on the small side but we found cars to be coming and going regularly, so it’s not too difficult to find a space.
Just south of Athabasca falls is the Sunwapta Falls. Sunwapta Falls are another popular waterfall that can be found along the Ice Fields Parkway.
The parking lot at Sunwapta is a little bigger than that of the Athabasca Falls so you’ll see a lot more visitors here. There are hikes that can take you down to the lower falls or the upper falls are just a short walk away from the parking lot. The best viewpoint of the upper falls is from the bridge crossing the canyon.
Day 4 Summary:
- Valley of the 5 lakes hike
- Athabasca Falls
- Sunwapta Falls
Where To Eat In Jasper?
Jasper offers a great variety of restaurants from independent cafes to coffee shops and chain restaurants.
Loulou’s Breakfast & Pizzeria
My favourite place to get breakfast in Jasper is Loulou’s. Loulou’s has a small New York diner vibe and features a menu to match. Their breakfast menu is pretty big and has everything you could want from pancakes to granola. Try the breakfast skillets – they are amazing! The portions at Loulou’s are huge and prices very affordable.
Jasper Brewing Company
One of the most popular places to eat and drink in Jasper is the Jasper Brewing Company. Opened in 2005, the Jasper Brewing Company was the first National Park Brewery in Canada. The same company then opened Banff Brewing Company in downtown Banff.
If you like to sample local beers on your travels, Jasper Brewing is a must-stop. The brewery offers a pub style menu featuring everything from chicken wings to burgers. The real attraction here is the craft beers on tap.
The Jasper the Bear Ale is the breweries most popular brew, which is a light pilsner made with local malt. All the usual staples feature on their menu such as Pilsners & IPAs, along with the more unique beers like the Babe Blueberry Vanilla Ale.
Downstream Restaurant & Lounge
No trip to Jasper is complete without trying the local cuisine. I really wanted to try Elk while in Jasper and we found the perfect place. Downstream is your go-to for trying Elk in Jasper without the fine dining price tag. The Alberta Elk steak was $35 at the time I visited Jasper (August 2021) and it was by far one of the best meals I had during my time in the Canadian Rockies.
How Many Days In Jasper?
Spending 3, 4 or 5 days in Jasper is the ideal amount of time to really experience this mountain town. The nearest international airports to Jasper are Calgary and Edmonton
The majority of visitors to Jasper arrive at Calgary International Airport and drive from Banff through the Icefields Parkway to get there. After such a long drive, your first and last days will be limited on time, so having 3 full days in between splits up your driving days.
Best Time To Visit Jasper National Park
Jasper is a year-round destination depending on what activities you want to do. Summer offers activities such as whitewater rafting, horseback riding, hiking and canoeing. The winter months are for skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking. The summer is the most popular time to visit Jasper for most tourists, as it’s easier to get to. Driving in the winter can be dangerous and you should be prepared for harsher driving conditions. This itinerary is geared towards a summer trip.
I absolutely fell in love with Jasper. It was so different to Banff and although the downtown area had plenty of gift shops and chain stores it has still retained some of it’s intimate mountain town charm. There is so much more to do in Jasper year-round and while 4 days in Jasper is never enough, this itinerary covers the must do’s.
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