Like Banff, Jasper’s history dates back more than 10,000 years. Prior to the arrival of white settlers, Athabaskan-speaking natives lived in what is now the eastern portion of the park. In 1810, David Thompson, an explorer and cartographer from London, became one of the first Europeans to discover a northern route through the Rocky Mountains via Athabasca Pass in the western stretch of the park.
Similar to nearby national parks, railway construction also played a pivotal role in the formation of the park. In the early 1900s, construction began on the Grand Trunk Pacific and the Canadian Northern railways. The railways would travel through Yellowhead Pass and the Athabasca valley. As a result, in 1907, the federal government made the decision to set aside land for the Jasper Forest Reserve. Over twenty years later, in 1930, the preserve was designated as a national park.
This Alberta park contains incredible glacial valleys, alpine meadows, glaciers, and is home to hundreds of rugged, alpine peaks. Located in southwerstern Alberta, Jasper shares parts of its western border with Mount Robson Provincial Park and Hamber Provincial Park in British Columbia, and its southern border with Banff National Park.
The craggy summits found in the park formed over 75 million years ago when the Rocky Mountain System was formed. Erosion caused by powerful rivers and glaciers shaped the mountainous landscape we know and love today.
There are 422 named mountains in Jasper National Park. Located on the Continental Divide, the South Jasper Ranges are part of the Central Main Ranges of the Canadian Rockies. These ranges span both Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park and contain notable subranges like the Trident Range and the Cavell Group. Mount Edith Cavell, Simon Peak, Throne Mountain, Blackhorn Peak, and Chevron Mountain are a few of the prominent peaks found in the South Jasper Ranges. All of these peaks reach over 10,000 feet in elevation.
The Winston Churchill Range, a subrange of the Park Ranges, is also a prominent mountain range found in the park. The range, which was named after former British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill, contains striking Jasper summits like Mount Columbia, the highest point in Alberta, North Twin Peak and South Twin Peak, Twins Tower, Mount Alberta, Mount Kitchener, Mount Woolley, and Stutfield Peak – all of which exceed 11,000 feet in elevation.
The Queen Elizabeth Ranges and East Jasper Ranges, which includes small subranges like the Jacques Range, Colin Range, Fiddle Range, and Miette Range, lie in the Central Front Ranges. The Queen Elizabeth Ranges, which sit on the southeastern side of the park, contain stunning Rocky Mountain summits like Mount Unwin, Mount Charlton, Mount Mary Vaux, Maligne Mountain, Coronet Mountain, and Samson Peak. The East Jasper Ranges contain several 8,000+ foot summits like Sirdar Mountain, Mount Colin, Mount Dromore in the Colin Range, and Emir Mountain, Mount Merlin in the Jacques Range.
Jasper is home to nearly 53 species of mammals, including one of the healthiest populations of grizzly bears, moose, and elk. Bighorn sheep, mountain goat, cougar, lynx, woodland caribou also call Jasper home. Generally, you don’t have to venture too far off the beaten path to view wildlife.
The park contains more than 600 miles of hiking trails and is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Some of the park’s most iconic attractions include the illustrious Mount Edith Cavell, Pyramid Lake and Pyramid Mountain, Athabasca Falls, Athabasca Glacier, Maligne Lake, and Medicine Lake.
The gateway to the Rockies, Icefields Parkway is arguably one of the most scenic roadways in the world. The parkway, which stretches for 144 miles from Banff to Jasper, weaves its way through towering snow-capped Rocky Mountain summits, elegant icefields, emerald lakes, thick larch forest, and sweeping valleys. Every inch of this highway is beautiful, and there are several popular attractions and hiking trails along the parkway to explore.
Maligne Lake, the largest lake in the park, is infamous for its incredible azure-colored water and surrounding Rocky Mountain summits. There are three glaciers visible from the lake – the Charlton-Unwin, Maligne, and Coronet glaciers. Boat tours are popular on the lake, and travel to Spirit Island, an infamous islet that offers stunning views of the surrounding summits. The highest peak in the area is Mount Brazeau, which sits at the head of the Brazeau Icefield at the southeast end of the lake. Another iconic summit, Monkhead, also sits proudly in plain view.
The Skyline Trail, one of the park’s most popular trails, also begins at Maligne Lake. Backpacking the Skyline Trail is considered one of the most stunning multi-day hikes in the Canadian Rockies. Spanning 27 miles, the trail takes hikers through three major alpine passes along the Malign Range. There are two trails for the Skyline Trail, from the shore of Maligne Lake and from Signal Mountain.
A trek along the Cavell Meadows trail is a moderately difficult day hike that starts from the top of Cavell Road in the Mount Edith Cavell area and treks through subalpine forest and alpine meadows while offering stunning views of Mt. Edith Cavell and Angel Glacier. This trail is a favorite amongst visitors for its striking vistas and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Considered by many to be one of the best day hikes in Jasper National Park, Wilcox Pass offers a little bit of everything – glaciers, mountain views, wildlife, and cascading waterfalls. This 5.8-mile out and back trail offers unparalleled views of Mount Athabasca, Snow Dome, Mount Kitchener, and Athabasca Glacier. As you make the trek along the ridge toward the summit of Wilcox Pass, the entire length of Athabasca Glacier comes into view.
Located along the Icefields Parkway, Sunwapta Falls consists of upper and lower waterfalls that are fed by the Athabasca Glacier. The upper falls can be easily appreciated from a viewpoint near the parking lot. However, a short trip down trail takes hikers through a lodgepole pine forest to a view of the lower falls.
One of the most popular stops along the Icefields Parkway, Athabasca Falls offers visitors the unique opportunity to stand above and feel the spray of the powerful Athabasca River as it thunders through the canyon below. The falls can be safely viewed from a variety of hiking trails and various scenic platforms. The sheer power and force of the water is incredible to witness.
Marmot Basin is Jasper’s premium alpine ski area. Marmot Basin offers 91 named runs on four mountain faces, three terrain parks, seven lifts, including the longest in the Canadian Rockies, three on-mountain lodges, and a variety of shops and eateries. The ski area sits just twenty minutes from the town of Jasper and is known for its relaxed and respectful ambiance.
Nicknamed the “Gentle Giant of the Rockies,” Jasper is a tranquil mountain town packed full of adventure. The world’s largest dark sky preserve, Jasper is the perfect place for stargazing and, if you’re lucky, experiencing the aurora borealis. Jasper serves as the ideal place to explore the alpine terrain in Jasper National Park. In addition to year-round outdoor recreation opportunities, Jasper offers a variety of accommodations including reputable resorts like Pyramid Lake Resort, Mount Robson Inn, and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
Established in 1885, Banff is a quintessential Rocky Mountain resort town nestled in the heart of Banff National Park. Not only can the Rocky Mountains be admired from town, but visitors can pass the time by visiting a variety of cultural landmarks, museums, art galleries, and historic sites. The lively streets of downtown Banff are peppered with restaurants, shopping, and mountain-town charm.
Nicknamed the “Castle in the Rockies,” the world-famous, historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, offers year-round resort amenities and unparalleled skiing opportunities. However, there are plenty of other popular resorts and other accommodations in and around the town of Banff. Not to mention, Banff is home to three world-class ski resorts – Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Norquay, which cumulatively boast over 8,000 acres of accessible terrain.