Jasper is in the North of the Canadian Rockies, and we drove there up the Icefields Parkway from Banff, and I was glad that we were in a motorhome, rather than one of the surprising number of cyclists that we passed. The Icefields Parkway, as its name suggests takes you past several glaciers as you travel along the Rockies, and the information centre is well worth stopping at. Here you can board a specially constructed vehicle which takes you onto the glacier where you can actually get out and walk on the ice - it's amazing.
On to Jasper, a pleasant small town with a helpful and informative tourist information office. Jasper has lots of companies offering trips and activities, we opted to use a booking agent based in the cinema on the main street and were very happy with our choices.
We went on a very enjoyable rafting trip for wimps (more exhilerating options were available) where we got to see nesting bald eagles as well as white water), and we also chose a nature walk. It has to be said that the nature was a bit thin on the ground (we had better views of wild beavers in Calgary) but the guide was experienced and informative and we felt that we learned a lot. The scarcity of wildlife was partly our fault in that we picked a late afternoon walk - the morning expeditions were generally more fruitful, but we were at a campsite some way out of town, and couldn't face the incredibly early start we would have needed for that.
Jasper is a town that caters well for tourists and travellers, and it does have quite a lot of them. The Rocky Mountaineer, scenic train comes here from Vancouver, and in the winter it is also a ski resort.
The Jasper tramway shouldn't be missed, a cable car that takes you up the mountain for stunning views of the area, and if you're not feeling energetic the café at the top is pretty good too.
While we were staying in Jasper we were lucky enough to see the RCMP Musical Ride. As you would expect the standard of performance and horsemanship was incredibly high but what we really liked was the "Canadian-ness" of it all. Just held at a local rodeo ground, it was a very untouristy event with lots of local families. At the end the mounties all came to the edge of the display area to answer questions and be in photographs. If you have the opportunity - go and see it.
Jasper is often the first stop on a Rockies trip, a lot of people coming off the trains from Vancouver - the tourist orientated Rocky Mountaineer or the legendary transcontinental train The Canadian. The location of Jasper is magnificent with mountains looming all around, and a quaint couple of main streets which more or less are the main focus of the town. There are a few shops, and increasing numbers of restaurants, a lot catering for the tourist crowd. A short distance out of town are a multitude of lakes, all turquoise green beauties, my favourite being Pyramid Lake with the stunning backdrop of Pyramid Mountain. A lot of people make the pilgrimage to Maligne Lake where a short boat trip takes you to Spirit Island for an opportunity to take your own photo of a very famous view. Nearby Maligne Canyon is also worth a trip. The main viewpoint in Jasper is the Jasper Tramway. I chickened out of going on it the first time I was in Jasper, but the second time we made the journey. It appears a pretty precarious cable car ride up the very steep mountain, and once at the top a small chalet sits perched on the top, which offers great views, but I must admit I was glad to get back down on the ground!! A lovely hike is also nearby at Mount Edith Cavell where you can see the Angel Glacier. It is a short and pleasant walk. Another pastime I particularly enjoy is hiring a canoe at Jasper Park Lodge which is on the shores of Lac Beauvert. The fairly compact size of the lake with great mountain views is really what being here is all about. Similarly there are loads of lovely photo opportunities on the short walk around the lake. (The review of our stay at the Lodge is below). It is hard to avoid Jasper as a stop on any Rockies trip, and you really wouldn't want to. It is ideal to spend three or four nights here before moving on towards Banff National Park along the Icefields Parkway. There are plenty of things to occupy you in the t
own, and even more impromptu distractions in the form of unexpected views and photo opportunities. I can't imagine staying in Jasper at anywhere other than Jasper Park Lodge though, as it is an attraction in itself. ************** I stayed at Jasper Park Lodge for the first time in 1997, and although I thought the location was magnificent, it did not really grab my imagination at the time. We should have felt lucky as we got upgraded two categories of room, to a Heritage Premier, which was in the main building with a huge roof terrace with the lake and mountains as a view. I must admit to being disappointed though - I was looking forward to having one of the little cabins or chalets. So in 2001 the highlight of our trip was a stay at Jasper, this time hopefully in a cabin. We drove up to reception, and were jumped on by one of the valet parking attendants, who we had to fight off to stop unloading our car - this is one of the few annoying aspects of Jasper Park Lodge; it always happens! You don't know where your cabin is until after you've checked in and then you can more or less always drive up to your door to unload you own bags. It seems silly for them to be unloaded at Reception. Then again, there is a certain type of guest at Jasper Park Lodge, who seems to go there to be pretty lazy, so I guess they may object to carrying their own bags even a few feet!! We went in to Reception and armed with an Upgrade Certificate, were greeted by a very friendly Check In Clerk. Fortunately an upgraded cabin was available but it was still being serviced, so we killed time in Jasper for an hour. When we returned we were given our key, and drove round to our cabin. The cabin was in a block of about five, ours being the one at the end, which benefited from having a large patio area at the side, and not being overlooked by the other cabins in the block. It was nestled under large trees with the lake just a short walk away. Ground
squirrels and chipmunks kept us company. The cabin itself was one of the log style cabins. It was large and consisted of a small living area just inside the door, with table and two chairs and TV unit, and the bed area to the right, close to the window, and with the trees rustling outside when you woke up in the morning you were in no doubt this wasn't your average hotel location. The room was decorated in pink and floral prints for both curtains (of which there were plenty because of windows all around the room) and bedding, with deep blue carpets. The furniture was in light wood. This decor wouldn't have worked in a normal hotel, but here it gave the cabin a homely cosy feel. Off from the main bedroom was a small dressing area with large mirrored wardrobes and dressing mirror, with the bathroom leading off. The bathroom appeared quite old and in need of renovation. The room had all the usual amenities of a good hotel, hairdryer, alarm clock, iron and board, etc. The biggest benefit of our cabin was the patio area, where you could sit and relax, which came with white plastic chairs and a table. For our first evening we had brought a picnic, and spent an idyllic night eating and drinking on the patio. We wondered before we went, whether this would be frowned upon and seen as mean, but we were glad to see that quite a few guests were doing this too. During our first stay, we were shocked that we were practically the only guests sitting outside on our patio, and considering such a wonderful view, we wondered just how fortunate (or jaded) these typical Jasper Park Lodge guests must be, not to make the most of this great spectacle. On the second night we dined at the Edith Cavell Dining Room, which turned out to be the best meal we had had at any Canadian Pacific/Fairmont Hotel to date. Jasper Park Lodge has quite a few options for dining nowadays, including the Moose's Nook, just off the lobby which seems to be the midrange hotel restau
rant. There is also the Emerald lounge bar also off the lobby, with outside terrace, serving drinks and snacks, and also an informal restaurant on the shopping arcade level, as well as a 'Night Club'. The Edith Cavell Dining Room menu appealed to us, and we were more willing to go on this occasion due to the Jacket and Tie dress code being scrapped (not before time). The restaurant is situated on the shopping level of the hotel, adjoining the Palisade lounge. The restaurant is furnished tastefully, with huge windows looking towards the lake, and the view constantly competes with your dining companion for attention. The service is first class, from start to finish, and our Waitress seemed particularly eager to please. You are brought your choice of Evian or Perrier mineral water; a much better idea than a Waiter hovering with a jug of water. The food is well presented and contemporary without appearing too fussy and overplayed. We both sampled seafood dishes, which considering our expectations are always pretty high and we had dined well at the Rimrock Cafe in Whistler just days before, still didn't disappoint. The desserts were probably the weakest part of the meal, a point that some people from a nearby table also noted. After our meal we were brought some petit fours, and we relaxed in the lounge with our port. We were very impressed, as you sometimes feel that you are a captive audience in a resort hotel, but Edith Cavell Dining Room had very high standards and would be towards the top of my list of favourite restaurants. The atmosphere is relaxing and refined, and while you are sampling great food, with the resident harpist creating the mood, you feel you must have found something very special here. Jasper Park Lodge has loads of amenities to occupy you during your stay. Not only is there a golf course, so impressive in location that it almost makes you want to take up golf (almost!), but also tennis courts, and leisure club. My favourite t
hing about this hotel, is the ability to hire your own canoe or kayak, and go canoeing on Lac Beauvert. This is a great way to spend an hour or two, paddling around trying to look as if you're in control. From the Lake you get really good views of all your surroundings and you get a real perspective of how special this place is. Also a walk around the lake is a great thing to do, with so many photo opportunities, and is a less than strenuous hike. Obviously Jasper Park Lodge is driving distance from all the nearby attractions, but you will also need to drive into Jasper town itself. This shouldn't cause a problem, as apart from stocking up on picnic food at the start of each day, you probably won't need more than one visit, and especially at night there should be plenty to occupy you at the Lodge. All in all, Jasper Park Lodge is not unique in its style - there are many places to stay in the Rockies with peaceful surroundings and in your own private cabins, but what makes Jasper Park Lodge so special is the fact that it combines the location and endearing accommodations with services and restaurants that easily rival big city hotels. You can have the best of both worlds here - going for a hike or watching your pet squirrel one minute, then dining in fantastic style on excellent food the next. Jasper Park Lodge isn't cheap, especially if you book direct with the hotel, but I didn't begrudge a cent that I paid - if only I could say the same about other hotels that cost a third as much.
Jasper National Park is the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, spanning 10,878 km² (4200 mi²). It is located in the province of Alberta, to the north of Banff National Park and west of the city of Edmonton. The park includes the glaciers of the Columbia Icefield, hot springs, lakes, waterfalls and, of course, mountains. Wildlife in the park include elk, moose, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, grizzly bear, black bear, beaver, Rocky Mountain pika, hoary marmot and caribou.