Why You Should Visit Jasper in March

by - Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Visit Jasper in March for fantastic skiing, quiet trails, great wildlife viewing, and affordable accommodation.

The sun is setting and painting the mountains brilliant shades of pink as we drive into Jasper. Elk lazily cross the street without a sideways glance. They're headed for their favorite spot, the front lawn of the Visitor Centre, in the heart of town. We decide to follow suit, ditch the car, and explore on foot.

It's late March (Spring Break), and the weather is mild compared to Lake Louise, where we began our journey. Jasper's lower elevation (1060 m vs 1600 m for Lake Louise) means spring comes sooner here.  While cross country ski season is over and many winter roads remain closed, alpine skiing is still going strong at Marmot Basin, and wildlife viewing is better than ever. Streets that were packed in the summer are now half empty. A few blocks down the road, we score a table at Evil Dave's Grill - one of the best restaurants in town - without a reservation.

Over "sinful starters" - Holy Cow is my favorite - and delectable Karma Curry, we ask the kids what their favorite stop was along the Icefields Parkway. Unanimously, they say, "bum sliding" on The Toe of the Glacier Trail. Never mind that the Columbia Icefield is the largest ice field in North America's Rocky Mountains; to the kids it's just another fun place to play in the snow!

Toe of the Glacier Hike, Jasper National Park
Toe of the Glacier Hike, Jasper National Park
Check out more great stops on the Icefields Parkway in: Touring the Icefields Parkway with Kids.

Day Two: Fire and Ice 

Where we walk on a frozen riverbed to dazzling ice falls, have a bonfire, and hike some more.

After scones and coffee at Bear's Paw Bakery, we drive past herds of bighorn sheep and elk to Maligne Canyon. We peer into the depths of the canyon - over 50 metres (160 feet) deep near the second bridge - at natural ice sculptures. At the winter Canyon Access Point, we descend onto the frozen riverbed and gain an entirely different perspective. The falls look bigger from below and change color depending on how the light hits them. We've arrived before the tour groups and have the canyon to ourselves, so we linger and enjoy the solitude.

Maligne Canyon Ice Walk, Jasper National Park
Maligne Canyon Ice Walk, Jasper National Park
Read about our experience here: Magical Maligne Canyon Ice Walk.

Lunchtime finds us at Lake Annette for a picnic and bonfire. It's quiet, save for a few cheeky whiskeyjacks who have come see what's on the menu. They flit from tree to tree, closer and closer, until they realize we don't have any handouts for them.

Lake Annette Day Use Area, Jasper National Park
Lake Annette Day Use Area, Jasper National Park
Next stop is Old Fort Point Loop Trail (3.4 km) near the Athabasca River. It's a short, steep climb to the lookout where locals tell us they just saw a grizzly in the woods! Not wanting to bother a hungry bear recently out of hibernation, we return the way we came. At least we got to enjoy the view from the top!

View from Old Fort Point, Jasper National Park
View from Old Fort Point, Jasper National Park
Feeling peckish ourselves, we return to town for extra cheesy pepperoni pizza at Lou Lou's, and a swim at our hotel (hot tub soak for me). It's been an active, fun filled weekend minus crowds... unless you count all the animals.

Pizza and poutine at Loulou's Pizzeria, Jasper
Pizza and poutine at Loulou's Pizzeria, Jasper

More Things to Do in Jasper in Spring

Note: Snow sports are weather dependent. Check the Jasper Trails Reports for current information before you go.

Alpine Skiing: Marmot Basis Resort is open from early November to early May. They've just opened a new expert area, Tres Hombres, with "complex, steep fall line riding."

Cross Country Skiing in Jasper usually winds down in mid to late March. Check the Jasper Trails Reports for current information.

Dogsledding tours are available from several companies in Jasper. See Jasper Travel for more information.

Hiking

Conditions are variable in early spring. Pack microspikes/ice cleats just in case!

  • Maligne Canyon is the premiere accessible early spring hike. For your safety, Parks Canada recommends going with a guide. Maligne Adventures offers tours from mid December to late March, weather and conditions permitting.
  • Visit Athabasca Falls then drive a little further south to hike Valley of the Five Lakes (4.5 km loop) and get a photo at the red chairs!
  • Hike Lac Beauvert Loop (3.4 km) from iconic Jasper Park Lodge.
  • Walk to Pyramid Island (200 metres) for beautiful views of Pyramid Mountain. This is also a great star gazing spot!
Pyramid Lake - Jasper
Pyramid Lake on a cloudy day, Jasper

Snowshoeing

The Maligne Lake area tends to have the best snow. Here are two trails to try:

  • Snowshoe Medicine Lake's shoreline (3 km from northern viewpoint) for stunning views of the Endless Chain Ridge.
  • Mary Schaffer Loop (3.2 km) at Maligne Lake is a scenic trail that starts near the boathouse.
Stargazing: Jasper National Park is the world's largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve. Great star gazing locations near town include Pyramid Lake Island, Lake Annette, and Lac Beauvert.

Wildlife Viewing is excellent in Jasper National Park. Elk are often seen in the townsite, but another great spot to see bighorn sheep and elk is near the junction of the Yellowhead Highway and Maligne Lake Road. Stay in your vehicle and never feed wildlife (you could be fined up to $25,000).

Bighorn sheep, Jasper National Park
Bighorn sheep, Jasper National Park

Local Attractions

Where to Stay

Jasper has a good selection of hotels and cabins open year round. We stayed at newly renovated Chateau Jasper and really enjoyed it; especially the pool and hot tub! The hotel is far enough from the train that we all slept well.

Chateau Jasper, Jasper National Park
Chateau Jasper, Jasper National Park

Getting Here

The town of Jasper is located at the north end of the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93 N); 413 km from Calgary and 365 km from Edmonton.

Why you should visit Jasper National Park in March
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