|Toe of the Glacier Hike, Jasper National Park|
The sun is setting and painting the mountains brilliant shades of pink as we drive into the town of 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!
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|
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|
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|
Feeling peckish ourselves, we return to town for extra cheesy pepperoni pizza at Lou Lou’s, and a swim at our hotel. It’s been an active, fun filled weekend minus crowds… unless you count all the animals.
|Pizza and poutine at Loulou’s Pizzeria, Jasper|
More Things to Do in Jasper in Spring
- 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. Read our trip report here: Magical Maligne Canyon Ice Walk.
- 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 on a cloudy day, Jasper|
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.
|Bighorn sheep, Jasper National Park|
- Jasper Skytram takes you up Whistler’s Mountain for panoramic views of Jasper National Park and beyond. Open March 22-October 27, 2019.
- Jasper Planetarium offers planetarium shows and telescope programs with the largest telescopes in the Rockies. Check hours here.
- Glacier Adventure and Skywalk at Columbia Icefield is open April 19 – October 21, 2019. Reservations recommended.
- Note that Miette Hot Springs is closed from early October until early May each year.
Where to Stay
|Chateau Jasper, Jasper National Park|