We have crossed a lot of Alberta destinations off our bucket list since first arriving in Calgary in spring 2015, and this summer it was time to discover Jasper. There is a lot to do in Jasper and the surrounding area: much more than we could cram into three days of activity. We can’t wait to go back, and hopefully our experience will help you plan your own family’s trip to the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies.
Driving up from Calgary, we made a pit stop in the village of Lake Louise to have a snack, use the facilities and grab The Icefields Parkway Driving Guide. Jasper is 233 km north of Lake Louise, and the drive along the Icefields Parkway is magnificent. Cub enjoyed following along from the back seat, practising his budding reading skills as we passed each attraction along the way.
Midway between Lake Louise and Jasper is the Columbia Icefield. Rather than pull over to the right and into the Icefield Discovery Centre, which looked to be jam-packed based on the facility’s parking lot, we turned into a gravel lot on the left to figure out a plan of attack.
Step one was to eat our picnic lunch in the shadow of Mount Athabasca. We were dressed for the hot summer weather of Calgary, but it was downright chilly and windy when we got out of the car at the Icefields.
Once we’d eaten our sandwiches, we went for a closer look at the terrain. Cub managed to slip and fall in the parking lot, leading him to sulk for the greater part of our Icefields exploration. Miss Cub was much more cheerful, and it was easy to pull her North Face Toddler Hike Pants on over her shorts so she would be warm and her knees would be protected since she wanted to climb EVERYTHING.
We decided to make the 1 km hike to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier (Cub’s sour mood notwithstanding), so we moved the car to the parking lot by Sunwapta Lake and set off.
I wore Miss Cub on my front in our baby carrier because it was extremely windy, and I wanted to protect her face. She was, frankly, unperturbed by the brisk breeze and wanted out so she could climb and explore with her brother.
It’s pretty incredible to see the glacier up close and to see the trail markers indicating just how far the glacier has receded over the decades.
I pulled my leggings on under my skirt before we hit the trail and zipped up my North Face Women’s Camp Tnf Lite hoodie.
Despite the wind, it was definitely worth it to coax the preschooler and chase the toddler up the moderately steep slope to the toe of the glacier.
On Canada Day, our first full day in Jasper, we drove fifteen minutes from the town centre to Maligne Canyon.
We opted for the “full loop” hike, which is 4 km long. I can qualify the sights and sounds of this hike as simply extraordinary. The plunging canyons and rushing waterfalls are impressive.
Six bridges cross the canyons, allowing you to peer down into the raging water and admire the rock walls. The largest canyon is a dizzying 55 metres deep, and I felt my stomach in my throat as I gazed straight down!
It was overcast when we started out, and we soon started to hear thunder rumbling in the distance. Luckily we had Cub’s Patagonia Light & Variable hoody in our pack because this child does not like being ill-dressed for the weather.
This hike was far too difficult and at times treacherous to let Miss Cub out to walk, despite her protests. I wore her for the first half of the trail, and we let her roam free only at a picnic spot after the fifth bridge. (The bridges are identified by numbers on the trail map.)
For the return route we chose was 7H, and it was intense. It was steep. At times I had to drag Cub along, as he was operating in “gear zero.” The sound of cars in the parking lot was music to my ears as I could legitimately tell my child-turned-sloth that we were almost done.
From Maligne Canyon, the drive to Lake Maligne is about an hour. The kids and I took advantage of the journey to sleep like babies while Papa Wolf was at the wheel.
Too exhausted to do any more hiking, we hung out at the picnic tables outside of the View Restaurant, eating our packed lunch and waving our Canadian flags.
We then set up camp on a patch of grass near the docks to play hackie sack, toss a football and bask in the sunshine.
The Lake Maligne boat trips looked like a lot of fun, but knowing we would be taking the Jasper SkyTram the next day, it just wasn’t in our budget. Miss Cub enjoyed watching the boats come and go, and it was a bit of an effort to stop her from running straight into the water herself.
After a very busy day, you can bet that the kids (and I) passed right out for the car ride home. Miss Cub and her big brother kept right on sleeping even once we were back at our cabin!
The Jasper SkyTram takes you up Whistlers Mountain for a spectacular view of the Canadian Rockies. While we were roasting at the bottom, the temperature took an expected dip once we began hiking to the summit. (Alas the SkyTram doesn’t take you to the tippy top: if you want to get there, you have to work for it!) [Full post on the Skytram.]
I wore Miss Cub for both the trek up and down the mountain. Again, it was simply too treacherous for her to make the climb on foot. Luckily, when you reach the summit there is plenty of fun to be had, even for toddlers: rocks to climb, snow to touch and marmots and chipmunks to spy.
Surrounded by so much jaw-dropping scenery, it’s hard to know where to stop for a picture. Here’s Papa Wolf in his North Face Canyonlands jacket with Pyramid Mountain in the background!
Pyramid Lake Beach
After our SkyTram adventure, we returned to our cabin to relax before heading out to Pyramid Lake Beach. Surprisingly, the water was a reasonable temperature for swimming! The sand was perfect for sand castles, too. I didn’t expect to touch snow at the top of a mountain and dive into a lake all on the same day, but that is what you can expect in Jasper in the summer!
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