Jasper National Park:
A Great Place To Visit
By Stephen A. Nelson
Jasper National Park - in Alberta, Canada - is one of the best places in the world to visit.
That's according to TIME magazine, which just named Jasper one of the „100 Greatest Places in the World.“
Anyone who lives here would agree - and why not?
This is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and - on a good day - being here really is „A Taste of Heaven.“
Even on a bad day, it's still better than being in the city.
But somehow, TIME managed to tell us that Jasper is one of the best places - without really telling us or showing us the things that make it great.
So, here are a few of my photographs and thoughts.
You can see for yourself why „the jewel of Canada's national parks“ is „Wonderful. By Nature.“
1. The Lakes
„THIS is Paradise.“
Seen from the mountain tops, Jasper's lakes look like jewels - sapphires, emeralds and turquoise - set in silver and jade.
Maligne Lake is certainly the most famous of these lakes - and Spirit Island has to be the most photographed peninsula on the planet. It is an icon - the Holy Grail of the Canadian Rockies.
And the Maligne Lake boat tour has been named the „Best Boat Cruise In Canada.“
2. The Canyons
„There's a world within a world - that the world doesn't know about.“
Hiking through the canyons of Jasper is an amazing way to discover that hidden world. The most well known - and most accessible - is the Maligne Canyon.
In wintertime, it's „A Whole New World“ and the frozen waterfalls are a magnet for ice-climbers from around the world.
3. The View From Above
„I'm On Top Of The World, looking down on Creation.“
If you're looking for a Rocky Mountain High, the national park offers breathtaking vistas like nowhere you've ever been.
The bird's-eye view in the photo is from near the top of The Whistlers - a prominent mountain that overlooks the town of Jasper.
If you're not ready to „Climb Every Mountain“ - you can still get „Jasper's Peak Experience“ by taking the Skytram.
4. The Icefields Parkway
„One of the world's most beautiful drives“ and „One of the Ten Best Drives in the World.“
That's what National Geographic magazine has called this highway.
Some people still call it by its old name: The Banff-Jasper Highway.
I call it the „Highway To Heaven.“
Whatever you call it, if you drive or ride along it, you'll agree with my American friend who told me, „It's the most spectacular scenery I've seen in my life.“
5. The Rivers and Waterfalls
„Oh, what a feeling! Oh, what a rush!“
Nothing in the world matches the mind-blowing rush you get from being on the wild and free rivers of Jasper.
Once upon a time - when the rivers were Alberta's highways - the fast-flowing Athabasca River was virtually our autobahn. Taking a raft tour on this or on the Sunwapta River is highly recommended.
But even if you stay on land, you can still walk right up the waterfalls and feel the untamed force of nature...
Everyone who comes here has a favourite waterfall. I love them all.
But there is one waterfall that's absolutely iconic: Athabasca Falls.
6. The Glaciers
The Icefields Parkway makes the famed Athabasca Glacier - which is part of the Columbia Icefield - the most accessible and most-visited glacier in the world.
But whichever glacier you visit, you will be literally stepping back into the Ice Age.
If you can get away from the crowds, it's like being on another planet.
7. Indigenous Peoples Day in Jasper
„Our home and native land.“
If you really want an immersive experience of Canada's authentic aboriginal culture, the best time is during Jasper's Indigenous Peoples Day.
It's usually held on the Saturday closest to the Summer Solstice in June.
It's a vibrant, colourful celebration of the customs and traditions of Canada's native peoples.
It includes just about everything you'd want to see and hear - especially the pow-wow dancers in colourful costumes performing to the beat of the drum and the sound of the singers.
8. Riding the Rails
„When the wild, majestic mountains stood alone against the sun.“
I once said that taking a railway journey through the Canadian Rockies was like taking “a magic carpet ride.“
My Japanese friend told me, „It's like a dream.“
She was right.
9. Starry, Starry Nights
„At night the stars put on a show for free.“
Jasper National Park is the „largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve“ in the world.
That means that it's one of the best places on the planet to come and see the stars.
October is perhaps the best time to come - because that's when we have our annual Dark Sky Festival.
And that's when stargazers and astronomers from around the world come here to share their passion for „far-away places with strange-sounding names.“
You don't need a telescope - just a decent camera, a warm coat and an open mind.
„More kinds of animals than you've ever seen.“
Jasper National Park was created to be a nature preserve. And despite the challenges of climate change, the park still is.
If you're well-behaved, you'll probably see quite a few elk, deer, mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
If you're fortunate, you can hope to see black bears and grizzly bears, coyotes and maybe even moose.
If you're very blessed, you might see wolves or beavers.
They're all here - and most of them find this place a haven, even when the world is being destroyed by fires and floods.
Like my American friend said, „Instead of calling it 'Jasper National Park' - they should call it 'Jasper National Ark'.“
General Visitor Information:
Jasper National Park / Parks Canada
Getting to Jasper:
Sundog Tours and Transportation
VIA Rail Canada
Getting around Jasper:
Jasper Wildlife Discovery Tour
Maligne Lake Boat Tours
Jasper Raft Tours
Jasper's Dark Sky Preserve and Dark Sky Festival
Indigenous Culture in Jasper
Columbia Icefield / Athabasca Glacier
The Icefields Parkway