Sometimes you just need to go to the mountains. The Rockies specifically. You need to heed their call, fill your psyche with John Muir quotes, gulp clean air and enjoy weekend full of sweaty, outdoor, family fun. Jasper is this place.
“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
~ John Muir ~
A town of 4,000, Jasper is in the middle of Jasper National Park and hugged by the Rockies and bordered by train tracks. It’s the slightly more granola, woodsy version of Banff. A popular escape for Edmontoninans (like us!) and folks from Grande Prairie and Prince George, Jasper is a year-round outdoor adventure destination. While the shoulder seasons are a less busy, Jasper buzzes in the summer with tour buses, hikers and campers and swells on winter weekends with waves of downhill, cross country and snowshoeing crowds.
Recently, our little family escaped to Jasper for some cozy cabin time, a downhill adrenalin rush or two and a morning cross country ski workout that would’ve made any of my Cross Fit/P90x buddies proud. BUT besides all the magical, mountain-y stuff Jasper offers, the mountain town also boasts a fantastic restaurant scene, cute, indie shops and a walk score of a million (okay, or 100).
I’ve been lucky enough escape to the Rockies and Jasper twice this year and write about it a couple of times (like here and here). This time I’m sharing more photographic evidence of Jasper’s awesomeness rather than my words. Herewith, my 10 reasons why Jasper is the stuff of John Muir quotes and Oprah-esque opportunities to connect with both yourself and your loved ones.
Jasper is FULL of cute as heck cabin accommodations. We stayed at the perfectly cuddly Bear Hill Lodge. Our one room cabin was simple but had all the goods: a kitchenette complete with essentials (like a corkscrew, coffee supplies, a mini-fridge and a kettle) and a nicely forested hill behind the property that sort of makes you feel like you’re in a Rockies wilderness area (though you’re a six minute walk from downtown).
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
Play amongst the frozen waterfalls of Maligne Canyon, snowshoe on the shores of Medicine Lake, cross country ski (or walk sometimes, as in my case) on one of Jasper’s many cross country ski trails. Old man winter, you’re way more fun than I thought.
Did you know Marmot Basin has Canada’s highest downhill mountain base? Besides being wicked high with loads of terrain, Marmot Basin is what I call a happy mountain. The line ups are fast and not too long, everyone who works there is mega friendly and there is a nursery which meant we could have an adult only, afternoon ski/board sesh while our son napped. Bliss!
Clean air. Loads of it. Especially outside.
“Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.”
Jasperians (Jasperites?) are lucky folks. Their restaurant selection rivals any big city. From fine dining to enlightened pub fare to Japanese, you could travel to Jasper 10 times a year and eat different places every time. My faves (because, highchairs): Walter’s Dining Room at the Sawridge Inn, Jasper Brewing Company Brew Pub & Eatery, the Wicked Cup, the Emerald Lounge at the Jasper Park Lodge and the Athabasca Hotel.
Jasper is pretty kid friendly. Many of the eateries have high chairs (see above) there’s tonnes of space for them to run around, the Jasper Municipal Library is cute as heck. There are local nannny/babysitting services in town (including at Marmot’s Little Rascals Nursery) in case the parentals want some adult time.
Jasper is pretty easy to get to: it’s four hours from Edmonton, Grande Prairie and Prince George and about five hours from Calgary by car. The Icefields Parkway is likely the world’s most Instagram-friendly highway and truly the road trip crown jewel of the Rockies. If you want a minimal to no fuss trip, take Via Rail from either east (Edmoton) or west (Vancouver or Prince George). Nab a cabin if you can… psssst pro-tip, seat sales generally happen on Tuesday night.
Whether you want some locally crafted goods, a new parka or a pair of slippers (true story), Jasper’s downtown is chock a block with independent shops and ephemera. Read about my picks here.
Take the heel to express. If Jasper was rated on it’s walkability, it would rank very close to 100. It’s pretty easy to walk from one end of town to the opposite end in under an hour. This makes for all kinds of uncomplicated fun: take photos of resident Elk, have more than one beer at dinner, check out local architecture, the train yards for cross-Canada graffiti photo ops.
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
Steeped in history – once a railway town turned National Park, Jasper is an amateur historian’s dream. From the antique-filled Athabasca Hotel to the interesting back story to the beautiful Haida Two Brothers totem that rises like a talisman in the town centre, Jasper’s history is the stuff of books, fireside tales and national pride.
“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!”
I feel like I’ve just scratched Jasper’s surface. There is so much to do – next up, more cross country skiing, more snowshoeing, more star gazing and more Rockies family adventures.
Where is your favourite mountain escape? Tell me about yours in the comments below.