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This is a place to sleep, eat and stock up. Jasper receives around three million visitors annually, so accommodations, especially in summer, can be extremely tight. Unless you rent a vehicle, you will be limited. Trailheads and the best natural attractions are a long way from downtown. However, if you don't want to rent a vehicle, then rent a bike which can work just as well to get around the downtown area. For the beautiful (and not to be missed) attractions a little further, join one of many group tours available in town. 

JasperBecause Jasper National Park is a wildlife sanctuary, it is very common to encounter all sorts of wild animals unexpectedly, like we did when checking in at The Pine Bungalows.  A family of four young elk quietly munched their way through the property as nonchalantly as you can imagine.  Moose, elk and mule deer often wander unafraid through the main streets of the town , and black bear are frequently spotted just a few feet from the more popular hiking and walking trails. 

Elk at Pine BungalowsPine Bungalows is one of many choices of accommodations (Pine Bungalows, 780-852-3491, www.pinebungalows.com).

Located about 1 mile from downtown Jasper on the scenic Athabasca River, it offers small cabins with kitchenettes and fireplace as well as a newer two-story hotel rooms. We enjoyed the peace and tranquility away from the busier downtown and frequently walked to the riverfront to enjoy looking at the flowing glacial river. One day, we saw a young man floating downstream with two inflatable rafts attached to each other. What a way to go!

With its colorful buildings, wide sidewalks and open streets, Jasper and its surrounding has the small town feel of a frontier town. Situated at the confluence of the Miette and Athabasca rivers, the town revolves primarily around two streets, Connaught Drive and Patricia Street. The former contains the train terminal, restaurants, motels and park information center.  The latter, just a block west, is a parallel street lined with more shops, restaurants and small hotels.

TramJasper Tramway, Whistlers Mountain & Pyramid Lake

Canada's longest and highest aerial tramway starts at the foot of Whistlers Mountain 4 miles south of Jasper township off Highway 93. This is a must-see, especially if you can manage the trek to the very top of the mountain for an unbelievable, unobstructed view of the Canadian Rockies.

Flight 44 was being called as we walked up to the ticket window.  A tram whisked upwards over our heads, loaded with 30 passengers. In just under 8 minutes, it would travel 1 1/4 miles up to the Whistlers Mountain summit at 7,283 ft. in a breathtaking sky ride. At the upper terminal, visitors step out into alpine tundra and a wonderful picnic area carpeted with mountain grass. There, you have stunning views up to 55 miles away. If hungry, combo tickets include meals at the upper terminal's Treeline Restaurant. Call ahead to reserve your tickets unless you want to spend a couple of hours waiting in line at this very popular attraction.

From Jasper, it is just a few miles' drive up the mountain to Pyramid Lake, and on the way, a stop at the shallow Patricia Lake is in order. Both lakes offer similar spectacular scenery. All the lakes inside Jasper National Park allow electric motors only and Pyramid Lake is no exception. It is an absolutely beautiful crystal clear lake at the foot of the impressive Pyramid Mountain.  Here, families can enjoy renting canoes, wind surfers, sailboats, paddle boats or just about any water craft available.  Take a stroll over a rustic footbridge to Pyramid Lake Island. 

Horseback Trail Riding Fun

While most horseback riding experiences are the typical tail-to-nose walks through well-worn trails, Skyline Trail Rides is an exception (Skyline Trail Rides, 888-852-7787, www.skylinetrail.com).

Horseback ridingLocated at the luxurious Jasper Lodge about a mile outside of town, the stables are open to the public and schedule a variety of rides for all skill levels.  From one-hour to 4 hours, the various trails take riders by lakes Annette, Edith and Trefoil, through secluded forest areas where elk are often part of the scenery, and uphill to scenic overlooks of the Athabasca Valley. On my ride, we saw a total of four black bears munching on berries just a few feet away from the riders. Both bears and horses were accustomed to each other, but the riders were excited!

Skyline Trails is also known for its 3-day backcountry trips to Shovel Pass, an experience that has lasted over 80 years. The backcountry cabins are fully heated and all gear is packed in by the trail horses. All you have to do is enjoy the extremely secluded scenery. This is definitely something that may force me to return to Jasper!  So, even if you have only a couple of days to spend here, there is more than enough to do and really enjoy. The visit will definitely be worth it!

Pyramid LakeDining

Accommodations that include outdoor bar-b-ques and kitchenettes are very popular, but the large majority of hotel rooms will force guests to eat out. Dining in the more popular restaurants in the middle of town is not cheap, but we found a few places that were worth the expense and a few out-of-the-way places that were very affordable.

Bear's Paw Bakery (& its sister bakery The Other Paw) most definitely popular early in the mornings, where numerous giant-sized baked items are available. By the early afternoon, everything is gone!

L&W's - a very pleasant surprise, just off the main road but an easy walk from most hotels. This restaurant is one of the oldest in town and features a large variety of dishes as well as pizzas. The family's Greek heritage is evident in several of the menu items. Price, ambiance and quality of food was great and we highly recommend it.



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