Our friends have an ongoing love affair with Jasper. So they created a summer bucket list to help us newbies explore the largest and northernmost national park in the Canadian Rockies – covering 10,878 sq km (4,200 sq mi) – using airways, waterways and pathways.
Start with a Bird’s Eye View
First up was an hour-long fixed-wing plane tour with Air Jasper. My husband and I shared a rush of excitement as we soared over the magnificent Columbia Icefields and stunningly turquoise Maligne Lake. Our pilot told us we were looking at the largest ice mass in North America and the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world. Magnificent.
Our friends highly recommended the half-hour heli-sightseeing tours with High Country Helicopter Tours, especially the Epic Summit and Icefield Tour, where you’ll cruise high above the crevasses of the Wilson Icefield and on past the Cline, Lion and Lioness glaciers. You’ll be treated to a spectacular view of a 274 m (900 ft) waterfall.
Back on the ground, we were quickly airborne once again. Jasper SkyTram is the longest and highest aerial tramway in Canada, going straight up Whistler's Mountain to the Upper Station at 2,277 m (7,472 ft.). Taking in the 3600 view, we could see six mountain ranges, the winding Athabasca River, Lac Beauvert and the town of Jasper far below. We strolled the boardwalks and watched serious hikers tramping all the way up to the summit.
Rushing Rivers and Placid Lakes
The adrenaline was flowing on a Class 2 whitewater rafting trip along the Athabasca River. We were shuttled 8 km (5 mi) south of Jasper for the two-hour, all ages adventure with Jasper’s Whitewater Rafting Ltd. A first but definitely not our last. This was my husband’s favourite.
Renting kayaks – you can get singles or doubles – at the historic Curly Phillips Boathouse on Maligne Lake, we took time to slow down, paddle, then get our cameras out for stunning photos of the shoreline and surrounding mountains.
On Four Feet or Two
At the end of the day, we took a one-hour horseback excursion with Jasper Riding Stables to the Athabasca Overlook with jaw-dropping views of the Athabasca River Valley.
Tomorrow, we’ll try one of the many guided hikes our pals have suggested. Walks and Talks Jasper offers interpretive treks to Mt. Edith Cavell Meadows, Path of the Glacier at Edith Cavell, Sulphur Skyline, and Valley of Five Lakes. The more than three-hour Mt. Edith Cavell round trip hike includes views of wildflowers, glaciers and wildlife. When they said we’d be spoiled for choice, they weren’t kidding!
On the Road Again
So much to see, so little time! On our next visit, we’ll try a sidecar tour with Jasper Motorcycle Tours. Carrying two guests per sidecar, professional drivers take you on one, two or three hour tours while you get to gawk at the glaciers in comfort along the splendid Icefields Parkway. We can hardly wait to hit the road again!