In January I wrote all about our favourite places to explore in Jasper during the winter, and now I’m back with our top activities in Jasper National Park when the weather is warmer. We love Jasper and camp at Whistlers for about a week every summer. We choose Whistlers because of the perfect location- close to the townsite and all our favourite places around the park. There’s also many things the campground offers for the kids- interactive bike paths, 3 unique play spaces along the trail, the nightly childrens’ programming, the multiple encounters with elk around our campsite every year, and free hot showers. With my girls getting older our favourite things are always changing, but here is our current list of “Must-Do’s” for families visiting Jasper in summertime.
First off, grab a map from Tourist Information and finding each of these locations will be easy. The staff there can help with any questions and can let you know if a trail is closed or if there’s been bear sightings.
Hike Old Fort Point- A great starting point for newcomers to Jasper, this short hike gives you a great overview of the area. It’s not too strenuous but has a great payoff with the stunning views at the top. It is a bit steep, and there are several flights of stairs, but both my girls and their 76 year old grandfather did it with no complaining. We didn’t do the entire loop (4km) and instead we started at the wooden stairs and came back the same way we went up (under 2km round trip) but it had a pretty good incline. With lots of rocks to climb on and a view of the townsite, it’s a perfect hike for even non-hiking families. More details HERE. Cost- Free, bring hats and water in summer months.
Miette Hotsprings and The Source trail– The Miette Hot Springs are my favourite Canadian hot springs. While the drive up the mountainside is a little bit long (17km of winding roads off of highway 16) it’s perfectly located in the middle of the mountains and is a gorgeous place for a soak. The family admission is reasonable and they even allow outside food in for picnics. The little restaurant onsite is delicious if you don’t want to pack a lunch, or if you want to treat the kids to an ice cream and take a short break from swimming. There’s one gradual entry pool that’s perfect for younger children, one large hot pool and 2 cold plunge pools. After your visit you can walk to the source of the hot springs, see the building built in 1938 and play in a warm stream. This “hike” is stroller and flip flop friendly, and only takes 20 minutes. Tip- Hit up the Hotsprings on your way back to the city or on your way into Jasper on Highway 16, so you aren’t making a extra 45 minute drive from the townsite. There’s also free interpretive walks to the source on Saturday and Sunday afternoons as well. Cost- $18.35 for a family
Lake Annette- The perfect place to relax on a hot summer day in Jasper. The lake is clean, warmish, and welcoming. The beach is sandy and long, plus the views are spectacular. My kids can play for hours lakeside while we relax. We always bring along sand toys, floaties and a picnic lunch for a perfect, hot summer day. You can also walk the easy loop around Lake Annette, taking about 35 minutes on flat terrain, and stroller friendly. Cost-Free
(also baby Maeve in these pictures is giving me all the heart eyes!!)
Heritage Firehall Hands-on Museum – From Wednesday to Sunday the old firehouse in town is a hands-on museum for families. Touch a stuffed wolf, learn about animal tracks, play “identify the smell” games and pick up rubber animal poop (strangely my girls loved this feature most and were very excited to identify different types of scat). The park staff working the interactive museum were extremely knowledgable and great with kids, engaging them in the different activities around the hall. And don’t forget to grab a free activity book for the kids too. Cost- free
Jasper Lake- You’ve probably seen people out walking across Jasper Lake as you drive through the park on your way to the site townsite. This roadside stop offers are great afternoon of playing. The sand is powdery soft and the beach goes all along the east side of the lake, so perfect it’s for walking together and finding driftwood sticks. The best part about Jasper Lake is it’s only up to my knees….for the nearly the entire lake. We’ve walked out half-way across the lake and it never got deeper then 2 feet. It’s pretty incredible to be in the middle of a lake, surrounded by mountains and only have water up to your ankles. The kids love the freedom of being able to wade out into the lake and building sandcastles on the waters edge. It’s the perfect place to start or end your Jasper vacation on your way from Edmonton. Cost- Free
Jasper Sky Tram – The most expensive thing on this list is definitely worth a visit during your trip. The views are incredible and the ride up is an experience in itself. If you have a lot of energy, consider making the 3+ hour hike to the top of Whistlers mountian instead of taking the Gondola…. I haven’t done it, but my 10 year niece did it last week and said it wasn’t too hard- just a bit long. Then you can take the gondola down for 1/2 price, make the hike a bit easier. Bring along a jacket, even on a warm day since it can be windy and cooler on top of the mountain. Website HERE Cost- $40 per adult, $20 per kid with 5 and under free.
Horseshoe Lake– Just 3o km south of Jasper there’s a small parking lot on the side of the road- blink and you might miss a beautiful gem in Jasper Park. A short walk through the trees brings you to Horseshoe lake, a spot that’s perfect for cliff jumping and swimming. Bring along life jackets (the water is very deep but crystal clear), towels and enjoy some swimming. But be warned, the water is extremely cold and can take your breath away. While some of the kids we were camping with jumped in multiple times and were still smiling, Violet panicked over how cold it was as soon as she got in. Tim was in the water with the kids the whole time and he never got used to the temperature. On the other side of the canyon, teenagers and tweens were jumping in like it was a warm bath. However, on a really hot day it would be a great way to cool down. But be aware and stay safe- have a spotter, bring floatation devices, and know your limits for cliff height ( Violet was in competitive diving this year, so she was quite comfortable going off the higher cliffs). There’s lots of small ledges for kids to jump off of, but just exercise caution. Even if you just go to watch older kids jumping in and see the gorgeous views, it’s still worth a stop. Cost- Free
Scoops and Loops- My kids never miss a ice cream shop, and stops to Scoops and Loops have been part of our Jasper tradition since the girls were old enough to eat it. What this place lacks in charm in makes up for in the sheer amount of flavours to choose from. We usually grab a cone and head across the street to the park space to enjoy it. We also enjoy The Bear’s Paw bakery and enjoy trying fudge from one of the many candy stores in town. We try to reserve a few hours of our trip just to walk around town and enjoy the sites and smells. Scoops and Loops located right by the Firehall and north of the visitors centre. Cost- kids cones start at $3, very reasonable prices but very limited seating.
Pyramid Lake- We like to spend an hour or so at Pyramid Lake renting a canoe or paddleboat and venturing around the lake. We also love to drive out to Pyramid Lake Island and walk along its shores. My kids love “being on a island” (even if it’s just connected by a bridge, but at least that bridge is so pretty for pictures!). There’s also the option of biking down pyramid mountain for kids who have mastered the art of breaking- it’s all downhill and fast! Cost- one hour of a paddle boat rental including lifejackets-$50.
Athabasca Falls– One of Jasper’s busiest tourist destination, Athabasca falls are best viewed first thing in the morning or later in the evening to avoid tour buses. However, even when it’s busy it’s still worth the short drive out of town down highway 93. My kids liked climbing down to the river through the old water channels. It was a great lesson in erosion and the power of water. Easy hiking/walking for all ages, with some steep stairs if you choose to go all the way down to the river. While the trails are safe with barriers, hand-holding is required for little ones. Cost- Free
Maligne Canyon– Another busy location in Jasper, but it’s worth braving the crowds to hike Maligne Canyon. There’s a series of 6 bridges that cross over waterfalls, canyons and the river. The hike from the Tea Room to 5th bridge is under 4 kms roundtrip and the perfect walk for younger kids. With lots of bridges and sights to keep them entertained, they’ll barely know they’re hiking. And If you kids are younger you can always have on family member leave a car at 5th or 6th bridge to avoid having to walk back up to the top (and the extra strain of going uphill with little ones). Cost- Free, but pack water and hats. The rocks around the falls can be slippery so hold small hands.
Jasper Recreation Centre- Wherever we camp we always scope out the nearest town pool. It’s the perfect way to spend a rainy day, get clean without venturing to the campground showers, or just relax in a hot tub. Jasper’s recreation centre is reasonably priced and has lots of offer. We took advantage of the indoor climbing wall and swimming package on our visit last week because the rain just wouldn’t stop. The girls loved the waterslide and the monkey bars over the water. It was the perfect toasty warm respite from the rain (and we also took in a movie at the downtown theatre that day too, because after 4 days of rain we all needed just to stay dry for longer then 20 minutes) Cost- $19 for a family pool pass or $8 per kid for a climbing wall/swim pass combo . Towels were available to rent for $2 each.
Other places we loved to visit in Jasper is Mount Edith Cavell (hike to the Glacier look-out it’s absolutely amazing), the Jasper Park Lodge hotel grounds, Horseback riding (located up Pyramid Lake Road), Pyramid Lake Beach, Maligne Lake and Spirit Island, and the numerous playgrounds within the townsite. You won’t be bored- the exploring opportunities are endless. What’s your favourite not-miss attraction?