I have a new friend (co-worker) who has basically driven out to Jasper every weekend this summer.
He’s big on hiking/mountain climbing and Jasper is close enough for frequent, nature-filled day trips.
His beautiful photos made me especially excited about the trip to Jasper I took this August!
My Jasper getaway was in keeping with my summer of whirlwind Explore Alberta trips.
We (Mike and our friend Taylor and Rachel) left bright and early (well, it wasn’t bright out but it was definitely early) on Saturday morning (at 4:30 a.m. to be exact) and made our way to the Canadian Rockies for 1.5 days of adventure!
When planned right, you really can squeeze a lot into a weekend.
Read on for a recap of our visits to the Athabasca Glacier / Columbia Icefield, Glacier SkyWalk, Jasper SkyTram (Whistlers Mountain) and Maligne Lake / Spirit Island plus recommendations/tips for if you wanted to copy our itinerary.
3+ Adventures to Try in Jasper, Alberta (the Canadian Rockies)
1. Jasper SkyTram and Whistlers Mountain
I think this Jasper adventure gives you the most value for your money!
The Jasper SkyTram takes you up to Whistlers Mountain (2500m above sea level) where you can hit a hiking trail to the Summit, take in the Rocky Mountains (including Mount Robson – the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies) and dine at a mountain-top restaurant with incredible views.
It takes just 7 minutes to head up the tram to Whistlers Mountain. The tram climbs 6 metres per second and can fit up to 30 people but they usually try to keep it to 26 so you’re comfortable.
Fun fact: earlier this summer, teams from the Amazing Race Canada did one of the most daring stunts in Amazing Race history on the Jasper Skytram!
We didn’t do any dangerous stunting on our trip up though.
We did, however, do the typical tourist-y things (hey, nothing wrong with that!) – spending a couple of hours up on Whistlers Mountain (with Mike and Taylor hiking up to the summit while Rachel and I hung around the boardwalk).
Once the tram has taken you up the mountain, you can spend however long you like up there before heading back down so you can really make this as long or as short a trip as you like.
Some people even hike up the mountain and take the tram down (or you could take the tram up and hike down! It’s half price $ if you just go one way up or down the tram).
We used most of our time taking lots of photos of the incredible Canadian Rockies!
Despite it being fairly foggy when we went, the views we took in were still spectacular.
The tour flight attendants (as they’re called) were also really friendly and shared lots of great information about the hiking trails and the mountain.
I also wish we had incorporated time into dining at the Summit Cafe.
You can get dine + flight packages that increase your adventure value. A typical adult cost of the tram is $40, but dine packages that include a main course or a starter and main course is $52 or $64. It’s a great deal for tram ride, mountain visit + a meal!
Bonus: you can also take your dog up the tram!
We definitely want to bring Olive and Artie on a return trip.
2. Athabasca Glacier, Columbia Icefield & Glacier SkyWalk
The Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies and feeds several glaciers including the Athabasca Glacier, the most-visited glacier in North America!
Riding in an Ice Explorer vehicle (these huge arctic buses with tires as tall as I am) and stepping out onto the Athabasca Glacier was definitely the coolest adventure we had this weekend.
The Athabasca Glacier is solid ancient ice – 6 kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide.
The Ice Explorer vehicle takes you to a spot on the glacier where you get almost an hour to step out onto the ice, walk/explore and take epic photos.
Surprisingly it wasn’t that cold up on the glacier!
Dress warm, of course but I ended up taking off a jacket because I was feeling hot (so Canadian).
Fun facts about the Ice Explorers:
There are only 23 vehicles like it in the world and 22 of those are being used at the Columbia Icefield.
The 23rd one is in Antarctica, used by the U.S. government!
There are similar ice terrain vehicles in Churchill Manitoba for the polar bear tours, but they aren’t quite like these glacier-scaling ones.
Again, fog thwarted some of our views during this adventure, but also added a really cool vibe too.
Parts of the glacier are fenced off into safe areas (though Rachel and I tested some of these boundaries for our photos. Be very careful though!)
You’re also encouraged to try glacier water – ice cold, refreshing, natural water melted from the glacial ice.
Rachel got a bunch in her water bottle and I scooped up a bit with my hands.
It was really refreshing!
Getting glacier water!
The Glacier SkyWalk is a glass-floor observation deck 918 feet above the Sunwapta Valley floor, hanging off the side of a cliff.
It’s set up like an outdoor museum, where as you walk along the cliff-edge, you can stop and read/learn about the valley and the area wildlife (you can even get an audio tour).
They designed the SkyWalk so there’s a spot across the main glass floor where someone can take a photo of you / your group with a clear view of the mountain/sky behind you and the trees/valley below you.
We lucked out as we came at a time when there was hardly anyone else on the platform (we went around 11:30!)
I thought the combination price of the Athabasca Glacier Adventure + SkyWalk was great ($85 for both or $32 for just the SkyWalk).
You can also do ice walks (that are like ice hikes) across the glacier too (those are with a different adventure/tour company). There’s tons of different glacier adventures – I’m really looking forward to coming back!
Pro tip: when you stop at the Columbia Icefield Discover Centre, stop in at the Glacier Inn lobby and grab their Wi-Fi password. The Wi-Fi works up at the SkyWalk too! Obviously they prefer that you actually be a hotel guest to use the Wi-Fi but if you ‘accidentally’ step into the lobby and see the information… hey, that’s not your fault. lol.
Also, the Discovery Centre has a restaurant and cafeteria, so if you’re doing your adventure first thing in the morning (like us, at 10 a.m.) you can plan to grab a convenient bite to eat there when you’re done your adventure (around noon).
- Learn more about the Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure Experience
- Learn more about the Glacier IceWalk
- Learn more about the Columbia Icefield
3. Maligne Lake and Spirit Island
Rounding out our Jasper weekend was cruising Maligne Lake and stopping at the iconic Spirit Island!
Maligne Lake is the largest glacially-fed lake in the Canadian Rockies.
The Maligne Lake boat cruise takes you out to Spirit Island, which is only accessible by boat.
Actually it’s more like a peninsula most of the time and is only truly an island for some parts of the year. ;)
But the picturesque island is world-famous, considered an iconic landmark in Jasper (check out all the different times it’s been referenced here!) and it was really cool cruising out to it.
The boat ride takes about a half hour, then you’re able to roam the island (there’s a looping hiking trail) for a bit before heading back.
On the boat itself, the tour guides share a lot of cool facts about Mary Schaeffer, the first non-Indigenous explorer credited with discovering the area.
(She actually named one of the mountains Mount Sampson, after the Indigenous man who drew her a map to the lake)!
You can also pop out into the back of the boat to take photos (just be careful not to fall into the water).
The Maligne Lake boat cruise was the most low-key adventures of the weekend.
It was lovely (and Spirit Island is a must-visit just to say you did, really).
There’s also nothing quite like being surrounded by towering mountains and a pristine lake, but this trip isn’t necessarily high on the adventure/adrenaline scale (which is okay, just know what you’re looking for in an adventure!)
Not interested in the boat tour?
You can also explore the lake by rented canoe, boat, or kayak, and book camping grounds around the lake too.
Bonus: Tekarra Restaurant, Sayuri Japanese, Wicked Cup
Of course, no weekend getaway is complete without some dining adventures too!
The food highlight of our weekend was at Tekarra Restaurant – where we feasted on fine, Alberta cuisine.
Tekarra Restaurant is the oldest restaurant in Jasper (it first opened in 1947) and recently changed ownership.
The same folks who own the popular Evil Dave’s Grill are now running Tekarra and I imagine the same success will follow them here.
I recommend the the Forbidden Fruit cocktail (Malibu Mango rum, peach schnapps, Chambord, orange juice, pineapple juice, and a sliced mandarin), but the Tekarra 75 (with Eau Claire gin) and the Riverbank Gin and Tonic (Eau Claire gin with Saskatoon berry compote) are also fantastic.
For food, the deviled eggs with house-made bacon jam was basically the best deviled eggs I’ve ever had. A MUST GET.
Our table also loved the elk carpaccio (marinated elk loin, Saskatoon berry chutney, maple bourbon mustard, parmesan cheese) – especially cool seeing as how we passed a bunch of elk on the way to the restaurant (doesn’t get more local than that!)
My wild boar belly main dish was also fantastic, and I just loved all the other Alberta foods – bison meatballs, bison short ribs, Alberta beef tenderloin, etc. The banana croissant dessert is also unbelievable. (I love banana desserts!)
Tekarra bills itself as fine dining (the prices are definitely ‘finer’) but we saw a lot of casually-dressed folks in the room when we went, and a few kids.
In fact, their ‘table cloth’ is actually paper that you can colour on (crayons included on the table!) so while it’s a bit pricier, and certainly has fine dining-quality food and service, it really doesn’t carry the same pretentiousness that might be associated with a fine dining establishment, which is great.
I’d definitely recommend a stop to Tekarra for your next meal in Jasper!
So, I think I’ve been able to prove that you can do a lot in a day and a half (whirlwind weekend adventure!)
The Maligne Lake Cruise, Athabasca Glacier Adventure and Glacier SkyWalk, and Jasper SkyTram are just a few of the truly beautiful, Jasper/Rocky Mountain adventures you can try on your next trip.
We also hit up our hotel hot tub in between adventures but you should also add the Miette Hot Springs to your Jasper itinerary.
I’m excited to give away a pair of admission tickets to the Glacier SkyWalk, and 4 passes to one of these Canadian Rockies Hot Springs locations (Miette, Radium, or Banff).
** GIVEAWAY **
1 pair of passes to the Glacier SkyWalk + 4 passes to a Canadian Rockies Hot Spring
(Value of $92)
Below are the different ways you can enter. Please check off what you’ve done in the Rafflecopter widget.
(Note: you must leave a comment on this blog post to qualify. All other ways to enter are bonus entries!)
- Leave a comment below, telling me what some of your favourite things to do in the Canadian Rockies are!
- Tweet this message:
- Check out @lindork’s #MyJasper adventures + enter to win @brewstercanada @GlacierSkyWalk + @hot__springs passes! http://bit.ly/2bZMjQW
- Follow @BrewsterCanada on Twitter
- Follow @TourismJasper on Twitter
- Like my Facebook Page: Lindork – Linda Hoang
- Leave a comment and tag a friend on this Instagram post.
I’ll pick a winner after the contest closes on September 12, 2016.
Note: comments are moderated so if yours doesn’t appear right away, don’t worry!
** UPDATE ** Congratulations to Amelia H, who was randomly selected as the winner of this contest!
Also, be sure to check out even more photos from my trip below:
So what are your favourite things to do in Jasper?
Let me know in the comments below!
And as you plan your next Jasper trip, keep in mind these upcoming events:
- The Jasper Dark Sky Festival featuring Bill Nye the Science Guy and George Takei! (October)
- Christmas in November at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge! (November)
Disclaimer: Parts of our weekend trip to Jasper was complimentary through Brewster Canada and Tourism Jasper. This has no impact on opinions stated in this post (I’m always honest!)