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3 Days in Jasper: an Itinerary to Maximize Your Time and See the Highlights

3 Days in Jasper: an Itinerary to Maximize Your Time and See the Highlights

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3 days in Jasper is definitely enough time to see and experience the highlights of this stunning national park.

Jasper National Park is a special gem in the Canadian Rockies because the vast mountain ranges are more jagged and there are several bright turquoise lakes to explore.

To make the most of a quick trip, I’ve put together a three day itinerary that will take you to mountain summits, turquoise waters, gigantic glaciers and roaring waterfalls. 

Surrounding scenery of Maligne Lake

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Itinerary for Day 1 – the Journey to Jasper National Park

To get to Jasper, you will either be driving the four hours from Edmonton or cruising along the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) from Banff. 

Sightseeing From Edmonton

If you’re coming from Edmonton, there are a few fun spots to see on the way to Jasper.

You could take the scenic route and stop off at Hard Luck Canyon (a deep canyon and waterfall hike in the middle of the prairies).

Or at the 3-hour mark, turn at the Hinton Nordic Centre and do a 20-minute hike up to the Athabasca Lookout Viewpoint for a panoramic display of the whole valley below. 

Sightseeing From Banff Along the Icefields Parkway

If you’re driving along the Icefields Parkway, there is lots to see on the way to Jasper.

Stop off at Peyto Lake, a shimmering blue-green lake surrounded by high mountain peaks (a brand new viewing platform will be open in November 2020).

Petyo Lake in Banff National Park, Canada

Pull over at the Athabasca Glacier – this massive chunk of ice is viewable from the road and it’s fascinating to feel how cold and windy it gets here, even in the peak summer heat of July and August.

Continue onward and turn in at Sunwapta Falls.

About 15 minutes off the highway you’ll reach the parking lot (with washrooms) and then it’s a 5-minute walk to these unique waterfalls – the river bends around an island of trees before it dashes off the cliffside. 

Sunwapta Falls

Then, if time allows (and no matter what direction you’re arriving from), I recommend visiting either Athabasca Falls or the Valley of the Five Lakes Hike. They’re both free activities. 

Athabasca Falls is a neat area where you can get close enough to the raging waters of the Athabasca River – enough where you will get wet from the misty overspray.

There are plenty of different viewing platforms and trails to wander around. Plan to spend 15 minutes to one hour here. 

Valley of the Five Lakes is an easy 4 kilometre hike through an alpine oasis leading you passed 5 lakes, which all show off a brilliant shade of turquoise.

It’s a not a difficult hike, but plan for 2-3 hours because you won’t stop staring at the gorgeous water. 

Valley of the Five Lakes

Read more: 12 Hikes in Jasper with the Best Views and Minimal Effort

Now it’s time to check-in to your hotel or cabin, go for dinner and get a good night’s rest before day 2 of adventures.

Where Should You Stay When Visiting Jasper? 

Best Downtown Hotels:

If it’s your first time in Jasper or when you only have a few short days to explore, I recommend staying in town.

In the middle of downtown Jasper is the Whistler’s Inn – the location can’t be beat, and the onsite Italian restaurant, Cassio’s, is the perfect fuel after a busy day outdoors.

Whistler’s Inn – courtesy

But the best part is the rooftop hot tub with views of the mountains. 

We also enjoy staying at the Lobstick Lodge when we don’t want to spend as much on accommodations. It’s a 15-minute walk to downtown, but there’s also plenty of free parking around Jasper.

The Lobstick Lodge has king size beds, a pool and indoor and outdoor hot tub. 

Lobstick Lodge – image courtesy Mountain Park Lodges Jasper

The Crimson Hotel is another great place to stay in downtown Jasper and is newly updated inside and out.

Book a room with a private balcony and you’ll have unobstructed views of the mountains. 

Crimson Hotel – image courtesy Mountain Park Lodges

Inside Tip: The Crimson Hotel is pet-friendly! 

Read more about all the Dog friendly Things You Can Do in Jasper

Cabins in Jasper

While there are some fantastically cozy cabins to rent, you will be spending too much time driving back and forth and we don’t want to waste any time on this three day trip. 

But, if you still want to rent a cabin – these are my top 3:

Tekarra Lodge and Cabins are the closest cabins to Jasper (only 7 minutes away), but are seasonal and only open from May to September.

Year round, Miette Mountain Cabins (traditional log cabin vibes) and the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge cabins (more luxurious) are my favorites.

Miette Mountain Cabins Cabins (also dog friendly)

Read more about those and other great places to stay in Jasper

Itinerary for Day 2 in Jasper – Elevated Views 

Breakfast at the Bear’s Paw Bakery

Wake up and smell the crisp mountain air. It doesn’t get any more fresh than this, folks!

Head to the Bear’s Paw Bakery (there are two locations in town) for coffee and something freshly baked – the white chocolate raspberry scones are a staple. 

Jasper Skytram

Next, head to the Jasper Skytram, the longest and highest aerial tram in Canada.

It’s a little pricey, but well worth it for the views. In under 10 minutes you arrive at (almost) the top of Whistler’s Mountain.

Check out the viewing platforms and then take the 1.4 km hike to the summit.

It’s pretty steep, but as long as you have some sturdy shoes and take your time, most people can reach the top.

There are plenty of viewpoints along the way, and if it’s a clear day you’ll be able to multiple mountain ranges, the entire town of Jasper and all the lakes sprinkled throughout the valley. 

Make sure you book your tickets in advance. If you walk up to buy tickets they may be sold out for the day. Or if you do manage to get tickets have to wait a while before boarding, there isn’t much to do in the vicinity.

Hiking at Mt. Edith Cavell 

Edith Cavell

After you’ve spent 2-3 hours at the skytram, continue driving south for 40 minutes to the Edith Cavell Meadows area.

Mt. Edith Cavell is a beast of a mountain and one of the most iconic peaks in Jasper National Park. The equally illustrious Angel Glacier rests like a jewel in the cirque of the mountain.

There are a couple hikes you can do here. The Path of the Glacier Trail is mostly paved and less than 2 kms return.

You will eventually come to the Cavell Pond where you can view the Angel Glacier across the valley. 

If you want a longer hike, the Cavell Meadows Trail is about 6.5 kms return and guides you through the verdant meadows for a closer look at the prized gem. 

a glacier sits inside a mountain cirque
The Angel Glacier

Mount Edith Cavell, the Angel Glacier (and the alpine wildflower meadows in the summer) are some of the most beautiful sights and should not be missed in Jasper National Park.

Horseshoe Lake

If it’s a hot day and you have time, stop off at Horseshoe Lake on your way back to town.

This spot is well known for cliff jumping due to the lake being extremely deep.

Even if you don’t want to jump off rocks, it’s a beautiful spot to bake in the sun and enjoy the crystal blue water. 

Dinner and Downtown

Head back to town for happy hour or dinner. Jasper Brewing Company has a rocking patio in the summer and Jasper Pizza Place serves up great pies. 

Inside Tip – for summertime happy hour, go around the corner to the restaurant called ‘Something Else.’

The patio will still be in the sunshine and you probably won’t have to wait for a table.

a woman and a man holding a dog sitting at a patio table
Something Else restaurant in downtown Jasper

After dinner, grab some ice cream and stroll along Connaught Drive and Patricia Street – the two mainstreets in downtown Jasper.

There’s great boutique shopping and the old steam train locomotive is cool to check out up close. 

Connaught Drive – mainstreet in Jasper

Day 3 in Jasper – Iconic Turquoise Sites

Breakfast at Sunhouse Cafe

Start your morning with breakfast at the Sunhouse Cafe.

Not only will you love the food and tea lattes, the entire roof is a dome-shaped skylight, giving this restaurant a bright and airy vibe. 

Maligne Canyon

a section of Maligne Canyon

Your first adventure of the day starts at Maligne Canyon- the longest and deepest limestone gorge in the Canadian Rockies.

This is a free area to explore and includes dozens of kilometres of trails that hug the edge of the limestone canyon.

I suggest parking at the 5th bridge and following trail 7f which will guide you all along the water’s edge and creates a loop of about 4kms.

You can visit Maligne Canyon in either summer or winter.

Maligne Canyon freezes in the winter

In the winter, it freezes and you can walk on the frozen canyon bed in between the limestone walls on guided ice walks, go winter hiking or ice climbing.

Cruise to Spirit Island

Next, continue to Maligne Lake for the cruise to Spirit Island.

This 1.5 hour experience is truly breathtaking.

You will cruise in a glass top boat down the long and narrow serene water of this majestic lake.

The on-board guide will share stories of the first explorers to discover the area, as well as point out all the magnificent glaciers and mountain ranges along the way.

One of the most fascinating parts of the experience is how the water colour changes to a deeper, more vibrant turquoise the further you go along in the lake. 

Inside Tip – book your cruise tour in the late afternoon for the best light at Spirit Island. 

I recommend booking your tour to Spirit Island in advance – it will sell out.

Miette Hot Springs

After visiting the Maligne Lake area, a stop at Miette Hot Springs would be a perfect end to the day. These hot springs are commercially developed but beautiful nonetheless.

(Check out these 3 natural hot springs not too far away in British Columbia if that’s what you’re seeking instead).

The drive up to the springs is scenic – and the pools are situated atop of a hill, perfectly picturesque as you watch over the surrounding mountains and river.

Onsite, there’s a small cafe, locker rooms, showers and towel rentals. Miette Hot Springs are a summer attraction, open from May to early-October each year.

Need a few more ideas to fill your Jasper Itinerary? Try these 14 Things to do in Jasper That Will Take Your Breath Away

Tips for Spending Three Days in Jasper

I recommend watching the weather and adjusting this itinerary accordingly.

For example, if the clouds will be rolling in later in the afternoon, you should plan to do the Maligne Lake cruise in the morning. 

Make sure to book your attractions in advance, like the Jasper Skytram and the Maligne Lake cruise. You can do this online quickly and easily. 

Hotels in Jasper book up very quickly, especially in the summer. I love using because it’s free and easy to cancel if your plans change.

And remember, if you’re planning to bring your dog, the pet-friendly hotel rooms get booked up even faster, so book well ahead to ensure the best price and choices. 

Visiting Jasper in winter? Don’t miss my guide to Skiing in Jasper – Insider Tips for Planning the Ultimate Ski Vacation

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