Once I stepped out of the train after 19 hours on board — about 18.5 of them in my chair — I felt like a fisherman coming to shore after days at sea. My body was relieved to feel the crisp breeze of the Canadian Rockies. Thanks for the perfect welcome, Jasper National Park. I only had a day in the town as I was heading onto Banff, and Jasper is not exactly renowned for its budget-anything options. This is what I got up to in 24 hours and tips for you to get the most out of your time in Jasper. It doesn’t matter if your stay is short and sweet or long and luscious.
Jasper National Park accommodation
There are hostels in Jasper but they are not located within walking distance of the town. This is obviously difficult for people, a.k.a me, who didn’t have a car. So I splurged on a room at one of the many bed and breakfasts in town. I stayed at Accommodations Jasper, which was everything I needed after my train journey: a big, fluffy bed and shower. I even watched the So You Think You Can Dance finale on TV, what a score.
Check Out: Two Days in Banff National Park
An evening walk through town
On my first evening I strolled into town and was surprised I didn’t need a jacket. The breeze was cool but refreshing. I read signs that told me more about Jasper National Park, including the need to reside rule. This means everyone who owns property in the town must live there for eight months of the year. I walked down Patricia Street and marvelled at the cute shop fittings and signs. I loved the wooden and rock facades, which were so rustic and charming.
I couldn’t believe there were so many souvenir shops and wondered how they all made enough money to profit in what seemed to be a competitive industry in the town. I bought a postcard from one and a keyring for a family member in another, to spread the love and cash-ola. Next I walked passed a few convenience stores for the necessary groceries, and restaurants with pricing a bit out of my budget. I turned the corner when I saw the sign for KFC. Yeah, I’m awful.
Kindness of strangers
As I sat down for dinner and older gentleman sat down in the table beside mine about fifteen minutes later. Sensing I was alone he began making conversation, asking the usual question of where I was from. His guesses were Australia or England before I had even spoken, that is how much we are taking over the world. I think I might miss being asked that when I go back home, but alas it is inevitable, unless I stay overseas forever.
Anyway, my new dinner companion tells me he grew up in Jasper but is now retired. He lives here in the summer but journeys down to Arizona with his boat and motorbike for the winter. He seems to have it alright, I think to myself. As I bid him farewell he wishes me a safe ongoing trip. As an introverted person I am not the kind to start a conversation with someone at a fast-food restaurant. But he wasn’t, and he allowed me to walk away from dinner with a content smile. Maybe I need to start doing this.
On my walk home I watched as the clouds changed colour over the mountains: they turned from golden to a cotton candy pink as the sun set.
Tip: watch the sunset
The next day I walked down Geikle Street, which was where my accommodation was located. I walked past the cute country church overshadowed by the rocky mountain behind it. I saw the children playing at lunchtime at the elementary school, probably totally unaware of how special the little town is where they are fortunate to be growing up. A mother rides off from the school yard and her daughter inside, no older than seven, runs along the fence parallel to her. They continuously wave at each other and when the mother reaches the end of the road she blows her daughter a kiss and turns right. Jasper is very bike-friendly and seeing as the town is so compact it’s the perfect way to get around. The town even has a turn the key, we’re idle free policy. I hope this helps preserve the national park for generations to come.
Tip: bike it
I found as I was walking around, I was able to get different angles and perspectives of the mountains, which resulted in some great photographs (in my humble opinion, of course). You can walk beside the railway to get a clear view of the Rockies. And as you walk along one of the main streets, Connaught Drive, everywhere you turn there is a mountain hovering in the distance. Have fun photographing this World Heritage Site and the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies.
Tip: wander and snap
If I had longer in the park I would have chosen to do a tour to see more of the sights out of the town centre, include Maligne Lake, Miette Hot Springs and SkytramYes, it is not the cheapest option, but it really is the only way to view more of what makes Jasper National Park special. The other alternative is renting a vehicle, which is a good idea but really only cost-effective if there is more than just one girl.
Tip: find a friend and rent a car/tour time
A lot of people, myself included, usually do both Jasper and Banff National Parks. It doesn’t matter which order you do them in, just do it. The Icefields Parkway, or Highway 93, which links the parks is probably the most scenic highway you will ever travel. It parallels the continental divide, which means you have the Rockies on both sides and turquoise rivers flowing beside you. The best part is when you pass Columbia Icefield and see Athabasca Glacier. The blue colour of the ice and its vastness is incredible. It stretches upwards to meet the snowy mountain behind. It is truly something special. If you desire, there is the opportunity to walk on the glacier, too. Visit the Discovery Centre on the side of the road opposite the feat for all the details.
Tip: marvel at the Icefields Parkway
I was unsure about visiting Jasper National Park. I thought it was too difficult to get to and costly. But now I am thankful I listened to my friends and went there. Not only to see the beautiful mountain town, but to have the chance to see the parkway too. That glacier is not something I will forget soon.