As the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, there are plenty of reasons to visit Jasper. It's beautiful in the winter, when both the Maligne Canyon Icewalk and Marmot Basin Ski Resort are in season. And it's stunning in the summer, when it's possible to visit Spirit Island, hike the Skyline Trail, or paddle down the Athabasca River.
Everybody has their own reasons for visiting, but these are my top 14 reasons to visit Jasper.
The Columbia Icefield Tour from Jasper is a stunning opportunity to see the world's largest non-polar icefield. Custom built Ice Explorer buses make the journey possible, but don't miss the opportunity to jump off the bus and walk upon the Athabasca Glacier. It's taller than the Eiffel Tower!
Jasper is one of the best places to star gaze, too, because of a complete lack of light pollution. Although it's a year-round phenomena, star gazing is far easier in the winter when days are shorter. In the summer, it takes an extra effort to stay up past midnight!
Take the Spirit Island Cruise on Jasper's Maligne Lake to visit one of the Canadian Rockies' most famous landscapes. The experience has been voted as Canada's best cruise.
The Spirit Island boat cruises only venture halfway down Maligne Lake. Motorized boats are banned from exploring further, so to reach the Coronet Creek campground at the end of Maligne Lake requires a canoe. It's a seven- to nine-hour paddle that is instantly rewarded by one of the best wilderness experiences in the Rocky Mountains.
Although the Yellowhead highway runs straight through Jasper National Park, the best scenery is found on side roads. Make sure to drive the Celestine Lakes, Mt Edith Cavell, and Maligne Lake Roads.
There is an abundance of wildlife in Jasper National Park and its often easiest to spot the many animals -- like Grizzly and Black bears, Bighorn sheep, Mountain goats, elk, moose, and deer -- right along the roadside.
From the end of the Mt Edith Cavell Road, it's only a 20-minute hike along the Path of the Glaciers trail to a viewpoint that includes both the Ghost and Angel glaciers.
With just over 100 kilometers of dedicated mountain bike trails and a selection of top-quality road cycling routes, Jasper National Park is a great place to park the car and go for a bike ride.
Jasper is on VIARail's Canada line, which runs passenger trains between Toronto and Vancouver. It's also the junction for the Skeena Train, which runs through northern British Columbia to Prince Rupert.
The Athabasca River helped settle Jasper, back when it was a fur trading post called Jasper House. The river, which runs from its source at the Columbia Icefield to northern Alberta, is at its most spectacular just below the massive Athabasca Falls, where the water flows through a narrow canyon.
Although Maligne Canyon is beautiful throughout the summer, it's even more spectacular to walk along the frozen canyon floor during the winter, when each waterfall is frozen in time.
As one of Canada's oldest forms of transportation, dog sledding is more than an exciting way to travel through the winter landscape. It's also part of the regional history and culture.
It's hard to find a more romantic winter activity than an evening sleigh ride on Pyramid Lake in Jasper National Park.
Now in it's 25th year, Jasper in January is the hottest winter festival in the Canadian Rockies. Its signature events, like Winterstruck and the ATCO Family Street Party, are just the beginning. The festival has grown into a 16-day celebration of winter.
-Contributed by Jeff Bartlett
All photos contributed by PhotoJBartlett/The Adventure Freelancer on Facebook.