Welcome to this week’s “See the World”! We are visiting the beautiful city of Jasper, Alberta, Canada! Hopefully you had a chance to see Istanbul last week and to Havana, Cuba the week before. If you missed last year’s “See the USA” series, click here to see what you missed. This week we have my friend Amanda Williams of Field Guide to Parenting Outside sharing her favorite family friendly things to do in Jasper, Alberta. After our recent trip to Canada’s National Parks, I want to add this one to the list too!
Visit Miette Hot Springs
This is a natural hot spring just outside the townsite which has a man-made facility built around it. It’s a little quieter than Banff Upper Hot Springs and the odds of having to pick your way through a small rock sheep herd in the area are good. Kids will love this! While it’s worth it for the experience of soaking in BOTH hot springs sites in the area, this one is atop the mountainside and offers great views and fewer crowds. The lines are long and winding to sit shoulder to shoulder at times in Banff, so make the journey to Miette for a little respite from the crowds.
Reach New Heights – Jasper Tramway
During the summer, Jasper Tramway (which happens to be Canada’s highest tram) is near town and a quick way to get a room (or car in this case) with a view. After several minutes the family will be soaring to around 8,000 feet! You’ll learn some interesting history about Jasper and you won’t find a better way (other than perhaps booking a flightseeing trip) to gain the lay of the land. You view includes half a dozen mountain ranges, including the opportunity to glimpse the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies—Mt. Robson. Paths criss-cross the summit and make it an excellent place to do a little more hiking in a safe environment for kids. Do make sure to bring some layers though—it’s chilly on top of the world!
The short, easy hiking paths at Athabasca Falls are just off the road and will take you close to the falls to capture those holiday card family photos. There are other impressive falls in the area. We recommend Sunwapta Falls which is also along the Icefields Parkway and offers more hiking opportunities in a lesser-visited area.
While it’s not usually my norm to send folks indoors, especially when visiting such a naturally magnificent area, such as Jasper National Park and the surrounding area in Alberta, BUT this stop coincides with the outdoors and is certainly unique. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but, inside there is a dome seating area and access to powerful tools. Kids can get up close to Saturn, stars, and access the dark night skies like few ever experience in their daily lives.
Drive the Columbia Icefields Parkway to Banff
This route is where you’ll experience the “bear jams” Alberta parks are famous for, and you’ll likely see tourists doing stupid things. (It’s a great time for a little wildlife stewardship education for the kids and some entertainment a la “Dangerous Encounters” or a similar blooper reel!) There isn’t a spot along the roadway without a view and there are ample pull-outs to take it all in. Since it’s the main pipeline between the two sister parks, there’s a good chance it’s on your itinerary, but if it’s not – it needs to be. Hiking, tourist attractions, and seriously epic views cannot be duplicated anywhere else. When you reach Banff, do yourself a solid and take in the breakfast buffet at the Fairmont Banff Springs Bow Valley Grill – the kids section alone with donuts and sprinkles is sure to please everyone in the minivan!
And then get ready for another day or two of adventures in the busy little town of Banff! There is so much to do in so few miles between the two great cities, but Jasper is often overlooked, stuck in the shadow of Banff. However, take our word for it (after a 33 day road trip from the Midwest in the USA to Alaska and back via different routes through Canada, Jasper is one of the best places to bring kids EVER!)
Amanda Williams is a freelance travel writer, gear specialist and outdoor enthusiast, working from the shores of Lake Superior. With her boys in tow, she is constantly seeking out adventure whether in the backyard or afield. You can find more about her adventures in the outdoors with her family at Field Guide to Parenting Outside.
Looking for Canada posts? Don’t miss our 10 Best National Parks in Canada or Family Friendly Things to Do in Fredericton, New Brunswick