Travel TopOfBlogs Past and future wanderings of a travel bug . . .: Road Trip: The Sequel!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Road Trip: The Sequel!

Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park
West.  Go west.  I love the west.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Road Trip! my summer was bookended by two road trips.  The first, to Saskatoon with an old friend happened on the May long weekend and was all about about good food and relaxation.  The road trip at the opposite end of the summer was over the Labour Day long weekend at the beginning of September.  I went to one of my favorite places in my home province of Alberta--Jasper National Park!

I have lived in Alberta most of my life and a a result have had many opportunities to venture into the Rocky Mountains.  My earliest road trip memory involves a family RV trip to British Columbia and I still remember driving westward.  I was awestruck by the scenery.  There have been many trips west since then and each time I am struck by the sheer majesty of the mountains rising up to greet me as I drive toward then.  Sheer rock faces, evergreen trees, rushing mountain streams, fascinating wildlife and pristine aquamarine lakes are found not long after entering the park.

If you are just driving through the National Park, you can do so free of charge.  If you are staying overnight however you should be in possession of a park pass.  Park passes are available at the gates to the park where you will be stopped and asked where you are headed.  Current park rates (2010) for an adult is $9.80 per day or $19.60 for a family or group.  If you will be spending a lot of time in the parks in a given year you can also purchase an annual pass which is good for 27 National Parks and 77 National Historic Sites in Canada.  Travelling from Edmonton you will reach the park gates in about 3.5 hours and the town of Jasper after about 4 hours.

This trip had an added bonus for me as I was meeting up with a friend I met while in Ireland in 2009.  Hailing from Ottawa, Sarah had been exploring the west coast and the rockies in the previous week.  It was fantastic seeing and chatting with a fellow travel enthusiast, blogger and photographer.  Like me she has spent a considerable amount of time in Europe having traveled to many of the same places and a number of different ones as well.  You can read about her adventures on her blog In Which Sarah Sees The World.

I really enjoyed our visit although it was very brief.  After driving into the Jasper town site we met up by the information centre and took a wander through the town.  Most of the shops and restaurants are clustered within the town centre and walking is by far the easiest way to get around.  After a cup of coffee and a bite to eat we ventured out of town so that I could check in at our hostel--one of the many YHA hostels in the area.  If you prefer more luxurious accommodations you can certainly find them in and around town.   There are also a number of campgrounds in the area for those who enjoy roughing it.

The Town of Jasper from the top of the tramway. 
Once I'd gotten my bed for the night our next stop was to head up to the gondola that travels up Whistlers Mountain.  First opened in 1964 the Jasper Tramway will take you up the mountain in just a few minutes, giving you views of the surrounding mountains and the town far below.  Before heading down you can enjoy a meal or a drink while enjoying spectacular mountain views surrounding you.  Keep your ticket for the return trip down the mountain--you will pay $29.00 for a round trip adult ticket on the tram.  Although I had been to Jasper many times before this was the first time I had taken the tram.  I found a bit expensive but as a one time thing I think it was worth the view (and the snow we experienced on a rather chilly September day).

Heading into town for dinner that evening Sarah and I were considering enjoying a pint at Jasper's very own Brew Pub.  After checking out the menu we concluded that while it looked good the price was not within our backpacker budget.  After wandering down the street we found ourselves in another pub--The De'd Dog.  The De'd Dog is a local pub that seemed to be populated with both locals and visitors alike, the price was right and the food very good--both in taste and portion size.

Boat Cruise on Maligne Lake
After a quiet remainder of the night over drinks we set out the next morning to see Maligne Lake.  After a 44km drive south from Jasper which winds slowly uphill passing Medicine Lake you will reach Maligne Lake which is a popular place for boating, fishing and other pursuits.  There are hiking trails along the lake.  The trails were quite muddy the day of our visit so we took a stroll right along the water.  If you decide to take to the water by canoe or perhaps on the commercial boat cruise you may find yourself in sight of tiny Spirit Island which is one of the most photographed landmarks in the world.  In any case the views are stunning--don't forget your camera!

We only had a short time in Jasper but if you have more time another site you may want to visit is the Columbia Icefield, I stopped here on a previous trip to the area.  To get here take the Icefields Parkway out of Jasper (you must have purchased a park pass to travel this road) and you will reach the site of the Athabasca Glacier--the most visited glacier in North America.  Over the last 125 years the glacier has been shrinking and you can see how much it has receded--a distance of over 1.5 km.  There is a marked path that you can take to set foot upon the glacier however be careful--it still can be very dangerous and visitors have lost their lives here.

Unfortunately for my friend Sarah, not all of her trip went as planned and she decided to cut the remainder or her trip short and accompany me back to Edmonton from where she returned safely to Ottawa.  It was a fun visit, albeit short and I hope to have the privilege of traveling with her once again.

So bottom line I still love road trips!  I hope that you too will take the opportunity to visit Jasper and the rest of the Canadian Rockies.  They have a great deal to offer any traveler.  And in another time in another post I will share more about another of my favorite rocky mountain destinations--Radium.

Until then happy travelling!


  1. I LOVE this post, BTW. I am in love with the mountains - awesome descriptions and suggestions on what to do while there. My favorite way to see them? Horse back, hands down.
    And the trip to Saskatoon was fantastic - good food, indeed!

  2. Great post! I love the mountains too - your descriptions are great. My favorite way to see them is by horse back.
    And the trip to Saskatoon - good food indeed!

  3. Thanks Alana! I appreciate your comment. The mountains are one of the reasons I feel I am so lucky to live where I do and I totally want to show them off when people come to visit! Seeing them by horseback would be amazing--that is if I were a better rider!


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