After our beautiful drive through the Icefields Parkway, we finally reached the cosy town of Jasper. With just two full days to spend here and far too many acres to explore, we had to organise ourselves well in order to make the most of our time in Jasper.
Day 1: By Car
We discovered this little gem of a place purely by chance as our hotel was located just next to this cafe. The Bear’s Paw Bakery sees long queues with locals and tourists alike hankering after their famous white chocolate and raspberry scones and cinnamon sticky buns. If neither of these take your fancy, there are also muffins, croissants, danishes and a whole host of other sweet and savoury bites on offer. The coffee isn’t half bad either.
All sugared and caffeined up, we made the fairly short drive to Maligne Canyon to begin our first walk for the day. There are many trails to choose from here, ranging from short, less than an hour walks to long 3 hour + walks. We opted for something in the middle but would have had no problem spending more time walking by the river, amongst the scenic limestone canyon, had we the time to do so.
After our walk in the sun, we hopped back into our car and made our way towards Maligne Lake. The route we were on took us past Medicine Lake, one of the largest “sinking” lakes in the Western Hemisphere which sees wild fluctuations in water levels depending on the season.
Driving further along, we suddenly saw our first bear, though not at all as we would’ve liked. A car had stopped on the road and as we drove past it, we saw why. Just in front of the car was a dead bear cub which had obviously been hit by the car. It was a very sad sight. 🙁
Upon reaching Maligne Lake, we went for a quick walk along part of the perimeter of the lake, dipping our feet periodically into the cool water. This lake is the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world and largest natural lake in the Rockies (22KM in length). After popping into the cafe to takeaway a sandwich, we found ourselves a quiet spot by the lake and settled down for a couple of hours with a good book.
We soon found ourselves in the company of this guy however, who was also after some lunch. An unexpected but very much welcomed guest.
After lunch and a sunny snooze, we reluctantly dragged ourselves back to the car in order to go explore the Athabasca Falls. This 23 metre waterfall is the point at which the Athabasca River meets a narrow gorge and is pretty special as it allows you to get right up to the falls themselves.
Day 2: By Mountain Bike
Jasper National Park has one of the most well-connected and well-maintained mountain biking trail systems in the world, with hundreds of kilometers of trails for all levels. Rather conveniently, the mountain biking trails around Jasper can be accessed directly from the centre of town so there’s no real need to have to drive out which is convenient if you haven’t got a car. With mountain bikes readily available for rent at fairly cheap day rates, this was a great option to go exploring with as you can cover fairly large distances whilst being immersed in nature.
We started the day extremely well by coming across a grizzly bear on our way to Patricia Lake. It was a little too close for comfort, with only about 20 metres separating us from certain death, so we had to be content with appreciating it as we sped off as quickly as we could. It did make us realise that we had not been as bear-conscious as we should have been and thus proceeded to make a lot more noise as we were cycling through the woods in an attempt to scare off any bears that might have been near the trails.
We were lucky enough to catch more wildlife sightings once we were near Patricia Lake, spying a herd of what I think were wild deer foraging through some trees by the road side.
We were just a short ride away from Pyramid Island at this point, located out in the middle of Pyramid Lake, where we stopped for a rest and a snack whilst looking out at the water, with magnificent views of the mountain in the background.
We continued our ride 30 minutes later in an attempt to check out all of the remaining major lakes we were yet to visit in the vicinity. We started off with Lake Edith and Annette Lake, the latter of which offers some nice (but fairly busy!) sandy beaches for swimming and picnic spots.
We then made our way towards Lac Beauvert, a relatively small and quiet lake when compared to Annette Lake. This was much more suited to our liking and we stopped for a quick dip into the cool water with the ducks.
Feeling refreshed, we continued on our bikes, this time along the Athabasca River down towards Wapiti. We had, by this time, been cycling for over 5 hours and were feeling a little tired and started thinking about heading back to the centre of Jasper. Crossing over the Miette River, trees soon gave way to restaurants and cafes and we gratefully returned our bikes and walked on wobbly legs back to our hotel. Our dinner of steak and fries went down very well that night.
Our time in Canada was ending and we made the long drive back to Calgary the following morning. We were treated to another sight of a bear cub, just outside of the woods, next to the highway, my last vivid memory of Canada. All in all, it has been a great first time visit to Canada and definitely a country that I’ll be returning to in the future.