Begin your trip from Lake Louise to Jasper along one of the world's most scenic drives; the Icefields Parkway. This 227km stretch of road would take around 3 hours to drive non-stop, but spend at least half a day cruising beside the jagged peaks of the Rockies, with spectacular views of massive glaciers and turquoise lakes all around you with the open road ahead of you.
There is absolutely no shortage of picture-perfect scenery to stop at or hikes to stretch your legs. But if you’re short on time, there are a few places you should not miss on the south end of this route. Bow Lake (37km from Lake Louise/196km from Jasper) is worth a stop, with a handy lay-by to stop at. The shimmering waters are framed by the Crowfoot Glacier to your left, with the red-roof of Num-Ti-Jah lodge on your right.
Just a few kilometers further along the road, Peyto Lake (43km from Lake Louise/190km from Jasper) is a must visit. With it's turquoise waters and surrounding scenery, in my opinion, Peyto rivals the beauty of both Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.
On your next stop, get up close to a real life glacier at the Athabasca Glacier (103km from Jasper/130km from Lake Louise). You can book a tour that takes you onto the glacier, but you can walk to toe of the glacier or enjoy expansive views from the terrace of the Icefield Centre without paying a penny.
Keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats as you continue cruising the final 100km of the Icefields Parkway. You’ve now arrived in the hub of the park in the small, alpine town of Jasper. Here you can snap a photo of the Two Brothers Totem Pole, pick up a day hiking trail map from the vistor centre and grab a bite to eat. Bear Paw Bakery or Famoso Pizzeria are two great food stops, depending on your budget and what you fancy.
Spend the rest of the day in Maligne Valley area, starting off at Maligne Canyon. Walking from the car parking lot down to the 4th bridge takes only 20 minutes each way and provides amazing views of this famous limestone gorge. Gaze down into the crashing canyon rapids from 50 meters up as you cross the different bridges. Near the second bridge, take a quick detour along the 7H hiking route to get one of the best views overlooking Jasper.
After the canyon, continue along Maligne Valley road to Medicine Lake. This lake is a rare phenomenon that only fills in the summer months, with only a creek on the site the rest of the year. A further 20km as you drive towards the end of the road, you’ll reach Maligne Lake – the second largest glacial-filled lake in the world. From here you can stroll along the shores of this crystal-clear lake, hire a canoe or take a panoramic boat cruise out to the majestic Spirit Island. Venturing beyond the lakeshore viewpoints, Bald Hills is an adventurous and rewarding hike along an old fire road that offers fantastic views of the mountains and lake. It’s 10.4km return and will take between 4-6 hours.
After an action-packed day, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you head back to town. As dusk falls and the temperature drops, it’s an excellent time to spot grizzly and black bears along the roadside. As the wildlife ventures out, the crowds are heading back to their hotels, so use the evening to go and explore the sites close to Jasper town without hoards of people. Pyramid Lake, Pyramid Island and Pyramid beach can be reached by just a short 5-10 minute drive from town and can all be explored in an hour or so. If you’re looking for a beautiful place to watch a glowing sunset, basing yourself at either Pyramid or Patricia Lake is a great spot.
Begin your second day exploring the Miette Hot Springs area of the park. If you didn’t have the time or energy to hike yesterday, attempt the Sulphur Skyline hike today. It’s a steep 4km each way through the alpine and will take around 4 hours return, but the views of the snowy-capped mountains and river valleys make it totally worth it. You can always soak in the developed hot springs at the end of the hiking trail if you need to relax and soak away the aches and pains.
There are just a few more sights you should not miss before leaving Jasper that lie on the northern 30km on the Icefields Parkway that you drove by yesterday. Round-off the adventure by plunging into the cool waters of Horeshoe Lake (27km south of Jasper). There is no signpost for this lake, just signs for a picnic spot. If you’re driving south from Jasper, it’s after the Athabasca Pass Lookout, but before the Athabasca Falls turnoff.
And finally, feel the spray of a thundering waterfall at Athabasca Falls (30km south of Jasper).
Of course, there's so much more to see and explore in Jasper National Park and spending just 48 hours really does not do this spectacular park the justice it deserves. But wth so many amazing sights to pack in across all of Canada, hopefully you'll get to see a slice of Jasper that will lure you back with the chance to venture deeper and further afield next time!
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