Have you ever felt so invigorated by the mountain air and at the same time felt so perfectly at peace, you knew you could drop instantly to sleep if not for wanting to miss a moment of it all? That’s how I felt on my recent trip to Jasper. If you want to know what to do in Jasper (besides hiking), I can help you out. I’ve whittled down my favourite Jasper attractions and eateries you’ll want to hit up on your next visit.

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I can’t imagine how long it took this couple to paddle all the way to Spirit Island. Impressive!

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What to do in Jasper

It’s unfair to pit national parks against each other, but I daresay, I think Jasper is the prettiest. For me, the top Jasper attractions showcase just how picturesque this mountain resort town truly is. Even if you’re not a hardcore outdoor adventurer or into hiking, you’ll find plenty of ways to tap into nature. Wondering what to do in Jasper? Look no further than the attractions recommended below. 

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Japser is having a phenomenal year for wildlife viewing. We spotted this black bear on the road to Maligne Lake.

Biking in Jasper

We were keen to go biking in Jasper, but hauling out our bikes wasn’t something I was excited to do. Instead, we rented from The Bench Bike Shop. And because I wasn’t sure where the trails led, we opted for a guided ride with Journey Bike Guides.

This turned out to be a capital decision as Elissa, our guide, was so knowledgeable and chill. We started out weaving our way on a pine needle strewn trail along the Athabasca River that morphed into single track. While our route was diverse with mostly cross-country with a bit of downhill, it was perfectly suited for my daughter and I. If we’d ventured out on our own, I can guarantee you a few things would have happened:

  1. We would’ve gotten lost.
  2. We wouldn’t have biked as far as we did, nor traversed trails locals know to find, but tourist’s don’t.
  3. We wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.
Jasper biking trails

Nobody make fun of my biking get up.

Journey Bike Guides can take up groups up to 10 people with children 8-years and older.

Take a motorcycle sidecar tour

For a different perspective, hit the open road either on the back of a motorbike or in a motorcycle sidecar with Jasper Motorcycle Tours. The guides are all locals, who know just the best places to go depending on which lakes, mountains or wildlife you want to see.

Kids three years and older will have a blast ridding in the sidecar, and adults learn lots about the area’s geography, including recent changes to glaciers. I didn’t expect to receive so many tips on secret mountain biking trails. With a steady breeze on your face and the processing of new sites, you’re sure to sleep well afterwards. Equally as fun, however, is getting geared up in the shop with all the leather trimmings. You only need to show up with a sense of adventure.

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I didn’t drive the bike, but clung onto the back of our guide. (Photo credit: Stan)

Score epic views from Jasper Skytram

The first thing you need to know about taking the Jasper Skytram is that you ought to make a reservation. With physical distancing regulations in place, the tram is running at half capacity. Go first thing in the morning for your best chance to see Mt Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.

views of Mt Robson from Whistlers mountain

Go early to snag the clearest views of Mt. Robson.

Once you arrive at the Upper Station, you can stroll around and take in the incredible views. There’s also a small gift shop and Summit Restaurant to check out. We were keen to get to the actual summit of Whistlers Mountain and there’s a well marked trail to guide you there. It’s about a 20-30 minute hike straight up. There could be snow. It’ll most definitely be windy. Bring gloves and an ear mask if you’re prone to ear aches. I wasn’t expecting to hike, so we were wearing runners, had no water and were fine. Still, better to plan ahead.

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The summit of Whistlers affords stunning views of Jasper townsite and the National Park.

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The Athabasca River and the lakes really are those incredible shades of blue and green.

Visit Spirit Island

Spirit Island, one of the most iconic Canadian sites is only accessible by water. If you’ve got the arm strength, you can paddle out there (6-8 hours!), but far better to settle into the Maligne Lake Boat Cruise. I’ll be honest, I thought this one was going to be a snoozer, but it wasn’t. It’s just so darn pretty with the Maligne Mountain Range on your right and the Queen Elizabeth Mountain Range on your left.

spirit island boat cruise

Spirit Island is a tinier than you might expect, but is just as stunning as pictures suggest. (Credit: Pursuit Collection)

Of course you’ll learn interesting tidbits along the way, but I was most fascinated to hear that Her Royal Highness herself has yet to visit this mountain range, despite having several trips to Jasper under her belt. What makes Spirit Island so notable is that it’s sacred ground for the Stoney Nakoda People (so you won’t be able to actually walk upon it). It’s also encircled by an entire mountain range (Queen Elizabeth), which is quite rare. And the cruise itself is one Instagram moment after the next.

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Note how some of the trees on Spirit Island have that tinge of red.

After your boat tour, you can walk along the easy Mary Schaffer loop or rent a canoe from the lakeside boathouse.

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Try to budget enough time to both a canoe and take the boat cruise.

Where to Eat in Jasper

Like many resort towns, there’s no shortage of restaurants. Where to eat in Jasper depends on if you’re with kids and what kind of food you’re hankering for. Here’s a few diverse eateries that caught our eye.

Downstream

Don’t let the sports bar atmosphere steer you away from Downstream. Their take on elevated pub food even caught the attention of the Food Network Canada’s, You Gotta Eat Here. While we didn’t go for the famed elk sirloin or smoked duck club, I was delighted with our choices. My salmon was perfected cooked (often restaurants overcook it) and my daughter’s burger was so juicy, I kept stealing bites. The mussels (served in a massive 8” wide cocktail glass) were also a hit. Portions are large, so keep that in mind if you’re a dessert lover.

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The atmosphere is casual, but the food is elevated at Downstream. (Credit: Tourism Jasper)

Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen

The thing to order at this restaurant is their wilderness platter, so you get a bit of all their greatest hits – brisket, baby back ribs, smoked chicken, venison sausage, mac & cheese, garlicy fries, baked beans and a trio of sauces. It’s finger lickin’ good and good value to boot.

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This is one portion, split into two. And we still took home leftovers.

Jasper Pizza Place

If you’re craving pizza, you won’t be disappointed at Jasper Pizza Place. Try and snag a coveted table on their rooftop patio, and indulge in either a wood burning pizza or traditional, North American-style thicker crust. Their crust really is fantastic, their salads fresh and their calamari had to be eaten two days in a row by my daughter. 

Where to eat in Jasper

Just check out that view of Pyramid Mountain from the Jasper Pizza Place patio.

Cocos Cafe

Local’s favourite, Coco’s Cafe, is a no-brainer for breakfast. Their green salsa packs a punch and they’re generous with their portions. Be sure to stock up on their homemade bread, vegan bars and cookies.

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You won’t leave Coco’s Cafe hungry! (Credit: Tourism Jasper)

Tekkara Restaurant

Set on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Athabasca and Miette rivers, Tekarra Restauant is situated in a pine cabin, next to adorable cabins. They’re known for their fish and we quickly polished off an order of smoked trout nori rolls, a satisfying starter with plenty of depth. Steps away from the restaurant is a playground for kids to amuse themselves before dinner arrives. Just keep an eye out for the elk, sure to be not far away, nibbling on grass.

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While waiting for our food, we snuck out of Tekarra to admire the pale green ribbons of two rivers converging.

Have you ever been to Jasper National Park? What are your favourite things to do there?

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Maligne Lake boat house

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