Jasper Town & Around in detail

Activities

Cycling

Jasper tops Banff for single-track mountain biking; in fact, it's one of the best places in Canada for the sport. Many rides are within striking distance of town. Flatter, on-road options include the long-distance grunt along the Icefields Parkway. The holy grail for experienced off-road cyclists is the Valley of the Five Lakes – it's varied and scenic, with plenty of places where you can let it rip. For more information, get a copy of Mountain Biking Guide, Jasper National Park from the Jasper Information Centre.

Vicious Cycle and The Bench Bike Shop in Jasper Town can sort out bike rentals and offer additional trail tips.

Hiking

Even when judged against other Canadian national parks, Jasper's trail network is mighty, and with comparatively fewer people than its sister park to the south, you've a better chance of seeing more wildlife and fewer humans.

Initiate yourself on the interpretative Jasper Discovery Trail, an 8km easy hike that encircles the town and highlights its natural, historical and railway heritage.

Other short trails include the 3.2km Mary Schäffer Loop by Maligne Lake, named for one of the earliest European visitors to the area; the 3.5km Old Fort Point Loop to the site of an old fur-trading post; and the gorgeous walk through Maligne Canyon.

Further away and slightly harder, the famous 9.1km Path of the Glacier Trail runs below the impressive face of Mt Edith Cavell and takes you to the foot of the Angel Glacier through the flower-scattered Cavell meadows.

The blue-ribbon multiday hike is the Skyline Trail – unusual in that more than half of its 46km are at or above the tree line, affording amazing cross-park views. The hike is usually split over two to three days, starting at Maligne Lake and emerging near Maligne Canyon on Maligne Lake Rd. You can pitch your tent in a campground or stay in the historic Shovel Pass Lodge.

The leaflet Jasper National Park Day Hiking Guide has descriptions of most of the park's easy walks, while the backcountry visitor guide Jasper National Park details longer trails and backcountry campsites, with suggested itineraries for hikes of two to 10 days. If you're hiking overnight, you must obtain a backcountry permit (per person per night $9.80) from Parks Canada in the Jasper Information Centre.

Horseback Riding

Tonquin Valley Backcountry Lodge runs incredible, fully guided summer pack trips into the roadless Tonquin Valley, including meals and accommodations at their backcountry lodge and complimentary use of boats on Amethyst Lake. For a more leisurely horseback experience, Jasper Riding Stables offers enjoyable day rides lasting from one to three hours.

Skiing & Snowboarding

Jasper National Park's only downhill ski area is Marmot Basin, which lies 19km southwest of town off Hwy 93A. Though not legendary, the presence of 95 runs and the longest high-speed quad chairlift in the Canadian Rockies mean Marmot is no pushover – and its relative isolation compared to the trio of ski areas in Banff means shorter lift lines.

On-site are some cross-country trails and a predictably expensive day lodge, but no overnight accommodations. Regular shuttles link to Jasper Town in season. Seriously cold weather can drift in suddenly off the mountains, so dress appropriately.

White-Water Rafting

There's nothing like a glacial splashdown to fight the summer heat. The Jasper area has lots of good rafting opportunities, from raging to relaxed, on the Maligne, Sunwapta and Athabasca Rivers. The season runs from May to September.