The Accommodation versus Preservation Issue

I‘ve heard time and time again from people that finding a hotel room last minute in Jasper National Park is not easy during the peak summer season. Without a hotel room, your day could be spent trying to find one instead of enjoying the scenery. Let’s look at a bad experience and good one. The difference is that one person tried to book last minute and the other planned in advance.

Let’s look at a forum post here on TripAdvisor where a traveler had a tough time finding a hotel last minute and vented some justifiable frustration.

Basically, the traveler arrived in Jasper on a Wednesday night in August and couldn’t find a single place to stay. So he went to a hotel in Hinton, which is an hour from Jasper townsite past the eastern border of Jasper National Park. Needless to say, this was probably not a very enjoyable travel experience.

Another contributor on the forum, krp329, wisely explains why (bolding added by me for emphasis):

“The town of Jasper itself has its own growth constrained by park regulations – the town has almost completely filled the footprint allowed for it by the National Parks Act. Further commercial growth is problematic, considering where we are already: there are staffing shortages at this time of the year, made worse by the chronic housing shortage.” (Source: TripAdvisor post)

Krp329 goes on the say:

“The “remedy” would be to make it busier, ie. increase the accommodation infrastructure so that you would have had a place to stay too. Which raises a whole bunch of interesting questions about development and tourism in the national parks vs. their roles as wilderness preserves, and ‘how much is enough?‘” (Source: TripAdvisor post)

Most people would agree that the right thing to do is not change a thing as the ‘enough’ point has already been reached. To quote myself (is that possible?), here’s my simple and subsequent response to the troubled traveler:

“If you want every last convenience, DisneyWorld has Jasper beat. The problem with Disney is that it is so artificial. Jasper is authentic.

The area around Disney has more hotels, stores and restaurants than you can imagine. But they cover every last inch of land. That’s what would happen to Jasper is restrictions were not in place.

Minimizing the human impact on the park is key to the survival of the remaining wildlife that live there.

For example, here’s something on woodland caribou that I think puts the importance of Jasper National Park in perspective.”

If you book in advance you could instead have a great time.

In contrast, look at the experience of traveler Andrew Sawadisavi. Andrew shows what a great time in the park is like in this nice Jasper National Park trip report he did here. He took lots of great photos and appeared to have a memorable experience. He had his hotel room reserved in advanced.

So the lesson learned is to book in advance. Limited last minute accommodations are the necessary reality of the park.

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