How to Have a Good Jasper National Park Vacation

Over on Fodor’s travel forum, a great world travel forum with lots of posts about Jasper, regular participant Judy_in_Calgary posted her “12 Commandments for the Canadian Rockies“. Other forum participants contributed to the list.

The result was a fun list with over 20 commandment ideas so far. I’ve picked out some of the ones most relevant to Jasper National Park and added some comments. Follow these if you want to have a good time in Jasper National Park.

I hope this is useful:

  • Thou shalt realize that the point of visiting the Canadian Rockies is not to stay in the mountain resort towns of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. Thou shalt realize that the point of going to the mountains is to see the considerable territory between one town and the next and also to go off onto the side roads whenever possible.”

Especially in Jasper, if your idea of a good time is shopping for knick-knacks and then hanging out at the hotel pool for the rest of the day, everyday, than, sorry to say, Jasper National Park is probably not the best destination for you. Jasper National Park is about seeing nature. Sure a little leisure in the village is ok. But if you only use your hotel pool and skip Miette Hot Springs, you’ve missed out on a unique experience.

  • Thou shalt walk a few feet into the forest, so as to lose the zillions of thy fellow tourists who go only to a few popular scenic lookout points.”

If you’re able, go for a hike. The Jasper Information Center in Jasper village has guides who can recommend a great hike that matches your needs, skill level, and current weather/trail conditions.

  • “Thou shalt not ride the Ice Explorer onto the Athabasca Glacier in a sleeveless dress and a pair of high-heeled sandals. Thou shalt wear socks, sensible walking shoes, long trousers, and a jacket.”

I can say from experience that even in July at Jasper’s warmest, wearing layers of clothing is the way to go. In Jasper National Park, both Athabasca Glacier and the Jasper Tramway require layers. The only places for bathing suits are Miette Hot Springs, your hotel pool and sometimes Pyramid Lakes or Maligne Lake are good for a brisk swim.

  • “Thou shalt not whine if the weather is cool and rainy. Thou will have done thy research, and packed layers of clothing that are suitable to take thee from 90 deg F (30 deg C) down to the freezing mark. If thou art uncomfortable, it will not be because the weather is bad but because thy clothing is unsuitable.”

I have a stowaway rain jacket that is great for places like Jasper. It’s light and fits in my backpack. It’s both a windbreaker and a rain coat in one. You can search the Internet or your local sporting goods store for these. You should be able to get one for well under $50. I use mine only a handful of times a year and expect it to last many years. When you’re caught in the rain, you’ll be more than glad that you have one.

  • “Thou shalt not feed the wildlife.” and “Thou shalt not climb out of thine car and walk up to a bear to take a photo of him/her.”

This is actually a law, but the irresponsible visitors violate this rule way too often. If you want to feed or pet the animals, go to a petting zoo. Jasper National Park is not the place.

  • “If thou see-est a wild animal along the road, thou shalt not drive your car up next to it and stop.”

Give the animals some space or they’ll run away. Even worse, they may become tame to cars and people. This is bad not just for humans, but also for the wildlife. If I understand it correctly, the park rangers have to enforce a no tolerance law for bears and a few other predators if they come into close contact with humans (i.e., bears who walk into the village).

  • “When thou see-est an animal while driving in the Rockies and before stopping to look at it: Please check thy rear view mirror, signal and pull off onto the shoulder of the road to view the wildlife.”

And one reason to be extra, extra careful when driving in Jasper National Park is that emergency services are a long, long way away.

One more commandment for Jasper National Park should be: “Thou shall always make sure to have enough gas in the car.” Gas stations can be an hour or two or more apart in some places – especially if you’re driving from the village to the glaciers.

For those bringing a camera, be sure to charge your batteries and bring enough memory cards.

Do all of this and you are sure to have a good Jasper National Park Vacation.

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