By Afton Aikens & Jack Newton
SunDog Tours’ daily winter bus (to May) offers hassle-free travel to and from Jasper National Park. The Edmonton service accesses West Edmonton Mall or the International Airport. The Calgary/Banff/Lake Louise service cruises the famous Icefields Parkway, which offers spectacular views. Some highlights of this world renowned drive include:
- Bow Lake: above the lake, see Bow Glacier. To the left is Crowfoot Glacier, once shaped like a crow’s three toes. Bow Lake is a great spot for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, but nearby Num-Ti-Jah Lodge is closed in winter.
- Bow Summit: popular with telemark skiers, this is the high point on the Parkway (2,068 m/6,875 ft) and a viewpoint for Peyto Lake, shaped like a wolf’s head. Signs tell of Englishman Bill Peyto, who became a mountain man in the 1890s.
- Mistaya Canyon & Saskatchewan River Crossing: Distinctive Weeping Wall cliffs are streaked by icefalls fed by Cirrus Mountain meltwaters. Ice climbers can often be seen. The moderate 3-km (1.8-mi) trail up Parker Ridge, popular for ski touring, offers Saskatchewan Glacier views.
- Columbia Icefield: 215 sq km (83 sq mi) and up to 365 m (1,200 ft) deep. Its meltwaters flow west to the Pacific, north to the Arctic and east to Hudson’s Bay and the Atlantic. This hydrological apex is one of two in the world; the other is in Siberia. Six major glaciers flow from the Icefield; visitors walk to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier.
- Sunwapta Falls: a footbridge provides the best view. Walk downstream along the canyon rim. As the highway climbs, a pullout on the right provides a view of frozen Tangle Falls where Beauty Creek tumbles down a limestone wall. Bighorn sheep often herd where the road crests, while across the valley Stutfield Glacier spills over the mountain’s ridge.
- Athabasca Falls: the river is forced through a narrow canyon and over a cliff. Walk the short interpretive trail. Seven km (4.3 mi) farther south is Goat Lookout with Mt Kerkeslin view. Natural salt licks attract mountain goats.
The 11,228-sq km Jasper National Park is the world’s second largest Dark Sky Preserve, and the only one that encompasses a town. Once you’ve arrived, visit Pyramid Island, 15 minutes from Jasper townsite and footbridge-accessible. It’s the perfect spot for stargazing, with bonus views of Pyramid Mountain, Whistlers Mountain and Mount Edith Cavell.
Jasper’s two most significant buildings are centrally located on Connaught Drive across the road from one another.
- Jasper Information Centre: This rustic landmark built with local timber and stone is 100 years old. The tourist hub that houses Tourism Jasper and Parks Canada visitor kiosks, the Friends of Jasper retail store and Parks Canada offices was the town’s first major building.
- Jasper Heritage Railway Station: Built in 1925 and since restored, the station’s arts and crafts architecture, includes large cobblestone chimneys. Inside are car rentals, bus and train ticketing desks, bus parcel services and Parks Canada offices.
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