Discovering Jasper National Park

When I left off, our trio had finished a delicious meal at Storm Mountain Lodge and fallen asleep for the last night  in our cozy cabin. 

When we awoke on Monday morning it was time to say goodbye to Banff and Lake Louise and hit the highway - driving down Icefields Parkway with Jasper as our ultimate destination. 

Discovering the Canadian Rockies Guide to Jasper

Day 4 

Drive the Icefields Parkway

We were more than a little sad to say goodbye to Storm Mountain Lodge and enjoyed one last smorgasbord breakfast on the picnic benches outside the main cabin before apprehensively getting in our rental car for a long day of driving. 

Storm Mountain Lodge

We couldn't understand how - but many people we had talked to said that driving the Icefields Parkway was the highlight of their trip! Considering the hikes we had been on so far, we couldn't see how this could be the case - but we were excited to find out. 

The Canadian Rockies span a large area, and there are three main National Parks within the mountain range - Banff, Jasper and Yoho. Icefields Parkway is 144 miles of road that connect Lake Louise with Jasper and has been rated as one of the top drives in the world. 

While planning our itinerary, I was overwhelmed with the number of recommended stops between Lake Louise and Jasper! Obviously, we had to pick and choose - there simply weren't enough hours in the day to see everything. 

Bow Lake & Bow Glacier Falls Hike

4.6 Miles 

Pretty quickly it became obvious that the views on this drive were going to be stunning. Lucky for us, despite forest fires, the skies were clear and we could see the mountains all around us. 

Icefields Parkway

Our first stop was Bow Lake, where we hiked to the Bow Glacier Falls. This hike was more of a walk/rock scramble with some difficult terrain as we forged a path across a rocky riverbed - but for the most part it was flat. 

We took a few minutes to lay at the base of the falls, enjoying the spray and the sounds of the falling water. 

On our return trip there was a brief interlude for some Taylor Swift choreography and marveling at how reflective the surface of Bow Lake was. 

Bow Lake Jasper

When we got back to the parking lot, we stopped into the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge for some lunch from their little gift shop/cafe which we ate outside on a picnic bench. I remember there being chili with some exotic meat - bison or elk or something. Note: they only took cash!

Peyto Lake Overlook 

1.2 Miles 

We got back in the car and headed to our next destination - Peyto Lake. 

There's an easy walk up a pretty steep, paved path to an overlook of the breathtakingly blue Peyto Lake - but when we got up there and saw how full of tourists the landing was - we knew we had to seek out a spot with a little more solitude. 

We managed to figure out how to get where we wanted to go after many stops at forks in the trail, confused conversations with other hikers, and a lot of hoping for the best. 

What awaited was an absolutely stunning view of Peyto Lake - and instead of being surrounded by 100s of people, it was us and maybe 10-15 other people. 

There were some rocks and overhangs perfect for pictures and I would say this was my favorite view of the trip! The 1.2 mile walk to get there wasn't bad at all and I highly recommend it to anyone driving the Icefields Parkway! You can read more about how to skip the crowded area and find this incredible overlook here

Peyto Lake Overlook Jasper

Jasper Trail Run 

5.2 Miles 

We continued cruising down the Icefields Parkway and enjoying the amazing scenery with a quick stop at the "Goat Lick" but sadly, we didn't see any goats. 

Eventually, we arrived in Jasper and found ourselves driving through the cute little town and parking at our hostel! 

The Jasper Downtown Hostel was really great - another phenomenal kitchen that we sadly didn't get to take advantage of, clean rooms with their own bathrooms attached, and very friendly staff. 

We dropped our stuff and quickly inquired at the front desk about where we could go for a run. He gave us a few suggestions and we set off for what ended up being an absolutely perfect and beautiful 5 mile trail run. 

There are a number of paths around Jasper that make for great running routes - ours took us on #12 to Red Squirrel Trail Run to Old Fort Point Road and the Athabasca River Loop before we turned around and headed back. 

Jasper Trail Running

By the end of the run I was feeling pretty great, and vividly remember booking it down Jasper's main stretch of road - Connaught Drive. 

Sunset at Patricia Lake  

When we wrapped up our run we piled right in the car at my insistence that we catch the sunset at Patricia Lake. It was pretty - but we were sweaty and being attacked by bugs so it didn't last long. 

Patricia Lake Sunset

We headed back to the hostel to shower and get ready for our first night out in Jasper! (Getting ready most (all) nights involved jeans or running leggings with a sweater and wet hair). 

Dinner at Jasper Brewing Co. 

We wandered around for a while before accepting the fact that we were no longer in NYC and almost every restaurant was closed for the night.

We settled on Jasper Brewing Co. which was still open and hoppin' (get it, brewery, hops?) 

Jasper Brewing Company

Bar food and beers hit the spot - nachos with alllll the things, crudites and dips, a giant salad and sweet potato fries? Yummo. The beers were solid too and we even had some fun conversation with the locals sharing the high top with us. 

Day 5:

Long Trail Run - Valley of the Five Lakes

7 Miles 

We slept in on Tuesday and woke up to get our trail run on! After consulting with the guy at the front desk and the interwebs, we decided to start our run at the Valley of the Five Lakes Trailhead parking lot. 

We actually didn't end up doing the Valley of the Five Lakes trail as our run - instead we kind of winged it and it ended up being one of my favorite runs of my entire LIFE. 

Jasper Trail Running

I couldn't really tell you where we ended up going - I can just tell you that it was beautiful. We saw one other person for the entire hour + we were out there. The trail was verrrry narrow - so we went in single file the entire time. 

There is something about trail running where you can just completely zone out - you're looking down at the trail to stop yourself from tripping (at least I am) and every once in awhile you need to remind yourself to look up and in take in the fact that you are 100% surrounded by nature. 

We turned around once we hit a lake and switched off who got a chance to lead. Leading was so fun - I felt like a total trailblazer! Free and fast and fun! (We weren't actually going that fast, but it felt like it!) 

Jasper Trail Running

That was 75 minutes I will never forget. 

Feast at Loulou's Pizzeria 

After we got back and showered it was time to find food. We ended up at Loulou's where, as usual, we ordered a feast. 

The food wasn't anything incredible, but for a bunch of hungry runners it was more than sufficient. 

I'm pretty sure there was an omelette, an egg sandwich, and a yogurt parfait. With lots of toast and peanut butter. 

Shopping in Jasper 

After we ate we walked along the main street in Jasper checking out all the shops. I bought myself an amazing plastic all-in-one utensil that I have gotten a ton of use out of in all of my travels/flights! 

We also stopped at SnowDome Coffee Bar which is an awesome laundromat/coffee shop where we got iced Americanos that really hit the spot. 

I also bought wooden stud earrings that look like little mountains and I have worn them 98% of the days since I've been back. I am obsessed with them. 

Lake Maligne Lake Cruise 

Prior to leaving for Canada (okay, months and months in advance as is my style), we had booked "Jasper Explorer" combo packages through Brewster tours. This got us reservations with the Lake Maligne Lake Cruise and the Glacier Adventure ($140). 

The drive from Jasper town to the Lake Maligne Lake Cruise was stunning and when we arrived we checked in and boarded the boat right on time. 

Our tour guide was personable and knowledgeable and dropped some interested perspective on forest fires - while they're scary for people living in the area and detrimental to tourism - they're actually part of the life-cycle of any forest! 

It was a beautiful day for a boat cruise (I picked the last departure for the day since I like late-afternoon light best for pictures!) and as we made our way to Spirit Island our tour guide pointed on glaciers and other notable parts of the surrounding Lake Maligne landscape. 

When we arrived at Spirit Island we were given some time to get off the boat and walk around - taking our own version of the iconic photograph that made Spirit Island famous. 

A Kodak photographer, Peter Gales, found this remote location and took a picture that would come to be used as part of a giant photo display in Grand Central Station throughout the 1940s. 

It seemed a little silly at the time - that this entire boat cruise exists so that people can see the island from the famous photograph - but once we were on shore looking out at Spirit Island, I had to admit it was beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I had my own picture printed on metal and plan on hanging it in my room! 

Spirit Island Lake Cruise

We learned some more on the boat ride back and I snapped tons of pictures from my window seat. 

Moose Lake Walk at Maligne Lake

2.1 Miles 

Once we disembarked the vessel (just wanted to use some of my nautical vernacular there) we decided to go for a walk to Moose Lake in the hopes of finding some moose! 

We didn't - but it was a nice, flat walk and when we arrived at moose lake, even though there were a few other people, it was the most absolute silence I've ever heard in my life. We all agreed that we finally understood the phrase, "the silence was deafening." 

Dinner at Olive Bistro 

When we got home from the Maligne Lake Cruise we set out for dinner - determined to make it out before the restaurants were all closed for the night. 

We kicked off tequila Tuesday with delicious cocktails from Olive Bistro - where we got to sit outside with heat lamps and even met the chef/owner! 

We got downnn with some delicious Mediterranean food. In an out of character move I also insisted on the bison burger which I still think about sometimes because it was so delicious. 

After dinner we returned to Jasper Brewing Co. for a final brewski before hitting the hay. 

Day 6:

Our journey in the Canadian Rockies was coming to a close but we had one more adventure packed day. We started with an outdoor breakfast at the hostel - complete with a cinnamon roll the size of our heads from Bear's Paw Bakery which was right around the corner from us. 

Bear's Paw Bakery Jasper

We packed up the car and hit the Icefields Parkway for our journey back to Calgary. 

Glacier Adventure 

But before leaving Jasper National Park, it was time to step foot on a glacier! Something that, sadly, won't be possible forever. 

Our "Jasper Explorer" pack included a ride in a giant bus/monster truck/glacier adventure-mobile  out onto the Athabasca Glacier (make sure you reserve a time in advance!) 

I'm not a car person - but learning about these badass vehicles was actually really interesting. I won't ruin the fun facts you'll learn on this tour (aka: I can't remember the fun facts I just know they were fascinating). I do remember that the road down to the glacier is the second steepest unpaved road in the world! It was nuts. 

Columbia Icefields Ice Explorer

Our tour guide was funny and we thought it was very interesting that all the people who work for the Glacier Adventure live down the street in cabins - I think it would make for a fascinating reality TV show. Seasonal Workers of Jasper National Park: Revealed. 

Anywho. After the ride to the 10,000 year old glacier we could get out of the ice explorer (the tires were as tall as me) and walk around. I know I should have been more in awe - but in all honestly I just couldn't really wrap my head around some of the staggering statistics and numbers being thrown around. The Columbia Icefield is something like 2,000 football fields? HOW. 

You can read more of the crazy info here

What I liked most was getting to fill my water bottle up with glacier water and drink it - SO FRESH. SO COLD! 

Athabasca Glacier

Glacier Skywalk 

After being ice explorers we got on another bus that brought us to the "Skywalk" which was a total waste of time and nearly resulted in me peeing on the side of the road because there was no bathroom and the bus was nowhere to be found. 

I would 100% say that this isn't worth you're time if you go to the Columbia Icefield!

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Wildlife 

On our drive back along the Icefields Parkway, the sky was verrrrrry smokey. We couldn't believe the difference - it was like someone had completely erased the mountains! We were so thankful that the winds must have been in our favor the entire trip. 

Though we couldn't see mountains on our drive back to Calgary - we DID see a BABY BEAR on the side of the road! It might not have been the smartest move - but we pulled the car over and got out to join the crowd forming to take pictures of the lil bear cub. 

Bear Jasper National Park

Stop for a Swim in a Lake 

It's killing me that I can't remember the name of this lake (maybe Hector?)- but on our drive I recognized the name from my Google search for lakes in Jasper and Banff that were actually warm enough to swim in (aka not filled from straight up glaciers!) 

It was a split second decision to turn off the road and go for it and looking back, it was a fabulous decision. 

We walked around to a clearing in the lake that seemed relatively free of people and took the plunge - lasting a total of maybe 3 seconds in the cold water before coming out. 

But we did it! And it was fun and refreshing and definitely woke us up for the rest of our journey. 

Stoney Squaw Hike 

2.7 Miles 

As we made our way back to Banff we were getting a little antsy from the driving and decided we wanted to fit in one more hike. 

I had been scrolling through options online all day but we finally settled on the Stoney Squaw Hike. Though the final view wasn't as jaw-dropping as some of our other hikes, the lichen covered trees provided something we hadn't yet seen during our trip and made me feel like I had been transported into the movie FairyTale (I LOVED THAT MOVIE). 

Stoney Squaw Banff

The hike was the perfect distance and perfect effort-level to give us the final oomph we needed to make it back to Calgary. 

(And on our way down - we saw lots of GOATS). 

Dinner Out in Calgary

We made it to Calgary and checked into the Wyndham Garden Airport to drop our bags before calling an Uber to take us out for TACOS. 

I had a delicious mezcal drink and we ate lots of delicious Mexican things at Native Tongues

It had been a long week without tacos or guacamole, let me tell ya. 

The ambiance at Native Tongues was great and did I mention they MAKE THEIR OWN DONUTS! I think you know what dessert was. 

End of an Adventure 

The next morning we all took our separate flights back to NY and the city skyline will never be the same now that I know what it's like to be surrounded by blue skies and mountains and glacial lakes for 7 glorious days.  

It was such an incredible trip and I cannot stop recommending it to everyone I meet. 

GO TO BANFF AND JASPER! I promise you will not be disappointed. 

Jasper National Park

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