Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Family-Friendly Summits in Jasper National Park

We've been trying to tackle some first summits this summer with our 4 year old son, starting with Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park and the Bear's Hump in Waterton National Park.  It's all part of our Family-friendly First Summits Project that I talked about earlier this summer in Calgary's Child Magazine

Next in queue for peaks we wanted to summit were Whistler's Mountain and The Old Fort Point  in Jasper National Park so we packed up the trailer and headed north for a few nights to set up our base camp just outside the town of Jasper.  While technically not a summit, the Old Fort Point is still a lovely viewpoint that looks down over the entire Jasper townsite area and surrounding lakes.  Whistler's Mountain however is a real mountain and would be Noah's first big achievement.  To make it easier for him we would take the Jasper Tramway to a point just below the ridge top and then proceed to the summit from there.

Hiking in the High Alpine of Jasper National Park on Whistler's Mountain

Whistler's Mountain

The lower tramway station sits at an elevation of 1304 metres (4279 ft).  From there, it's a 7 minute ride to the upper station sitting at 2277 metres (7472 ft).  Now while it may seem like cheating to climb a mountain with the aid of a tramway or gondola, I know my child isn't quite capable of climbing almost 1000 metres.  I can barely handle that much height gain these days!  From the upper station, it's a short hike to the top of the mountain and official summit.  It's still no walk in the park with 200 metres of height gain, but this is a bit more realistic when choosing a mountain that a preschooler can climb.

Getting ready for our ride on the Jasper Tramway

Noah has typically done very well with big hikes and enjoyed both Tunnel Mountain and the Bear's Hump hikes.  Whistler's Mountain was a battle though.  We worked for this one and fought strong winds the whole time.  The temperature was also quite a bit cooler on top.  That being said, sometimes it's nice to fight for a summit, to work, and to know that you are capable of doing something - even when it's not easy.  It's trips like this that build character and endurance, personality traits that we want Noah to have.

Noah and I playing around on the way to the summit of Whistler's Mountain

The hike was incredibly beautiful as we looked down over the entire area surrounding the Jasper townsite to the Athabasca River and many nearby lakes.  Pyramid Mountain was always in the distance and we had a well maintained path all the way to the summit.  While it's definitely not stroller friendly, the trail was easy to follow and one never had to worry about getting lost.

Looking out at Pyramid Mountain in the distance
Hiking on the easy trail to the summit
Noah was entertained the whole way up and down by giant boulders that he could scramble on.  Even Daddy joined in the fun a couple of times!  I was thrilled when I saw the mountain's namesake animal, the hoary marmot.  Whistler's Mountain gets its name from this animal that sounds a warning whistle when people or predators draw near.

Bouldering on the ridge of Whistler's Mountain
Playing around with Daddy
Hoary Marmot - my favourite animal in the Canadian Rockies

It was a special moment for me to stand on the summit of Whistler's Mountain with our son.  This was my husband's first mountain that he climbed when he was a boy and the exact location where I knew without a doubt that I wanted to marry my best friend, now husband.  Whistler's Mountain is one of my favourite places in Jasper National Park and I was happy that we got to be there together for the first time as a family.

Adding rocks to the cairns on the summit ridge
Noah's summit photo on top of Whistler's Mountain

Other interesting facts about the Jasper Tramway and Whistler's Mountain:
  • The Jasper Tramway is the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada.
  • The Tramway is also the only one of its kind in the Canadian Rockies
  •  Visitors can view 6 different mountain ranges from the top of Whistler's Mountain
  • The Tramway offers one of the easiest ways (if not the easiest way) to access the high alpine in the Canadian Rockies
  • There is a full restaurant and cafeteria at the upper station and we actually had a romantic wedding dinner for two at the top after getting married in the nearby town of Jasper.   True story.

For more information on the Jasper Tramway along with pricing and hours, visit their website.  

Paradise on Whistler's Mountain

The Old Fort Point

Next on the list for Jasper National Park,  The Old Fort Point hike takes you to an amazing viewpoint over the town of Jasper.  We do this hike every year and take the same photo of Noah and I - every year!  In the exact same spot.

This year's photo on the Old Fort Point

 The viewpoint on the Old Fort Point trail stands 130 metres above the Athabasca River meaning you will have to climb that distance to summit the lookout.  The past couple of years that we've done this hike, we've carried our son to the viewpoint.  Last year he walked down.  This year, would be his first time to climb up and down by himself.  And to challenge him further, we figured we might as well do the full loop hike with a distance of 3.8km  It should have been fairly easy and straight forward, and we even brought Noah's balance bike with us to make the loop a bit more fun on the way down.

Hiking down, balance bike in hand

Noah was a little less than enthused on this hike, much as he was on Whistler's Mountain.  Maybe he was just having an off weekend?  Or we can blame the elements as it was very hot the day we hiked up to the Old Fort Point.  I myself found the steep slog up to be difficult in the mid-day heat.  He did perk up somewhat though when the steep descent was finished and he could do some pleasant riding on his bike.  Unfortunately, a good chunk of the downhill section was way too steep to do on a bike so we ended up carrying it more than it was ridden.

Stairs cut into the rock on the way up to the viewpoint

For more information on this hike, visit the Jasper National Park website for trail description and location.  If you are doing the hike this summer, check with the visitor centre before you head out because we found the Old Fort Point road bridge closed and had to do an extra kilometre on bike trails to reach the trailhead.  We were glad we had brought Noah's bike for that portion at least.  Were I to do the hike again this year, we'd all bring our bikes and just lock them up at the trailhead.   

Annual hike on the Old Fort Point Trail

Stay tuned for more first summits later this summer when we head to Kootenay National Park at the beginning of September.  We hope to tackle Mt. Swansea while in the Columbia Valley (with the help of a sweet 4x4 road that climbs up the backside, gaining most of the height.)

High in the Rockies!

Disclaimer:  Special thanks to Tourism Jasper who covered our tickets for the Jasper Tramway.  As always, all thoughts and opinions were my own and I wasn't compensated in any other way for this story.


  1. Beautiful pictures, will have to check out Whistler mountain.

    1. Thanks Chris! Definitely check out Whistler's.

  2. Looks like he's having a fun time hiking. What a great picture of you two looking out to Pyramid Mountain. That really shows why it's so great to get out and see the mountains with our kids.

    Keep on exploring.

  3. Spectacular looking pictures and mountain. but last picture is more delightful. such a great enjoyable tour with happy family. thanks for sharing your experience with us.
    I glad that found your account and got nice information....

  4. Sounds like a blast! My family and I are not big on the outdoor adventures but sounds like we may have to give it another try.