Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer Backpacking Trip to the Asulkan Cabin, Rogers Pass

This post could easily be called "Introduction of Family Mountaineering" or "Mountaineering with Kids 101" because the Asulkan Cabin is a great base camp for exploring glaciers and for hiking to the nearby Asulkan Pass across a wild landscape of glacier moraines and permanent snow fields.

Wild Hiking in the Asulkan Valley, Rogers Pass

The Asulkan Cabin is maintained and operated by the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC.) The ACC  operates the largest collection of backcountry huts in North America with many huts offering easy access to families. The Asulkan Cabin is located in Glacier National Park, British Columbia, and is situated high up the Asulkan Valley at Rogers Pass.While you could easily day hike up the valley to the cabin, it's much more enjoyable to spend a night and to enjoy some off trail exploring above the cabin if you are able to spend a couple of nights here.

The Asulkan Cabin, Rogers Pass, British Columbia

Staying overnight at the Asulkan Cabin

The Asulkan Cabin only sleeps 10 people so it's very easy to reserve all of the beds and to have your own private alpine cabin. This is what we did with two other families and it was a very enjoyable way to stay overnight in the backcountry. We loved not having to worry about our kids being too noisy, waking up too early, or disturbing other guests. Booking an entire cabin for your family and friends is often the best way to approach these kinds of trips if you are able to find a couple of nights when an ACC cabin is free and you can find enough friends to go with you.

Our Crew at the Asulkan Cabin (I know, who brought the Unicorn, right?) - Photo: M. Dunn

We've stayed in many backcountry cabins and huts as a family but the Asulkan Cabin is one of our favourites for a few reasons.
  1. We love that the sleeping bunks and platforms are upstairs so that once the kids go to bed, you can still stay up to socialize and play cards. At some cabins, sleeping platforms are in the same room as everything else and you pretty much have to go to bed at the same time as the kids.

  2. The views!!! You'd be hard pressed to find another alpine hut or cabin with these kinds of views unless you were to actually start traversing glaciers to reach the true mountaineering huts

  3. Solitude. Once the day hikers leave, you are left alone in the middle of the backcountry, high up the Asulkan Valley, in your own patch of paradise. (In your own private cabin if you booked the whole thing!)

  4. This is a mountaineering base camp that children can hike to. Most of the other "climbers huts" require glacier traverses.

This is the view from the Asulkan Cabin

The only thing I have to say on the cautionary side about the Asulkan Cabin is that you might not want to bring small children here if you were thinking that you could carry them up to the cabin. The stairs up to the sleeping area are very steep (more like a ladder than stairs) and the sleeping platforms/bunks would not be entirely safe with small children. Kids could easily fall off the upper platforms down to the main floor and there was only one large bottom platform for a family to sleep on. Other than that, the sleeping area had single bunk beds which may not be ideal for young kids who could fall out of bed.

Paradise at the Asulkan Cabin

Hiking into the Asulkan Cabin

The hike up the Asulkan Valley begins at the Illecillewaet Campground at Rogers Pass. It is a 6.5 km hike and you'll gain 700 metres of height to reach the cabin. While this may not seem steep spread out over 6.5 km, know that most of the height is all gained at the very end as you climb glacier moraines up to the cabin. The valley is relatively flat with little height gain.

Hiking up the Asulkan Valley through Marmot Valley (we saw 20+ marmots)

The hike is grueling and I've always struggled on it while carrying a heavy overnight pack. Get an early start on hot days because there is no shade once you reach the moraines. You'll also want to check the weather forecast before going and aim to be at the cabin before afternoon storms roll in. There would be no protection should a thunder storm come in once you get to the moraines. We had one big rain storm pass by us on our way up to the cabin and hid under a tarp while it passed over us.

Bridge crossing before you start the big climb to the cabin

Finally, if you wish to spend the night somewhere close by before starting your long hike up to the cabin, you can either stay at the A.O. Wheeler Hut (located right beside the Illecillewaet Campground with drive-up access,) you can try to get into the campground (but it's very popular and is first come first serve,) or you can get a motel room in Golden. (Make a reservation though because there were no rooms to be found when I checked before our trip!)

Climbing the moraines to the cabin (photo: Megan Dunn)

Exploring Asulkan Pass from the Asulkan Cabin

You could hike to the cabin, spend a night, and then hike out again, but why would you want to do that when there is such an amazing world around you to explore, and you spent an entire day getting there! It's far better to actually enjoy your hard work of getting to the cabin, to spend two nights, and to explore the area so you can gain an appreciation for why this location is world famous for backcountry skiing and climbing.

Climbing snow fields beside the Asulkan Glacier to reach Asulkan Pass

We had it in the back of our minds that we'd "attempt" to hike up to Asulkan Pass from the cabin. We knew it would be about 300 metres of height gain to get there and maybe only 6 km round trip at the very most. That was all doable. What we weren't sure about was if we could get there without getting on the Asulkan Glacier. We brought a small amount of glacier gear with us (just in case) but we knew we would be trying to avoid glacier travel with the kids.

Standing on the edge of the Asulkan Glacier

Fortunately, there was no glacier travel required to reach Asulkan Pass. We skirted around the edge of the glacier and hiked across snow fields that were just permanent snow patches that don't melt. We had brought Kahtoola Micro Spikes with us and they were invaluable for hiking across the snow. Our friends didn't have spikes and did fine, but a fall could have been dangerous if you slid down onto the actual glacier.

The final climb up to Asulkan Pass

It was a wild and beautiful hike across glacier moraines into a world that only mountaineers and climbers normally get to experience. We were so happy that we were able to give our children this intro mountaineering experience and we took many shots of our son holding the token ice axe we'd brought (why not, right?) Our son got to step onto the Asulkan glacier, got to look into a cave at the bottom of it, and found out (the hard way) what happens when you step in glacial silt and melt water at the edge of a glacier. Oops. (Note to everybody following us, bring at least one spare pair of socks with you on your hike and perhaps consider bringing waterproof boots for this hike.) - winter boots would not be out of line.

Looking into a cave at the edge of the Asulkan Glacier
Rock outcropping above Asulkan Pass

Asulkan Pass was one of the most beautiful places we've hiked this summer and I never really expected we'd make it here as a family. Again, it was in the back of my mind as a day trip option but we'd done the hike a few years ago (on an adult climbing trip) and I remembered it being harder than it was to reach the Pass. (Probably because we were traversing in from an attempt on Young's Peak.)

My boys at Asulkan Pass
Views from Asulkan Pass

And to be clear, the actual "pass" is on the Asulkan Glacier below us in the photos shown here. We took the kids to a rock outcropping just above the pass. It's far more scenic from this vantage point above the pass and is safer. We saw no need to tag the actual pass since we were higher than it and had better views from above.

Family photo at Asulkan Pass, Rogers Pass, BC

Bring a pair of spikes or ice cleats for each member of your family (or for the adults to support the kids at the very least) and this hike will be very doable by any family who visits the Asulkan Cabin. Just stay off of the glacier and make sure you know the difference between the glacier and the snow patches. If you don't, consider going with more experienced friends so that you stay safe.

Hiking down snow slopes above the Asulkan Glacier
Many of the snow patches were small enough to cross without spikes or ice cleats

What Next?

We recently backpacked into the Bugaboos and stayed at the Conrad Kain Hut. Here we got the opportunity to traverse an actual glacier (free of any crevasses and totally safe.) That story will be published soon.

Other than that, we're plotting out our first real family mountaineering trip and hope to traverse the Wapta Icefield from the Bow Hut to the Peyto Hut in the next year or two. We just have to decide if 8 is too crazy or if we should wait a year until our son is 9 years old. Ideally, we'll climb Mt. Thompson while doing the traverse so that will be a deciding factor for sure!!

Finally, we are planning a trip into the Stanley Mitchell Hut for Summer 2017 which is much easier to reach than the Asulkan Cabin. Guess we'll have to find something fun to climb while there to turn it into an epic adventure!

The Asulkan Cabin at Sunset
Solitude in the land of glaciers at the Asulkan Cabin

Resources and Additional Reading

Check out these other cabins and huts we've stayed at in the Alpine Club of Canada collection.

Backcountry Cabin Camping with Kids (Elk Lakes Cabin, BC)

Easter at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, Lake O'Hara 

Winter at the Cameron Lake Cabin, Waterton Lakes National Park

Launching a Winter of Adventure at Rogers Pass, Glacier National Park (A.O. Wheeler Hut)

Raising Tough Kids - Our Annual Winter Backpacking Trip (Elk Lakes Cabin)

Running down the glacier moraines on our day out
Rad Kids Doing Rad Adventures!

Monday, August 22, 2016

First Summits - East End of Mt. Rundle Summit as a Family

We've been on a mission to tackle several big summits this summer as a family and they've been getting more challenging each time we go out. Last month we hiked up to the summit of the East End of Mount Rundle in Canmore, referred to as EEOR (East End of Rundle.) It was a great adventure but was definitely pushing the limits for what we feel comfortable hiking with a 7 year old child.

Summit of East End of Mt. Rundle overlooking the Spray Valley

While we had no major challenges or periods where I'd say we were in serious danger,  there were many many moments where I had to admit that next time we'd do things a bit differently. We made a lot of minor "mistakes" in my mind and it wasn't as much fun as the hike could have been. Not as smooth. Not as flawless.

In hopes that you might learn from my reflections (and because I learn best myself by writing stuff down,) below are some of my take aways from the hike.

Summit of the East End of Mount Rundle, age 7

Reflection 1 – Always listen to your Children

When your child says from the get go that they are tired – listen to them. I always say that you're never going to know what kind of day your child is going to have until you get on the trail. Within 5 minutes you can usually tell if it's going to be "that kind of day" where you should turn around and just go for a short stroll and grab an ice-cream cone, or if it's going to be a "power day" where you could hike for 8 hours and still find your child running at the end.

This was not a power day. If we had listened, we would likely have turned around at the first viewpoint and called it a day. Noah made it to the summit and he did fine given how hard the hike was, but it wasn't one of his strongest days. His heart perhaps just wasn't in it and he might have appreciated a more relaxed day.

Hiking up small cliff bands and fun scrambly bits near the start of the trail

Reflection 2– The Summit is optional

Don’t go out with the determination that you MUST reach the summit (like I did this time.) It’s too hard then if you have to turn around. It makes you do reckless things when you decide to push on. Not that we were reckless this time, but we should have stopped at the ridge.

The next four photos below were all taken below or at the ridge so you'll still have plenty of reward for your efforts!

Interesting scrambling on the way to the ridge with mild exposure
Rest break before the ridge (and a fine place to stop if the summit is too far)

Noah was already "done" by the time we reached the ridge and there was a good "false summit bump" that we could have named as “Noah’s summit." There’s always a bump somewhere that you can proclaim as your summit of the day.

The photos below show the beautiful ridge overlooking the Spray Valley, Canmore, and Ha Ling Peak opposite you. I recommend most families with children under the age of 10 stop here. It's just not necessary to continue past this point. We did, but we also brought a rope and used it!

Reaching the Ridge below the Summit
This "bump" on the ridge is where we should have stopped

Reflection 3 -  Do the hike without your children first  

This should seem obvious but it takes time to go out solo to "test" a hike before taking the kids. (Time I don't always have.) I'm also guilty of forgetting what a hike is like if it's been more than three years since I last did it. We just did a hike this past week and I honestly had forgotten that it had three summits we'd have to climb up and over! I'd forgotten how long it was! I'd forgotten how exposed it was at times. And I brought a whole gaggle of kids with me.

Earlier this summer we did another summit and invited friends assuring them it was easy and that I'd done it when pregnant. Again, I'd forgotten how hard it was. I must have been a very fit pregnant mama!!!

On rope and traversing cliffs to reach the summit of the East End of Mount Rundle

And moving on to the East End of Rundle, I'd recently climbed up to the ridge with girlfriends and knew what to expect, but hadn't done the summit since well before my son was born. (perhaps 10 years ago.) If I was smart, I would have re-done the summit without Noah before bringing him along. He did fine and we had a rope to protect him, but it was harder than I had remembered.

Tired but proud to have reached the summit of EEOR

Reflection 4 - Family hikes should be EASY for the adults

Any family hike you do should be exceptionally easy for you the adult before you bring the kids along. If it's at your perfect comfort level (where you would not do anything harder) you will be focusing on surviving the hike yourself, and not focusing 100% on your child.

My husband helping our son get down from the summit on rope for protection

Ha Ling Peak across the valley is easy for me so I can support Noah 100% even by myself without another adult along for support. I feel comfortable on it and am never worried. The East End of Rundle however is something I  had to really concentrate on. The terrain was very loose, it was steep, and it was exposed at times on the way to the summit. This meant that my husband had to take on more of the stress of supporting our son and it put him on edge at times.

The descent was a lot looser than I had remembered

Reflection 5 - Start early!! 

The early bird gets the worm when it comes to summits with kids. We didn't start until 11am and this was way too late for summiting such a big peak with a child. It took us 7 hours to complete the hike and so we weren't back down until 6:00pm.

There were many breaks on the way up due to the heat on these sun baked slopes

IF you do want to have a relaxed start or just can't get to the trailhead any earlier, here are a few tips that will make the ending smoother:

  • Make sure it's a cooler day if starting late. It was a very hot day for EEOR and we were baked climbing up the hot dry slopes in the middle of the day. We should have started by 9am for this particular climb.

  • Don't promise things you can't guarantee (ice cream at the end, dinner out in a restaurant.) We got down too late and my son had to settle with a quick hamburger from a fast food restaurant on the way home in the car. My husband was disappointed too because he'd been looking forward to enjoying a beer on a patio in Canmore (which definitely didn't happen.)

  • If you suspect the hike will take a long time, make sure you have NO plans that evening. My husband wanted to get home and had chores he wanted to do before bed. This made us feel rushed on the way down and we had to rush home. Meanwhile, on another long hike last week, we just accepted that we wouldn't  be home till late. We still went out for dinner, we took our time, and bed time was moved till 9:00pm. It was much more enjoyable!!

Rushing back down late in the afternoon

Reflection 6 - Take the guide book suggested time and add 2 hours to it.

We recently did a backpacking trip with a suggested trip time of three hours in. It took us 2 hours 45 minutes with our group of kids. This is NOT normal. We were actually planning for a trip time of five hours based on the recommended time for a fit group of adults.

If you complete a hike in less time than you anticipated - bonus! But plan for longer and then you won't be stuck out past dinner without enough food on you.

I scrambled up those cliff bands to the summit!!

Reflection 7 - Keep it light

The attitude that is! (Your pack will likely not light if you are hiking with kids and focused on safety.) Stop often, recognize when your child is tired and step in to lighten the mood, bring out the candy, bring out a special snack, etc. We pushed too hard because we knew we were in a rush - especially on the way down.

We did another big epic 7 hour hike last week and we stopped a lot more! (probably why it took 7 hours.) It was way more enjoyable and we had more fun. The kids probably consumed pounds of candy and were still happy going into the 7 hour mark.

There's nothing wrong with taking a break

Reflection 8 - Snacks, more snacks, and MORE snacks

You'll need approximately one snack per hour of hiking. Therefore we should have had six different snacks for Noah (and for ourselves) along with a snack saved in the car for the end of the trip. We didn't. We were crashing on the way down (mentally and physically) and were starving by the time we reached our fast food restaurant.

My boys on the summit of Mt. Rundle's East Summit

Reflection 9 - Bring friends

Last year I would have said that this was purely optional and we enjoyed many big hikes as a family of three. This year though we've tried both solo family hikes and big group hikes. The group hikes have ALWAYS been more fun! Way more fun!!

When we hike as a family, we have to play games constantly to entertain our son. We tire of counting, of playing alphabet games, and of entertaining a mind that is bored of trudging up scree slopes. Meanwhile when we hike with friends, the kids entertain themselves. They make up trail games, they chat about their favourite movies, books, Pokemon characters...and are just happy!!

I've also noticed when we hike as a family without other children along that our son feels isolated. He knows that he's the youngest and most inexperienced hiker in the group. He gets tired of being told to be careful, to watch his step, to do this, to not do that... Meanwhile with friends, we either relax more on our parenting and take a step back or else perhaps the kids just know that there's support in numbers (they are all being told to be careful - and it's ok.)

Hiking is more fun with friends

Notes on choosing hiking friends: As much as we love hiking with friends, there are many kids that my son can not hike well with. Either their paces or hiking styles don't match (my son is not a stop to smell the roses kind of kid,) the kids are too competitive together, or other issues interfere with having a harmonious hike. I won't go into all the various issues/challenges we've seen but it often comes down to trial and error and you'll want to choose your companions carefully for the BIG trips. Invite friends that you know you can hike well with and "test" out other hiking relationships on shorter outings.

Mighty kids need mighty friends

Reflection 10 - Hiking should be a social activity

Yes, it's about the summit, it's about the views, it's about the accomplishment...- but less so for kids. Honestly they won't appreciate the scenery like you will. They will have a harder time pushing on for the sense of reward and accomplishment. And at times, they won't care if they reach the summit or not.

Kids (and adults) are social creatures. Their highlights will be their snack breaks with their friends, running down the trail chatting and being silly with their new best friend that they just met a few hours ago, playing trail games with other children, and hanging out with their friends after the hike. Yes, after the hike! That's probably the most important part of the day for the kids. We just did another big trip with friends and we went out for dinner after. The kids had a blast at the restaurant and it could have been the highlight of their entire day. On another recent trip, we all went out for pizza after.

Reward the kids for a job well done and keep the hike social.

Adults hike for the views. Kids just want to have fun

Want to do this hike with your family?

  1. Hike it solo first to determine if your kids are ready for EEOR
  2. Start with the hike to the ridge and call it a day at this beautiful spot
  3. Go with a very experienced group. This is NOT a beginner hike!
  4. Bring a rope to protect young children on the climb to the summit
  5. Helmets recommended for rock fall from above on the final summit climb
  6. Get a guide book!! I purposely did not go into details on the route description. Alan Kain has a brand new scrambles book out. Gillean Daffern also has a great hiking book which describes the route up EEOR. Note that we took Kain's route up, as do most people based on the well beaten path up the gully to the first summit, and we tagged the first of two summits (again as do most people based on the number of folks we saw on our summit compared to the empty second summit further away.) We reached the summit described in Daffern's book but did not go all the way to the second one described in Kain's route. With enough time, both are achievable but most people do stop at the first one.
  7. Start with easier scrambles and work your way up.  There are other suggestions below.

EEOR final summit climb

Other First Scrambles


Family-friendly Summits in Jasper National Park

More First Summits - Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis

Ha Ling! My Baby Climbed his First Real Summit

First Summits - The Mighty Yamnuska with a 6 Year Old 

First Summits - Barrier Lake Lookout, Kananaskis 

The Four Summit Day - Ha Ling Peak to Miner's Peak (and beyond)

First Summits - Forget Me Not Ride, Kananaskis 

Copper Mountain from Shadow Lake Lodge, Banff 

First Summits - Polar Peak, Fernie Alpine Resort

Family Hiking at the Next Level - Scrambles and Summits (Nihahi Ridge to the South Summit)

5 Summit Day in Canmore (Kid-Friendly) - Ha Ling Peak and Miner's Peak  

First Summits - Table Mountain, Beaver Mines Lake

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Our Top Ten Favourite Things to Do in Jasper - updated 2024

We usually visit Jasper a couple of times each year and it's one of our favourite road trip destinations from Calgary. The drive takes roughly 5 hours from Calgary via the scenic Icefields Parkway (our favourite drive in the Canadian Rockies.) To break the trip up, consider stopping at the Columbia Icefields Centre (featured below) or stop for a short hike at one of the many trailheads along the Icefields Parkway. (We especially love the Parker Ridge Hike.)

We still have years of exploring to do before I'll have a complete list of the "best adventures in Jasper" (and I suspect it will actually take a lifetime to create that list) but for now, these are our top ten favourite things to do while visiting Jasper National Park. We've personally tested and tried each experience below and would repeat every one of them multiple times!

Our Top Ten Favourite Things to Do in Jasper (photo: Old Fort Point)

Our Top Ten Favourite Things to Do in Jasper


1. Ride the Jasper Sky Tram and Hike to the Summit of Whistlers Mountain

We would ride the Jasper Sky Tram on every trip to Jasper if we could afford to do so. Cost aside though, it is something you HAVE to do at least once! It just might be my favourite family adventure in the Canadian Rockies and I've enjoyed riding the sky tram since I was a child.

Views from the top of the Jasper Sky Tram over to Pyramid Mountain

Once you get to the upper terminal, it's a short 1.2 km hike one way to the top of the Whistlers Mountain Summit.You'll gain two hundred metres in your uphill walk but it's never too steep and young children should have few problems with the hike. (My son first did the hike when he was 4 years old.)

Hiking to the Summit of Whistlers Mountain

The hike is stunningly gorgeous and it's our favourite hike in Jasper. Well behaved dogs are welcome on the Sky Tram and there is a restaurant at the top should you want a snack after hiking to the summit.

To read more on our Jasper Sky Tram adventures, read Family Friendly Summits in Jasper.

There are lots of fun boulders to climb on along the summit hiking trail

2. Hike the Old Fort Point Trail

We hike this trail every year so that my son and I can capture our annual photo on the Old Fort Point summit. It's become a tradition for us and it guarantees we'll be back to Jasper every year to catch next year's photo.

There's no better view of the Jasper Townsite area and valley in such a short hike. For more information visit the Hike Jasper site. And we prefer to hike straight up the wooden stairs to the viewpoint and return the same way. We also like biking to the trailhead from town or from one of the campgrounds just outside of town on the easy trail system.

9 Years of Hiking the Old Fort Point Trail (ages 2 - 10)

3. Bike the Jasper Easy Trail System

I've written an entire story on biking around Jasper and we make it a priority to do a big loop every time we visit. We either start at one of the campgrounds just outside of town and follow the Wapiti Trail to the Red Squirrel Trail and Old Fort Point Trailhead or we start in town and get onto the Red Squirrel Trail from there. 

From Old Fort Point, we follow the Athabasca River Trail to the Jasper Park Lodge and make our way over to Lake Annette where there is a beach. From there, we like the Big Horn Alley trail which takes us back to town.

Biking the Jasper easy trail system 

Most of the easy trails (Big Horn Alley aside) are wide enough for a chariot and are perfect for novice riders. They are not paved (so wait till the kids are off training wheels) but they are fabulous for introductory mountain biking and have very few challenges or rough sections.

For more, please read my story: The Best Family Bike Trails in Jasper.  

Biking the family-friendly Jasper easy trail system 

4. Bike from Pyramid Lake back down to Jasper

The Pyramid Trail (number 15) takes you on a fun flowy downhill adventure from Pyramid Lake back to the Jasper Townsite in a quick 6.2 km ride with 118 metres of height lost. It is an intermediate trail and definitely not wide enough for towing a chariot, but it's great for kids who are ready to try something a little harder than the easy trail system. (and honestly, it's a very easy intermediate trail that would be rated easy in other parks.)

We always do the ride with a shuttle so that my son doesn't have to ride back up. If you don't have a second vehicle, take turns riding the trail with the kids while one adult drives back down to the bottom of Pyramid Lake Road.

And once the kids have mastered this trail, there are other trails on the Pyramid Bench that we enjoy as well.

For more on all trails in Jasper, please read my story: The Best Family Bike Trails in Jasper.  

Biking on the Pyramid Trail in Jasper

5. Paddle on Pyramid and Patricia Lakes

These lakes are our two favourite places to paddle on in the park. The water is usually pretty calm and you won't have to worry about motor boats or strong winds and waves typical with bigger lakes.

Paddling on Pyramid Lake on serene glass like water

The last time we paddled these two lakes, we started with Pyramid at sunrise, had breakfast at the Pyramid Lake Resort, and then moved on to Patricia. We found a great beach area at the far end of Patricia lake and the water was bathtub warm near the beach as a great bonus!

Paddling on Patricia Lake

If you don't have boats to bring with you, you can rent boats (including stand up paddleboards) at Pyramid Lake Resort . You can also contact Translucid Adventures or visit their mobile site on Lake Lake Edith.  

Stand up paddleboarding at Lake Annette

 6. Hit the Beach

Lake Annette is the home to Jasper's beach with sand for the kids and calm water for paddling. It's a fabulous starting or ending point for bike rides on the easy trail system.

Beach Time at Lake Annette

Another option that we have discovered is the Jasper Lake Sand Dunes as you drive into Jasper from the East Park Gates. The water is knee deep at most and the kids will love the soft sand here.

Exploring the Jasper Sand Dunes

 7. Visit Miette Hot Springs

While you're out exploring the sand dunes, you should continue on to Miette Hot Springs, the best hot springs in our national parks (in my opinion.) They are hotter than the Banff or Radium Hot Springs and there's a café located right beside the pool with a patio overlooking the pools. (Bring some money into the pool with you and stash it in a bag beside the pool)

Relaxing at the Jasper Hot Springs

If you have the energy for it, you can also hike the Sulphur Skyline Trail while here, walk the short trail to visit the source of the hot springs, or continue on further to Hinton for an afternoon of biking at the Hinton Bike Park. There are many options out this way.

Soaking at Miette Hot Springs


8. Take a Boat Cruise to Spirit Island

We'd always wanted to take the boat cruise across Maligne Lake to Spirit Island and I was blown away by the experience when we finally tried it. I must not have truly researched the tour ahead of time because I was absolutely shocked that we got to stop at Spirit Island and to take photos from the shore directly beside the small picturesque island. 

I had expected the boat to slow down near the island as everybody fought for space to capture their prized photo from the side of the boat. How enjoyable to realize that we'd actually have 20-30 minutes to take photos and to enjoy the experience!

Spirit Island Boat Dock

Note that you won't get to actually go ON to Spirit Island but you'll stop at a boat dock that is right beside the small island and you'll be plenty close to grab your photos. The island itself is considered sacred to the local native people and it would destroy the small island to have hundreds of tourists tromping across it daily.

Spirit Island and the classic photo of Jasper National Park

For more information on tours to Spirit Island, visit Pursuit Tours and make a reservation before you go. We didn't and had to wait a long time before we could get on a cruise.

Spirit Island, Jasper National Park

9. Explore Downtown Jasper

We have three things we have to do every time we visit Jasper.

One. Have dinner at the Jasper Brewing Company. I love their nachos and of course the beer is amazing!! My favourite is the Jasper the Bear Ale. I think I'd actually drive to Jasper for a weekend just to have a pint of that beer! (And yes, they take children)

Nachos at the Jasper Brewing Company

Two. Have coffee and fresh baked goods at the Bear's Paw Bakery. They have the best coffee in Jasper and you'll have a hard time deciding on what you'd like to order with your cup of coffee.

A small selection of baked goods at the Bear's Paw Bakery

Three. Stop to play at the Centennial Park Playground, located on Bonhomme Street. This is an amazing park and it's a great place to go explore after getting your coffee above. (or en route to the Brewing Company.)

Playing in the huge sand box at Centennial Park with the playground behind

Other restaurants I highly recommend that we've discovered over the years:

  • The Jasper Pizza Place - Located right on the main street of Jasper you can't miss it. And the pizza is fabulous.

  • Famoso Italian Pizzeria, Jasper - This is another great pizza and pasta restaurant, and it's often much quieter than the Jasper Pizza Place. 

  • Coco's Café - Quite possibly the best breakfast restaurant you'll ever find. You'll see!

10. Visit the Columbia Icefields Centre for a Glacier Adventure

Book a Glacier Adventure Tour with Pursuit Tours and you can take a giant bus up onto the Athabasca Glacier where you'll get to walk around on the glacier. It's a safe experience and the tour company ensures that the area where you'll be walking is free of crevasses or other hazards. 

It is recommended though that you wear good waterproof shoes or hiking boots, wear warm clothes, and consider bringing mittens or gloves with you. A warm hat would also not be out of line. Think summer to winter in a 10 minute drive.

Ride this giant bus onto the Athabasca Glacier 

Now that's a big bus!!

You'll want to reserve a time in advance (or risk waiting for up to three hours to board a bus) and you really do not want to purchase food at the Centre. Bring a lunch with you and you'll save both money and time waiting in line for the cafeteria.

We've done the tour twice now and it's always fun. And unless you have the experience, equipment, and skills required to take your family on an authentic glacier traverse, this might be your only chance to get out and actually walk on a glacier before they all melt. :(

Such an incredible experience with kids!

Along with your Glacier Adventure, you'll also get to experience the Glacier Skywalk Tour. While not as exciting as the Glacier Adventure, it's still kind of cool and since it's bundled together with your other tour, you might as well enjoy both while you're on your bus. It's not often either that you get to walk on a glass sidewalk above a canyon with views of glaciers all around you.

The Glacier Skywalk with Mt. Athabasca in the background

For more photos of the Columbia Icefields area, check out my previous stories:

Views of the Athabasca Glacier from Wilcox Pass

What Next?

Maligne Canyon in Winter

Visit in Winter of course! You have to return to Jasper to hike the frozen Maligne Canyon, to snowshoe Medicine Lake, and to enjoy streets with not a single other tourist on them. Jasper is paradise in winter and one of our  favourite places to visit in the off-season.

For more on Jasper in winter, check out my stories 

And my most recent story from 2021:
Read: Winter Road Trip! North to Jasper National Park 

There's no shortage of things to do in Jasper year round. You can get more ideas along with suggestions on accommodations from the Jasper Tourism website.

Come for summer and return for winter!

Additional Resources

Obviously I didn't mention every trail, activity or tour. Check out the following stories for more inspiration:

Top Twenty Things to Do in Jasper - Adventure Awaits

Family Rafting in Jasper - Adventure Awaits

Floating down the Athabasca - Adventure Awaits

The Best Ways to Explore Jasper with Kids - Twirls and Travels

15 Spectacular Things to do in Jasper National Park (great photography and videos!) - Crazy Family Adventure

Family Adventures in Jasper National Park: 10 Things to do with Kids near Jasper - Backwoods Mama