The Jasper Dark Sky Festival, held annually in October, is an event aimed at connecting all ages to our universe and beyond. David and I were lucky enough to visit this past October and can`t wait to share our experience with you! With multiple different activities, speakers, and events scheduled; this festival is beautiful, informative, and a ton of fun!
First of All; What is a Dark Sky Preserve?
Before packing up and heading to The Jasper Dark Sky Festival, you might be wondering what all the hype is about. Jasper was designated as a Dark Sky Preserve in 2011 due to its limited light pollution. They are the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world, as well as the largest accessible one. This is because the town of Jasper is actually located inside the reserve!
A Dark Sky Preserve is an area in which no artificial lighting is visible. These preserves make a special commitment to protect and preserve the night by reducing or eliminating light pollution in all forms. They also take active measures in order to educate and promote the reduction of light pollution to the public and nearby cities and towns.
The Jasper Dark Sky Preserve is an incredible place for clear and undisrupted views of the stars as well as Aurora Borealis. On top of that, many plants, wildlife and insects actually rely on darkness to forage, breed, and navigate. By protecting the dark sky, Jasper is not only providing a magical experience for all of us, but also protecting an important ecosystem!
Fun Fact: Parks Canada protects more dark skies than any other agency or jurisdiction in the world!
Activities & Events
There are a variety of fun events and activities scheduled throughout the month of October. Ranging from SkyTram Star Sessions to guest speakers from NASA, you have countless options depending on what strikes your interest! Some of our favourites included:
This incredibly scenic flight takes you to an altitude of 2,263 meters in about 7 minutes. From there, you can take the 1.4 km hike to the summit and choose to stop at any or all of the scenic viewpoints along the way. You can also choose to visit the Summit Restaurant (we were told the poutine is extraordinary!) while soaking in the views from the wall of windows on the second floor.
If you get the chance to visit on a Saturday, the Jasper Planetarium offers an exclusive dining and stargazing experience from the top of the Jasper SkyTram. How cool does that sound? From the upper station you’ll have the chance to look through powerful telescopes at the darkest skies in the Canadian Rockies.
The Jasper Planetarium offers numerous stargazing and educational activities. We were lucky enough to be there for an experience called From Jasper to Jupiter and Beyond! After getting all cozied up in our reclining seats which were inside the heated dome theatre, we were guided through the wonders of Jasper, made our way to different constellations, and ended up on Jupiter!
Insta Meet-Up: Night Photography Session
Even though it was -22°C when we visited (yeah… you read that right) David and I absolutely loved this meet-up! We were able to get some awesome nighttime photography tips and tricks from local dark sky photographer, Mike Gere. He taught us a lot about focusing your camera at night and we left with some bomb photos of Pyramid Island!
3000 Orbits: Lecture with Astronauts Robert Thirsk & Nicole Scott
This, extremely well done virtual lecture, took place at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Astronauts, Robert and Nicole, talked in detail about their 2009 mission on the International Space Station. Bob spoke passionately about getting to the ISS, daily life, research, and the robotic arm which was Canada’s contribution to the International Space Station. Nicole Stott then shared insights on her life after the mission, the changes and opportunities in space exploration, and the exciting new explorations on Venus, Mars, and the Moon.
The Light Show
The Light Show at Centennial Park was a beautiful (and free!) place to wander around and admire after dinner. Created by a light design and installation artist named Dylan Toymaker; this fully immersive art display showcased numerous coloured lanterns creating a beautifully illuminated path.
Other Places to Visit
Located only a few minutes’ drive from downtown Jasper, Pyramid Island is located in the middle of Pyramid Lake. The picturesque bridge brings you across to a dreamy place for day and nighttime photography. The lake, the stars, and the aurora borealis (if you’re lucky!) all make for a serene experience.
Maligne Canyon is the deepest canyon in Jasper National Park and an awesome place to explore! The trail, accessible to hikers of all abilities, features five bridges built across different areas of the canyon. The waterfalls and winding river below reach a depth of more than 50 meters in certain areas. In the winter, you can even join an Icewalk along the canyon floor!
The Fairmount Jasper Park Lodge
This historic hotel is worth a visit even if you don’t plan on staying with them. The wildlife in the area is booming and the natural beauty is extremely relaxing. During your visit, plan to stop at the Planetarium, The Emerald Lounge, or go for a walk by the lake!
You didn’t think I was going to leave out the food, did you? If you’re as food focused as I am, you’ll be happy to know we had nothing but fantastic meals during our time in Jasper!
Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen, Downstream Restaurant, and Harvest Food and Drink were all extremely tasty! For an incredible atmosphere, visit the Emerald Lounge at The Jasper Park Lodge for a meal or even for a glass of wine in front of the stunning fireplace.
There are several wonderful places to stay in Jasper depending on your desired location and price range. We stayed at The Crimson and found the central location, customer service, and amenities to be wonderful. Obviously, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is also a crowd favourite with the scenic lake and the heated outdoor pool!