Nestled in the SNOW-COVERED Canadian Rockies, Jasper is a small alpine town that packs a big punch. Less touristy than Banff or Lake Louise, this is the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts looking to escape the crowds and immerse themselves in the great outdoors. Keep reading for our favorite adventurous things to do this winter in Jasper!
Located northwest of Banff National Park, Jasper is one of Canada’s best mountain destinations. If you are looking for endless outdoor activities without the hustle of Banff, you are going to love it.
Winter is the off-season in Jasper, so you will find lower prices and even fewer tourists. Without further ado, let’s get into it! Here are the best outdoor activities in Jasper.
Spend the Morning Dog Sledding
A tour with Cold Fire Creek Dogsledding is a no-brainer on this list. Although it is located about 1 hour away from Jasper, I can pretty much guarantee you will love it. This was one of the most amazing experiences David and I have had so far this year!
There are various durations and price points depending on what you are looking for. We ended up going with the 3-hour, 18 km tour called Moonshiners of Whiskey Creek. In your sled, you follow a gorgeous river up into the undisturbed mountains. The scenery of the area really blew us away, as did our welcoming guide and the extra loveable dogs.
Explore a Frozen Canyon
We have been mesmerized by winter photos of Maligne Canyon for years now and somehow it was even more wonderful than I had imagined. We walked along the bottom of one of the deepest canyons in Jasper National Park to get up close and personal with statuesque frozen waterfalls, the smooth curves of the canyon walls, and even an ice cave!
This 2.5 hour tour starts off at the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen. Our guide gave a safety talk and geared us up with boots, cramp-ons, and helmets. From there, we began the tour along the Maligne Canyon Trail.
After first peering in from above, our guide led us down onto the frozen river. The first stop was into a small ice cave that forms differently every year on the wall of the canyon.
“Being able to go inside and explore was definitely one of our highlights. You could actually hear and see the water trickling down inside the ice. So cool!”
The next 45 minutes were absolutely magical with frozen springs and one-of-a-kind limestone walls everywhere we looked. Our guide was great at getting us all through the ice and slush and making sure we could take full advantage of the photo ops!
Get Adventurous at Maligne Lake
Maligne Lake, famous for its turquoise waters, is a popular spot for tourists in the summer. When we visited this winter, however, the dramatic mountains and serene beauty were amplified by the lack of visitors.
The stillness of the area was so peaceful, not to mention the drive to the lake is absolutely incredible! We were able to find cross-country ski tracks around most of the lake, and in some areas, we forged our own. There are also a ton of hiking and snowshoeing trails in the area if that’s more your style.
Ice Skate With a Scenic Backdrop
Skating on a frozen lake is a quintessential winter experience to have in the Canadian Rockies and I am happy to report that there are several stunning outdoor rinks in Jasper. A few of our favourites include Pyramid Lake and Mildred Lake at Jasper Park Lodge.
These rinks are both maintained by nearby hotels and are free to the public. Pyramid Lake Lodge is typically a bit quieter and plows a large square rink with views of Pyramid Mountain. Jasper Park Lodge is always more crowded but also has a larger skating rink, a massive oval over a kilometre long. Bring your skates and a thermos of hot chocolate!
Drive The Icefields Parkway
Depending on where you’re coming from, you might have the opportunity to drive the Icefields Parkway (AKA Highway 93). This stunning route will take you from Lake Louise to Jasper and is 100% worth taking a few extra days to explore!
Some of our favourite stops include Panther Falls, Abraham Lake, The Athabasca Glacier, Athabasca Falls, and the cross-country ski to Leech Lake. For more information and stops along the way, check out our YouTube video!
Don’t Forget to Eat
Ah, the food. What better way to break up all of these outdoor activities than with excellent cuisine? We have dined at several restaurants in Jasper and to our delight, they have all been fantastic.
A few that we would recommend are Harvest, The Jasper Brewing Company, Evil Daves Grill, Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen, The Raven, and Terra. Honestly, though, I don’t think you can go wrong anywhere.
Take a Winter Hike
Even in the winter, Jasper has a ton of accessible hiking trails for all ages and abilities. Grab your crampons and hit the mountains for a fun-filled day! Some great places to start include The Valley of 5 Lakes, The Pyramid Lake Loop, Maligne Canyon Trail, and Sulphur Skyline.
Each of these trails can either be done in crampons or snowshoes, depending on the conditions and your comfort level.
Stay at Pyramid Lake Resort
Pyramid Lake is located only 10 minutes from Jasper and offers spectacular views all year round. In the winter, you can walk, snowshoe, cross country ski, or skate on the frozen lake. Jasper Stables even runs sleigh rides on the weekends! The bridge out to Pyramid Island is always picturesque and it is not uncommon to see the gang of Elk who frequent the area.
We stayed at Pyramid Lake Resort for two nights and really enjoyed our time. This newly renovated chalet-style Alpine resort offers a fireplace and incredible views with each and every guest room.
On top of the cozy rooms, they also have a complimentary breakfast and a maintained skating rink out front. PLUS they’re pet friendly! The ladies at the front desk loved meeting Bailey and were so wonderful to us, we really can’t recommend them enough!
Explore the Town
With all of the incredible things to do in Jasper National Park, don’t forget to leave some time to wander the town of Jasper. Here, you will find all sorts of shops and lively restaurants. We typically like to reserve an hour before dinner to peruse the streets.
VAN LIFE TIP: If you are travelling to Jasper in a van, there is a great rec center with a pool, hot tub, and gym. We visited multiple times to warm up in the hot tub and take advantage of the showers.
Soar Above The Rockies in a Helicopter
A winter helicopter tour is one of the most magical things to do in Jasper National Park. Although expensive, enjoying a bird’s eye view of glaciers, frozen lakes, and entire mountain ranges is a memory you won’t forget.
From 20-minute sight seeing tours to heli-snowshoeing combinations, there is a tour to suit every desire. For more information, check out Tourism Jaspers’s website.
Go Skiing at Marmot Basin
Marmot Basin is known for its 91 named runs, four mountain faces, and over 3,000 vertical feet of drop. With full-day ticket prices at $125 (2022-2023 season), this is one of the most reasonable hills in the Rockies!
The runs are split evenly between easy, intermediate and advanced, making this an ideal destination for the whole family and skiers and snowboarders of all abilities. Marmot is a quieter option than Lake Louise or Sunshine with a friendly and laid-back atmosphere.
Attend The Jasper Dark Sky Festival
The Jasper Dark Sky Festival, held annually at the end of October, is an event aimed at connecting all ages to our universe and beyond. With multiple different activities, speakers, and events scheduled, this festival is beautiful, informative, and a ton of fun!
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!
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!
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!
Enjoy a Day of Cross Country Skiing
If you enjoy cross-country skiing, you are in for a treat! The opportunities in Jasper are endless from groomed runs to off-the-beaten-path adventures. A few top rated groomed trails include Moab Lake Trail, Leech Lake Trail, The Athabasca River Loops, and The Pyramid Fire Road.
If you are looking to forge your own path, make your way to Pyramid Lake or Maligne Lake. With the right conditions and equipment, you could ski for hours along these frozen bodies of water.
Visit The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Even if the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is out of your budget for the night — it most certainly was out of ours — it’s still worth a visit! The skating rink on Mildred Lake was incredible with a groomed oval track over a kilometre long! It’s free to visit and they’ve got torches that make night skating a blast.
You can also cross-country ski on Beauvert Lake which houses the monumental hotel on its shore. If you get chilly, head inside to the Emerald Lounge. It’s a great place to cozy up with a hot chocolate or glass of wine in front of the huge stone fireplace.
Stop at Athabasca Falls & Leech Lake
Athabasca Falls is a beautiful stop on the Icefields Parkway drive just before arriving in Jasper. The frozen falls are stunning and there are a ton of bridges where you can get different views.
One of our favorite parts about this one was the 8 kilometer round trip cross country ski trail that leaves from the parking lot and goes to Leech Lake. It really lets you explore the beauty of the area, get some exercise, and ditch the crowds!
Search For Wildlife
Jasper is home to what feels like an endless array of wildlife. It is not uncommon to see deer, elk, moose, foxes, and even bears closer to spring! Keep your eyes peeled while you drive, walk, ski, or bike through any area of this National Park. *Please remember to be respectful of the animals and give them ample space. You can safely admire them from afar. *