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The International Writers Magazine: Canada

Jasper: The Jewel of the Canadian Rockies
• Habeeb Salloum
Wondrous snow-capped mountains all around us gave my daughter and I a feeling that we were living in a fantasy world.  In the ensuing days as we explored the countryside we discovered that these mountains were dotted with deep-blue lakes, glaciers, green forests, roaring waterfalls and thundering rivers, making the panorama of the surrounding area a spectacular and enchanting world. 


The clear, cool, and fresh mountain breezes seemed to pep up both body and soul and like thousands of other visitors who travel to this spot in the Canadian Rockies I felt contentment. In the midst of this breath-taking part of nature sits the town of Jasper, the heart of Jasper National Park, the main urban centre and commercial heart of the Park - the mecca of travellers to this part of Canada.  Even though the town is the shopping centre of the area, yet it is truly non-commercialized.

My daughter and I began our vacation by first exploring the town located 1,067 m (3,510 ft) high.  An overgrown village of some 4,500 in winter and 10,000 in summer, it is nestled in the bosom of the Rockies amidst an unspoiled part of nature. The well-kept buildings, cuddled by towering mountains, have made it an idyllic vacation spot. 

Cafe Monde Its first-class tourist facilities make it easy for visitors to be comfortable and at the same time enjoy the many natural attributes of Jasper National Park.  Restaurants, art galleries and a varied selection of shops cater to the thousands of tourists who crowd the town, especially in summer. Here, also, whatever the season, travellers can partake in mountain adventure and make contacts with the animals of the wild.

Laid back and peaceful, some call it 'an Alpine paradise'.  It is authentic urban centre that still has a small town aura.  The inhabitants are, as a whole, friendly and welcome visitors, especially families in a hospitable manner.  In the words of a Scottish tourist who went on a tour with us, "It's only a small trading post with a polished 21st century veneer."

Walking the town's streets, I always found the air crisp and invigorating.  This seems to give the thousands of young men and women who travel here to work during the summer months a love for their jobs and an air of joie de vivre.  Happiness seems to reign everywhere: on the faces of the taxi drivers, guides, bellboys, maids and shopkeepers. Seeing so many smiling faces, my daughter remarked: "I have never seen so many happy people at work as in this resort town."

Called 'a little town in a large park', the town is the gateway to the joys of Jasper National Park - Canada's largest and most northerly National Park and a spectacular World Heritage Site.  In this breathtaking playground for tourists a near two million travel annually in summer to enjoy the unspoiled hand of nature, in autumn to glory in a landscape of amber and gold, in winter to ski and in spring to admire the valleys of flowers breaking through patches of snow.  During our exploration of the town we visited the Jasper Yellow Head Museum and Archives that house artifacts and documents that tell the history of the Jasper Park region. 

Continuing our walking tour around town we explored its shops then decided to sample some of the eating places.  For dinner we stopped to dine at the Evil Day's Grill, specializing in a globally inspired menu.   The food was tasty and satisfying, putting us in the mood to enjoy the scenic view from the windows of the best hotel in town - the Fairmount Jasper Park Lodge our abode for our stay in Jasper.

The next day, from this neat-cosy resort, in less than 20 minutes we were in the serene Maligne Canyon, regarded as one of most breath-taking sites near the town of Jasper. Our first stop was at a gorge formed by the Maligne River’s swirling and churning waters roaring from the lake, which have worn the soft limestone rocks in places 55 m (165 ft) deep.  Located 11.7 km (7 mi) from the town of Jasper, it is one of the most spectacular gorges in the Canadian Rockies, incorporating an extensive above and underground river system.

Standing on one of the Canyon's six bridges, while being soaked with the spray of the thundering Maligne River, I stood awed by the deep gorges made by the rushing waters.           

Past the 7 km (4 mi) long Medicine Lake, which has no surface outlet, and disappears in autumn and winter through underground channels, we came to Maligne Lake - 44 km (27 mi) from the town of Jasper. 


Stretching for 22 km (14 mi) with a depth of 198 m (318 ft), it is the second largest glacier-fed lake in the world.  Set in the imposing Maligne Valley, the lake, the largest in Jasper National Park, is surrounded by glacier-studded mountain peaks. The lake boasts sparkling deep-blue waters and for beauty, has no equal in the region.  Like the 40,000 annual tourists who visit the lake, atop its waters we joined in a 90-minute scenic boat ride, before returning to Jasper.

Tramway Still enthralled with our Maligne tour, the next morning we took the hotel shuttle to the Jasper Tramway - the longest and highest guided aerial tramway in Canada as well as the only guided aerial ropeway in the Canadian Rockies.  Tram cars took us up Whistlers Mountain for a smooth eight minute ride to a station 2,277 m (7,472 ft) above sea level.
From the top there are views of six mountain ranges, glacial fed lakes and the Athabasca River - the longest in Alberta.  Also at the top visitors can hike along prepared trails in the Alpine region of the mountain to the summit.  The day we took the Tramway it was raining and we missed the hike and much of the view.  However, the Tramway's path was spectacular, climbing a mountain side covered with a thick green forest.

Returning to town we dined at the Cafe Monde - a gourmet eating place favoured by tourists and locals alike.  As we enjoyed pita melts and smoked turkey, I thought of my ramblings around town and the breathtaking scenery surrounding us on all sides.  I could visualize like many of the some two million annual visitors who travel to this fantastic region of Canada where the magic aura engulfing the town leaves one mesmerized.

In my view, the town of Jasper and the surrounding mountains make for a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of daily city life - a serene spot for a relaxing holiday.


IF YOU GO: How to Get There:

The town of Jasper is situated about the same distance from Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta's capital - about a five-hour drive.  Both have excellent air, road and rail connections.  Also, there are good rail and bus connections with Jasper from BC or Eastern connections.  However, the ideal way to travel trough Jasper National Park is to rent an auto and explore the park.  The roads inside the park are excellent and the viewpoint sites are endless.  In addition, there are excursions offered from both Calgary and Edmonton.

Important Sites, Not Mentioned, to See in and Around Jasper:

Athabasca Falls, located some 38 km (23 mi) from the town of Jasper where the Athabasca River is funneled into a narrow canyon.   One of the most impressive waterfalls in the Rockies, it is surrounded by rugged rock formations and plunges 23m (75.5 ft) below. 

Miette Hot Springs, about 60 km (37 mi) east of Jasper.  At 53º C, they are the hottest mineral springs in the Rockies. However, their waters are cooled to 40º and chlorinated for bathers.

Pyramid Mountain and Pyramid Lakes, just 8 km (5 mi) from the heart of town, it is well worth the trip just to view the beauty of the two lakes in the shadow of the towering Pyramid Mountain.

Top Place to Stay In Jasper:

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge - the hotel, spreading along the curve of Lac Beauvert, a short distance from town, incorporates a golf course and combines the ultimate in luxury with tranquillity and natural beauty.  A village unto itself, it consists of lavish log cabins and cedar chalets.  1 Old Lodge Road, Jasper, Alberta, Canada T0E 1E0.  Tel: TOLL FREE: 1(866) 540-4454  or (780) 852-3301.  Fax: (780) 852-5107.  E-mail:  Website:

Some Interesting Tours to Take From Jasper:

Jasper Adventure Centre offers these tours: Maligne Valley, Canyon and Lake Tour - cost with boat cruise $109.,

Miette Hot Springs and Watchable Wildlife Tour - cost $74., and The Columbia Icefields Tour from Jasper - cost $129.  Toll Free: 1-800-565-7547.

Maligne Tours Ltd., specializes in tours to the Maligne Valley, Canyon and Lake - cost with boat cruise $103.95.

For Further Information. Contact:

Tourism Jasper, P.O. Box 568, Jasper, Alberta, Canada TOE 1EO. Tel: (780) 852-6236

© Habeeb Salloum July 2012;
Toronto, Ontario

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