Can’t get enough of the Canadian Rockies in winter? Jasper National Park has everything you could want for a winter vacation! There are more things to do in Jasper than you can imagine, and beautiful views everywhere you look. We visited Jasper in the middle of winter, and had an amazing trip. We can’t wait to return to Jasper National Park again and rediscover it in another season as there are so many things to do in Jasper.
Make sure you don't miss our top five tips to make the most of your visit to see the best things to do in Jasper in winter at the end of this post!
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About Jasper National Park
Jasper National Park is Canada’s largest national park in the Rockies. Yet Jasper receives only half of the annual visitors that Banff does. It is no less beautiful, meaning that you will have even more of this beautiful park to yourself! In winter, Jasper offers all of the winter activities that you can imagine, from snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and downhill skiing, to ice climbing and fat biking.
The center of Jasper National Park is the town of Jasper, which has a long history as a trading post. Jasper is the best place to be based for your visit to the park, and one of the few options when visiting in winter. The town of Jasper is complete with multiple grocery stores, and a ton of restaurants and bars to keep you entertained during your visit.
How to get to Jasper
Jasper is relatively easy to get to any time of the year, though that is weather dependent when heading to Jasper National Park in winter.
Driving to Jasper in Winter
If you don’t already live within driving distance, you will most likely be flying into Edmonton, and then renting a car. The drive from Edmonton International airport to the town of Jasper is about 4 hours and 240 miles (386 km). Once out of Edmonton, it is an easy drive as you follow Highway 16 East. While Jasper has a grocery store, you will find more selection and likely better prices near Edmonton, so it is best to fill up on all of the snacks and drinks that you will need for your visit to Jasper in winter.
Driving to Jasper from Banff also takes around four hours and is 183 miles (295 km) long. The best part about driving to Jasper from Banff is that you will be traveling on the famous Icefields Parkway. It is easily one of the most scenic drives in the Canadian Rockies, but the conditions of the roads are heavily weather dependent. If you are visiting in winter, there might be a chance of heavy snow storms and a multiple-day closure of the Icefields Parkway as a result. There are alternative routes you can take, but schedule some time buffers into your journey to Jasper National Park to account for a few winter weather related delays.
Shuttle Bus to Jasper in Winter
If you don’t want to drive through the Canadian Rockies in the middle of winter, nobody is going to blame you, and there are a number of shuttle buses that can bring you from either Edmonton to Jasper or Banff to Jasper.
Edmonton to Jasper Shuttle: Sundog Tours
- Time: About 5 hours
- Dates: Monday to Friday, weekly
- Cost: Starts at $89 CAD ($68 USD) per person, one way
Banff to Jasper Shuttle: Sundog Tours
- Time: About 4 hours
- Dates: Monday and Friday, weekly
- Cost: Starts at $79 CAD ($60 USD) per person, one way
Train to Jasper in Winter
An alternative way to reach Jasper is by rail! Check with VIA Rail for the latest scheduling and pricing. The Jasper Station receives trains from across Canada multiple times per week. The trains also make their way through the Rocky Mountains, providing equally as stunning views as driving, without the worry of driving through the mountains in winter.
Getting Around Jasper National Park in Winter
We recommend having your own vehicle so that you can explore all of things to do in Jasper at your own pace! Having your own vehicle allows you to be flexible to change your winter activities as the weather changes. Ensure that you have winter tires, as they are mandatory on all highways during the winter months. All rental cars from Edmonton or Calgary should already be equipped with proper winter tires, however it pays to double check before you drive away.
Transportation within Jasper is limited, especially during the winter months. That is something that you won't need to worry about if you have your own vehicle. We found that it also pays to get up early and start your day with the sun. As the sun sets earlier during winter, your sightseeing hours are less than normal, and driving back home in the snow and the dark is not always fun.
Best Things to Do in Jasper in Winter
Despite not being as popular as Banff, Jasper is a great place to spend a weekend or longer in winter and enjoy the beautiful winter wonderland. These are the best things to do in Jasper in January and February.
Driving the Icefields Parkway
The Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives in Canada. The highway connects the towns of Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, as it slices its way through the majestic Canadian Rockies. This makes it an almost mandatory drive as you visit the two famous national parks, and one of the best things to do in Jasper. And if you are not sure of what to do in Banff, we have a full list of the best things to do in Banff in winter.
Highlights along the route include Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, the Columbia Icefield, and Athabasca Falls. Unfortunately for us, a winter storm forced the closure of the Icefields Parkway while we were in the area, so we did not get to visit all of these breathtaking sights. In winter, there is no accommodation along the route, so we recommend leaving early in the morning and planning a full day to make the drive. Be sure to have enough fuel, snacks, and water before setting off! During winter, the gas station and store at Saskatchewan River Crossing is closed for the season and there is no cell phone reception for most of the drive.
Abraham Lake Ice Bubbles
Abraham Lake is a breathtakingly beautiful lake in the summer, situated in a valley between mountain peaks. In the winter however, is when Abraham Lake really shines. A natural phenomenon occurs whereby trapped methane in the lake causes frozen bubbles to form within the ice covering the lake.
The ice bubbles only form in late winter, and even when it is cold enough for the lake to freeze over, they may not be visible. We learned firsthand, because it snowed the evening before we arrived at Abraham Lake, so instead of waking up to see all of the ice bubbles, the lake was completely covered in snow! We spent over an hour digging out a few sections of ice, and were rewarded with some incredible ice bubbles.
As we moved around the lake we saw different sized ice bubbles and different shapes. It is a very unique and unforgettable experience!
Abraham Lake is located 31 miles (50 km) east, about a half hour drive from the Icefields Parkway. The turn-off from the Icefields Parkway is at the Saskatchewan River Crossing, and don't worry, you can't miss it. Abraham Lake is not actually located in a Banff or Jasper National Park, but is nearby and well-worth visiting.
If you do plan to visit Abraham Lake, especially in the winter, be well prepared as it is quite isolated – far from gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and cell phone reception.
Town of Jasper
The town of Jasper is located in the center of all the main attractions in Jasper National Park. If you are looking for grocery stores, restaurants, or any other services this is where you will find them! We highly recommend checking out the happy hour specials before deciding on where to eat as there are some great deals for half price food and drinks. Our favorite happy hour special is at Earls Jasper, with great discounts on food and drinks every day of the week. In addition, their happy hour works for early-birds and night-owls as it is from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM and from 9:00 PM to close.
The Best of Jasper in Winter: Maligne Canyon Ice Walk
Exploring Maligne Canyon during the winter is a must-do on the list of things to do in Jasper National Park! Maligne Canyon is one of the hidden gems of Jasper National Park. This narrow and deep canyon (at some points 160 feet deep and less than 7 feet wide; 50 meters deep and 2 meters wide) has some spectacular sights. During the winter the freezing water creates towering frozen waterfalls and ice caves to explore.
You can tour Maligne Canyon on a guided icewalk with Maligne Canyon Icewalks. Tours are offered in the mornings and afternoons. They will provide you with winter boots, ice cleats, and a helmet for the ice walk. The Maligne Canyon Icewalk tour begins with a stunning topside view of the frozen waterfalls. The tour guide will help you learn about the geography and unique Karst topography (basically underground rivers) that is responsible for creating these unique waterfalls.
Soon enough, you will be walking through the base of the canyon, seeing the ice formations up close as well as a number of waterfalls, that may or may not be frozen depending on the most recent weather conditions. If anyone is scared of walking on the frozen river, taking this guided tour is the best way to explore Maligne Canyon in winter. We had an experienced guide that was informative, fun, and made sure our safety was top priority.
The ice in the canyon changes daily, so everyone’s visit will be unique. This is because the ice in the river changes almost daily based upon the amount of underground water running through the Karst system and the outside temperatures.
During the second half of the tour you will see more of the canyon from the top, and cross over some bridges with a very steep drop off to the icy canyon below.
As you wrap up the tour, you will be welcomed back to the beautiful Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen with a hot beverage, perfect for warming those cold hands! The tour is a fantastic, safe and fun way to explore the ice canyon during the winter, and we can highly recommend it to everyone as one of the best things to do in Jasper in winter.
What to Bring on the Maligne Canyon Icewalk
It should be obvious, but it will be cold outside during your Maligne Canyon Icewalk. You should wear a warm winter jacket, with gloves, a scarf, and a winter hat, or toque, as the Canadians like to call it. It is recommended to wear warm hiking boots if you have them, although no worries if you don't, as there are many pairs available to use as part of the tour.
Don't forget to bring your camera to snap some photos of exploring the Maligne Canyon and Jasper in winter.
Maligne Canyon Icewalk Tour Key Information
Dates: Tours begin in mid-December and run to the beginning of April, Thursday to Monday through December, and Friday to Sunday for the rest of the season. All tours are subject to weather conditions.
Time: Tours are available in the morning at 9:00 AM, afternoon at 1:00 PM, and evening at 6:00PM from the Maligne Canyon Wilderness Kitchen and last approximately 3 hours
Cost: Tickets start at $69 CAD ($53 USD) for an adult, and $35 CAD ($27 USD) for a child
What's Included: A Maligne Canyon Icewalk Tour ticket includes:
- Pick-up by shuttle bus from your Jasper hotel
- Warm winter boots and crampons to use for the tour
- Guided tour in small groups
- Warm beverage at the end of the tour
Where to Stay in Jasper
We stayed at the Pyramid Lake Resort, which is just a few minutes outside of the town of Jasper, situated on the beautiful Pyramid Lake. The resort offers some of the best winter activities and things to do in Jasper. From snowshoeing to cross-country skiing, and fat biking to sleigh rides; all of these can be found right at the Pyramid Lake Resort.
And after a long day of outdoor activities, what better way to relax and warm up than a sauna or dip in the outdoor hot tub. During the winter, the onsite Pines Restaurant has locally inspired meals on weekends, though it is recommended that you make a reservation in advance!
Disclaimer: Our Icewalk tour and stay at Pyramid Lake Resort was provided by the Pursuit Collection and we loved it. As always, all of our opinions on our experience and the best things to do in Jasper in winter are completely our own. Please note that some of the links in the below article are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. Click here for the full disclosure statement. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support us!
The Next Trip Top 5 Tips for Things to Do in Jasper in Winter
1) Prepare for the cold
This is winter in the Canadian Rockies, and as we already mentioned it can get really cold! Even if you don't already live somewhere that has cold winters, it pays to be prepared for your trip to Jasper. Especially when traveling, most people end up spending a lot more time outdoors, so be sure to pack all of your best warm clothing and hand warmers! These small heat packets saved our cold hands when we were outside for extended periods of time.
2) Stay Hydrated
We noticed that our skin was very dry during our stay in Jasper. This is partially due to the cold and dry air outside and the hot dry air inside from the building heaters. Another important factor is that we tend to drink less water when it is cold outside! Packing a thermos with some warm water, tea, or broth on your outdoor adventures is a great way to stay hydrated and warm at the same time!
3) Search for Happy Hour Deals
There are some fantastic restaurants in Jasper, and many of them have some great happy hour deals with specials on food and drinks. If you can eat a bit earlier or a bit later than normal, you will be rewarded with some of the same great food at half the price! As noted above, Earls Jasper is our favorite!
4) Go on an Ice Walk at Maligne Canyon
This is undoubtedly one of the main winter activities in Jasper, and is something that you just can't find anywhere else. The ice walk tours provided by Maligne Canyon Ice Walks can be taken in the morning or afternoon to fit your schedule, and will be a unique experience for everyone as the ice changes almost daily! We highly recommend this as one of the best things to do in Jasper in winter!
5) Have a Flexible Schedule
This is the number one mindset to have to enjoy your trip to Jasper in the winter. Winter weather is unpredictable, and can be rather unfriendly towards winter travelers. On our trip we encountered multiple road closures, rain, snow, and sunshine. You never really know what the weather conditions will be, but you just have to be able to roll with it. That being said, it's great to always have a secondary plan in the back of your mind if your first plans don't work out due to weather.
What Are Your Favorite Things to do in Jasper?
We would love to hear from you and know what your favorite things to do in Jasper are! What did you think of this list? Did we miss anything? We are already planning to go back in the future and would love to add your suggestions to our list of things to do in Jasper!
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